Electric Sheep is a distributed screen-saver that harnesses idle computers into a render farm with the purpose of animating and evolving artificial life-forms. It requires a high-bandwidth, always-on connection to the internet such as DSL or cable-modem.
The first time it runs, it normally takes about 10 minutes before a sheep (as the animations are called) is downloaded and displayed. After that, it should come up immediately. You can use BitTorrent to download more sheep faster, see the web site below for how.
If you have installed a screen-saver that supports passing key-presses onto the graphics hack and this feature is enabled, then pressing the up (or down) arrow-key transmits a vote for (or against) the currently displayed sheep to the server. Vote for the sheep you like, and they will mate, reproduce, and evolve! (this feature is missing from the beta)
The shepherds (those who wrote the software and run the server) use some of the sheep for commercial purposes in order to support the network and develop it further. For example there's the Spotworks DVD, and "Dreams in High Fidelity", a painting that evolves. Some jobs rendered by the network may be for images or animations which are not sheep at all, and will not appear in the screen-saver.
Users may not subvert the protocol of the sheep server. If you want to change how the client communicates with the server, contact the server's administrators first.
Give the location for the preferences. The default is ~/.electricsheep/preferences.xml.
Play no sheep before this one or this time.
Play no sheep after this one or this time.
Set the directory to find splash images and other data files.
If 1 then print copious debug information. The default is 0.
If 1 then display the animated sheep, if 0 then do not. Not
displaying the sheep allows one to contribute rendering more rendering
cycles because no CPU time is spent on display. It also allows one to
run on a computer without an X display at all. The default is 1.
Specify the frame-rate for sheep display in frames per second. The
default is 23. If your client is having trouble completing frames
because it is spending all its CPU time in the display process then
decreasing this might help. Or increase it if you have extra CPU for
Write errors and diagnostics to this file instead of stderr and stdout.
Specify the maximum number of megabytes of disk storage to use to
store sheep (in the directory specified with --save-dir). The default
is 2000. Zero (0) means there is no maximum.
Maximum number of times to repeat any sheep. The default is 3.
Specify the minimum number of megabytes of disk storage to leave free.
The default is 2000. Zero (0) means there is no minimum.
Specify the priority adjustment for render process and all non-display
processes. The default is 10.
Specify a nickname. The server keeps credits the frames according to
nickname and ranks nicknames according to who contributes the most.
Authenticate to the server using this password. Note: the password is
Number of times to repeat each sheep. The default is 1. Transitions
between sheep are not repeated.
Specify the number of rendering threads. By default there is one (1).
Specifies a directory to save the sheep in. The default is ~/.electricsheep.
If 0 then do not report problems connecting to server. The default is 1.
If 1 then run without connecting to the internet at all, just displays
the sheep already downloaded and do no rendering. The default is 0.
Specify the ID of the sheep to display first. The default is to
display a random sheep.
Specify the timeout in seconds for server operations. The default is
Specify the time in seconds to wait before retrying to contact the
server. The default is 696.
Specify a vanity URL to go with with the nickname.
Passed on to mplayer -vo, try "gl" and "x11" and "xv" or leave it
blank for the default.
If 1 then enable the voting interface, which is broken in this beta.
Specify in hex the window ID to draw into. Note the single leading
dash (this option's syntax is required by xscreensaver). The default
is to display in a new window. If both --root and -window-id are
specified then -window-id takes precedence.