Letters from Somnolescent June 10, 2021

How Do the Somnolians Organize Their Desktops?

by bulb

We at Somnolescent love old desktops. Not the fresh, factory Windows installs all the retrocomputing channels show off, but lived-in little portraits of someone else’s workspace from long, long ago. Whether it be DeviantART submissions showing off someone’s new, custom wallpaper or classic speedpaints with desktops and MSN Messenger windows incidentally in the background, we love seeing them and we post them in our Discords all the time.

The gradual move back to our chunky old PCs got us thinking about our own desktops and how they stack up to the workspaces of old, and honestly, to each other’s. As such, have a compilation of screenshots and a whole bunch of rambles about how we get around our machines and how we keep things organized (or not). Click the images for full-sized, lossless screenshots if you wanna peek at all our icons.


borb's desktop

Hi I’m borb and my method is madness. I enjoy having icons for many a thing. Anything that doesn’t have an icon on my desktop, I tend to keep somewhere I know I can find it like My Documents, or “Neat” which, fun fact, contains basically all my art stuff. My taskbar is on the bottom at all times because I’m a pleb.

My icons are organized where, basically, if it’s more organization, creative, site-y, etc., it’s on the left, and if it’s game related, it’s on the right.

Also I haven’t changed my background in like two years.


Devon's desktop

It’s pretty minimal as you see. No icons except some folder containing stuff I use often, rest is in start menu (tiles aren’t that bad actually) or I just I use search. For a while I had my taskbar at the top, but previously I liked to keep it at side. For wallpaper I usually set some nice old photos I find on Geograph (geograph.co.uk), often landscapes or urban areas.


Caby's main desktop
Caby’s main desktop

My desktop is made up of two monitors, top one being my main one and the other being my tablet screen. My desktop backgrounds are currently photos I took in my garden because I wanted a nice Spring vibe. I mostly get around my computer by way of the search bar, searching for whatever program I want to use. I also keep the important stuff on my desktop, in categorised folders so it’s not too cluttered. On my taskbar I have AutoSite and the Technic Launcher, because they don’t show up in search for some reason. The stuff not in folders are there either because they don’t fit in a category, or because they don’t want to be in one (thanku, Roblox Studio,,,).

Caby's second desktop
Caby’s tablet desktop


mon's desktop

Here’s the desktop I’ve been using for the last three-ish months. Widgets are courtesy of Rainmeter – for the background clock + song info, I use a skin called Emelly, and I use illustro for the disk info. I like to keep it as clean as possible, though if I’m actively working on an ongoing project or otherwise, I keep them in a little section of icons off to the right. The “Hat” folder off to the right is where I keep memes, reference pictures and the like, and the “Assets” folder is where I keep most of my finished and some WIP projects, like .blend files or textures or sitework.


I’ve got two computers I use regularly, one running Windows 10 and one running Windows XP (what I call the eMachines Box). Both, I like to keep as stock as possible because most desktop customization mods don’t really match. Taskbar sticks at the top on my main machine, which is a more convenient location for me, and it sticks at the bottom for the eMachines Box.

Cammy's main desktop
Is it cheating if I use someone else’s art as a background? I was using the big group Pinede drawing before this, I just didn’t have anything recent in season for Spring. I also think lo-fi hip-hop blows (it’s elevator music for zoomers), but I like raccoons. Sometimes, I like to imagine this one escaping into nature, where it doesn’t have to listen to the same song over and over.

For the 10 machine, I rely a ton on the Start Menu, mostly because they turned it into one giant, customizable Quick Launch box and it’s absolutely ace. It’s probably the best Start Menu they’ve ever come up with. I even hacked in a couple batch files for easy access when I go updating AutoSite stuff. My desktop, therefore, is mostly a place where I throw temporary files for bigger projects, notably game modding or audio. (Web and writing stuff goes on Dropbox, though I’m slowly shifting away from it.) It’s always a good day when I can delete another folder I’ve had lying around for two months. (I moved them in that shot so the Start Menu doesn’t obscure them.)

Cammy's retro desktop
This wallpaper was drawn by my Caby, though. Matches the 2004 aesthetic >///>.

The eMachines Box I use the Desktop more regularly for. Most of my program launching still comes from either the Start Menu or Quick Launch toolbar, but for folders I need to get to regularly (like Downloads or stuff on my flash drive or the ever-growing Caby Art Archive, which recently eclipsed 500MB), it’s pretty nice to drop a shortcut and have it right there.


I picked up a Dell WebPC back in late March, and I’ve been having a blast with it.

dcb's desktop
She also drew this background with Lince! They both came out fantastic, seriously, and she works quick. Have you thought about throwing money at her? >w>

A bit of background: The line came about in 1999 as an entry-level computer marketed towards new home Internet users. Pitched in a new class of compact, “legacy-free“ machines—largely in response to the iMac—it did away with PS/2, serial, and parallel ports, embracing USB instead. Ethernet was only available in some configurations, and there was no room to add an expansion card, leaving only integrated graphics and sound. Mine is the entry-level 466mhz Celeron build, though there were configurations up to a 700mhz Pentium III. From the factory it most likely came with 64 megabytes of RAM and a 6.4-gigabyte hard drive, though it’s since been upgraded to 384mb of memory and a 20GB drive.

It’s not the most impressive machine, not by 1999 standards, not by 2004 standards. It lacks the glamour of a beige Pentium III tower with a Voodoo 3 and Sound Blaster Live card in tow, or a shiny old Alienware with a 6800 GT. And yet, all the things I can do on it still astound me. I’ve rambled on MSN, browsed (lighter) sites in RetroZilla, generated fractals, doodled in Procreate Painter and OpenCanvas, listened to music through both files and the microphone jack coupled with a compact FM radio or cassette player, grabbed and watched videos through youtube-dl and my own winvid2, edited webpages and photos, and even used Remote Desktop with my docked ThinkPad X230T for whatever I can‘t do on it, save for gaming.

It’s the little machine that could, that’s what it is. And I hold it dear. There are many like it—and I feel it’s prime time they get some use.

A photo of the WebPC in action, complete with an old-school tablet

Tags: anime, art, technology,

About bulb

Group posts, recaps, and things we all contributed to. Hopefully, our hum-to-English translation is intelligible enough.

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