Electric Sheep Frequently Asked Questions

Getting Sheep

Are you not getting enough sheep? If you just installed the software your cache directory is empty, the client needs to download its first sheep. Leave the screen saver running overnight (make sure to disable power settings that might hibernate your computer).

The free server is heavily loaded, it might take some time before it downloads many sheep. Please be patient.

Note: the Gold Sheep get delivered by Amazon's CloudFront at high bandwidth.

If you have a laptop make sure the power saving settings are not turning off the screen-saver.

Logging In

Did you create an account and enter your email and password into the screensaver, but then it says you are not logged in, and the indicator stays red?

Normally this means you created an account, but did not buy a Gold membership. The "Not logged in" message is misleadingly labeled. It should just say "Not Gold". You don't need to log in to get the Free Sheep.

Getting Gold Sheep

Did you pay for a subscription but then nothing happened? First, be sure to wait five minutes, and then restart the screen saver.

Confirm that you entered your email and password into the preferences panel of the screen saver, and that the indicator is green.

Confirm that in the preferences, in the advanced tab the "flock choice" setting is on "if there are any Gold Sheep then play only Gold Sheep".

Identifying Gold Sheep

Is there a way to tell for sure if the Sheep I am seeing are Gold or not?

Just press F4 and check the number of the current Sheep. Gold Sheep numbers start with #10247, and free Sheep start with #247.

Also, Gold Sheep are widescreen (16x9) instead of TV shaped (4x3).

Running on new Macs

Does the Electric Sheep still work on the Mac?

Apple introduced a sandbox for screensavers in Catalina (10.15), and this broke downloading, voting, and the other interactive keyboard commands.

It works when run as a regular application, and the screensaver can display content downloaded by the application, but the screensaver by itself is prevented from downloading new designs.

We are exploring how to work better with Mac OS X again someday.

Crashing Problems with Old Laptops and PCs

If on Windows, Electric Sheep crashes instantly when run, try turning on "Direct Draw" in the advanced settings tab. If that doesn't work, turn on logging then check the log file (in Windows it is in C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Application Data\ElectricSheep\Logs). If you get 'Failed to create Direct3D 9 device', your graphics chipset probably can't run it.

Not Rendering

Most of the time, most users do not render. This is fine, don't worry about it. There are so many users that most are idle. This is good, sharing the work means the Sheep uses less power and is greener!

Sometimes when we are doing super-high resolution, then the network will be saturated, and everyone renders. When this happens is unpredictable, as is the rendering itself.

Security and Viruses

Do the Sheep put my computer at risk to viruses?

Nobody's had any problems, and the Linux version was audited by a security company, so we think it's safe. The Electric Sheep is listed on Softpedia, which screens its content for spam and virus risks. However, we cannot guarantee that a criminal hasn't broken into our web site and infected the installer. Anytime you download and run software from the internet there's a risk.

Some people have reported that their firewall alerted on the Sheep, but that was an old version many years ago that had P2P networking. We think that confused some security software.

Does it share or use any information from my computer?

No it does not violate your privacy in any way. The only data sent to the server are your votes (if you choose to). And the rendered frames, which are made according to instructions received on the server, and are the same no matter who would have done them.

What does it do over the network, and what servers does it contact?

The screensaver client does access a number of servers over the internet, in order to coordinate the work of creating the sheep, as well as downloading them. It uses the HTTP protocol to port 80 and HTTPS to port 443, which is totally standard. You can set a proxy in the settings dialog as needed. Since it only makes outgoing connections, you shouldn't need to configure any firewall you might have. But if you are curious, or you use something like the Little Snitch to monitor and control your network access, the domain names and IP#s used are listed here:

number name purpose *.sheepserver.net all
207.241.*.* *.us.archive.org free d100rc88eim93q.cloudfront.net gold


Why not use BitTorrent to download the sheep?

We tried that already and only 10-15% of our users were able to seed, which wasn't enough to make it work. Instead we are focusing on HTTP which is much more reliable, and adding a subscription system with premium content (the Gold Sheep) to pay for the bandwidth. Our goal is to keep it free for everyone, and at the same time make it sustainable.