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The Bliss of Windows XP March 2, 2007

Posted by caveblogem in Other, The Palouse, Windows.

Everytime I use a computers at the University that is not my own I log in to the network and it gives me a desktop background that is apparently called “Bliss,” by the friendly people at Microsoft Windows.  Here’s a part of the desktop image (click for a larger version):


The hills look really familiar to me, but I never made a real effort to find out where the picture was taken.  Today I had a spare moment before a meeting and I made a feeble attempt to track it down. 

Answers.com puts the location in Napa Valley:

The default wallpaper for the Windows XP operating system is Bliss, a BMP photograph of a landscape in the Napa Valley[citation needed], with rolling green hills and a blue sky with stratocumulus and cirrus clouds. The photograph inspired Windows XP’s 200-million USD advertising campaign Yes you can.

Yes, well, citation needed.  I’ve spent very little time in Napa Valley, but it seems unlikely that this was taken there.  California hills, left fallow, sprout golf courses, vinyards, suburbs, condos, and high-tech startups.  And grass left unwatered there turns brown (which according to the California Department of Commerce, Office of Tourism is pronounced “Golden”) in a couple of hours of clear skies and then burns.  Plus, the hills in the background don’t look like the coastal range (nor do they look like the Sierras, for that matter.)

Another site I found says that these hills are in New Zealand.  C’mon.  If you were in New Zealand, you’d take pictures of these little hills?  Did you see hills like this in The Lord of the Rings movies?  The Chronicles of Narnia?  I don’t think so.  The site had pictures, but, as you would expect, they were infested with sheep (see below, click for larger image).


I imagine it would take a sizeable campaign launched by serious-minded sheepdogs flown in from distant parts of both islands to clear a spot that large of four-legged stock.

Somebody asked the question on Ask.com or Yahoo answers or something, guessing that it was in Devon, England, and elicited the following answer:

I’m pretty sure it’s a hill in the South Downs, not far from Littlehampton in Sussex.  The road which runs alongside is called Long Furlong and it’s just off the A24.

The road, I suspect, is actually a drainage ditch.  (I’ve always had difficulty with English names for things.  Perhaps these are the same thing?)  And it makes me wonder, too, why the people at Microsoft would choose someplace in Sussex for a picture.  Not that it’s not picturesque, mind you.  Is it near some sort of Windows design installation or something?  Birthplace of somebody in the MS hierarchy? 

My vote is for a place closer to MS Central.  Here’s a shot of some wheatfields only a few short hours from Bellvue, WA:


This is a mid-summer picture of the hills around Pullman, Washington. I’ll put some better ones up if I can find them.  There are some really incredible views of this area in flickr, of course, one of which I have linked to here.   I’d love to hear other theories about where the picture was taken, or even some facts, if anybody actually has some to offer. 



1. ladypirate - March 2, 2007

I’d assumed it was somewhere in the States. I don’t know if it was the flora that seemed reminiscent of my time there, or the large-ish hill/mountain-like thingy to the right. But now I’m not so sure. You know, I’ve never really looked closely. Now I’m curious.

2. maryjunebrown - March 4, 2007

Well, I live about 10 minutes from Napa, and it never occured to me EVER that this pic could be from there.
I do think it eerily looks like the images/coloration of the Claritan anti-allergy commercials, though!

3. maryjunebrown - March 4, 2007
4. caveblogem - March 4, 2007

Thanks for the link, mjb. But what’s that rock wall doing in teletubby land?

I think that the hills in the claritin add look completely photoshopped, artificial, unlike the MS desktop, which just has an aura of unreality.

But there must be some sort of hard-wired thing in our brains that accepts those rolling hills as an anodyne for something, or stimulates dopamine production maybe. But that kinda goes against the usual method of advertisements, where they try to make you anxious, and then bring the product in as the only cure for the anxiety.

5. maryjunebrown - March 5, 2007

I think you are right.
I’ve had “Autumn” on my desktop for ages…and it’s never occured to me that this could be a REAL place…I always thought (if I thought of it at all) that it was some kind of digital creation.
This is an interesting post…

6. caveblogem - March 5, 2007


It’s interesting that you just assumed it was a virtual world, rather than some sort of representation of a real place. I’m not sure what that means, epistemologically, but it seems really postmodern.

Back when I worked for the California Department of Commerce the California Film Commission kept a huge library of images so that people looking to film in a place that matched, say, downtown Chicago, Kowloon, Bangalore, Okinawa, Abasfalva, whatever, they could locate it within the state, saving on travel expenses (and leakages to the California economy). I’ve often wondered what happened during the internet era. Probably people just do whatever the motion-picture equivalent of photoshopping is–shoot against a green background and voila! The actors are in Ulan Bator.

Probably it is more difficult than that. Probably people look at the picture and say, “no, that doesn’t look like Kunming.” But it is Kunming. “I know, but make it look like I expect Kunming to look.”

7. anxiousmofo - March 6, 2007

It’s not an awful picture. But for reasons I am not totally clear on, I cannot stand to work on a computer with that background. If I sit down at a clean Windows XP install that I will be using for more than, say, five minutes, I will immediately a) remove the desktop picture, b) change the appearance to the old-school Windows 2000-ish appearance, and c) change the font for menus, icons, etc. to Verdana (a lot like the default Tahoma, but wider and much much easier to read).

8. Neal Grosskopf - September 24, 2007

It’s napa valley, ca this site confirms it: http://www.wineviews.com/wccscenery/index.html

9. caveblogem - September 25, 2007

Neal, Is there one thumbnail in particular on that site that looks identical to you? They all looked vaguely similar to me, but no more similar than other vaguely similar hills I have seen in Idaho, Washington, and California.

10. Rodney (alias AmyListener) - October 25, 2007

The stories about Napa Valley and Switzerland are ruses to throw people off the trail. The hill is in the outer extemity of the Palouse. I was there recently, but did not want to tresspass and take photographs on posted private property. I will get permission and go back to take videos so I something better for my YouTube channel than a “grumpy cat” named “Boots II”.

11. Jim - October 28, 2007

Let me start by saying that I do not believe that I am any more wierd than the rest of us. I work on PC’s for a living, so I’ve seen my share of machines and wallpapers. This “Bliss” wallpaper has wierded me out a few times because I have seen a few that have small, dark, triangular-shaped somethings in the blue sky. They’re small, so may not catch your attention unless you’re looking closely. If that’s not wierd enough, the three times that I have seen this, they’re gone after a Windows restart. I’m a little reluctant to post this because it does sound so bizarre, but I’m a pretty sane person. If anyone else has noticed this, please respond (I’m not crazy – I’m not, I’m not. . .)

12. caveblogem - October 29, 2007

Jim, nobody thinks you are crazy. O.K., nobody knows for sure that you are crazy. I haven’t seen the triangles, but I’ll be on the lookout now. I have often thought that the growth of the dandelions in the foreground were related in some way to Microsoft’s stock price. I’m not sure, though. Then again, I’m never sure.

13. clara - January 7, 2009

I would need to know wich plant appears in the bliss picture? Can anyone help me?

Rodney (AmyListener) - August 7, 2010

That is wheat sprouting.

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