teknidermy

upcoming://

soapbox://  

craeonics: You were on time, I was two days late
RedBoo: Could have sworn it was on time when I wrote it. Huh. I remember when ModBlog had it show up as a mistake. :P heh
*crae_work points at the calendar (two days too late)
Glenn: at custo agian
Glenn: Someone changed all the user names to ,

linkback://

2013 | 07 | 30

23:54 | LiteStep 2013-07-21 beta

Late last month, our man in South America sent a message to Tek HQ that simply said: “new LiteStep alpha”.

The last previous LiteStep build was in April 2009. Stanley had already set out to find the lost Dr. Livingstone. But at long last, here was a new build:

“We have just posted the 2013-06-27 experimental build. This is a 0.25.0 "Alpha" build. […] Here is what has changed since the last experimental build:

  • The !Run dialog now supports !Bang commands.

  • Added LSCloseExplorer, which will gracefully close the currently running shell when LiteStep launches.

  • Added LSRunX and LSRunY to position the !Run dialog.

  • Fixed left click menu positioning for tray icons (also requires tray module updates).

  • Tray modules now need to register for and handle LM_SYSTRAYINFOEVENT.

  • Added a fileExists() function.

  • Added a performance page to !about, showing module load times.

  • Added new enumeration type ELD_PERFORMANCE to EnumLSData

  • !about's system information page will now show > 4GB of memory correctly.

  • !about's system information page now supports Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012.

  • Various 64bit compilation fixes.”

While we were still recovering from that bombshell, in came word of a second, 2013-07-21 build:

  • “Modified the .RC file syntax to allow for settings prefixes. This change is backwards compatible.

  • Added detection of Windows 8.1 and Server 2012 R2.

  • LSAutoHideModules is now more reliable, and will hide modules on a monitor as long as there is a fullscreen window on that monitor.

  • Added more details to the error message that is shown when a module fails to load.”

Going by the LS Dev download section, there's even a 2013-07-24 build out. And aside from all that, there are new xTray and nModules builds available. || craeonics | comments (5)

2013 | 05 | 01

20:22 | Xion Audio Player 1.5 build 154

After some good two years of silence a new build (150) of Xion Audio Player was released last month, followed by build 154 earlier last week.

Or as developer Cliff put it:

“So...been a while huh? Unfortunately I don't just work on Xion in my spare time. I also have to work a day job to pay my bills, eat, etc. I have a few other projects that I spend time on too. I've been working on some projects that can hopefully bring an income in so I can spend more time on things like Xion. Life has also gotten in the way a few times for me but things are going great now.

I've had lots of time to think about where I'd like to take Xion. I do have big plans for it and some big choices to make going forward. I'm also just one guy doing this and my many other projects, so who knows how long it will take. If only I could clone myself.”

Build 150 brings us:

“Xion 1.5 (build 150) has a brand new skin designed by the amazing Lance Thackeray as well as a large number of fixes and optimization, tons of new features for skinners including a new tint control and knobs for volume and balance and even new file icons. Make sure you check out the changelist for a full list.”

And build 154 has various other fixes and additions.

It's good to see development on this app, with its unique PSD-based skin system, is going strong again. || craeonics | comments (6)

2013 | 03 | 31

19:41 | Rainmeter 2.5

Earlier this week version 2.5 of the skinnable system monitoring tool Rainmeter was released. Most notable new features according to the devs:

  • “New FileView plugin. This powerful new plugin will index and gather information about all files and folders in a defined path. Information supported includes the path, name, size, type, date, and icon. Commands can be used to scroll through the index of files, move up and down in the folder tree, and select files for display or opening with the associated program.

  • Added new ClipString=2 setting and new ClipStringW / ClipStringH options. This will allow for more dynamic clipping and wrapping of a string while sizing the containing meter to accommodate the entire contents. […]

  • Added new Mouse Actions to support the scroll wheel. […]

  • Added new Mouse Variables. These are "macro" variables used in the context of a mouse click action to provide the current X and Y position of the mouse cursor relative to the meter or skin in pixels or a percentage. […]

  • Added new OnUpdateAction command to Skins, Meters and Measures. This will allow an action to take place when the element is updated normally or by any bang.

  • Added new OnChangeAction command to Measures. This will allow an action to take place when the value of a measure changes.

  • Added new OnFocusAction and OnUnFocusAction options to the [Rainmeter] section of the skin, to execute actions when a skin gains or loses focus (by clicking it) in Windows.

  • Added "*" as a wildcard parameter to the !UpdateMeasure and !UpdateMeter bangs to immediately update all measures and meters.

  • Changed the behavior of the WebParser ProxyServer option to better handle how WebParser interacts with Internet Explorer for proxy management.”

The complete list of changes can be found in the beta notes or the version history. || craeonics | comments (3)

2012 | 09 | 03

20:11 | GUI Champs 2012

Frogboy announced StarDock's intention to run a new GUI Olympics some moons ago, but now it's official and sporting a new name: the 2012 GUI Champs.

“GUI Champs is the ultimate Graphical User Interface (GUI) competition. Graphics designers from around the world will be competing in four primary skinning categories. It is a way to help support the community of individuals who create alternative graphical user interfaces and also just to have some good old fun!

We are accepting entries of WindowBlinds, DeskScapes Dreams and Desktop Wallpapers.”

Entries can be submitted starting tomorrow. So get cracking! || craeonics | comments

2012 | 07 | 29

20:07 | Snarl R3.0 Beta 1

FullPhat just released a new beta of their notification tool Snarl. For the new bits and pieces we are referred to the download:

“Please see the included revision history for changes.”

So I download the package and open the readme. Let me quote the changelog verbatim:

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-
Key changes and improvements
-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

Followed by emptiness. Regardless, do check it out. || craeonics | comments (3)

2012 | 06 | 26

20:38 | RainMeter 2.3

After lots of weekly betas RainMeter 2.3 has been released. Various things have been added and tweaked, but the biggest change is probably the new .rmskin file format:

“There is a new, improved .rmskin (Rainmeter Skin Package) system designed to make distribution of your creations easier. The most visible change is a new Rainmeter Skin Packager application available from the Manage dialog in Rainmeter. This will allow you to quickly select skins, themes and custom plugins to add to your distribution, and create a .rmskin package users can install by simply double-clicking.”

There is a catch ofcourse:

“Please note that as of this release of Rainmeter, both deviantART.com and Customize.org will only accept the .rmskin format for new uploads. If you want to distribute your skins on these popular sites, be sure to check out the new Rainmeter Skin Packager.”

Sometimes you just have to force people to move forward. So this is a good move. || craeonics | comments

2011 | 12 | 17

20:02 | SharpE is dead but not gone

Earlier this month the SharpE devs decided that their shell replacement was on life-support and it was best to wrap things up and end the project.

“During the past months the activity in the development team has reached a low point […] Reason for this simply is that the remaining few developers either lost interest in the shell or have more important real life interests to take care of. […] With the overall situation not leading to any progress whatsoever and with less and less time being spend on the development of the shell we see no other choice than to close the project by officially stopping the development.

It's really sad that we have to do this, we just see no other choise. We feel however that it's better to end the project under controlled conditions instead of trying and trying and trying to keep it going until at some point it inevitably falls appart.”

Those controlled conditions consist of placing the project on SourceForge, throwing together a simple info site and compiling a final build. This way the source will be available for whoever might be interested in picking things up.

I could write a retrospect on SharpE, but let me suffice by quoting Bob Dylan: ‘the times they are changing’. And it's not just confined to skindom. I see familiar things decay and new, not always benign, things flourish all across the web, let alone the world. || craeonics | comments (2)

2011 | 10 | 01

13:37 | State of the Step — September 2011

After being gone for roughly half a decade, rootrider returned to that little town called LiteStep, only to find it inhabited by ghosts.

“I would occasionally check in on the Litestep Mailing List to see how things were going there. This year there were seven emails from January to May. I have every email I received from that list since June 1999. There were about 38000 emails from 1999 to 2005. From 2005 - 2011 there were about 1500 emails. This should give you an idea of how popular and active the scene was in the first several years, and how much slower and inactive it has become in the last several years.”

I would say that not only the LiteStep scene, but the entire alternative shell scene and even the totality of skindom are moribund.

“As such, we need to start operating as if LiteStep is the small project that it is. It needs a good core web site where users can go to download releases and other resources, read documentation, and help add to the community if they like. Other sites can exist, but everything should be very well linked and, ideally, well coordinated. We should combine our efforts as much as possible toward a more singular goal. With our number of active users being so small, splitting efforts between multiple projects and goals only serves to weaken the group as a whole. This effort has begun.”

This new situation he envisions is actually more coordinated than the 'Step has ever been. Perhaps it just was in need of a right good kicking in order to grow.

Long story short: someone has stepped up to the plate in order to get LiteStep up and running again. Be sure to read the full State of the Step and if you're interested in helping out, head over to the forums at litestep.info or #litestep on IRC. || craeonics | comments

13:10 | RainMeter 2.1

After seven months in beta, version 2.1 of the ever-evolving monitoring app RainMeter was released. Most notable new features on the user side of things are a Now Playing plugin and a new and improved configuration editor.

  • “We've added our single most-requested feature: the NowPlaying plugin, which allows a single Rainmeter skin to interact with a huge range of popular media players by changing only a single setting. […] The plugin not only allows the display of track, artist and album information and basic player controls, but also makes it possible to change the track position, toggle shuffle and repeat settings, and even rate your music directly from Rainmeter.

  • […] Just click on the Rainmeter icon in your Windows tray, and you'll have your whole library at your fingertips. Load new skins, change settings on the fly, and save and restore your ‘theme’ arrangements - all from the same elegant tabbed interface.

  • […] Rainmeter's performance has been improved in countless areas, including significantly faster launch times and image caching for graphics-heavy skins. Rainmeter 2.1 also plays better with Windows 7 than ever before. Skins can take advantage of Aero blur, and Rainmeter now keeps track of your network usage independently, instead of by theme.”

All that, plus a number of tweaks and additions on the skinning side of things. Looks like RainMeter is slowly filling the vacuum left by Samurize. || craeonics | comments

2011 | 03 | 28

20:10 | Nexus Dock & WinStep Xtreme 11.2

Earlier this month, our long-eared cousin, JCRabbit, released new versions of his shell enhancement suite WinStep Xtreme and his application launcher/dock Nexus Dock, plus a new release of the non-skinnable Start Menu Organizer.

Previous releases were back in October, so the changelogs are a mile long. Perhaps it would have been wise, from a news point of view, to stagger those releases, but basically WinStep is a suite containing the other apps (plus NextStart and WorkShelf), so it's understandable.

And somewhere along the line the WinStep site got a much needed Jenny Jones make-over. Much less 90s and more 00s. || craeonics | comments

2011 | 03 | 09

20:08 | A man walks down the street

The only mail Tek gets is usually spam, SEO crap (AKA spam) or link exchange requests (AKA more spam). Today however, I got a question from André SubPop wondering what the hell happened to this thing called ‘desktop customisation’.

“I'm a deskmod enthusiast since 1999/2000, when I was 14, and is a bit sad to see that some of the good sites like desktopian and blizzle are now just digital dust... And sites like customize.org, skinz and others are just a web2.0 thrash or full of ads, respectively. […]

And now, I want to know some about Teknidermy and other related projects, like VirtualPlastic... Why Modspots is offline? Server issues?”

Unfortunately for André he joined the desktop revolution when it was already past its prime.

What exactly happened? I think it's a combination of developers moving with life or onto other platforms; skinning becoming too complicated for casual skinners (it's no fun anymore); people in general being more content with the ever increasing eye candy in interfaces ever since XP (my poor eyes); and (yes, Doreen) desktops making way for smart phones and the like.

Mr. SubPop started a thread on our board, so feel free to join in on that if you have an opinion on the subject (beware of the fiendish filter though).

And rest assured, Tek is alive and well. Just not kicking as much as it used to. || craeonics | comments on our board

2010 | 05 | 17

0:16 | Snarl 2.3 alpha 2

Full Phat's Snarl is a notification system, similar to the balloon tips Windows has for when the icons on your desktop need cleaning up or you wifi has dropped out again.

Except that Snarl does not seem to hook into that but instead provides a seperate framework. The downside of that being that other applications need to actively support Snarl to get things going. That has been Snarl's achilles heel ever since its inception. Fortunately there seems to be a somewhat healthy amount of helper apps for it these days.

So what's new?

“Chris and I have been running this release without major issue since February this year so we thought it would make sense to release it to the wider community. Please be aware that it should still be considered an alpha release (as such, please assume it will be more buggy and unpredictable than a beta release).”

Latest version can be found on SourceForge. || craeonics | comments (3)

2010 | 03 | 29

19:55 | True Transparency 1.4

One might think that either WindowBlinds is the last sole survivor of the tribe of window skinners or that native theming from XP onwards has killed the need for such applications. The latter is irrelevant, for it is in the skinner's blood to transcend the norm. The former is simply not true. Yes, there's WindowBlinds and then a vaste plain of emptiness. But it is not alone.

Case in point, True Transparency. A program that appears to be rooted in the desire to have Aero-like alpha transparency in the Vista manner, but does so by basically replacing the borders of your windows by customisable bitmaps.

And isn't that just the minimum that a window skinner is supposed to do?

“Additions/improvements:

  • Ability to have TT 32 bits and 64 bits at the same time

  • Right click on close button sends the window to the back

  • Winroll

  • FadeIn/FadeOut for buttons

Corrections:

  • Firefox 3.6 and higher was not skinned

  • Fix title problem with some Unicode window

  • Fix problem when closing toolbar window

  • Fix size calculation for toolbar window

  • Fix AeroShake bug

  • Fix focus bug

  • Better handling of modal window

  • Bettre handling of fullscreen window”

Ah, winroll. It used to seem like such a cool feature to me, but once I had it, I found that I never used it. Regardless, I grow weary of the classic look of my netbook. Perhaps I should give True Transparency a spin. || craeonics | comments (7)

19:28 | WinStep Nexus 10.3

Jorge ‘JcRabbit’ Coelho knows where it's at. Not only because of the leporid affiliation of his nickname, but also because the latest version of WinStep Nexus Dock sports an in-dock system tray. Now you might take this as me being my sarcastic self, but I'm serious. There is so much essential stuff hidden in the tray that it would be a shame if an app that is about personalisation does not provide the means to put the tray where you want it, in the shape you want it to have.

“Nexus?”, I hear you ask.

“The Winstep Nexus dock is a FREE, stand alone, version of the Nexus dock that is part of the Winstep Xtreme suite of applications, although it has no support for multi-docks, multi-level sub-docks, and system tray icon configuration, unlike its bigger 'cousin' in Winstep Xtreme.”<

Changes in version 10.3 include:

“in-dock system tray, ability to customize the images of the dock control icon and the clock, recycler, cpu, net, ram and email checker widgets, option to open context sub-menus on mouseover, major reorganization of right-click context menus in order to make them more consistent between different item types and make it easier to add new items to the dock, amazing new set of weather icons by Teknofrik (Style 2), full and seamless integration of native Nexus and 3rd party dock skins (no longer separate), option NOT to flip dock backgrounds for docks located at the top of the screen, ability to specify the folder used to store screenshots taken by the Capture Desktop command, and much, much, more!”

Grab it over at WinStep. || craeonics | comments (4)

2009 | 10 | 23

20:27 | SharpE TD6R4 (better late than never)

Earlier this month, the SharpE Shell team said it took them a little longer than they had hoped for to release the latest milestone TD6R4 of their shell replacement. Not as long as it took me to post about it. Alright, enough jokes.

“Took a little longer than we had hoped for. Here it finally is, the next release - TD6R4.

Besides several bug fixes of some major bugs (like the link launcher not working when SharpE was unpacked in a directory which contained spaces) there is also a lot of new stuff included. For example there is a "new" skin, "Number 8" which basically is a very much improved version of "Number 7". But this new skin makes use of two new features in the application bar. The hover and highlight blending effects are now using the colors of the icon which is assigned to the application bar item. And the multiple window overlay is now displayed as a number instead of the new white squares. Both features are skin specific and currently only supported by the new Number 8 skin. Besides this there are some nice new features in the cursor service (thanks to our user HomerSp).”

In an unforeseen move I actually installed this shell on my new Vista video playing machine. It provides you with a set of themes, a number of taskbars, the desktop context menu Explorer still so sorely lacks, skins your cursor, has some icon sets and commits the cardinal sin of replacing my desktop backdrop which I had searched so long for.

I gave myself five minutes to find out how to set those taskbars to autohide (us minimalists don't like clutter). That didn't work out, so I installed Emerge Desktop instead. || craeonics | comments (9)

20:10 | LS-Universe.info uptime and other LS stuff

LS-Universe's unfortunate downtime, which I mentioned last month, fortunately didn't last very long. LS-Themes's THC4K stepped in and set them up with a subdomain: ls-universe.ls-themes.org, as the original domain name went the way of the dodo along with the hosting.

Me thinks universe.ls-themes.org or lsu.ls-themes.org might have been better picks, but regardless, it's good that it's back.

While I'm stealing news from LSP, two new German LiteStep sites have popped up, LiteStep.de and LiteStep-Forum.de. The more the merrier. Umm, that is, if they have a healthy population and steady supply of participants. || craeonics | comments

2009 | 09 | 23

18:59 | LS-Universe.info downtime

The one site that kept the LiteStep flame flickering has just kicked the bucket, as LS-Universe's hosting was cancelled by its owner. Or as Andymon put it on LSP:

“Ok, that was entirely unexpected, especially for me :(

But GothsSecret (the real owner of LS-U) has canceled the contract with the hoster sooner then expected and when he called me yesterday it was too late for me to do anything and today all is gone as you can see.

I have a (hopefully working) backup from 09.09.09 at least for the xDocs data and the LS-U Mainpage so nothing is totally lost.

I apologize that the site is shut down without notice, but sometimes things like this happen.

If i get another community hosting offer, the site will probably come back somewhere else, but atm i don't know where and when.

Btw.: If someone wants to contact me, my new mail is andymon at go4more dot de.”

With Blizzle being toast, LS-Universe down, and an economic crisis to boot, these are joyfull times. I sure hope the module loading thing in LiteStep doesn't depend on LS-Universe.

Credit to the frosticle for the heads up. || craeonics | comments (2)

2009 | 08 | 16

21:26 | Speaking of news...

Frequent updates are so 2008. Old is the new vogue. To think that Tek, the magazine, once gained a news section so we could fill the gap between our strict bi-monthly publications, and present some content to keep the people interested. The magazine somehow snuck out of the back door at some point in time and meanwhile news has gone the way of the dodo as well.

Mea culpa, but not completely, for it seems the avenues of skinning we used to follow have reached an evolutionary dead end. A decade ago I could spend hours a day reading the latest news on floach.pimpin.net and Desktopian (and its previous incarnation). No more. We are the neanderthals of Skindom.

Fortunately, there's still sryo. He's been faithfully keeping track of the bits and pieces of news that pop up in the lands of skins and shells at ModTalk and Shells Update. Hell, he even sacrificed a black rooster and ressurrected ModSpots.

Doreen sent him a teknishirt, but they were so hip the officials confiscated them. Twice. || craeonics | comments (3)

20:56 | Rainmeter 1.0

Back in May when we last saw our faithful heroine Rainmeter, she had just been brought back to life by mad scientist Rainy and his wicked henchmen. Skip three months (I've been busy) and we have a 1.0 of our intrepid investigator.

And I'm glad cuttheredwire wrote a little something something about it with the changelog, because I sure don't see it anywhere.

“Among Rainmeter 1.0's numerous improvements:

  • A built-in theme manager, RainThemes, to save and load your setups.

  • Complete compatibility with Windows Vista and 7. (Your data is no longer stored in Program Files, which eliminates problems with UAC.)

  • New visual options, such as text shadows, transformation matrices and improved anti-aliasing.

  • Expanded plugin support for iTunes, WiFi and even Recycle Bin management.

  • An official online forum at Rainmeter.net for support, discussion, third-party addons, tips and feature requests.”

Rainmeter 1.0 comes packed with a new default skin called Enigma which has some rather high ambitions. || craeonics | comments (4)

2009 | 05 | 04

23:31 | Rainmeter revived

Rainmeter, after being abandoned for quite some time, has been brought back to life. Rainy, maker of the popular calendar app Rainlender, has brought on some help and restarted development as a Google code project. There is a forum and a IRC channel too.

For those unfamiliar with the app, Rainmeter is a skinnable system resource monitor for windows. It can give you a readout on just about anything on your computer (and then some). It was the first really flexible app of its kind, blowing old Sysmeter 2 out of the water. Even in its dormant state, dedicated users continued to skin it. It's one of those old school apps I love to see returning to the scene.

This may be very good news to another app: LiteStep. One of the unique features of Rainmeter is was that it could run as a LS module (plug-in). It could be completely integrated into your desktop experience. Hopefully the new guard will hold true to this ideal.

Special thanks to DragonMage for keeping me in the loop and his dedication to the app. || cuttheredwire | comments (7)

2009 | 03 | 03

00:18 | LiteStep 0.24.8 Final

If memory serves me correctly it was '97 or '98 when everyone's favourite shell LiteStep entered the 0.24 cycle. And now, after more than a decade, it's finally end of the line with LiteStep 0.24.8 Final. Onwards to 0.25!

The most important update in this version must definitely be:

“This release comes with a manual that fully covers the use and configuration of the LiteStep core.”

Let's hope this brings an end to the endless crawling through changelogs to see what's in, what's out and what's changed. Further changes include:

  • “New evaluation parser

    With the evaluation parser, both conditional expressions (If, ElseIf) and in-line expressions ($a + b$) now use the same syntax. The new parser adds new capabilities that were previously unavailable such as strings and built-in functions.

  • Appbar support

    We have added an implementation to support AppBars. This is a feature found in the Explorer shell which some applications use to dock their window to the edge of a screen (e.g. the Explorer taskbar). Some typical applications that use this feature are IM clients and various media players.

  • Icon notification tray (systray) service fixes

    The Icon Notification Tray service has been updated to fix several issues. The most visible one being where old icons and sometimes balloon (info) tips would appear during a recycle.

  • Broken configurations that would recursively define variables no longer lock LiteStep up.

  • Removed !gather bang command proxy for VWM modules (all current VWM modules now implement that function internally).

  • Large improvements to LSAutoHideModules.

  • Changed !alert and !confirm default messagebox caption to include the !bang command name.

  • Added support for Windows 2003 ($win2003$ is now available and !about box information is correctly displayed)

  • Improvements to !ShowModules, !HideModules and !ToggleModules. They now have apparent instant affect; no more jerky showing/hiding.”

Note that the 0.24-series is not compatible with Vista and its future offspring. Development is already underway in the 0.25 branch to make this happen. || craeonics | comments (6)

2009 | 03 | 02

23:56 | Y'z Shadow 2.3 beta 1 and Y'z Toolbar 2.2

Y'z Shadow is a utility that adds shadows beneath your windows. Sounds simple perhaps, but the effect works so well. It makes the windows feel more layered. And ofcourse if you want to go wild you can also turn the shadow into a glow instead. Beta 2.3 enhances the shadows drawn under the taskbar.

Y'z Toolbar 2.2 is a Mac OS-like dock skins the icons of Explorer's toolbars, be it Explorer the file manager or Internet Explorer the browser. It's a small tweak, but it beats having to hack .dlls. Version 2.2 fixes a bug with windows opened by IE6.

The English version of the site is as dead as the dodo and I may assume that not everyone's Japanese is up-to-date, so I'll just point you straight to the download page so you can check it out yourself. || craeonics | comments (3)

2008 | 09 | 28

20:37 | Customizing the iPhone

Every time I decide to do an article on customizing one of my beloved gadgets, I first have to reflect back on when I last did an article followed up by then taking a quick walk down memory lane to skim the article which in turn causes a few reactions from me. First I'm amazed at how many years have passed by so quickly and then I'm shocked at how extremely far these gadgets have evolved and lastly I'm completely embarrassed at how ridiculous my article looks to me now that I've looked back at it w/ older eyes or something! (course that won't stop me from embarrassing myself yet again cuz I'm gonna write another one right now)

But I truly am amazed by the broad spectrum of changes that have come about to these small hand held gadgets that we now cannot seem to live without. I mean think about it, can you honestly remember the last time you looked for a pay phone on a street corner to make a call?

We rely on our cell phones daily to contact our family members and co-workers via either the phone or instant messaging apps installed on them, we use them to remind us of upcoming important meetings and appointments, we take and share photos using them, we read our news and browse the internet while riding on the subway to work, we pass time playing cool games on them, and now today they've basically become so powerful that there really is nothing much that we cannot do on them that we can do in our office sitting behind a desktop machine! And if you have an iPhone you know this to be true, that we can pretty much rip the calendar off the wall and grab our camera, calculator, telephone, picture frames, alarm clock that's sitting right on our desk along w/ our Desktop Computer and toss them all out the window and simply grab our iPhone and we've got everything we need right in our hand!

I'm totally obsessed w/ my iPhone but since this is a skinning ezine that focuses on customization, I'll try to constrain myself to that subject, but if anyone has questions of any kind regarding the iPhone feel free to leave me questions or comments and I'll be sure to make you sorry you ever asked. =)

Okay so let's begin, what's the first thing everyone does when they purchase their new shiny toy? They cover it up to protect it therefore masking the beauty of it! But I've got a few other solutions:

  • iPhone Shield (Full protection but still looks completely naked!)

  • MyGelSkin (Protects and compliments)

  • IvySkin (If you must completely cover but still want some pizzazz)

Then after you've taken care of that major crisis you do one of two things. Either you'll be content as an everyday typical ‘phone’ user or you will realize the ‘iPhone’ has much more potential and want to gain full control over it. However, if you're a typical phone user and only bought an iPhone to make calls w/ you can stop reading right here, but if you're looking for much more fun and benefits from your iPhone and want to challenge yourself then you should read on—

I've no clue what Apple was thinking by finally letting in 3rd party apps but not letting the owner of the iPhone have full access to their phone but that is exactly what they've done so if you're like me and think “Hey! this is my phone, I paid for it and I want to do what I want w/ it”, then you'll need to break your iPhone out of Jail which is what Apple is trying to do by keeping our phones locked up the way they've done. So the next stop is over here:

Here is a Capture of the Default iPhone prior to Jailbreaking:

And here is a Capture of an iPhone after Jailbreaking, as you can see every element can be skinned.

Unfortunately you will need to do some research on your own regarding the various jailbreaking methods since like I said, I'm going to try to restrain myself from turning this article turning into a book but simply give some useful customization information to get you started, some of which can be found here:

Once you've successfully jailbroken your iPhone then you will have Cydia which is where you will locate and install some of the most useful, powerful and ‘freeeeeeee’ apps available for customizing your iPhone. Some of which are called:

And the list will go on and on and on, but without a doubt theee most powerful customization app you will find is WinterBoard w/ this app you can turn your apple into an orange (or anything else for that matter) you'll have complete customization access over the Sounds, the entire GUI, Keyboard, Fonts, Icons, Wallpaper, LockScreen, Also some of the iPhone's default application's GUI's such as the Dialer, email app, Notes, Browser etc. (just wayyyyyy too much to cover here)

Here's a few before and after screenshots:

Browser
Notes
MobileMail
Calculator
Dialer
Keyboard
Popups
Weather

I've made a few themes that pretty much show off just some of WinterBoards cool and powerful possibilities which also uses a script (that I begged for in a forum over at macthemes) and some totally talented guy named Zetetic was up to the challenge to put together this script for me to accommodate a weather feed which in turn displays the current weather information along w/ the weather's icon so I took that a step further and decided to create some themes that would change not only the weather icon itself but rather the entire wallpaper according to day and night and the current weather status and display some nice images to keep things looking alive and fresh each time you look at your iPhone.

Since it's currently night here's a quick screen capture off my phone:

Beach theme

You can download my themes from here:

Once you get your iPhone looking just the way you want it to, then the next stop is the iTunes AppStore of course, which is another article so I'm going to end it right here before I start boring you guys to death talking about all the cool apps I've found in the AppStore. Alright I lied I have to tell you about one, jusssss one! It's called ‘Polar Shot’ and it's an app that lets you skin your photos!

Who wants to look at just a boring photo you took? You need to customize it alilll bit and add that personal touch, so you could either take a photo w/ your iPhone or download any image off of your Safari Browser from your iphone and then set a background color, frame it, type a quick Caption on it, or draw on it in various color inks and then save them to your camera roll or email them right out to someone from your iPhone.

Here's a quick image I grabbed off my iPhone and customized in the Polar Shot app.

I can't wait to see what applications will be available six months from now, they should be a lot more advanced then what we are currently seeing right now, since a lot of the developers are all in the early phases of learning the power that the iphone has in regards to both it's processor and display abilities. || Doreen | comments (6)

18:56 | WindowBlinds 6.3

Alpha transparency: check; layered skinning: check; the only thing left for WindowBlinds to match the future of skinning I prophecised a decade ago is scripting. Ofcourse, beyond that lies the three dimensional desktop.

What am I talking about? Premiere window skinner WindowBlinds 6.3 and its new support for layers. Alright, 6.2 had that too, but now we have blending options. You know, like in Photoshop.

“Stardock is pleased to announce the release of WindowBlinds 6.3. These releases come just in time for the start of the 2008 GUI Championships, which start next month. WindowBlinds is the easiest way to change the look and feel of the user interface of Windows XP and Windows Vista. There are thousands of skins (visual styles) are available for just about every style you can imagine. People can also create their own skins with SkinStudio.

New WindowBlinds features:

  • Layers now supported!

  • Misc. tweaks and performance fixes

WindowBlinds is available stand-alone, or as part of the Object Desktop suite of desktop enhancements. There are also bundles available which include SkinStudio or a subscription to WinCustomize.com. You can get more information and a free trial download at www.windowblinds.net.”

The blurb for the new version of SkinStudio gives us more info on these layers:

“One of the biggest new features in SkinStudio 6.3 requires WindowBlinds 6.3. While SkinStudio 6.2 and WindowBlinds 6.2 introduced the concept of layers in a skin, the layers are only blended using straight alpha blending.

Layers allow skinners to take an existing image and blend it with another image without having to alter the original image.

WindowBlinds 6.3 introduces the concept of layer blend modes which allows a layer to be blended using a number of different blend modes. Some of the blend modes are auto masking which really helps with applying textures to lower layers.”

Also tucked away in that announcement was a note that there's going to be a new GUI Championship(s) this year. Big competitions are always good. Not so good is that the site is way wider than my browser window. Alright, alright, job deformation. || craeonics | comments (1)

2008 | 08 | 27

19:46 | Circle Dock 0.9.2 Alpha Preview 7

Circle Dock, ‘The Open Source Circular and Spiral Dock for Windows’, is a dock with a twist. Or rather, a swirl. It's basically a pie menu that pops up around your mouse and allows fast access to whatever shortcuts you put in there.

“What Circle Dock 0.9.2 Alpha 7 Allows You to Do:

  • Launch your programs from a circular dock.

  • Drag and drop your files, folders, and shortcuts onto a circular dock that you can resize.

  • Rotate the dock with either your mouse wheel or the keyboard arrow keys.

  • Change the image shown for the icons and change the skins (compatible with icons and skins for Rocket Dock, Object Dock, etc.)

  • The dock appears where your mouse is by pressing a hotkey (default is F1) or your middle mouse button.

  • Tested on computers with multiple monitors, Windows XP/Vista, 32-bit & 64-bit, and requires only .Net Framework 2.0.

  • […]

Please provide feedback, bug reports, suggestions, and code contributions at the official Circle Dock Support Forum.”

I think I've seen an earlier incarnation of this app a few years back. It's dependency on .NET is why I ignored it back then. Pie menus work quite well once you get used to them and have memorised the locations of the icons you use most. || craeonics | comments (6)

19:18 | UberSkin

About ten years late, UberSkin is a window skinning engine for the 9x series of Windows: '95, '98 and ME. The amount of controls it is capable of skinning, judging by the documentation, places it second to WindowBlinds (on 9x that is).

“If you didn't know, i've been rewriting Revolutions Pack 8 from scratch, and now, the time has come and i'm presenting UberSkin, the ultimate skinning engine.

  • THE ONLY skinning engine capable of native taskbar skinning now with Windows 98, ME and even 95 shell support! The LameSkin which is no longer lame!

  • Does not patches, not includes, not requires system files from other OSes. Yeah, no more pain and suffering. Now even eidenk can't blame me.

  • =compatible with all official and unofficial updates!

  • Still does not consumes process to run. Smoothly integrates into system

  • Clean install and uninstall. Can't mess up registry. One single exe and no worries.

  • Compatible with all applications. Unlike Revolutions Pack 7, UberSkin does not have problems with apps using Unicows, Nero and other tools.

  • Miserable resource impact. UberSkin consumes several times less resources than LameSkin (considering LameSkin already using less than commercial skinners). It won't ever use more than hundred KBs of physical memory.”

Apparently there's still some development being done for 9x that I wasn't aware of. Credits to sryo, as usual, for digging this up. || craeonics | comments

2008 | 06 | 09

19:29 | Winstep Xtreme 8.5

WinStep, the dock/menu system/font browser suite, goes Web 2.0 with their latest Winstep Xtreme 8.5, sporting icon reflections and more highlights than a coupe soleil.

“An integrated workspace environment, Winstep Xtreme is a powerful suite of applications that merge incredible usability and performance with breathtaking eye candy.

(…)

NeXuS is a multi-dock system, which as well as holding traditional bookmarked icons can also hold any combination of widgets, clocks, mail checkers, weather indicators and system performance meters within multiple levels of sub-docks. NeXuS is just perfect for super fast access to your most frequently used applications. WorkShelf is a tabbed dock, better suited for complex organizational duties like organizing documents, URLs, movies, work projects, applications, etc... NextSTART is the menu system - and takes care of all your task management needs as well. FontBrowser is a bare-bones font browsing utility.

A pack of popular desktop widgets are also included in this release which can be displayed on the desktop, featured within the docks, placed within shelves or merged into the taskbar. Featured widgets include a speaking Atomic Clock, Recycle Bin, SSL POP3/IMAP Email Checker, Weather Monitor with 5 day forecast, CPU, Net and RAM Meters, and Wanda, the amazing 'fortune cookie' reader. New modules are constantly under development.

Highlights in this release:

  • New optional and user configurable icon reflection effect on docks and shelves.

  • Restored the weather feed provided by the Weather Channel.

  • New customizable backgrounds for the in-shelf/dock CPU, Net and RAM meters.

  • New Dock Manager to quickly manage and locate all your docks.

  • Added a new 'NeXuS Common Preferences' tab to WorkShelf Preferences for settings common to both the docks and the Shelf.

  • Added ability to group documents from the same program into a single task icon, bringing WorkShelf's task management abilities up to par with NextSTART.

  • Menus displaying grouped tasks now highlight tasks that were 'flashed' in the mean time (e.g. Messenger windows).

  • Added 'Task Flashing' support to the Tasks shelf.

  • Added many other task management improvements.

  • Improved the dock magnification algorithm for a much faster and smoother experience.

  • Added a 'Magnification Smoothness' setting to control how smoothly docks zoom in and out.

  • Added individual settings to optimize WorkShelf for either performance or memory usage.

  • Enhanced the thumbnails feature by adding support for Flash movies previews.

  • Added visual feedback when you click on a dock icon.

  • Improved the preview of non-native NeXuS themes in the Dock Style Editor.

  • Added support for dock separator bitmaps in native and non-native NeXuS themes.

  • Dock tile and overlay End caps now have their own settings for non-stretchable bitmap areas.”

WinStep Xtreme is shareware and costs $39.90, which also gives you a year's worth of updates.

Thanks to dev Jorge Coelho himself for the detailed press release (which I found in my spambox this afternoon, eek!). || craeonics | comments (4)

2008 | 06 | 02

19:27 | LiteStep 0.24.8 RC1

Announced back in April, the LiteStep Development Team have (finally) released LiteStep 0.24.8, release candidate 1.

“Your friendly LiteStep Development Team is proud to announce the first release of LiteStep 0.24.8 as Release Candidate 1. This release reflects two and a half years of (intermittent) development and +8636/-3301 lines changed in the source code.”

Most notable changes and additions in this version are: a new evaluation parser, appbar support (no, that doesn't ring a bell with me either) and a number of fixes, like the ever improving tray service.

What am I running? /me checks… 0.24.7 from back in 2005! I wonder where LiteStep is headed. || craeonics | comments (7)

19:07 | CoolPlayer+ Portable 2.17.1

Apparently, the original CoolPlayer wasn't a portable app already. So PortableApps.com created a new, portable version of this media player. Hmm, well, if anything, it has a new default skin.

“CoolPlayer+ Portable 2.17.1 has been released. CoolPlayer+ Portable is a modified version of the popular CoolPlayer audio player packaged as a portable app, so you can listen to your audio files and playlists on the go. It includes a custom PortableApps.com skin with equalizer and shade mode support as well as a themed playlist. It's packaged in PortableApps.com Format for easy use from any portable device and integration with the PortableApps.com Suite. And it's open source and completely free.”

They're a bit behind on the version though. Seeing that CoolPlayer has been bumped to build 219.

“Version 219

  • Fixed potential buffer overflow when reading OGG tags

  • Fixed open file dialog not being modal

  • Fixed add directory dialog not being modal

  • Enabled XP visual style support

  • Fixed bitrate display showing parts of previous songs bitrate

  • WAV file bitrate is now shown

  • Improved dialogs

  • Keyboard shortcuts between player and playlist are now more integrated”

Kudos to red for returning from wherever he has been and informing us about this. I'm so out of the loop. || craeonics | comments (7)

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