teknidermy editor's notes art uproar puppy love fashion victim elwin the fool the skinner who came in from the cold show us your honz babyafied whodunnit? issue eleven
show us your honz

Show Us Your Honz

Do a google search for “honz” and “skins” and you come up with links to “Featured Skinner” articles, a piece at Dangeruss Ind., and a long list of the major skinning sites.

Honz has been down the block, around, and back over the past few years. It's an honor to get to find out a bit more about 'im…

Tek: please tell us a little bit about yourself: who you are, where you are (geographically), what you do “in the real world”, family life if any, etc.

Honz: My name in the “real” world is John Hughes. I go under the name honz12 at all the sites I visit. I'm 29 and I'm married to a beautiful woman called Arlene. She's great and although she has to endure my endless hours on the PC she's generally supportive of my skinning hobby. We also have three boys.

I am from the UK and after some years in the Army I have settled back into my original home location which is a small town just outside Glasgow in Scotland.

My daytime job is very boring and repetitive (aren't they all) I work for a world-wide company who are based in Boston in USA. We make disposable blood collection units. Basically I'm a warehouse op. I drive about the warehouse in my forklift collecting all the parts that are needed to make the set. Then I deliver it to the factory, who piece it all together to produce the final set.

Tek: How long have you been at this “skinning thing”, what kind of hardware/software do you own/prefer, and, do you use any special programs, tricks, devices or anything else to enhance your skining process that would intrigue the rest of us?

Honz: Um, good question. To be brutally honest I don't have any special tricks or anything like that. Most of my skins are very simple in design, a trained monkey could make them! ;-) If I'm porting I take my time and try to keep them as close to the original in terms of overall look, feel and colour scheme.

The most important thing to remember about porting is that at the end of the day you're going to have to ask the original author for permission to make the port available to others. To be successful in the permission the author should like what you've done with his work. A quick hash-bash attempt will only result in rejection or no reply.

Tek: what do you look for in a port? or do some things just jump out at you saying, “oh, please port me Honz!” ?

Honz: hehe, yeah actually! nine times out of ten that's what happens. I don't go around scouring the net or skin sites specifically for stuff to port. Just now and again I'll see something I really like the look of, whether it's a screenshot of a LiteStep theme, a winamp skin or even a web page. If it inspires me right there on the spot 99% of the time I'll try to port it (even if only for personal use) Some make it to a complete desktop theme, most don't. The ones that do become complete are normally the ones I'll chase up permission for as well.

At the moment I'm right into trying to create the KDE Crystal theme/look on my desktop. Not to the point that I'm trying to trick a passer by into thinking I'm running KDE, but just the overall feel the theme has. There's a screenshot of what I have done so far here for anyone interested.

For the skins I make myself. Like I say, they are very simple in overall design. I just prefer them that way. I like having the ability to customize my working interface, but I don't want sparkling sugar-covered donoughts embedded into my titlebar masquerading as close, min and max buttons.

I've forgotten the first part of this question. *Looks up.

Oh yeah, “How long” and “my system”.

Hehe, I've honestly forgotten when I released my first skin. I've been a member of Deviantart since September 2000 and I had already uploaded a few skins at skinz.org. So I guess I had been around there for maybe 3-4 months prior to joining DA.

System: Um, what do you want here? System stats and all that? Well I'm on WindowsXP (pro if it makes any difference) 19" moniter which I use at 1280x1024.

I'm planning to update my base unit sometime in the next few months (hope I don't lose any unreleased stuff… again!)

I won't bore you with processor speeds or anything like that. It always bores me reading other people's stats. Bores me or makes me jealous ;-)

For making skins I use Paint Shop Pro 7. I have Photoshop and use it for other stuff, but for making the skins I feel more at home in PSP. Um, not much else except for that… the normal stuff: notepad, winzip, skinstudio.

Tek: Forgive me for being so forward but, i think you've been around as long as russ, renato, et al. you makes awesome skins, but don't seem to get the “big name” treatment. is that an accurate assessment? if so, how do you feel about that?

Honz: Sounds pretty accurate except for the “awesome skins” part!! =] People keep telling me, but I honestly do not think my skins are awesome… to me they are, I love them, but I'm surprised sometimes at how popular they are to other people. I don't consider myself anywhere near Russ or Renato, they are in a league of their own.

Does it bother me that I don't get the “big name” treatment? Um… no, not really. As I often state in my readme's, when I make a skin, I make it for me. When I'm completely finished with it and if I think it's of a good enough quality I'll upload it somewhere for others who may like the style. The day I start making skins for popularity is the day I stop enjoying it.

It's weird, I would say it's a pretty accurate assessment, but in saying that I've seen my SimpleStuff theme — insert spam here: default theme for HoverDesk ;-) inside a magazine. I think they were advertising the monitor, but it made my day!! I've seen some of my desktop screenshots on mag cover cds (apparently created by experts in the customization field!!!) I get numerous requests to add my skins to websites (I think we all get them though) I've had a quite a few paid jobs offered to me as well.

I'm quite happy with the familiarity I have in the skinning community. I kinda don't like/agree with the whole “status” aspect that seems to exist within the community. I actually (stupidly) deleted all my skins from a particular site and stopped visiting it because I didn't agree with their whole “title in your user name” Man, it really pissed me off (can I say that?) something silly at the time. It was so trivial and yet it aggravated me so much. I am of the opinion that we are all equal, just some people are a little more experienced than others, but that's no reason to go shoving it in your face. Anyway I'm ranting here… needless to say I have since learned not to let these things bother me and visit the site daily again.

Tek: Will you give us your opinion of the “scene in general” at the moment? (ie: is skinning on the rise, in decline or just muddling thru?)

Honz: Phew! Tough question. I wouldn't say it's declining. It's defiantly becoming more and more popular. The very fact that M$ coded XP so that different styles could be applied to the windows proves this.

Deviantart has most defiantly brought a lot more people onto the scene since it started. How did they do it? I don't know. It's a cool, hip and trendy place to be at the moment. I like the diversity of the site. I enjoy looking through all the different types of art. You know what I mean? It's not just skins, skins, skins. There's photography, poetry, real art and many more different forms of art.

I was actually talking with Hippy about this and we both kind of came to the same conclusion. At the time I joined the skinning scene there was all these fabulous skins being created on a regular basis. New, fresh ideas, great tricks and tweaks every week. Now most of the stuff has been done before and it's hard to come up with anything 'new and original'. I'm not saying there's no more new ideas out there, but a lot of skins are “been there, done that” kinda thing. And I'm probably very guilty of this myself, but like I said… I don't want sparkling sugar-covered donoughts embedded into my titlebar masquerading as close, min and max buttons.!! ;-) Each to their own I say!

To answer the question, I'd say it's on the rise!!

Tek: What are your fav and least fav programs to skin?

Honz: My all time fav program to skin is HoverDesk. It's quite versatile now, and it's amazing the desktops which can/could be created. What sometimes annoys me is how themes seem to be stuck to a linear bar form now. Don't get me wrong, it's useful having the bar with all the apps, shortcuts in it, but they become repetitive and boring after a while. HoverDesk is capable of so much more. The hard part is thinking of the ideas! I was so chuffed with myself when I ported Alexandrie's XPJeans skin to HoverDesk and made myself an XP environment while I was still on Win98. Not very original I'll admit, but it had me fooled ;-)

My second fav app to skin is WindowBlinds. The transformation that a WindowBlinds skin alone can make to a desktop is quite astonishing. No desktop theme is complete without a WindowBlinds skin to match. I remember the first time my brother applied a WB skin to his computer (It was Sputnik) He was blown away and had a grin from ear to ear.

I'm also enjoying skinning Trillian. It was hard getting to grips with the .xml files at first, but once you've mastered them it's a breeze.

Least fav program to skin? Hmmmm, to be honest if it was a bugger to skin I wouldn't bother skinning it. I suppose I would say WinAmp. I've never actually released a winamp skin, but I have tried numerous times to have a go at it and given up halfway through. It's quite restrictive as well, all the buttons are fixed to specific locations and with the exception of the playlist window (and browser?) the main windows are fixed in size/shape. CoolPlayer is much more flexible, but the sound quality is not so hot =[ And I know winamp3 is much more “skinner friendly” in terms of flexabilty but it's a resource hog on my system.

Tek: Do you think there is anything missing at this point? (i.e. is there any function of the computer left untouched by skinning that should be?)

Honz: Aha! OK, yes I think they are loads of parts which I would love to skin. And to a certain degree I can skin it, but it's not as easy as an app to skin. I'm talking about using Reshacker to get into the bmps and icons within the different windows .dll files.

A few examples of things I've had to reshack to skin:

The little window that pops up when you click logoff/turn off in XP — wouldn't it be great to have a program to skin that little window.

Any program which uses Splash screens, eg. Outlook Express

Systray icons… some of them really suck, but that's not really skinning is it? More like customization.

At the moment one of my fav sites to visit is Neowin. It's more of a customization site than a skinning site. I've learned so much since first visiting the site, I can honestly say my system as a whole looks 10 times better now that I've discovered how to edit my shell32.dll ;-)

It's funny how little things like being able to make your OE splash screen match the rest of your desktop theme can cheer your day up. The self-satisfaction of changing the look of something you thought was inaccessible is awesome.

Tek: Do youwanna give us a link to a good place to get started on following in your footsteps there?

Honz: There's probably loads of links out there which would help out. Everything I've learned so far has purely been from neowin and the people on there. Although there's the main page and the news stories etc, etc, the heart of neowin is in the forums. And it's the place where you'll pick up the best tips, info and gossip ;-)

Most members on the site are eager to help and advise. Like all places though it has it's fair share of numpties as well.

Slightly OT: In that Crystal ss above you may notice I managed to change my Outlook Express toolbar icons and the splash image… just two examples of what I've learned thanks to visiting neowin. If you already know how to edit your shell32.dll you download the Internet Explorer toolbar icons and normal window folder toolbar icons (boy, that's a mouthful!!) from here. There's also some instructions included in the zip file. And there's a ss of them here.

Am I spamming too much?? =]

Tek: Feel free at this point to bring up anything at all you feel like, as relates (or doesn't) to skinning, the community, software, et al.

Honz: Lately I seem to be making lots of new skins, but never having the motivation to finish it completely and release it. You wouldn't believe the amount of unfinished skins on my HD!! I've still to fathom out an answer to this.

Tek: How about answering “Fnad's Five”? I am sure all the ladies (and some of hthe gents) are dying to know whats under the Scotsman's kilt…

  1. what skin do you wish you'd written

    Whistler, for sure!!! Also any of Russ' Thredz skins, particulary the WindowBlinds one. I'd love to see him update it for XP, I'd be excited to see what he came up with for the start menu.

  2. what would you like to have on your laptop if you were stranded there, eg: skins, music, proggies, peripherals, games, etc.

    As long as I had a copy of PSP, winzip and notepad. I'd be contented for months and months.

    Maybe a copy of Delta Force Land Warrior along with some kind of wireless internet connection

  3. have there been any skins that have made you laugh? cry? orgasm?

    Hehe, Laugh: yeah I've seen a few, but I won't mention any.

    Cry with pain: See above

    Cry with jealously that I'm not as talented: Anything by Russ or Pixtudio. ;-)

    Orgasm: When I first saw the Nijikon Fetchi theme ss at Russ' site I got pretty exicted, don't think I actually orgasmed over it though =] It's a classic style that I return to time and time again… although I've lost the WindowBlinds skin that I used to have a copy of =[

  4. boxers or briefs?

    Boxers for normal day to day, briefs when I'm keeping fit. Don't want to do any nasty injuries to myself!

  5. list some sites you visit daily, weekly, hourly.

    Hourly: Neowin, Deviantart

    Daily: Wincustomize, Deskmod, LotsofSkins, Customize, The HVD forum.

    Weekly: Teknidermy ;-) Velocityart, SkinBase, on occasion Razorart.

Tek gives a big thanks to Honz for taking time out for us.

— kenray, August 4th 2002

Truth is, I've been carrying him all these years. Ain't that right, john?

Hippy {08.09.2002|08.34}

Ah, that explains all.

craeonics {08.09.2002|16.22}

That was good reading babe not that i undestand everything in it but i did enjoy reading it.

Arlene {08.16.2002|03.53}

This was a marvelous interview, I really enjoyed reading about one of my favorite skinners. I could have sworn Teknidermy did an interview with Honz before, but obviously I was mistaken. Good one Kenray! :)

Attila {10.12.2002|16.11}

i like the way he says his skins aren't awesome, a skin should be thought like that, just a beautiful but usable new design for those cool apps we're loving.

skinning that log off / turn off pop-up would sure be nice ;)

L-courni {10.13.2002|15.37}

Nice interview with a nice guy (well, Ithink he is)

PK {10.13.2002|16.29}

~ About time we saw some news on you Honz!! It's been a long time coming!! Keep those HVD skins coming!

Nomad529 {10.14.2002|23.34}

Well, I'm a member of Neowin staff and a massive fan of Honz's work... reading his comments about a site I help out on makes me feel all warm & fuzzy inside lol

Thanks and keep up the good work fella.

cheekymonkey {10.15.2002|19.24}

This guy deserved an interview. 8) Maybe it will bost his rep and spread his 1337n355 to the masses. >;] Go honz, go!

CutTheRedWire {10.16.2002|01.51}

Just wanna add mu 2 cents :)
Kewl interview dude

Pixelyst {10.19.2002|10.06}

honz12, we love you

bikerboy {12.02.2002|00.16}

honz is the best skinner ever there aint a better theme then crystallized

Ponz14 {03.09.2003|06.45}

Honz Is The Man =)

Ponz {03.23.2003|14.41}

Honz; What can I say about him. He showed me how to use those tools like WindowBlinds, He showed me Trillian...ext. HES A GENIOUS!!!

Tomas {04.12.2003|19.38}

teknidermy editor's notes art uproar puppy love fashion victim elwin the fool the skinner who came in from the cold show us your honz babyafied whodunnit? issue eleven
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