During my usual cruising and daily downloading in Skin Town, I happen to come across a priceless application called Rainlendar, which is a free skinnable Calendar.
It made me ponder on the skinning community as a whole and how things have changes over the years and how very rare it is becoming to find things for free anymore.
And here we meet a programmer who has not only provided us with several great free apps, but it seems he has kept himself hidden very well behind his applications, so I thought it would be nice to try to find out a little more and also introduce such a talented and generous person to all of us that are actually using his applications.
Tek: Hello Rainy “Thank you” for giving me your time to do this interview. I really appreciate it =)
Rainy: No problem. I'm happy to answer a few questions.
Tek: Would you share some personal information about yourself with us, since you seem to have kept yourself hidden behind your programs pretty good! hehe =)
Tek: So when and what exactly brought you to internet land? Was it skinning or programming?
Rainy: I've been programming quite a while now, but actually the first thing that I started to do with computers was graphics. But that was very long time ago and nowadays I mostly do graphics just to create some example skins to deliver with my applications.
Tek: What language do you write your programs in?
Tek: Are you self taught or did you take courses to learn programming?
Rainy: When I began coding I didn't have any programming education. Just some books and a lot of determination :-) Since then I've graduated from university with software engineering as my major so I do also have some academic education too.
Tek: Was it difficult to learn or easy for you and how long did it take you before you were able to write yourself a program on your own?
Rainy: I started first with Assembler which really isn't the easiest language to start with so the progress wasn't very fast. Mostly I just looked at other people's code and did some modifications. It probably took about few years before I created some real application from scratch.
Tek: What was your first program you wrote? Was it Rainlendar or something else?
Rainy: I've actually done plenty of stuff before. I think my first program was called Raindir, which was just a simple dir command for Amiga with nice looking output. I also developed a program called Rainboot, which got some popularity during the end times of Amiga. Those two applications were also the first ones in series of Rain*-products. In addition to those I've also written few demos and intros for Amiga.
Tek: RainBoot? Can you tell us something about that?
Rainy: I don't own an Amiga anymore so I don't think I have much material for that app. Rainboot's development was continued by Andreas Falkenhahn, who has since rewritten it completely. There is some more information and few screenshots on his website over here.
Tek: Where do you get your ideas for developing your programs? Is it from cruising around the net looking at other apps or friends asking you to create things for them or just something you yourself need and desire to create for your own needs?
Rainy: Mostly I do things that I need or think I need. The idea for Rainlendar came from one of these desktop wallpapers that have the current month's days painted on it. I thought that it was a nice idea but why not make it dynamic so that you could use any wallpaper and still have the calendar painted on it. So, Rainlendar was originally created just as an eyecandy but it actually got evolved into something useful.
Nowadays most of the ideas come from the users, who are quite willing to share them with me :-). I also have few ideas for new apps that I might start writing if I find some free time for them.
Rewind by Moshi
Tek: Why did you decide to release your litestep modules as seperate programs?
Rainy: The main reason was that I wanted to use Rainlendar at work but didn't want to install Litestep there. So, I removed the Litestep-dependent stuff from the plugin and created a small launcher for it. The executable actually is basically the same in both Rainlendar and Rainmeter. It just starts the dll, which contain all the actual functionality.
Tek: And how long did it take you to write Rainlendar?
Rainy: The initial version with basic funtionality was created in quite short time. Probably took just few weeks or so. That was over three years ago, after which I've been adding new features and fixing bugs and the application is still far from finished. I've also rewritten the whole program once from scratch and I actually should do that again since it has again grown bigger than what it was originally designed for.
The development speed varies quite much from time to time depending on my motivation and what kind of stuff I'm doing at work. After writing code 8 hours straight at work I usually don't feel like doing the same at home. But sometimes the inspiration just hits me and I get quite much done in a single weekend.
Tek: What was involved to get Rainlendar out there and noticed?
Rainy: Not much. I really haven't done any promoting except sent a mail to Litestep's mailing list when a new version was released. Mostly the word just spread from news sites and from these “Show your desktop”-threads in various message boards. A screenshot where someone had Rainlendar in it usually got people interested and they started asking what the calendar was.
Tek: Are you surprised at how well known it and popular it has become and is still becoming?
Rainy: Yes, I am. I was expecting some kind of popularity among the skinning community but what surprised me is that there are quite a lot of normal users who are using Rainlendar just because they find it handy (instead that it looks neat):-) Rainlendar gets about 20 000 downloads per month and the installer version is about 10 times more popular than the zip package.
Tek: What are some of your most favorite skins you have seen made for Rainlendar to date?
Rainy: I actually don't use different skins too much. I do check them out from time to time in skinning sites, but because I am running the latest development build of Rainlendar and testing the new features, I'm usually just using some test skin.
I am a fan of moshi's analog clocks for Rainmeter though. You can find them at Skinbase.
Tek: How many skins approximately would you estimate are available for your apps around the internet currently?
Rainy: For Rainlendar probably few hundred. I haven't kept track of the exact amount of them but I do visit the skin sites peridiocally to check out the new skins that people have made. It's nice to see that there are many people creating skins for Rainlendar.
Tek: Yes, that must be a highlight seeing people not only using something you created but watching all the creative skins they are making for it as well.
Tek: Are there any special features you are planning to add in future builds of Rainlendar?
Rainy: I've neglected to add new skinnability features to Rainlendar lately since I've been adding some actual functionality to the app. The skinning support is not as flexible as it could be, so that's at least one thing I'm going to improve in the future. My todo-list for Rainlendar is quite long (it's not the one in the screenshot :-) so there will be plenty of other new stuff too added in the future. Here's a screenshot of the latest development build that I'm testing at the moment:
The TODO-list will be a new feature in Rainlendar, which I've found quite handy already. I'll be adding also a better alarm system as well as skinnable alarm dialog.
The weather information is a test skin for a still unreleased version of Rainmeter (the graphics are from a Linux Karamba skin).
Tek: Yikes! That weather test skin looks pretty interesting, did I mention I love to beta test??? *hint* *hint* =)
Tek: Have you had any feedback on your programs?
Rainy: Yes. And plenty of it. In the early days when the programs were just Litestep plugins things were a bit quieter. After creating the standalone version of Rainlendar and after the user base got bigger the daily email flood grew so big that I had to set up a support forum so that I wouldn't have to spend all my free time answering to the same questions over and over again.
Tek: So what do you think the future has in store for your apps?
Rainy: I haven't thought about that too much. Rainlendar and Rainmeter seem like neverending projects as there is always some new features to add and bugs to fix. I'll probably have to stop adding new stuff someday so that I don't bloat them too much, but considering how much stuff I have in my todo-list that day is far in the future.
Tek: Where do you see shelldom heading in the future?
Rainy: Customization of applications is very popular nowadays and I see no end to this trend. The success of 3rd party shells depends what Microsoft will do with their next version of Windows. I guess they are adding some better customization support for Explorer (or whatever the shell is going to be called), which might take away some of the users from other shells. That of course depends how well they will implement things.
Tek: And I guess I've been nosey enough on you so we can end the interrogation here, again thanks for giving me some of your valuable time and letting us know alittle more about the man behind these great apps and I also would like to say Thank you for making these free apps available for us on behalf of myself and I'm sure the others that are using and enjoying these as well. =)
If by chance any of you Tek readers are missing out on this free skinnable Calendar or any of his other great apps, you can go visit Rainy's site over here
— Doreen, November 8th 2003