A long time ago, on an internet far, far away…
Customizing programs wasn't really a one-click affair back in Y2K. You had to work at it. Heck, a lot of what went on might have been considered ‘hacking’ by some of the folks who designed the media players and operating systems we skinners were into resurfacing.
But, adversity can breed a kind of closeness between the troops, and morale was high. Back in the day, yours truly was a daily (if not hourly) visitor to skinz.org, haunting the message board, trading info's and such with the interested. It was such a lively community. Almost anything you wanted to know, someone would tell you. And it was there, in that environment that I first met Redllar.
What I knew of him at the time, and what I will share with you now, is that the man is brilliant. Just so wacky-smart that a lot of what he was into just went right over my head. But when I asked semi-technical questions, he answered in a way that I could understand. Elegantly, simply and with a common touch that made me worship the fellow almost instantly.
I found out that he was a programmer in the best possible way: he created my dream program for me — a little number called Co-ordpad. See, I was hooked on skinning a freeware audio player called Coolplayer. The only gripe about skinning coolplayer was writing the ini file… tracing down the x and y of this button or that was just difficult as hell. So I went begging for a solution on the skinz.org messageboard, and Redllar made me one.
The program he wrote for me was everything that I had asked for. You loaded up a bitmap of your coolplayer interface and started drawing boxes all over the control surfaces, and the next thing you know, BLAM!! Output of all your x and y coordinates. It just blew me away. And if the function wasn't enough, he made the program skinnable, and just a few versions after it's inception, the program could do all sorts of things my little skinners heart cried out for.
And you might think I would have been satisfied with that. But no. A month or two later I got fascinated with the throbbers in MSIE. I wanted a program to sew my gif animations into long bitmaps for use as throbbers. And Redllar (my hero) cranked out a new program called Bitstrip to do just that. I have used it ever since.
And so have a lot of people. The program made it out “into the wild” in China, where it was a phenom. If you know anyone with a Chinese operating system, get them to do a search of the internet for you. You will be astounded. There were also other eyes, closer to home, focused on Bitstrip, but that comes later. Leave it to say, it was just what I was looking for, and it worked!
But it wasn't just little old me on the receiving end of this genius. Redllar was active all over the place in the skinning community. He built Lompster, an excellent little Recycle Bin program for Virtual Plastic. He worked with the Tek crew on a skinnable solitaire game that let you make your own decks. The guy was a machine…
Alas, Redllar disappeared one day. He left the building. He left my e-mail. He asked me to take all of his awesome programs down from the web. I did. And I was very sad. I went asking around to try and find out why this giant would suddenly disappear.
And here's what I was told: Redllar developed brilliant code to plug in to Windowblinds that made it so much more than what it was. He was trading ideas and writing code and posting it to the newsgroups for windowblinds. And following his modus operandi, he was working on the code for free, for fun, and for the benefit of skinners.
But then something went wrong inside the group that was doing the codeswapping. Something so bad that it made Redllar just want to be done with the whole skinning world in general. And that’s why he disappeared.
Is this story true? I dunno. I got it from two different sources. You may have more. The end effect remained fact, though. Redllar was gone from the internet. The projects that were in the process stopped. All of the sites that we had set up to share and develop his programs were taken down.
I thought that would be it. When Redllar dropped out, he dropped waaaaayyy out. But, about a year later, he returned briefly.
He was working on skinnables.org as admin/coder. He started appearing in the newsgroups, and actually returned my e-mail. I was overjoyed to hear from him and immediately started sending him fan letters. One day, I asked about posting Bitstrip. He was tentative, and basically declined. Knowing that it had gotten “into the wild” in China, I did a google search for the Bitstrip program, just to see where it might still remain lurking on the internet.
Guess where I found it? Stardock.com.
So I wrote to Redllar, asking him, basically, if he knew they had it posted on the Stardock website, and if they could do it, why couldn't Tek do it, and was it in compliance with the readme.txt file that came with the program… yada yada. He was livid, and wrote me the only e-mail of his I ever wish I had not opened. And that was that. At least for the rest of my life (to date).
I haven't heard from him again. So you can imagine my joy when I got a note from Plastic saying that all the Redllarware was going to be available again. Looks like sometimes our prayers do get answered.
Bitstrip — the best (if not only) program for creating throbbers, or just sewing gif animations into extended bitmaps. It does what it says.
Co-ord Pad — the ini writer. Take a tutorial on it's use at http://www.teknidermy.com/issue/4/artcpv4.html
Deskband — A skinnable desktop launcher of sorts, with some great features (alpha).
Ezclock — Skinnable clock eating a lot of skins (alpha).
Lompster — A skinnable recycle bin with some visual effects. Animation, (optional) buttons to perform tasks, but right click menu also.
Yazzle — Your skinnable solitaire solution. Skinnable card decks and lots of other options.
And there you have it — history. All available at Virtual Plastic.
Redllar, apparently is not returning to our world. He just wants to finish it the right way, providing source code for these gems, and making sure we can all get to them. I am, and will remain, a huge fan of Redllar's work, and a big-time admirer of the man himself. Get your copies of the programs above and become a fan yourself.
My huge thanks to Plastic for helping this happen, for his support, and for hosting the apps.
— Kenray, September 3rd, 2003