Ask a Master: RomanDA Speaks Out

The hard part is stopping him

Monday, May 19, 2008 by ZubaZ | Discussion: Community

RomandDA (David Roman) is one of my best friends.  He's a just an all around good guy.  He's written a ton of tutorials for DX and has even founded a site to help the DX Community find and write scripts.
In addition to skinning and working he's also involved in Tae Kwon Do and has recently received his black belt.  I couldn't be more proud.  David took some time to answer questions from the community.  You can look for him featured in episode 5 of the Wincustomize Skincast

What parts of your background prepared you to be a skinner?
As a kid (yes I was one, and I have pics to prove it!) I loved to draw things, the problem was I sucked at it. When I was 12 or so I was given this stencil thing and some drafting tools, I loved this. I finally could draw things that look ½ way decent.  I took drafting in school, and I went to a Tech school for Computer-Aided Design.  At the time this meant Intergraph.  I got a job doing what I called "assembly-line drafting" 3 shifts of people working 24hrs a day 5 days a week.  I hated it, but I was really good at it, does that make any sense?  After working in that world for a while I moved on to AutoCAD, and then to I.T. Support.
My last job gave me the opportunity to use all kinds of cool graphics programs for doing things like 3d renderings, and more.  I had to use Corel Draw for a ton of sales things, as well as some other cool programs, this was my first real "IN" into graphics that were not just lines.

Many of your creations seem to fill a 'need' (FileTransporter, TimeCommander, HolidayCoundown, DropInfo). Is that something you strive for?
Yes, I usually look for a need then build something that will fill that need, and make it work easier, or simpler, or just plain cooler.  A lot of times these things come from my own needs. Dropinfo was created for work, we have a proprietary system that used to be solely solaris, and is now running on windows, and one of the main things I missed was having the name of the pc (in our case the DROP NAME) on top of every screen.  I made this as a simple little piece of text that sat on the top of the screen, and it just kept growing.  Can I add the network info, can I put in the DELL Asset tag no, etc.  These kinds of things I LOVE, I get to get into the code and play and play.

How do you balance your vision and what the community might want?
Visions, I had them once when I took.. oh wait.. nevermind.

What would you like to see from the skinning community?
Wow, that’s a tough one.  I think my main problems with skinning and DX (since that’s my area I deal in) is that people confuse widgets/gadgets/objects and what I consider skinning of widgets.  I think having the ability to SKIN DX Widgets/Gadgets would help to solve this.  Coding is a totally different skill than skinning an existing widget.  There are a lot of really cool SKINS of widgets out there, but how many truly innovative widgets are out there?   I think that the community loves these skinned widgets but when you make something that is truly unique, it's gets lost in the shuffle of “skins” and after a few of those you get a little bummed out and start to give up.

Can skinning be a full time job?
If you have the ability to make some great looking graphics and have the speed to get them done, it's possible.  DX as a full time job.. nope, don’t see it.

Does it sometimes disappoint you when people say that selling your skin is wrong?
These would be the same people who buy $4.99 15 second ringtones of a $0.99 song.  So yeah, it pissed me off.  These are normally the people that have no idea what is involved in making something like the Holiday Countdown Pro, or Sport Strip, or any of the really complicated Gadgets I have made.  HC Pro took me somewhere around 100+ hrs, Sport Strip was more than that.  And I'm asking what? $5? My god, at that rate I might be able to pay for those 100 hrs in …. 20 years?  I think if the people that complain would take the time and effort to make a single skin they would see how hard this is and JUMP at the little $ that is charged for this stuff.

How do you react to projects with poor user feedback?
Well, honestly I get bummed out, it's like your baby, you brought it to life, nursed it, then showed it to the world to be told “so what”.  That really takes all the wind out of your sails.  The way I look at things like that, if you don’t like it, just go away, if you have something constructive, let me know, if not, I don’t want to hear “this sucks”.  LOL

Where would you suggest that newbies start if they want to try their hands at DX? What's the best way to develop solid fundamentals without biting off too much at first? What order of progression would you suggest, in terms of degree of project complexity?
I would start by finding some really good tutorials, if only there were some good ones for DX..  Seriously, the tutorials are great, they can guide you step-by-step on making simple widgets, and then work up by learning VB script or Javascript (your choice).  The web is FULL of great scripts out there.  But as always, find something YOU want to do, some project you think would be cool, and just play.  The best thing I can tell you is to BACKUP a LOT and to multiple locations.

Where do you turn for technical advice and support?
For scripting, I always start in the same place… it's a little known resource called google, ever hear of it?  It always amazes me when someone says they can’t find this or that, and I punch in the exact thing they posted about into google and in the first 3 or 4 results is their answer.  The thing I have to laugh at now is that with all the DX posts and Tutorials I have made over the years, when I do a search like “DesktopX Hiding Showing Info” I see my own tutorials show up.  It's a shame when I have to steal code from myself.  When this fails, and I'm stuck I go to the TRUE DX GOD – VAD_M  he makes me look like a noob.  His depth of knowledge and willingness to share, it's unmatched.

Other than yourself, who is your favorite skinner?  Why?
If I stick to just DX, it HAS to be VAD_M, for reasons stated before, he is amazing, not just in coding skills, but in the graphics, and implementation of his ideas.  The other reason is, he is the most giving and caring person I have encountered.  He basically coded all of Time Commander and than told me it's mine, do what you want.  Who else would do that?

What keeps you excited/interested in making DX widgets/gadgets?
The women, yeah the groupies do it for me..  um yeah.. RIGHT
I would say it's the Challenge of something new, something I have never done before, or something someone throws out there and goes “can you do this??”.  I love that stuff.

Any sneak peeks at a current project?
I don’t think I have anything in the works right now.  My “REAL” life has been keeping me incredibly busy.  My TKD testing has been the thing where ALL my energies have been focused for about 6mo.  That and being out of town makes it hard.

The last 2 things I did really went under the radar.  The Wallpaper-Wallpaper for Boxxi was something I thought was really just cool as crap, it did some things I had not seen anyone do in DX before, and it has around 300 in 2 months.  That one held a lot of potential, but alas like I said before people like the same things skinned over and over, not new stuff it seems.  The other is the new QueVue, it's really a niche product, so I figured it wouldn’t get a lot of downloads, even with the Weekend Pick.  It was something I had hoped to do some cool things “with” Netflix on, but they just didn’t seem interested.   

What do you see as the Future of DX:
Glad you asked that.. LOL
DesktopX is without a doubt THE most under-rated program on the market today.  The amount of things it can create is truly limitless.  Just look at some of the things VAD_M and myself have done, as well as sViz, and more (not meaning to leave anyone out).  But I think that is also DX’s downfall, it doesn’t fit neatly into one little market, it's all over the map.  Weather widgets, clocks, to entire desktops, and more.  How do you classify a program like that?
What I would love to see happen is to have happen is to give DX the ability to be skinned via Skin Studio.  This would allow people to make a great widget and then have it “match” whatever the skin is that is installed.  That would be amazing.  I would also love to see some changes in how WC handles DX, but I have mentioned that way to many times.

Reply #1 Monday, May 19, 2008 10:27 AM
Great article....always good to get some direct info from the 'pros'...
Reply #2 Monday, May 19, 2008 10:41 AM
An excellent read and an insight into a true Master of DX that us Noobs aspire to be like.

Especially liked the feature request for DX integration into SKS, that would be awesome.

Many thanks to you both.        
Reply #3 Monday, May 19, 2008 10:57 AM
Rock on Roman, rock on...
Leo the Lion
Reply #4 Monday, May 19, 2008 11:25 AM
An interesting read and a great insight into the world of DX. I love all the DX stuff and take my hat off to your skills, Dave.
Reply #5 Monday, May 19, 2008 11:57 AM
Wow! This is wonderful guys. Well written(Yes, Zubaz. I said it.) with great content. The only crit I have is keep doing more.
I.R. Brainiac
Reply #6 Monday, May 19, 2008 12:08 PM
One of my favorite folk here...sometimes you just show him some graphics and he says"hey,I got an idea"  

I just wish you had more time David...I have many ways to abuse your talents...buhwahahahah.  
Reply #7 Monday, May 19, 2008 1:17 PM
Thanks all, this was a lot of fun, im sure people are getting over row-mon-duh'd today.. LOL

I have many ways to abuse your talents

IR, if only you were a hott looking 22 year old BABE.. but alas, LOL

Send me stuff, I am in need of some new ideas.

Thanks again Zu for including me on this, it was fun.
Reply #8 Monday, May 19, 2008 1:23 PM
I thought we agreed to use the "biker" image.  You know, instill fear into our readers.  "Use DX or else!" 

Good read.  David, can't wait to test some of your stuff out again.  I put the Holiday countdown up on my desktop every now and then.  Should get it going, need to start counting down Jamaica.
Reply #9 Monday, May 19, 2008 1:24 PM
IR, if only you were a hott looking 22 year old BABE.. but alas, LOL

Upping your standards now eh?  Sorry Zu.
Reply #10 Monday, May 19, 2008 2:28 PM
Great article,
Reply #11 Monday, May 19, 2008 3:38 PM
Very informative article. You are a great developer and DX tutor.
Reply #12 Monday, May 19, 2008 5:18 PM
Nicely written Dave... and always remember.. Vad might be great.. but ur far more of a baddass   

Thought u needed some weather images.. let me know !!   
Reply #13 Monday, May 19, 2008 8:47 PM
Great interview! Thanks to DA and Zubaz for doing this. I enjoyed reading your insights. You're an awesome DXer and a great help to the community.

I guess today is officially RomanDA day!  
Reply #14 Tuesday, May 20, 2008 1:22 AM
Great article! David made the best dx tutorials, thanks!
Reply #15 Tuesday, May 20, 2008 8:52 AM
very interesting read Hope to see soon new things an tuto from you. thanks for sharing your knowledge
Reply #16 Wednesday, May 21, 2008 12:50 AM, very cool insite into yr world Dave!! (man you look like a bikie.)  
Reply #17 Wednesday, May 21, 2008 5:32 PM
Seriously great reading....I thought the QueVue was a TERRIFIC project  (  Anyway, a really good read about a really terrific skinner   And yes, I did several of your tutorials and have fond memories of the flippin light bulb going off and on and off and on.....  

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