...and an interview with RedneckDude!
Monday, October 5, 2009 by sViz | Discussion: OS Customization
What an exciting month in DX skins! Oodles of good stuff came out last month. Alas, I can’t feature them all. So, have a look through the galleries and you’ll be sure to find something you like. But stick around because its Community Spotlight edition, and I got to pick the brain of a DX themer we all know and love, RedneckDude!
But first, the picks!
Outstanding General Info
Simple Weather Pack by buzzh58
I love the simplistic, compact layout of this widget, and how it just blends into my desktop. If you like streamlined skins, this one is for you.
The zip includes four widgets—2 colored with white or black text, and 2 monochrome, white or black. These can go with any setup, and if you really want to customize the colored widgets further, you can adjust hue in properties for that perfect match. No sign up needed for this widget, just download, run, and enjoy.
Most Creative / Original
Creepers Halloween Countdown by Island Dog
Halloween is just around the corner. How do I know? Why, I’ve got this handy gadget that tells me how many days until then. The zip includes 2 gadgets, regular and compact, as well as the creeper font.
Since this is a gadget, you don’t even need to have DesktopX to run it. So, you can share this nifty little reminder with all your friends.
Theme of the Month
Pod Concept by p e d
Where to begin with this theme? How ‘bout where the theme begins, with awesome startup animations that make you sit up and go “Whoa!” The fully animated pods in this theme zip, whirl, and blast across your screen to float freely on your desktop or dock on either side, whereupon they grow anchors and attach themselves to the docking bars.
Each pod displays a menu for all your shortcut needs. Lots of customizing options abound: add/remove as many shortcuts as you want, change the color of each pod, change the pod’s icon, and so much more.
Everything is animated, everything is customizable, everything is easily accessible from several areas. The time and work spent on this are evident from the high functionality to the attention to detail. Simply put, this is an amazing piece of work. My hats off to the author.
Don't let the 'member since' date on his profile fool you. Journeyman RedneckDude has been with the community for several years. Formerly a 'PuterDude', Jim is one of the most consistently productive DX themers out there. This guy is dedicated--he's had to reup his entire library thrice now. Yet, like his avatar, he keeps smiling. I consider him a great friend and an invaluable member of the community at large. Without further ado, RedneckDude.
-ILDX: Would you like to give us a short introduction to the real RedneckDude?
RedneckDude: Not without an attorney present...lol!! Let's see, unlike most rednecks, I'm not good at talking about me. I'm a 49 year old redneck, at least I will be later this month, who is self employed and loves computers and customization thereof. I live in Greeneville Tennessee, and I am married with 2 boys, 2 dogs and a bird! I have 3 PCs, a laptop, and run 3 OSes.
-How did you discover DesktopX?
I got my first computer in 2003. It was a basic eMachines with XP. I was a total noob. I soon discovered Stardock completely by accident. Got Windowblinds right off. I loved it! I was immediately hooked on customization! Then I discovered DesktopX and Gef. Gef is probably the one who got me into DX. I have almost every skin he's ever done. I soon started taking themes apart and seeing how they were made. Soon, I started making very crude DX themes from parts of other themes.
My first themes were wall dependent and full screen. Got my brother using a few, but I had to configure them for him as he was greener than I was...lol.
-What’s your background in GUI design? Or was DX that creative spark?
I have no background in GUI design. DX got me started. I have had a bit of PC Tech and Repair training, but nothing to do with GUIs. I did seem to have a knack for learning computer workings, and software fascinates me. My early themes were for my use only, I lacked the confidence to upload, plus 98% of it was someone else's work...lol!
Later, as I learned how to manipulate graphics made by someone else, I started to ask for upload permissions. I actually did upload a theme once that contained a weather widget made by someone else and didn't have permission...oops! The original author contacted me and explained to me that things weren't done this way at WC, so I removed it. Later, that same author started allowing me use of her widgets in my themes. But I wanted to do it myself. So I searched and found that scripts were available for me to use with my own graphics and I started making my own.
-You are just about the most active DX themer on WinCustomize. What drives you to keep creating and what do you love about it?
I continue to make DX themes for several reasons:
a: I love DX and I see a need to get more skinners and users involved in DX so that Stardock will realize what a gem it is and maybe pay it more attention. I fear that if DX don't get more attention, it will be dropped, just like so many other apps that have faded away.
b: The pleasure of introducing the power and possibilities of DX to new users.
c: I love DX!! I always have a DX theme running (as a widget as I can't get DX to run at startup). With a DX theme that I have set up for my system, I have no need for a start menu, no Object Dock, no RC....nothing. Everything I need is contained in my DX theme.
What do I love about it? Well, with DX and a matching blind, it's like running a new OS. I've had people, like my cable guy, ( no not Larry) ask me what OS I'm running. When I say Windows Vista they can't believe it! I like to be as far away from the default GUI as possible...lol.
What do I love about DX? The Pod Concept DX by ped is a good example of why I love DX. Man, that theme shows off some DX magic!! I only wish I could have made it, I'm jealous...lol. Microbe is another example.
I also love the attention. There. I said it out loud! I'll never forget the first WC Podcast. I was very briefly mentioned in it and I was ecstatic!! I clipped it and put it on my cell phone so I could play it for my Mom! I still have it on my iPhone...first episode, historical? lol
-What’s your approach to composing a theme?
I usually start a new theme by assessing the graphics I have to work with (for a theme based on a blind, or someone else's work) and seeing what "hits" me. Then, depending on what hits me, I'll start out with a previous theme I've done as a template and begin to swap graphics.Then I follow it where it takes me, I know it sounds corny, but I am usually led by the skin itself.
My themes are seldom pre planned, so to speak. Sometimes, a "certain" coder I know makes an awesome template and I just have to try it! And once I start, I let it take it's own path. Really.
If I'm making an original theme I usually start out messing around in Photoshop or Xara Extreme until I make something I like, that I can use, then it leads me from there. Silly, huh?
-What, for you, are the hardest and easiest parts of creating a theme? Any tips?
The hardest part of DXing for me is scripting, which is why I usually rely on sViz, RomanDa, sir smiley, martin,...these folks who know script. The hardest part that I actually do myself, I guess would be trying to stay fresh. I have a hard time coming up with fresh ideas. Now Wizard1956, my DX beta tester, has a wild imagination and is always giving me ideas, but since he's not a skinner, his ideas are usually real good, but not something I can do in DX. He has good intentions. Now ped could do wonders with Wiz's ideas...lol.
The easiest part of making DXes, for me, is making a theme to match a blind. Usually, the original artist supplies me with enough PSDs to do a good job matching. Lotsa nice blinds being made is job security for me!!
Tips? Just save your layer styles, gradients and colors in a folder. This allows for better uniformity. If you make a part or object for a theme and you can see that it would be something you'd use again, something customizable for use in other themes, export it as an object for easy access. Use it as a template. Always use the autosave widget you gave us, or save the desktop often...I can't overstress this! Losing a theme for failure to do this sucks!! DX does crash occaisionally.
-What do your friends and family think about this hobby? Have you gotten any of them hooked?
Friends and family say they're proud of me...lol. They are very supportive, especially my wife, Lisa, she bought me Adobe CS4 Master Collection because she likes my work. Photoshop has helped me get better. I think they secretly think I spend too much time at skinning. I do spend 85% of my free time skinning, and I have a lot of free time. I can't seem to get anyone hooked though. I have tried.
-What haven’t you done or seen yet, as far as DX themes go, that you would like to?
I would like to create more animated themes and I'd really like to learn more about scripting. I also would like to learn more about how to use the active x controls built in to DX. Again, I'd like to make themes like Pod Concept, by ped, or Killer Widgets by Tiggz. Those show the true power of DX that I can't touch.
-Which of your creations are you most proud of and why?
Probably the Wincustomize Community Wallpaper and Gadgets. Not because of the quality, which they lack, but because of what they stand for. Community efforts like this and the community suites that I've been involved in are important, I think, in keeping a close knit community together. I didn't know it when I started this journey, but that is probably the single most important reason I still do this stuff....Community. Not just here at WC, but the skinning community as a whole. I feel that some seem to think that WC IS the skinning community. WC is probably the largest part of the community, but there are so many more sites that support skinning and the community as a whole.
Some artists, for reasons of their own, decide to leave WC and settle in somewhere else, but they are still a part of the community, just at a different location. I am proud to be a small part of a global community that strives to give the public a better, prettier, more interesting way to compute. Not to mention that the community is good for non skinning things too. We help each other. And that is a big part of why I skin. So, I guess a good answer to which of my creations I am most proud of would be relationships I've created, or helped to create.
Radio Wave DX is probably the original work I'm proudest of, because it was my first original, I believe. I've had to reupload my gallery a few times, so I'm fuzzy, but I think it to be my first original.
-How do you feel your skills have improved over the years? What have you gotten better at?
I feel my skills have improved a lot over the years due to working with some of the best artists in skinning. I remember how mad I got when I.R.Brainiac made me redo Knot Vista, oh, 5 or 6 times...lol! Thanks, Brainy. He wanted it right, and I was a noob. vStyler always asserts that he expects no less than my best work, 2 of 3 always helps me to see his vision and is very helpful in seeing that my work meets his requirements. Xiandi is the same, perfect isn't quite good enough...lol...just kidding, Xi!
All this serves to force me to improve my skills, for which I am grateful to the above mentioned and others who have helped me. Photoshop....acquiring Photoshop has helped me immensely. It has helped me to be better at staying true to the blind I'm trying to match.
I must mention Zubaz. He has been a true friend and he once said he'd like to see PuterDudeJim branch out, thus giving me courage to try to skin other apps, not DX only. He once told me when I asked if I was a skinner, " You manipulate graphics, Jim, and you do it very well." I thank you for that Zu.
-What can we expect to see from RedneckDude in future? Any grand plans? Screenshots?
The future? You can expect more DXes. You can expect to see me try to skin everything skinnable...lol...but DX is my mainstay. I have a windowblind in the works, it's called Endeavor and there is already a wall pack upon which it is based in my walls gallery. You can see the WIP here: https://forums.wincustomize.com/359183
Grand plans? I hope to make Master someday, although I don't feel, as yet, that I've made anything of master quality other than a few blind-based skins, for which I can't take credit of quality. I may like to volunteer for some kind of responsibility here at WC someday, if that was offered.
I look forward to skinning fences!
-Finally, why do you love DesktopX?
I love DX because it gives me creative outlet that I wouldn't have elsewhere. It allows me to do what windows alone can't. DX allows me to personalize my desktop in a way that no other app can.
I love DX because it's the best way I can give to the community. I think DX is second only to Windowblinds for without WB, there would be nothing to make matching skins for!
I love DX because it enables me to create something worth sharing, and because DX, in a way, led me to the skinning community. A group of people I'm very proud to be associated with! Friends I would have never found any other way, real friends.
Eve, I hope I haven't been too long winded! I hope I didn't ramble too much. I really appreciate this opportunity to relate my thoughts and feelings to my friends here at WC! Thanks for the interview and thanks to the community for allowing me to (fit in?) and be a part of a good thing.
Thanks, Jim, for your time, your hard work, and positive presence in the community. Be sure to check out his gallery -- HERE
Until next month, happy DXing!
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