Backup and restore your Stardock applications
Tuesday, August 14, 2007 by Island Dog | Discussion: Beginners
I have written several articles about the features of Stardock Central such as using it to chat with us on IRC, and how to use it to install that really cool Object Desktop you just purchased. I wanted to write some documentation on one of the most important abilities of Stardock Central, and that is using it to archive your purchased software and the goodies that come along with it.
I have been getting a lot of feedback from members about archiving and restoring, so it's time to go over how you can make sure you always have your applications archived and ready for restoration if needed. If you are not familiar of why you should always keep archives of your applications, here are the two best and most popular reasons:
- Being able to easily restore from a crash or reformat of Windows
- Always having your applications on hand, even if you let your Object Desktop subscription expire (but why would you do that?)
- Having the ability to go back to a previous version if you desire
I think you get the point, and I always recommend backing up all your data, but Stardock Central makes this chore easy to do for your Stardock applications. Lets start by opening Stardock Central and selecting the application you want to archive. I'm going to use the WindowBlinds 6 beta as my example today, but the process is the same for any other program on SDC.
Select the application and right-click.
In the menu that opens you will see several options, scroll down to the "Archive Application" entry and you will see another expanded menu as seen in the screenshot above. You are presented with a few options, but for this I just want to archive WindowBlinds and its skins, so I will select "Entire Application (including skins). Once selected Stardock Central will archive the application to the Backup folder in the Stardock Central directory.
The Backup folder is located at Program Files>Stardock>SDCentral. At this point you have your archives and would strongly recommend backing them up to a CD or external hard drive. This would probably be a good time to point out when archiving you also have the option to "download and archive" and "download and archive all" which could be easier in some situations.
So now you should have everything archived, so lets move on to what you do if you need to restore the archive for whatever reason. Select the application you want to restore, right-click, and click "Restore Archive". This function is also available through the File menu.
You will see a list of your archived items, and you have the option to browse to the location of your archives if they are not in the Backup folder. Once you have found your archive, select it and hit restore. Stardock Central will restore the archive to the state it was in when you originally archived it.
You should now have the ability to archive your applications, and recommend doing so as soon as you can. You never know when you might need to recover your software, and its better to be prepared beforehand.
Alternative to SDC/WC Browser
Tuesday, April 24, 2007 by Bebi Bulma | Discussion: Beginners
Alright, first things first...download an IRC client. For the purpose of this guide, going to use mIRC. Why mIRC? Because it's simple and doesn't have a bunch of crap bloat that anyone would need anyway.
Download it here.
First you install it obviously, then after it's installed open the mirc.exe.
Next we'll have to add the Stardock server to the server list. Just follow the screenshots and you should be fine.
Click on the little hammer icon thingie at the top left, this is the mIRC Options. The Connect section should come up, enter in your details there. Full name and email address don't really matter, you can put any kind of nonsense you want there. For your Nickname I suggest using your Stardock login name. No spaces, if you want spaces you'll have to use an underscore. For the alternative, something similar (this is used when you get disconnected and your nick is still in use).
The click on the Servers area and the Add button. Then fill out the information accordingly. After that press Add.
Now we're going to setup the Perform on Connect settings, with this you will automatically join the channels and identify to nickserv once you connect. Click on the Options section under Servers, then click on Perform. Make sure the Enable perform on connect is checked. Now click on the Add button, find the Stardock server we just added and then select Ok. Now select Stardock from the Network dropbox. In the textarea, add the following information as shown in the screenshot, the click Ok at the bottom.
- The first line identifies you to your registered nickname (if you choose to register it [explained below], if you don't register it then you don't need to add the command).
- The next two commands automatically join you to the #wincustomize and #stardock channels. You can add or remove whatever channels from autojoin if you want. If you want a list of other channels, type /list in the status window.
- The last line disables the server's language filter. The language filter prevents anyone from sending you a private message that contains swearing. Personally I tend to swear like a sailor so I find this little feature annoying and silly, so I have it disabled.
Before we connect, I'm going to show some optional settings I find useful. Click on IRC in the menu list. I would suggest checking Prefix own messages, Show mode prefix, Whois on Query, Rejoin channels when kicked, Rejoin channels on connect, and Keep channels open. This way is for some reason you get kicked (hey it happens) mIRC will automatically have you rejoin the channel without you having to manually do it. Keep channels open just keeps the channel there when you get kicked/banned, normally the channel would close and disappear and you'd have to rejoin it.
Also, click on the Options section still under IRC, and under Show: check User addresses (you'll be able to see the isp the person is connecting from) and under Flash on: check Query message (this way when someone sends you a pm, the window will flash in the taskbar to notify you). If you go to IRC > Messages, you can enable the Timestamp. Check Enabled and then you can edit the display. I'm using [ddd h:nn:ss TT] which displays as [Tue 5:18:34 PM]. You can change how it's displayed by changing the identifiers. You can find a list of those identifers Here or in mIRC go to Help > Contents and in the Index search type "time" and the first thing listed should be the Time and Date Identifiers.
Next I'd go down to Display, click on it, then make sure always highlight and blink icons are checked, this way the windows inside mIRC will flash to notify you that there has been a new message in the chat/pm window.
Speaking of display, by default mIRC uses the lame Fixedsys font but this can easily be changed by going to View > Font. I use Verdana size 8. You can change the fonts on a per channel/window basis pretty much, but I have mine set globally.
Now we can connect. You can do this a few ways. The first would be to find the Stardock server we added in the servers list and then click on the Connect to Server button near the bottom of that window. Otherwise you could just type this into the text area at the bottom of the screen.
You should now be connected to the server and have joined #wincustomize and #stardock. You can now register your nick if you choose to do so. To do this type the following (without the brackets of course).
/nickserv register [yourpasshere] [youremail]
You should then get a message from Nickserv saying the nick has been registered to you. Now go back to the options and go to the perform window, enter your password in the settings as we showed above. This way when you connect you will be automatically identified to Nickserv.
If you get disconnected for any reason and your nick is still showing up in the channel, you can kill it so you can use it again. To do this use the following command:
/nickserv ghost [yournick] [yourpass]
You can now use your nick again. To change your nick, just use /nick [newnick]
Another thing you should do is add your hostmask to the Nickserv access list so you won't get Guested if you fail to identify to Nickserv for whatever reason. First you will need to find your hostmask, to do this perform the following command:
After you've gotten the whois result, copy the ident@host (highlight it, mIRC will automatically copy anything that is highlighted) and then do the following command.
/nickserv access add *!*ident@host
Example: Say my whois result showed this for my host (IP address edited of course): ~firstname.lastname@example.org. Now if your IP tends to be dynamic and change a lot, you might want to edit it when you add to the access list. This is how I added mine:
/nickserv access add *!*supervixen@*.socal.res.rr.com
That's pretty much it for the basic setup. mIRC has a ton of other options and settings you can play with, just look around. One I use frequently is the Colors option (click on the Address Book icon next to the clock and select the Colors tab). Here you can colorize your own name, friend's names, and user modes (ops @nick [usually Stardock employees and/or WC mods/admins], voices +nick [special people], channel owner .nick etc). This makes it easier to spot who is chatting in the window. It should be pretty self-explanatory to get it working, but I'll give some examples anyway.
Go into the Colors option like I explained above, make sure Enabled is checked, and then click on Add. On the left is how it looks to color my own nick. This way whenever I say something in the chat and in the userlist, my name shows up as pink. On the right is how it looks to color all ops as bright green (I use a black background).
You can also change the color theme for how your mIRC is displayed. As I mentioned, I use a black background because it's easier on my eyes. Just click on the Crayons icon to mess around with the colors. Just click on whatever you want to change and select a new color. To change the background color just click on any of the white space. Here is how mine looks:
One of the other features I use a lot is Highlight. If you go to Options > IRC > Highlight, you can set it up there. What highlight does is what it says, if it finds a match for something in the highlight list, it will change the color of that entire line to whatever color you set, and can also beep to notify you. To use this, make sure Enabled is checked, then click on Add to add your highlight trigger. I have highlight set for whenever someone says my name. Here is how mine looks:
Often you will see people talking in third person, this is done using the \me command (I had to use backwards slash because the forums parse it the other way). Example:
\me waves hello (don't forget to use forward slash!)
Will be displayed as: * BebiBulma waves hello
If you need to go away for a while, you can use the /away command. This way when someone does a /whois on you or sends you a pm, they will get a notice in their status window that you are away.
/away Gone out, be back soon
To disable the away, simply type /away and it turns it off.
Perhaps you want to ask someone something but not in the public channel, then you can use the /query command. However, it's always a good idea to ask someone first before you pm them, it can be irritating to have someone pm you just because they can without any real reason. Tip: If you type the first few letters of someone's nick and then press Tab, it will go down the list of names of all that match.
/query Nick Hi there, nice day?
If you need further help with this, you can post a comment here. Also, you might want to check out this IRC tutorial for a more lengthy guide on the commands and other features IRC has. If there are other features I didn't cover but someone would like more info on, let me know and I'll see what I can add. Come chat with us on IRC!
*For these screenshots, I'm using the Argos premium suite.
Parts 1 - 4
Thursday, March 29, 2007 by Island Dog | Discussion: Beginners
In the past few months I have written a series of articles on how to customize your desktop, and with the series wrapping up I wanted to put them into one source for easy reference.
While these articles were based on skinning Windows XP, several of the applications can apply to Vista as well. As more and more applications are made Vista compatible I will dedicate another series strictly for Windows Vista.
Ready to Change Your Desktop Theme?
- This article covers how to change the visual style of Windows using WindowBlinds. It also cover how to change your wallpaper and icons.
- This article shows you how to add a dock to your desktop and how to change your default Windows cursors.
- This article describes how to add cool and functional widgets to your desktop using DesktopX.
- This articles shows how you can easily change your Windows XP logon screen, and use ObjectBar to create and use alternate interfaces for Windows.
Learning how to super-charge Windows
I have a lot of computers. It seems like I've always had more computers than one person should have. And each computer is different. I've got my development machine, I've got my casual office machine, I've got my laptop, and I've got my gaming machine. I even have a tablet PC.
Each computer has different types of software on it and very different capabilities. And yet, by default, they all look and behave identically. Windows has always been a one-size fits all solution. Even the Tablet PC version of Windows is pretty much the same as every other version of Windows.
So what is a user to do? We all use our computers for different things so how can we easily custom tailor it to our needs? The answer: Object Desktop. Object Desktop has seen its popularity steadily increase over the years as users have found themselves wanting to tweak, modify, enhance, etc. the way Windows works.
Many people see Object Desktop as a visual, cosmetic product for Windows. I.e. something that makes Windows "look cool". That's only a very small part of the story. In a screenshot or in a first impression, it's always that "cool" stuff. But as users get used to using it, they realize there's a lot more under the surface.
For this article, I'm going to stick with pretty basic stuff. Object Desktop gives you the power to really alter the way Windows works. But we don't want to go crazy just yet, let's go with some fairly straight forward stuff and go from there. I'm going to talk about my 3 main, non-specialized computers and how I use them. For the purposes of the screenshots, I'm doing them all on my development machine (the machine I'm on right now) to cut down on the time it would take to put all this stuff together for you.
All the programs I mention before come with Object Desktop which is only $49.95 and plus you get everything added to it for a year!
I am probably the one guy in the world who runs his laptop at a relatively low resolution. My ThinkPad T42 laptop does up to 1440x1050 resolution but I tend to run it in 800x600 or 1024x768 when I'm doing email or browsing the net. And that's fine with Object Desktop which lets me transform the Windows UI into something optimized for low resolutions:
I use RightClick to have a new default right-click menu. I set it up to display my most frequently used programs along with a few other handy things on there such as my "Programs" menu. I have it set to automatically open when I hit the Windows key. Sometimes I tell it to hide my Start bar to get a bit of extra space. But I go back and forth on that depending on what I'm doing.
I also turn on IconX. That's because I sometimes will have my icons be only 24x24 on the desktop. That's smaller than the default icons and IconX can scale my icons much better than Windows can. The new version of IconX lets me specify labels so I can have nice big labels still for the icons. These days, icons are pretty useless for individual things it seems like (IMO) and labels are much more useful.
When I'm using my Start bar, I use the new Stardock Virtual Desktops. It's faster than other virtual desktops I've used and makes it easy to get more screen space when I need to.
I also use the Silica Media Player widget. And I admit, I mainly use it to control iTunes at this point. I have it set to come up when I hit the F12 key so I can quickly zip through songs.
Keyboard LaunchPad is really crucial on my laptop. The reason is that, especially when traveling on the plane, I don't have much room for a mouse and while I like IBM's Trackpoint technology, it gets a bit old navigating to particular programs. So what I do is I have my common programs tied to a series of hot-keys. I am hoping that the next version will let me control iTunes directly from it (not that I don't like my media player widget but I pretty much just want to control things via the keyboard at that point).
Last but not least is WindowBlinds. I use it to run some minimalist skin. It changes my entire Windows GUI to have a nice, simple looking skin. But it is also important because I can set it so that when I right-click on a title bar it minimized the window.
What I've used Object Desktop to do is to get the most out of my limited screen space. I want to be able to get to things very quickly and I'm not very concerned about what is on the desktop or what is pretty.
The Development Machine
My development machine is typically running at 1600x1200. So my screenshot isn't really reflective of just what I tend to have on it. My development machine is where I do everything from write code for Galactic Civilizations to creating new skins, objects, scripts, etc.
First off, I use DesktopX, as an environment here. The whole "widget" thing has kind of created some confusion on what exactly DesktopX is for. DesktopX is a desktop environment. It lets you have real objects on your desktop. In this case, what I do is import widgets and other content onto my desktop. Widgets are great but each widget is a mini-program. Imported content, by contrast, use very little memory because DesktopX itself takes care of running them. So I tend to import my To-Do list, various RSS feeds, stock-tickers, sticky-notes, etc.
I also have a bunch of custom objects that I can't take screenshots of that display the status of our various databases and stores, and recent bug entries into our bug database. We created these with DesktopX too.
The Silica Calendar widget is one I always run. So often I just don't remember which day of the week something will be and while I can double click on the clock in the Start bar, it's a lot quicker to hit F12 to bring up the calandar.
Not that my code ever has memory leaks but I also make heavy use of the Silica Memory meter widget. So I can keep track of my overall memory use to see if something is leaking.
I also run RightClick on this desktop. Except on this machine, I have all my development tools right off the main menu.
I use Keyboard LaunchPad to do only two things really -- first, I have Visual Studio and its corresponding tools all assigned to a single hot key. So when I hit Ctrl-Shift-D on my system it loads up several programs at once. And secondly, I have Ctrl-Alt-1 through 6 specified to load up a bunch of web pages I often go to.
I use WindowBlinds primarily for cosmetics on this machine. I just want my GUI that I'm staring at all day to look cool.
Ditto with IconPackager. IconPackager lets me change all my Windows icons to something that looks cool.
My overall strategy here is that I turn my desktop into a headline news reader with lots of objects on here that gives me all kinds of info. I also keep track of my resources and schedule. But I also care about how it looks, I want it to be nice looking as well.
The Gaming Rig
The gaming rig is my play machine. It's ridiculously powerful for game playing. I do quite a bit of work on here too as I end up doing a lot of web work and such on this machine. But mostly I'm playing games on it. It has a really good video sub-system (right now an ATI X800 on it) so I tend to be able to turn on a lot more eye candy than I might otherwise use. I also tend to change the way it looks a lot since my tastes vary quite a bit.
First off, I use WindowFX very heavily here. WindowFX lets me add shadows to my windows. It also has a feature that lets me scale my windows. This is incredibly cool. Basically I can assign it so that when I hold the SHIFT button when I click on the minimize button, it will turn the window into a scaled window (See the screenshot for an example). I can even interact with the window even when it's scaled which is quite useful if I am doing IM in a scaled window.
Again, I have WindowBlinds here and I tend to have various kinds of skins running. I don't stick with anything very long. I will often just pick whatever is the currently featured skin.
Same with IconPackager. I have it change all my icons to something cool.
IconX is where I really have some fun. First, I set my default icon size to 64x64. So they're very large. Secondly, I have the mouse over size be 128x128 and I have it animate to that size so that grow on mouse over. Some icons in particular I change to use a PNG file. I am hoping that a future version of IconX will let us set individual icons to have their own unique size but I'm not sure how the UI would be done for that.
The Silica Picture Frame is very nice to have. Remember, this is a home machine, so I will tend to have a lot of company over from time to time. So I have the Silica Picture Frame widget cycle through the latest family photos. I can resize it to be any size I want so if I have a lot of guests over, I'll make it full screen.
The Silica Drive Meter. I use this because this is also the machine I take my home movies and turn them into DVDs. As you can imagine, the work files for this can get pretty huge so I tend to want to keep real-time track of my disk space as some of the cryptic programs I use for messing with video files don't bother to check to see if there's enough space to do what they're going to do before hand.
I don't use the Stock monitor widget as much as I used to. I don't have a lot of stocks but last Winter before I sold some stock I was using this quite a bit. I suspect others would find this useful too.
Enhanced File Dialog is still in beta on Object Desktop but I find it incredibly useful. Basically it extends your existing Windows File Load/Save dialog to let you have additional functionality (resizable, add new places on the left side, have some quick launch buttons in there, etc.). A lot of the graphics programs I use don't seem to remember where I want to load images from or where I want to save images to and so being able to press a button to get back to where I want to go is a life saver. When this program is completed, I'll put it onto my other machines but the other production machines don't tend to run beta software which is why I only have it on this machine.
The tip of the iceberg
Everything mentioned above comes with Object Desktop -- today. And believe it or not, I've barely scratched the surface. Object Desktop is probably one of the best software deals on the planet. It comes with everything you need to turbo-charge your Windows desktop to work however you want it to work. We haven't even gone into talking about ObjectBar or SkinStudio or IconDeveloper or how you create things with DesktopX. And we haven't touched on how you can use these programs to really change the way Windows looks & feels. I'll leave that for another time.
Some other screenshots: