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New 'Deep Nostalgia' service can turn photos of loved ones into short videos

Anyone else getting Harry Potter living painting vibes?

Wednesday, March 3, 2021 by Tatiora | Discussion: Life, the Universe and Everything

I imagine that I'm probably not the only one who has inherited boxes of old photographs of dearly departed family members throughout the years. Many of the photos I have in my possession depict people I never got a chance to meet - my great grandfathers and grandmothers, for instance - and what really connects me to the photos are the loving stories that my parents and grandparents would share about them.

A company that provides automatic AI-powered photo enhancements called MyHeritage has developed a new service that can animate people in old photos called Deep Nostalgia. These short videos look like they were recorded as the people prepped and posed for their photographs and are somewhat reminiscent of the Live Photos features (the ones that record several seconds of videos before and after the camera's shutter is pressed) that you see on iOS devices. 

I admit that the process freaks me out a bit, but it's honestly pretty cool. It's completely automated - users just upload a photograph through the MyHeritage website. The image is then sharpened and enhanced to improve the quality of the final animation and to make it easier for the deep learning algorithm to work. The orientation of the person in the photograph is analyzed completely, determining the direction of their head and eyes, then matching a modern recording of a face making movements to guide how the photo is animated.

These short videos manage to somehow preserve the aesthetics of the original shot in order to help sell the effect. The program does have some limitations, though - for example, photos with multiple subjects in them are still limited to animating just a single person. The animations are also limited to only the subject's head and neck. Still, even with limitations, the technology - and the eerily lifelike results that it produces - is incredibly impressive.

The animated photographs made me think of the living paintings in the Harry Potter universe. Anyone else?

Certainly maybe not as dramatic as that, but still - it's a beautiful little keepsake to remember loved ones. In order to use the Deep Nostalgia service, you'll need to sign up for a MyHeritage account. The company offers other services, such as family tree tracking, DNA analysis, historical records, and more.

Would you consider animating the portrait of a departed family member or friend? Share your thoughts with me!

Share Your March Desktops with the WC Community!

Monday, March 1, 2021 by Island Dog | Discussion: WinCustomize News

A new month means another desktop screenshot thread on the forums! I'm getting ready to switch mine up again, but today I'm still rocking a Curtains theme and wallpaper found here on WinCustomize. Post your desktop and share with others what skins and themes you are using.

Post your March desktops to this thread here: March 2021 Desktop Screenshots

 

NASA's Mars Rover "Perseverance" Has Landed

It landed on the surface of Mars last week

Wednesday, February 24, 2021 by Tatiora | Discussion: Life, the Universe and Everything

In case you hadn't noticed, we really love space here at Stardock.

Our fascination for space and science-fiction is obviously reflected in tons of our games, from Galactic Civilizations III to Offworld Trading Company and Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion. Because of our collective interest in space as a whole and in the Sci-Fi genre, we get excited about rocket launches and missions to other planets.

Last March, the Mars Rover got its name ahead of its July 2020 mission launch. We watched with equal excitement as the Perseverance Mars Rover touched down on the surface of Mars at the Jezero Crater on February 18, 2021. Perseverance's primary job is to "seek signs of ancient life and collect samples of rock and regolith (broken rock and soil) for possible return to Earth."

Perhaps one of the most exciting parts of the mission comes in the form of a tech demonstration that hitched a ride on the Mars rover. The Mars Helicopter, Ingenuity, is a brand new piece of technology that will have its inaugural flight on Mars in order to test powered flight on another world for the very first time. Once the team finds a suitable location for a helipad, they will release Ingenuity and run several test flights over a 30-Martian day period starting sometime in the spring.

For the helicopter's first flight, it will only take off a few feet from the ground and hover in the air for 20-30 seconds before landing. This alone would be considered a major milestone, as it would be the very first ever powered flight in the extremely thin atmosphere of Mars. We will definitely be watching this first flight - and all of its subsequent flights of incrementally farther distances and great altitudes - with extreme interest!

 

"5 Things to Know" about Ingenuity, pulled from NASA's website.

Let's get back to Perseverance and some of its primary goals during this mission. According to NASA, the rover's key objectives are:

  • Explore a geologically diverse landing site
  • Assess ancient habitability
  • Seek signs of ancient life, particularly in special rocks known to preserve signs of life over time
  • Gather rock and soil samples that could be returned to Earth by a future NASA mission
  • Demonstrate technology for future robotic and human exploration

The timeline for the mission now that the rover has landed is to spend at least one Mars year (the equivalent of two Earth years) exploring the landing site region. The Perseverance is geared up with seven instruments designed to conduct unprecedented science and test new technology. They are:

  • Mastcam-Z - an advanced camera system with panoramic and stereoscopic imaging capability with the ability to zoom.
  • SuperCam - an instrument that provides imaging, chemical composition analysis, and mineralogy at a distance.
  • Planetary Instrument for X-Ray Lithochemistry (PIXL) - an x-ray fluorescence spectrometer and high-resolution imager.
  • Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman & Luminescence for Organics and Chemicals (SHERLOC) - a spectrometer that will provide fine-scale imaging and uses a UV laser to map mineralogy and organic compounds.
  • Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment (MOXIE) - a technology demonstration that will produce oxygen from Martian atmospheric carbon dioxide.
  • Mars Environmental Dynamics Analyzer (MEDA) - a set of sensors that will provide measurements of temperature, wind speed and direction, pressure, relative humidity, and dust size and shape.
  • Radar Imager for Mars' Subsurface Experiment (RIMFAX) - a ground penetrating radar that will provide centimeter-scale resolution of the geologic structure of the subsurface.

You can learn more specifics about the above tools here! There are a ton of awesome resources and pictures over on NASA's website that detail the mission and everything that goes into it, from the people to the tech. 

What do you think Perseverance will find during its mission? Share your thoughts with me!

Tiles 2 Now Available, Adds Multiple Desktops to Windows PCs

Customizable, full support for Windows light/dark mode, and integration with other Stardock software: Tiles brings a cohesive desktop look

Tuesday, February 23, 2021 by Island Dog | Discussion: WinCustomize News

Stardock’s Tiles 2 Now Available, Adds Multiple Desktops to Windows PCs

Create multiple desktops of related programs, files, and links through the use of a customizable sidebar on the Windows desktop

Stardock released a new v2.0 update for the popular Windows® customization tool, Tiles™, today.

Tiles is a program that lets you create multiple desktops of related programs, files, and links through the use of a customizable sidebar on your Windows desktop. You can drag programs onto the sidebar by holding the shift key, and it will create a thumbnail of that application so that you can find it easily.

You can have multiple pages of Tiles and categorize and label them however you want, allowing you to organize your tasks in an efficient and visually appealing way. You can click through your lists of tiles and swipe left/right easily to access your other groups. Additionally, you can adjust the size and position of where your Tiles bar sits.

Tiles 2 Features

  • NEW! Light/Dark Mode Support and integration with Stardock's Curtains
  • NEW! Full Groupy integration - see your groups in your Tiles pages
  • NEW! Show only minimized or maximized windows
  • NEW! High DPI monitor support
  • Quickly switch between active and inactive tasks
  • Create custom pages to suit your computing style
  • Swiftly move from one application to the next
  • Quickly view and manage running applications
  • Touch-ready for Windows tablet users

Tiles is now available standalone for $9.99 or
through Stardock's Object Desktop suite for $29.99.
If you're already an Object Desktop member, Tiles is waiting for you in your account!

Tiles 2
Tiles 2
Tiles 2
Tiles 2
Tiles 2
 
 

Pick a New Wallpaper from our Recent Uploads!

Monday, February 22, 2021 by Island Dog | Discussion: WinCustomize News

How often do you change your desktop wallpaper? For my main PCs I usually have a folder of wallpapers I like and have them change throughout the day. It keeps the desktop updated with a new scene often, and it makes my desktop a little less boring. 

We're trying to build up a nice, curated wallpaper gallery here on WinCustomize, and the integration with DeskScapes 11 is going to make that an excellent feature to have.

So, let's highlight a few of the recent wallpaper submissions!

Sunset in my Mind

 

Nature's Colors

 

Colorful Metal Walls

 

BurningAeroPromo

 

 

Top 10 WinCustomize Downloads for 2020

Tuesday, February 16, 2021 by Island Dog | Discussion: OS Customization

I have been looking at the 2020 data for WinCustomize regarding the top downloads and galleries for last year. I always find it very interesting to see what other people are downloading. Sometimes it's skins you might have missed or didn't expect to be popular. Everyone has a different style they like, so it's also a good way to keep up on any trends that might be happening.

So, let's take a look at the most downloaded skins on WinCustomize in 2020!

Top 10 Overall Downloads

CREATION was the overall most downloaded skin in 2020 with just over 20,000 downloads. Windows Zero came in next with nearly 15,000 downloads, and the remaining skins were in the 7000-12000 download range. Quite impressive!

  1. CREATION (Dream) by adni18
  2. Windows Zero (WindowBlinds) by adni18
  3. Dark Mode (WindowBlinds) by Vad_M
  4. The_Beautiful_Hawaii_Sea (Dream) by cyberslober
  5. Hal 2030 (CursorFX) by theAVMAN
  6. jarvis (Sound Schemes) by ultimate-virus
  7. Piranha FX (CursorFX) by neone6
  8. Vista Plus (WindowBlinds) by adni18
  9. 4K Black Hexagons (Dream) by AzDude
  10. Peaceful Sunset (Dream) by adni18

 

 
 
 
 
 

Top 3 Curtains Themes to Download First!

Monday, February 15, 2021 by Island Dog | Discussion: WinCustomize News

Looking at the Curtains gallery this week, and I wanted to highlight the top 3 Curtains themes that are available to download here on WinCustomize. Curtains comes with several great styles already installed, but if you want to branch out then come see what other members have been downloading recently.

If you don't have Curtains yet, download it here: Stardock Curtains

Transparent/Blur/Aero/Glass by DestinyChild

 

Play by danioc

 

PVC Dark/Light by n_three


Do you have a favorite Curtains theme you have been using? Let us know in the comments!

 

 
 

A Dive into Classic Stardock Software - Part 1

Let's take a look at KeepSafe, BootSkin, and Tweak7

Thursday, February 11, 2021 by Tatiora | Discussion: Stardock Blog

Stardock has been around for a long time - for more years, in fact, than the age of our youngest employee (I’m writing it this way because I like to make the long-timers feel old. ). I’ve been around for a little over five years now, and sometimes I have fun diving back into history and looking at things we’ve done in the past. I’ve mapped the history of WindowBlinds, dove deep into the evolution of PC icons, taken an ‘over the years’ look at the Drengin from GalCiv III, and now I’m going to do it with some retired Stardock software. 

We are always adapting and updating our programs to better serve all of you and keep up with the world and technology as it changes. But, sometimes, a product outlives its usefulness and becomes discontinued. We’re going to take a look at a few of Stardock’s today!

KeepSafe

KeepSafe was a file protection and restoration system for small or mid-sized companies. It would keep backups of each file version of a specified file type or folder location. For people who worked on contracts, legal documents, graphics files, and so on, something like this would have been absolutely critical to ensure you didn’t lose valuable confidential work. 

When I go looking at older software to learn the history, I use the “Wayback Machine”, which takes snapshots of web urls over a period of time. I had to laugh - apparently, it took a snapshot of KeepSafe while it was in the process of being developed. It seems whoever was working on it didn’t want to use boring old lorem ipsum as a placeholder, haha!

From what I’m able to tell, we started selling KeepSafe somewhere around April 2005 and stopped selling it sometime in 2015. There will always be a need for backup software, but obviously our time and energy went elsewhere as we moved away from “ThinkDesk” and onto Object Desktop and other great programs. 

Need some backup protection for your PC? Our partners over at Ashampoo have you covered with Backup Pro 15.

BootSkin

BootSkin was a program that popped up sometime around 2003 and allowed Windows users to change their boot screens on Windows 2000 and XP (and, later, Vista). I’ll be frank here and say that I had no idea something like this was ever even a thing; I’d never felt the need to change the look of my boot screen, personally. 

Apparently there was a market for it, though, because BootSkin exists - and, at the time at least, it changed boot screens safely by not patching the Windows XP kernel or requiring the user to download replacement kernels.

There were a couple of advantages to BootSkin. First, boot screens that used it were typically under 20K compared to other boot screen programs whose files were usually over 2 megabytes. Additionally, there was no risk of having your system unable to boot because of a corrupted file or service pack.

Also, BootSkin was completely free. There isn’t really a program to replace it in our catalog because it’s not needed anymore, but it maintains an honorary space on our software landing page with a few other older programs.

Speaking of which, let’s cover our last one for this week!

Tweak7

Tweak7’s tagline was “Optimize the performance and behavior of your Windows 7 machine!” I’m guessing I don’t need to explain why we don’t see this one anymore, haha! Tweak7 launched sometime back in 2009 and stuck around as long as Windows 7 machines were mostly relevant. 

The program was designed to be the ultimate “one stop tweaking utility” for Windows 7 users. You could adjust security features, hunt down and turn off unwanted programs that started when you booted your PC up, check that your display drivers were up to date, and more.

Unlike other tools, Tweak7 automatically prompted recommendations for enhancements and offered easy one-click updates to configuration changes that were usually rather complex. It was designed to be completely safe to use and easy to roll back changes in case you didn’t like it.  The idea was to let users freely experiment with different settings without disabling their computers.

The software programs above aren’t the only ones that we’ve retired; I have plenty more to talk about next time! 

How long have you been using Stardock software, and did you ever try any of these?

WindowBlinds 2001 in 2021

Monday, February 8, 2021 by Frogboy | Discussion: OS Customization

How does WindowBlinds 10 handle older skins on the latest version of Windows 10?

The answer: Inconsistently.  There are some apps, like Notepad, where it always works fine.  Others, like an Explorer window it sometimes works fine.  And then there’s Edge where it rarely works fine.  Look at the results yourselves.

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For the next version of WindowBlinds we are looking to either update the most popular skins (certainly the OS skins) so that they work with the modern versions of WindowBlinds and/or update WindowBlinds to be able to handle these skins more reliably in today’s high resolution, high DPI (and often mixed DPI) world.

Stardock Software Wiki is Available!

Monday, February 8, 2021 by Island Dog | Discussion: WinCustomize News

We used to have a software wiki many years ago with entries for all of Stardock software and WinCustomize. Unfortunately, all its data was lost quite a long time ago and it was a nice resource that was missed. The good news is we've been building a new wiki just for software and it's ready to go!

As it is a wiki there is still some work to do with updates and such, but overall, this is a great resource for information on specific software. If you need to easily find changelogs, tutorials, blogs, videos, etc. then each software wiki will have those available. I've updated many of the software tutorials and articles to keep them updated with the latest changes, but there's still lots more to do.

Check out our new software wikis here!

Stardock Software - Official Wiki

 



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