Skinning the frog
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So I turn 50 this year. 

It's an arbitrary milestone but such milestones gives us an opportunity to take stock in our lives.

I wrote on my Facebook page that I get frustrated being a failure.  My friends and family were quite worried and I should have given more context to my feelings which is what I am going to do here.

We all have certain personality traits that can get in the way of accomplishing what we want.  Maybe you just want to lose some weight and you just can't stick to a diet. It makes you feel bad. You might feel like a failure. Maybe you have a great family. Lots of friends. But having goals that you fail to meet because of your own character shortcomings is extremely frustrating.  That's where my head lives a lot of the time.

People who know much about me know I have a lot of "haters".  That sort of thing doesn't bother me because they don't really hate me. They hate a caricature of me.  I always joke to my wife "There are so many legitimate reasons to hate me but these people focus on things made up by other people."

What makes me feel like a failure -- what has always made me feel like a failure (going back many years) is that I have 3 gaping personality flaws that prevent me from reaching my potential:

  1. Cognitive Dissonance
  2. Emotional investment in abstractions
  3. Fear of change

I call it the Barrier of denial.

When you look at someone like Elon Musk, whether you like him or not, it can't be denied he has accomplished great things.  Amazing things. And from reading up on him, he clearly does not have the 3 flaws I listed above.  Sure, he has other flaws but I don't think people should define success or failure based on how they compare to other people.  People should try to be the best person they can be. And it is my failure to do that is what frustrates me.

Let me outline a few examples of what I mean of failure.

Galactic Civilizations for OS/2

I wrote this game while in college. And IBM recommended this guy and his "company" called "Advanced Idea Machines" to publish it at the stores. Now, under the covers, IBM did all the real work to get it at the store. But AIM was actually just this guy, a scammer. And I should have known he was a scammer.

He sent me a bunch of "marketing" shirts for the game with the tagline: "Have you met the nieghbors".  Yes, misspelled.  That was the moment I was pretty sure that I was being scammed.  But I did nothing.  

* Cognitive dissonance (IBM recommended him therefore I must be wrong)

* Fear of change (I've already gone this far, I'm sure it'll be OK)

Needless to say I didn't get paid.  The game made millions and I saw nothing.  Imagine how things might have gone if 1994 era Stardock had millions of dollars to build up rather than $15,000 (that's how much I got selling copies of the "Shipyards" expansion to people via floppy disks over Usenet).  

And in my bones, I knew this guy was a scammer.

OS/2 in general

Stardock stuck with the OS/2 market for a long time after it was doomed. For most Stardock customers, we began in 2000 or 2001 with Object Desktop, WindowBlinds, maybe The Corporate Machine game (or later with Sins of a Solar Empire and Fences).  But in the 1990s, Stardock was arguably the #1 ISV for OS/2 -- for both utilities and games.  

If you walked into a store carrying OS/2 software in 1996 it was mostly our software whether you wanted games or utilities.  And yet, I knew OS/2 was doomed in 1996.  How? Because I had a bunch of people at IBM calling me telling me that IBM had disbanded the OS/2 team and that I should migrate to Windows immediately.  These were colleagues from IBM in Boca Raton and Raleigh who were taking some risk telling me this.   And what did I do? Nothing.

* Emotional investment in abstraction (it's just a little bit dead! It's still good! It's still good!)

I was so "into" OS/2.  People get behind causes.  Look at the people who get emotionally invested in a platform (Steam, PlayStation, XBOX, Linux, Mac, etc.).  I get it.  I could not admit that the thing I was so into was going to die.

Imagine how things might have gone if I had ported Galactic Civilizations to Windows in 1996 instead of waiting until 2003 when it required a rewrite (because of technical changes).  It would have been easy to release GalCiv for Windows NT 4.0 and Object Desktop for Windows in 1996.  But I couldn't betray "the cause".

Instead, I waited until I was laying off friends and colleagues at Stardock to limp over to the Windows market in 1999. 

And even at that point, we had plenty of OS/2 customers screaming at me that I was greedy or selling out or "betraying" them or whatever.   Never become emotionally invested in a platform.

And on it goes

But these are the kinds of mistakes I have continued to make: Knowing a problem and not acting on it due to a flaw whether that be Elemental, MyColors, or canning the Star Control: Origins project in 2017 when its development had gone off the rails (imagine how different recent events would have gone if I had simply killed that project before the drama stuff came up a year later).

For me, feeling like a failure is an expression of frustration that I still can't overcome my personal failings.  I've gotten better about these failings but I still find myself not making "the hard decision" because of the flaws I mentioned above.

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May 6, 2021 1:00 PM by Discussion: Stardock Blog

DeskScapes is a program designed to make it easy to have really cool Windows desktop backgrounds.  It doesn’t just manage wallpapers - it integrates native animated wallpaper support into Windows. 

Version 11 includes a bunch of cool new things that make it pretty compelling for every PC user.  Here is a quick tour of some of those features.

Part 1: The interface

Once installed, you access DeskScapes by right-clicking on your desktop.

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The interface is designed to make it easy for you to access wallpapers that are already on your computer, as well as ones in the cloud.  DeskScapes 11 seamlessly integrates into the cloud, giving users access to hundreds of thousands of desktop backgrounds, both traditional and animated.

Part 2: The Cloud

I am generally a minimalist.  That’s why I use Fences to keep my desktop as clean as possible.  In my case, I stare at a lot of different monitors but even on a laptop, I like to occasionally switch my background.  The problem is that I can never remember where I put cool backgrounds I found.  That’s where the cloud helps.

I’d be the first to agree that this should be part of Windows.  But it’s not, so here we are.

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I can type a word in and it goes out and finds desktop backgrounds I want.  I can pick between normal (static) or animated ones. 

But more commonly, I’ll see what the current most popular ones are.

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While DeskScapes is often thought of as an “animated desktop” program, the Stardock team looks at it as a background is a background is a background.  So it makes both easily available.

Part 3: Clever backgrounds

A bunch of really clever backgrounds are already installed with DeskScapes 11.  Not just pretty pictures, but backgrounds that you could imagine being their own apps.  Let’s take a look:

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Colored lights is one of my favorites.  It just changes throughout the day.  It’s like having a mood ring as a a background. 

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Blurry blobs is another background that you could imagine being its own app.  It is kind of like having a lava lamp.  It’s super subtle and interesting.

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Desktop Earth is one I always run on one of my machines.  Except I don’t have the earth rotating.  Here’s why:

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It slowly changes over the course of the day.  Based on your Windows settings, it shows where you are in the world and you can slowly see when nighttime comes. 

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Desktop Collage is one of my favorites.  Basically, it just places pictures from target folders onto the background.  Here at work I have pictures of my daughter from ages 0 to 14 that are placed on my desktop.

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Moving wallpaper is pretty neat.  That said, I have it move very, very slowly. I don’t want to be distracted.  So it takes images and such and gradually rotates through them in a kind of Ken Burns type effect.

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Photo Dream is similar to moving wallpaper, but it treats the backgrounds at 3D images.  I usually have this one running on on my my monitors, as it’s one of my favorites.

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Stars is one I often run. I typically have the stars running very, very slowly. Like, you can barely tell they’re moving.  These work via DirectX, so unlike, say, a video of stars running, these basically use no resources.  At night I will run these on all my monitors at times.

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Part 4: Playlists

Depending on the day and the time of year and other considerations, I will run a given playlist.

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Playlists are super easy to make and once you make one, it’s basically the same as it is with music. 

Part 5: Customizing

So you’ve got a normal desktop background.  As I write this, it’s Spring.  So I have applied a normal background.

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But look at the buttons in the upper left.  The first one down lets you customize the background.

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There are a lot choices to apply, which would require an entire article just to go over them.  The one I find myself using the most is “porthole".  It makes the edges of a background dark.

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Should this be part of Windows? Probably.  But it’s not.  This feature makes almost any desktop background useful.  But there are lots of other ones too that are very interesting and helpful.

Part 6: Universal Resolution Support

Windows has a few fit options for backgrounds.  But not nearly enough.  If you’re someone who runs a monitor with an unusual aspect ratio (or have a rotating monitor), you already know how limited the options are.

DeskScapes has a lot of options.

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And this is super useful if you get a background that doesn’t support your desktop’s resolution, but still looks cool.

Part 7: Colorization

Apple, Microsoft and others make some great default wallpapers.  Unfortunately, they tend to be a particular color, which is fine - until it’s not.

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These are great wallpapers, to be sure. But I tend to like my backgrounds a little less saturated.

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You could also make it a totally different color.

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You can also mix it with the customizations to get something totally different.

Part 8: Creation

DeskScapes 11 includes DreamMaker Pro, a full-on animated wallpaper maker.

Now, personally, I lack the artistic skills to make something cool.  But I’ve used Adobe After Effects enough to know I can take create something from something else that’s cool.

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If you’ve ever used an art program of any kind, you already know how to use DreamMaker Pro.

When you’re done, just Export it as a DeskScapes file and voila.

I tend to use this for games I play a lot and have those as my backgrounds.

Conclusions

So where can you get DeskScapes? Right here: Animated Wallpapers for Windows : Stardock's Deskscapes

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I hope you enjoyed season 1 as much as I did!

It's going to be a long time until season 2 so I decided to put together an 8-episode guide prediction which I'll share here.

I have no inside knowledge but I have read the comic. This post has changes from the comic that I think make it more compatible with an episodic TV show.

Obviously, this isn't how it will actually go down. But it is likely to go down something like this so major spoilers. Stop now if you haven't read the comic book.

Spoilers

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Episode 201

This episode starts at the point where Invincible and Omni Man are talking from 108 where Nolan is trying to convince Mark to join him.  The only change is that he doesn't call Debbie a "pet".  Mark agrees to join him.

Fast forward to Invincible being shown from a big screen explaining why they are taking over and how this is a good thing for Earth. We then cut to a big battle in town as they take down the Guardians of the Globe.  We are shocked to see Mark and Nolan killing the new guardians with Mark quipping to Rex "the feeling was mutual" as he kills him in response to Rex saying "I never liked you."

The only difference from OUR Guardians is the addition of a scientist named Angstrom Levy who is about to be killed by Invincible when a portal shows up behind him with another version of him saying "You're embarrassing us." while pulling him through.  Mark and Nolan look at each other in confusion.

The two Angstroms find themselves in the middle of absolute chaos with Angstrom prime thinking he must have taken them to the wrong Earth.  But sure enough, it's the right Earth, it's just being invaded...again.  He takes Angstrom 2 to a safe house where he meets hundreds of other Angstroms.  Angstrom 2 says "I sure hope we're safe here from...INVINCIBLE."

We then switch back to the conclusion of the battle and get reacquainted with Mark, Eve, Amber, etc.  Mark has gotten a black eye and must rush to graduation.  Things between Mark and Amber are pretty good.

Episode 202

This episode starts with Mark at college and being called away to deal with a turf war between Titan and the Dragon (Mister Liu).

The bulk of this episode deals with an invasion from Mars of the Sequids and the chemistry between Mark and Eve.  Meanwhile, Amber is frustrated with Mark constantly being gone.  She understands but is frustrated.

Mark, Eve and the others stop the Sequids from reaching Earth...so they think.  In the after credits they discover that the astronaut had one left on him and must slowly repopulate.

Episode 203

This episode opens with the Mauler twins in jail.  We get a day in the life of what being in a super prison is like and we get to see a bunch of the other super villains in there including the Elephant and a few others that comic fans will recognize (more Multipaul).

Suddenly Angstrom Levy shows up and breaks the Mauler twins out of prison and they go through various dimensions before reaching the safe house we saw in episode 201.

The main plot for this episode is Seance dog showing up to take Mark to an alien world filled with insect people. When he arrives, he finds his dad and they reconcile (kind of).  Nolan realizes he can't return home but he is hoping he can talk the Viltrums into accepting this world in lieu of Earth but wants Mark as backup in case that fails.  

He has already contacted the high command to welcome this new world into the empire.  Three Viltrums show up and after a brief discussion it is obvious that while the world's resources might be useful the insectoids needs to be wiped out.  Nolan objects which escalates into a battle.  Mark and Nolan are eventually overwhelmed.

The good news is that the Viltrums don't yet know Mark and Nolan are refusing to give Earth to Viltrum. They believe that Nolan was defeated on Earth by the locals or something.  They respect Mark for following his father's "orders" but now it's time to return to Earth and prepare it for Viltrum takeover.  They patch up Mark and leave with Nolan as a prisoner.

As Mark is recovering he is introduced to...Oliver, his new half-brother.

Episode 204

Mark returns to Earth with Oliver.  Amber is pissed as he's been gone 2 weeks.   Yes...she understands but her college friends are giving her a hard time about her absentee boyfriend and she can't explain why Mark is gone without revealing his secret identity.  

Mark tries to make it up to Amber but is called away to deal with the Mauler Twins.

Mark arrives to see the Mauler Twins and Angstrom Levy (lots of Mauler Twins and lots of Angstrom Levy's) performing some sort of experiment.  Mark concludes that if the Mauler twins are involved, it has to be bad and tries to find a way to stop them.  

However, Mark quickly gets overwhelmed by Mauler Twins and Angstrom Levy Prime, who only knows Mark as the hero who saved the world from Omni Man and is himself, part of the guardian of the globe in many dimensions, demands the Mauler twins stop trying to kill Mark -- just restrain him.  But the Mauler twins refuse to stop.  Levy stops the experiment (which we had previously learned was to merge all the knowledge of all the Levy's together so that he could more easily hop dimensions) to save Mark but in doing so causes an explosion that leaves Levy disfigured and all but one of the Maulers dead.

The experiment is a success and Levy knows all the dimensions but is now deformed. He flees to another dimension for medical treatment leaving the lone Mauler twin to his own devices.  Mark comes up from the rubble just as the Guardians of the Globe arrive with Eve.

When Mark gets home, Debbie agrees to raise Oliver and Cecil sends over a tutor.

Episode 205

(if the Sequid Mars attack episode wasn't before it'll be here instead) but anyway...

Mark is sent by Cecil to Midnight City to find out what has happened after it was put into perpetual darkness.  Naturally, Mark was on a date with Amber when this happened.  When he arrives he finds Darkwing -- well technically it was NightBoy before (he was a sidekick).  Mark quickly discovered that this new Darkwing has an interesting power: The shadowverse and he has been murdering criminals -- regardless of the crime.  

After a brief skirmish involving a failed attempt to trap Mark in the shadowverse (Mark simply holds onto Darkwing and refuses to let go forcing Darkwing to bring them both back to our universe) he brings Darkwing into custody and leaves him with Cecil.

Suddenly, Mark gets a call from an unknown man who tells him he needs to get home.  When he arrives he finds Angstrom Levy who has gone mad and seeks to kill Mark in revenge for disfiguring him. Mark tries to explain that he had nothing to do with that, that Angstrom did this to himself when he stopped the process midway.  But Angstrom's memories are so jumbled that he doesn't remember it that way.

Meanwhile, Angstrom has severely beaten Mark's mom and Mark is enraged.

After sending Mark to numerous universes, Mark finally is able to pull Angstrom through one of the portals where they fight on a barren world.  Enraged, Mark beats Angstrom seemingly to death though not on purpose because Mark has not yet mastered how much he has to hold back based on how durable the opponent is.  Mark realizes that he's now stranded on a barren world.

Suddenly, a portal shows up and it's the Guardians of the Galaxy - except quite a bit older. An older Eve is with them.  They explain that things on their world have gone badly.  The Viltrumites have taken over the world and they exist in hiding.  They believe that if Mark had not disappeared "all those years ago" things might have gone differently.  

They open a portal for him to return to his time. Before he goes, Eve confesses that she's been in love with Mark and that his Eve is in love with him as well.  Before Mark can say anything the portal closes and the Episode ends.

Episode 206

We get a mini Allen the Alien adventure combined with Amber and Mark trying to reconcile.  

Allen visits Earth only to meet Immortal instead in space.  After a quick fight which shows that Immortal is no match for Allen Mark shows up and he warns Mark that the Viltrums will be coming to Earth.

We get a montage of Cecil training Mark by having him lift crazy sized weights and other activities to try to make him tougher.  But we also see that Cecil isn't being fully honest with Mark as he continues to work on the Reanimen and is developing sonic weapons that he thinks will hurt Viltrums.

The bulk of the episode is a visit from the Viltrumite Empire in the form of a powerful female Viltrumite (Anissa) who has arrived to evaluate Mark's progress.  They do an adventure together saving a cruise ship.  Soon after, she asks if he is convinced that the Viltrum Empire would be good for Earth.  Mark is not convinced and there is a brief fight.  

Unlike with Nolan, this battle isn't brutal. She simply demonstrates, with absolute clarity that she is far more powerful than Mark and knocks him to the ground and holds him down. He is unable to move or break her grip.  She says that she will leave and let him consider his stance with the Viltrums.  But the next visitor will not be as gentle as her.  She leaves.

On her way out, she encounters Allen the Alien who is seeing to find out what happened to Nolan.  He feigns being defeated by the Viltrumite and is taken prisoner.

Episode 207

Dr. Seismic is back! And he has successfully captured most of the world's heroes in his vast underground lair.

Meanwhile, Mark and Amber break up.  She says she loves Mark but they just can't relate to each other.  He understands.

He talks to William (his college roommate now).  Mark decides that college really isn't working for him anyway and that he was only coming here to be with Amber.  But the fact is, he has nothing in common with Amber.  

He gets a call from Cecil about Doc Seismic and leaves.  Shortly after Eve shows up and asks William where Mark is and he gets filled in including the part where he and Amber have broken up.

Mark reaches the spot where Cecil says is the closest surface point for where all the missing heroes are.  But the heroes are actually a couple miles below the surface.  Just as Mark is trying to figure out how he's going to get down there, Evil shows up and with her powers they are able to quickly get down to there Doc Seismic is.

The Lava trolls are able to capture Mark and Eve in the same strange containers that the other heroes are in.  Mark asks "So are you going to get us out of this or what?" and Eve answers with a grin "Just a sec, but first, are we dating now or what?" then suddenly, DarkWing shows up in front of an army of Reanimen.  Eve quickly frees everyone and together they are able to defeat Doc Seismic and the Lava trolls.

However, Mark quickly knocks Darkwing down and demands to know how he escaped.  The other heroes question Mark as they don't understand why he attacked Darkwing.  Mark explains he's a murderer and Darkwing says he's "better" now. 

Mark flies off to confront Cecil where he not only discovers that Cecil has covered up Darkwing's murders but he's actually employing DA Sinclair.  Mark says he can't work with him anymore and quits.

When Mark gets home, Eve shows up and they talk.  During this conversation he tells her about her future self from that alternative universe.  Eve is shocked leaves in distressed.

Meanwhile, a little globe camera is watching all this.

Episode 208

Evil versions of Invincibles are showing up everywhere and wreaking havoc.  This is an episode of extreme carnage.

Mark confronts one and the two battle with our Mark coming out on top.

After Eve is severely injured by an Invincible doppelgänger, Mark stays in the hospital while the evil Invincibles, brought here by a very much alive Angstrom Levy, brings the world to its knees.  

The most horrifying part is that the full might of all of Earth's heroes aren't even able to kill a single Invincible with two exceptions: One killed by Mark and another that ends up in the Shadowverse. The Reanimmen and all the other heroes are largely wiped out.  A young Oliver is nearly killed by one.

Victorious, Levy demands to know where Mark is.  When Mark shows up, Levy says to the other Invincibles "your services will no longer be needed" and opens portals behind the evil dopplegangs and knocks them through with clouds of "ball" devices.  

Angstrom Levy has been genetically enhanced and now that this Earth is demolished he will kill Invincible and let the world know that their destruction is because of Invincible's failure.  

However, Invincible is much stronger than he was in 108 or even the last time that Levy faced Invincible.  This is evidenced from early Mark vs. one of the other Invincible's where Mark kills one.

Their fight, while intense, shows Invincible getting the upper hand.  Levy tries to escape but Mark grabs ahold of his arm.  Levy closes the portal anyway leaving Mark holding just an arm.

Mark passes out from the battle.  

When he wakes, he is in the familiar hospital bed.  Cecil tells Mark how Darkwing sacrificed himself to take out one of the Invincibles and that the Reanimen bought the President enough time to escape.  Mark admits that Cecil's methods might make some sense.

Mark then sees Eve who has recovered enough to see him. Mark tells her that when he thought he might die, he could only think of her and how much he cares about her.  "You and I?" she smiles. "Yea, you and I."

End of season 2.

Notes

Fans of the comic book will notice quite a few changes and reorderings here.  First, Rex ends the season alive and well.  Second, the conflict between Mark and Cecil is diminished a great deal from the comics and more in line with the more nuanced behavior we see in the show.

The season culminates with the Invincible War and Mark and Eve's relationship.  This is a very different order from the comic books.  I just think that from a show pacing thing that this is most satisfying.

I also have Mark quite a bit tougher and the Invincible's quite a bit tougher.  In the comic quite a few Invincibles were killed in the Invincible War.  I found this highly dubious given how things later developed in the series.

I also changed the nature of the Viltrumites a bit to be more nuanced and rational.  In the comic they wreck Oliver's home world just to piss Nolan off.  I suspect/hope that rationale is changed and that they simply don't see the point of having a bug race that lives 9 months be in the empire.  It doesn't occur to them that Nolan left Earth because of his feelings.  They think he was weak and somehow defeated and took his son to this planet.

 

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Apr 15, 2021 6:06 PM by Discussion: Personal Computing

So I keep my Mac and PC next to each other.

Broadly speaking, even taking multiple monitors out of the picture, I find the PC more productive.  This is primarily a difference in how Windows and Mac work.  This wasn't always the case but over time, Microsoft has added a lot of nice little short-cuts and tweaks that just don't seem to exist on the Mac.

Even little things in the Mac seem needlessly complicated. For instance, on Windows 10, I can hit Windows Key - Shift S to take a screenshot.  On the Mac is's Shift, Command 4.   This minor difference forces me to look up and in fact a lot of programs seem to not take power typers into account (hot key placement awkwardness).

Here are a few other observations.

Resizing windows on the Mac is often frustratingly difficult compared to Windows.

I find Mac a much more productive laptop environment to use because of the 4 finger full screen slide.

I really like the window snapping feature on Windows. 

File management in Explorer is a lot easier, faster than on Finder.  On the Mac, you really need to download a third party file manager if you're doing serious file management.

Installation on the Mac is much better.

UX on Mac is much nicer. Windows is full of annoying flickering and jankiness.

The Windows 10 system management stuff is much better now than the Mac System Preferences which seem to be from a bygone era.

I have to use a utility on the Mac to not have the mouse wheel work backwards from expected when I have a separate trackpad that I am expecting to work as it would normally.

Broadly speaking, the Mac is more pleasant to use and Windows is more productive to use.

Just some random thoughts.  Do you use a Mac and Windows daily? If so, what are your observations?

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Feb 8, 2021 7:37 PM by Discussion: WinCustomize Talk

If you look over here: WindowBlinds 2001 in 2021 » Forum Post by Frogboy (wincustomize.com)  you will see that there are a lot of great skins for WindowBlinds that just don't work well in 2021 for a variety of reasons.

We are looking for modern recreations of OS skins that work with Windows 10 using WindowBlinds. 

In particular:

  1. Windows 3.1
  2. MacOS Classic (pre system 7)
  3. MacOS System 7
  4. Aqua 
  5. Amiga WorkBench (old style)
  6. Whistler
  7. NeXTStep
  8. Windows 95
  9. Luna (Windows XP)
  10. BeOS (Haiku)
  11. Gnome
  12. Aero
  13. OS/2 2.0
  14. OS/2 Warp
  15. Object Desktop for OS/2
  16. Open Windows

We would be looking for modern recreations without skinner embellishment except when it involves a UI control that didn't exist back then (start menu, etc.) and even then the goal would be to make it appear as if it were part of the OS.

If you are interested (and you would need to have a Master level of skinning experience) respond here and we'll get in touch.

 

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Feb 8, 2021 7:25 PM by 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.

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Here's mine:

I have no idea why the memes that use this tend to crack me up the most but they do.

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Jan 9, 2021 9:38 PM by Discussion: Everything Else

Where we are and where we're going.

Soon...

Then...

And finally.

The robot overlords will smile.

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Given recent events, I was thinking that maybe there's an opportunity to rethink social media platforms entirely.

The current leaders like Twitter and Facebook are actually fairly primitive from a technical point of view.  Not their fault. They were built when they were built.

If you were to create a new social media site today you wouldn't be able to get away with being like those sites because the distributors of the social media apps (Apple, Google) won't tolerate the growing pains that are inevitable with any clone of Facebook or Twitter (especially Twitter).

Until recently, Twitter was a dumpster fire of hate and extremism. It's still pretty terrible but nothing like it used to be.  But now Twitter has the capital and processes in place to actively moderate their dumpster fires.  It's a brute force way to do things and very expensive but it works adequately.  

So if you can't just clone Twitter and Facebook how would you make a social network today? 

Here are my thoughts on what it would take and I don't expect my ideas to be acceptable by most people but that's OK.  It would only need to be acceptable to enough people to be commercially viable.

First, The Problem:

Social media lends itself to tribalism.  Once a given group has sufficient numbers to dominate those with a minority opinion they can effectively kick them off the platform.  

Reddit has done a pretty good job by recognizing this and allowing people to silo themselves in subreddits.

But messaging networkings like Twitter have few features to prevent the site from becoming tribal. Indeed, the site is almost seemingly designed to magnify the power of tribes (sub-tweeting to your followers for instance and mass-reporting for example).

The answer to tribalism isn't to create a site for your tribe.  Instead, the solution is recognize that tribalism is a thing and build a platform that allows people to silo themselves in whatever ways they want.  

Moreover, the tech today is so much better and so much has been learned about social media that it could be done better. Much much better.

Here's how:

API Centric

Rather than being a monolithic service like Twitter or Facebook that retrofitted some APIs after the fact, you'd make the service start with APIs.  The apps would be built on top of the API.  That means that third-parties could create their own apps mixing and matching the APIs they think their users want.  This would distribute out the development.

Extensible

Just like Teams and Slack make it easy for third parties to create extensions, so would this.  If you've ever used something like Jira you can imagine an entire App Store for people to extend their experience.

So rather than trying to have its own photo album service or its own file system or whatever, it would have extensions that users could use add that to their system.

Decentralized

You don't want your service at the mercy of a single ISP.  Instead, you'd make it kind of a Mesh.  Not pure peer-to-peer but rather allow people to host bits and pieces of the platform.  All the data would be encrypted partial blocks. 

Audience Control

Facebook has a pretty good (but rarely used) feature for controlling who can see a given post.  Stardock's own JoeUser.com had audiences from the beginning but in 2001, it was just too CPU intensive on the servers to not slow down the entire site.

In the case of this platform, you'd have posts that are either Public, for Followers and a new tier called For Subscribers.  Subscribers are followers that have been approved by the Poster.    If Twitter had this feature, a lot of the viral hate dog piling would disappear.  Quote "tweeting" would only work for public posts for instance.

Deflect

Instead of only having blocking, you could deflect. This would prevent someone from following you but would not prevent them from seeing your public posts.

Two-Factor Required

Accounts would be required to have two types of authentication. This is to make sure every user is an actual person and not a bot or alt.  The data wouldn't necessarily need to be stored. The goal is to prevent armies of phantom accounts.

Cats

Not the feline variety but rather Category tags. When making a post, the site would use AI to suggest a Category tag (#games, #political, #actualcats).  There would be a finite number of these cats with the purpose being that the public or even your followers can filter out cats that they don't want to see.  

So for instance, you're following someone who, 90% of the time, posts great info about tech.  But 10% of the time he goes on a rant about some political issue.  You're not interested in seeing the political crap.  You just want to see the tech.

Focused

255 characters. This wouldn't be a platform for writing articles. Quick and simple.  I am not looking to replace Reddit or Facebook. I just want to get and/or distribute information. 

Not for chatting

There'd be a 30 second delay between posting and it being sent out to give people time to change their minds and discourage people from trying to use the service as a real time chat program.  Plus it gives time to edit it before it goes out.

Moderation Event Logs

Moderation is an unfortunate requirement these days.  The problem with moderation is that they aren't transparent and come across as arbitrary.  That's mainly because they aren't transparent and are often arbitrary.

Any post that is reported would go to a moderation channel that volunteers and non volunteers can discuss.  Just like with Wikipedia's discussion pages, moderator notes and comments would be logged and which rule it violated would be listed.  

Monetization for Creators built in

You're not going to get anyone heavily invested in Twitter to use a new service unless there's a really strong incentive.  That's where the Subscriber stuff I mentioned earlier comes in.

News sites, content creators, etc. would still post most of their content for the general public to get users. But they could also provide additional content that's only available to subscribers.  

Because this platform would be handling (in theory) hundreds of thousands of creators eventually you could have subscriptions that might costs trivial ($0.10 for instance) per month because the actual overhead for charging and such would be far upstream (i.e. the subscriber would be paying a total minimum per month and then distributing it out).  Sort of like combining Patreon + RedditGold.  

More rules

This might sound bad but it's not.  Instead of a handful of vague, inconsistency enforced rules you would have what amounts to a very, very long list of rules that are very very specific.  So for example there would be no rule about "racism" but rather several specific rules concerning writing that would be prohibited so that everyone is on board (or not) with it BEFORE people invest thousands of hours into a service only to find out that something you wrote was deemed "racist".

So in this case, think of "more rules" as being more akin to a programming language where an error (rule violation) is specific and obvious.

I'd rather have 548 specific rules than 6 vague, open to interpret rules.

Understandable business model

Rather than the user being the product, revenue would be made not through ads but instead through the extensions I described earlier.  In a world where F2P Fortnite lives off of skins, it doesn't take much of an imagination to come up with many ways to monetize social media in a way people would happily volunteer to pay a little bit for something they want.

 

So that's my quick thoughts on the subject.  Back in 2001, we developed two platforms: JoeUser.com and BannerAds.net.  We didn't have any venture capital behind us so naturally could not compete with Facebook or Twitter.   But we do know how to build these things.  

We sold our digital distribution platform, Impulse to GameStop in 2011 and we're currently pretty busy building an unannounced cloud-based (not web but a game for PCs and consoles) game takes advantage of many of the same techs such a service would require.

I'd never make the mistake of trying to build such a platform on our own again.  But I wouldn't rule out building one provided that it was properly capitalized.

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Dec 26, 2020 4:06 AM by Discussion: WindowBlinds

We are putting together the schedule to make WindowBlinds 11.  

Customization is a lot harder now than it used to be.  Microsoft, for reasons unknown, has actively encouraged developers to take care of their own client and even non client (border, frame) painting rather than using standard Windows controls.  

Microsoft's baffling decision to throw away trying to provide a standard set of in-app controls for developers and instead provide vague, often conflicting standards (cough, Fluent) has resulted in having less and less of the OS we can even touch.

Which is unfortunate because WindowBlinds, in theory, could actually give Windows users a consistent, OS-wide Fluent if apps weren't handling the drawing of their own UIs these days.

Still, with that in mind, there are things we can do such as skin the standard OS controls and then handle apps on a case-by-case basis.  Keep in mind though, the more non-standard apps we have to handle, the harder it is for us to keep compatibility.

Earlier this year we released Curtains which doesn't even hook into the OS.  This means it is 100% compatible. Skins, even the weirdest ones, won't break a given app.  Of course, the price is that it doesn't skin nearly as much (no client area GUI controls like scrollbars, push buttons, radio buttons, etc.).  It's done quite well.  However, we know there are still plenty of people out there who would like to have more full control over how their Windows desktop looks.

That's where this thread comes in: What would you like to see in WindowBlinds 11?  

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