With Halloween over and Christmas on its way, November always seems like a month that doesn't know quite what to do with itself. With Thanksgiving day tucked in there, things seem to go into a kind of limbo state. The week after Thanksgiving marks the hurried Christmas rush in the United States.
Somewhere in this time frame is the impending release of WindowBlinds 5. Feedback from the beta group has been very positive and the newest build seems to have cleaned up most of the last remaining known issues.
We're also working on the desktop pet which we're trying to get out before Christmas. The pet is incredibly cool. Developed by Green Reaper and Stardock Media on the art side, the pet is far more sophisticated than I had expected. It has a "virtual brain" in which it lives out its life - eating, sleeping, pooping, playing and just interacting with your desktop in interesting ways. It's not just the pet, it's a whole slew of things that exist on your desktop. Depending on how well it does, we have a whole bunch of different additions we'd like to make to it. Remember to empty your recycle bin as the pet will play in the garbage and get sick if you forget to feed him. The little screenshot can't do it justice though, it's the animation that I think really makes it rock, definitely the most advanced desktop "thing" ever made IMO.
There's also beta of WindowFX 3 in the works, the beta release of KeepSafe, the release of the Stardock Virtual Desktops, the release of Control Center, a new build of ObjectBar.
As some probably can imagine, the labs at Stardock have some pretty cool stuff in them. What typically comes out the door is the result of literally years of work. Even as we get ready to release a whole slew of products for Christmas, there's stuff in the pipeline for 2006 and beyond. With Windows Vista coming, a whole new set of opportunities arise. We've been dissecting the betas and playing with the latest tools. I discussed a bit of some of the stuff that Microsoft is working on here. We've got some killer stuff scheduled for Christmas next year assuming Windows Vista stays on target.
Going through WinCustomize's galleries and you can see it's an interesting time in skinning. The # of new icon packages coming out lately has been a bit disappointing. The quality has been good at least. A good icon package typically has over 50 icons. But I think some appeal needs to be made to icon artists to start packaging their icons more. I skim the web and I see icon collections, typically only 15 to 20 icons thrown together in ZIPs. Those would still make decent icon packages.
One of the sites I frequent is called Aqua-Soft. It's a site dedicated to helping make Windows look and feel more like MacOS X. One of the things they do, that we don't do, that I wish we did do, is provide nearly daily updates to what's going on on the site. Though for some reason, they almost never link to WinCustomize for downloads. I'm not sure why since there's a lot of content here and we link back automatically. For example, if someone links to this Quicktime PNG image then in the referrals area under it it will automatically link back. This way, people who link to us automatically get a link back to them.
Speaking of Mac emulation, with WindowBlinds 5 now supporting per-pixel alpha blended titlebars and borders with buttons on the left, one wonders how long it'll be until someone makes a more authentic MacOS X like skin in which inactive title bars are semi-transparent and the edges are alpha blended with a shadow.
Meanwhile, Paul Boyer is hoping to finish his newest premium icon package -- Apogee! This will finish his first trilogy of premium icon packages -- Orion and Utopia. The new icons look fantastic and they're being designed to work both on existing versions of Windows and on Windows Vista. They support up to 256x256 but still look great all the way down to 16x16.
We are also working on an update to the Logika Suite. Originally created by Pixtudio, this time Voo and MikeB are teaming up with the original Pixtudio content to bring it up to 2006 level which means WindowBlinds 5 features, an icon package, and some other enhancements. We hope to have that out by Christmas too. It's going to be an incredibly busy month and a half.
As for myself, I will be busy trying to get Galactic Civilizations II beta 5 out by Christmas and our team there is just going crazy trying to get everything in there. I'm also working on the 2006 version of the Skin Primer. Every time I update it, someone screams "Hey! You work fer Stardock!!!11! You're biased" To which I say "Well, duh." But it's not like others have stepped forward. I actually didn't update it last year to see if someone else was going to do some comprehensive guide to all of the skinning world and nobody did. So I'm working on a pretty heavy revamp of it. A lot has happened in the past couple of years.