Archive for the ‘customization’ Category

Windows 8 mockup

Posted: June 29, 2011 by jellymann in computers, customization, windows

Rainmeter skin: omnimo by fediaFedia

Visual Style: zetro by pisadeviant

Start button: Metro button alt by me

It’s pretty nippy here in Pretoria.

I hope Microsoft moves away from the ridiculously overdone glass style. The Metro UI is much cleaner in my opinion, and harder to get finger-marks on than glass 😛

Perfection is Unknowable

Posted: January 21, 2011 by jellymann in computers, customization, linux, ubuntu

I am a fan of minimalistic user interfaces. I have always been searching for the “perfect” desktop. Well, I discovered that there isn’t really one.

The thing about perfection is that it’s unknowable. It’s impossible, but it’s also right in front of us all the time.” – Kevin Flynn

Apple have done a fantastic job making the “perfect” desktop with Mac OS X. That is why a lot of people who don’t have a Mac will try and make their OS look like Mac OS X. I used to be one of those people. Since then I have realised it isn’t the best way to a perfect desktop.

Let me start with my Windows 7 desktop. After years of customisation and re-customisation to make Windows look like a Mac, I came sudden realisation: Why not keep Windows the way it is? Well I reverted everything back to the way it was and started from scratch. It’s surprising how well Windows works being Windows. I did, however, make one visual modification. I did install a new visual style, but this one stays true to Windows 7’s Aero, but moves one tiny step towards Apple, by replacing the reflective glass look with a soft gradient, and making the shadows bigger and softer. If you want to check it out’s called Soft7.

Now let me talk about my Ubuntu desktop. This one’s going to be a lot more than one paragraph because Linux is extremely customisable, way more so than Windows.

I did not attempt to make Ubuntu look like Mac OS X, but I did create look inspired by it. The few things I “borrowed” from Apple include borderless windows which create a much crisper look, the dock (in fact, two of them), and the global menu bar. The rest of the look is very loosely based on Mac OS X and is in fact a GTK Theme I borrowed from another OS based on Linux. I got the icons from it as well. Many thanks to DanRabbit, who in my opinion is a genius. I did, however, change a few things, like make the menus borderless to match the windows. Elementary also has a modification to Nautilus which cleans up its interface quite a lot.

Instead of the Gnome Main Menu, I opted for a more “invisible” approach to running apps not present in my dock. Lifehacker pointed me to a fantastic utility called Synapse that is similar in function to Gnome-do but with much more capability. I can easily launch any installed app without browsing for it with my mouse. The only drawback to this is that I need to memorize all the apps I use and have installed, and so far I have had to refresh my memory a couple of times.

The idea behind a global menu bar is that only one application’s menu bar is visible at a time, thus preventing the user from accidentally using the wrong window’s menu bar. It also helps with small windows having long menu bars, such as GIMP. The Gnome-globalmenu is available for Linux and works for most GTK apps. The only app I use that does not benefit from it is OpenOffice. Firefox also doesn’t benefit from globalmenu.

I also all reduced the titlebar to a five-pixel high strip with my own Metacity theme that is blue when active and grey when inactive. This saves a bit of screen real-estate which I can use for other things, like viewing more of this document. The only downside is that I have to find other ways of know what document or image I’m actually working on! Thankfully most programs have ways of doing so.

I’m using a fantastic dock called Docky. It might be a little buggy now and again but it more than makes up for it in all it’s awesomeness. It is simple to use, easy to set up, and look great. It has the 3D reflective table thing going on right out of the box.

And last but definitely not least is Compiz, Linux’s major composite window manager. I have made my own modifications to the configuration, mainly just animations, but also stuff like the desktop wall and th expose feature. All in all this makes for a very unique feel.

Clean Stuff

Oh and one more thing, though. To match my awesomely minimalistic desktop, I chose some wallpapers from the fabulous selection over at Simple Desktops.


Posted: September 21, 2010 by jellymann in customization

The Desktop Background, artwork behind your windows, something you see when nothing is running, a cool look so people say “that’s cool” when they see your PC idle… whatever it is to you.

It has been 35 years since the first “Wallpaper” came out. Introduced by Xerox as a way to distinguish the desktop from window interiors on a black-and-white monitor. Below is the first wallpaper in the world, first appearing on Xerox’s experimental “Officetalk” system.

Apple followed soon after with a denser pattern, made possible by their non-interlaced monitor, which wouldn’t have worked on the Officetalk.

The term wallpaper is more appropriate for the original tiled backgrounds that older operating systems. Windows had, up until 98 and ME, an extremely simple and primitive pattern editor, which allowed the user to make a two-colour, 8×8 tiled wallpaper.

These days, wallpapers have been appropriately renamed to “Desktop Background” or “Desktop Picture” on Windows and Mac OS X respectively. No longer a boring repetitive tiled pattern, the modern desktop has become a canvas for digital art.

deviantART has a section dedicated to wallpapers. But what makes a wallpaper different to all the other art on DA? Wouldn’t it be easier to just post wallpapers in the appropriate categories along with all the other art?

A couple of things answer these questions. Firstly, and most obvious, is the size. Computer screens are typically a 16:10 or 16:9 aspect ratio, which means the wallpaper artist must create his art accordingly. Sure you could find any picture off DA, resize it, and set it as your desktop wallpaper, ignoring any loss of quality or the possibility of a missing part of the scene. Wallpapers on DA usually come between 1440×900 and 1920×1200, as well as zip files containing a range of sizes so you can choose one that corresponds to your screen.

The second thing that sets wallpaper art apart from other art is a little tricky. I might be wrong here, as this is my own opinion, but wallpapers usually have a different design approach than non-wallpaper art. Most wallpaper art is digital, and are drawn specifically with the desktop in mind, and not as a print to be framed an hung on a wall. Photographic wallpapers also have differences to other photographs, and in my experience are heavily edited to be made sharper, more vibrant, and completely void of any noise.

Another question I would like to ask (and this is open for readers to comment on) is this: What makes a good wallpaper? What I mean is, something that a user will often see while working on their computer that will affect his/her moods in some way or another to increase productivity and overall happiness while working. What kind of design is best in situations such as these? Does it differ from person to person, depending on the task at hand? Does changing the wallpaper change mood and productivity in some way? I’d like some feedback on this.

There are also other forms of desktop backgrounds, which take things further from the original analogy of the “wallpaper”. Animated backgrounds, interactive backgrounds, video backgrounds, as well as some other cool things like EarthDesk. I question whether these are a waste of system resources or not. I guess if you have the extra power, you may as well spice up your desktop in such a way, otherwise it’s really not necessary.

A lot of people set their background to photos they have taken themselves, sometimes of family. On the other hand, you could just completely ditch the background and have a solid colour. One of the things that annoy me intensely is how some people incorrectly refer to their wallpaper as the “screensaver”, especially common when talking about their cellphone background. AARRRGG!!

I could still rant on pointlessly about wallpapers, but this is what it boils down to:
What makes a good wallpaper? Why?

Oh and one last thing, the most infamous wallpaper known to man:

P.S. For the perfect wallpaper, check out the stuff at Simple Desktops.