December 02, 2003

ShapeShifter Redux Redux

That's right, we're talking about ShapeShifter again. Raise your hand if you're bored with that. We're starting with some MacNN Forum posts.

You want to know why the GUIkit isn't an "open" framework? For real? Fine. ThemeChanger and other themers cannot do anything remotely close to SS because ShapeShifter (and for that matter, similar frameworks such as Project Monolith) makes Mac OS X theming possible. 1. DLTAs are so big because they have to fully replace the files in Mac OS X, most likely ones that contain more data than just theme-related information. ShapeShifter "overlays" the system, which allows the GUIkit to be much smaller and purposeful. 2. The GUIkit will never be compatible with ThemeChanger because text colors, colored metal windows, and custom shadows aren't possible because the SYSTEM won't let it. ShapeShifterbeats the system in this aspect because its framework is independent of internal Mac OS X frameworks, unlike current theme apps. Sometimes you just have to let go, guys. crypto currency in pakistan

- WICKEDfour (Link)

Alright, first of all, this isn't even what we're talking about. If guiKit were open, any programmer could look up the guiKit specs, and load guiKits -- even if their particular themeswitching choice didn't allow all of the guiKit features, that program could simply ignore those features. A closed guiKit format just feels wrong.

Next, there has been an awful lot of pro ShapeShifter people screaming at those who complain to stop complaining. Witness:

Just buy it if you think it's worth but please, stop complaining.
- Tarambana (Link)

If you feel so strongly that SS is a bad thing, then you are perfectly free to code your own application that will accomplish anything you wish it to. Bring on the competition. There's nothing stopping you.

- dws (Link)

The developers need to step in a provide a unified stance on ShapeShifter. It is not OK to say "You don't need boot panels". These people want to buy your software. It is true that for the most part it is not Unsanity/Geekspiff posting such remarks, but again, a firm stance from them would clear a lot of this up. Secondly, saying that you should just code your own app is one of the dumbest responses ever. What the hell do you think would happen if Adobe was like "Yes, the latest Photoshop is buggier than hell -- you're free to code your own". I'll tell you what: you'll have hundreds of graphical designers giving Adobe the finger.

Next, people seem convinced that themers are taking a handout from Unsanity now. This is surely not the case, and it's insulting to everyone involved to suggest it. I do wish, though, that my twenty dollars would go to the artists as well as the programmers.

The basic pro ShapeShifter argument runs around the tune of "It's better than anything out there -- even though it's rough all over. Theming isn't essential, so belly up to the bar if you want it". On the other hand, those who don't like ShapeShifter point to the fact that twenty days ago, this was all free. They could download themes to their heart's delight. Not only was it all free, but it was open. It was for the people, for the rest of us.

So I have two days left on my ShapeShifter demo.

I will not be buying it until the following are addressed:
1) The huge memory leak and the fuzzy menubar icons.
2) The UI lameness in the prefpane is fixed.
3) The developers have awknowledged with something more than "It won't be changed" the problems with boot panels and login screens.

Now for some things I very much want to see, as soon as possible really:
1) Open guiKit format. Even a rough overview would be great for people to get started.
2) Some kind of commitment is made that we'll get a certain number of themes. Profit share with the themers, and guarentee two new themes a month.
3) A SS update that enables: Dock skins, icon skins, safari skins, and more. Maybe even the ability to shade the Finder selection box. forex trading in pakistan

November 26, 2003

Happy Thanksgiving

I'm gone, in wonderful San Francisco, until this Sunday. Everyone have a good Thanksgiving, and remember what you're thankful for.

November 19, 2003

Mac OS X Themes Part Deux

In the last few days, we have seen an abundance of OS X theme news. Unsanity released ShapeShifter, a new theme application that promises to do more than the old method of replacing system files ( changing text colors, for example), as well as remove the stability problems associated with such replacements. This is good for everyone -- theme creators have stopped worrying about hosing user's systems or having their work stolen easily. They also are prepared to pay far less for bandwidth now that 20 MB themes weigh in at 900K.
Unfortunately, I have a number of problems with the product. First and foremost, the guikit format is closed. There is no way of creating guikits besides using ThemePark. There is no schema for guikit. This has the goal of, apparently, not allowing people to open a guikit, slightly modify files, and release it as their own. There are problems with this though: ThemePark creates new themes by loading the system resources, which, when you have a theme loaded, are the resources inside of these guikits. So first of all, guikits do not succeed in their attempts for security, nor can they really, since it's a matter of time before some other app comes along that can save the system resources it loads after ThemePark's security hole is fixed (who knows how, though). So anyway, guikit is not secure, but because it is closed it does not play nice with others. If ShapeShifter is so spectacular (and there is no reason to believe it isn't) , Unsanity and Geekspiff should let guikits play fair in the open market.
Next, theme creation is still so unweidly. I should be able to open a 800x1200 or so PSD template, that has on it all the metrics for the various controls, and I should be able to simply create my theme on one file, save it as a TIFF, and have some application convert that TIFF into a guikit. Some people were against this when I brought it up, saying it would be the realbasic of themes. I have to disagree, though, because I think a lot of GOOD artists are turned away from making OS X themes because of the obscene complexity of the process. We're using Macs for a lot of reasons, but one of them is ease of use. Don't assume that the OS X theme group will go the same way as the wincustomize group. More themes is better for everyone, and I'll be damned if it isn't better for Unsanity/Geekspiff trying to sell their software.

On some way lighter news, Max ( released Aluminum Alloy for Panther, which I am using right now. I love the theme, so kudos to him.

November 18, 2003


Mac OS X themeing grew up a lot today: Unsanity released "ShapeShifter" (1.0), which at this point is primarily just a theme switcher that doesn't move files around. This will be such a boon to system stability that it's not even funny. Also, no more Aqua restore, and no more being up the creek when you have an old Aqua restore, etc. Different themes for different users is very cool as well.
OK, I'm wrong on this first reservation. Leaving it here for posterity though.
I do have some reservations, though. BZ explained to me the technicalities of how they do it, and apparently they are patching file i/o (which will definitly be faster than patching drawing code directly, for example). This is all well and good, but my concern is whether or not they did it properly. If you are running something like Photoshop or DVD Studio Pro and ShapeShifter is intercepting (and likely disregarding, since you aren't looking in the right folder) your i/o calls, isn't that going to slightly slow down each call, resulting in larger slowdown when you have bigger files? I don't know enough about this, but it worries me.
This is my real reservation I suppose.
My second concern is the cost. For one, I don't know how that 20$ is spread out. I hope that there is a system in place to give theme designers some profit (rather than, say, swizcore and maxthemes making all of the potential designer profit, which would in the end stifle theme development). So basically there, I want to know who gets what. My second problem is that, since this is one of those collaboration projects, is it 'upgrades for life?'. And given that Unsanity stopped upgrades for life recently, am I going to pay 20$ for this version of SS, which doesn't do much more than theme changing, and then 10$ later when they roll out the SS that can do everything (the proposed feature list rocks -- one click and you'll have all new icons, potentially new images in apps that use images, and potentially new dock icons as well) it is planned to do. I'm just nervous that I'll somehow get screwed over there, which isn't cool. I know the Unsanity people are good guys, but you never know what can happen.

Erik of NSLog doesn't like themes, or ShapeShifter, and he's wrong. So there, I'm right, you're wrong, etc and so forth. Themes rock, Aqua gets boring, Aqua looks bad sometimes! Especially with metal everywhere, I'm happy that many themes get rid of the distinction between metal and nonmetal windows.


November 17, 2003

FavoritesBar 1.0.2B

B is for second release, not for beta.

This release has support for holding down tab to cycle through the list (or shift tab to go backwards). 1.0.2 had this ability as well, but the general concensus was that 1.0.2 was WAY too fast. Hopefully I didn't slow it down too much with 1.0.2B.

Anyway, FavoritesBar is now, I think, feature complete (to my designs, anyway). If anyone has any feature requests, please mail me.

Links: The FavBar page | Direct Download | VersionTracker page.

I'm hoping to have FavoritesBar mentioned on ResExcellence within the next couple of days, which if history has any indications should give me lots of downloads, which equals more feedback, which equals better FavoritesBar. It's sad that this app only has like 1,500 downloads, while SafariSkin, which can best be described as a cheap hack, has close to 7,000 downloads. It's all relative, I suppose, since SafariSkin came out when there was a big hullaballoo about Safari, whereas I think very few have heard of FavoritesBar. Tell your friends =]