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Saturday, April 28, 2007
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I found a few more good sources for custom XP themes (Visual Styles). The first is in the forum section of the Neowin.net community.  The Customizing Windows XP forum has a subsection labelled Completed Visual StylesThis forum contains hundreds of posts and some great designs.

Deviantart.com is another great site that features a massive selection of artwork including, but not limited to, Visual Styles.  The Deviantart site is slick, easy to operate, and displays thumbnail views of each style in a well organized manner.  Selection is a snap.

Lastly, the aptly named XPThemes.com contains a large assortment of Windows XP customizations.  From cursors, to logon screens, to Visual Styles and Windows Blinds, to system tweaks, this is a one-stop site for customizing your Windows XP installation.

Posted by: Deezle at 02:32 PM • Comments: 0
Friday, April 27, 2007
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Until recently, I had ignored my Windows XP installation’s complete lack of originality in terms of aesthetics and had never sought out a remedy through some kind of custom skin for Windows XP, or as Microsoft refers to it, a Color Scheme.  I remember that when I first setup XP I was a little surprised to find that in the Display Properties’ Appearance tab, there were only three Windows XP color schemes available: Default (blue), Olive Green, and Silver.  At the time, I tried different selections and even reverting to the Windows Classic style, but I couldn’t get the nice, clean, shaded window borders to be anything other than blue, olive green, or silver.  I chose olive green just to try a little originality by not simply taking the default setup.  And why those three colors anyway? It’s like when CGA color PC’s were first introduced.  Who was it that made that color decision?  "Ok boys, we’ve only got four colors to work with, and we need white and black for word processing.  Any ideas for the other two?  What’s that Johnson?  Light blue and hot pink?  Why, that’s brilliant man!  It reminds me of babies and you know how much the public likes babies!”

Eventually I gave up trying to change the color scheme and went on with my business, but I was never really satisfied with what I had selected.  Then recently, I read an article about customizing Windows XP and all the old pains and frustrations of the limited Color Schemes came crashing down.  Well, it wasn’t really that dramatic, but it did cause me to do a little exploring and find out more.  Apparently the reason for the lack of themes is that Microsoft locked down the UXTheme.dll file which controls the Windows XP themes.  This lock down prevents the installation of new msstyles (the file format for these visual styles) and keeps your Windows XP installation looking as boring as every other person’s installation.  Fortunately, as is often the case when situations like these occur, someone found a way around it and unlocked the UXTheme.dll file.  There are many sites where you can download the patched version and installation is a snap.

Once installed, you’re free to add any of the custom visual styles, msstyles, floating around the internet.  There are also lots of sites for these, including the handy and exhaustive, ThemeXP.org.  I downloaded and installed the Corona theme by C-Melle and the results are spectacular.  This particular theme still uses shades of blue, like a cross between Silver and Default (blue), but the title bars, buttons, Explorer windows, and Start Menu are entirely revamped.  The task bar looks great and gets even better when expanded.

WinMedia X Void XP Visual StyleIf I do get tired of the blue, there are many other styles to choose from in reds, blacks, browns, oranges, yellows, you name it.  Many come with desktop wallpaper, but I prefer to use photos I’ve taken or downloaded from Flickr.  What’s nice is that once a new theme has been downloaded, it’s always available on the Appearance tab so you can try out several different ones or change them regularly.  You can also continue to tweak it further using the Advanced button.  For example, I changed the Selected Item font color to white so it would be more legible with the Corona theme.  I should also point out that you can find and download themes which also can alter your fonts, wallpaper, and icons, whereas a visual style only alters the actual windows themselves.  Combining different themes with different styles can create a very unique looking setup.  Next project, I’ll change some of the other windows characteristics and icons like the startup splash and login window.  It’s good to do a little spring cleaning and breathe some new life into my drab, Windows desktop.

Posted by: Deezle at 02:04 AM • Comments: 0
Thursday, April 19, 2007
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I’ve caught a lot of of classic movies on TV lately.  City of Angels was on last weekend and I saw Say Anything just the other day.  Batman Begins has also been on HBO a lot recently.  It’s only been a couple years since it’s release and so technically it’s too recent to be considered a classic, but it’s only a matter of time.  Christopher Nolan who had also written another favorite, Memento, and The Prestige which I picked up but haven’t yet watched, did a superb job with this exciting, well acted, testosterone-pumped, yet deep retelling of the Batman tale.  Even Maggie liked Batman Begins, much to her complete surprise.  So, it caught my eye when Filmcritic.com posted a top 50 movie endings of all time and I saw several of these movies on the list: #41 Say Anything, #48 Batman Begins, #19 MementoCity of Angels isn’t on the list, but it definitely has a big impact ending.  If you’re looking for something good to watch or just want to reminisce, it’s worth checking it out.

http://www.filmcritic.com/misc/emporium.nsf/reviews/The-Top-50-Movie-Endings-of-All-Time

Posted by: Deezle at 11:26 PM • Comments: 0
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