Friday, 15 January 2010

Iconizer: Customise Icons Easily from a Huge Library (Cross-Platform)

Like the icons above? I made them myself! In under 30 seconds!

I stumbled upon a new website today,, and it's just what a lot of customisers have been looking for: a way to quickly choose and customise icons for downloading, with a huge library of source icons, from several different OSes and styles. Available styles include MacOSX, Vista, Aero and others.

Here's a quick guide to creating your own customised icons with
Start by going to the home page. Actually, it's pretty straightforward, but I'll walk you through it anyway...
Select the category of icon from the left list; it will pop up a sub-menu of styles you have to choose from. For instance, here I've selected Applications -> Panther.

Once you've selected your category and style, click on the "Select Icon" drop-down box:
At this point, you will be presented with all the available icons for your category and style; simply click on the one you'd like to use.
On the next screen, you can choose what to customise:
You can choose which file format (from .jpeg, .png, .gif, .bmp, .ico), whether you keep the original colour or not, and if not, what to use as a foreground and background colour. You can also choose whether your background is transparent or not, and the size of the icon.

Finally, press "Generate Icon".
Your icon will appear on the top right of the page. For some reason, it doesn't turn up on the page correctly in my browser, but hey, it is beta, after all! However, despite not displaying on the page, it downloads just fine.

Et voila! You've got a lovely custom icon that you can use to populate a launcher/dock, or replace an entire icon theme (if you've got the time)!

Have you used iconizer to generate a custom icon? Want to share it? Post it here!

Monday, 11 January 2010

Success Secrets of the Graphic Design Superstars

Success Secrets of the Graphic Design Superstars

Simply essential reading, if you are interested in the world of graphic design.

The Driblet of an Aphorism: Surpassing Apple: Step One - Animate Everything

The Driblet of an Aphorism: Surpassing Apple: Step One - Animate Everything

I found this set of articles lurking in my Google Reader, and to be honest, I can't even remember how I stumbled across this blog in the first place!

Anyway, this link is to part one of a six-part series on "Surpassing Apple" -- basically, one designer's take on what we have to do design-wise, in order for Free Software to truly compete with, and beat, giants such as Apple.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Sneak Preview of Conky 1.8.0


I was tipped off whilst trolling the #conky channel on IRC that there would be new ARGB support in the 1.8.0 release candidate of Conky, so naturally I HAAAAD to try it out! I grabbed the latest version from here, and had a go...

First things first, I wanted to try out ARGB, in other words, REAL transparency, as opposed to pseudotransparency. For those of you who don't know the difference, pseudotransparency, rather than actually being see-through, detects what's drawn on the desktop window, and draws it as the Conky background, so it appears, on a blank desktop, as though it's clear. However, as we've seen before, pseudotransparency can cause some hiccups, if you're expecting it to behave like real transparency. It's a particular problem in KDE, for instance, which doesn't draw anything to the desktop window by default, so Conky ends up with a blank background.

In order to test the ARGB functionality, I made a little widget in Lua/Cairo that would be able to sit on top of my other windows, and here's what it came out as:
From My Little Desktop Photos
Note how you can see the corner of my window *through* the Conky widget...That's ARGB!

Some of you eagle-eyed readers may also have noticed that I said I used Lua/Cairo to draw the widget, but the last time I posted about text manipulation in Cairo, I was frustrated by the lack of a cairo_text_extents() object, which allows for centering and alignment of text. But it's now been compiled into the Cairo bindings Conky uses, so from v1.8.0, you'll be able to use it. The desktop I'm currently using has only Conky widgets on it:
From Screenshots
With the current setup, I'm starting to wonder what the benefits are of using Conky over Screenlets...I first thought that it would actually be more efficient to use Screenlets, because I thought they were compiled, but some clever clog pointed out to me that they are written in Python, so not compiled! I think the only barrier to Conky completely taking over Screenlets' territory now is the user-friendliness of Screenlets...Hm...