Brad Wardell's Blog


Stardock's Groupy may change the way we use the PC

Published on Wednesday, December 13, 2017 By Brad Wardell In Personal Computing

How's that for a dramatic headline?

Groupy is a new program from Stardock that does something so simple that, in hindsight, seems like it should have always been part of the OS.  It allows users to drag windows together and create a single tabbed window.

Like so:

Groupy1

A few years ago at CES, I showed a prototype of it to Mary Jo Foley, Paul Thurrott, Brad Sams and others.  The motivation to create Groupy came from the frustrating of having lots of windows open (a very filled taskbar) but wanting to group my windows together based on what the user was working on.  The little CES demo focused on Explorer and Office (as we had that kind of working at that point) to show how useful it would be to be able to group the two together into a single, maximized window.   Fast forward 4 years and now Groupy is here!

Groupy is super compelling whether you are using a single monitor or, like me, have 4 monitors. 

Let me describe my workflow and hopefully you will see how obviously transformative it is:

Group 1: Development Task (Perforce + Visual Studio + Explorer + CMD)

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One of the ways Groupy transforms your work flow is that you start to think in terms of TASKS instead of APPS.  If my task is development, I will end up with a command prompt, an explorer window, source control and Visual Studio.

Group 2: The Office task

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Over the course of the day I end up with lots of Office windows up.  I will often attach an explorer window to these as well if I'm dealing with a lot of images (like when I types up my Christmas letter).

Group 3: The communication task

Groupy-Waffles

So I've got Skype, Slack, Discord and email open.  I use Windows key ~ here to quickly hot-key between the tabs (once I'm set up, it's all hot keys, I rarely click on actual tabs).

Group 4: My Chrome task

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Wait what? Doesn't Chrome already have tabs? Yep.  However, here's the problem, I quickly end up with a bunch of duplicate Chrome windows because I can't find an existing window.  Now, just put them into categories. 

Here I have my Google Calender, Gmail, Surfing, Google Docs and Reddit tabs.  Within each one might be only 1 tab (like for the Calendar) or several (Google Docs).  Sometimes I end up with an Edge tab too if I'm going through PDFs.  On my Surface Pro, it's all via Edge as MS Edge is awesome on my Surface Pro 4.

A paradigm shift

Now, how I use Groupy is different from how someone else will.  The art team frequently has Adobe Photoshop + Premiere + Aftereffects grouped together.  I've seen Maya and some custom tools grouped together.

Back in the day, OLE and COM were thought of as technologies that would help bring about task based computing. The idea behind OLE is that we would do task based work and only have a small piece of the other program loaded.  Thus, if you wanted to work on a spreadsheet inside of MS Word, you could and you'd only use up a little bit of memory.  It never worked as well in practice as the theory.  The point being, it's been well understood that task-based computing is the way of the future. The problem has been execution.

OLE and such were developed during the time when 16 MEGAbytes was considered a lot of memory.  Today, most users have over 4 GIGAbytes of memory so the idea of futzing around with components of other programs (who hasn't groaned when they've tried to paste an Adobe Photoshop image into a Word document...you know what I'm talking about!) is a little archaic.

With Groupy, you get your task based computing.  You just drag the apps together and group them.  And with that grouping, the task based desktop has arrived.

Try Groupy yourself at www.stardock.com/products/groupy

Microsoft veteran Kevin Unangst Joins Stardock Executive Team

Published on Wednesday, December 6, 2017 By Brad Wardell In Personal Computing

PLYMOUTH, MI.  December 6, 2017 -- Stardock announced today that nearly 30 year Microsoft veteran Kevin Unangst has joined the company as Vice President to head Stardock's global marketing and partnership group.

Mr. Unangst spent nearly three decades helping to lead Microsoft's Windows and Xbox marketing efforts, including leading Windows XP consumer marketing, head of marketing for Microsoft Studios, and most recently global director of Windows gaming marketing at Microsoft.

"Kevin has a multi-decade track record of recognizing turning points in the technology industry and helping ensure that emerging opportunities are fully realized," said Brad Wardell, CEO Of Stardock.  "We are excited to have someone of his talent and experience lead our efforts to ensure that our new endeavors reach their potential."

Mr. Unangst was part of Microsoft's efforts to become a dominant player in the PC industry, from the transition to graphical computing with the launch of Windows 95, to leading the charge to make Windows and DirectX the definitive gaming platforms for PC gamers.

"I've always had a passion for helping make sure innovative technology is translated into meaningful benefits for consumers," said Unangst. "My time at Microsoft allowed me to help evangelize exciting changes that technology was bringing to the market, whether that be the power of Internet integration into Windows, the transition to 32-bit protected operating systems, and more recently, the potential of DirectX 12 for PC and Xbox gaming.

Stardock has a long track record of technological innovation going back to its invention of ZIP folders, user interface customization, desktop enhancements, digital distribution, 32-bit game development, multithreaded game development, and more recently, its investment in companies creating 64-bit, core-neutral technologies.

It was during the release of the first DirectX 12 game, Ashes of the Singularity, that Mr. Unangst became familiar with Stardock's roadmap.

"Stardock had long been known at Microsoft as an innovative company," said Unangst. "Even back in the 1990’s -  when I was marketing Windows NT - I knew of Stardock from their work with IBM's OS/2 and then with their creation of the Impulse digital distribution platform.  But it wasn't until I saw what they were building during the development of DirectX 12 that I realized I wanted to be a part of what they are creating."

Mr. Unangst will officially start his position on December 11, 2017.

# # #

Stardock is a leading developer and publisher of software and games including Object Desktop, Sins of a Solar Empire, Fences, Star Control, Galactic Civilizations and much more.  Its home page is www.stardock.com.

Sunday’s at my house

Published on Sunday, December 3, 2017 By Brad Wardell In Life, the Universe and Everything

Sunday’s are strange.

  1. Do I have enough time to start a new book?
  2. Is the dog getting enough attention? She doesn’t seem to think so.
  3. i really want to play game X but shouldn’t I be working on Star Control? Or GalCiv? Or Ashes of the Singularity?
  4. My son has math homework. Shouldn’t I be helping? How much?
  5. People are mad at the Democrats/Republicans. Should I care? I don’t really care.
  6. its cold outside but the solar array inverter needs to be checked
  7. YouTube Let’s plays are addictive. Damn you Quil18
  8. The wife unit is putting up Christmas decorations with our daughter. Should I help? It looks boring.
  9. What the hell are freeze dried strawberries?
  10. Why hasn’t CGPGrey made a new video?

 

Stardock response to Paul and Fred

Published on Saturday, December 2, 2017 By Brad Wardell In Star Control

We are disappointed that Paul and Fred, two people we have a great deal of respect and admiration for, have chosen to imply that we are somehow preventing them from working on their new game. 

Stardock has been nothing but supportive of their new project and wish them the best. I personally made the post here on StarControl.com in support of it.

With regards to their contentions:

First, as many people know, the classic Star Control games have been available for sale long before Stardock acquired the rights from Atari four years ago.  For the entirety of the time we have held the rights, they have been getting paid for those sales.  If they had an objection to the games being sold this is something that could and should have been addressed before we were ever involved. 

Second, we have stated, repeatedly and consistently for over four years that we are not using any of the aliens from the classic series.  As we have stated, our position is that, to the best of our knowledge, the classic alien IP is owned by them. 

We have also discussed, at length, why it wasn't commercially viable for us to attempt to continue or retell the Ur-Quan story. 25 years is just too long of a gap.  This is one of the reasons why we have been so excited about Paul and Fred's project.  Their game frees us to introduce new characters and a new story into the new Star Control while allowing fans of the classic series a way to continue the classic story.  This strikes us as a win-win situation.

Lastly, when we acquired Star Control from Atari in 2013, many assets were transferred to us including the various publishing agreements to the Star Control franchise.  The short version is that the classic IP is messy. We understand that this makes them "really really angry" but we weren't a party to that agreement.  All we can do is try to put something together that releases them from the restrictions placed on their IP that they agreed to and transfer any and all rights and responsibilities to them.  We want them to make Ghosts but we don't want any liability or association with it.  

Given the disturbing and unanticipated post by Paul and Fred, we are persuaded more than ever that a clear and irrefutable document that makes it clear that we are not associated or involved with their new game is needed. 

We have nothing but respect and admiration for Paul and Fred and wish them well in their new project.  

Update 12/4/2017:

Paul and Fred continue to make unsubstantiated claims regarding the DOS-based Star Control games. If they have any documentation to provide evidence to their assertions, we have yet to see them. 

Stardock, by contrast, possesses a perpetual, exclusive, worldwide licensing and sales agreement that was explicitly transferred to us by Atari who in turn acquired it from Accolade that has Paul Reiche's signature along with a signed distribution agreement between Atari and GOG for the DOS Accolade Star Control games. 

The tone of their blog posts is similar to the kind of correspondence they had with us since the announcement of their Ur-Quan Masters successor, vague, full of demands and without any documentation.  

With all due respect to Paul and Fred, they really should talk to competent legal counsel instead of making blog posts.

Update 12/5/2017:

Dealing with the sales and distribution of 20+ year old DOS games is an unusual way to spend a Tuesday afternoon. Nevertheless...

Atari had transferred to Stardock a signed agreement between Atari's President and GOG that we assumed was the agreement. Paul and Fred claimed they were the ones who had set up the agreement and upon verification with GOG, we instructed them to terminate this agreement which they have which we appreciate.

The games are now correctly transferred to Stardock and we will continue to ensue that Fred and Paul receive royalty payments for the games per the publishing agreement. We apologize if anyone was inconvenienced.  

Old IP can be messy to deal with. The best way to deal with that is to have the parties talk to each other (as opposed to making public Internet posts) and work something out.   We remain committed to dealing with this situation with as much restraint and gentleness as possible.

Other links:

Scavenger Race entries

Published on Saturday, November 25, 2017 By Brad Wardell In Star Control Ideas/Wishes

Here is a list of Scavengers that have been submitted thus far:

  1. Ellerian Fusion
  2. The Sik-Mu-Thieln
  3. Martakeelan Corporation
  4. Red Pirates
  5. Gwarmuthun Virulence

We are also putting together a list of primary and secondary weapons here:

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1NoAw4cvuET1JoLjQ_hGV7xawMj8VP5SWcSRIgwggE64/edit#gid=0

If your idea requires more than a few word to describe it, probably best to not submit it.  

Side-Quests

So basically, we will have a lot of races in the game but most of them won't be part of the main story but rather side-quest races that you will meet.  They won't have a home planet that is within the Origins main game area but rather are traveling from further out. 

 

 

Forum update: November 2017

Published on Monday, November 20, 2017 By Brad Wardell In Forum Issues

I have requested the new changes you now see on the site that make the forums cleaner visually.

The next step is to have a lot more data presented when you mouse over an item.

I know some people won't like the changes, but as someone who lives on these forums, I really need the site to be cleaner and quicker to navigate through.

 

I just love dogs

Published on Sunday, November 19, 2017 By Brad Wardell In Life, the Universe and Everything

I have 3 children. I love them to pieces.

But dogs? Obviously not in the same league but holy cow there is just something so touching in their unconditional devotion.

Sometimes, especially with the smarter ones, their similarities to small children can be uncanny. For instance, my 6 year old Entlevucher brings her stuffed dinosaur to bed every night, she just sleeps with it.

Who else here feels the same?

Star Control II: 25th anniversary - On the shoulders of giants

Published on Thursday, November 16, 2017 By Brad Wardell In Star Control Journals

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This week, the first beta of the Star Control reboot is unleashed on an unsuspecting universe.  25 years ago, Accolade released Star Control II.

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Back in 1992, Accolade was a major game publisher.  Some of the best games of all time came from them, including Test Drive, Power at Sea, Hard Ball, Steel Thunder, and many, many other games.  During the late 80's and 90's, they were a match for Electronic Arts and Activision. 

Eventually, Accolade was acquired by Atari. Stardock acquired Star Control from Atari in 2013.  But, 25 years ago this month, Star Control II was released making gaming history.

 

When Giants walked the earth

Many fans are familiar with Paul Reiche III and Fred Ford's contributions to Star Control II.  After Star Control II, they would go on to form Toys for Bob, which was later acquired by Activision.

What most people may not realize is that the team who made Star Control II later went on to create other things that you are probably quite familiar with.  These legends came together in a moment in time and created one of the greatest games ever.

Let's take a look at some of the industry legends who teamed up to create Star Control II.

Greg Johnson, who designed the Starflight series, worked on Star Control II. He also worked on Deluxe Paint!  He later joined Electronic Arts back when it was only a couple dozen employees and worked on the Adventure Construction Set.  He also was the lead on ToeJam & Earl. Today, he leads HumaNature Studios.

Mat Genser and Robert Leyland also worked on the writing for Star Control II and have gone on to have careers in games and movies.

Speaking of movies, Iain McCaig, who worked on Star Control II as an artist and writer, is an industry legend today in movies and film. He designed Darth Maul and countless other Star Wars characters.  Recently, he worked on character designs for Star Wars: The Force Awakens.  He also worked on Terminator 2, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy.

Iain McCaig, one of the writers for Star Control II, would later go on to design Darth Maul

You can find more of Iain's Star Wars related work here.

Another writer on Star Control II was John Estes, who went on to work in the film industry and today is an active producer and director of documentaries.

Prominent science fiction artist, George Barr, also contributed his work to the art of Star Control. He was best known for those "pulpy" sci-fi images you'd see on book covers.

George Barr was the artist behind many classic science fiction scenes.

If you want to see more of his work, visit here.

Another legend, Erol Otus, was one of the leading artists on Star Control II and was even the voice of the Chmmr.

Artist Erol Otus may be familiar to you from his work in Dungeons & Dragons, as well as his art in Star Control II. 

Erol Otus also did music for Star Control II as well.  Here's a fantastic interview with him.

Erol Otus designed the Zoq-Fot-Pik for Star Control II and is also known for his D&D fantasy art.

Kyle Balda worked on animation for Star Control II.  You may not recognize his name, but you've seen his work. A lot.  He is the director of Despicable Me, Minions, The Lorax, and led the animation department on Monsters, Inc.

You've seen Kyle Balda's work somewhere besides Star Control II we suspect.

Another legend who was part of the art animation team was Greg Hammond.  Most recently, he produced The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition.  Before working on Star Control II, he was a producer on Loom and Wings of Fury.  After Star Control II he went on to work on games such as Star Wars: X-Wing vs. TIE-Fighter.

Armand Cabera was the artist who designed and created spaceship art and the spaceship animations on behalf of Accolade and Toys for Bob, and has gone on to have an amazing career.

The music for Star Control II came from a contest in which anyone could submit a proposed track to a given description. Riku Nuottajärvi was one of those who created music for Star Control, most famously the Hyperspace sequence. He is now the lead composer for
Star Control: Origins.

This is by no means a complete list of the men and women who worked on Star Control II.  25 years ago, Star Control II served as a nexus of amazing talent.  

For a full listing of the Star Control II team, visit the credits page.

Winning Inspiration

It is no secret that Star Control was influenced heavily by Starflight.  Starflight's lead designer, Greg Johnson, helped write the dialog for Star Control II.  David Brin's science fiction series about the Uplift Universe and Larry Niven's Known Space universe were influential in creating the setting. 

In the Uplift universe, a patron species will genetically modify a pre-sapient client species until it is sapient and then have it serve the patron for a period of time.  This concept found its way into the Star Control classic games lore and helped create a universe that felt well lived in. 

What made Star Control II so special?

There are many answers to this question.  I can only speak for myself.  The "cute" art style of Star Control II contrasted nicely with the quite dark story.  There is something unnerving talking to a seemingly pleasant alien whose theme song is "DIE! DIE! DIE!".  Star Control II broke all the rules for a 1992 game.  You played Star Control? Great. Guess what? You lost. The human race is stuck behind a slave shield.  You discover that within minutes of the start of the game.  In an age where every game seemed so happy, this was quite a change of direction. 

To put the innovation behind Star Control II's story in perspective, imagine if you went to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens only to learn that after Return of the Jedi the Empire had won and had killed the main characters.  That's how startling the beginning of Star Control II was. It was unexpected.

Nowadays, players are a little more jaded.  But in 1992, the Star Control II opening was downright dark.  Moreover, the "bad guys" of Star Control -- the Ur-Quan -- were actually the lesser of two evils.  Their cousins, the Kohr-ah, weren't satisfied with merely enslaving everyone.  They wanted to cleanse the galaxy.

Star Control II's lasting influence

Some people consider Mass Effect a high budget remake of Star Control II.  That should give you an idea of its influence.  Stardock's own Galactic Civilizations II: Dark Avatar took inspiration from Star Control II as well.  In that game, the primary villain, the Drengin Empire, had been victorious in the war against the Terran Alliance and its coalition.  The Dregin's shock troops, the Korath, weren't satisfied with enslaving the enemies -- they wanted to exterminate them.  Thus, when Galactic Civilizations III came along, several of the species from the previous game were gone -- exterminated forever. 

Mass Effect and Galactic Civilizations aren't the only games that Star Control II influenced.  Many games today have a concept of Precursors.  Was Star Control II the first game with the concept of an all powerful Precursor civilization? It's hard to say.  Babylon 5 had "The first ones" but in terms of games, I am not aware of any game that touched on it before Star Control II.

Happy Anniversary

One of the greatest gifts ever to befall the gaming community was the creation of the Ur-Quan Masters.  In 2002, 3DO's version of the game assets were turned over to the fan community allowing any fan to use the ships, source code, aliens, etc. as they saw fit, provided it was for non-commercial use.  The result: The Ur-Quan Masters.

And so, here we are, 25 years after the release of Star Control II.  Happy anniversary!

 

Cheers!

Stardock has a new killer app: Groupy - organize your windows together

Published on Tuesday, November 14, 2017 By Brad Wardell In Object Desktop blogs

From the people who brought you Fences, Start8, ObjectDock, DeskScapes, and countless other amazing programs comes a new one that will transform the way you use your PC: Groupy.

At any given moment, people have a lot of windows open. 

Maybe it's a few Explorer windows, a couple of Excel spreadsheets, maybe a a Word document or a PowerPoint presentation.  Maybe they're working with Adobe Premiere and After Effects and a few other windows.  In any event, dealing with all these windows can get to be quite a mess. So what's the solution?

The answer is: Stardock Groupy, the program that lets you treat all your windows the same way you are now used to treating browser windows -- put them them together with each window given its own tab.

Example 1: Got lots of Explorer windows?

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No problem:

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Example 2: So many spreadsheets

Lots of people end up with several Microsoft Office apps running that can easily get misplaced, especially if you have multiple monitors.  Groupy fixes that.

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Just put them together.

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Example 3: For the Adobe power user

Many artists are familiar with working between the various amazing Adobe applications.  Navigating between them adds up over time.

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Instead, just put them together.  Now you can switch between tabs with the Win-~ key instantly.

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Now it acts as a single app.  If you need to pull them apart, no problem - just drag the tab off like you would with a browser window.

Example 4: Chrome and Edge living together in harmony

Do you find yourself using multiple web browsers occasionally?  Groupy can help with that, too.

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Groupy supports tabs within tabs.

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Edge and Chrome are now acting as a single web browser.

Example 5: Mix and Match

Maybe you are a power user or developer who has a diversified mix of applications in use to get a job done.  No problem, Groupy will let you group any window with another window.

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And to ungroup, just drag the tab off from the group.

It's both the simplest app and most useful app you may ever buy.  Get it now as part of Stardock's award-winning Object Desktop suite of utilities at www.objectdesktop.com today.

 

Are you an active Object Desktop owner?
Get access to the Groupy beta today by logging into your Stardock Account. If you can't remember the email you used to purchase Object Desktop with, check out this helpful post.

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