Brad's Toybox: October 25, 2003

Published on Saturday, October 25, 2003 By Brad Wardell In OS Customization

Every week I'm going to try to find cool things from around the web and share with you. On the computer, my favorite thing to do is skinning. Or more to the point, I really like to tweak up Windows XP to match my own insane way of doing things.

The best way to do that is with Object Desktop. Not just because my employer makes it but because it really is the best way to do this sort of thing. Another good program to have is CursorXP. It has a freeware version if youw ant to give it a try at It lets you have really cool mouse cursors.

So what are some goodies for the month that includes Halloween?
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[Ghostly Cursors]

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[Halloween Cursors]


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[Premium Cursor Suite]


[Barney object]

[P97 Calendar object]

[Ghost object]

[Pumpkin object]

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[The Labratory Theme]

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[Pix Gemini]

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[MRS Dream]

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[Dashboard for Media Player]

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[Trick or Treat Suite]


This week we got the boot screen stuff working internally. What a pain that turned out to be. Here's the deal: We want to make a free program that lets people change their boot screens on Windows XP. There are programs that technically do this but the way they do it is scary -- they actually patch your Windows XP kernel which creates all sorts of potential issues. I don't think you have to be a computer expert to recognize that the words "Patch" and "Kernel" do not go well together.  That should start trickling out next week.  Oh, and how did we do it? We wrote a device driver whose only job in life is to display the boot screen (in fact, I'd argue that this is the way the real kernel should be handled -- having the boot logo in the kernel strikes me as not being a great thing in the first place). 

Kudos to Microsoft on the encouragement though. It was only with Windows XP that we got on Microsoft's radar and I think for awhile they thought our software was basically a bunch of hacks. Which always pained us because we put in a lot of work to make sure our software does things the correct way.

Another cool thing this week we're working on is a Theme Manager (WinStyles Theme Manager). We've always had a hard time naming this thing. It is basically a Theme Manager though that expands the Microsoft theming system to support third party programs. But besides coming up with a good name, we've always had trouble making it simple enough for people to use. With this new version in the works, it may be ready for more general use.

I am thinking that we should just call it "Theme Manager" and be done with it. Let it be able to apply Microsoft .theme files as well as .suite files. Just get rid of the name "WinStyles" completely.

To me, Theme Manager is the holy grail. The reason is that most people don't care about what these programs do. They just want to press a button and the program takes care of things for them. Theme Manager (WinStyles) even will download programs that are missing and works with third party programs.  Heck, it even supports our competition -- it will apply their themes and skins too increasing the downloads of their software.

But that makes sense because the overall goal of Theme Manager is to make skinning and theming accessible to the average user.