Thursday, February 23, 2017

Details make the difference

by on Thursday, February 23, 2017
There's a little thing which made me angry every time I tested a new build of Icaros Desktop: for obvious reasons, the default layout setting for keyboard is US (which is the most common one, and makes sense, since the default language for the system is English). I generally open shells and enter some commands and, every time, I make mistakes with paths due to different position of characters like /, : and so on in the italian layout. So I thought to add also Input prefs program to the desktop, when booting from DVD:

just choose a keyboard layout before installation...

That was good: I could finally set the keyboard with ease when quick testing ISOs. But once I put that, I immediately needed to make another step. Why not using the selected layout by default, when installing Icaros? Detto, fatto!, as we say in Italy: Icaros Desktop will also keep your favourite keyboard layout after installation. After all, why should you choose a national keyboard layout just before installation, and then revert to the US/international one?
...and Icaros will keep it afterwards!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

How to edit images for Magellan buttons

by on Wednesday, February 15, 2017
When I started modifying Magellan's toolbar for Icaros Desktop 2.2, I stumbled upon a very puzzling issue: what program should have I used for that? I've never been into artistry making or picture editing back in my Amiga days, so I've never been accustomed to all those mythic applications like Deluxe Paint, Personal Paint or TV Paint (I am still including the latter in Icaros, though), because I started photo editing some years later on my office's Mac, with Photoshop. I've been using this, along with GIMP and other programs, on PC as well, for many many years now, and with very little surprise I found that most of them are totally unable to open Magellan's 256-colors IFF-ILBM icons. So I made the big mistake: doing on my own. Had I asked on Aros-Exec, I would have spared much, much time. Later I will explain why.

I needed some tool to convert IFF images into PNG ones, which are easier to accept in nowadays PC world. So I went for IrfanView's batch conversion and placed all Amikit's icons (which I still use under kind permission) into a cosy Windows 10 folder, and started editing them. They originally were 40x32 rectangles which I needed to make wider and lower, exactly 80x24. No problems for icon contents, since their images were placed in the exact middle of the original canvas, and they are 24 pixel tall, with 4 pixel of upper and lower border. For what I had in mind, I simply didn't need those horizontal borders, so I could easily cut them with Phostoshop's canvas resize option. With the text tool I added captions to the right and exported them back to PNG format.

Now, a new question arose: what should I have done, to bring 'em back to their original IFF nature? No PC program I knew was able to do that. IrfanView could read IFF but not save it. Photoshop and other less expensive editors neither. So I went for the Amiga route, loading PNG images in TV Paint and saving them in IFF. For some reason, however, images that were supposed to be indexed colors were treated as 24 bit ones, so the resulting buttons had very ugly and pointless dithering here and there, forcing me to pixel-edit every button a second time. In the end I got my button almost as like as I wanted them, but the results didn't catch me.

And I fixed the big mistake. I asked on Aros-Exec, where wawa pointed me to the right solution: use GrafX2. Directly under Icaros Desktop.

I opened back again my original PNG images with GrafX2, checked for their palette, saved them into IFF-ILBM files and used them straight into Magellan. So, in the end, if you ever need to edit old IFF images on Icaros, just use GrafX2 to do that. It's the best solution. Really.

Nothing is better than GrafX2 for jobs like this!

Some love for Zune

by on Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Works on Icaros Desktop 2.2 are still going on. Today I would like to thank Mathias Rustler and Neil Cafferkey. The former for accepting the little icons I drew for the Zune preference program and integrating them in AROS sources, the latter for backporting the app to ABIv0 and sending me the resulting binary. I have included it in Icaros Desktop and this is the result:

I agree they might not be the best example of pixel art, but they are still a considerable step beyond the ugly, red X icons which were placed instead of the missing ones. The new Zune app has still some little issue when starting, but we are investigating on them.

Monday, February 13, 2017

New hosted pref

by on Monday, February 13, 2017
Hosted users of Icaros Desktop will find in version 2.2 a new, small Preferences program called, simply, Hosted. It will allow to enable or disable "à la Icaros way" two features only available when using Icaros hosted on Windows or Linux, the "Icaros daemon" and the automatic rescan of host drives at startup. Icaros daemon is a very quick hack which allows starting host OS' applications from the AROS environment (think about AEROS' lx command, or Amikit's "rabbit hole" feature, but with a much poorer implementation...), enabling people to use Icaros as a launcher. The feature will be probably posticipated to a later release of Icaros Desktop becaure, although being already working, needs some more love before it can be considered useful. Windows drives renew, on the other hand, is a feature which makes sense on Windows hosted environment only, since Linux is far easier to manage: once you have mounted the / root filesystem and /home directory, you practically don't need anything else. Windows, however, is a completely different story. You may have half a dozen or more drives with a different lecter assigned to them, and we have to mount them all inside Icaros to make AROS see them. Before hosted kernel 'boots', Icaros' launch script looks for available volumes and lists them in a drawer, then, during execution of S:icaros-startup, it mounts founded ones with 'WdX:' volume names, so you will find on you hosted desktop some nice icons called WdC, WdD, WdF and so on. When testing this, however, I've been asked to make this 'automatic renew' feature user-configurable, and so I did.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

New site!

by on Thursday, February 02, 2017
Welcome back to Icaros Desktop's official website. After some years with the old black/grey theme, we felt the need of a complete refresh, more similar to Icaros Desktop 2.2 colour scheme. This time, we adopted and adapted a great template from Sora Templates called Automax, which has been originally aimed to cars and automotive-related sistes, but, as we're demonstrating, can be easily adapted to many different subjects. We are not using all of its features yet, but give us a little more time, and our site will be fancier than ever! The template is available for free, but we encourage people using it to buy their license like we did (after all, it costs less than 7 dollars!). Useful projects deserve to be supported with registrations and donations (hey! what a curious circumstance: we have a donation button as well!).

Nothing in site's contents have changed, however we feel we have "improved on it in many areas" (these words should remind you about something...). It's easier to read, thanks to its bigger fonts, bigger images, and better organized on the left. We have also included a better "like us on Facebook" box and, for the first time, a brief index of last posts in Icaros' forum on And it is, definitely, more modern. So welcome back to Icaros Desktop's little house on the Internet, and enjoy our AROS distribution!

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Some thoughts about Icaros GUI

by on Wednesday, February 01, 2017
 Although many people still prefer using Icaros Desktop with Wanderer (AROS' default Workbench replacement), there's no doubt that Directory Opus 5 "Magellan" offers a great wider range of features and options which, once mastered, allow to do with files whatever we like, and the fact that Dopus5 can be still customized to perform any modern task with no issue, after so many years since its conception, is really astonishing. Would you like to convert a MP4 file into a different format with one click? Just bind the ffmpeg command line to a Dopus5 button, select the file and enjoy! Unluckily, "mastering" Directory Opus 5 is not easy, and some old limitations of its GUI make it less appealing to users. There is no doubt that Icaros Desktop's lister toolbar offered a good range of actions already pre-configured for file management. All common operations were available either with a left or a right click on the mouse. Problems were, after a little survey among users, that:

1. the right side menu with global actions (the multi coloured icon group on the top right corner of the screen) was practically never used by the 'common user' of Icaros Desktop, makeing it just a complex-to-understand, confusionary and pointless waste of space on smallest screens.

2. lack of on-mouse-over tips, which unfortunately is a limit of Dopus 5 I can't do anything for, makes icons meaning almost impossible to remember: it's already hard to remember what more commond lister toolbar buttons do, there's no hope somebody will ever remember what those buttons on that mysterious top-right corner menu would do.

So, in a nutshell, the top right menu was a total mistake I have to apologize for, and for this reason it has been shut off by default in Icaros Desktop 2.2 (it was already on the Xmas Edition). People who want it back, can always re-enable it with the usual Dopus menu. Right menu, however, is not the only issue I had to think about. Let's have a look to our usual lister toolbar:

Not too bad. Even without tips, some buttons are really easy to understand, or, at least, to remember: the home button should have really opened MyWorkspace:, but it opens a lister with all available volumes and assigns. Not really a "home" but more a "Computer"; the parent and new drawer buttons on the right are quite easy to manage as well. Things get more complicated for the selection buttons (pattern selection, all-none selection), immediately followed by a rename button that really looks like a "create new project" one. The dustbin is quite easy to understand as a delete option, while the 'copy' button just makes sense for people already accustomed to DirectoryOpus' logics (copy from a source directory to a destination one), while just didn't work like Microsoft's. Moreover, the doubled sheet icon does not really help understanding the meaning of the button. So, two years after, I decided that it was time for a little overhaul again. In the latest days, I transformed the above toolbar into this: 

In the same horizontal space there are exactly half the buttons, but all of them has a double function (left or right click) and a written label on the right. Those labels are part of the image, so they must be re-edited to be localized, but they are definitely much more easy to understand. I have, by the way, eliminated some really pointless one, and moved them in better positions. Let's say goodbye, for instance, to the 'home' button. Not really needed, when you can just need double click on any free pixel of the workbench to make the volume list appear. Definitely not needed as well, when you can click more times on "Parent" to go there, or use the [<] button that Dopus 5 already provides on the top right. "Select All / Select None" button still lives, but it has been moved away from the visible ones. It's absolutely pointless, when the "Toggle Select" button just selects all files when a lister has been opened and no file was selected among it. Having a button for rename operation wouldn't make much sense as well: just click on the middle of a file name in list view mode, and you can edit that file name directly. But I kept the function anyway, by right-clicking on the new Copy button. More: the "open a shell here" operation has now been explicited with its button, while in the past it was "hidden" behind a right click on the "Home" button. Right clicking on the "Shell here" button will cast the "Protect" function instead. And the other actions? Just ckick on the double arrow button on the right to make them appear. More on this later...