You are here

Alternative to a loader: Use a new shell!

26 posts / 0 new
Last post
TGStarfire
Offline
Last seen: 11 years 1 month ago
Joined: 2006-01-22 22:24
Alternative to a loader: Use a new shell!

Here is an idea that I havent seen thrown around in here yet, so I figure I can touch base with it. With apps like pstart and such are excellent for loading programs from a key, but still it doesnt have the customization (and personality) as your own desktop, and for those of us who dont know a thing about cars, I think its time we "tricked out" something of our own for a change. I figure, why not give a shot to something like a portable shell that can be loaded on every machine, to make that computer really yours for just a short while. having worked just a little on shell programs, this is something I havent had too much experience with, so this is as much a learning experience as it is a writing experience for me. As such, any comments, criticisims, or missing info you would like to add would be wonderful.

First, I figured I had to choose a shell to replace that crummy explorer. After poking around the four or five that are around in public, I ended up choosing xoblite (xoblite.net) for its small footprint, huge opportunity for configuration, plugins, and interpolability with *nix blackbox skins and themes. It was only after that that I found there is just about 0 official documentation for xoblite, which made this a interesting learning experience indeed (i Killed my key, and had to hard power my PC twice in an hour because of it) but now that I have the hang of things, I have taken the shell and made a wonderful alternative OS, that I can almost completely avoid the standard start menu anymore.

Basically, xoblite is configured through four major files in the root of the blackbox folder (or theme folder), the most important of which is menu.rc (the replacement "start menu") which will need to be edited to your liking. The easiest and quickest way to get the shell running your programs that I've found is
1) copy the xoblite to the root of your key
2) move all your programs to a "programs" folder on the key
3) add a new menu to the menu.rc, such as:


[submenu] (Portable Programs)
[exec] (Portable Firefox) {$Blackbox$\Programs\PortableFirefox.exe}
[separator]
[submenu] (Portable OpenOffice)
[exec] (OpenOffice.org Writer) {$Blackbox$\Programs\PortableOpenOffice\openoffice\program\swriter.exe}
[end]
[end]

4) add additional plugins/themes/skins to xoblite as you see fit
5) create a batch file that kills explorer (I use some generic command line process killer i got off the web) and loads xoblite, then when xoblite is ended, it restarts explorer

And you're off! With this method, I've been extremely successful with loading the shell and running any program just using one of the default themes (edited to my needs). The only issue that I have is that xoblite drops the desktop wallpaper on start and doesnt return it when it's quit. If someone knows how to fix this, or knows some workaround (so I could load my wallpaper, and return the host machine's back to the desktop when xoblite quits) let me know!

let me know if anyone else has any success with this, or has any other ideas for shells or whatnot.

nm35
Offline
Last seen: 10 years 9 months ago
Developer
Joined: 2005-12-12 17:13
Very nice idea. I'll try it

Very nice idea. I'll try it later, when I have a bit more free time...

Try "tskill explorer" on a BAT file to kill Explorer -- it's part of Windows, and so you don't need to download anything extra.

Can you provide a screenshot? Host it using imageshack.us or photobucket.com, if you need a place to store it.

~nm35 {blog} {standalone apps}

TGStarfire
Offline
Last seen: 11 years 1 month ago
Joined: 2006-01-22 22:24
Here's a quick pic...

Of course, this is my primary desktop, so the wallpaper and uxtheme match, which wouldnt carry over (unless someone knows how to fix that)
My setup of xoblite also has a winskin plugin though, so hat can fix the visual style thing. Let me know what you think!

http://img225.imageshack.us/img225/6751/desktop3oe.jpg

6GB QuickiDrive
Ceedo / PStart
1.5 GB of portable application Goodness!

6GB QuickiDrive
Ceedo / PStart / Xoblite
1.5 GB of portable application Goodness!

Ashes for Tears
Offline
Last seen: 9 years 8 months ago
Joined: 2006-01-11 08:41
Did you find that it was

Did you find that it was absolutely necessary to to have the programs in the "$blackbox$" directory? Or is that just the designation of the key when xbolite is running?

TGStarfire
Offline
Last seen: 11 years 1 month ago
Joined: 2006-01-22 22:24
well...

using $blackbox$ is just what i used to make sure the paths were relative. I guess if you came up with another way to allow for changing drive letters you wouldnt need to have them in the $blackbox$ directory. Again, I dont know that much about the shell, I'm just going with what I found works. Let me know if you have another idea

6GB QuickiDrive
Ceedo / PStart
1.5 GB of portable application Goodness!

6GB QuickiDrive
Ceedo / PStart / Xoblite
1.5 GB of portable application Goodness!

nm35
Offline
Last seen: 10 years 9 months ago
Developer
Joined: 2005-12-12 17:13
Haven't yet tested with the

Haven't yet tested with the Explorer-killer, but I've modded a sample "menu.rc" for those who don't want the big long list of stuff that isn't necessarily installed. It has a folder with PortableFirefox and PortableGaim, and many folders have been removed; with this, you should be able to get an idea of how to edit this. Here it is:


[begin] ()
[exec] (Windows Explorer) {explorer.exe /e,c:\}
[path] (Start Menu) {"$StartMenu$"|"$CommonStartMenu$"}
[submenu] (PortableApps)
[exec] (Portable Firefox) {$Blackbox$\Programs\PortableFirefox.exe}
[exec] (Portable Gaim) {$Blackbox$\Programs\PortableGaim.exe}
[end]
[submenu] (Xoblite...)
[exec] (about...) {$Blackbox$\Blackbox.exe -about}
[separator]
[exec] (check for updates..) {@xoblite CheckForUpdates}
[separator]
[submenu] (documentation)
[exec] (readme) {$Blackbox$\docs\readme.txt}
[exec] (online docs) {http://xoblite.net/docs/}
[submenu] (change logs)
[exec] (xoblite bb3) {$Blackbox$\docs\changes_bb3.txt}
[exec] (xoblite bb2) {http://xoblite.net/docs/changes_bb2.txt}
[exec] (xoblite bb1) {http://xoblite.net/docs/changes_bb1.txt}
[exec] (legacy) {http://xoblite.net/docs/changes_legacy.txt}
[end]
[exec] (license) {http://xoblite.net/license.html}
[end]
[submenu] (installation)
[exec] (-install) {$Blackbox$\Blackbox.exe -install}
[exec] (-uninstall) {$Blackbox$\Blackbox.exe -uninstall}
[end]
[config] (configuration)
[workspaces] (workspaces)
[submenu] (styles)
[editstyle] (edit current style)
[aboutstyle] (about current style...)
[separator]
[nop] (-> Use the mid click styles menu! )
# [stylesdir] ($Blackbox$\styles)
# [end]
[end]
[themesmenu] (themes)
[path] (wallpapers) {"$Blackbox$\backgrounds"}
[submenu] (tools)
[exec] (bbnote) {$Blackbox$\plugins\bbnote\bbnote.exe}
[exec] (rainmeter) {$Blackbox$\tools\Rainmeter\Rainmeter.exe}
[exec] (rainlendar) {$Blackbox$\tools\Rainlendar\Rainlendar.exe}
[exec] (scankey) {$Blackbox$\tools\scankey.exe}
[exec] (winspy) {$Blackbox$\tools\WINSPY.exe}
[nop] (...)
[end]
[path] (xoblite folder) {"$Blackbox$"}
[path] (current theme folder) {"$CurrentTheme$"}
[separator]
[editmenu] (edit menu.rc)
[editextensions] (edit extensions.rc)
[editblackbox] (edit blackbox.rc)
[restart] (restart)
[reconfig] (reconfigure)
[exit] (quit)
[end]
[submenu] (Shut Down...)
[lockworkstation] (lock workstation)
[shutdown] (shutdown)
[reboot] (reboot)
[logoff] (log off)
[hibernate] (hibernate)
[suspend] (suspend)
[end]
[end]

And here's an explorer-killer (untested):


@ECHO OFF
tskill explorer
START Blackbox.exe /WAIT
START explorer

~nm35 {blog} {standalone apps}

TGStarfire
Offline
Last seen: 11 years 1 month ago
Joined: 2006-01-22 22:24
tskill wont work...

or at least it doesnt work the way it should. tskill will end the process, but explorer immediately restarts after its killed (sometimes), severely crippling blackbox's functionality. If you use an external process killer, it makes sure that the process stays down until you call it again.

6GB QuickiDrive
Ceedo / PStart / Xoblite
1.5 GB of portable application Goodness!

6GB QuickiDrive
Ceedo / PStart / Xoblite
1.5 GB of portable application Goodness!

nm35
Offline
Last seen: 10 years 9 months ago
Developer
Joined: 2005-12-12 17:13
Ah fooey. Thanks for

Ah fooey. Thanks for pointing that out...

~nm35 {blog} {standalone apps}

pitter
Offline
Last seen: 10 years 9 months ago
Joined: 2006-01-31 01:42
finally, something I can contribute to.

Ok, a few things to get this started:

I’m sorry for the long post, but I’ve been using this ever since I started playing with portable applications. I am working on a packaged installer that would install bblean with some choice portable apps, but I want to make the apps optional and I’m still learning with NSIS. I was going to say something once I hade some files hosted, but I just cant wait…

I'm using my setup on four types of machines, but all with some form of windows xp installed; good ol’ build 2600 windows xp stripped bare; xp sp1; xp sp2; and xp sp2 with an alternate shell.

I'm running everything but truecrypt and some batch files for automation inside a truecrypt volume that is mounted as drive "Z:\" the batch file mounts the TC volume, then launches blackbox from it, as long as you don’t close the cmd window, it will unmount the TC volume when you quit blackbox.

I've been using the various ports of blackbox for windows for a few years now. I would not, however, consider myself an expert.

----

The particular flavor I am using on my USB drive(s) is bbLean 1.16. At the time I initially installed on my usb drive, I choose bblean because it appeared to have a more active development team. Even though xoblite has increased in activity lately, I am not having any problems with what I am running.

Using bblean's features and plugins (and properly configured styles), this setup will alter the windows color scheme, skin the tool bars, replace the windows background (with a solid color, gradient, or images), integrate the host systems shell folders (like my documents, the start menu, and the desktop) and hide the explorer taskbar. In my experience, this is more useful than killing the process because (some versions of) XP will launch the taskbar when you try to run windows explorer (the file manager) unless the shell is set in the registry to something other than explorer). When I quit bblean, It restores the original colors and background, as well as "un-hiding" the taskbar. It does other cool stuff I won’t even touch on here, but if you like transparency, you really want to give blackbox for windows a spin

----

I have the bblean files in the root of the Z: drive. I have a separate programs directory ("progs") in the root as well. While this is not necessary for my particular setup (since I know what the drive letter will be), It allows me to use relative paths to my applications in the menu.rc file. For example:

[exec] (Firefox) {progs\PortableFirefox\PortableFirefox.exe}

instead of

[exec] (Firefox) {z:\progs\PortableFirefox\PortableFirefox.exe}

or

[exec] (Firefox) {$Blackbox$\progs\PortableFirefox\PortableFirefox.exe}

----

In the documentation for bblean, there is a link to besetroot.exe and bsetbg.exe. you will want to copy these files (and the *.rc file they come with) into the same directory as blackbox.exe (for me, z:\). Then, just add a command in the style file that you want to use. For this example, the background (bg.jpg) is stored in a folder called “backgrounds

TGStarfire
Offline
Last seen: 11 years 1 month ago
Joined: 2006-01-22 22:24
Very nice!

I like what bblean does as far as restoring the original settings. I'll have to try that instead. Does bblean work with legacy os'es (I have 2k/me systems still hanging around)

Actually I chose to end explorer's task rather than just hiding it because things such as the system tray, and other functions xoblite has are severely crippled when explorer is running. As far as explorer, I just create links to have explorer link to a43 or another file management utility.

6GB QuickiDrive
Ceedo / PStart / Xoblite
1.5 GB of portable application Goodness!

6GB QuickiDrive
Ceedo / PStart / Xoblite
1.5 GB of portable application Goodness!

Thox
Offline
Last seen: 10 years 10 months ago
Joined: 2006-02-09 06:46
win2k

I've been happily playing with bblean on a win2k system this morning with no troubles and no issues with the system tray anything else.

The only drawback I see is that I don't like it much Eye

pitter
Offline
Last seen: 10 years 9 months ago
Joined: 2006-01-31 01:42
I haven't had any problems

I haven't had any problems with the system tray in bblean, either. I didn't think about it last night (this morning), but I use it on win2k over citrix all of the time in the lab. I don't have access to a 98 or ME box, but it used to work in 98. I was only running it off of the hard drive, though, not from a usb key

As far as not liking it much: It is highly customisable with shortcut keys, a menu system I have learned I can't live without, and, to quote bryce (a once sceptical convert) "Sure to get to the start menu takes a second longer, but the plugins!! Oh, the dirty, filthy, lovely plugins!"

However i have no love for the default configuration. The defaul taskbar setting is something i find particularly poor. You may find that you can set it up to be everything you never knew you wanted. Having said that, I really like using blackbox. I like using it on linux and openbsd. It would make sense that I find it of value on a windows box. Maybe you are just an explorer kind of guy. Smiling
update:
----
in this this post, the author states that bblean was made with full windows 98 compatibility in mind. So, one would expect it to function in ME as well.

rellimdr (not verified)
Works fine with ME

I tried it and it seems to run fine on ME.

tappet
Offline
Last seen: 8 years 5 months ago
Joined: 2006-01-04 20:32
Problem

This is a cool idea, and I'd love to use it, but when I run bblean on a fully-patched WindowsXP Pro SP2 system, the changes (in font, font size, etc.) I made to my menus, window titles, etc. transfered over to explorer. When I exited bblean, in other words, the new font and font size showed up in my start menu, and the icons in my task tray were made larger. I had to do a system restore to get everything back to normal. As a test, after I restored, I ran bblean again, to see if the problem reappeared, or if it was a function of changing things. i ended up restoring a second time.

So, did I do something wrong? Or is this a known issue with bblean? I didn't find anything in the documentation, but I could easily have missed something. Any help or advice would be appreciated. Thanks.

Tappet
__________________
"I am still learning."
--Socrates

TGStarfire
Offline
Last seen: 11 years 1 month ago
Joined: 2006-01-22 22:24
could be the plugin you are using...

maybe the plugin is permanatly changing the fonts and such, have you tried a different plugin? I use BBWinSkin to change everything in mine.

6GB QuickiDrive
Ceedo / PStart / Xoblite
1.5 GB of portable application Goodness!

6GB QuickiDrive
Ceedo / PStart / Xoblite
1.5 GB of portable application Goodness!

tappet
Offline
Last seen: 8 years 5 months ago
Joined: 2006-01-04 20:32
So far, so good...

Thanks for the suggestion. I tried BBWinSkin, and the problem cleared up. Now, however, not everything is skinned, notably Explorer windows. I tried editing the exclusions list, but to no avail. Plus, I now can't seem to change the fonts and such within bblean, and have not been able to find a howto on the subject. Could you perhaps direct me to one? I must say, that my one real complaint with bblean is that there doesn't seem to be very much documentation on how to actually use things. Install, yes. Use, not so much. As always, any help is greatly appreciated.

Tappet
__________________
"I am still learning."
--Socrates

TGStarfire
Offline
Last seen: 11 years 1 month ago
Joined: 2006-01-22 22:24
there really isnt

much documentation at all for any of the bb versions Ive seen online actually. Ive just had to make do with blind intuition and a lot of trial and error. as far as explorer goes, Ive just subbed it with a43 to run everything, which skins nicely with bbwinskin, or use some other explorer alternative. as far as any walkthroughs or such, you know just about as much as I do. if anyone else on this forum knows anyplace to get anything, let us know, we're dyin here! If not, trial and error is the best way to learn anyway, eh? happy hunting!

6GB QuickiDrive
Ceedo / PStart / Xoblite
1.5 GB of portable application Goodness!

6GB QuickiDrive
Ceedo / PStart / Xoblite
1.5 GB of portable application Goodness!

pitter
Offline
Last seen: 10 years 9 months ago
Joined: 2006-01-31 01:42
Usually

I can get by reading the comments *.rc files. If I'm stating the obvious there, please forgive me. I worked the helpdesk a little too long Smiling But I understand (whole heartedly) that often rc files just aren't enough. The forum is decent, and there's IRC, If you are into that sort of thing. If you would like a nice overview/orientation try this article. Also keep in mind that when plugins are involved, there are often overlapping functions, which can conflict.
As far as skinning goes, You may have to disable the luna styles for the effect I was achiving, and only then with bbcolorex and style files with an added color scheme.

ps. My spelling sucks. I know this, and I appologise. Unfortunatly it will continue to suck until spellbound will install on ff 1.5.0.1. My poor grammer and total ignorance of the formalities of the english language, shall continue indefinitly.

tappet
Offline
Last seen: 8 years 5 months ago
Joined: 2006-01-04 20:32
Thanks

I appreciate the help. The forums, in particular, had some good links to howto's and so forth. I still haven't solved my skinning problem to my satisfaction, but I'm working on it. Anyone know if there are any other skinning engines other than bbLeanSkin and bbWinSkin that I might try?

Tappet
__________________
"I am still learning."
--Socrates

krazykirk (not verified)
Once, I saw a usb drive you

Once, I saw a usb drive you can buy, and it comes with software which you can put your files settings onto, and when you put the thumbdrive in, it looks and works just like your computer at home! (Kind of... no doubt editable)

I've looked a way to do that everywhere, but I couldn't find it =(

Ashes for Tears
Offline
Last seen: 9 years 8 months ago
Joined: 2006-01-11 08:41
I think you might mean Migo.

I think you might mean Migo. Unfortunatly, though, it's not free....

krazykirk (not verified)
Yeah!

Yeah! I think that's it... but im not 100% sure... but something like that and free would be so cool!

pete.wyatt
Offline
Last seen: 3 years 1 month ago
Joined: 2007-03-30 14:21
Migo free w/Kingston 2 gig thumb

Kingston has a 2 gig DataTraveler preloaded with a lite version of MIGO. It will sync selected files, desktop, Firefox, OL express and Thunderbird but not Outlook (like the paid MIGO).

It costs $25.00

Pete Wyatt

pitter
Offline
Last seen: 10 years 9 months ago
Joined: 2006-01-31 01:42
For changing the fonts, you

For changing the fonts, you could try the "global font override" in extensions.rc

other than that, the fonts are specified in the style files.

niolonra
niolonra's picture
Offline
Last seen: 4 years 18 hours ago
Joined: 2006-11-30 19:42
Fonts and size

I like xoblite but can't figure out how to change the stupidly tiny text either...

menu.frame.textHeight:
menu.title.textHeight:

Are listed once in the docs with no examples or explanation of WHERE you put the commands... The extensions.rc doesn't do it... what is the override command?

Thanks to anyone who can help...
Rich

Edit
Apparently, these lines make no difference at all?
Changing the style file is what you have to do. Change likes with "font" in them, like

menu.title.font: cure

to something like

menu.title.font: cure/18/Normal

That did it for me...
Rich

Preacher
Offline
Last seen: 7 years 4 months ago
Joined: 2006-11-13 16:52
Heheheheh......

That passage
"for those of us who dont know a thing about cars, I think its time we "tricked out something of our own"
Reminded me of a recent exchange at a ministry meeting I was in:

I'm on the "Creative Team" ministry at my church, which is a bunch of us creative types (mostly musicians & artsy folks) who are charged with coming up with musical-audio-visual-drama elements that help tie the services together and draw folks in to the service (songs, drama skits, Powerpoint slideshows & the like). Someone at a recent meeting suggested that another person's idea was a bit 'over the top' for that service, to which I replied

"So what yer sayin' is, that idea strikes you kinda like, 'Pimp My Worship', eh?..." Eye

It got a big laugh.

(We creative types have a great sense of humor, else that woulda gone over like a lead balloon... I love bein' a musician...)

"I don't hate cats...as long as they stay on the freeway, where they belong."
- Brad Stine

Topic locked