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Thread: Minimalist FLAT skin: video preview!

  1. #1
    Mod - iPad Forums RipplingHurst's Avatar
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    Minimalist FLAT skin: video preview!

    Check the last post for the lastest updates, including a new video preview.


    Here's how the project is going so far.

    The skin is tentatively named "Minimalistic Flat". It should be primarily a daylight skin, but it should be flexible enough to work as a night time skin, or be easy enough to create a night skin.

    Why minimalist? It should have on display only shortcuts for the most used modules/plugins and no information not related to what's currently playing. That means:

    -NO CLOCK on the main pages. Some skins manage to display clock and date on all pages (header/footer). I'll pass. I have a watch with me all the time, thank you.

    - No date/month/year display. WHY? Year? Are you from the future?

    - No CF logo/BT indicator, WI-FI, Internet connection on the main screen, nor on the header or footer. I use OEM BT in all my cars and there's no need for a BT connector indicator, why (unless you're troubleshooting). Same thing with Internet, unless you're pushing important stuff and you want to be sure you're connected, but still.

    - No transport buttons. Well, almost. I have a Sony Remote stalk (RM-X2S) I use for play/pause/next, but it can be usefull to have them on screen sometimes. Also I like to rely on voice control too (also activated by the remote stalk). But they should be easy to get rid off if needed. That's in the plan.

    Why Flat? Well, I'm kind of tired of (some of) 3D effects widely used on skins: emboss, shade, etc. I don't like them much. I want the flat simple look as in the Bing home page. I think 3D icons and general look and feel look great on the iPhone/others, because they are photographic like in quality, some awesome (and probably expensive) design work there. I'd rather assume my limitations and stick to the plain old 2D look, thank you.

    Also, a FLAT appearance screams "that only a computer could do". Think of this project as the OPPOSITE of a Hummer skin (awesome skin, dude, but the opposite concept). I don't want to emulate the OEM physical radio buttons, or a tape deck or an Alpine head unit. Not AT ALL. I want it to look like a desktop, I want the "Cool, that's a Windows Desktop, now where is the mouse? this will not work..." and then presto, it's touchscreen/voice controlled! I think it's cooler that way. roud:

    However those design goals are proving tougher that I thought it would be to accomplish (yeah, I think naively took the advice some love to make on this forums, "hey not happy, code your own skin, it's easy lazy boy, etc.").

    Some screen shots of what I have so far:

  2. #2
    Mod - iPad Forums RipplingHurst's Avatar
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    First I'd like CF to initialize with this screen:



    Does not look like a desktop really, but I don't mean you need a taskbar or mimic win7 or Xp or whatever. I mean the emphasis is clearly on the background, with a transparent left menu bar and a play button to start things going.

    Then, if you hit play, something on the default playlist would be loaded and played. When you can hear something, that's when you need music info.



    The above is supposed to be highly readable in sunlight conditions, and also very minimal and stealth, thank to the chosen background. Any white background around the shaded areas will be seen through completely. Note the play button is not that visible thanks to this particular background, but as I said, I assume remote/voice control is available. Note the FF/RWD buttons on each side of the song name being displayed.

    Note the absence of any frame around the icons. I hate those frames. Some skins are completely addicted to framing (dates, clock) some use even double frames...of course the clickable area is much larger than the icon, so if you touch around the icon area a larger shaded area will light up and will give you a general idea that it's a bigger button out there.


    However, as I explained above this is not possible. I can't selective display part of a skin section/screen. CML does not allow this AFAIK. There should be a flag like this: playlist loaded = true display xxx.xml code with the extra header info. So far, no success. I'd have to turn the hole song display into a dialog, and then I'd lose the transparency effect.

    So for now, this is how the main screen looks like:



    Note the 4 menu button arrangement, since the most used menu items would be on the left bar anyway, I figure this would look better. It works fine, but I still can't get the animation quite right. Even defining a smaller menu area to be scrolled, the .dll aparently still has to work with the whole menu_off.png file, which includes the left menu bar, which should be off bounds.


    That is, if the above section is the main menu section, I would HAVE TO display the dynamic menu buttons. Or I'd have to make the above the media playing section or some other, but then the menu screen would have to load in an entirely different screen.

    I really don't like this, but will see what I can do with it.

    Finally, the last working dialog so far, the track info dialog.




    There you go, after a quick click on the song title info on the header, you open the much enlarged dialog track info bar. Now you can check BT, Wifi signal strenght, internet connection AND adjust mute and volume. And clock and date. All volume buttons are working buttons, which shows that you can open dialogs within dialogs...hummm interesting. I just wish I could add album art to this, but so far I can't figure out why not.



    So what do you guys think? Would be easier to work with RideRunner or even OpenMobile? Would any of these FE solve the above problems I'm facing? I heard a lot of good stuff about CF 3.X CML skinning language, but I have to say I'm not impressed. Lots of things are hard coded there, the restrictions are driving me crazy.

  3. #3
    Mod - iPad Forums RipplingHurst's Avatar
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    Very happy with this. Found a way to embed milkdrop. Basically you start winamp and tell it to listen to whatever is playing on the soundcard. Then you configure Milkdrop 2 to minimize winamp on start up and le voila.







    Not sure yet how to put it full screen and get rid of the keyboard and resize icons. I also plan to add Artist and song info at the top bar. The problem is that if I do that to this bar, ALL external app bars will be changed, so I think Apploader should come to the rescue?


    However all this serves me nothing if I can get a button anywhere I want to load it. And the command:

    CFActions.Centrafuse.Externalapp:milkdrop

    milkdrop listed on settings as the app name does not work. So you load a plugin with CFActions.Centrafuse.Plugin:XXXX but it does not work the same with external app...

    Edit: it's not the app name the parameter, it should be the window name (according to the sdk). But still it didn't work.

    I wonder if this has something to do with the fact that CF is launching winamp, but the window being embedded is called "MilkDrop 2". I tried winamp too, it didn't work.

    Any ideas?

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    Looking forward to your skin. Two things:

    1) What are your plans for the Media (or maybe it's called the Now Playing page, not sure) ??? I personally find the default CF skin to be functional, but extremely unattractive and cluttered. The screen has a tiny window for visuals/album art and huge buttons cluttering the screen.

    2) Love that you got Milkdrop integrated.

    3) I remember your posts from the Centrafuse forums, did you eventually figure out the SDK?

  5. #5
    Mod - iPad Forums RipplingHurst's Avatar
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    Two? :-)

    1. I have big plans for the Media screen, but I'm still testing the possibilities. I agree with your assessment of the media screen, I plan to enlarge it up to the bottom of the page.

    If that doesn't work for some reason (maybe CF won't allow this, maybe I'll have to use the Media screen to embed the main menu screen, will see), or maybe just because I can, I plan to have a minimalist media screen, with a big album art, and a secondary screen, larger, without album art/visuals, but with emphasis on source selection and playlists. Peaking at the SDK I *think* I can make CF load a specific playlist I created (like last added, or most played) elsewhere (say Media Monkey or iTunes). Then I would add buttons for those playlists...

    But I wonder if that won't complicate matters too much? I'm concerned about the usability of this, it people won't get lost looking for something in one screen when it was moved to the other, etc. Maybe I could just duplicate stuff.

    3. Yeah, I got the newest SDK, Reagan posted the link. It was not updated with 3.1 graphics (volume slider, page bars), and it's still in alpha stage. Documentation is very confusing, very hard to find and understand things.

    The biggest aggravation is that there is no indication ANYWHERE of what is hard coded and what's not. Looking at the language it seems that something should be easily possible when in reality it won't work...this can be very frustrating.

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    Quote Originally Posted by RipplingHurst View Post
    Two? :-)
    Hmm....I can't count.

    Quote Originally Posted by RipplingHurst
    If that doesn't work for some reason (maybe CF won't allow this, maybe I'll have to use the Media screen to embed the main menu screen, will see), or maybe just because I can, I plan to have a minimalist media screen, with a big album art, and a secondary screen, larger, without album art/visuals, but with emphasis on source selection and playlists. Peaking at the SDK I *think* I can make CF load a specific playlist I created (like last added, or most played) elsewhere (say Media Monkey or iTunes). Then I would add buttons for those playlists...
    +1 for large album art. Would love to see that on the media screen. I never understood why CF's media screen had the playlist in the middle. If you take the time to browse the library and queue songs, then you have a sense of the songs that are going to play. And if even if you don't like the song, you can skip it. I agree, making the playlist screen separate is a great idea. If needed, you could put a button on the media screen that links to the playlist screen (just a thought).

    Quote Originally Posted by RipplingHurst
    But I wonder if that won't complicate matters too much? I'm concerned about the usability of this, it people won't get lost looking for something in one screen when it was moved to the other, etc. Maybe I could just duplicate stuff.
    I think people would like some variability in their CF skins. A majority of them are practically the same in terms of button placement.

    Quote Originally Posted by RipplingHurst
    The biggest aggravation is that there is no indication ANYWHERE of what is hard coded and what's not. Looking at the language it seems that something should be easily possible when in reality it won't work...this can be very frustrating.
    CF is supposed to be releasing a skin creation app in the coming the months. It's GUI based and supposed to (I think) have much more documentation.

  7. #7
    Mod - iPad Forums RipplingHurst's Avatar
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    I like your input Matt, thanks!

    So this is what I was thinking about for the Media screen. If I use just one screen this would be it. You have the large album art but essentially the same buttons, only I think larger, and in a better layout, imho. You also get to see more, two more lines if you keep the standard spacing, or more (people mod the original screen to fit 5 or 6 lines, you could have at least 3 more with this added space I think).



    I think it's nice to view more songs if you like to control the listening experience , or if you have a knowledgeable passenger willing to pick and choose songs all the time (like I do).


    You'd like to see an even bigger album art? What do you think could be moved to another secondary media screen?

    What I still don''t like on the above one is the favorites button. I really don't use it much. I'd rather have a direct link to playlists.

    Maybe the above should be the secondary playlist skin instead, removing the album art and adding more buttons (Last Added, Top Rated, etc.) and then building another screen displaying album art AND...?



    BTW, how do you know about this about the upcoming CF skin editor? That would be so cool to have, but...I'm not holding my breath.

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    Quote Originally Posted by RipplingHurst View Post
    So this is what I was thinking about for the Media screen. If I use just one screen this would be it. You have the large album art but essentially the same buttons, only I think larger, and in a better layout, imho. You also get to see more, two more lines if you keep the standard spacing, or more (people mod the original screen to fit 5 or 6 lines, you could have at least 3 more with this added space I think).
    That's a good idea too. Since my carPC runs on a 7" screen, I would personally use 3 lines to maximize readability. But if modding a simple file to get 5 or 6 lines works then people may still have that option.

    I use Meedio for my front end. It's an old HTPC program that works for me. The picture below is a skin for carPC's that's very similar to the old CF. I personally like having large album art with artist, song title album name and year (like the pic). But that's completely personal preference on my part. Also, I don't think CF has a "year" column in their database.


    Quote Originally Posted by RipplingHurst
    I think it's nice to view more songs if you like to control the listening experience , or if you have a knowledgeable passenger willing to pick and choose songs all the time (like I do).
    If that works then go for it. I'm sure you're not alone.
    Quote Originally Posted by RipplingHurst
    You'd like to see an even bigger album art? What do you think could be moved to another secondary media screen?
    Possibly current playlist, playlists that are saved, deleting playlists, move the favorite button here. Just throwing ideas out.

    Quote Originally Posted by RipplingHurst
    What I still don''t like on the above one is the favorites button. I really don't use it much. I'd rather have a direct link to playlists.
    Completely agree. Never used the favorite button once.

    Quote Originally Posted by RipplingHurst
    BTW, how do you know about this about the upcoming CF skin editor? That would be so cool to have, but...I'm not holding my breath.
    Reagan was at AFKfest last month and announced this app. It's currently in alpha/beta testing. I know this doesn't help you now, but I'm sure it will make your life easier when it's released. I think they wanted it out before the year is over, but no firm release date was announced.

    One last thing, you have great ideas. I'm just throwing out stuff for the excitement that someone is making a better skin.

  9. #9
    Mod - iPad Forums RipplingHurst's Avatar
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    I see what you mean. I like the idea of one screen dedicated to the current playing file displaying album art and details and then another screen to control playlists/source.

    Now as for playlists, a direct button to access a specific playlist (.mpl file in the playlist directory) is not possible, apparently.

    I was thinking of using the following action:

    Centrafuse.MediaPlayer.LoadPlaylist:Favorites

    into:

    Centrafuse.MediaPlayer.LoadPlaylist:Blues

    But even if you have the blues.mpl playlist in your playlist directory, this does not work.

    Oh, well. Where's CF favorite playlist located? Maybe if we copy the blues.mpl playlist to that location it would look for it there, or it does not even look? What kind of a parameter is that, if it's not really looking for anything?

    A parameter is supposed to restrict and delimit a larger realm. It looks like some of CF's parameters are not parameters at all and are just fancy way to issue a much simpler command. The whole loadPlaylist:Favorites looks to be a single indivisible unit, why it's syntax is that of a parameter I have no clue.

  10. #10
    Mod - iPad Forums RipplingHurst's Avatar
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    A first draft of what a minimal media screen could look like:



    Song title is at the header up top, then artist, album, year info. Playlist button would lead you to the FULL Media screen I sketched previously, where you select source, playlists and see the current list of songs to be played. Library button would be a shortcut to your full library as currently present in the current media function.

    I believe nothing else would be needed here? What do you think?

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