An excellent FOSS installer for your tool kit

Extraordinary pieces of software

This week I was going to continue with my discussion of Parallels Virtuozzo Containers 4.0 but, as is so often the case, I got distracted by another problem.

The interruption was the need to create an installer. My wife's nascent company had asked me to build a screen saver for the company to give away. I wanted to use one of the company's product logos with an animated backdrop of flames (it's all gritty urban stuff) and I didn't think it would be that complex, but...well, you know how these things go.

Unfortunately I don't have the space to go into all of the details of how I created the screen saver, but let me give you a quick summary. I took the logo and in Adobe Photoshop CS3 Extended (one of the finest pieces of software ever) knocked out the background and saved the remainder as a transparent GIF at 1,024 by 768 pixels.

I created the flames using one of the most extraordinary pieces of software I've ever come across: Artmatic Pro from U&I Software. U&I describes the software (which is for OS X and OS 9 only) as a "modular graphics synthesizer." By creating a tree of mathematical functions, you generate incredible graphics as static pictures or movies. You can also create "music" that is derived from the algorithms (I wrote "music" because most of my experiments have produced nothing more than cacophony).

So, using Artmatic I generated a Quicktime movie of synthetic flames and then built a Flash animation using Adobe's Flash CS3 Professional, another amazing piece of software engineering. In a Flash document I placed the logo with its transparent areas over the top of the Quicktime movie set to loop continuously and published the result as a Flash movie.

I then moved the Flash movie over to a Windows machine and used Swishzone's excellent Swish Studio 2 (which I've discussed in this column before) to create a Windows screen saver (a .scr file). So far, so good.

I copied the screen saver into the Windows/system32 subdirectory, ran the Windows display control panel applet, selected the new screen saver, clicked preview and, well, who's your daddy?

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Mark Gibbs

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