freeb0rn was one of the first people who worked with Blackbox and the first ever to create a Blackbox 4 Windows screenshots and styles repository – the first of its kind in the history of BB4Win. He contributed a plugin and lots of styles to the community and he was – and is – a good friend and a great person.
isidoros1.PNG 494.79KB 1 downloads
[color=#b22222;][font="arial, sans-serif;"]1) When did you start your acquaintance with Blackbox?[/color][/font]
Once upon a time, in an age of 4:3 CRTs and dialup modems not so far away, I entered the scary world of the Windows shell customization scene. I was probably around 12-13 years old when I first started dabbling with custom skins for programs (Winamp and a long-forgotten mp3 player called Sonique come to mid) and, eventually, shells. I remember living in Southeast Asia and downloading enormous (a few megabytes in size) skins for a shell called Litestep, scared for my life that I would inevitably screw up editing the system.ini that was required to set a custom shell in Windows95/98 and not be able to boot my computer. After just a few days, I was hooked. The shell customization scene probably served as the gateway drug into my current fascination with all things computers. I spent most of my afternoons on IRC, usually talking to people much older and smarter than me, most of who were kind enough to humor my naivete and curiosity. First, I learned how to edit basic files and create elementary images in MSPaint (l still remember learning about Magic Pink [http://en.wikipedia....wiki/Chroma_key]) and a not-so-legitimate copy of Photoshop (trying to fathom why people didn't put lens flares on everything when it was so easy!) obtained from a shady mall where fake CDs were sold out of stalls. Then, I became a "themer", steadily growing my repertoire of things I (thought I) was good at. Little by little, I even started learning how to script and program. I continued to dabble in theming here and there -- Litestep themes, ICQ/AOL/Miranda Themes, Winamp themes (most unreleased). Mostly, though, I was plagued by a habit I still have, where most things I created were left unfinished and thus never published.
Eventually, as the shell customization scene got larger, alternatives started to pop up. Some of these alternatives was various variants of the *nix Window Manager Blackbox (and Fluxbox); some were more or less direct ports, others seemed to borrow heavily from Blackbox but not be constrained by it, etc. A lot of themers had been making minimal, Blackbox-style themes for Litestep for a while, but it was almost all done using hand-painted images as opposed to procedurally generated colors and fills (caveat: the modules for Litestep did at some point incorporate being able to draw colors/gradients/etc. using scripts as opposed to using images, as well). Blackbox, at the time, felt like the perfect fit for me. I was going through a minimalist phase in pretty much every aspect of my life, and being able to use something that reflected that on my actual computer felt just right. After I installed Blackbox, I pretty much disappeared from the Litestep scene (I tend to do this a lot with all my new interests). I was an active part of the blackbox for windows scene almost from day one, regularly annoying many of the core developers/coordinators of the various variants and sites (e.g. qwilk, NC-17, Tres'ni, etc.) I continued to use blackbox throughout my middle-school, high-school, and university years. Unfortunately, life got really busy and complicated so I "fell out" of the community much in the same way that I had fallen in: other interests/obligations began to take up the majority of my time.
bb1.jpg 450.32KB 2 downloads
[color=#b22222;][font="arial, sans-serif;"]2) What was/is your contribution (developing builds/plugins, sites, styles) ?[/color][/font]
At some point, I put some of the knowledge I had accumulated, spending so many hours of my life clacking away at a keyboard, to use and created one of the first screenshot and theme repositories for blackbox for windows styles/themes called bbmatwnet (if I remember right the url was gene y.com[color=#444444;][font="arial, sans-serif;"]~freeb0rn/blackbox/)[/color][/font]. Unfortunately, I can't seem to find screenshots of it and the Way Back Machine [http://archive.org/web/] doesn't have any copies, either. That's the internet for you -- the things you want to take down you can't remember the password for, and the things you want back might as well have been in your imagination. Eventually the repository went into disuse and disrepair and other, better ones took over its role, like box crackmonkey us (which became boxshots.org), and eventually a community was built around that site and the forums (lostinthebox.net). Apart from the repository site, and the creation of a plugin (see below), cranking out a blackbox style every time I changed wallpaper was my main contribution to the community as the minimalist nature of the styles and easiness of creating styles made it easy for me to overcome my habit of half-finishing things, since it never took long to finish a style.
Apart from the site, I also dabbled in a bit of programming, creating a blackbox plugin for foobar2k (a minimalistic music player) called bbFoomp. There were so many people who helped me make that plugin that I feel bad about getting into names, but l would feel remiss if I did not say thanks to qwilk (the creator of the xoblite blackbox branch/variant) without whose help I could have never have completed even half the things I had envisioned. After my departure, someone else picked up development for a time, but I'm not sure if it's actively developed anymore.
bb2.jpg 629.19KB 0 downloads
[color=#b22222;][font="arial, sans-serif;"]3) What are the main advantages/disadvantages of the shell?[/color][/font]
For me, blackbox variants are kind of like the sportscars of the shell customization world. They are lean, minimal, fast, good looking, robust, and, if you want, you can always load up on "options" and kit out your desktop with any manner of plugin. Due to the way that blackbox is themed, it means that users (and themers) have to do much less work to have a desktop that's fully featured but still has consistent looks across the board. Styles are easy to make and even easier to switch, and I remember a time when my style and wallpaper used to rotate in unison every few hours.
bb3.jpg 310.44KB 1 downloads
[color=#b22222;][font="arial, sans-serif;"]4) What do you think is lacking?[/color][/font]
It's not so much my place to say anymore because I have been absent from the scene for so long, but I don't think the blackbox for windows variants are lacking in much of anything; if a user wants "everything but (or even and) the kitchen sink", there are other shells out there. If you want looks, consistency, and speed, but still plenty of options for customization and functionality, blackbox is a great solution.
isidoros2.PNG 473.62KB 1 downloads
[color=#b22222;][font="arial, sans-serif;"]5) What do you think of the shell and the community today?[/color][/font]
When Pete first contacted me a few weeks ago about "rebooting" the community, I was elated to say the least. While I was very upfront about the fact that I would likely not have the time to be a truly active participant, I was happy to see that a good friend from so long ago was still so active in our shared passion, and was making the right moves to get the community started again. A few seconds later, I felt terrible, because I recalled that I had repeated what I had done so often in the past and left behind a community that had been such a large part of my life for such a long time.
That said, the important thing about any community is that there are people willing to engage in a productive, creative, and friendly manner with each other. Whether these participants are travelling nomads, like myself, or people that are "here to stay", like Pete, it doesn't really matter. I can't say too much about the shell right now because I honestly haven't been in the loop for ages, although I still have xoblite running on one of my secondary laptops (I think I had the explorer shell on that laptop for about one hour before I installed blackbox when I first got it). With the "oldies" who are willing to make the effort to shout "clear!" and attempt to defibrillate the patient and serve as guides for the newer young'uns, I definitely believe that the blackbox community has the potential to grow again. As for me, I will definitely be keeping an eye out, although probably from the sidelines. If any newcomers are reading this, try to keep in mind that the "custo scene" is about being the creative type in a more or less constrained environment. It may seem daunting at first, but I assure you the deeper you go, the funner it gets. If you're itching for a style to match that new wallpaper, give it a shot yourself; if you have a hankering for a plugin that let's you do something (is there a twitter plugin for blackbox? Is twitter even a big deal anymore if you're not into Justin Bieber?), don't be afraid to be the one to dare to give it a shot; I'm positive that someone will be there to lend a helping hand.