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Mike's Corner of WinCustomize

May 14, 2010 2:35 PM by Discussion: Everything Else

Everyone's favorite Stardock Forum wrangler celebrates another trip around the sun today.

Happy Birthday  :D

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Jul 24, 2009 8:10 PM by Discussion: Personal Computing

Another week comes to a close as we inch towards the end of summer and the start of the holiday gaming bonanza.

Great Deals

This week we’re helping celebrate Paradox Interactive’s 10 year anniversary with a blow-out sale.  50% off ALL Paradox titles on the Impulse store. 

See the full list of Paradox games here.  All 50% off until July 27th!

Of course, there’s more going on with our Weekend Impulse Buys.  Check out the current deals we have running through this Sunday:

Now, on to new, updated and upcoming titles…


New Releases

Tropico ReloadedTropico Reloaded

Play both of the dictator sim classics Tropico 1 and Tropico 2 in this new bundle from Kalypso media.  Put on the green fatigues of El Presidente as you rule over your island nation in Tropico and Tropico Paradise Island, or make your enemies walk the plank as the Pirate King in Tropico 2: Pirate Cove

Pick it up now for just $14.99.  Get in the Tropico spirit in anticipation of Tropico 3, coming later this year!


Journey to 1883 in Viva Media's Helldorado. The game takes place in Santa Fe where a railroad tycoon's empire lies and ruins with its founder's death at your hands. However, while you enjoy your revenge, one of your friends goes missing. Is it revenge from beyond the grave?

Get your hands on Helldorado for just $19.99.


Games updated this week:

Coming Soon

Of course, we have some new games coming to Impulse in the coming weeks you might be interested in…

2 Replies Reply 47 Referrals

Mar 3, 2009 12:57 PM by Discussion: Personal Computing

If you’ve been following Impulse (or Stardock for that matter) for any length of time, you know one of the things that sets us apart and makes us unique is how accessible we are, and how easy it is to get in contact with us, be it via the forums, IRC, e-mail or instant messenger.  We know that a lot of our success comes from our outstanding community of gamers, and we are always looking for new ways to get news out there, and talk talk directly to gamers.

Now, some of you may already know this, but over the last few months we’ve started posting to Twitter.


Twitter, for those of you who haven’t heard of it, is a micro-blogging service….

Here’s the official description:

Twitter is a service for friends, family, and co–workers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent messages.  People write short updates, often called "tweets"  of 140 characters or fewer.  These messages are posted to your profile or your blog, sent to your followers, and are searchable on Twitter search.

It’s free, and doesn’t require any special software (though there are some excellent twitter apps out there.  I use TweetDeck myself).  It’s also incredibly easy to use.

We use our various Twitter accounts to announce releases, interesting news bits, and even a few giveaways.  Not to mention we just like chatting with other users on the service.

If you’re on Twitter, you can follow us and keep up on what’s happening with Impulse:

  • @Stardock – The Official Stardock Twitter Feed
  • @ImpulseDriven – The Official Impulse Twitter Feed
  • @IslandDog – Spencer Scott, Stardock’s Technology Evangelist
  • @mittense – Trent Polack , Game Developer
  • @Zoomba – My Feed!  Mike Crassweller, the guy who brings you weekly updates and more

Follow us and keep up to date on what’s happening.

If you’re on Twitter already, post your Twitter name in the comments below.  I’ll check on this thread every now and then and update this post with a directory of all of the Impulse community members and their Twitter links.


Impulse Twitter Directory…

@IslandDog Spencer Scott Technology Evangelist
@mittense Trent Polack Game Developer
@Zoomba Mike Crassweller Digital Publishing (Impulse)
@TorpedoBeetle Ross Dexter Game Developer
The Community…    
 @Mythor Mythor  
 @Hankers Hankers WC Moderator
 @db201407 derbal213  
 @drakythe drakonfire  
 @xiandi Xiandi  
 @sanchonino SanChonino  
26 Replies Reply 77 Referrals

Expect down-time and slow connections during the maintenance window

Jan 19, 2009 8:38 PM by Discussion: WinCustomize News

General Announcement:

Cogent will be conducting network maintenance at several of it's datacenters overnight tonight, including ones where some Stardock Servers are housed.  Between 10:00pm on 1/19 and 6:00am on 1/20 there will be brief periods of down-time and slow connections over the course of the maintenance.  This down-time will affect all Stardock sites & servers including (but not limited to):

  • WinCustomize.com
  • DemigodTheGame.com
  • SinsOfASolarEmpire.com
  • Stardock.com
  • ImpulseDriven (.com & .net)

Additionally, connecting to Impulse may be unavailable periodically during the maintenance window.

We apologize for any inconvenience.

3 Replies Reply 25 Referrals

A great tool for artists and illustrators

Dec 16, 2008 4:42 PM by Discussion: Personal Computing

The 2008 GUI Championships is coming to a close with the voting for the Best Overall events happening right now, and the final winners to be announced this Friday (12/19)

The top prize in this year's contest is the ultimate tool for the digital artist; the Wacom Cintiq 12WX.  Wacom was extremely generous in donating one of these tablets as the top prize.  As with the Radeon HD 4850, I'm going to take some time to show off the tablet, as well as share some impressions from members of the Stardock Entertainment Art Team that use these tablets on a daily basis as they work on games such as Galactic Civilizations II, The Political Machine 2008 and the upcoming Elemental: War of Magic.

To start with, lets talk a little bit about the Cintiq, what it comes with and what it's designed to do.

 DSCF2511  DSCF2518 DSCF2526


The Wacom Cintiq 12WX belongs to the high-end line of digital graphics tablets from Wacom.  The major and most noticeable difference is of course that instead of drawing on the tablet with the digital pen and watching your monitor to see what's going on, the tablet itself is the monitor so the experience is closer to drawing on paper or painting on canvas.  The metaphor is more natural and easy to understand.

The 12WX is the "entry level" Cintiq, priced at nearly $1,000 USD and measures roughly 12" on the diagonal.  This is comparable to working on a small laptop, or drawing on piece of letter-sized paper (ok, it's a little bit smaller than that measuring 10.3" 6.4").

Here are the hardware specs:

  • Dimensions: 16” x 10.5” x .67” (WxHxD)
  • Weight: 3.6 pounds display only, 4.4 pounds with video controller
  • Screen: 12.1” WXGA (1280x800)
  • Display/Tablet Area: 10.3” x 6.4” (WxH)
  • Display Input: VGA, DVI-D
  • Number of Colors: 16.7 million
  • Color Management: ICC profile, 6500K white point
  • Tablet Pressure Sensitivity:1024 levels
  • Data Rate: 200 pps
  • Resolution: 5080 lpi
  • Function Keys: 10, user assignable
  • Touch Pads: 2, user assignable

Now that we've covered what the tablet is at a basic level, lets start poking around at it to see how it feels in practice and what the new user experience is like.


Setup of the tablet is relatively straight forward, though there are a lot of cables to plug in, and settings to configure. 

For the purposes of demoing the product, I hooked it up to my Dell Inspiron 6400 laptop running Windows Vista Business Edition (32bit).  This presented its own challenges in that Vista's management of tablet peripherals leaves something to be desired.

The Cintiq comes with everything you need to hook it up to your Mac or PC, including both DVI and VGA cables depending on your graphics card's output (the laptop is VGA, my desktop would have used the DVI).

Getting the tablet hooked up was pretty easy.  Connect control box to tablet, usb from box to laptop, video from box to laptop.  Done!  The only thing that tripped me up at all was the power switch.  It's hidden on the back edge at the top left of the tablet, and it blends in very well with the casing.

The setup on the PC was pretty straight forward too.  Follow the directions included with the software CD and you'll be fine.  Oh, and don't skip the tablet calibration step, even if you think you don't need it.  Without calibration, the tablet can not properly determine the position of your pen relative to the edge of the screen and will instead just move the cursor relative to its position, not the pen.  This means you'd have to find the cursor on the screen, put your pen there and then move it, otherwise things get wacky.  Calibration takes less than 30 seconds and transforms the experience from that of confusion and frustration to what it's supposed to be.  Trust me, I spent 15min struggling with this before I understood what I had messed up.


DSCF2526My first suggestion is that you run the tablet as a mirrored display (in Windows Vista, this is done from the Mobility Center control panel, not display properties), this will avoid problems of losing your cursor to the primary display, where you can't control it from the tablet. While I was demoing the Cintiq, I used it as the primary display, shut my laptop completely and set the tablet up on top of it.  Either in that orientation, or holding it in my lap as I doodled were the most natural methods for me.

Once you have the tablet configured to your liking, you'll want to try out some drawing tools to see what it feels like in use.  Probably the single best-suited graphics tool for the Cintiq is Corel's PainterX.  This is a graphics app that's designed with a tablet in mind and it really shows.  There was no additional configuration required to make PainterX properly use the Cintiq, it even properly handled pressure sensitivity on the pen and the use of the eraser tip when flipping the pen over.

Even though I'm far from anything you'd consider an artist, I was able to quickly reproduce the same general quality of sketching I can do with a regular pen or pencil on paper.  There was virtually no delay in drawing, and the accuracy was terrific.  If I had any artistic talent, I can already see that this would be a natural and highly effective method to draw on the PC.  I now see why web cartoonists such as Scott Kurtz of PVP, and Gabe of Penny Arcade love these tablets so much.  They won't make you a better artist, but they will make the process of getting your drawings onto the PC infinitely easier and faster.

One non-graphics application that I found very useful with the Cintiq was Microsoft's OneNote tool.  A great combination if you're trying to quickly jot down notes for yourself when using the tablet.

So it's awesome for use with graphics tools, which is what it's designed for, but if you're going to use the tablet like I did as a stand-in for the primary display and close down the laptop, you'll want to keep an external mouse/keyboard hooked up for any non-drawing tasks.  Personally, I kept the laptop connected to my main desktop via Multiplicity so I just continued to use my main keyboard and mouse to control the laptop.  Despite the natural feel of drawing on the display, using the pen to hunt-and-peck on an on-screen keyboard or navigate menus just felt slow and uncomfortable.  But like I said, that's not what this is designed for, so it's an understandable and forgivable drawback.

Professional Views

Like I said, I am not an artist by any stretch of the imagination.  I'm a gadget geek who loves new toys and can appreciate great tech when I see it, but with something like the Cintiq, I just can't fully explore the potential on my own.  So I walked over to our art team to ask them what they think about the Cintiqs they have.  Several of them have the 12WX model and use it for much of their 2D work.

The art team here at Stardock has worked on several critically acclaimed PC Strategy games including: Galactic Civilizations II: Dread Lords (+Dark Avatar & Twilight of the Arnor expansion packs), The Political Machine (2004 & 2008) as well as the upcoming fantasy turn-based strategy game Elemental: War of Magic (2010). 

All in all, I love my 12” Wacom Cintiq tablet.  It’s got great sensitivity, accuracy, and it also has tools that allows you to adjust for the parallax between the screen surface and the cursor.  It has 10 programmable buttons and 2 touch strips, all of which can be customized to each of your favorite software packages.  As a game artist, I use Maya and Photoshop primarily.  So I can set up the left set of buttons for proper navigation in Maya, and reset those same buttons for navigation in Photoshop.

Of course the best thing about the Cintiq is the ability to draw directly on the screen.  I’ve used a normal Wacom tablet for the past few years, and for me there has always been a coordination issue of trying to draw to my right but having to look up and to the left.  With a Cintiq, I’ll never have to worry about that issue again.  It’s like having a never ending supply of sketchbooks and canvases.  I can either draw on paper then scan the image in and then color it using the Cintiq with Photoshop, or simply sketch directly on the Cintiq and go from sketch to finished painting.  I use it for concept art and texture painting, and it has increased my productivity by about 50 percent.  My only critique would be that I wish it was a bit brighter and a lot bigger!  Overall it’s an amazing piece of equipment for any digital artist. 

Akil Dawkins
Art & Animation: Galactic Civilizations II: Dread Lords (2006), Galactic Civilizations II: Dark Avatar (2007), Galactic Civilizations II: Twilight of the Arnor (2008), Elemental: War of Magic (2010)

Another of our artists who uses the Cintiq heavily for day to day work is Leo Li, one of the newest members of the Stardock Art team…

I believe the Wacom Cintiq offers an incredible degree of control and precision for any graphic or illustrative artist. The ability to draw directly on-screen makes my productivity and efficiency at least three or four times faster when it comes to doing any sort of illustrative work in programs such as Photoshop and Illustrator. Aside from some slight color distortions when compared to the monitor, the Wacom Cintiq is virtually flawless in other departments such as features, usability, and control. I personally find it to be an invaluable tool for my daily activities as a digital illustrator.

-Leo Li
Art: Elemental: War of Magic (2010)

For its price tag and size, the Cintiq 12WX is a great entry point for digital artists looking to make the jump from their older tablets to something better.  It's easy to use, highly accurate, works well with pretty much all of the major graphics tools on the market and won't swallow up all of your free desk space.

The only downside reported from our art team?  Our Art Director, Paul Boyer, lamented the fact that Wacom hasn't made the jump to building a tablet PC for digital artists.  He'd love to see the power and accuracy of the Cintiqs glued straight onto a laptop so he could really use it just like a sketchbook, wherever he went.  The power of the Cintiq with the mobility of a laptop would be amazing indeed.

3 Replies Reply 92 Referrals

Dec 2, 2008 7:35 PM by Discussion: OS Customization

The 2008 GUI Championships is reaching its busiest point as the deadline for icons and skins is Friday, and the final phases of user voting taking place over the next two weeks.  What started as a trickle of submissions has now turned into a torrent, with over two dozen skins coming in over the last few days alone.  Just yesterday we crossed the 100 Entry milestone. 

To mark that, here is a truly epic post: The First 100 Skins of the 2008 GUIC…

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Most Usable & Most Original Events

Dec 1, 2008 4:14 PM by Discussion: WinCustomize News

We are in the final stretch folks.  This Friday, December 5th is the deadline to submit Icons and WB Skins for the Most Usable & Most Unique events in both categories.  At 11:59pm EST on the 5th, we will lock the ability to upload new skins/icons, as well as the ability to modify already posted ones, so if you have any last-minute updates, get them in soon.

Judging will happen next Monday, and user voting will begin on Tuesday. 

The IconPackager event is absolutely insane this year!  Island Dog just did a quick round-up on some of the latest GUIC Icon Entries and there's no doubt that the competition will be fierce.  Judging these is going to be really tough.

For WindowBlinds, I know a lot of you are putting the finishing touches on your work, but don't wait too long to submit!  I know some of the biggest WB skinning names in the community are furiously working on their entries, so by the end of the week we should have some awesome skins to pick from too.

Results for the Dream events will be announced Tuesday (Usable) and Thursday (Original).

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Holiday break

Nov 27, 2008 3:14 PM by Discussion: GUI Championships

To those submitting their skins between Nov 27th and Dec 1st,

Stardock's offices are closed due to the Thanksgiving holiday.  As we will all be spending time with friends and family for the long weekend, skin moderation for the GUI Champs will be on-hold until we return.  You can still submit any skin you have ready to upload, just know that it won't be looked at by moderation until December 1st when we return to the office.

I went through the queue this morning and processed everything that was there (minus a few skins that need further review).  So at least as of this writing, we're caught up.

I hope everyone has a safe and fun Thanksgiving!

Gobble Gobble,

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Holiday break

Nov 27, 2008 3:14 PM by Discussion: GUI Championships

To those submitting their skins between Nov 27th and Dec 1st,

Stardock's offices are closed due to the Thanksgiving holiday.  As we will all be spending time with friends and family for the long weekend, skin moderation for the GUI Champs will be on-hold until we return.  You can still submit any skin you have ready to upload, just know that it won't be looked at by moderation until December 1st when we return to the office.

I went through the queue this morning and processed everything that was there (minus a few skins that need further review).  So at least as of this writing, we're caught up.

I hope everyone has a safe and fun Thanksgiving!

Gobble Gobble,

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The first event of the 2008 GUI Championships is officially underway!  Today we begin the popular vote phase of the Most Usable and Most Original Animated Wallpapers (Dreams). 

Over the weekend, the judges reviewed all of the submitted Dreams (32 of them!) and cast their votes for what they thought were the most usable and the most original Dreams.  Based on their votes, below are the ten finalists for the two events.

You can see Brad Wardell's scores and comments on all the Dream entries here.

Voting this year works a little bit differently than in years past.  This year you have three points to distribute in any combination you like to the finalist skins.  You must distribute all three points before submitting your vote however.  You must also be logged into the site.


Voting goes through Sunday, November 30th, 2008.  Up for grabs are Sapphire Radeon HD 4850 Video Cards, software from Corel, Techsmith & Stardock as well as site subscriptions from DeviantArt and WinCustomize.

Here are your finalists...

Most Usable Dreams

Above the Stream
By: TCAlienWorks
Calm Seas
By: CarGuy1
Churning Waters
By: TCAlienWorks

Distant Moon
By: TheMasterBaron
Hypnotic Flower
By: TheMasterBaron
Metal Milk
By: TheMasterBaron

By: ChaNinja
The Dream Machine
By: TheMasterBaron

Tidal Forces
By: TheMasterBaron

Most Original Dreams

Brahmand - The Gateway
By: Flyersfan
Distant Moon
By: TheMasterBaron
By: ChaNinja

Life on Europa
By: TheMasterBaron
Metal Milk
By: TheMasterBaron
By: ChaNinja

Springtime in the Alps
By: TheMasterBaron
The Dream Machine
By: TheMasterBaron
Tidal Forces
By: TheMasterBaron

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