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20. August 2017

Celebrating LCARS With One Last Theme Release

30 years ago, a lot of people were wondering what the new Star Trek: The Next Generation series would bring when it would debut in September 1987. The principal cast had been announced, as well as having a new Enterprise and even the pilot's title was known, but - as always with a new production - a lot of questions were open, just like today in 2017 with Star Trek Discovery, which is set to debut in September almost to the day on the 30th anniversary of The Next Generation.

Given that the story was set to play 100 years after the original and what was considered "futuristic" had significantly changed between the late 1960s and 1980s, the design language had to be significantly updated, including the labels and screens on the new Enterprise. Scenic art supervisor and technical consultant Michael Okuda, who had done starship computer displays for The Voyage Home, was hired to do those for the new series, and was instructed by series creator and show runner Gene Roddenberry that this futuristic ship should have "simple and clean" screens and not much animation (the latter probably also due to budget and technology constraints - the "screens" were built out of colored plexiglass with lights behind them).



With that, Okuda created a look that became known as "LCARS" (for Library Computer Access and Retrieval System (which actually was the computer system's name). Instead of the huge gray panels with big brightly-colored physical buttons in the original series, The Next Generation had touch-screen panels with dark background and flat-style buttons in pastel color tones. The flat design including the fonts and flat-design frames are very similar to quite a few designs we see on touch-friendly mobile apps 30 years later. Touch screens (and even cell phones and tablets) were pretty much unheard of and "future talk" when Mike Okuda created those designs, but he came to pretty similar design conclusions as those who design UIs for modern touch-screen devices (which is pretty awesome when you think of it).

I was always fascinated with that style of UI design even on non-touch displays (and am even more so now that I'm using touch screens daily), and so 18 years ago, when I did my first experiments with Mozilla's new browser-mail all-in-one package and realized that the UI was displayed with the same rendering engine and the same or very similar technologies as websites, I immediately did some CSS changes to see if I could apply LCARS-like styling to this software - and awesomeness ensued when I found out that it worked!

Image No. 23114

Over the years, I created a full LCARStrek theme from those experiments (first release, 0.1, was for Mozilla suite nightlies in late 2000), adapted it to Firefox (starting with LCRStrek 2.1 for Firefox 4), refined it and even made it work with large Firefox redesigns. But as you may have heard, huge changes are coming to Firefox add-ons, and full-blown themes in a manner of LCARStrek cannot be done in the new world as it stands right now, so I'm forced to stop developing this theme.

Image No. 23308

Given that LCARS has a huge anniversary this year, I want to end my work on this theme on a high instead of a too sad a note though, so right along the very awesome Star Trek Las Vegas convention, which just celebrated 30 years of The Next Generation, of course, I'm doing one last LCARStrek release this weekend, with special thanks to Mike Okuda, whose great designs made this theme possible in the first place (picture taken by myself at that convention just two weeks ago, where he was talking about the backlit LCARS panels that were dubbed "Okudagrams" by other crew members):
Image No. 23314

Live long and prosper!

Von KaiRo, um 00:21 | Tags: Firefox, LCARStrek, Mozilla, SeaMonkey, Star Trek, themes | 5 Kommentare | TrackBack: 0

14. März 2017

Final Round for My LCARStrek and EarlyBlue Themes

As you may have noted, Mozilla published a plan for a new themes system that doesn't fully cover my thoughts on the matter and ends up making themes that go as far as my LCARStrek theme impossible.

The only way I could still hold up this extent of theming is to spread it guerilla-style as userChrome.css mods, i.e. a long CSS sheet to be copied into people's userChromes.css manually. That would still allow the extent of theming, but be extremely inconvenient to distribute.

Because of that, I will stop development of my themes as soon as Firefox 57 hits Nightly and I can't use the LCARStrek theme myself any more (EarlyBlue, which is SeaMonkey-only, is something I just dragged along anyhow). Given the insecurity of even having releases and the small "market", I also will not continue them for SeaMonkey only, Firefox has been the only thing that really mattered any more there.

Also, explicit theming support for Firefox devtools is being removed from LCARStrek with the 2.49 release that I just submitted to AMO as it's extremely complicated to maintain and with the looming removal of full themes from Firefox, that amount of work is not worth my time any more. Because of this, there is a bit of a mixture of styles in some areas of devtools esp. in Firefox 52 (improving in newer versions) but that is outside of the control of a theme author. I tested that devtools are usable this way, contrast of icons in toolbars isn't optimal at times but visible enough so developers can work with them. To any LCARStrek users, sorry for the inconvenience, I would have put more work into this if the theming feature of this extent would not be removed.

Image No. 23308

This is a hard step for me as the first thing I experimented with when I downloaded my first Mozilla M5 build in 1999 was actually the theming files, and LCARStrek came out of that as a demonstration of how awesome this system of customization was and how far it could go. It achieve a look that really was out of this world, but I guess the new direction of Firefox is not compatible with a 24th century look. ;-)

It will also be hard for me go move back to the bland look of the default theme, esp. as it looks even more boring on Linux than on other platforms, but I have a few months to get used to the idea before I actually have to do this, and I will keep the themes going for that little while.

Somehow this fits well with the overall theme that MoCo and myself are at odds right now on a number of things, but you can be assured that I'm not gone from the community, as a matter of fact I have planned a few activities in Vienna in the next months, from WebVR workshops to conference appearances, and I'm just about to finish the Tech Speakers training and hope to be more active in that area in the future.

LLAP!

Von KaiRo, um 18:33 | Tags: EarlyBlue, Firefox, LCARStrek, Mozilla, SeaMonkey, themes | 2 Kommentare | TrackBack: 0

19. Dezember 2013

LCARStrek and Australis

The latest version of my LCARStrek theme does not just support the latest SeaMonkey and Firefox releases. As I'm using it myself on Nightly, I'm trying to keep it working in an experimental way with that as well - and with that, a pretty huge challenge came up in the last weeks: A redesign of the Firefox interface code-named "Australis".

I blogged a month ago about how it may affect my customizations and I have dealt with those to a good degree by now, even though not yet even as drastically as I thought when writing that blog post. As always, more will follow. It took me some time until I switched over actually, as I wanted to keep using my theme, but it was naturally not compatible with such a huge redesign.

But after a lot of hours of my free time in the last few weeks, I have experimental support for Australis working in LCARStrek. The new changes living together with support for pre-Australis Firefox in the same theme require quite a few hacks to have a number of styles only apply on one side or the other. But then, I have been doing theme design for long enough (about 14 years now) that I know a few tricks and could use those - thankfully, there are a few changes in attributes set on the main toolbox, for example.

There's still a lot to be done in this area to fix some details (and I see a painting issue that is triggered in the submenus of the new main menu but is probably Linux-specific and connected to transparency used in the arrowpanel), but the main things seems to work decently now. See this screenshot:
Image No. 23159

Given that I'm using it every day, I hope starting now gives me enough experience with it that I can deliver a really decent theme when Australis finally will ship, probably with Firefox 29. :)

Von KaiRo, um 23:43 | Tags: Firefox, LCARStrek, Mozilla, themes | 1 Kommentar | TrackBack: 0

18. Februar 2013

LCARStrek 2.16 Brings Updated Look

Every six weeks, it's time for a new release of Firefox and SeaMonkey, and along with them, updates for my EarlyBlue and LCARStrek themes to match those Firefox and SeaMonkey releases. Of course, I personally am using them with the Nightly versions and try to keep them working with those, so they are usable with newer versions already, but only after I incorporate changes from the beta cycle, they're really fully up to date with the release versions.

That said, I kinda had my worries with the buttons of LCARStrek being not really discoverable unless you move your mouse over them, and also about the theme feeling "too orange", esp. after I reviewed some shots of LCARS screens in Star Trek series and once again saw both the shapes of buttons there, which are very discoverable, and also the amount of colors used there.

So I finally decided to something about it and added some gradual changes to LCARStrek 2.16, see e.g. the buttons, tab and scrollbars colors in those two screenshots (left is a Firefox release with 2.15, right is a Nightly with 2.16, that's why it also has an additional "Data Choices" tab):

Image No. 23116Image No. 23120

The new colors are taken directly from video screenshots of the series, so they should be pretty "true to the original". Actually, I copied the colors for buttons and default buttons directly from buttons in those screen shots. Trying to apply the same color to more button-like elements, I also converted buttons to that color and a larger border radius similar to that of the fully-rounded buttons.

While I was at it, I also took the orange off the primary toolbars and replaced it with a gray color taken from some screen that I think I saw on Voyager shots. And I always wanted to get some more of the connected horizontal and vertical borders found usually in LCARS screens, but that needs to have enough elements to construct, so it's hard to do in a theme. I found a way to get this design into the SeaMonkey sidebar though - and also used that new button color for its headers which act similarly to buttons as well. See those two screenshots from LCARStrek 2.0 (left) and now 2.16 (right) on SeaMonkey (of course, some small non-theme-reated changes in SeaMonkey UI are visible as well, as the application itself saw some development since 2.0):

Image No. 23114Image No. 23117

I hope I caught all the fine details that come along with far-reaching changes like esp. the one for the buttons, I've done a number of corrective changes along with this.
Still I had some time left and enough elements to play with to give SeaMonkey's profile switcher some real beauty in LCARS terms (you also see the different color for default buttons in there):

Image No. 23119

Unfortunately, this only applies to "Switch Profile…" from within a running SeaMonkey profile, as a theme like LCARStrek can only apply in that situation and not on the profile manager seen on application startup, where no profile and therefore no add-on or theme is loaded yet.

The new LCARStrek 2.16 version has been submitted to AMO, but is waiting for review now. Once that is granted, all users of this theme will see that updated look, and I hope they'll like it! :)

I probably will work on updating the look of more parts of this theme as time allows and I find things that should look differently.

Von KaiRo, um 18:46 | Tags: Firefox, LCARStrek, Mozilla, SeaMonkey, themes | keine Kommentare | TrackBack: 0

12. März 2009

EarlyBlue and LCARStrek for SeaMonkey 2.0 Alpha 3

Yesterday, I updated my LCARStrek and EarlyBlue themes to SeaMonkey 2.0 Alpha 3 and did official releases of those updated versions.

On AMO, you need to log in to get those versions from the sandbox - alternatively, my KaiRo.at theme downloads page offers them without login.

Those versions made good improvements apart from the usual updates to fit with the newer SeaMonkey version: Both also feature updated DOM inspector and ChatZilla support, highly improved support for right-to-left language display, full support for customizable navigator toolbars, controls in <video> elements, and new history window and sidebar as well as some other bugfixes and improvements.

The full changelog as well as the complete source of the themes are available from my public git repos.

Von KaiRo, um 16:09 | Tags: EarlyBlue, LCARStrek, Mozilla, SeaMonkey, themes | 1 Kommentar | TrackBack: 0

24. Dezember 2008

My XMas Gift: New Theme Versions

After uploading a 2.0 Alpha 2 version of LCARStrek about 10 days ago, I now could also update my EarlyBlue theme for SeaMonkey 2.0 Alpha 2 a few minutes ago, at the right time to hand them to the Mozilla community as Christmas presents. ;-)

On AMO, you need to log in to get those versions from the sandbox - alternatively, my KaiRo.at theme downloads page offers them without login.

As said before, the tri-licensed source of the themes is available from my public git repos.

Von KaiRo, um 00:29 | Tags: EarlyBlue, LCARStrek, Mozilla, SeaMonkey, themes | 4 Kommentare | TrackBack: 0

20. Oktober 2008

Both EarlyBlue and LCARStrek Now Have 2.0a1 Versions!

I mentioned in my status updates a bit ago that I updated my EarlyBlue theme for SeaMonkey 2.0 Alpha 1 - and a few minutes ago I finally also was content enough with what I have to do the same for LCARStrek, which is actually used more, AMO reports double the downloads and more than four times the users for LCARStrek compared to EarlyBlue.

You now can make the look of your SeaMonkey 2.0 Alpha 1 build go back to the days of the early Mozilla M4-M8 days, or jump forward to the 24th century!


(Those preview images are actually from SeaMonkey 1.x, but the current versions look strikingly similar.)

If you want to try them, see EarlyBlue versions or LCARStrek versions on AMO (2.0a1 versions are sandboxed, so you need to log in to get them!) or KaiRo.at theme dowloads.

By the way, both themes are tri-licensed and the source is available from my public git repos - and if I find the time, I have plans to make them support Firefox in the future (probably not before a FF 3.1 release though).

Von KaiRo, um 18:10 | Tags: EarlyBlue, LCARStrek, Mozilla, SeaMonkey, themes | keine Kommentare | TrackBack: 1

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