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Thursday, March 27, 2008

Neo Dockstation

The Neo Dockstation is an assimilation of different aspects of the Neo interface (plugins, dynamic layouts and interface build up...) that finally enables one to load different plugins at the click of a button.

It sits on the Neo interface like any other tab and shows the different plugins that can be loaded in the top 27 pixels of the home screen. I call it the "dockstation" because it lets you dock different plugins at the top. I won't pull it long and get to the details.

As the Neo interface uses both up and down key strokes to explore the different tabs, non-selectable plugins are most useful on the dock. That does not mean selectable plugins are not loadable, but its just that pressing the up key on the D-pad will not take you to the tab above, but to the plugin. The down key is what you will only have at your disposal to move between tabs...tiresome if you are at say the second tab and want to go to the first one!!! Feel free to try it though!

Currently, I have three custom made plugins bundled with the dockstation -

* The Colored Iconbar - Most of you already know about this. Read this if you don't!
* A Windows Media Player "Now Playing" status bar
o displays current track information (Song Title, Album Title, Original Artist), total and elapsed time, and a graphical elapsed status bar.
* A Weather dock powered by Yahoo! Weather
o displays temperature, feels like and wind speed for a US Zip Code or Yahoo! Location ID, today and tomorrow forecast with lows and highs, customizable update frequency, color codes and units.

The bundle also includes the required files to incorporate the Shadow default status bar.

Please note the dockstation is made specifically for the Neo interface. If you are using a theme other than Neo, then it would not make much sense to install it. Here's how to get started:

1) Download this zip file - Rinku Neo Dockstation. Inside is a cab installer. Copy it over to your phone and open it. Install to the "Device". Reboot upon completion. No, you will not see any changes as yet!!!

2) Once the device restarts, goto Start>Settings>Home Screen and change over to the NeoDock theme. To begin with, this theme is same as the T-Mobile Default theme, but has some markers inside to make it compatible with the dockstation. Many of you are perhaps using Freddy's themes. Right now they are not compatible with the dockstation. You can start using them as soon as he makes them available. You do not have to go through this setup process again!!

3) The bundle installs the NeoDock Manager and the aforementioned plugins on the system. The NeoDock Manager is the utility that lets you build the Neo Dockstation. So, lets do that next. From the Start menu, open NeoDock Manager.

4) The Manager will search for available plugins (more on this later), and give you the options to add them to the dockstation. Play with it...its a simple utility! Once done adding the plugins, hit Options>Build NeoDock. The Manager will ask what position do you want the dockstation to be placed in on the homescreen. Once done, and everything goes well, the Neo Dockstation will be created. Exit the program to load it on the homescreen. Do not panic if your screen turns white for a second or so!!

5) You should now see the plugins you just added on a tab on the home screen - Neo Dockstation tab. To load one at the top, hit the center button. If there is a configuration utility available for a particular plugin (for e.g. the Weather Dock), then you can access it from the right softkey.

You can now switch back and forth the plugins at any time!!!!

That is it!! Well, it is as far as what I am offering in the bundle. Read "Configuring the Weather Dock" if you have questions on how to configure the weather plugin. As for those who want to add more plugins to the dockstation, read "How to make NeoDock Manager see my Plugins?". To make your custom themes (Neo only) NeoDock compatible, see "How to make a theme NeoDock compatible?".

WMP PLUGIN: The Windows Media Player plugin requires frequent redrawing of the homescreen. This can make the response on the home screen somewhat slower than usual when the plugin is in use (a song is playing). The color of the text is specified in the fontcolor attribute in \Program Files\NeoDock\Plugins\WMP\wmpplugin.xml. The format is 0xBBGGRR - a little different than usual, but helps avoid an extra processing in the plugin. The color is current set to 0xFFFFFF - white.

COLORED ICONBAR: The dockstation bundle includes all files required for the colored iconbar. You can remove earlier installs by deleting all files beginning with CHome_Iconbar_ and the iconbarplugin.dll file in \Windows. If you have made changes to the icons then copy the CHome_Iconbar_*.png files over to \Program Files\NeoDock\Plugins\Rinku Iconbar\Icons before deleting. Do not copy the dll.

PLUGIN BACKGROUND: The background for the plugins bundled with the dockstation is customizable in the xml files. Each plugin has a folder of its own in \Program Files\NeoDock\Plugins. You can see two .xml files in there - one of them is always named setup.xml. The other filename varies. You can edit this other file to specify a background for the corresponding plugin. Just change bgimage to the full path of the image you want to use as the background for the plugin. Currently, all plugins included use \windows\CHome_framework_status_bar_bg.png as the background.

- Smartphone WM 6

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