Building Animation Objects for Animation Workshop

While you can create sophisticated banners and other complex animations using Alchemy Mindworks’ Animation Workshop – and nothing else – adding animated objects to Animation Workshop will unquestionably drop it into hyperspace. Alchemy Mindworks offers a suite of inexpensive, easy-to-master tools to build animations.

Animation Workshop will import animations from a number of popular formats. The two you’re most likely to get involved with are GIF and MNG. While conceptually similar, it’s important to understand the distinction between them.

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Windows Adjustments: Back Up your Windows Installation

The hard drive in your computer is easily its most valuable component – although its worth probably can’t be measured entirely by the damage it did to your credit card. Installing Windows, and subsequently installing all the applications that will run under Windows, can take days.

While you can back up important files on your hard drive, there’s no way to back up an entire Windows hard drive in a form that would allow you to subsequently restore it and get back on line immediately, should your current hard drive get nuked by a virus, or wiped accidentally, or just die.

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Building an Alpha-Shadow Animation

PNG/MNG Construction Set and the newly-updated animation plugins with alpha-channel support – the 3D Effects #1 plugin set, as of this writing – allow the creation of animations with sophisticated translucent shadows. Place such an animation over a textured surface or a photograph and its shadow will darken the details of its background, but not obscure them.

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Windows Adjustments: Thin Out Your System Tray

Your system tray – the rightmost area of your Windows task bar, usually inhabited by small icons and the Windows clock – will probably start looking like an aerial photograph of unsold cars if you have a lot of stuff happening on your computer. As the real estate occupied by the system tray reduces the available breathing room for the rest of the task bar, it’s worth adjusting your system tray’s behavior to minimize its footprint.

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Windows Adjustments: Applications Groups

Left to its own devices, Windows will present you with two relatively cumbersome ways to launch applications – you can select them from the Start menu or you can run the from icons on your desktop. The first typically entails a lot of clicking, ‘specially if you have a lot of toys installed on your system – and the second will mean minimizing anything you presently have running to drill down to your desktop.

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Windows Adjustments: Preventing Automatic Restart after Windows Updates

Microsoft maintains a regular program of security updates and bug fixes for Windows. If you have Automatic Updates enabled – as well you should – they’ll download and install automatically as they’re released.

Once they’re installed, Windows will automatically reboot your computer to complete the installation. If you happen to be in front of it when it tries to do so, it will allow you to defer the restart, but it will nag you incessantly thereafter until you allow it to restart your system.

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Windows Adjustments: Changing the View Source Application in Internet Explorer 8

While an increasing number of Windows users browse the web with something other than Internet Explorer, Explorer certainly has its uses. Chief among these is a handy way to edit local HTML documents. Open the page in question on your hard drive, right-click on it and select View Source. The HTML document for your page will appear in Windows NotePad.

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Windows Adjustments: Changing a USB Device’s Drive Letter

Having long ago lost count of the number of USB storage devices that litter our offices, we’ve learned how to manage the beasts. The list of these things list includes not only USB flash drives and external hard drives, but toys like iPods, which are also effectively USB storage.

One of the perennial issues surrounding these devices is the assignment of drive letters to them. Windows does this automatically, of course, which is why you’ll probably need to know to manually override its behavior in time.

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Windows Adjustments: Unused Desktop Icons Bubble

Periodically, Windows will wake itself up and upon displaying its desktop, open a message bubble to warn you that there are unused icons on your desktop. Chances are you’re aware of this situation, as Windows will have alerted you to the same observation previously. In some cases, Windows is actually correct in this belief, but its mechanism for determining whether a desktop icon is superfluous to its needs is somewhat flawed – allowing it to stir its wizard and remove the errant icons can be a really bad call.

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An Introduction to Alpha-Channel Animations

While its sounds like a fragment of dialog from a 1980s science fiction flick shot on a budget in an unnamed eastern European country, alpha channels are actually a profoundly useful feature of graphics… as long as you know what they’re really up to.

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