Riccio is a student and a Stardock programmer. He also owns a small company
called RiccioSoft. Alberto is a very busy guy who made some very good
programs that skinners love to skin and users love to use. He is dedicated
to his work. In this interview I try to find out more about him and look
at his latest creation: CursorEx. Alberto was interviewed in his favorite
bar: #CursorEx at EFnet. I order some red wine for Alberto and beer for
me. The bill will be send to Teknidermy...
Tek: Hi Alberto. At what age did you get involved with computers and what
attracted you to it?
Alberto: I was
8 years old and yes, I was first attracted by games. =)
Tek: When did you start programming and what was your first program?
Alberto: I made the first "real" program
about 3-4 years ago. It was a VB application I wrote for the company where
my father works. Long and boring stuff. Completely different from the
programs I'm currently making. Basically a database application.
Tek: What was VDE and how did you come up with the idea?
Alberto: VDE started as an experiment in
a summer in which I had a lot of time. I just got Visual C and I wanted
something to work on to learn C and Win32 programming. Then from a tech
demo it turned into something usable and I decided to make it available.
Tek: How did you get involved with Stardock?
Alberto: They contacted me because they were
interested into the VDE technology (that is: a way to build a custom object
oriented desktop interface) and wanted to build a new and bigger application
with that technology. That became DesktopX.
Tek: You told me that VDE wasn't a big success. Why did DesktopX become
Alberto: DesktopX has nothing to do with
VDE. But the very basic concept and the first implementation of the graphic
engine came from VDE. The fantastic support of Stardock was also responsible
for its success. They are really able to help growing a program in several
directions: Concept, support, distribution. And the chance of working
in a team. This is obviously another world from programming alone. DesktopX
is simpler to use, more stable, has Stardock support and a lot more people
Tek: In what way is VDE different from DesktopX?
Alberto: VDE was for the most part a tech
demo. Infact it was very unstable, had limited features, didn't have any
support and was too complicated to be really used by a big public. DesktopX
takes VDE's basic concept of custom objects on your desktop, but let you
combine them together with tons of new possibilities.
Tek: You live in Italy. How is it to work for an American company?
Alberto: It is my first experience with a
real job so I can't really tell you how that is different from working
in Italy. But for sure I'm very happy about it.
Tek: At the moment you study. What do you study?
Alberto: I'm studying Computer Engineering.
It is an hard and long study and it is not finished until I'm 24 years
old at least. I started it when I was 19.
Tek: How old are you now? So, that we can figure out how long you need
to study :-)
Alberto: I'm almost 22.
Tek: Does your study help you in your job?
Alberto: Absolutely not until now, though
the most programming related courses start in the last 2 years. :) You
know, you don't need Thermodynamics (Tek: a course Alberto just finished)
to write a program. :P
Tek: Do you like your student life?
Alberto: Nah... Too hard and stressing. And
if you add my work to it and split the whole thing between Milan (where
I study) and Verona (where I live) twice a week it becomes almost too
Tek: You are a very busy man. Studying, programming DesktopX and CursorEx.
Do you ever sleep? How do you divide your time among all that?
Alberto: Well, I don't have a lot of time
for friends and I work until late at night.
Tek: You live in Verona and study in Milan. Is it tough to leave your
Alberto: Yea... a lot. I like home &
Tek: Any interests besides your study and work?
Alberto: I love the cinema. I don't have
much time for reading and such. And some time this year I'll go skying.
Tek: With all that work that you do, is there time for family, friends
or even a girl friend?
Alberto: Not a lot of time for that. I don't
have a girlfriend yet, but I'm sure that when I'll find her I'll have
enough time for her. :)
Tek: Hehe. Are there heroes in the computer industry and if so who is
Alberto: Umm... there are tons of very good
programmers. I don't have a particular "hero".
Tek: The programs you coded can be catogorized as being Eye Candy. Are
they just that?
Alberto: That could be true for CursorEx.
However, DesktopX surely has an useful purpose. It allows you to build
your own functional desktop interface that meets your needs. But I do
see Eye candy as a good thing. Eye candy and functionality are both very
important. You don't want to work hours and hours a day on a boring gray
machine. This way eye candy could turn into productivity.
Tek: What is your vision about how the desktop should look?
Alberto: A free form thing. Everyone has
its own favorite look. I.e. a custom way to combine the desktop elements
(task, tray, shell objects, clock, etc.) in both form and look (skin).
This way you can well improve your productivity because you can work in
an environment that meets your requirements.
Tek: One of your latest creations is CursorEx. What can one do with that?
Alberto: With CursorEx you can enhance your
Windows 2000 cursors. CursorEx cursors have no color, size or frames limits.
You have full control over the cursor shadow and transparency and also
provides per pixel alpha blending support. You can even assign "On Click"
special effects. I think that this is an important piece of Windows to
improve. After all the cursor is what your eyes follow most of the time.
Tek: CursorEx is new and not many people outside the skinning community
know it. How hard is it to get it widely accepted.
Alberto: Very hard. Working alone don't let
me gain all the right places and contacts to let a program be known. In
fact by now I'm mostly limited to publishing it on download.com, zdnet.com
etc. but this doesn't seem to be enough.
Tek: How hard was it to get CursorEx on those sites?
Alberto: I submitted the program description
to those software sites and I waited until they accepted it. Though this
process can take a considerable amount of time. But usually when skinz.org
mentions it in their news section then the number of downloads increases.
Tek: Does bribing help? :)
Alberto: nah... I think it doesn't work like
Tek: Why did you start your CursorEx project?
Alberto: I also started this as experiment
to test Windows 2000 transparency (I love it) and my brother helped me
build it, though now he gave up because he is too busy at the university.
Tek: Is it difficult for a skinner to make a scheme for CursorEx?
Alberto: No. Per-pixel alpha blending and
animations surely require more work by the skinner, but I think the result
is worth the effort. Anyway, those are optional and you can simply make
a static cursor with simple pink transparency and improve the result using
the custom effects automatically generated by CursorEx (shadow and transparency).
You still have no size limit and 16M colors support.
Tek: What do you mean by "You still have no size limit and 16M colors
Alberto: That even if you don't use per pixel
alpha blending and do not animate it, you can still enjoy 16M colors and
have no size limit like the standard cursors.
Tek: CursorEx is for W2K only. Are there any other reasons than the translucency
issue that limit it to W2K?
Alberto: No. It is simply because of the
transparency issue. Under NT and 9x I should limit the options to pink
transparency, not even uniform alpha blending and obviously no shadows
at all. So I think it is not worth it.
Tek: Will there be a plug in system for CursorEx?
Alberto: The current idea is that there won't
be plug ins. I don't want a particular function (i.e. a small analog clock)
as part of the cursor all the time, but it could be just me. There could
be cool other possibilities but I still have to think about this option.
Tek: You have build-in support for local languages. Thanks for that. Isn't
it irritating that most skin able programs are English only?
Alberto: Yes. It is quite irritating, but
I think that non-english users are almost used to it.
Tek: Somehow skinners tend to design large cursors (CygnusXII and Buzz
"The Big Cursor King" Hog come to mind). Why is that?
Alberto: Heh... Maybe that is just for fun
or maybe they have a really high screen resolution. :)
Tek: There is a rumor that Buzz is selling 50 inch monitors just to handle
his 1600*1200 cursors for CursorEx. Is that true?
Alberto: HAHA! Yea, but you also need a 2
Ghz cpu because the cursor is animated at 80 frames per second.
Tek: Haha. LOL! What do you think of Shoggot's scheme (spun)?
Alberto: Very very cool but sometime my brain
locks up looking at it. :)
Tek: Hahaha. In the about dialog of CursorEx we see the name of your brother
Francesco. What did he exactly do for CursorEx?
Alberto: He helped a lot working on the GUI
and releasing the project. But now he prefers going out with university
Tek: I thought it was Alberto Casanova, but actually it is Francesco Casanova!
How different are Francesco and Alberto?
Alberto: Haha! Well, he is way better than
me with girls. But thanks to him I also know them. :)
Tek: What are the future plans for CursorEx?
Alberto: "On Click" special effects in the
new release and then different states (i.e. Normal or Clicked). I.e. a
Hand cursor that "clicks" with the finger when you push the button. And
maybe, adding more events besides the system defaults ("text insertion",
"hourglass" etc.). Special cursors when the cursor is above a button,
when you are about to maximize a window etc.
Tek: If you look back at the programs you coded. Which do you like best
Alberto: All of them. :P But VDE has been
my first experience with a public program. So that was maybe the most
exciting. I remember that at that time in Milan I didn't have a computer.
So my parents used to print feedback emails and send them to me by standard
email. :) When I returned back in Verona for the weekend I could finally
Tek: Can we expect any new projects?
Alberto: Umm... Not for the short term.
Tek: Thank you for this interview. Teknidermy readers will keep an eye
on you ;-)
Alberto: Thanks to you. :)
After a friendly talk Alberto leaves the #CursorEx channel and probably
implemented another amazing DesktopX feature just before going to bed.
I believe there are heroes in the computer industry. Alberto is one of
Note: We appreciate MadIce's contribution, and his time and effort in
conducting this interview...and MadIce appreciate's Doreen's help with