Winstep

Software Technologies

Winstep Modules

Modules, sometimes also known as widgets or gadgets, are mini-applications that live inside the main, larger, Winstep application. Some Winstep modules are so feature complete that they do the same job as dedicated full blown commercial 3rd party applications.

The free version of Nexus includes the following modules: a speaking Atomic Clock, Recycle Bin, Email Checker, Weather Monitor, CPU, Net and RAM Meters and the amazing 'fortune cookie' Wanda.


Nexus Ultimate and Winstep Xtreme include three additional modules: a Battery Monitor, a Calendar and a Moon Phase module.
Modules exist in two forms: as icons inside docks under Nexus and Nexus Ultimate, and also as larger skinnable desktop widgets under Winstep Xtreme.


Modules are always available in one of two different styles. For instance, the clock module can be displayed as an analog or a digital clock. The Net, RAM and CPU meter modules can display information either in Histogram format or as a Gauge. The Weather module provides two different sets of weather module icons the user can choose from, one photo-realistic, the other more cartoon-like, etc...

The Battery Monitor Module


Battery Monitor Monitors your battery or UPS power status, provides information regarding the type and condition of the battery, logs power events, issues voice and sound notifications regarding battery status and can run applications, execute internal commands (such as Hibernate or Sleep), or issue warnings whenever the battery level reaches specified thresholds.

The battery monitor module displays current battery charge and/or estimated runtime remaining (when available) in the icon itself.


Battery information


The battery module is able to provide a staggering amout of information regarding your battery. From serial number, to battery chemistry, to battery health.



Absolute customization


Available in vertical and horizontal styles, the battery charge (usually green) can be colorized or replaced with a user-defined background image. Battery charge can also be optionally set to turn yellow when the remaining charge is low and red when critical. The battery image itself can also be customized via user-defined multi-state PNG strip images.


Log power events


Includes ability to log power events. Windows itself does not record power events - which is fine if you are talking about laptops with their own internal batteries, but not so good when talking about an external UPS. If you have an UPS, you want to know if the power failed while you were away, what happened, if the system automatically shutdown in time, etc...



Power event actions


Sometimes a single UPS is used to provide backup power to more than one PC. Since the UPS can only be connected to and monitored by a single computer (and Windows automatically shuts down only that computer in the case of a power outage), it can be useful to be able to run a program or a batch file when the battery is low, which would in turn shutdown the other computers via the network.

In the Power Event Actions dialog the user can choose to either Do Nothing, display a warning (optionally with sound), run a program or run an internal command when the battery charge reaches the low and critical thresholds.



Voice and Sound notifications


The Battery module also supports voice and sound notifications for specific power events.




The Calendar Module


Calendar Like all other modules, the new calendar is available in two different styles: Classic and Flip-calendar. The desktop version of the module will show a full blown calendar - matching the currently selected style - even when no specific skin is available for it.

Double clicking the date on the desktop calendar module returns the calendar to the current month and pressing the SHIFT key while clicking on the arrows makes the calendar jump a year at a time.


Besides many other customization options allowing the use of different icon backgrounds and colors for the iconic version of the module, the user can also choose what happens when he clicks on it: it can either display a pop-up version of the desktop calendar, or launch a user-specified application (which normally would be a 3rd party calendar application).


Clock Alarms have also been integrated with the Calendar module. The Calendar module will highlight days with alarm events and alarms can be added, edited or deleted directly from the calendar itself by clicking on the respective day. Hovering the mouse pointer over a specific day will pop up a tooltip describing any events for that day.



The Clock Module


Clock A speaking Digital/Analog Clock that automatically synchronizes your time with time servers on the internet and announces the time in either male or female voices, the clock module also features a powerful alarm scheduler able to show pop-up reminders, play music, and run applications or Winstep internal commands at specific intervals.


Automatic Time Synchronization


The clock module automatically synchronizes your system clock with atomic clock time servers on the Internet as often as once a day. Never again will your PC's clock run behind.



Time Announcements


The clock is able to announce the current time in either male or female voices at specific intervals. Alternatively you can use clock chimes, or even select no time announcements at all.

To prevent the clock from waking everyone up in your household by announcing the time in the middle of the night, it obeys a user specified 'silent period' (midnight to 7 AM by default) in which no time announcements are made.



Powerful Alarm Scheduler


These are not ordinary alarms. Besides showing pop-up reminders on the screen and playing music files at specific times, the alarm scheduler is also able to run other applications as well as Winstep internal commands.

Since the scheduler itself is extremely flexible (you have run once, run daily, run weekly and run monthly options, and you can even have an alarm fire 'on the second Thursday of the month', for instance) this is actually a very powerful mini-Task Scheduler. Of course, not as powerful as the Windows Task Scheduler itself, but on the other hand a million times easier to use.



The scheduler can also - optionally - wake your computer from Sleep/Hibernation to run an alarm, which, coupled with the support for M3U music playlists (or you can make your own), turns your laptop into the ideal wake-up alarm clock.



You can create, edit, delete, duplicate and temporarily disable alarms. Inactive alarms - or alarms that have already been activated once - remain logged until you decide to purge them.



Alarm reminders can be displayed in a window or optionally as a full screen LCD style panel. This is perfect if you want to replace your regular alarm clock with your laptop/tablet.



Besides playing user customized playlists, the LCD-style panel gives you current weather and battery information. Pressing the Space bar will Snooze the alarm and pressing ESC will close it. You can also set the volume of the M3U backed playlist to start lower and slowly raise with time, so you don't suddenly jolt awake.




The CPU Meter Module


Cpu Meter Available in Gauge or Histogram formats, monitors CPU utilization on your system. Clicking the module conveniently opens the Windows Task Manager, and mousing over the module shows you which application is currently using the most CPU.


Processes, Multi-core CPUs and Hyper-threading


In the old world of single core CPUs with no hyper-threading (HT), calculating the CPU usage of a single process was pretty straightforward. The addition of multi-core CPUs plus Hyper-threading complicated things quite a bit.

On a multi-core CPU, 100% CPU usage is considered to occur only when all cores are maxed out. If Hyper-threading is enabled on the CPU, the number of cores doubles for all pratical purposes.

So, if a CPU has 4 physical cores and HT is enabled, the CPU is considered to have 8 cores (four of them being virtual HT cores). Since 100% CPU usage means all cores (physical and virtual) are being maxed out, it can be said that each core has a 12.5% slice of total CPU usage (100% divided by 8 cores, or 1/8).

Most processes are single-threaded, i.e.; they only use one core at a time. Thus, if a process is running at full speed and maxing out one core of the CPU (i.e.; using 100% of that single core), because in our example each core is considered to be an 1/8 slice of the full pie, this process will appear on the CPU meter as using 12.5% (usually rounded to 13%) of the CPU.

This might seem a bit counter-intuitive at first, but makes sense if you think about it, since it means that if you add up the CPU usage percentage of all the processes running on your computer the total is never more than 100%.

However, it is also somewhat confusing because what a certain percentage of CPU utilization actually means is dependent on the number of physical cores on your CPU and whether HT is enabled or not.

For instance, a process with 12.5% CPU usage on a computer with four physical cores and HT enabled means that the process is using 100% of one of the eight virtual cores.

However, turn off HT and the number of cores drops to four. 12.5% CPU usage on such a system would mean that the same process is now using only 50% of one core.

To complicate things further, some processes can be multi-threaded, i.e.; different parts of it can use different CPU cores. So, if on an 8 core (4 physical + 4 HT) CPU you see a process using more than 12.5% (for instance, 20%) that can only mean the process is multi-threaded and using more than one core at once.

So, to know how heavy a certain process really is based on its CPU usage percentage, you must first know how many cores your CPU has, if HT is enabled or not, and then perform a quick mental calculation when you look at the numbers. For instance, on our 4 physical core CPU + HT example, a process displayed as using 10% of the CPU means it's really using 80% of a single core (10% / 12.5% total per core).

CPU Hogs


The desktop version of the module under Winstep Xtreme is - depending on the current theme - also able to display a list of the current top CPU hogs, updated every second.

Most Active Programs


Another helpful feature of the CPU module is the ability to show you which two applications have been using the most of your CPU for the last 5 minutes.


The Email Checker Module


Email Checker Can monitor multiple POP3 or IMAP email accounts and report the number and total size of pending messages for each of these accounts, both visually and through voice notifications. It allows you to access mail servers using non-standard ports and fully supports SSL v2.x (Secure Sockets Layer) encrypted connections.

SSL encryption is required to monitor, for instance, Gmail and Hotmail accounts via POP3. The Email Checker can also automatically launch your favorite email client whenever it detects that you have new pending messages.



Voice Announcements


The Email Checker is able to announce the arrival of new mail and the number of pending email messages in either male or female voices. It will say 'You have new mail. You have xx new messages'. Alternatively you can use a chime, or even no sound announcement at all.



Automatic Email Client Detection and Launching


The Email Checker should automatically detect your default email client, which can then be launched by clicking on the module or automatically whenever new messages arrive.

Please note that the Email Checker is not a full blown email client. The module simply asks the server how many messages are pending retrieval and that's what it reports, it has no way of knowing which messages have already been read but left on the server.

It does keep a counter of the number of messages in the server so it will only notify you again when more mail arrives. The notification, however, will tell you the total number of messages still in the server, not the number of messages that arrived after the previous notification.

This counter is reset when the number of messages in the server is less than the value in the counter (which means mail has been retrieved in the mean time) or when you tell the module to launch the email client.

The Moon Phase Module


Moon Phase Did you know that the moon in the Southern hemisphere appears upside down from the point of view of someone in the Northern hemisphere (and vice versa, of course)? Yes? Ah, but did you know that the moon wobbles as it orbits the earth, and that it's never at the same distance from it?

Now you can witness all this happening in a beautiful realistic animation using the new Moon Calendar: press the Play button and time will accelerate to a rate of roughly 3 days per second.


Click any day in the calendar and the moon will smoothly rotate to show you the phase, tilt and relative distance from earth at that particular time. You can also click the Forward and Back buttons to go back and forth one day at a time, or the Rewind button whenever you wish to return to the current day.

Clicking the Information button will let you know when the moon raises and sets on that day, where in the sky it is, and much more! Clicking the Time button will allow you to get that same information accurate to the hour and minute.


When the information panel is up you can also click on the little moons to be taken to the day where the moon is at the chosen phase.

For those into the mystical side of life, clicking the Zodiac button rotates the calendar to show you which zodiacal sign the moon is on in that particular day:


Like all other modules, the new Moon Phases module is available in two syles: for the moon module these are either Realistic or Simple.

User location is automatically retrieved using the same GeoIP technology employed by the Weather module. You can also type in your current latitude and longitude coordinates if you want, of course.

These coordinates are crucial to accurately calculate the tilt and position of the moon in the sky at any given time, as well as other important information.


There are plenty of customization options, including the ability to use of alternate full moon images as well as support for animated icons.

The Net Meter Module


Net Meter The Net Meter Module allows you to monitor the bandwidth usage (bytes in and bytes out) of a chosen network adapter and is usually used to monitor Internet usage.

The Net Meter module also provides various TCP/IP statistics and allows you to see which applications are currently using your Internet Connection (very useful to spot any stealth Trojans that might have inadvertently found their way into your computer).


In the Net Meter Module Settings Panel you can choose which Network Interface Adapter (NIC) to monitor (assuming you have more than one) from the list of network cards available in your computer. This section also displays information about the Connection Type, Maximum Connection speed, current IP address and the total number of bytes received and sent through the chosen interface.

Net Statistics panel


The Net Statistics panel displays various statistics (TCP, IP, UDP, ICMP In, ICMP Out) about the Network Interface currently being monitored.


Active Connections panel


The Active Connections panel displays - and optionaly copies to the Clipboard - all your currently active UDP/TCP connections plus various information about each connection. It allows you to see which processes are connecting via TCP/IP and UDP and to forcefully terminate the connection or the process itself. It can also display information about the processes and perform WHOIS searches on target hostnames.


The Active Connections panel can be accessed by double clicking the Desktop Net Meter module or through the module's context menu. The active connections list can be sorted in descending or ascending order by clicking on the column headers, and columns can be resized horizontaly by clicking and dragging the vertical edges of the column headers.

New connections appear in green and terminated connections in red. Right clicking on a connection displays a menu from where you can get information about the process using that connection, terminate the process, close the connection, perform a WhoIs search on a hostname, and/or copy the information to the clipboard. You can select multiple connections by pressing the SHIFT or CTRL keys when left clicking.

The Active Connections panel is resizable and remembers the last size you set it to. It can also be minimized or left running on the desktop without it interfering with other Winstep items.

The RAM Meter Module


RAM Meter The RAM Meter module shows current memory usage and displays various memory statistics. The RAM Meter features two styles, Bar Graphic or Histogram style. The Bar style allows you to view at a glance the current RAM load, while the Histogram style allows to view RAM usage over time.


RAM Hogs


The desktop version of the module under Winstep Xtreme is - depending on the current theme - also able to display a list of the current top RAM hogs, updated every second.


The Recycler Module


Recycler The Recycler module has the ability to let you know at a glance if the recycle bin is empty or full. It also allows you to delete dock items by dropping them into it and displays information about how many files are on the Windows Recycler Bin and how much disk space is being used by them.

This module has two basic styles, a static Bin and an animated Recycler symbol that animates when you drag a file or group of files over it.


The settings of the Recycler module also allow you to determine if a confirmation dialog is displayed before deleting items on docks or not.

The Wanda Module


Wanda Wanda the fish is a special module, based on the equivalent GNOME applet, which, due to popular request, has found its way into the Windows world through Winstep.

It's not a very useful module like the others, but it has a very special particularity: you will either love or hate her with deep passion.



Under Winstep Xtreme Wanda the fish swims freely on your desktop - or sits on your dock under Nexus and Nexus Ultimate - and, when clicked on, or at the chosen interval, dispenses little gems of wisdom and wit.

Wanda can also be customized with user-defined PNG fish animations.


By default Wanda gets its gems of wisdom from pre-defined 'cookie files' and you can easily add your own. When swimming on the desktop (Winstep Xtreme) Wanda will try to run away from your mouse pointer, so you can have fun chasing her whenever you are feeling bored.


The Weather Monitor Module


Weather Monitor Provides detailed current and forecast weather conditions for over 39,000 cities world-wide. The weather module relies on several independent weather feed providers (NOOA, Weather.com, MSN and Yahoo Weather) so that if one is temporarilly - or permanently - down it automatically uses the next available one. This provides a high degree of redundancy.


Automatic Geo IP Location


When run for the first time the weather module automatically retrieves your location (city and country) based on your current IP address and GEO IP location services.
Current location can be changed manually at any time via the Weather Preferences dialog or automatically at the click of a button.


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