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The Launcher
Readme file included with install package
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This is the actual readme.txt file included with The Launcher.
It can provide a lot of help and understanding.

The Launcher......... by Ken Rager (c) December, 2006
This file contains instructions for using The Launcher.
The Launcher was created to be used as a launch platform for other programs, and after the program finishes, The Launcher will shutdown your computer. It was created to be used on home arcade machines, but I'm sure it could be used in other situations. It's main purpose is to launch Arcade "Front-ends", and when the user is finished with the games, automatically shutdown the arcade machine. The Launcher is a "next generation" of my previous program called "GLauncher", which would only launch an arcade front-end called "Glaunch".
Differences between The Launcher and GLauncher:
There are two major differences, GLauncher would only launch GLaunch whereas The Launcher will launch just about any exe or bat file.
Also, GLauncher had a fixed shutdown screen, whereas you can create your own shutdown screen for The Launcher, using just about any paint program. (I used Paint that came with my WinXP). I call these created shutdown screens "skins".
This feature makes The Launcher much more desirable and adds your own creativity to your arcade machine.
Another difference is that The Launcher keeps a file called "Launcher.txt" for errors (as did Glauncher), but The Launcher also keeps an account of events for the last three times The launcher ran. This should be very helpful for troubleshooting problems.
Requirements for The Launcher:
The Launcher can only be run in a Windows enviroment. (Currently tested good on Win98SE, Win2000, and WinXP)
36 megs of RAM, 200 MHZ processor, and 2 megs of free hard drive space are minimum requirements.
An ATX style power supply must be on the computer to use the shutdown feature.
Of course, the minimum requirements must also be met for the program you are launching with The Launcher.
Also, any skins you create may require more disk space and memory than The Launcher basically needs.
Installing The Launcher:
Double click on the launcher install program.
Read the agreement clause and if you agree with it, click "I agree", then OK.
Follow the instructions to install the program. It is suggested that you install it to the default folder, C:\Launcher, but you may install it anywhere you wish.
It is suggested you choose to create a desktop shortcut, but this is not necessary, it just makes it easier to run The Launcher the first time. (The desktop shortcut can be deleted later.)
There will also be a sub directory called Skins that will be created. Example: C:\Launcher\Skins.
There will be three sample skins placed in this directory. You will be able to use these sample skins in The Launcher setup, if you want. Feel free to edit these skins using paint or other similar programs. (See below for more info on the included sample skins.)
Running The Launcher for the first time:
You must have the keyboard and mouse properly connected and working to run The Launcher the first time.
Double click on the desktop shortcut OR using Windows explorer, navigate to where you installed The Launcher and double click on launcher.exe.
You will recieve a message that the config file, launcher.set, was not found. You will be told that you must run setup. Click OK. (If you click CANCEL, you will be told that The Launcher will not run correctly until you correct the problem, and the next time you try to run The Launcher, you will recieve the above message again.)
The Launcher setup mode:
The first thing you will see will be the setup mode. This is a screen displaying the current skin. (First time will be the default skin.)
Along the top of the screen is a menu. "Launcher Options", "Skin", "Countdown box", and "Help".
You can navigate through the menus to setup The Launcher to run and look the way you wish.
"Launcher Options":
There are six sub-menus to this menu.
(1)  "Program to launch":
   When you click on this menu, a box to the right will show which program is currently selected to launch.
   You may click below that on "Choose a different program to launch."
   When you do this, a navigation box will pop up. Simply go to the folder and click on the program you wish to
   launch. Only exe and bat files will appear in the box. Click once on the file you wish to use.
   The file will appear in the box below, click "Open" to the right, and that file will be the one The Launcher will
   attempt to launch next time you run The Launcher. You will now be returned to the setup mode.
(2) "Shutdown Method":
    This option tells The Launcher what to do after the launched program finishes. There are three choices.
    "Dont shutdown the machine": The Launcher will not shut the machine down. This is the default setting.
    "Shutdown": This invokes the shutdown routine in Windows.
    "Poweroff": This invokes the poweroff routine in Windows.
    An arrow (>) will be placed by the current choice.
    If shutdown doesnt turn your machine completly off, try using poweroff, and vice-versa.
(3) "Current cancel key":
    If a shutdown method is choosen, this menu will be activated.
    It will tell you the ASCII code of the current key selected to be used to cancel the shutdown.
    When The Launcher goes into the shutdown mode, the shutdown screen will be displayed, and the user will
    have an amount of time to press the cancel key to cancel the shutdown.
    The cancel key is displayed as an ASCII code number. The default is 27, which is the ESC key.
    You can change this key by clicking on Current cancel key, then by clicking on Choose a different cancel key.
    If you click on Choose a different cancel key, a box will pop up.
    The box will show the current cancel key ASCII number. Press the key you wish to use. That key's ASCII
    number will be displayed. Click OK to make this the default cancel key, press Cancel to keep the current key.
(4) "Time to cancel":
    This menu will allow you to choose the amount of time you have to cancel the shutdown. Choices are 5,10,15,20,        and 25. A > will be placed by the current choice. Simply click the time you wish to use.
    Default time is 10. It is recommended you use 25 until you are sure The Launcher runs the way you expect it to,
    this will give you plenty of time to cancel the shutdown, if you want to change anything.
(5) "Done!":
    (Make sure you are done setting up The Launcher before clicking this.)
    Click this when you are finished setting up The Launcher. You will be notified if you entered  something that The       Launcher doesnt like. A file called "launcher.set" will be created in the same directory that launcher.exe is    in, launcher.set is the configuration settings file for The Launcher.
(6) "Cancel and exit":
    Clicking this menu will do exactly as it suggests. Any changes you made will not be saved. A warning message will
    pop up just to make sure you didnt accidently click on this.
"Skin":
This menu has two sub menus.
(1) Open a skin:
    You can open a skin that has already been created by clicking on this submenu.
    When you click on this, a box will appear that you can use to navigate to where the skin is located.
    Only .bmp files will be shown. Double click on the skin you wish to use and it will be displayed on the setup screen.
(2) Use default skin:
    Clicking on this will select the default skin that is internal to the program.
    When you use the default skin, some menus will be "greyed out" and cant be used.
To create a new skin, see "Creating skins" below.
"Countdown box":
This menu has three sub menus.
(1) "Select font":
    Clicking on this menu causes a font box to pop up. You may choose the font, size, and type here.
    This is what the countdown box will look like. Click "Ok" in this box to asign the font to the countdown box.
(2) "Select color"
    This brings up a font color box. Choose the color you wish to use and press "Ok". The number in the countdown
    box will have the color you chose assigned to it.
(3) "Reset countdown box":
    Clicking on this resets the countdown box to its default font, color, size, and position on the setup screen.
    The defaults are: Font: Arial,  Color:Black,  Size:10, Position: X=0 Y=0 (upper left corner of screen.)
"Help"
This menu has several help topics. Click on the topic you wish to see. You can press buttons on the help screens that
will allow you to navigate between them.
Running The Launcher's setup mode at a later time:
To run the setup mode, simply open the launcher.set file, using notepad or word.
Find this line:
Run setup = no
Change it to:
Run setup = yes
Now close and save the launcer.set file.
Run The Launcher by clicking on its desktop icon.
The setup mode will begin.
When you exit the setup mode bu clicking "Done", the line in launcher.set will be changed back to:
Run setup = no
And the next time you run The Launcher, it will launch the program you selected in "program to launch".
Having The launcher to run when your computer starts:
Simply place a shortcut to launcher.exe in the Windows Startup folder.
When you turn on your computer, after Windows loads, The Launcher will start.
Creating skins:
Creating a skin is easy, and can be done with just about any graphics program. I will use Paint (or MSPaint), a simple
painting program that comes packaged with Windows. (Most likely under Start, All programs, Accessories.)
Before you begin to create your skin, you need to know the resolution of your screen.
There are at least two ways to find this information.
The easiest way is in The Launcher's setup mode.
Click "Help".
Click "About the skin".
Click "Creating a new skin".
About mid-way of the help box, your screen's resolution will be displayed as width and height.
These numbers are the numbers of pixels.
Write these numbers down.
Another way is to get the resolution by right clicking on an empty space on your computer's desktop area.
Click "Properties", then click "Settings". The resolution will be displayed under "Resolution".
You may also change the resolution here. (You need to know what you are doing before changing the resolution.)
Write these numbers down.
Now open Paint.
Click on "New"
Click on "Image".
Click "Attributes"
Enter the numbers you have written down in the "width" and "height" boxes.
Make sure "pixels" is checked.
Click "OK".
Your work area will change to the screen resolution you entered.
You may now create your skin. Use paint's fill tool to fill in the background color.
Type in any messages you want displayed.
You can even paste pictures onto the skin. Use your imagination.
Tip: It is suggested you leave a caption to tell the user what key to press to cancel the shutdown.
Also, leave a space big enough to place the countdown box.
When you are finished, save the skin as a bitmap file into a location you can easily find.
You can now run The Launcher's setup mode to open your skin and place the countdown box where you want it.
You may wish to select the countdown box's font, fontsize, and color to match the font you used on your skin.  
Making changes in the launcher.set file:
You can program all the settings in the launcher.set file, using notepad or word. But you have to know what you are doing. It is highly suggested you do not change any of the settings in this manner. The suggested method is to only change the Run setup = no line to yes. This will allow you to set up everything else in the setup mode. If you do edit the launcher.set file, and you enter something the program doesnt like, the setup mode will start next time you run The Launcher anyway.
The real problem with this is that all the settings will be reset to default, and you may have to completly setup everything again.
So, just use the setup mode, unless it is something real simple, like cancel time.
Programs The Launcher can launch:
The Launcher can only launch exe and bat files.
Some programs that have been successfully tested:
Glaunch (glaunch.exe)
Mame32 (mame32.exe)
QuakeII (quake2.exe)
Logbook (logbook.exe)
MenuMaker (menumaker.exe)
The Launcher cannot pass most command line parameters. However, an easy way around this is to create a small bat file that will run the program and pass parameters.
Here is an example:
Say I want to launch pacman from mame32.
I would create a bat file with one command, similar to this:
start /w mame32 pacman
I would then save the bat file in the mame32 folder, as "pacman.bat".
I would then program The Launcher to launch pacman.bat.
Notice the command in the bat file "start /w". This makes the bat file pause until pacman finishes.
This is very important, because without this command, the bat file may start pacman and then end. Even though pacman is running, The Launcher will see that pacman.bat has ended, and the shutdown function will begin.
So use the start /w command if you create a bat file in this fashion.
Troubleshooting:
If you have trouble with the program you are trying to launch with The Launcher, try to run the program directly from windows by clicking on it's start program.
If the program runs ok when you try this, then double check the launcher.set file.
Make sure the line "Program to launch =" has the correct path and program name in it.
If this looks good, try running setup again and change program to launch to your program again.
If you still cannot launch the program, check for any errors by opening a file called "launcher.txt".
Launcher.txt is created when The Launcher encounters an error. The error number and description is printed to this file, along with the date and time. Launcher.txt should be located in the same folder as launcher.exe.
See if this file gives you any clues to the cause of the problem.
If not, there is another file that may be of use.
Each time The Launcher runs, it keeps a track of events in a file called "lalog1.txt".
You can look at the events by opening this file with notepad.
The next time The Launcher is ran, lalog1.txt is moved to lalog2.txt.
On the next run, lalog2.txt is moved to lalog3.txt. So you have a record of events for the last three times The Launcher has ran.
Open these files to see if they offer any clues.
If you still have no idea why the program wont launch, try creating a bat file and launching the bat file, which in turn runs the program.
Example:
Say I want to launch notepad.exe, but it refuses to run when launched by The Launcher.
I would create a bat file that runs (and waits) notepad.exe.
Rem this bat file is called notepad.bat
cd\ Rem this line changes to root directory
cd accessories Rem this line changes to the directory where notepad.exe is located
start /w notepad.exe Rem this line starts notepad.exe and waits for it to finish
Rem end of bat file
I would then launch the notepad.bat file with The Launcher.
Each program I have tried to launch has worked good for me, but I cant guarentee all programs will launch.
If you have a program that wont launch, please drop me a line and tell me about it. (email address below).
Computer will not shutdown when the launched program ends:
If the screen returns to Windows, make sure the line in launcher.set "Shutdown method =" has 1 or 2 behind it.
If "Shutdown method = 0" is on the line, The Launcher will not shutdown the computer. Also, if there is nothing to the right of "Shutdown method =", then The Launcher will default to zero.
If the computer hangs during shutdown, or if a message "It is safe to turn off your computer now" is displayed, try changing the number to the right of "Shutdown method =". If it is a "1", change it to a "2", or vice-versa.
Also, try shutting down the computer using the Windows shutdown method (Start, Turn off computer,Turn off).
If you are having the same problem, then the problem is not with The Launcher.
Please note that you must have an ATX style power supply to shut your computer down automatically.
The skin I want to use does not display:
The line in launcher.set "Skin =" must have a complete path to the skin, including the skin name.
The name must also include the .bmp extension.
Example:
Skin = c:\launcher\skins\myskin.bmp
Although you can enter the path and skin name in launcher.set, using notepad, it is highly suggested you run setup mode and open the skin from there.
Also, the skin must be located on the hard drive, and not a CD or floppy, unless you plan to leave the CD or floppy in the computer at all times. If the launcher.set file points to a skin on a removable disk, such as a floppy or CD, and the removable disk is not inserted into its drive, The Launcher will display an error. You will need to fix this to use The Launcher correctly.
The skin doesnt display correctly:
When you create the skin, it must be setup to your screen's resolution. If it's not, then the skin may not completly fill the screen, or part of it may not be displayed.
The key that is listed on the skin does not cancel the shutdown:
Check that the correct key is chosen in the setup mode (launcher options, select cancel key).
Just because the skin says a key will cancel the shutdown does not mean that the key will cancel it.
The cancel key must be selected in the setup mode.
If you want to use a different key, I suggest you open the skin with paint and change the text pertaining to that.
Example:
My skin says "Press ENTER to cancel the shutdown."
But I want to use the ESCAPE button to cancel it.
I would open the skin with Paint and edit the line to read:
"Press ESC to cancel the shutdown."
I would then save the skin in the same place and by the same name.
The install program includes 3 sample skins.
BB1024X728.bmp is a skin I created featuring donkey kong and my Benny B character. It for resoultion of 1024 X 728 pixels. It also lists the escape key as the cancel button. It also has a space for the countdown box to be inserted.
thanksforplaying_800X600.bmp is a cool skin created by Seth Brahler. It is for 800 X 600 resolution and features mario.
thanksforplaying_1025X768.bmp is basically the same skin created by Seth Brahler, but it is for 1025 X 768 resolution, and features a shutdown message.
Feel free to use these sample skins, or edit them to fit your needs.
They were included to give you an idea how to create your own.
About launcher.set:
Launcher.set contains the parameters The Launcher needs to run. This file can be opened and edited
with just about any text editor, I use notepad because it is quick and easy.
There are remarks in launcher.set that are provided to help you understand what is needed.
These remarks always begin with a pound sign (#).
Any lines in launcher.set that begin with # will be ignored by The Launcher.
There are 13 lines which must be written correctly up to the = sign.
If they are edited to something different, or if they are deleted,
The Launcher will delete the "corrupted" launcher.set file, and you will have to re-run setup.
Here are the 13 lines, and the format they must be written in:
_______________
Run Setup =
Program =
Shutdown method =
Seconds to cancel =
Key to cancel =
Countdown box X position =
Countdown box Y position =
Countdown box font =
Countdown box italic =
Countdown box fontsize =
Countdown box bold font =
Countdown box color =
Skin =
________________
It is possible to build a complete launcher.set file using notepad, but I highly suggest you let The Launcher do it
for you in setup mode. Also, whenever The Launcher builds a new launcher.set, all the remarks will be
included.
Special thanks:
Brian Siekmann and Seth Brahler for beta testing The Launcher.
Seth Brahler gave me the idea to use different skins, and he created a couple of really cool skins.
Dave Dribin, creator of GLaunch (http://www.dribin.org/dave/game_launcher/)
(Glaunch got me on this road to The Launcher)
Nicola Salmoria, creator of Mame (http://www.mame.net)
Tek-Tips, a great resource for VB6 programming: (http://www.tek-tips.com/threadminder.cfm?pid=222)
Inno Setup, great little tool to make install packages of your VB6 programs. http://www.jrsoftware.org/isinfo.php
Contact me:
I would like to hear from you.
Email me to comment on The Launcher, or if you need help..
kenrager@hotmail.com
Thanks for your interest in The Launcher..
Copyrighted 2006 Ken Rager. All rights reserved.

 

Im sure I have some spelling mistakes, please forgive me.

Copyright 2006 by Ken Rager