DEAL: Affinity Photo and Designer 30% off on all platforms

Affinity Photo and Designer apps, from Serif Europe Ltd., are both currently on sale for 30% off. The price applies to both desktop and iPad versions. The desktop versions are available for both Windows and macOS, priced at $34.99 each (regularly $50) across the Affinity website, the Microsoft Store, and the Mac App Store. The iPad versions of Photo and Designer are $13.99 (regularly $20) in the iOS App Store.  The Microsoft Store shows 8 days remaining on the sale, implying that it may end around July 26.

It’s a pretty good deal on professional level photo editing and vector-based graphic design software that is regularly compared to Adobe products, especially given the one-time purchase and no subscription fees. Photo won the iPad App of the Year for 2017, and also the Windows Developer Awards in 2018.

There are also workbooks that Affinity calls “the official guides” for the apps on macOS and Windows that are also 30% off and now $34.99 (plus $4.99 shipping). I already own the apps, but given how much they can do, these workbooks are tempting. If that price is too steep, there are a bunch of official tutorial videos hosted on Vimeo for free.

Note: the apps are separate on each platform. Purchasing the desktop app for Windows via their site doesn’t also get you the app in the Windows Store. Additionally, purchasing the Windows or Mac version doesn’t net you the app on the opposing platform. So make sure you know which version you want. The Windows Store version will get you easy installs and updates, while the standard desktop version has no limits on when and where you install it (as long as it’s your own PCs, of course).

How To: Disable Annoying Magix Ads

Magix Software GmbH produces several different media applications, including VEGAS Pro, VEGAS Movie Studio, Music Maker, and others for Windows. If the VEGAS name sounds familiar, the company acquired much of the Sony Creative Software portfolio in May 2016, including the popular VEGAS software line. I’ve used VEGAS Movie Studio products for years, and purchased VEGAS Pro 14 in a recent Humble Bundle. I’ve always liked the software. One very unfortunate effect of that change, though, is that Magix now appears to bundle an application that repeatedly shows ads for their applications and add-ons in the lower right corner of the desktop where Windows 10 notifications often display.

If you are seeing these ads, there will be an application called Connect in your installed apps list on Windows. In the list of apps, it may not show Magix as the publisher, but if you click uninstall, the confirmation should show Magix. If you remove this app, the ads should stop showing immediately. Here’s hoping that Magix realizes that this does nothing but irritate users and removes this separate ad-ware app from their software installs. I was about to uninstall all Magix software I could find on my system before I found the Connect app. I already removed the Music Maker app. For now I will leave VEGAS installed, and see if Magix tries to force the Connect app to be installed again through updates or anything.

Encoding h.264 Video for the Nook Color using Handbrake

The Nook Color from Barnes and Noble has a nice 7” IPS screen with a resolution of 1024×600, and also supports adding storage using a MicroSD card up to 32GB.  Given that, it makes sense to encode movies from DVD or other sources for viewing on the Nook.  There are some limitations though, due to the hardware.  As noted in the Nook FAQ:

Your NOOK Color supports the following video file formats: 3gp, 3g2, mp4, m4v; MPEG-4 Simple Profile up to 854×480; H.263 up to 352×288; H.264 Baseline profile up to 854×480

Your NOOK Color will not support the following video file formats: Flash (Flv/swf); Mov/qt; AVI; MKV; Xvid/divx; WMV / VC-1; H.264 Main and High profile; and videos with a resolution higher than 854×480

Continue reading “Encoding h.264 Video for the Nook Color using Handbrake”

Streaming h.264 from Windows Home Server to Xbox 360 (Part 2)

After configuring my WHS so that it will stream h.264 to my Xbox, I now need to convert some movies.  For converting movies to h.264, Handbrake seems to be a good solution, if not the most user friendly.  It offers numerous options, many of which are explained on the Handbrake User Guide.  There are several presets available with options preconfigured for specific devices, though they are mainly targeted towards Apple i-devices.  Unfortunately, there is no preset for Xbox 360 in the current version (v0.94), with developers claiming in their forums that none of them have one, that it doesn’t support standards properly, and it seems to be not worth their time.  Despite that, I still want to find a good combination of settings to produce nice looking h.264 files that will stream to the Xbox.

I started out with the High Profile preset in Handbrake.  However, that did not work out, as there was a lot of stuttering and pausing upon playback from the 360.  I tried the normal profile, which was much smoother, but did not look as good.  Then I began to tweak settings, mainly on the Advanced tab to product a conversion somewhere between Normal and High.

Continue reading “Streaming h.264 from Windows Home Server to Xbox 360 (Part 2)”

Streaming h.264 from Windows Home Server to Xbox 360 (Part 1)

I’ve been working on this one for a while.  I’ve seen suggestions all over the place for streaming movies to the Xbox 360, ranging from using transcoding apps to converting your ripped movies to various formats.  For my purposes, I would prefer to use a single, standard, portable format for my ripped DVD movies which precludes the use of a transcoding app like Transcode360 or some of the others.  h.264 appears to be the dominant format moving forward for video storage, usable across many platforms and devices, and retaining high quality at decent bit rates.

Unfortunately WHS v1 has Windows Media Player 10 and Windows Media Connect 2.0 installed, which doesn’t support streaming MPEG-4.  The Zune software appears to offer such support.  Unfortunately, the Zune software doesn’t install on WHS natively, and requires software from Windows Media Player 11.  WMP 11 also will not install on WHS or Windows Server 2003.  After doing some searching, I found a post on the We Got Served Wiki on installing WMP and Zune.

I followed the process for installation and configuration of WMP11 on WHS.  Only difference was that I used 7-zip to extract the WMP11 download.  Then, to install Zune, I downloaded the setup package (ZuneSetupPkg-x86.exe), and extracted it with 7-zip into it’s own folder.  Then I went into the packages folder and ran Zune-x86.msi, which installed successfully.  After the Zune install finished, I ran it and set the folders to recognize the WHS media folders.  This allowed me to stream h.264 files (with .M4V extension) to the Xbox 360.  Using the right settings for converting movies so that it will play smoothly on the 360 is another story.