Saturday, July 12, 2014

Itazura Cat Coin Bank Part 2 (just Teddy)

Friday, July 11, 2014

How to Edit, Crop, Resize, and Remove Black Bars to Create Your Custom Vine Video

Miao Miao and the Sneaker (via Vine)

   

Don't you just love Vine?

Recently I discovered that you no longer have to hack Vine in order to upload a custom video. You just need to get VineClient which is an extension to the Google Chrome Web Browser. After downloading both of these, create a 480x480 pixel video and upload it from your computer. Couldn't be easier.

Cropping and Resizing Your Video

After shooting your original video, it's unlikely to be in square format. I have found the best way to fix this is by using Handbrake to crop the video. All of the tools that I have linked to are currently free.

Tip 2: Using Handbrake to Format Your Vine Video

Step 1: Click "Source" at the top and browse for your file.
Step 2: Look for "Destination" and click in the text box next to file. Browse for your intended directory and input a file name.
Step 3: Under "Size" type in 480 for the width and height.
Step 4: Under "Cropping" select "custom". You can allow Handbrake to automatically crop for you at your own risk.
Step 5: For the cropping, you'll need to do some math. Take the max width of your video and subtract 480. The remainder needs to be entered in the "left" and "right" crop text boxes (the sum of these values needs to equal the difference between 480 and your original width). The dimensions to your video will display after selecting the source.
Step 6: Repeat Step 5 for the height of the video.
Step 7: Click the green "Start" button at the top of the menu next to source.

If you have black bars, cropping is also an excellent way to remove them.

Upload Your Video to Vine with VineClient

VineClient currently supports 3GP, 3GP2, AVI, FLV, M1V, M2V, M4V, MKV, MOV, MP4, MPEG, OGG and WMV. If you have trouble uploading your video, alter the settings in Handbrake under video to MPEG-2. MPEG-4 is technically the preferred format for VineClient, but I have had the least technical issues with MPEG-2. If you notice that your video is cycling once or twice and then stopping on Vine, changing from MP4 to MPEG-2 has solved my issues in the past.

Questions?

If you have any questions, please leave them below! Also, the video above was originally a GIF, but I used Online-Convert to change it to MPEG-2 and it worked great, but it didn't work as well as an MP4. If you have any questions, please leave them below!

Vine Video Creation and Editing Service.

If you don't want to mess with creating your custom video for VINE or have something more advanced, I will format and optimize your VINE video for you for $5. Simply place an order through my page at GigBucks or click the ad below:

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Itazura Cat Coin Bank Review - A Toy for Cats in Disguise

Please not that I am an affiliate for Jlist and this post contains affiliate links for the Itazura Cat Coin Bank.

The Itazura Cat Coin Bank isn't really a cat toy, but that's why I bought it. With so little need for carrying around change, depending on the country in which you live, I can't imagine it being useful in any other way.

Teddy and Miao Miao Playing with the Itazura Cat Coin Bank

The full video of Teddy and Miao Miao meeting the Itazura Cat Coin Bank for the first time is on youtube.


I actually purchased the box secondhand, and I think that it's probably a knockoff, but there's no way to be sure. I read online that some fakes are going around. Despite that, it still works really well and says, "Thank you!" in Chinese after you press the white fish piece on the top. Apparently, some of the piggy banks offer English and Japanese and the language that you get is somewhat of a crap shoot.

You do need two AA batteries in order for the kitten inside to operate.This thing has kept my cats busy for hours and when I take it away they HOWL! Since it's not an actual cat toy, you shouldn't let them play with it unsupervised. I doubt they think it's a real animal, and Miao Miao (the Bengal) seems to be more skittish around it than anything else. If you have a curious cat that likes to explore and play with toys like a Bengal, Siamese, or Abyssinian, etc, this would be the perfect tool to alleviate boredom. Teddy pushes, bites, jumps on, paws, and tries to flip over the box to get out whatever he thinks is inside. Sometimes I will put it out in the middle of the floor and it keeps them busy for up to a half an hour when they are taking turns.

Please note that I am an affiliate for amazon.com. If you don't like cats, there are also Itazura Panda Coin Bank and Itazura Chihuahua / Choco Coin Bank. The boxes usually retail for around $25.00. And if your cat doesn't like it, don't worry. These piggy banks will give you an excuse to save for this year or the next. The boxes range in size, but are generally around 10 x 12 x 12 cm.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Second Edition: How to Edit Yourself Into Print Review

I've read a lot of different books on writing fiction, and hope that one day my writing will be good enough to get published. 

This post contains amazon affiliate links. If you click on one and buy something, I do receive nominal affiliate credit.

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Second Edition: How to Edit Yourself Into Print by Renni Browne and Dave King is one of the best books that I've read so far. The book was written by two professional editors who've seen the same common mistakes over and over again.

The formula of the book is as follows:
  1. You're going to write like this.
  2. Check your work to make sure you don't write like this.
  3. Fix your work by re-writing like this.
The strength of the book really lies in the examples. When you read through them,
you can intuitively pick up on something being
off in the excerpts, but it may not be clear why. The authors explains why something about the writing is wrong, bad, or uncomfortable, and then rewrite it and explain why the edited version works better.

The kindle price is currently $8.89.  I feel like I shouldn't complain, but because approximately 20% of the book is "homework", suggested answers, recommended reads, and the index, the book ends up feeling much shorter.

However, the book is modern, does not have filler, and the authors don't spend any time talking about themselves, so it's much better than a lot of other pretentious crap that I've read by hacks. If you're a beginning writer that has yet to read a book on editing fiction, Self-Editing for Fiction Writers will probably help you to sell a few more titles and pay for itself in the long run.



Thursday, May 22, 2014

Hope Lake Review - a casual hidden object game for Windows XP and up (PC)

Please note that this post contains Big Fish Games affiliate links.

Hope Lake is casual hidden object game developed by Mystery Tag, a new casual game developer, and Far Mills. It is currently available through bigfishgames.com.

Overall, the game is just creepy enough to be interesting and you gradually relax into it (I kept expecting the cloaked figure to pop up out of  nowhere, but it never did). It is rather well built, though the resolution on some of the video isn't great. However, I understand the desire to save space given the large file size.

The game involves the player exploring an abandoned boarding school located off of a poorly maintained road. Several young women have been kidnapped, and you play as the detective who is trying to find the one who has most recently gone missing Emily Lynch. The environment provides for decent exploration and mainly consists of progressing by repairing broken down objects from materials found within the environment.

I didn't find a walkthrough necessary (while playing in casual mode) because there is plenty of direction and if you get stuck, there is a radio available to push which leads you to the next scene with objects that can be manipulated.

The majority of the game involves finding objects and matching them to progress, but there are some purely hidden object scenes and a few puzzles dotted throughout. The main complaint that I had about the game was that some scenes were quite dark even with the flashlight. Also, I found it impossible to find an object labeled as "jar" because it looked more like a crushed can. There were also a few terms that I wasn't familiar with. For example, I wasn't sure what a "canter" (the noun) was, and even now (after looking it up in the dictionary), I'm not sure that the word was used properly.

Hope Lake's detail page claims that there are six hours of gameplay which is probably just long enough. It runs on Windows XP and up and the trial is just over 550MB.

If you enjoyed Trapped: The Abduction, then Hope Lake may be of interest to you. Please let me know your thoughts and comment below if you get stuck anywhere. Also, please let me know what your favorite hidden object game of all time is!

Friday, May 2, 2014

Review for Asus X401U 14" Laptop 500GB/4GB/HD7340/Windows8 (Black)

Please note that this post contains amazon.com affiliate links. If you click on the link and buy something, I receive nominal affiliate credit.
 
I bought the Asus X401U in January of this year (2014). Honestly, I wasn't thrilled to switch machines after using the same Dell laptop for several years. I actually tried to order another laptop from Dell, but the customer service people made it IMPOSSIBLE to complete my transaction on time, so I missed the deal that I wanted and they WOULDN'T give it to me even though it was their fault and I initiated the payment before the sale was over! I have never seen such utter incompetence. I had to tell them several times, "You are not listening to me." I even have a credit account there, but they still failed to sell a computer to me. Unbelievable. I happily took my business elsewhere and I will never buy direct from them again.

Anyway, it was difficult adjustin to the new computer, but I'm happy now. Overall, the processing speed is fine. I use it to make 2D games and perform other basic Internet and office activities, so unless you're a power user, the machine should work just fine for basic needs. If you want to run resource-intensive games, I'm not sure how it would do.
The biggest problem that I ran into was the combination microphone and stereo / headphones jack. Although, I did come up with a fix eventually, I don't think that you can use the mic and audio through the combo jack at the same time. However, you can use an external microphone and internal speakers at the same time, or external speakers and the built-in microphone at the same time, but it's not ideal. If you just use the built in microphone, it's not very powerful and has trouble picking up your voice. Also, the speakers can be pretty quiet when listening to some media online. I don't think a headset will work through it. I read online that because of a hardware limitation, even a 3.55mm jack splitter will not help (I tried it myself), but you could try using a microphone to USB adapter. I read online in the forums that someone got it to work, but I'm not sure if they were able to use external speakers with it at the same time.

Also, don't bother using the pop-up warranty prompt when you start your Asus laptop for the first time. It doesn't work anymore, so just go straight to the Asus website to register.

Asus X401U has a few quirks, but it definitely deserves more than 3 out of 5 stars for the price. I think that with the recent updates to Windows 8.1, the customers at amazon.com may have changed their minds about their ratings. For $300, it would make a great gift for any mom, grandma, or college student in need of a new machine.

Do you have this machine? Tell me what you think in the comments below. I can also help if you have had any issues with troubleshooting the audio devices, etc.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

My First Vine Video - Grandma vs Wearable Technology

Special thanks to Mike Yohe! He's a super funny guy and I hope you guys reach out and hire him if you ever have any video recording needs.

I often get push back from distributors when trying to pitch my visual novels because they assume that the games are essentially porn. One of the reasons I made this video was to advertise VisualNovelGames.com as a non-adult website.

I also did it to express my frustration with voice recognition technology and to point out how ridiculous wearable technology looks.

I hope the video gives my subscribers a few laughs. Please share it with your friends and let them know that visual novels are interactive fiction and not all of them have adult content.