How to run Might and Magic III (from GOG) on your Mac

I’ve recently discovered GOG.com, the service that provides “good old games” from yesteryear to retro connoisseurs like myself. Games that used to run well on DOS and other long forgotten platforms are getting a new lease on life by being packaged up to run on today’s technology.

Many games run on Windows, Mac and even Linux – but some are only available for single platforms, mostly Windows. The Might and Magic 6-pack is such an example, available for only $9.99 (a total bargain, considering it’s 7 games).

I remember getting “Isles of Terra” free with a computer magazine in the nineties. I’m not usually into role playing games, but having enjoyed Bard’s Tale III on my C64 many years before, I gave this one a shot and loved it – just like its sequels (Clouds of Xeen and Darkside of Xeen, together making up a whole new game called World of Xeen).

I wanted to find out if I’d still enjoyed this game today, so I tried installing it on my Mac using a Windows 7 VM with Parallels Desktop. However, it didn’t run well and the mouse is interpreted rather weirdly. That’s no surprise really, because it means I’m running an emulator inside another emulator. Of course things will go wrong!

Might and Magic is installed using the DOSbox emulator under Windows, and as soon as you click the launch icon, DOSbox is launched, and within it the actual game. Thing is, DOSbox is also available for Mac, several Linux flavours and some other exotic platforms – so I was wondering if I could somehow just run DOSbox on my Mac and launch the original files from within it.

To my surprise, it works great!

Let me show you how I did it in this article. Continue reading How to run Might and Magic III (from GOG) on your Mac





How to export 4k video with Premiere Pro CS 5.5

I’ve finally worked out how to export 4k and 2.7k footage with my 6 year old version of Premiere Pro. That’s exciting news and gives the software a new lease on life!

With the standard export presets, tweaked to a resolution higher than 1920×1080, I’ve always encountered the following error message:

Invalid framesize/framerate for this Level. Please lower the Frame Dimensions, Frame Rate or increase the Profile and Level and try again.

Turns out Premiere has actually given me the answer to my problem right there in that error message, I just never really read beyond “lower the frame dimensions”.

Let me show you how to overcome this 1080p limitation in Premiere Pro CS 5.5 and export hi-res video without a hitch.

Continue reading How to export 4k video with Premiere Pro CS 5.5





If you can’t see your Kindle content on another device

I have several Amazon accounts: one in the US, one in the UK, and one ein Germany. Every now and again I de-register one of my Kindles from one account and register it with another one. Depends on what content I’d like to read and on which account it’s available.

The other day I switched my Kindle Fire from my German Amazon account back to my US account, my main account, containing all my my english content. To my surprise, the device registered fine, identified itself as “Jay’s Kindle”, but none of my content was showing up. Likewise, the device was not showing as registered on my web interface.

What was going on? Where was all my content? This had worked not too long ago!

I tried installing the Kindle iOS app on my iPhone and registered it too – only to find it behaved exactly the same way: no content, and the device was not showing itself on my Amazon account.

After getting in touch with Customer Service, I can now tell you what happened – and a neat trick of avoiding it, should it happen again. Interested? Read on! Continue reading If you can’t see your Kindle content on another device





How to cure Kindle Fire sync issues

Back in 2011 I bought a first generation Kindle Fire in the US. It hadn’t been released anywhere else, and this device started the whole Kindle Tablet business for Amazon.

It’s still working, and I’m still using it as a “bedside” Kindle (my Kindle 3, or Kindle Keyboard, doesn’t have a backlight, so the Fire is my “reading in the dark” companion).

Trouble is, the Kindle Fire doesn’t always sync my books with other Kindle devices. Sometimes it does, but sometimes it does not – and I never really knew what to do about it.

Until some online research gave me the solution that I’d like to share with you. Just in case this happens to your device.

This fix may work with other (Android based) Kindle Fire devices too, but I’ve only tested it with a first generation Fire (serial starts with D01E, Firmware 6.4.3).

Continue reading How to cure Kindle Fire sync issues





How to combine an Image Sequence into a video file with Blender

Did you know that Blender has a built-in video editor? We can use that to turn an image sequence into a movie file. I’ve described how to do this Photoshop here, but I thought it would be fun to try the same thing in Blender.

Here’s how to do it: Continue reading How to combine an Image Sequence into a video file with Blender





How to display a movie on a plane in Blender (Blender Render)

To show an animated video clip on a plane inside our scene, we can texture our plane object accordingly. Here’s how to do it using the Blender Render. engine (this won’t work in Cycles).

  • select the plane object and create a new Material on it (in the Materials Tab on the Properties Palette)
  • under the Shading Tab, select shadeless
  • leave all the other settings alone here

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Head over to the Textures Tab next to the Materials Tab and create a new texture. Set it to Image or Movie and select your video. You can also pic a single image or an Image Sequence here.

Under Image you can select at which frame your movie should start. Hit Match Movie Length to choose all frames in your movie (because we can’t tell how long it is, but Blender needs to know).

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Peek at the Preview section to see our video show up. Never mind the repetition or distortion for now.

In our final render, the background will probably look a little washed out. To combat that, head over to the World Tab and set the Horizon Colour to black.





How to hook a track to a vertex in Blender

Hooking is a technique with which you can attach one vertex to follow another object. This can be useful if the outline of an object (such as a plane) needs to be distorted when it follows tracking markers.

Here’s how to do it:

  • select the the object you want to track (such as an empty that follows a track)
  • now SHIFT select the object that you want the previous object to follow
  • switch into Edit Mode (TAB) and select the vertex you’d like to follow
  • now select CTRL+H and choose Hook to Selected Object

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The selected vertices will move with the hooked object.





How to combine a 3D render with a background image in Photoshop

In this video I’ll show you how to render an image in DAZ Studio and compose it onto a background image in Photoshop.

We’ll use the Shader Mixer and a Shadow Catcher in DAZ Studio to make the figure cast a shadow but be otherwise transparent. In Photoshop we’ll add artificial depth of field to an arbitrary background picture using Smart Objects, and I’ll introduce some techniques to blend both images together for extra realism (all non-destructively).

The final picture is going to look like this (featuring the 3D Universe Toon Crab and a new lifeguard tower in my neighbourhood). composite

The whole video is nearly 40mins long, so grab a cup of tea and enjoy.





How to use the Grappling Hook in XIII for GameCube

unknownI was playing XIII again the other day. The US GameCube version this time. I remember enjoying XIII on the original Xbox back in the day, as well as on PC.

Even today, there’s nothing quite like playing these old style shooters with blurry textures and blocky unsmoothed 3D objects.

That aside, I had a tough time making the Grappling Hook work, mainly because the controls on the GameCube version must be the most terrible in the history of console gaming. Sadly my copy did not come with an instruction booklet, but at $4.99 with free shipping I’m not complaining. I found no instructions on the internet either, I’m probably a lost cause and too late for the XIII party anyway.

For future generations, and my future self, here’s how the XIII GameCube control work (from what I could figure out). Continue reading How to use the Grappling Hook in XIII for GameCube





How to create a translucent shader in Blender (Cycles)

screen-shot-2016-11-21-at-14-24-08By default all our 3D objects are opaque, meaning light does not pass through them. Like a brick wall. But many objects in reality let some amount of light through, like a piece of paper or a glass of lemonade. This partial transparency is called translucency.

In the picture above, light passes through the leaf, partially illuminating the ground underneath it. We can setup such a shader in Blender like this:

  • in between the Diffuse and Material Output node, connect an Add Shader
  • create a Translucent Shader and connect its output to the second input of the Add Shader (top or bottom does not matter)
  • connect the Color Output of your texture to the Color Input of the Translucent Shader

Here’s what such a shader looks like:

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In the above image, I have combined this translucent setup with a transparency shader, so that the leaf can be “cutout” using the texture’s transparent background. Here’s what that looks like:

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