Two more tools for the digital arts

Back in October of last year I created a list of creative tools that are either free or come in at a very low cost for people looking to get started with creative projects in technology, which from now on I am going to refer to as the Digital Arts.

Recently I added two more to the list, which are OBS Studio and OpenShot. I have not had the chance to get into OpenShot yet but it looks promising and possibly a simpler version of Davinci Resolve. At some point in the near future I will open it up and play with it some so that I can do some type of review of it. I have, however, spent a fair amount of time in OBS Studio and plan to do my first instructional video soon covering how to setup and deploy green screen streaming with it.

Open Broadcasting Studio Logo OBS Studio or Open Broadcaster Software is an open source tool that makes streaming video through platforms like Twitch, Mixer, and You Tube simple. You can literally be up in running in less then 10 minutes.

Green Screen Test for my YouTube Channel

So after seeing Jeffrey Fritz do a live code stream using a green screen I was inspired to give it a try. Luckily he also provided a Live Stream 101 page that detailed his setup. So last week I downloaded the recommended software, upgraded my webcam and went to Walmart to purchase a temporary green screen, which literally was a green piece of construction paper that I scotch taped to a window screen that I leaned up against the back of my chair. I spent way to much time adjusting it to cover my entire background (It was about an inch or two too short to use it like I intended). Anyway after spending about twenty minutes trying to get that setup just right I was ready to do my First Green Screen Test for my YouTube Channel, which is what you see below.

So the first lesson I took from this test were get a real green screen, which I did. Well I have ordered the cheapest one I could find on Amazon that included a support stand. I will do a review on this one Green Screen from Amazonlater after I have had a chance to use it some. If you are thinking about ordering the same screen based on this post or my upcoming review please use the Amazon affiliate link at the bottom of this post.

The second thing I learned is that lighting is extremely important. As you can see from the off color square around my head in the video. (I think) I was pushing too much light onto my green screen, which caused it to appear a little washed out. As I said this test consisted of using construction paper taped to an object leaning against my chair so it wasn’t the best environment to do a lot of adjusting before hand and impossible to adjust while the recording was going on.

The last thing I learned from this test is that “good enough” is good enough. I must have started and stopped this recording 20 times trying to get through what I wanted to say without stuttering, tripping over my words or pausing for a second or two to arrange my thoughts between sentences.  After what must have been the 20th time I just decided to run though it one more time and be okay with any imperfections in my spoken word. – much like I do with my written word in the posts on this blog.

I will continue to update this blog with any new videos I post and with the new things I learn as I do more and more of it.  And, finally, as a reminder I am including a link ad to the green screen I ordered below. Clicking on it and ordering from Amazon will help support this site.

Three Rivers Area Creative Computer People

Next  year (January of 2018) I would like to start a Creative Computer People user Group for the Three Rivers area. In the beginning I am thinking that we would start out with the basics, which could be as basic as getting the various programs installed on the attendees computers. Next we could pick one of the programs and work with interface to become comfortable with the application and then build a basic project with it.

Ideally, for me anyway, I would like to start with Blender 3D because once you get the basics of it down working on Unity or Fusion will make more sense to the users. It is also a very powerful program that you can do some amazing projects with in a short amount of time. The major barrier in the beginning is the user interface, which is where we can put a lot of the focus in the early stages.

If you are unfamiliar with blender take some time to check out the site by clicking the logo below.
Blender LogoAlso be sure to check out the Open Projects site to see some of the amazing animations being made with this tool.

If  you have any interest in joining this group and you are in the Three Rivers Area please email me of leave a comment on this post. If I can at least two more people to commit to coming I will see about getting a room at the community center in Three Rivers.

Check out My Creative and Budget Friendly Toolbox List post to see all the tools that we could potentially work with in group meetings.

My Creative and Budget Friendly Toolbox List

Creative Tool ListFirst of all I am not an artistically creative person.  However I do aspire to be one, at least, in the digital world. And not being a creative in art, but loving the idea of doing it, has always made it hard for me to justify the cost of the tooling for “dabbling” in that world. Recently I have discovered several tools that are either free or have a very lost cost of entry, at least in the dollar sense. So if you are a creative person who would like to get into digital art but can’t afford tools like the Adobe Suite. Here is my creative and budget friendly toolbox list with a brief description of that the tool will help you get done.

  • Davinci Resolve A professional quality video and sound editor. There is a free version available, which contains a ton of great features and is probably enough for most people who are just getting started in digital creative.
  • Davinci Fusion A program for creating visual effects, 3D, VR and other motion graphics. Free and pay versions are available.
  • Blender A free and open source 3D creation suite. It supports the entirety of the 3D pipeline—modeling, rigging, animation, simulation, rendering, compositing and motion tracking, even video editing and game creation.
  • Unity A cross-platform game engine used to develop video games for PC, consoles, mobile devices and websites. See the Unity 3d site for use restrictions but at the time of this post it is free if you company makes less then 100K in annual gross revenue.
  • Snagit A lightweight tool for capturing screen shots and doing screen casting. It is not free but the cost is very reasonable.
  • Visual Studio A tool for building desktop applications, websites, and mobile applications that run on all the major platforms. There is a community version that is free for small teams.
  • VS Code is a streamlined (cross platform) code editor with support for development operations like debugging, task running and version control. It aims to provide just the tools a developer needs for a quick code-build-debug cycle and leaves more complex workflows to fuller featured IDEs.

Edit 10/27/2017: A couple of days after I put this post up I was made aware of three more open source creative applications (for people on a budget). I haven’t used any of these three, yet, so I won’t comment on them but they do look like a good fit for this list.

  • Gimp is an acronym for GNU Image Manipulation Program. It is a freely distributed program for such tasks as photo retouching, image composition and image authoring.
  • Inkscape is a professional quality vector graphics software. It is used by design professionals and hobbyists worldwide, for creating a wide variety of graphics such as illustrations, icons, logos, diagrams, maps and web graphics.
  • Scribus is an open source page layout application with professional desktop publishing features.

Edit 11/6/2017 One more to add. It is an audio editor that I haven’t had a chance to use yet but a good friend of mine uses it all the time to edit audio files.

  • Audacity is a free, open source, cross-platform audio software for multi-track recording and editing.

Edit 1/2/2018 I have two more to add today.

  • OBS Studio (Open Broadcast Software) is a free, open source, cross platform software for video recording or live streaming.
  • OpenShot is a free, open source, cross platform video editing software package.

Edit 1/5/2018 Adding one more to the list.

  • Daz 3D is a Powerful 3D Composition & Rendering Software that create photo realistic results.

All of these with the exception of Snagit can be overwhelming for people who are just getting started. So if you are someone who would like to collaborate on these tools and the type of projects that you can do with them. Please contact me. I would love to create a community of digital creative types (especially but not necessarily around the South West Michigan area). A Creative Tool User Group, so to speak.

Windows Movie Maker Replacement for Windows 10

In the last few years, from time to time, I have been asked to edit some videos for my employer. The edits mostly consisted of trimming off bits and pieces of the video as well as adding intros etc. Since the edits were relatively small the built in Windows Movie Maker (Window Live Essentials) was always good enough for our needs.

However in January of 2017 Microsoft removed the download link from the site so after a clean install of a PC I was unable to download it. And even though I was able to find the setup files from my prior computer it would no longer install on the version of Windows 10 I was running. So I did a little searching and found there is a replacement coming called (I think) Microsoft Story but it is in beta now and I needed something that was ready to go right now.

After trying a few commercial programs like Pinnacle and Coral Visual Studio I decided on the Pinnacle program and almost made the purchase. The only thing that held me back was the licensing, which only allowed one install on one computer. I regularly use three different computers depending on where I am at, which meant that I was going to buy three copies. I decided to hold off and look for a open source solution.

I found a few but nothing that really impressed me much. I was almost ready to pay the money for Pinnacle when I heard about Black Magic Design’s DaVinci Resolve from the SMR Podcast.

Davinci Resolve
I immediately downloaded and tried it and was blown away with the features. Oh and I forgot to mention. It is free. There is a pay version but the only features missing from the free version are some collaboration and 3D tools so this was perfect for my needs. And if you have read this far into this post I suspect that Resolve will be perfect for your needs also.

After playing with it for a few minutes and being overwhelmed by the interface I went to the training link on the Davinci Resolve’s site and found there is a book available, which can be purchased in the Kindle format for only $2.99. The book is for the 12.5 version of Resolve but I am 5 chapters into it and haven’t found any difference in versions that I couldn’t resolve by poking around the menu a little bit.

By the way the book is the Definitive Guide to Editing with DaVinci Resolve 12.5 (Blackmagic Design Learning Series)

Another great place to find help is You Tube. There are plenty of videos available and I can recommend Casey Faris’s videos specifically

So if you have any interest in video editing and have not tried out Davinci Resolve I recommend you do so right away.

Windows Application Development Cookbook Error Help

If you, like me, purchased the Windows Application Development Cookbook and are working through the examples you may find that you get an error on the Introducing Bindings and commands in the MVVM and Data Binding section.

Suppression State Error CS0619 ‘ImplementPropertyChangedAttribute’ is Windows Application Development Cookbookobsolete: ‘This configuration option has been deprecated. The use of this attribute was to add INotifyPropertyChanged to a class with its associated event definition. After that all classes that implement INotifyPropertyChanged have their properties weaved, weather they have the ImplementPropertyChangedAttribute or not. This attribute was often incorrectly interpreted as an opt in approach to having properties weaved, which was never the intent nor how it ever operated. This attribute has been replaced by AddINotifyPropertyChangedInterfaceAttribute.’

The error is somewhat self explanatory and the answer is right there in the text but it wasn’t immediately clear to me, a MVVM novice, on how to fix it. So after a little Googling and some trial and error I was able to finish the recipe by changing the


in the recipe to


While that worked for the sample in the book I didn’t think that was the correct (or complete) answer. So I did a little more experimenting and found that if I commented out the attribute above the class name and added INotifyPropertyChanged to the end of the class name it also worked.

public class MainViewModel : INotifyPropertyChanged

I have no idea of the differences between the two or if I am still doing something wrong but the second one feels like the correct version because it fits the more common model I have seen in sample code.

If you know the difference between the two or what the more correct modification is please leave a comment because I would really like to understand the differences. I have did a little searching on my own but couldn’t find anything definitive.

Oh and don’t forget to add the following to the page.

public event PropertyChangedEventHandler PropertyChanged;

Updated 10/29/2017 – I found this post on Stack Overflow with more information about this subject.

Error on using Fody [ImplementPropertyChanged]

Little ASP.NET Core Book

Every since ASP.Net Core was released I have been chomping at the bit to convert my MVC learning project, Northern Dog Site, to a MVC Core site. I started to do the conversion early on but I had too many problems with the transition from the first release and then to 1.0 and finally 1.1 that I decided to wait it until the platform stabilized a little before going too deep into it.

So with the recent release of MVC Core 2.0 I feel that there is now some stability with the platform and the tooling so it was finally time to take the deep dive. However doing a quick search on Amazon I find there aren’t any books, available right now, that contain 2.0 content. So getting started now means relying on the few tutorials on Microsoft’s site that have been converted to 2.0. While that is better then nothing I really prefer reading from a book and working through a project chapter by chapter.

Unfortunately most of the books listed for purchase on Amazon aren’t slated to come out until spring of 2018, which meant I was just going to have to be patient. Well that was until this showed up in my Twitter Feed

The Little ASP.Net Core BookI wrote this short book to help developers and people interested in web programming learn about ASP.NET Core 2.0, a new framework for building web applications and APIs.

This short (and free!) book is structured as a tutorial. You’ll build an app from start to finish and learn:

  • How to build a web app with the ASP.NET Core framework
  • The basics of the MVC (Model-View-Controller) pattern
  • How to read and write data to a database
  • How to add log-in, registration, and security
  • How to deploy the app to the web

Don’t worry, you don’t need to know anything about ASP.NET Core (or any of the above) to get started.

It’s everything I wanted in one package. And it’s free. Perfect! Check it out yourself here on the book’s website.

Visual Studio Code

Visual Studio Code LogoSo by now I have definitely heard the buzz around Visual Studio Code. I even downloaded and kicked the tires the same day the public beta was released. It’s just that I spend most of my time building desktop applications so I didn’t see what the big deal was and I was never drawn to it. I did use it on a regular basis as a Notepad replacement so it was top of mind when I had a project where I had to work on some HTML5.

So I tried it as a HTML editor and still wasn’t all that impressed with it (at first). All that changed after I added a few extensions, changed the theme  and altered the default font.

Visual Studio Code Window

Now it is absolutely my favorite tool for working with HTML, CSS and JavaScript. The Intellisence is fast and useful, there a vast number of extensions that make it even better, it includes a built in debugging tool and the best part is that it is completely free,

You can get an idea of the its power and extensibility by checking out the Visual Studio Code Marketplace. So far my favorite extensions are

  1. Auto Close Tag
  2. C# for Visual Studio Code
  3. Custom Theme for Visual Studio Code
  4. HTML CSS Support
  5. HTML Snippets
  6. Live HTML Previewer.

I am sure there are other great extensions and can’t wait to dig deeper into the marketplace to find some of them.

For the most part I live in Visual Studio Professional and I don’t see this tool changing that for the majority of my work. However this is currently my number one choice for, I hate to say, light editing work. And to be clear I hate to say it because it is more then just a light weight text editor. It is an extremely powerful editor with professional features. So I won’t claim that it is a “must have” tool but I will say that it’s definitely a “must try” tool.

Oh and I should mention that its a cross platform editor that will run on Windows, Linux and Apple.




Things to do in 2017 (Not a Resolution)

Every year I try to set a few goals around software development that help push my skill set up to the next level. In 2016 it was MVC and ASP.Net Core, which didn’t Things to do in 2017 work out for me because when I started my journey down that path ASP.Net core wasn’t fully baked nor was the tooling completely ready for prime time.

I purchased two separate books to learn ASP.Net Core and both were early release books so I expected there would be some changes, debugging and tweaking that would need to be done to get the sample code working. However I ended up spending all my time trying to get the project up and running like the one in the book. So much so that I decided to abandon it for now and just wait for Microsoft to finish with the tooling before I tried again.

The other thing I decided to work on in 2016 was the Windows 10 Universal Platform, which I have had much better success with. I am feeling pretty good about the environment now and have just added MVVM to my skill set. Should the platform ever take off I feel like I will be well prepared to take advantage of it.

So for 2017 I have decided to build on the Universal Windows Application knowledge and delve into the Xamarin platform. Although I will be limited to Microsoft and Android because, for now, I do not have any Mac devices, which is a requirement for building applications on the IOS platform.

Next and something I have never considered before is game development. Well, at least, I am committing to leaning how to use the Unity 3d tools for game development. At this point in my career I don’t expect that I will ever actually build and release an original game to any marketplace. I can, however, see building training tools with Unity to use in corporate environments that run on the desktop and possibly in 3d.

So that covers 2017 and I can’t wait to see what this year will bring for 2018!

Windows 7 Update Never Stops Checking for Updates

Recently I was tasked with staging some Windows 7 machines that needed to have all the updates, since Service Pack 1 for Windows 7 was released, installed. However on all four machines the were stuck in a mode where the Windows 7 update never stops checking for updates. In the first instance I let the search go on for 30 hours before I cancelled it.

They were all new machines that came with Windows 7 Professional Server Pack 1 pre-installed. They happened to all be Hewlett Packard Desktops but I think that is irrelevant to the problem I was having.

Windows 7 Update Never Stops Checking for Updates

Per a Google I found several sights with suggested fixes but nothing worked. That is until I found this on a Microsoft Answer site, which I am posting here so that I can find it later should I need it and so that it may help someone else with the same problem.

The first step, which none of the of the sites from the early searches ever mentioned was to download the Windows Update Client from Microsoft’s support site. You can go to the site yourself by typing this into your location bar Or go directly to the page via this link Windows Update Client for Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2: March 2016

There are versions for Windows 7, Sever 2008 in both 32 and 64 bit so make sure you select the correct download for your version of Windows. Once you have the file downloaded but before you run it. Open a Command Prompt as an administrator by right clicking on it and selected “Run as administrator”

Run as Admin

Once the command window is open type: net stop wuauserv

Command Prompt Window








You should get a message similar to the one above (although the screen shot comes from a Windows 10 machine and not 7) noting that the service was stopped successfully.

With a success message you can now run the downloaded program from earlier. After the installation is complete, reboot your computer and then try the Windows Update again.

In my case, for these particular machines, this suggested fix took care of the problem. However your mileage may vary.