MagCloud 20% off

Just got an email saying that MagCloud has a 20% off sale until August 30, so you might want to print your PhotoMag magazines sooner rather than later. The promo code you need is SAVE20. (See this post and this post.)

(I’m not connected with MagCloud and don’t get paid when you use the service. The only way I benefit is in helping them stay in business so they’re around when I need them. I have a vacation coming up.)

PhotoMag for Mac now, too!

Well, the whole point of using Electron is that it’s portable, so I decided to test that out by firing up the Mac, moving the code over, and seeing if it would run. There were a few very minor glitches, but I got it running perfectly, near as I can tell, in less than an hour. So, you can now download it for the Mac, too.

PhotoMag: a new app for creating photo magazines

PhotoMag1

When I return from a vacation I like to create a photo magazine containing a few dozen photos. Nothing as prestigious or expensive as a photo book, but much handier to pass around to family and friends than a phone or having them gather in front of a computer screen. The equivalent of one of those photo albums that could hold 12 or 24 4×6 prints. It’s not a book you design, with custom page layouts, but rather a book that you stuff with prints as quickly as you can. (If you want a fancy book, there are many ways to create one.)

With MagCloud, the magazines are cheap. For example, I just made one with 60 photos for $6.40. (Twenty cents a page, with two photos on a page. Add two pages for the covers.) Doing a book with Blurb would cost about $25. (MagCloud is owned by Blurb, who bought it from HP, manufacturer of the printers that MagCloud uses.)

You can easily create a suitable PDF with Lightroom’s Print module, but I don’t like the way it positions captions. For one thing, you have to reserve a fixed amount of space below each photo for the largest caption. It’s better to vary the size of the photo, so the photos are bigger if the captions are short. Also, Lightroom has no provision for front and back covers, which are full-page-size photos. You have to add them to the PDF with another program, such as PDFsam Basic (free) or Acrobat (expensive). And, of course, not everyone has Lightroom.

I developed a great app for producing these magazines called ProofSheet, but it’s Mac only, and I have no interest in programming a similar app for Windows. For a while I used a PHP program that I wrote that formats the pages as HTML, and then uses the browser’s print facility to create the PDF. That worked fine, but it was impractical for anyone other than me to use, because it has to run locally, not on a server. Uploading the photos to a server is too cumbersome and too slow. Installing a local server is too much to ask of most people.

Recently, I wrote PhotoMag, using the portable technologies offered by Electron. It does as good a job as ProofSheet, but has fewer formatting features. (No page titles or information above the photos, only below.) It’s fine for my purposes, and it might work for you, too.

If you want to use PhotoMag, it’s free, and you can download it here. It’s for Windows 64-bit only. I’ve only tested it on Windows 10, but it might run on earlier versions as well. It’s implementation is entirely portable, and I expect I’ll have a Mac version in a few weeks, but don’t hold me to it. (Meanwhile, you can use ProofSheet on a Mac.)

How I do backups now – updated

When I last blogged about my backup plan, I was using Disk Master Free to do a backup each night, in addition to the continuous backups with Bvckup and CrashPlan. A reader suggested that having both local backups online all the time made then accessible to ransomware and viruses. So, I dropped the Disk Master Free backup and replaced it with two full backups once a week, alternating weeks. That way I get a week to discover if one of them has been compromised during the short time it was online. I’d have to go to CrashPlan with its time-consuming restore only for the files not on the last good backup. Safer, and not much additional work.

So, it’s:

  • Continuous backup with Bvckup and CrashPlan.
  • Once-a-week to alternating disks (also with Bvckup), kept offline when not being written to.
  • Photos to Amazon S3 a few times a year.

ImageVerifier for MacOS

Now you can download ImageVerifier for MacOS directly from my website, instead of buying it from the Mac App Store. You get a newer version, and I get a larger piece of the pie.

If you have the Mac App Store version and you want to upgrade for free, send me a support request and confirm that you have purchased the Mac App Store version.

I’ve changed the version number of the Windows version to match that of the Mac, so they’re both now 2.10.

The download link for both platforms can be found here.

ImageVerifier for Windows is back

I took it away last week when ImageIngester was removed from sale, but now ImageVerifier is back. (ImageIngester isn’t and won’t be.) In fact, you can now buy it separately for Windows for $14.99. (It used to be available on Windows only when combined with ImageIngester.) As before, there’s a trial version that can handle 50 images at a time.

The new version is 1.4.1, and you can upgrade if you’re already using ImageVerifier on Windows. I’ve fixed a few little bugs, but nothing that you’d notice.

I’ve listed the new version of ImageVerifier as running on versions of Windows from XP through 10, but I’ve only tested it on 10. File a support request if you have any problems on earlier versions of Windows.

You can continue to buy ImageVerifier for the Mac from the Mac App Store.

Amazon Prime Music and Bluetooth Speakers

I’ve had Amazon Prime Music for a while, and have been paying $25 a year so I can upload as many CDs as I want, up to 250,000 songs which is at least 200,000 more than I have. That’s peanuts. Literally: We spend about $100 a year on peanuts.

All the big guys have cloud music services (Apple, Google, Microsoft, etc.), but Amazon is the best for me because:

  • When I first signed up, hundreds of albums were already there because I had bought the CDs from Amazon over the years. (My first from Amazon was Bruce Springsteen’s Songs, in 1998.)
  • Most new CDs I buy from Amazon are also automatically added to my cloud library.
  • When I rip and upload a CD, Amazon almost always recognizes it and skips uploading the actual bits, since it already has them. (I don’t know if the others can do this.)
  • There are apps for all iOS and Android devices, and all my computers.
  • I get Prime Music (part of my Prime subscription), in addition to my own stuff. The best part is the curated playlists.

I mostly play Amazon Music through my desktop and a seldom-used Google tablet connected via a cable to a Bose Acoustic Wave player that I bought about 20 years ago. To that I decided to add a bluetooth speaker so I would have something near my favorite chair, to take outside, and for road trips.

That brought me to those online bluetooth speaker reviews, of which there must be at least 10,000. Reviewers like to talk about deep bass from a speaker about the size of a water bottle; I’m used to deep bass coming from a sub-woofer the size of a small refrigerator. Or styling, which means nothing to me; they all look like speakers, and I’m fine with that. (But the UE Booms look like Christian monuments. Not for me.)

Capture2

Prices at Amazon are between about $9 and $800. My range was between $100 and $200, which limited me to about 300 choices. So, I did what I always do in cases like this: Spend a half day reading reviews and clicking around on Amazon until I’m at the point when all of the ratings and opinions cancel each other.

Capture

In the end I bought a JBL Charge 3 on sale at Target for $130. It has one unusual feature: It can charge an iPhone (or any other USB device). JBL says 20 hours of battery life, so I’m sure I’ll get at least 10 (less if I’m charging my phone). It’s also waterproof. Not that I’m going to dunk it, but I might spill a beer on it.

Does it sound better than any of the other 300 or so other choices? Definitely! It was top rated in reviews! Well, the reviews in which it was top rated, anyway. In other reviews it was a dog, but I don’t have to read those, right?

Anyway, at this point it’s the speaker next to my chair, the others aren’t, and it sounds just great. Compared to my all-B&W home theater, it’s garbage. Compared to the Bose, it’s pretty good, although the Bose is better. But the B&Ws are downstairs and the Bose is in another room. And neither is portable.

So, I guess I’m recommending the JBL Charge 3. If you want something else, there are probably 20 speakers at roughly the same price that sound just as good. The trick is to take home just one and leave the others in the store.

ImageIngester no longer sold; Ingestamatic continues on

Kagi, who has been handling ImageIngester registration codes for many years, suddenly went out of business, with zero notice. I’ve decided not to revise ImageIngester to use an alternative system, for two reasons:

  1. Sales are very low, and
  2. Ingestamatic does nearly everything ImageIngester does, a few things it doesn’t, has a much better user interface, and costs half as much.

I will continue to support ImageIngester users to the extent possible, but there will be no further updates. If you’ve paid for it and want a free unlock code for Ingestamatic, let me know.

Any installed versions of ImageIngester will continue to run. Kagi is involved only in sending out registration codes.

ImageVerifier will also no longer be sold, other than through the Mac App Store. I will continue to support ImageVerifier users.