Archive for the 'It’s All Geek to Me!' Category
Friday, March 22nd, 2013
I’d love to say I’m doing a review of this new Wacom Cintiq 13HD “portable” unit because I was sent one by Wacom to test drive, but they don’t return my phone calls. sooooo…. I only know what I’ve read like most of the rest of the world. However, I am a veteran of using 4 different models of the Cintiq (five if you include borrowing a pal’s original Cintiq 15sx to do a job when I was on vacation), including the 12wx which I did review hands on, so after seeing the specs of this new model I can safely make some recommendations for my fellow digital artist gadget junkies.
Save your money for the real thing.
Don’t get me wrong, they fixed a lot of the stuff that was bad about the 12wx. For starters, they have a removable stand that will lock into several different angles for whatever works for you, rather than the horrible recessed stand on the 12wx that didn’t allow you to adjust at all. They of course boosted the specs, so you now have a larger screen but in a smaller and lighter unit, higher resolution, 2048 levels of pressure sensitivity, greater brightness and larger viewing angle.
All that is great. The biggest improvement, however, is the elimination of the video control “brick”, which used a proprietary single cable that went to the Cintiq and then had three cables going to your computer’s USB port, DVI video port and AC power. The 13HD has what they call the “3 in 1″ cable that looks like it comes directly out of the cintiq, and then splits into three for USB, video via HDMI, and power. I really hated all those cables and the giant brick needed to wrangle them, so that part is attractive. There seems to be no indication anywhere on the Wacom website or in any reviews whether or not the power cable still needs a brick aka transformer, however. The need for an adapter between the HDMI output and a DVI or Mini Port input matters little, since I always needed one for my Mac since the advent of their Mini Port anyway, and they are not expensive.
All sounds good, right? It does if you need a Cintiq RIGHT NOW with some degree of portability. If you already have the 12wx, are not in any hurry for a portable option, or are looking for a non-portable studio solution (just get a real one for an extra grand), take a pass. Cintiq is still not delivering the truly portable solution that everybody is waiting for. That would be:
- All the specs listed above
- On a screen of a full portable computer
- That runs on battery power
In this day of fast evolving tablet computing, it is ridiculous that Wacom still has not partnered up with a computer manufacturer and made a truly portable graphics computer. The 13HD is not it. You still need a separate computer, you still need AC power, you still have cables all over the place. For some reason Wacom is only allowing reduced versions of their technology into other devices like the Modbook Pro and Surface (less pressure sensitivity, no tilt sensitivity, fewer features). It isn’t like they don’t have the technology. WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR??
Supposedly Wacom is working on a “dream device” that will be a multi touch, full pressure sensitive pen, HD, etc. If it doesn’t run full versions of PhotoShop or Painter, then it’s nothing but an expensive sketchpad, but it would be ALMOST there. I’ll be watching for it, and maybe it will surprise me. This 13HD only makes me wish I could magically transform my 12wx into it for zero money, because while it’s better in many ways than the 12wx they had it is still far short of a real portable solution.
Monday, January 28th, 2013
When Apple’s iPad started the tablet computing craze, one of the Holy Grails of these light and extremely portable devices was using it as a digital drawing board ala the Wacom Cintiq. In the case of the early tablets, the problems in the way were a lack of pressure sensitivity, and that the touch screens were designed to work with fingertips, not a precise stylus. The drawing instrument “solutions” were these terrible styluses with a big, marshmallow-like pillow at the end that was not ideal for fine drawing or linework, and of course no pressure sensitivity at all. (NOTE: before I go on, please spare me any replies with examples of great pieces of art done with these clumsy tools. Great work can be created with dog-chewed sticks, mud and pieces of garbage… but inventive ways of getting around the limitations of a tool is not the same as those tools providing an ideal solution for working naturally and intuitively. Thanks- the management)
Enter the bluetooth tablet stylus, where pressure sensitivity is created through the bluetooth connection as opposed to through the screen itself. There are a few different designs for this type of drawing instrument, including one with a weird plastic disk on the end, but the Pogo Connect from Ten One Design looked to me to be the closest to a natural drawing tool, so I gave it a try. Here’s my review:
The Pogo Connect is necessarily fat due to the need to house a AAA battery in the barrel, but that’s the only excuse I’ll give Ten One Design for an otherwise puzzling and poor functional pen design. The barrel of the pen is some smooth aluminum or similar metal, so there is nothing to grip and is slippery. A simple, rubberized coating at the gripping point would fix this, although it would add slightly to the already fat, crayon-like feel of the pen. The Connect is short and stubby, a trait oddly shared by all styluses for a reason I cannot fathom (has no one who designs these things ever consided measuring an actual drawing/writing tool to see that most are about 5 3/4 to 6 inches long??? The Pogo Connect is almost there but an extra 1/2 inch or so would give it so much more balance.
The tip is the best part. Ten One Design smartly made it magnetic, so it is easy to pop off and replace if needed. Supposedly there are going to be “upgrade tips” available someday but right now it’s one size fits all. It’s still the same, goofy, marshmallow-like blob as other styluses, but this one seems denser so there is a little more substance to it. However it is nothing like the end of a pencil, brush or pen, so the drawing experience still leaves a lot to be desired. On the plus side, this tip seems to have a more rubbery feel to it, giving it a little drag on the ultra-slick surface of the iPad, which is preferable to plastic on glass.
Finally, If I could give a worse grade than an “F-” on the placement of the side button of the pen, I would. It’s placed EXACTLY where your thumb and center finger grip the pen. Unless you hold the pen precisely right, and don’t let it rotate at all in your hand, you will press that button inadvertently all the time. Many drawing programs use this as an “undo” shortcut… you can imagine the frustration.
The Pogo Connect uses Bluetooth 4.0, which is a new, low-powered flavor that should allow the pen to operate for a long time on it’s AAA battery (which is a nice feature, BTW. Great to be able to swap out a fresh battery in a second or two as opposed to having to charge the pen when it’s out of juice). The bad part about using Bluetooth 4.0 is that the iPad 1 and 2 aren’t compatible, so only the 3 and 4, and the new Mini, will work natively. Supposedly you can use a “bridging” program via an iPhone 4s or 5 to make it work with earlier iPad models, but if the reviews of using such are any indication it is not a very viable option. I have the iPad 3, so no problem.
The Pogo Connect does not pair directly with the iPad using the Bluetooth preference feature, but pairs either directly through compatible drawing programs or via a specific pairing app from Ten One Design. Pairing was easy and quick with the three drawing programs I tested the Connect with: Sketchbook Pro, Procreate and Adobe PhotoShop Touch. All recognized the Connect and (supposedly) started using the pressure sensitivity either right away without any fuss or configuration, or with a little set up like selecting it as a pressure sensitive stylus, and in Photoshop’s case selecting opacity or line width as the variable.
A promising feature that the Pogo Connect is supposed to have going for it is palm-rejection technology. This would address another serious deficiency about drawing on the iPad. Because the iPad responds to touch, any contact with the side or palm of your hand will mess up your drawing. In order to use one of these weird marshmallow styluses, you have to make sure ONLY the tip touches the screen. I don’t know about you, but my hand is always in contact with the paper surface when I draw. Causing a drawing program to ignore input from anything out the pen tip would be a major step in making the drawing experience more natural. Supposedly some programs can use this palm-rejection feature to allow you to rest your hand on the screen as you draw. More on this in a minute.
Does it Work?
The short answer is yes, kind of.
Does it actually have pressure sensitivity, in the way that it can create thick and thin lines, or control opacity of a brush? Yes. It definitely can. Does it do so in the manner in which even the earliest of Wacom tablets could, simulating a natural drawing experience? No, the Connect falls short of this, but not really through fault of itsown. It’s mostly the iPad’s problem.
Of the three programs I tried, I think Sketchbook Pro worked the best with simulating a real drawing experience. In fairness, I did not spend a lot of time learning these programs in detail. I approached them with the expectation I should be able to open them, connect the Pogo, start a blank canvas, select a tool and start sketching. None of them passed that test, but of the three Sketchbook Pro came closest. It still took some experimentation and putzing about to get things to start working, But I was able to get a pressure-sensitive drawing going in about 20 minutes or so.
How did it work? Not great but functional. There was pressure sensitive response, but not of an elegant or precise nature. For starters, there is no almost-zero pressure. You have to apply some pressure to get a response. Just moving the tip across the screen gives you no line at all. That makes for the necessity of a heavy-handed way of drawing, which is not a very natural feel. Ten One Design claims the Connect has “hundreds” of level of pressure-sensitivity. I’m not sure why they can’t be more specific but it felt to me like far less than the old 256 levels the original Wacoms had, and with no light touch possible it seemed like all or nothing. Some of this is probably program-specific. PhotoShop seemed the best at the thick and thin variation response with a simple brush tool, but otherwise was very limited as to the types of brushes and drawing media. Procreate has what I thought was a steep learning curve, and I never really got its inking lines to work very well, but the pencil was ok. Sketchbook Pro had the better and more intuitive tools and palettes, and the pressure sensitivity worked as well there as any of the others, although not all the tools seems to respond to the stylus’s pressure features. One thing Procreate (an unfortunate name, probably meant to be clever but any humor seems misplaced) is supposed to have is that palm rejection feature I mentioned earlier. Not to put too blunt a point on it, but this does not work. At all. Not even a little bit.
After much trial and tribulation, I did the following drawing on my iPad, using the Pogo Connect and Sketchbook Pro. In honor of my vacation to Hawai’i, the subject is the late, great Hawaiian singer Israel “Iz” Kamakawiwo’ole:
A big “meh” in my opinion. That took me about 30 minutes, and most of that time I spent fixing lines that zigged when I wanted them to zag. By the end I was getting frustrated and gave up. No doubt being more familiar with the program and having a lot more practice with the Connect would make the results better and quicker to achieve, but this just demonstrates that the Pogo Connect isn’t something you just pick up and start using like a natural media drawing utensil.
As much as I wanted the Pogo Connect to be the tool every artist was looking for to make the iPad into a real drawing device, it just has too many shortcomings. I think it’s a valiant try, and it’s the best solution I’ve seen to date for the iPad, but the limitations of the platform are its ultimate downfall. The bottom line is the iPad, in being built only for touch input by the human fingers, is just not designed with the artist in mind. Apple really missed the boat on that one, creating a device only for touch input and leaving the digital artist out of the equation. The necessity of the marshmallow-tipped pen and clumsy nature of that tips interaction with the screen precludes any really natural and elegant drawing solution. I think this left a big opening for hardware like the Samsung Slate and Galaxy tablets, or the new Microsoft Surface Pro tablets, to fulfill these needs for the serious digital artist. Apple still has time to create an iPad “Pro” or “A.E.” (Artist’s Edition), that includes stylus input for a real drawing experience using a pen that is like a real pen, and not a stick with a pillow on the end. They’d better hurry up, though. I for one am thinking seriously about dumping my iPad and getting a Series 7 Slate.
My final recommendation on the Pogo Connect? If you have an iPad 3 or 4, feel the undeniable urge to draw on it no matter what the limitations and shortcomings of it may be, and have $80 burning a hole in your pocket, then the Pogo Connect is your best bet. Otherwise, stick with paper and pencil.
Thursday, January 27th, 2011
We digress from our constant blather about caricature, cartooning and illustration to talk about one of our other favorite subjects… gadgets!
This year for Christmas The Lovely Anna got me the new Apple TV, Apple’s new incarnation of it’s “hobby” entertainment server for your living room. We have owned one of the original Apple TVs for a while now, and use it for The Animated Elizabeth‘s TV room where it works great for her demanding video needs associated with her autism.
The new Apple TV is a big departure from the old model on many levels, but first here’s a little history of the Apple TV:
The original Apple TV model was about the size of a Mac Mini computer, and had it’s own hard drive as well as built in wifi . It worked as a modified iPod for your TV… using wifi it would sync with your iTunes library (according to your choices for what would sync and what would not) on your computer just like an iPod, but it would also stream content from iTunes that was not saved locally. Thus, you had some content that you could watch even if your computer was not awake and/or iTunes was not open, but other content was not available unless you had your source computer on and iTunes open. This made the ATV a gateway to get your iTunes content from your computer to your TV, but it was hardly convenient. You could not seek out and rent or buy content FROM the ATV… that had to be done from your computer and then you could sit down in front of your TV and enjoy it from your couch.
Eventually Apple changed the software of the ATV to allow for all that streaming and syncing plus the added benefit of being able to access the iTunes store directly from the ATV, allowing your to purchase or rent content without needing to go to your computer. Later, they added the ability to access resources like NetFlix, YouTube, ect. for more viewing options.
Last year Apple took a much different approach with a new version of the Apple TV. Gone is the hard drive, and the unit itself became significantly smaller… it’s a little smaller than a slim paperback book. It’s output connections are as simple as it gets… one HDMI out (it also allows for optical audio out, so you can use the HDMI output as video only), an Ethernet port in case you want to use a hardwire solution to your internet connection as opposed to using the built in WiFi, and a USB port which so far is used for nothing. Like the previous ATV, you cannot use the unit with a TV that does not support HDMI video… no composite or component video outputs.
Since you have no local storage of media anymore, everything is streamed by the ATV to your TV/entertainment system. There is no syncing. You simply connect it to your home network and use the “Home Sharing” iTunes feature to access any content on any of the computers on your home network. “Home Sharing” is a simple sharing format where each computer with iTunes installed is able to choose any or all of their content to be “shared” over their network. There is no one iTunes master computer using this model… each computer that opts to be a part of home sharing through their iTunes program has whatever content they choose to share available for streaming to the ATV. The computers need to be awake and iTunes must be open for this to work, however.
More conveniently, you can quite easily browse the iTunes store right from your ATV to rent movies and TV shows for instant enjoyment. If they are available in HD (the 720p version, anyway) then you get them in HD. Most movies rent for $4.99 in HD or $2.99 if in SD, but a few “specials” are available for $1.99 or even $.99 and there are some films that get “previewed” via the iTunes store before they hit the theaters and rent for $10.99. You can rent TV episodes for $.99.
There is also an “Internet” menu where you can log in to your Netflix account and watch hundreds of movies instantly at no extra cost to your Netflix membership. This is an amazing deal… it’s almost unlimited how many films are available to watch instantly through your Netflix subscription. YouTube, Flickr and MobleMe content is also available through this menu if you want to watch that kind of thing.
The quality and speed of the downloaded content through iTunes is very good. HD shows look sharp and clearly “HD” quality with no noticeable artifacts or pixelation. It only takes a minute or so after you start the rental for the content to become available to play, and I have not witnessed a single moment when the show I am watching “freezes” because the buffering/download of the media cannot keep up with the running video. I have noticed some of the Netflix movies experience freezes and some pixelation at times, so that technology isn’t quite up to par with the native iTunes content… but it’s not bad and without paying extra to watch Netflix movies instantly on your living room TV a little pause now and then seems a fair trade off.
You cannot “buy” films or TV shows permanently via the Apple TV, as there is no hard drive to keep them on. You can still do so via your computer and then watch it from your Apple TV via Home Sharing. I’ve got mixed feelings about that. I’d like it if you could buy a movie you want permanently via the ATV and either always have access to watch it through iTunes or have it download to your computer’s hard drive for permanent storage, but it’s not a deal breaker. I still don’t like buying digital media and prefer physical discs for movies I want to keep.
The one thing I don’t like about this arrangement is the short time they give you to enjoy the movie you rent. Once you’ve rented it you get 30 days to start it. Once you start it, you only get 24 hours to watch it if it’s a movie, and 48 if it’s a TV show. If you don’t get to then end of it within that time, you are SOL. It expires and is deleted from your menu. I think that’s a little too short a time. It would be better is they could figure out how to make the program available to watch as often as you want for the first 24 hours, but it does not expire if you have not finished it after that period of time. Once you watch it through to the end, then it expires permanently. Maybe they can have a 36 hour expiration whether you’ve watched all the way to the end or not, just to prevent people from stopping it during the end credits and keeping it active forever. Usually I do watch a movie all the way through at home, but when I am traveling I often am forced to stop if my flight is landing and can;t start watching it again until I am traveling back home… and by that time the 24 hours have passed. The same rental model applies to movies you download for your portable device as the ATV.
Overall, though, I think Apple is on to something with the new Apple TV. It’s easy to use, has reasonably priced access to a gigantic library of content, allows even cheaper access to Netflix account content and is reasonably priced at $99. I’ve been enjoying it since Christmas.
Friday, August 13th, 2010
Here’s a link to an recent CNN article on how the iPad is boosting the appeal of digital comics.
I absolutely agree that the iPad and it’s descendants will be the new format for publishing, including comics and magazines. I can see a virtual news stand in the future full of individual issues and subscriptions for magazines, comics, comic books and newspapers… delivered without user effort to your mobile tablet device in a format that is easy and natural to browse, read and enjoy. However I don’t see the iPad being that device, but some other piece of hardware that doesn’t force the Draconian limitations on the content providers that Apple does. Unless Steve Jobs and Apple wise up and start playing along with publishers to develop a real business model for digital publishing, the iPad will be the next Betamax player or Macintosh… a superior piece of technology squashed by the concept of free enterprise.
Thursday, July 15th, 2010
I know I promised an artcentric review of the iPad a long time ago, but I haven’t had the opportunity to test out very many drawing and painting applications on it so far… I’m also wating deleivery of one of those silly marshmallow tipped “stylus’s”.
I did run across this intriguing video recently, showing that someone is working on one of the two biggest limitations to drawing on the iPad… the lack of pressure sensitivity. At first I thought the case the iPad on the video is in might be the source of the pressure sensitivity, but from reading the brief description at tenonedesign.com it seems to be a pure software solution. The pressure sensitivity would be something any drawing app could incorporate into their programs.
Don’t get too excited. According to the developer the software uses a “private function call” to work and Apple of course refuses to allow developers to use private APIs, so right now this functional software is not allowed on the iPad.
Oh, and in case you are curious, the other major limitation to drawing on the iPad: the lack of a precise stylus.
Friday, April 23rd, 2010
If you’ve happened to visit this blog in the last few days on an iPhone, Android or other mobile device you (hopefully) will have noticed a different look on your hand-held surfing machine courtesy of a great plug-in called WPtouch.
The MAD Blog uses the excellent WordPress blog software, and this plug in automatically formats the blog with a quick loading and easy to use mobile theme when it detects the visitor is using an Apple iPod Touch, iPhone, Goodle Android, Palm Pre or other touch- based mobiles. There are configurable options but it works great right after loading and activation. It cuts down on load times, sacrificing the eye candy for a streamlined interface. Miss the colors and other stuff? A switch at the bottom of the page let’s you go back to the “full site”, and it will even remember your choice until you switch it back to the mobile version.
Several other WordPress blogs I frequent use this great plug-in, including Alan Gardner‘s Daily Cartoonist.
So, enjoy the simplified mobile version of The MAD Blog if you are surfing on-the-go!
Monday, April 5th, 2010
The iPad has been out for all of two days and already we are seeing apps that demonstrate not only how much more this device is than the “bigger iPod Touch” naysayers are dismissing it as, but exactly the kind of content delivery that it and it’s eventual ancestors are going to revolutionize the publication industry with.
Take the new Marvel Comics app. It’s a free app that is used as a gateway to the buying of single issues or a series from Marvel. They have both an iPhone version and an iPad version. Comparing the screenshots of two you can instantly see how the larger screen and form factor of the iPad changes the entire experience of reading a comic on a portable device. Flip the page with your finger, see the entire page on a vertical screen, zoom in for a closer look, browse the entire comic via a thumbnail gallery… all on a screen the same size as a real comic book. Wow. You can preview before you buy an issue, buy single issues or an entire series. You can also buy back issues. The app also syncs with your marvel.com account to back up all your purchased comics, so if your computer goes belly up or you get a new one you can access your entire library with your replacement device. Personally I think $1.99 per issue is a little pricey for a single issue. 99 cents seems more in line to me, but the market will work itself out with pricing.
I cannot imagine any publication not getting on board distributing and selling it’s content via a free proprietary app like this. The logical next step is to have subscribed content delivered via “push”, which would download your issue of MAD or People Weekly or your local daily newspaper right to your device while you are sleeping so it’s waiting for you when you are eating breakfast at the kitchen table, riding the train to work, taking a coffee break, etc with no need to have an active wifi connection or pay to use the 3G network. That kind of convenience, portability and the form factor/interface will get people to part with some money as they understand the difference between this and having to sit in front of your computer or laptop somewhere with a wifi connection and use it’s clunky web-based interface. No doubt publishers will quickly offer only limited content for free on it’s websites as well.
Hopefully DC will follow suit here and create a similar delivery system for it’s comics and maybe MAD.
Thursday, January 28th, 2010
Just in case you have been frozen solid and living under a rock- yesterday the eagerly awaited Apple branded tablet device, the iPad, finally was unveiled… to a lot of fanfare and a fair share of catcalls. It has been anticipated as a bold new step for the way people use technology in their daily lives.
Will it live up to the hype?
I think it has a chance to, but right now there is just not enough software written to take advantage of the hardware. Personally I think once there is a wide selection of software out there that is native to the iPad (right now it only has a handful of apps that are designed to work with it’s larger screen… it will run iPhone apps they look tiny at native size and clunky at increased size) the device will start realizing its potential. Right now it’s little more than a better portable way to surf the internet, watch movies or read books than the iPhone or other smartphones. That’s not to say it won’t eventually be the revolution it was anticipated as being, but it’s in its infancy right now.
I’ve read a lot of angry reactions from people who seem disappointed that this gizmo won’t do everything but tie their shoes for them. I think they are missing the point. It’s not supposed to be able to do anything radically more than what your laptop or iPhone already does… what it’s meant to do is those same things but in a way that addresses the limitations of the laptop and the smartphone, and do them better. It’s the form factor that is the selling point. I don’t think people really understand how much this “giant iPod touch” is going to make the Touch and the iPhone look like toys in comparison. The potential that programmers have in this large of a multitouch surface is huge… Apple’s handful of native apps only scratch that surface and yet they look fantastic. By the time Apple releases an updated iPad in a year or so, it will be a completely different animal thanks to the software that developers are no doubt slobbering to start creating and marketing.
The multitouch technology is one of the most intriguing parts of the iPad. In the iPhone and iPod Touch, the tiny bit of real estate makes the technology little more than a novelty by comparison, yet it was hailed as groundbreaking. Imagine being able to drag things around a real screen, access pop up menus, use fingers from both hands to combine and shift objects and make choices. It’ll be like the computer interface from Minority Report. People have been using computer mice for so long they’ve forgotten what it is like to use their hands and fingers for tasks in front of their eyes, instead of separated from them. When some of the native programs start popping up there will be a few eyes opened. Apple’s next step will be an iMac without a mouse using a multitouch monitor.
Regarding the functionality, I think there is a market for something in between a laptop and a smartphone. Let’s face it, using an iPhone or Blackberry to surf the web is an exercise in exasperation… the screen is just too small for it to be easy or enjoyable. Can it be done? Sure, but it’s a major hassle. I’ve been frustrated many times attempting to use my iPhone to order some supplies or such on a website for one of my caricature concessions, trying to switch back and forth from the text field entry boxes back to the entry page. Almost impossible. I’ve had order pages time out on me before I can get to the end of the process. Likewise forget about reading books on the iPhone. Too small a screen. Laptops are plenty big… in fact too big. A laptop is great if you have the room to open it up and use it, full sized keyboard and all. That’s hard to do on a bus or train, at the lunch counter, while you are on a coffee break- even with a “netbook”. Laptops are heavy, clunky in their clamshell design and just not that easy to whip out anytime. Few have built in cellular connectivity, either. They are built to be transportable computers, not instantly accessible anywhere machines. Battery life is only a few hours. They are not truly portable in the way a smartphone is.
The form factor on the iPad is the major appeal, rather than the clamshell/keyboard design of a laptop. Here is a device with a screen big enough to be able to comfortably read a real web page, use a web 2.0 site, read an eBook (and the iBook app looks truly awesome… it’s my favorite thing I’ve seen from the iPad so far), read and respond to an e-mail with a decent sized keyboard, watch a movie that won’t give you a headache from squinting, allow you to really view and edit photos while you are on your vacation, store, read and edit documents from work… all while you are sitting on the bench at the park or on an airplane (even if the jackass in front of you reclines all the way back from takeoff to touchdown). The iPad is lighter than a typical hardcover book, and about the size of a magazine. Not pocket sized, but a far cry from a laptop that needs a shoulder bag to lug about. It’s got (supposedly) 10 hours of battery life, so a day’s worth of use is not a problem.
If you are expecting it to be a portable replacement for your desktop, you are going to be disappointed. If you want it to fit into your front pocket, you will also be disappointed. That’s not the point and never was. This device and it’s eventual decedents will someday be what we get our news, magazines, entertainment and productivity from. Someday everyone will have some form of this kind of portable multitouch device, and we’ll have subscriptions to all the content we want delivered to us invisibly, ready for our consumption when we are. Eventually they will be powerful enough to replace our desktops, but that is years away.
So, do I want the iPad? Yep, absolutley. I will likely get one at some point. I was considering getting a Kindle for eBooks and for just a bit more I can get the iPad which does books even better and so much more besides. This device will let me bring all the videos, books, music, documents, photos, access to current news, communication and information I could possibly ever want or need with me in a 7.5″ x 9.5″ 1.5 lb package. That is pretty handy.
Is it perfect? Hardly. No camera? Only 64 GB max? No flash capability with the browser? Only Apple sanctioned software? No pressure sensitive/stylus drawing (that’s just for us artists)? It has some growing to do, but as software for it matures and expands, and as future hardware improvements are realized, this kind of device really is the future.
Thursday, January 7th, 2010
I don’t usually endorse products or services on The MAD Blog, so when I do you can bet it’s because I am really impressed with whatever it is I am recommending. UBreakIFix iPhone repair service is one of those exceptions. Here’s the story:
The entire Richmond family was visiting Universal’s Islands of Adventure theme park last week when my son Thomas had a disaster with his iPhone 3g. He took it out to type what was probably his 10,000th text message of the day when it slipped out of his grasp and fell face first to the sidewalk. When he picked it up it looked like this:
He has a protective case but didn’t have it on that day. Needless to say he was devastated because he knew two things:
- He was not going to have a phone for the rest of that trip and
- He was not going to get another iPhone
That second one is the killer. The reason is because iPhones may be (sort of) reasonably priced when you can get one with a 2 year contract with AT&T ($99 for his model), but what if you have only had your phone for a few months and are ineligible for a contract discount and you break it? Well, then you are SOL, because you will not be able to get a replacement for the contract price and will have to pay full retail for it. For a new 3Gs that is a whopping $399 for the 16gb and $499 for the 32gb. Whoa.
But hold on, ubreakifix.com to the rescue!
UBreakIFix is an iPhone repair service that will handle all sorts of repairs to your phone including replacing a broken touch screen, water damage, broken and unresponsive buttons, camera, rear casing and battery replacement. They have complete menus on their website, with detailed descriptions of what kinds of damage or problems you may have so you can self-diagnose the issues and order the right repair. They also have a diagnostic service that will determine what you need for you.
As it turned out Tom royally messed up his phone, not only breaking the touchscreen glass but also ruining the LCD screen. We needed both the glass and LCD replacement service… total cost with shipping was $149.00. Not exactly cheap but better than $399 replacement phone. That kid has a lot of free snow shoveling to do this winter to pay that off… but he’d have been mowing the lawn for free all summer without UBreakIFix!
The best part was I shipped the phone off on Monday morning via overnight delivery, and we received the repaired and perfectly functioning phone back on Wednesday… 48 hour turnaround. The repairs were flawless and the phone is working just like new.
The phones are expensive and when something like that happens it’s nice to know there is a reliable and fast way to fix them that will save you some money.
Saturday, November 7th, 2009
Whenever I get a new techie toy that I use in conjunction with my work I try and post a review of it from a visual artist’s perspective… in other words how does it affect my work on the computer or in business? You can read my reviews of the Cintiq 12wx, OS X Leopard and the iPhone from previous posts.
I wanted to review the new Apple Magic Mouse from such a perspective, but to be honest it’s still just a mouse, and has no real impact positively or negatively on my illustration/graphic work on the computer.
It is a cool new toy, though. Thus the review.
First off, some complaining. Apple has a very annoying habit of announcing new hardware and then have it unavailable for an unacceptable amount of time. It’s frustrating when you walk into an Apple store with $70 in you hand and you are told they don’t want your money because the product they have been crowing about for a week is still not in their store, and it’s over a week before it ships if you order it online. Yet every new iMac on display has one. That is some serious arrogance. Vaporware is one thing, but when the product is obviously in production and included with new computers, Apple should just wait until it’s got that product boxed and in stock before announcing it… especially at the premium prices they charge. $70 for a MOUSE??? That better be an amazing pice of equipment.
Well, for the most part it is pretty amazing. I finally received mine the other day after ordering it online, and immediately realized I can’t go back to the old wheel and button style. In case you have not read about the Magic Mouse, it is an innovative new design in mice that combines the technology of the iPhone touchscreen and the new multi-touch pads on Apple notebook computers to create a button-less mouse than responds to the movement of your fingers across it’s surface.
Like the old Mighty Mouse, you click the entire mouse unit rather than indivdual buttons, but it is sensitive enough to recognize both left and right clicks as the Mighty Mouse did. Unlike the Mighty design, this mouse has no scrolling ball sticking up from the mouse’s surface. Instead your finger slides across the touch-sensitive surface to scroll up or down a document or web page. You can also scroll about a large document or web page in a circular motion or to right and left. Momentum of movement also counts, so a slow drag of your finger down the mouse surface moves the page accordingly, while a fast flick sends the page rolling downward and slowing up naturally like spinning the Price is Right prize wheel. Movement is very responsive.
You can also do a two fingered sideways swipe, that will navigate in programs like iPhoto, iTunes and the Finder to browse folders, photos and such in “cover flow” and other modes. It also works to go backwards and forwards to browse web pages in browsers like Safari. Handy but only for a small number of programs.
Design wise it’s as elegant and attractive as most everything Apple comes up with. Not that you need your mouse to be pretty, but it’s a great combination of aesthetics and functionality. It’s got a lower height profile than the old Mighty Mouse. It moves nicely on the surface of the desk and seems to work better on natural surfaces eliminating the need for a mouse pad.
It’s also very customizable, and the mouse’s control panel in “Preferences” is very well done with nice little video demos on the right showing the feature highlighted on the left. Most of the preferences from the old design are here (like switching to a left handed mouse) and new features like “momentum” can be turned off. It looks like there is plenty of room for future features as well.
It was a welcome change from the Mighty Mouse, which was a really poor design. Being impossible to open up to clean, it was difficult to keep the scroll ball from becoming virtually unusable. The Lovely Anna hated that mouse as it would quickly become dirty and the scrolling useless, and she loves the new design for eliminating that problem. Please do not write me or comment on how to turn the stupid thing upside down and rub it vigorously on a piece of white paper or similar instructions on cleaning it. We did all that over and over and at best it helped for a little while, but eventually it could not be cleaned up to work like it should and needed replacement. I even found a tutorial on the web on how to open and clean it which involve breaking iti open and re-gluing it, and ruined one mouse in the attempt.
Which brings me to the one complaint I have with the Magic Mouse, and really on ongoing issue I have with Apple in general. The complaint with the new mouse is the lack of side buttons to activate Expose or a way to bring up the dashboard like the old mouse so conveniently had. Yes, there are simple keyboard shortcuts for these but I miss the mouse features. So why did Apple leave them out? For the same reason they designed the old mouse to be sealed and unable to clean thoroughly… they think their customers are morons. Really, they must. They don’t trust them to be able to do the simplest of tasks, like open up a mouse, remove the tracking ball, clean the wheels and reassemble the unit. The guts of a Mac and the nuts and bolts of the software are hidden and inaccessible to the average consumer as well. They keep designing their hardware to be more and more simple, seemingly because they don’t think their customers are smart enough to handle things like extra buttons on the mouse. I’m all for clean design, but give me a little credit in that I won’t fall apart and be hopelessly confused because there are a few extra buttons on my new mouse. I keep squeezing the sides of the Magic Mouse expecting the Expose feature to activate and then grumble as I reach for my keyboard. oh, well.
So, does the new Magic Mouse make working on the computer easier? No, but I don’t have to get angry because my mouse won’t scroll to one side or the other anymore. $70 is pretty steep for a mouse but it works very well, despite the dumbing down of the features.