Category Archives: New Technology

I’m a tech freak. Not always up on the latest, but when I do find something cool, you’ll see it here!

Wacom Inkling Review

I buckled. I did. I looked at the Wacom Inkling on that Amazon page and thought…it’s available! …….again. I was one of the early crowd that was excited about the invention of this amazing little pen. But the fiasco with its release caused me such annoyance that I cast the idea aside and sent Wacom’s would be product packing. I mean, we’re talking several MONTHS of waiting. Not just “it’s coming out soon” kind of waiting, but the “we’re going to release now…uh…nevermind” kind of waiting. MANY times!

But the stars aligned and I found myself with a small chunk of change and necessity for a tool like the Inkling. And lo and behold, I have my product!

What is an Inkling? It allows you to draw using a pen-like tool (in this case, an actual pen with some digital modifications). The small box sits at the top of your page and captures the information as you draw so that later, through the graphical editing tool of your choice, you can use the image that you created in your digital project.

Why is it necessary? Tablets are not the cheapest thing and not always the most convenient thing to carry around. Let alone some kind of Cintiq unit that is actually a drawable display. And when you’re out and about, you need something that’s compact and easy to use. I always have my notebook with me. And it’s easy enough to attach the digitizer at the top of the page and start drawing. It captures my work, and most importantly to me, allows me to create LAYERS of art so that later, I can separate the elements and make any fine-tuned adjustments that are necessary.

The Pros:

The pen and receiver are very compact. Easy to port. It’s a little bulky for a pen, but the design is nice enough to fit into my style of drawing. Keeping the tip of the pen in the viewing area of the receiver is easy enough. Importing into Photoshop was a breeze and all the layers were definitely captured. LOVE LOVE LOVE that it captures layers. Simple button click starts a new layer. Squeezing the receiver actually starts a new file. The thinking here is that you’re removing the receiver from the paper to start a new drawing. The software is fairly intuitive, though it took a little bit of research into the Help doc to export the right file format. There were a lot of complaints about being able to capture the movie of your art being built. Not a requirement for me. My end result is the file. I was getting used to HOW to draw with the product, so some of my work came out misaligned and rough. I had success with one of my drawings, so I just need to learn how I did that and do it from now on. For me, I think the issue was more user error than software or hardware, so I may have to do a follow up. Another great piece of this hardware is that it’s compatible with REGULAR pen tips! No proprietary equipment there. Nice.

The Cons:

Keep in mind that my experience was specific to a smaller notebook, I was just getting used to the pen and kept moving the receiver (whether with my hand or by moving my notebook), and I was in a rush to use it for the first time on a project I had to get out the door. SO!

First off, squeezing the receiver to start a new file is smart, unless you accidentally push your digitizer off the page and have to re-clip. This is a nuisance when you’ve completed a lot of your drawing because it creates a new file. This is especially annoying if you’re going into a shading mode and just wanted to create a new layer (Note: the workaround for this is to create the new layer/file, do all your shading, and then re-align in Photoshop.) The pen, like most ballpoint pens, has to be rolled a couple times to get the ink flowing. Not a big deal. But when you’re tracing your pencil art, the ball stops rolling a few times. The key here, I think, is to use the pen from start to finish. I’m a pencil guy, and so I did several sketches first, assuming I could just go over it with the pen later. I may see if there’s more of a quill type pen or something that flows easier than the pens they give you. Finally, the price point is nothing to snicker at! $200 for a digital pen, while much cheaper than a tablet, is still about twice as expensive as some of the solutions out there. Does the layer feature make up for it? I’m thinking…yes. 🙂

Overall, this product does exactly what it says. There’s some calibration that needs to happen, but I’m excited to apply it to my other art projects. I give this a B- since the first version of anything out the gate usually has some flaws. I hope this doesn’t go to the wayside. Talkin’ to YOU, Wacom!

 

Getting Around Android Root

Since the HTC Hero, I’ve been rooting my phone for the added benefits of programs that frankly, SHOULD be on your device. The main one being wireless tethering. I know. That’s how the networks make their money. By policing your data usage. But I’m on an unlimited data plan. I get it. Unlimited as long as you use the slow 3G or intermittent 4G network to do your browsing and downloading. Otherwise, buy the 4G hub that seems to find the network better than my phone. I smell shenanigans. For now, lets take tethering off the table. What are the other benefits of rooting?

I’ll set the stage. I have the new Galaxy S II (AKA The Epic 4G touch), unlimited data plan, and live in a 4G rich coverage area (or so they say.) As a mobile app designer, I have two main needs: 1) ADB into my device and 2) Take screenshots. Both of these methods, at one time, required a rooted device (for clarification, I wanted to WIRELESSLY ADB into my device because the USB port notoriously sucks.) WHY?? ADB is a legitimate tool that allows you to develop for your mobile device. Granted, it gets you under the hood, but ADB allowed me access to DDMS, the screenshot tool that DIDN’T require root access…just an ADB connection.

So I had acquired my root access, as I do. But Samsung and/or Sprint insisted on pushing me an OTA (Over The Air) update to my device (this is where they update your operating system.) Great!

Problem. With the rooted phone, the OTA was failing. I wanted that update! Logically, I went to the Security tab to reset my phone to the factory settings.

More problems.

Didn’t work. In fact, I couldn’t get it to boot back up! Did I brick it? Nope. I could see the rooted startup screen. Just no rooted OS. Crap. After a brief panic attack, I gathered my senses and USB’d into the device to drop a rooted custom ROM. THAT, at least, would get me back in the game to do some other fixings. Just my luck, the only ROM that was reported to be completed for the 4G Touch sucked. Not even feature complete. SIDE NOTE: Why even put that out there?!??

Next up on the list: Download the stock ROM and put it back. OK.

Yet ANOTHER problem.

Now my USB mount wasn’t working. CRAP! Now I’m basically locked out of my device with a crappy ROM that won’t even let me make phone calls to my provider. Yummy. Time to go to the store and make up some excuse about how my “developers” tried to “help” me out and then “jacked up” my phone. I’m sheepish like that.

As they suspected, I had rooted my phone. Score 1: Provider.

I said, “Just flash the stock ROM on there and I’ll be fine.”

“That’d be great, but uh…we can’t. We’re getting a Critical Error on your device.”

Imagine, at this point, the price tag signs of a new phone I’d soon be paying as a result of my terrible hacking. The sweat began to pour from my head. What was I going to tell the misses? “Nope, Christmas presents are a no go this year.”

“Yeah, we can’t do anything with that device, so we’re just going to replace it.”

 

 

<silence>

<inner rejoicing>

“Oh. Great! I really appreciate it,” I say calmly.

<inner fainting and self-resuscitation>

So I’m back to square one…thankfully. But how do I get around that pesky root issue? You guessed it. Thankfully, there are some apps out there (and I SWEAR they weren’t available before) that can do most of what I need.

The ADB problem. OK. For now, I’m going to have to stick with USB. Done. The Epic 4G Touch USB connection is better than the Epic 4G. But I don’t always have access to USB when I’m trying to take screenshots for dev purposes.

The screen capture problem. If you do an Android market search for screen capture, you’ll find that a majority of the apps require root access. WHY?? It’s a friggin’ SCREEN CAPTURE! iPhone does it out of the box. Really, Android?? Thanks to these guys, I’m good to go:

 

Screen Capture Shortcut Free

NOTE :This app became totally useless after the next OTA update. Nice, Clark. REAL Nice.

In the end, it took a little digging, but the apps you need are coming around. I still may root my new device for the Wireless ADB access…and to be honest…the Wireless Tethering, but take it from a seasoned rooter who, until now has never had ANY problems, you do NOT want to jack up your device with other ROMs or attempt a factory reset on a rooted device that will simply spit back in your face and say, “Really?” Especially when you’re out of warranty!

 

The Gadget I’ve Been Waiting For

There are a few products out on the market today that capture your drawings, sketches and writings. Some require special paper, others only function as an OCR (Optical Character Recognition) tool. Others simply capture your drawing as a JPG or flattened graphic from which you are bound to a specific size or resolution to work with later. Not anymore…and in that same breath…not yet.

The Wacom Inkling is a new take on some current technology. And a logical next step! It allows you to sketch as you normally would with a ballpoint pen. However, like Wacom’s digital pen technology, captures pressure. It uses a proximity device that requires a clear line of site to the pen. The writable area maxes out at about an 8.5×11 sheet of paper. Perfect for me because I use a much smaller sketch book. The most important features about this new device (at least to me) are:

1. Can import into Photoshop AND create layers on the fly. No more trying to magic wand around your drawing. No more trying to create channel masks to recreate your drawing.

2. Creates vector lines. WHAT?? No more scanning at super high resolutions! No more importing into Illustrator to convert to vector lines. It imports the lines directly into Photoshop for easy editing with the Bezier Pen Tool! Yes, please!

The bad news. It’s not out yet. It’s SUPPOSED to be! Since I found out about this gem in August, I’ve been waiting patiently as Wacom updates its website with delivery dates to come. In October, the site said “Available mid-October.” And so I waited. November 1st rolled around and nothing. Communication with Wacom’s Facebook team rendered me a simple “Sigh.” response. Finally, a new update. “Available mid-November.” Oh, Wacom. You tease of a technology vixen. I will wait for you. Until someone else beats you to the punch. 🙂

Is Facebook Creating Pages For Us?

I’m definitely not a big fan of Facebook policy to change design and direction on a dime. There are actually a lot of issues with Facebook that don’t sit well. “Why do you keep using it then??” Because I’ve spent the better part of 2 years looking for friends, connecting with friends, and creating a network of people. I don’t want to spend another 2 trying to convince everyone to go over to Google+. But recently I began looking for family members I haven’t spoken to in a while. Most of my cousins seem technology immune, living in the desolate reaches of wherever they are. Just haven’t been able to find them. And then last night, one of them showed up in a Facebook search. So I clicked the link. I thought, “HUH! He finally got himself a page!” But something was amiss.

Is facebook creating profiles for us??

First of all, “my cousin” set up what looked like a professional page. “A FAN page?” I thought. OKaaaaay. Whatever floats your boat. (You see, he’s not a celebrity or public figure…so it didn’t really make sense.)

But then I thought..hmmm…maybe so! He’s a professional. Maybe he’s utilizing Facebook for his marketing ventures. Smart guy! But on closer inspection, I found that Facebook had created this page on his behalf. And I don’t think he requested it…or had knowledge of it in any way whatsoever (referring back to my comment of technological isolation.) Whether they went through the digital phone book or through their own members’ contact lists…I don’t know. Somehow my cousin, who probably has only heard of Facebook while walking by a conference or ordering a latte in a Starbucks, ended up on Facebook with a page that highlights his professional standing. Odd. How do I know he didn’t make it? Because why would you make a page that anyone could claim and edit?

Turns out, Facebook is kind enough to let you “notify” the owner of the page if you know them or claim it for yourself! Really? I can simply claim my cousin’s page?? What else can I do?

I can even edit the apparently public information.

Although not immediately obvious, this page does look like some kind of a business listing. But it comes with a Friends Activity page. So really, it’s my cousin’s business as an identity page. And if left unclaimed, COULD be used by unscrupulous individuals.

Pre- and post-internet, I guess you automatically get listed in the phonebook. But that’s because you have a phone. For a fee, you can even opt OUT of being in the phone book. Which was always a little odd to me. So, in this new digital age, does Facebook as our new private, expanded phonebook, get to create a page for you because you have an identity somewhere? Seems a little presumptuous of Zuck. What do you think? And what happens if you don’t make it in time to claim your identity?? Isn’t that identity theft? Even though technically, it was simply there for the taking. Makes me shake my head.

 

The Android vs. iPhone Debate

I’ll admit it. I’m an Apple snob. I’ve been using Apple products since 1990. That’s right. When the mouse looked like a dinky transistor radio, the screen was bluish grey and white, and when DOS was something programmers used. For creatives, Apple represented a breakthrough in how we did our digital work. I was there for the first version of Director. I made the switch from Director to Flash. Reluctantly at first, but when Flash finally came into its own, I embraced it whole heartedly and dumped Director like a middle school crush. And as Apple grew (and became more expensive) I stuck with the habit. I still have the first generation iPod! And because of Apple, I became a gadget junkie. And THAT habit led me to my first Android device. The Hero.

My geeky friends would constantly challenge me to jailbreak my iPhone and root my Android devices. They would admonish me for not diving into the Unix underbelly of OSX or use Gimp “because it’s free.” By the way, now would be a good time to let you know that I’m a loyal Macromedia and Adobe user. Don’t ever talk to me about Corel Draw or Microsoft products. I’ll have to slap you. Seriously.

So when I finally got a job designing mobile apps, I found myself in a curious position. I don’t GET to choose sides. Sure, silently, I can continue my love affair with Apple. But my clients want a product that goes everywhere…including Blackberry (I think I just threw up in my mouth a little.) Thank God there are no Palm requests in there, but it gave me unique insights into the 3 big platforms. And so when people ask me what phone they should get, I ask them what they want to use it for. I disagree with Gizmodo’s recent article that you should keep your opinion to yourself. That espousing your love for one platform or another is just your opinion. Well…YEAH! That’s why they friggin’ asked me. But I don’t blindly charge into the discussion saying that Android is the end all be all. No, no. I say to my friend, I says: WHAT do you want to use your phone for??

So here’s my general responses. Keep in mind, it could change depending on your specific needs.

Friend 1: I want to surf the net and download apps!

Me: OK. Well, first of all, that’s a lot of data. So you want to go with a service that allows that kind of data transfer. Most services do to some degree (AT&T, Verizon, Sprint.) But companies like Sprint don’t have limits and they won’t throttle you down. Also, you’re going to need a smartphone. Android has them. Apple has them. If you’re used to iTunes, get an iPhone. If you’re used to Google and Amazon, go with an Android. Oh…by the way, do you realize that you are AUTOMATICALLY signing up for the premium service? You HAVE to have a data plan to have a smartphone. Just keep that in mind.

Friend 2: Mostly texting, phone calls and checking email.

Me: Flip phone should do for you, my friend. OK, OK. If you like the sexiness of the smartphones, let me ask you this: What kind of email account do you have? That can determine the complexity of setup you’ll have to go through just to access your email. Got gmail? Android. Plays nicely with your calendar and contacts. Use Mail for Mac or some other POP3 account? iPhone rocks. Android will do it, too. And how do you sync your contacts? On Google? Android. Use a Mac? iPhone. Type them in manually to each phone you buy? Move away. Move far away. Because if I see you again, I’ll have to slap you.

Friend 3: Need to sync my calendars and use it for work.

Me: Do you work with a ton of Microsoft products and Outlook? Blackberry. But for the love of Zeus, at LEAST get a newer one. If I see you fumbling with your filthy little clogged up trackball, I’ll…you guessed it…have to slap you. Hard. Maybe even a bitch slap. I haven’t decided. Depends on if you start waxing poetic about how you can’t believe the Palm Pre didn’t do better in the market place. Working with iCal? iPhone. Working with the Google Calendar? Android.

Friend 4: I want to do everything on it.

Me: iPhone or Android. It’s really your call. NOW…Sprint has the 4G, but dang if I’ve ever gotten it to work for very long on my Epic 4G. Got my wife an EVO and it works GREAT on that! And it’s fast. But if you like the sleek Apple feel and interface. Get an iPhone. I WILL say this! I do love the added functionality you can get with Android’s menu button. Yes, you can solve some of those functional access issues with more graphic interface tweaks on the iPhone, but it’s kind of convenient. That’s all I’m saying.

There you have it. I’m torn. I LOVE my XOOM tablet and Epic 4G. My wife LOVES her EVO. I LOVE my MacBook Pro. I REALLY LIKE iPads. I LOVE that Apple has a stringent policy on what goes into their market. I LOVE that ANDROID simply lets you post apps without going through the SERIOUS amount of rigamarole you have to go through to be an Apple Developer AND put something in the market. I LOVE that Android plays Flash. I LOVE iOS’s native interface elements (drum wheel, interface designs, tab structure.) I LOVE Android’s ability to design a little more freely on the interface. I hate Blackberry. (oops…did I say that out loud?)