15 April 2016
To their eternal credit, Apple has always catered to the creative crowd and delivered. While many of their products, physical and digital, come at a premium that waxes dealbreaker in the eyes of many starving artist types, the trade-off is an unparalleled ease of use. Obviously there's nothing written saying an artist cannot also be technically inclined or adept. It's a matter of reducing hurtles, red tape, and prep time. As much as labor and sacrifice are part of the creative process, the overall goal is still to have as little between the artist and their work as possible. If there are limitations to overcome, it's by the artist's choice and entirely on their terms.
I liked drawing and painting on my Sony Xperia Z Ultra, especially in PSoft Mobile's Zenbrush, and using the Sensu brush stylus. It helped transition me from traditional media to digital better than an Wacom tablet had. It was portable, convenient, and surprisingly versatile. The downside to the whole setup, though, was I didn't have a lot of options, particularly in terms of hardware.
The Sensu brush is a special case, the result of a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign to create a brush that could work with a capacitive touchscreen, no software or connectivity required. The trouble with Android is that there are few to no hardware standards, so anything made to work with an app has to either pick and choose which brands and models they're compatible with, or bank on Apple. It's why you'll see hundreds of different iPhone cases (often in bargain bins) but maybe a dozen other designs for maybe three or four specific Android models, such as the Samsung Galaxy, easily the only Android devices that can hold a candle to the iPhone in terms of versatility.
Sensu not only makes their own stylus/brush combo, as well as a standalone brush with better ergonomics, but also an attachment for a stylus made by Ten One Design, the Pogo Connect 2. The company had a sale recently, so I couldn't help but spring for it. I hadn't yet taken advantage of the pressure sensitivity on my iPad mini 3, and this seemed a good way to jump in without breaking the bank. The device and its additional nib packs arrived in nondescript packaging, and rather vague instructions. It went through how to connect the stylus to the iPad by way of Ten One's app, pairing it via Bluetooth and adjusting pressure settings and nib style, but I had a moment of confusion on how to change out the nibs. I knew the tips were held in place by magnets, but they're deceptively strong, to the point I thought there was another step, like a locking ring or a release button. Fortunately, Ten One's website had a FAQ with that very issue explained. Still wish they'd put something in the instructions, instead of one page devoted to pairing and six pages to all the FCC/Wi-Fi security legalese.
The R3 tip, the default nib for the Pogo, is big and chunky, bearing an uncanny similarity to the carpenter's pencil-inspired Fifty Three Pencil stylus. It works well enough for navigating menus when you're tired of dealing with fingerprints on your screen, but drawing feels like a soft, mushy crayon at worst and a big piece of chalk or charcoal at best. It might be useful if you're working with straight, point-to-point lines or any other drawing feature that favors a mouse. Otherwise, there's not much here to give the stylus a "must have" quality. If you're tempted to pick up a Pogo, expect to buy at least one of the extra nib packs. I got three.
The R1 tip, touted as their fine point for its narrow 4.5mm diameter, is disappointment made solid. Basically worthless, the tip only registered on the iPad when pressed down hard enough to turn its fine tip into a rubber stamp. Despite much tweaking of the pressure settings in the app, neither tip in the pack could produce even remotely practical results. I can't imagine anyone using it for drawing, let alone note taking. I'll be returning mine, instead getting a backup Sensu brush tip.
The Sensu brush tip (B3), which is what led me to the Pogo in the first place, redeems the device on every level, elevating it above passably mediocre. It worked like a dream in both Procreate and Zenbrush 2. I only wish the undo function had worked in Zenbrush 2 as well as Procreate. Rather than having to tap the screen or even flip the stylus over like Fifty Three's Pencil, a simple click of the Bluetooth button instantly erases the most recent stroke. This is immeasurably handy. It genuinely improves on the original Sensu design. While I love my Sensu to death, its portability comes at a price. Even at its full extension in brush mode, it's not very comfortable to hold, like a golf pencil. It's slightly off-balance and requires you to hold it fairly close to the head of the brush, which can be problematic if your app of choice can't offer any sort of palm rejection, so the slightest bump of a knuckle can ruin your otherwise perfectly flowing line. The Pogo, on the other hand, is a big, chunky thing (like its default nib), reminiscent of those primary pencils you had in elementary school, only lightweight like a Bic pen. I can genuinely relax my hand while holding it. That's a big plus.
There are other brush tips (B1 & B2), made in-house by Ten One Design, but I have yet to try them out. Frankly, I'm not in a big hurry to try them out. I expect they'll perform well enough, as brushes are clearly the Pogo's strength. One issue that came up when I was organizing all the tips was storage. The R1 and R3 nibs are easy enough with their rubber tips and low profiles, but as a rule, brushes have to be stored carefully, lest you bend the bristles too far and get the head misshapen. You also have to consider taking them out and putting them back in, since its best to avoid touching the bristles. It's not a major issue as I don't intend to take Pogo on the go, instead favoring my Sensu, but I'd still be curious to see what others come up with as far as storage. I thought of an Altoids tin, but the magnets might make that tricky.
While my overall impressions and experience with the Pogo Connect 2 is positive, I can't give it a strong recommendation without some qualifiers. The Sensu brush tip makes it a worthwhile purchase on its own, but the additional tips run the gamut of broken to uninteresting. The device itself is extremely well-built, with good battery life and even a nifty tracking feature to help you locate a misplaced one. If you're looking for a good, all-around versatile stylus for everyday use on your iPad or iPhone, this is not the one. If, however, you want a painterly experience or would like to upgrade your Sensu, the Pogo with the B3 tip is a great combination. Peanut Butter met Chocolate on this one.
09 April 2016
I said I didn't have time to explain why I don't go to church to the two who came to my door unannounced wearing jackets more befitting municipal services than clergy (a little deceiving) because I don't expect to entertain discourse on a Saturday morning, as much as I don't mind discussing ideologies. Were I less than the type to give others the benefit of the doubt to the purity of their intentions, my answer would be, "Because I grew up." Luckily, I'm not that guy, no matter how much I've had to drink. The proper and more civil reason is because while I was raised Christian, I found many problems with its base doctrines and tenets I could not reconcile with the world around me. I eventually found a new perspective with better insight and greater possibilities. I take no issue with churches or their charitable endeavors. I do, however, question their motives, especially in socio-political circles, evading taxes while influencing state policy, feigning humility yet engaging in deceptive marketing practices befitting a business, and ultimately offering a service with no guarantee of delivery and even less accountability.
I had no interest in attendance, and I'm even less inclined to reconsider now after this visit at an apartment complex adorned with a "No Solicitors" sign.
--Your Friendly Neighborhood Objectivist
03 April 2016
Imagine Volkswagen offers a new version of the Beetle, one with a turbo-charged V12 from Lamborghini, and for the exact same five-figure price (in €, let's say) as a fully equipped Beetle. The catch, as there would have to be for this kind of offer, is that the fuel tank is only a single gallon, putting this monster's range at around 20, if you adjust your settings to only use so many of those cylinders, at the expense of top speed and optimal acceleration. With that scenario in mind, let's talk about Apple.
I haven't owned a proper Apple product since 2005, that little gem being my Bondi Blue iMac, bought in 2000 and running OS 9. It had a 10GB hard drive. One day, around 2003, the drive took a dive and I had to scramble to save every last bit of it by way of about two dozen Zip Disks. When I took it in to get repaired, I was warned they wouldn't be able to replace the drive with the same size. I took a deep breath and asked how badly I'd be downgraded.
Luckily for my dignity, the gentleman behind the counter did not laugh, as so many lesser places might have. He politely explained that the smallest hard drive they offered was 30GB. Obviously, it was an aftermarket drive, one not directly endorsed by Apple, but compatible nonetheless. I chalked this up to having an older machine in a fast moving world.
Fast forward to a few weeks ago, and we've got commercials for storage expansion devices for the MacBook Air, a tiny and inconspicuous drive capable of doubling the Air's 256GB drive. There are similar options for the iPad and iPhone, but none of them are what would be called terribly practical, certainly not as seamless as the geekily-named Tardisk. They typically involve lugging around an external drive with some sort of wireless option that doesn't so much work in sync or tandem with the onboard storage as much as trailing it.
Recently, the iPad Pro was released, an admittedly impressive piece of machinery that makes me seriously consider it plus Pinnacle over a Mac Mini running Final Cut as an option for producing video content on a semi-regular basis. I mean, I'd get a decent video editing console and a tablet for drawing and painting in one singular package. It's practically perfect... Except a closer look at the specs reveal it as perfectly impractical.
Between the iPad Mini 3 (which I have currently) and the Pro, the difference in processing power is a mere factor of 2. Also, why is the 12-inch version only capable of 1080p video recording while the 9-inch one can pull 4K? Granted, video recording is a completely pointless feature on a tablet compared to a phone, but that's the rub, isn't it? All of these little compromises in areas that really aren't selling points in and of themselves add up to a goofy mess of a product line from a company we once lauded for taking bold and unusual risks. Now, they're just kind of dumb, shortsighted, and even naive. Of all the features to hold hostage behind the higher price tags, storage space should not be one of them. I could almost understand having an SD card slot on the upper tiers, not unlike microphone inputs on camcorders; it's not quite a prosumer feature, but versatility is often the first casualty of accessibility. However, there's still only built-in storage on the most tricked and pimped Pro. This strategy makes no sense because you're not really being rewarded for your larger investment. Apple, as a rule, has never done anything conventionally, and I doubt I'm alone in loving them for that (Cheap desktop computer? Fine, but we'll make it really small and adorable... Mac Mini). However, there's innovation, and then there's mud-flavored candy.