18 February 2017

Sic Semper Stultus

My favorite Latin phrase is: 

Quod Erat Demonstrandum 

Often abbreviated as QED and roughly translating to "What was to be demonstrated," it serves as a somewhat more obtuse way of saying, "I rest my case." after someone inadvertently proves your point or otherwise makes your case for you. It's probably best known to fans of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and its use of a small, yellow, leech-like fish capable of translating any and all languages to whoever sticks one in their ear as proof for the non-existence of God. Speaking of which...

My second favorite Latin phrase is: 

Ex Falso Quodlibet 

EFQ is sometimes written as Ex Contradictione Sequitur Quodlibet, and while we could have a fair debate as to whether or not "Falso/Falsehood" and "Contradictione/contradiction" are synonymous, we'll say for the sake of simplicity that it means, "From bullshit, anything is possible." It typically gets used in religious discussions; If virgin births are unquestionably legitimate, why would buried metal books written by gods and/or aliens be unbelievable? Speaking of things that should be unbelievable...

My third favorite Latin phrase is only a word:

Sic

Technically, it's short for Sic Erat Scriptum, but the important part is the first word, which merely means "thus," its full translation being "thus it was written." It's used to identify errors in the source material for a quote, a notable example being Will Rogers' famous quote, "I joked about every prominent man of my time, but I never met a man I dident [sic] like." I first heard of it from an English professor who pointed out how reports of a certain public figure's inability to distinguish the words "desecration" and "defecation" in an email response to a certain newspaper's accusations of alcoholism, well... QED. This three letter word, sometimes mistaken for an acronym (spelled in context/spelling is correct), is what prompted me to write this entry, though I'd been meaning to write a longer, more in-depth piece exploring the Principle of Explosion (another name for EFQ). While out getting groceries, I was behind a car with a frame around its rear license plate: 

"The Best Mom's Are Promoted to Grammy"

... guess where the "sic" goes. 

Excelsior, true believers.

22 January 2017

Bye U Billy O

Waltzed into a Gamestop today and finally got a straight answer about the status of the WiiU. After noticing it disappear from shelf stores, seeing a few conflicting statements of questionable credibility (redistributing stock, ceasing production in Japan...), and seeing a few WiiU games on my Amazon Wishlist skyrocket into scalp/flip/gouge territory, the console is dead. Breath of the Wild will be the last game released for it, and that's coming about a week or two after the Switch edition. I'd held out this hope that the reason for the discontinuing was for the sake of a redesign. This whole "Pibb Xtra" sort of switcheroo is nothing new to the likes of Sony, given the sheer number of redesigns for the original Playstation, to say nothing of dos and san. It's not even anything new to Nintendo, albeit their Wii-Mini was a disappointment on a colossal scale... and jury's still kind of out on the GameBoy Micro. Sadly, the math is against the world's oldest Hanafuda-maker; with the sole exception of the Wii, every console since the original NES has sold worse than the last. 
The SNES took blood out of Mortal Kombat. 
The N64 stuck with cartridges. 
The Gamecube was Johnny-Come-Lately after the PS2 and XBox. 
The Wii won... by the law of averages at best and a fluke at worst (*cough*shovelware*cough*). 

None of these points was at all the notorious blue shell that crashed Nintendo's kart, except that they do speak to a handful of overarching problems with how Nintendo conducts itself. 
The Mortal Kombat Kon--Controversy plus Sega's aggressive infantalizing campaign against Nintendo didn't help them shed their image as the Disney of games, closing out an older audience with bigger wallets. Madden football may have played a big part as well, but let's stick to bullet points. 
The cartridges in the 64 further showed that Nintendo really was not the fit-in/play-nice type with 3rd party developers, especially Squaresoft (who took their franchises and legions of fans over to camp Sony). 
The GameCube appeared at first to carry on the "our way or no way" philosophy of the 64 with its quirky "not quite mini-disc" format while its competition offered CD and DVD players. 

The WiiU's failure... is somewhat hazy right now. Some say the marketing made it sound like a peripheral (wouldn't that have generated MORE interest, though?), others say the marketing fell back on bad habits and forgot how old their core audience had become, and still more point to the one-two punch of a novel interface with barely-there third-party support (small library, fewer readers). My own idea is simply that they could have waited; Sony proved with the overlap between each generation of Playstation that the five-year cycle is a joke, barely an observation and certainly not a law. Hardware is not even half the equation when it comes to consoles; people will come for the specs, but stay for the games. 

Going back to the Gamecube, for as shameless a Sony fanboy as I am, for as invested as I became in all it came to offer me and deliver upon, I stand with Caddicarus (an even more shameless fanboy than me) when I say that if I had to pick between the two, I would legitimately take the GameCube over the PS2 any day of the week. It's a great console with superior hardware (Metroid Prime still looks better than Halo 2), a surprisingly liberal third-party policy (SEGA, anyone?), and a games library which ultimately favored quality over quantity. Like the WiiU, I think their problem with it was itchy feet. Metroid Prime 2 and Twilight Princess alone showed what untapped potential there was in that off-the-shelf Radeon card; there's no reason they couldn't have buoyed themselves on their handhelds while letting the Cube find a stronger, more loyal audience. Hell, when I was looking into springing for a U, my wishlist only had two items on it, both HD upgrades of perfectly adept Zelda games I already had for my perfectly viable Gamecube. I guess all I truly wanted was a backup with benefits, a silver medal with no strings attac--okay, I'm not doing myself any favors here.  

As for the Switch, I genuinely just now caught a glimpse of the new Bomberman title for it while writing this, and I am now officially excited. I'm no longer worried Nintendo may be jumping the gun and not giving the U the chance the Gamecube never had. I don't think I'll be going the early adoption route, but I don't see why there won't soon be a Switch happily docked next to my TV. 

18 January 2017

Adonit Snap Review


The Pencil by Fifty-Three is a stylus I fully expected to hate. I felt legitimately insulted by the way it was marketed as an artist’s tool while looking like a carpenter’s pencil. That’s not to say carpentry isn’t an art, but there’s a reason they’re called carpenter’s pencils and not architect’s pencils. Luckily for Fifty-Three, I was utterly blown away when I started using the Pencil with Procreate. The smudge and erase functionality are a perfect fit and I never want to use another stylus with it. Other apps like Autodesk Sketchbook or Tayasui or the Adobe family were less than impressive, but only marginally. 

In the end, my only true complaint about the Pencil is the tip. Compared to my Elago and particularly my Sensu, it is extremely soft, more akin to a brush than a pencil. There’s a reason spare tips are included in the package and available as an accessory.


When I saw Adonit offering what appeared to be their answer to the Pencil, I got very excited. It seemed like the best of both worlds, the combined precision of Adonit’s Pixelpoint tip with the ergonomics of the Pencil’s carpentry aesthetic. Before things started to look too good to be true, a closer look revealed some notable differences that should allow the folks at Fifty-Three to rest easy. The Snap may copy the look of the Pencil, but only because of hand models being required to have a handspan no wider than an infant’s. The Snap is astonishingly thin and small compared to the Pencil, but the width is still enough to feel comfortable in the hand. An open charging port at the tail-end means no eraser function like the Pencil, but it beats having to disassemble the latter and leave its innards jutting out of a USB port.


Instead of the kind of Bluetooth functionality many higher end styluses allow for iPad artists like palm rejection or mapping un/redo functions to the buttons, the Snap takes an odd route and finds serendipity along the way. There is a single button on the Snap, and when paired with the iPad, it acts as a shutter button for the camera. Most selfie sticks or other mounting accessories have some kind of remote shutter function, but this is the first I’ve ever seen it in a stylus. That’s a pretty hoopy piece of thinking there; even the slimmest selfie stick is nowhere near as convenient or spontaneous as the stylus you’re already using to take notes or sketch with. Besides, no one’s daily routine should ever involve asking themselves, “Should I take my selfie stick with me?” Joking aside, having a remote shutter function for your phone helps keep the camera stable instead of slightly bumping it when tapping your screen or clicking one of the volume buttons.



The button itself makes a barely-audible click and has virtually no travel. It might as well have been a membrane activated by squeezing the body of the stylus. I suppose Adonit doesn’t expect people will use the button often enough to give it better tactile feedback, but I do hope either I simply got one that slipped by QA or later versions of this will be improved.

Fifty-Three offers 3 different versions of their flagship product, one a matte black, the second a glitzy gold worthy of Dolce and Gabbana, and a walnut finish that adds a magnetic snap for Apple’s smart covers. The Adonit Snap, true to its name, offers a metallic look similar to the gold (mine being a rose gold) with the ability to mount it to a cover… provided you use its included magnetic plate. To be fair, even without it, it’s clear Adonit put in a strong magnet inside the Snap. Getting it out of my bag should involve placing bets on what other accessory I’ll have to pull away from it.


As much as I don’t like to put the cons last when I review things, I didn’t want to lead with the elephant in the room, especially since this isn’t a fault of the Snap specifically. I have never liked how these thinner tipped styluses feel against my screen. For all I may gripe about my other styluses, I will give the rubber tip its due credit in giving me a good, solid, tactile feeling of making my mark on a surface. There’s weight, gravity, and grip in my movements, and it’s all reflected on screen. With Adonit, however, that’s all but missing. While it’s technically impossible for the hard plastic tip to scratch the screen’s smooth glass, it takes a lot of mental training to talk yourself down from that ledge of anxiety. The sad part is, there’s still no getting past the sensation of rubbing a nail against glass… underwater. The weight, gravity, and grip of a “crayon-like” stylus gets traded for something that looks to all the world like pen on paper, but feels like neither. Movement is slippery, weightless, and overall disconnected. I feel like I’m giving vague suggestions to my canvas than making my mark. It’s the same problem I had when I tried using a Wacom Bamboo tablet on a desktop, like I was telling someone how to tie their shoes… underwater and using vague suggestions.

I’ve heard a solution from some digital artists involving screen protectors. They supposedly help give the stylus more of a grip to the surface by simulating the “tooth” of paper. I haven’t tried it, but since you should protect your tablet somehow anyway, it may be worth looking into.

Final Judgment:

It is not a great iPad solution unless you really like the remote shutter button, but don’t want the bear the shame of owning a selfie stick. Albeit the price point is alluring, the fact is if you’re going to take illustration or notetaking even remotely seriously on your iPad, there are better options for not very much more coin, many from Adonit themselves. On the other hand, Android users will find this a very handy, convenient stylus, even without the shutter button. The thin profile, magnetic snap, and precision point will feel like a natural extension of your phone, turning any brand’s model into a Samsung Galaxy

19 November 2016

And Viewers Like You


Okay, I don't want to give this guy much grief, hence cutting off his name. I see this often enough he could represent a number of people we may know in our lives. It's a sign of a far bigger problem in our culture.

Setting aside the bullshit that is charging people 10USD to view files made on a CAD program that can costs hundreds (Want to see the mock-up of your commission? 10 bucks, please!), we have to bear in mind that there's no trial version of this app, and the word VIEWER is in the name, to say nothing of the full description.

That means this guy paid a full ten US dollars to use an app, only to give it a one-star review because it won't do what it never claimed to do in the first place. 

05 October 2016

InkTober

Holidays are funny things, many with storied histories ranging from quirky to downright dark. Many are holdovers from Pagan rituals while others mark historical events (birthdays, wars, deaths, etc.). These can be repurposed as religious holidays, their original meanings glossed over in an almost Orwellian fashion, and others get put through a Kafkaesque wringer of red tape for the sake of making 3-day weekends in February. I'm sure there's at least two holidays that were made up by greeting card companies to fill a gap in their schedule. Many controversies have been sparked over to what extent a holiday should be observed, especially in regards to school closures. Comedians have built careers on the reality of the crawling chaos that is Christmas, with Black Friday bleeding into Gray Thursday (while Small Business Saturday never quite catches on). 

As time goes on, I've found I get less and less enthusiastic for holidays, ignoring most altogether and avoiding whatever I get roped into. For example, I've plans to see my family in December, but to be long gone at least a good week before Christmas Day. I'm also having my own Thanksgiving dinner this year with my roommate due to various rifts in her family that have left it deeply splintered. Part of me is a bit nervous about this, mostly from people placing an alarming emphasis on specific days holding specific meaning. 

"But it's about spending time with loved ones! And if it's not on the day..." they cry out, to which I whisper back, "Who's says I'm not already doing that?" Seriously, I don't get the idea that somehow a gift from someone you care about is less important on one day than another. Sure, Christmas Every Day diminishes the, er, meaning or importance or significance or mojo or whatever, but it's not a comet during an eclipse, either. Still, it gives me pause. I wonder if I'm missing something, if I've just become some embittered Scrooge sitting in the corner with arms folded and punctuating the statement with a mighty, "Harumph!". 

Then I realized there was a double standard in my thinking. I was cynical towards "traditional" holidays, but "new" holidays were getting the No True Scotsman treatment by yours truly. I was saying Pi Day was dopey, Talk Like a Pirate Day was stupid (I mean, okay, it kind of is, but you'll see where I'm going with this), Palindrome dates are an excuse for semi-clever marketing (9-9-99, 11-11-11), and Christmas in July is just an excuse for kids in summer camp to make ornaments in Arts & Crafts. Now, when I see people posting their old photos for Throwback Thursday or adorable kitten videos for Caturday, I may not get as excited for it as I do New Year's, but events like NaNoWriMo come closer than Talk Like A Pirate Day ever could. Tumblr taught me that October is Black Cat Month, when cat lovers paradoxically raise awareness about violence against black cats around Halloween as well as their statistically lower adoption rates while many shelters set moratoriums on adoption because of the aforementioned violence. I think it's great to see people get excited like this over some shared interest. My point is it's as valid as any other holiday, even if you don't get the day off. 

As much as talking about black cats got me riled up, I'm simultaneously "celebrating" black cat month with another internet-inspired holiday: Inktober. Started by illustrator Jake Parker back in 2009 as a challenge to himself, the idea is simple: each day has a word or other kind of prompt attached to it, and you make an ink-based illustration for each one. Proper hashtags are applied when posted to social media to make your work searchable for other participants and onlookers, and you get to see radically different interpretations of the same given theme. There's a few other takes on it, different prompt lists or simply keeping the "one per day" part. There's no wrong way to participate, really, but I decided to stick with the original, and have been for the past week. 

I am doing things a little differently, though, if only by my own standards. I've been drawing digitally almost exclusively for around a full year, off and on for maybe another two. Despite my misgivings, I have generally not missed working traditionally, especially the scanning and photographing and editing of pieces before being uploaded and posted to my DeviantART or ArtStation or even Twitter. For this Inktober, I thought it might be fun to go back to the simple purity of ink and paper, but I didn't want to go through the hassle of scanning. So, I made a kind of compromise. The drawings I post to my Instagram (where this event really seems to come alive) are taken with my iPhone, sometimes at odd angles and many times with shadows left in, and then edited in some program like Aviary or Pixlr or Paper. The edits are generally cosmetic, mostly tilt shift focus or vignetting or color filters, and no new lines are added to the original drawing nor is any part of the drawing erased (only cropped). 

Whatever you celebrate, have fun with it. 

28 September 2016

Goodbye Cheetah Mobile

Many years ago, I learned the hard way the dangers of not having backups for sensitive data. I also learned that computers need maintenance on both the hardware side of things and the software side. For the few years I had a full-fledged Windows PC, there was no one I trusted more than IOLO's System Mechanic. Later on, when I moved to Linux, that was no longer a viable option. I still keep an account with IOLO open for the sake of my roommate and a very good friend who still use PCs (the license covers multiple installations). IOLO uses an annual subscription model, frequently with promos and discounts that make the whole operation all the more "set and forget". 
When I got my XPeria, I was surprised IOLO didn't have a stronger mobile presence to compete with McAffe and TrendMicro. What I came across instead was CM Security, short for Cheetah Mobile. My experience with them has quickly shrank from mostly favorable to downright annoying. 
I'll save my current stance on the subject of blocking ads for another entry, but I will give a small sample here. I understand that ad-support is sometimes necessary to maintain a business model. I don't mind pay-walls for added features. What I absolutely can't understand is making the ad-support option compulsory. CM is by and large free to use. I get ads on my phone, which I was okay with. However, the ads got out of hand, showing up at every corner, in front of every feature, and the worst part was I had no way out of it. Yes, CM was expanding its features, meaning more revenue required, meaning more ads. Here is my problem: there's no option for me besides walking away. 
I don't mind paying for apps. 
I don't mind paying regularly for apps. 
I have a rule against spending real money on Free-to-Play games, but something like an anti-virus or a CPU cooler or a junk organizer is a completely different kettle of fish. Those are useful. Those need constant updating. Those need regular support. 

I am completely and utterly content to pay to keep my phone optimized. 

Cheetah Mobile, however, did not give me any option to pay them. 

As such, I'm using someone else now. I won't say who on the off-chance they turn out worse, but so far they seem far more willing to give me options than CM

20 September 2016

iOS 10 Impressions

I miss Slide-to-Unlock.
Yes, I'll get used to it, but did they have to cripple touchID along with it? For that matter, my iPhone doesn't have touchID, so I have to click the home button to wake it up. Part of the convenience of touchscreens is that we don't have to rely on buttons. At least, we don't have to rely on them for mundane tasks. Software can't solve simple physics problems like, "the more times you push a button, the more likely it is to break." 

I did have a pretty serious spot of grief when one of my drawing apps crashed while trying to save a sketch. The worst part is not only did it not save the sketch (which was expected), but every single piece I'd saved to my gallery up until that point was gone, including some unfinished works. Needless to say, I was furious. I was all over Twitter asking Autodesk and Apple what gives. Autodesk responded first and, to their eternal credit, they could not have been nicer about it. There wasn't anything they could really do and their advice pretty much amounted to "Shoulda done backed 'em up, son" but given the circumstances of this happening at the dawn of the iOS 10 debut, they wanted to know everything that happened. On top of that, they walked me through all the different ways to backup my gallery, from Google Drive to iCloud
It's a little baffling that for all of Autodesk's resources, backing up to something like A360 isn't a default. It's barely opt-in. As for Apple, they just asked me for the exact model number of my iPad

Fortunately, I had my iPad backed up via iTunes that very morning, so I could restore the pre iOS 10 version and back up my PSD files. Procreate is a little bit trickier somehow; it exports PSD files like Autodesk, but somehow iCloud thinks they're written in some alien language. 

13 September 2016

RED Talks (vertical)


Based on Richard Leach 's poem Red Dome
Itself based on an image by Hanan Kazma
Made with DeviantArt muro with the dome made in Sculptris. A background was first drawn in Muro, then imported into Sculptris as a background. The exported render from that was then brought back into Muro whereupon the edges of the dome were rubbed out to give the impression of being buried. A bit tedious, but it was a good exercise. I was going to do a more straightforward painting, and I still might, but this will do for now. 
This is a special vertically oriented version of the painting, essentially a remake. It's the exact same process as before, only in a "portrait" format.

09 September 2016

SketchFab Embedding

The last time I dabbled in 3D modeling was around 2003 with Poser 4 and Strata Base. More recently, I've been focused on CAD programs used for 3D printing, but in learning those I've come across the likes of Sculptris and Meshmixer. I'm a long way from selling game assets on Unity, but it's been fun experimenting like this.



    Severed Alien Head
    by Roland MJ Ziemke
    on Sketchfab





    Brain Beast
    by Roland MJ Ziemke
    on Sketchfab


Apple Reveal Thoughts

Let me start by saying I think it's honestly clever of Apple to close down their site and store in the time leading up to their keynotes. I'm not being sarcastic, I think it's a good way to curb people cancelling orders in light of newer products. It's certainly a good way to draw attention, though I wish their "come back later" wasn't so vague and wasn't so easily mistakable for a typical 404-like error. 

Apple made at least three major announcements regarding their lineup: The iPhone 7, iOS 10, and the Airpod wireless earbuds. There's also the second series of the Apple watch, but for my money, I can't tell the difference. I haven't worn a watch in years, and this hasn't made me want to start again. 

I was rather surprised, though somewhat relieved, that they made no announcements on the iPad front of things. Then again, the iPad pro was only recently announced, so they'd do well to hold off on any major upgrades until more users get back from their honeymoons. There's been some talk of Apple phasing out one of its major lines, possibly the Air, though a few tech sites have speculated the mini to be on the chopping block. As an iPad mini 3 owner, I certainly hope the mini doesn't go anywhere. 

First, let's talk iOS10, easily the least interesting announcement. I'm glad so many iPhone and iPad models are represented so no one feels left out or like they backed the wrong horse. Speaking for myself, it often feels like when I got my 5c, I was getting the "kiddy" edition, with its limited memory options, fruity-flavored color selection (though my "pink" is more salmon than grapefruit), and less-than-stellar build quality. It remains to be seen how well 10 will handle the hardware, but I certainly don't suspect any "planned obsolescence" agenda on Apple's part.  

iPhone 7. I must have a skewed view of time when it comes to Apple products, but the 6 doesn't seem long ago enough for a successor to be rolled out. Maybe it's got something to do with "Bendgate" as much as that was blown out of proportion, certainly far less egregious than that antennae fiasco with the 4. As for the 7, I find the specs overall less than exciting, more a 6.5 than a full iteration, which may be all most Apple users want as opposed to the extended betas many of their products feel like. There was one feature that got my attention, however, in the most unlikely place. The camera is dual-lens, but not for 3D purposes. Instead, they seem to be building on an old Kodak digital design from years ago, with one lens being wide-angle and the other telephoto. What's more, instead of simply switching between the lenses to suit the application, they can be used in conjunction to create depth-of-field effects. This is legitimately intriguing and I can't wait to see some results. 

Airpods. These things look stupid. There, that's your in-depth, thorough analysis of this product. I've never liked bluetooth earpieces, I can't stand earbuds, and now they've come together in an over-engineered mess. There's clearly a lot of good tech behind it and many useful features, but the design is lazy, they look way too easy to lose, and the only people I can think of who would have a legitimate use for it are vloggers tired of having those obnoxious white wires swinging every which way while they "um" and "uh" their way through an attempt at a movie review minutes after getting out of the theater.