Apple, Comics, Journal, Musings, Technology

The Apple Pencil has Reignited my Love of Drawing

The Spider-Man drawing above was created entirely on the iPad Pro using Procreate and the Apple Pencil. After many years, my love of drawing has been reignited and transported to the digital age.

Friends of mine from childhood, high school and college remember me as someone who loved to draw. Armed with reams of continuous pin fed dot matrix computer paper from my father’s workplace, my elementary school friends and I would draw battleships and castles. Our fortresses featured various dungeons, moats and parapets to defend the inhabitants from the invading hordes. Our vessels would have multiple 16-inch cannons, missile launchers, and enough anti-aircraft, anti-missile, and anti-submarine weaponry to repel any assault on our naval fleet. As I entered middle and high school, I began reading comic books and drawing Spider-Man, Iron Man, and Batman in my sketchbooks.

Yet, as much as I loved computers, I never took a liking to drawing digitally. Tools like Illustrator still confound me to this day for anything but the most simplistic projects. I remember buying one of the first Wacon Intuos tablets, but I could never get used to the experience of looking at the screen while drawing on the tablet. It felt unnatural and I yearned for that 1:1 experience. I realize that many people have no problem with this approach, but it just wasn’t for me. I’ve tried numerous styluses, both dumb ones and those with Bluetooth for my iPhone and iPad, but none could replicate the feeling of drawing on paper.

Today, Wacom has its Cintiq line, Samsung has the Galaxy Note 5 which features a halfway decent stylus in the S-Pen (though the screen is too small for the type of drawing I would like to do) and Microsoft has Surface tablets which come with high-precision styluses. As a longtime Apple user, however, I could not bear myself to switch platforms.

With all that said, one can imagine my excitement with the announcement of the iPad Pro and the Apple Pencil. The videos depicting the Pencil in action were impressive, and I waited with great anticipation at midnight of launch day to order the Pro and Pencil. While I was able to pick up my iPad Pro on day one, my Pencil was backordered for three to four additional weeks. In some ways, this was good, because it gave me the chance to become more familiar with the differences in the iPad Pro compared with my other iPads. It features the best software keyboard that I have used to date, one that I can conceivably use for typing long form text and editing HTML documents.

I didn’t buy the iPad Pro for typing; I bought it to draw! So last week, I began calling Apple Retail stores around the peninsula, asking if they had any Pencils in stock. I was initially told that all Pencils were backordered, and that they wouldn’t be arriving for weeks. Then, I read reports that small batches were indeed arriving at retail stores, including the one nearest to my house. I went to that store on the morning of the 19th. The specialist informed me that while none were in stock at the moment, more were coming later in the day. So, back home I went and waited until after lunch. As I entered the Apple Store, my eyes went directly to the shelf  where the Pencils should have been. My heart sank when I saw an empty shelf. Fortunately, my prayers were answered; they had 10 more in the back!

Up until now, I have been using an Adonit Jot Touch Bluetooth Stylus1 and Procreate on an original iPad mini for my digital illustrations. Shown above is a page from a children’s book that I am making for my son. While the Jot Touch was certainly better than using my fingers, I have not been entirely satisfied with it. The lag, the weird plastic disc at the tip, and the buttons that I kept pressing by accident were annoying. The lack of good palm rejection in all of the iOS apps I’ve tried to date made drawing an awkward experience.

The Apple Pencil resolves all of these problems to my satisfaction. It has the least lag or latency of any stylus I’ve ever used due to the high sampling rate between the Pencil’s movements on the iPad Pro’s display. The tip of the Pencil is small and precise; where I place it is where the digital ink appears. I know Wacon tablet users love their buttons, but I like the fact that there are no buttons on the Apple Pencil; there’s nothing to accidentally press. Finally, palm rejection is extremely good across several applications like Paper, Procreate, and Notes. I am so glad to be able to place the side of my hand right on the screen without worrying that a big splotch would appear! And while there remain times when I see a stray ink mark, it happens so infrequently that it’s not a problem for me.

Procreate from Savage Interactive is an excellent painting application that offers multiple layer support, perspective tools, dozens of pre-set brushes, and an easy-to-use interface. It also records everything you do in the app, making it easy to see how I went from a blank canvas to the finished Spider-Man drawing.

It’s only been a few days, but to say that I am satisfied with the Apple Pencil is an understatement. For artists like me who never got accustomed to drawing on graphics tablets like the Wacom Intuos, didn’t want to plunk down the cash for a Cintiq, nor felt the need to switch platforms, the Apple Pencil and the iPad Pro is a game changer. And the great thing is that this technology is only going to get better. I’d welcome using the Apple Pencil on a smaller iPad for those times when I want a more portable drawing system. I’d also like to see better iCloud support in Procreate so that I can easily switch between art projects on all of my devices. I fully expect to do much more drawing in the future, now that the technology has matched my expectations.

Lastly, I pulled the old Apple Bluetooth headset dock to function as a charging stand for the Apple Pencil. I connected a 30-pin to Lightning adapter to the Pencil’s female-to-female Lightning adapter to complete the system. The port for the headset is magnetized, so the Pencil’s cap won’t roll off the table.

Here are some more articles and reviews of the Apple Pencil that are worth reading:

1 I originally wrote that I had a Jot Pro, but it’s really a Jot Touch. Mine is an older version of the one Adonit sells today, and it features a plastic disc instead of a normal looking plastic nib at the pen’s tip.

Wearing my new personal uniform while doing pull-ups at the local park.
Decluttering, Journal, Minimalism, Travel

My Minimalist Uniform Project for 2015

Since my exercise and weight loss journey began in the middle of 2014, I have lost about five inches off my waist (34 inches to 29 inches). That custom tailored double-breasted suit from Hong Kong that I got in the summer of 1995? I’m glad that style is coming back into fashion because the muffin top is gone, and the suit fits me again! Those durable North Face shorts I wore on my Desolation Wilderness backpacking trips in the late 90s and early 2000s but hid in my closet the last decade because they had gotten too tight? Time to start planning another backpacking trip because they’re loose and comfy now!

Getting my suit fitted and adjusted in Hong Kong circa 1994. After my weight loss, it fits again!

Getting my suit fitted and adjusted in Hong Kong circa 1994. After my weight loss, it fits again!

Seeing that the clothes I’ve been wearing the past several years are now too big, I’m jumping head-first into this sartorial opportunity to do something I’ve long wanted to do but was afraid to commit to: creating a minimalist uniform for myself. I’ve been inspired by people like Steve Jobs, Albert Einstein, Mark Zuckerberg, President Obama and others who have adopted a minimalist clothing approach or a personal uniform. They’ve chosen to wear the same or identical clothes every day in order to concentrate on the things that are most important to them instead of wasting time on deciding what to wear. While my daily decisions don’t yet affect the financial future of multi-billion, multi-national companies nor the fate of the free world, I can still benefit from simplifying my life and freeing myself of the clothing decision every day.

Read more on my Minimalist Uniform Project

The Minimus shoes are remarkably lighter than the already light H Streets.
Exercise, Journal, Running

New Balance Minimus HI-REZ Shoes

For the past several years, my running shoes of choice have been the Puma H Streets. These are a favorite of the POSE running crowd, although they were never meant to be used as running shoes. Today, they are harder to find in my size (women’s size 10, since I can’t seem to find the men’s version anymore). So, when I finally decided that the holes in the shoes were getting too big (check out the photo below), I started looking for a new pair and brand of running shoes.

Felix was telling me that a few of his friends were using New Balance Minimus shoes, so I went over the NB site to check them out. The Minimus is actually a series of lightweight, minimalist running shoes, and the one that struck my eye was the Minimus HI-REZ. The specs show it to be lighter than the H Streets, 3.7 ounces versus 5.8 ounces. Judging solely from the photos, I liked the thicker sole in the front; one drawback on the H Streets was that the bottoms wore out so quickly. I tend to strike the ground on the outside front part of my foot, and that’s where all the holes formed.

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Journal, Musings, Rants, Technology

Bye Bye GoDaddy, Hello Hover: An Ode to a Dead Elephant

It may come as a surprise to some, but I can be unusually resistant to certain kinds of changes. For the longest time, I have used and recommended GoDaddy for domain registration services. When it first appeared on the scene, GoDaddy was a viable and affordable alternative to Network Solutions. Over the years, I’ve found myself biting my tongue whenever it came time to renew. The dozens of advertisements for “additional services” had become too in your face and annoying. I had become programmed to scroll down to the bottom of the page, looking for the “No Thanks, Continue” text link that would take me one step closer to the Checkout page. Nevertheless, the inertia to change (i.e. laziness) was too great, and I found myself renewing my domains every few years and continuing to use GoDaddy for my new registrations.

That processed ended for the most part today after I read the tweets and articles about GoDaddy CEO Bob Parsons shooting an elephant in Africa. Since its racy Super Bowl ads, GoDaddy has never shied away from the public spotlight, and I’m not sure which way the pendulum will swing as a result of this incident. While Eric tweeted that people are abandoning GoDaddy in droves, it remains to be seen if people aren’t just raising a stink about leaving. Domain transfers involves time, money, and multiple steps to complete. For people who have dozens of domains like myself, even the plight of the now dead elephant might not be enough to overcome this inertia.

For me, however, the elephant story forced me to say, “Enough!” This afternoon while in Hawaii, I transferred 14 out of my 16 domains over from GoDaddy to Hover, a domain registrar owned by TUCOWS, a long-time player in the Internet scene. I found a 10% off coupon for Hover, and the company itself is offering domain transfers for only $10. Hover has a good tutorial which walks one over the multi-step process to go from GoDaddy over to its service.

As for the other two domains, I have to wait until a 60-day grace period is over before I can transfer one of them. I’m just going to let lapse the other when it comes time to renew. So with that said, goodbye GoDaddy and hello to Hover!

Apple, Journal, MsgFiler, Software

MsgFiler 3.0 – Coming Soon to the Mac App Store


Update February 27, 2011: The wait is over. MsgFiler is now available on the Mac App Store!

While I don’t want to count my chickens before they hatch, I’m happy to announce the upcoming release of MsgFiler 3.0, available exclusively on the Mac App Store. I submitted the app for approval last week, and it’s currently awaiting review.

Astute readers might stop and ask, “Wait a minute, aren’t Mail plugins not allowed on the Mac App Store?” You’re right that they aren’t, but MsgFiler is no longer a Mail plugin! In a way, MsgFiler has come full circle. The original release was a separate application built using AppleScript Studio. MsgFiler 2.0 was rewritten as a Mail plugin. Now with MsgFiler 3.0, it’s back to being a separate application that communicates with Mail via AppleScript. Longtime users should not worry; there’s still tight integration between MsgFiler 3.0 and Mail.

I’m excited about the new features in MsgFiler 3.0, many of which were direct requests from users over the years:

  • Favorite mailboxes
  • Recent mailboxes
  • Ability to create new mailboxes from within MsgFiler
  • Configurable default action
  • Exclude mailboxes
  • Match on mailbox names only
  • Restrict search to selected accounts
  • Full keyboard access

Check out the MsgFiler 3.0 product video. I’m sure it will get you pumped up and ready to buy it when it becomes available!

There will be a special introductory price of $4.99 for MsgFiler the first week it’s on the Mac App Store. That’s right, you’ll be able to get MsgFiler at 50% off for one week only!

I’m really excited about this new release, and how it’s going to help Mac users save time decluttering their inboxes!

Apple, Journal, Rants, Technology

Can You Connect To The Internet Now? Verizon, iPad and the MiFi

Update November 23, 2010: Updating the MiFi to firmware 7.3.11 appears to resolve these problems for me. The updater is currently available only for PCs, so Mac users will need to borrow a friend’s computer or use Fusion or Parallels to install the firmware onto their MiFi. Daniel Odio has additional details on his blog.

The following post was written using the MiFi with firmware 7.1.6. The problems listed below manifested itself for me and several other people. Read the update above on how to upgrade your MiFi to the latest firmware which has resolved the problem thus far for me.

So, Verizon is now selling the iPad bundled with the MiFi wireless 3G hotspot. Unless Verizon and Novatel (makers the MiFi firmware) have solved MiFi WiFi disconnect problem, there are going to be a lot of unhappy customers.

Many users of this setup for the past year have experienced random disconnects with the MiFi when used in WiFi mode. As I pointed out in my post on the subject back in April, the device works fine in tethered mode, but fails horribly — disconnecting sometimes every minute — in WiFi mode. To my knowledge there hasn’t been any acknowledgement of this problem on the part of Verizon nor Novatel, nor has there been any firmware update to rectify the issue.

Verizon MiFi Problem

Now that more customers will be “enjoying” this problem, perhaps a solution is not far down the road!