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.


Paris Terror Attacks 20 Years Apart

My thoughts and prayers go out to those affected by the terrorist attacks tonight in Paris.

I’m reminded of an event just over 20 years ago when I was an exchange student living in Paris, France. On the morning of October 17, 1995, there was a terrorist attack on the RER C train. I wrote at the time:

“First, the métro today was full of people! I heard on the speaker that the RER C was closed… I made the connection… un nouveau attentat s’est passé. 29 people were injured in the bomb attack that happened at 7:00 this morning. I’m not scared… but it’s getting a little scary in Paris.”

More information on the 1995 bombings here.

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!


Dana Elcar and Contacts

Dana Elcar, most famous [to me] for playing MacGyver’s boss, Pete Thornton, died on Monday of complications from pneumonia. He had a long and productive life, but I’m still feeling sad.

MacGyver was my favorite TV show growing up. Pete and Mac had great chemistry together up until the last episode of the series. In later years, Elcar developed glaucoma which rendered him virtually blind. Instead of writing him out of the series, the producers decided to incorporate Elcar’s condition in the show. I remember getting choked up when he told MacGyver he was losing his eyesight!

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Musings, Technology

Apple and Intel

It’s official, Apple will be transitioning to Intel-based Macs in the next two years. The “soul of the Mac” is the operating system, not what processor or hardware the computer runs on. That said, how different is an Intel-based Mac from a stock PC running Windows or Linux? The $999 developer kit with a 3.64GHz P4 suggests nothing, or does it?

Spoke too soon. From CNet:

After Jobs’ presentation, Apple Senior Vice President Phil Schiller addressed the issue of running Windows on Macs, saying there are no plans to sell or support Windows on an Intel-based Mac. “That doesn’t preclude someone from running it on a Mac. They probably will,” he said. “We won’t do anything to preclude that.”

However, Schiller said the company does not plan to let people run Mac OS X on other computer makers’ hardware. “We will not allow running Mac OS X on anything other than an Apple Mac.”

Interesting tidbit: The name Rosetta, formerly the codename for Newton’s Handwriting Recognition System, has new meaning today as the Dynamic Binary Translator that allows PowerPC code to run on Intel-based Macs.

Can an Apple turn into an Orange? We’ll find out soon enough!

I’ve been holding off a major computer purchase to see what Apple is up to. Now that this news is out, I might opt to buy a refurbished PowerMac G5 or a previous generation model instead of the more recent speedbump releases. I’ve been doing fine with my now 4-year old QuickSilver, but I need something to bridge the gap between now and the next 2 years.

Update: John Siracusa from ArsTechnica has posted a short article on the switch to Intel. Good read from the man who writes the best reviews of Mac OS X anywhere!

Journal, Musings


10 years ago, I was studying in France when a large-scale transportation strike fell over the country for several weeks. It appears that they’re at it again with another strike. In 1995, the métro, SCNF, and bus lines were all severely impacted, causing the entire city to take to cars, hitchhiking, and walking. Pollution levels increased during this time, the city cast in a haze of gray.

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Journal, Musings

30 via 20

30 years old today. This age was not even remotely fathomable to me back in 1985 as I sat thinking about being 18 in front of my family’s Apple II computer. 8 years was long enough, but 20 years?!? Time to rewind the wayback machine to 10 years ago. Some names have been changed to protect the innocent… and guilty :)

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