Thursday, July 28, 2016


A very amusing movie! I can't believe all the internet hate from the trailers. I thought the first two trailers were quite meh, but the international trailer was pretty solid. And the film was pretty damned enjoyable and funny, and given by how the crowd with me were laughing!

I especially enjoyed how the show doesn't take itself too seriously, and the 2D ghost near the end just clinches it. Very proud to have worked on the ghost fight sequence, that looked even better after the final grade.

Who you gonna call?

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Electro Etching - Complete

It's quite difficult to find Copper Sulfate, but somehow I managed to find a small 100g bottle from Lacy West.
As this was a quick test, I just glued up a pile of waste plywood pieces into something able to support the piece being etched. They are kept more or less about 6 centimeters apart.

The first test plate was slightly damaged due to some over-enthusiastic filing to get a clean area for the wire to be soldered on. I also used a small bottle of TSPe to remove all the oil and fingerprints.
A used pasta sauce container is to be used to hold the electrolyte.
For a power supply, I got a pretty nice unit off Banggood, the cps-3205 capable of up to 5A current supply, and variable from 0 to 32 volts.
I went with 1v, for my etching voltage. The current draw during my tests were hardly taxing on the power supply, topping out at 150mAh.
The cathode appears to have worked as described by various websites, the copper plating onto the cathode.
This is the result after one hour in the electrolyte, checked at 15 minute intervals.
This is side-on through the usb microscope. Seems like a fair good bit of etching was done. 

The toner came off easily with a piece of tape. Some of it could not be removed, and I used a fingernail to scratch it off.

Didn't have any proper oxidization agents, so I just used a black sharpie to colour in the etched areas as a test :)
I thought this looked really nice!
This is the inverse of the previously etched image.
The edges are definitely more deeply etched than the center. Several sources have indicated that this would be the case, and a way to help with this is to use a cathode in the shape of a grid, not a solid plate like I have done.
Here's the reverse give the sharpie treatment :)

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Electro Etching - Toner transfer II

Success! I got the toner to transfer cleanly! I tried again with the same temperature in my oven (about 190-200 degrees C), but only leaving it in the oven for five minutes. The first attempt here transferred the center portion very nicely, but the edges totally fell apart.
Two things came to my mind. First, I did not apply as much pressure as the previous attempt. Next, I also forgot to degrease it. I then tried again, this time having a much tighter grip on the clamp in addition to degreasing the brass.
 It came out pretty good this time!
The thickness of the lines however did expand. It comes as no surprise given that we are pressing down on them, and that they'd spread.
The transfer's lines are very crisp though, and all of the toner was transferred across.

Two other things need to be done though, and that the resist should actually be printed in reverse... I want the areas in black to be etched in, so I bungled that. And I would also like the maple leaf to be on the right. I'll keep that in mind for the next attempt, this test should be good enough to begin some actual etching!

Edit: Aaaaand I've got a version with the reversed and flipped image. It's all good! The tears at the edge are simply caused by the metal not being flat. I used a pair of shears to cut the metal, and this was what caused the warping. Gotta see how I can cut metal without the warpage - maybe a jewellery saw?

Electro Etching - Toner transfer

 Small piece of brass that would fit into the aluminum heat spreaders was cut out and sanded down with 400, then 600 grit sandpaper.
The test image was printed on Pulsar FX Toner Transfer Paper. I choose this image for the fine lines and small details as well as the larger solid section.
 The brass plate is then degreased with a dab of TSPe, and carefully handled after.
 Here's the sandwich!
 Clamped down.
 Top shelf of the oven!
Water removes the transfer paper from the toner resist. The paper floats away easily, and feels exactly like the paper found on the underside of water slide decals. A quick google search indicates that these papers are probably Dextrin Coated Paper.
Success! The toner transferred well, and seems to be very sturdy. It even resists my attempts of scratching with a fingernail. However...
The fine details are all squished. Was it too much heat? Or was the clamp applying too much pressure? Gotta sand it off then and try again! I'll report back when I get a better result!

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Electro Etching - Figuring out printer settings

After much web browsing and forum lurking, I decided on getting the HP Laserjet P1102W to print the toner resists. To keep things cheap, I bought a refurb printer that, unfortunately, arrived with the output tray, as well as the upper cover broken. Blargh. Thankfully, Amazon has a pretty damned good return policy, so that went back.

The P1102W is a curious machine. It supposedly prints at 600DPI, but it has FastRes 1200 mode that somehow gives the sharpness of a 1200dpi printer. The "true" 1200dpi printers supposedly use the so-called ProRes 1200 print modes - or what I could understand from their PR blurbs.

While browsing the HP website, I came across the HP M201dw that was slightly larger than the 1102, able to print duplex, and... could print in ProRes 1200! And here's the best part - there was a special offer going on at Staples... 99.93 - from a usual price at 229. Got a unit of it :)

My first time setting up a printer using wifi, and that went surprisingly smoothly. Just had to press the wps button on the router a few times, install the driver and that was it!

Now I wanted to find a setting that gave the thickest toner and proceeded to print a sample vector image though Affinity Designer. However, all the changes I made on the printer or the print dialog settings gave me, as best I can tell though the usb microscope, identical prints. The print quality _appeared_ to be pretty good, though solid black areas had some kind of mottled pattern, mildly visible even through the naked eye.

Curiously, printing the test images as a raster image through Pixelmator revealed a rather different story. The edges weren't as crisp when compared side by side with the vector prints through Affinity Designer.

The two images here show a ~2cm crop of the prints. The upper print was a 300dpi raster image through pixelmator, versus the print though Affinity Designer below. The vector print is super crisp in comparison. You can also see the mottling in the solid areas.

I think this is a superb start, will report next when I attempt to do the toner transfer!

Monday, July 11, 2016

Electro Etching - Heat Spreaders

I am trying my hand at electro etching, and the two common ways to heat and transfer the toner resist onto the workpiece (I'm using brass for a start) is either with a regular clothes iron or a modified laminator. Both of these methods appear to work very well for circuit boards, but I want to try my hand at something with fine detail, and I thought I'd try a different method I saw on youtube.

With the iron and laminator, I believe that there would be some level of shearing between the toner and the copper when heat is applied by an iron or laminator. Using two plates to hold together the transfer sheet/copper and then heating it up would remove the shear from the equation, possibly giving a higher quality result? Well that's what I think anyways.

Originally, I bought some 316 stainless steel round bars, similar to the video. THAT was a stupid idea. I only have hand tools, and the stainless steel basically chewed up anything I threw at it. After learning more about metals, I decided on aluminum for two reasons, a) It's got a good heat transfer co-efficient and b) workable with hand tools.

Copper has a much better heat transfer co-efficient, but I don't want to deal with oxidized copper (eww) and as I read, it's a harder metal.

The "heat spreaders" are basically aluminum bars I got cut from metalsupermarkets. 2inx2in an eighth of an inch thick. A small hand file was used to remove burrs and smooth the edges, then a series of wet/dry sandpaper, 400/600/1000 were used to smooth their contact faces. Sandwiched between these two prepared surfaces would be the brass plate as well as the toner-impregnated transfer paper. A c-clamp will be used to hold the pieces together while they are heated and the toner transferred from the paper onto the brass.

With this done, I am waiting for the last big piece of the puzzle - the laser printer to arrive. I've already got a bunch of copper sulphate for the mordant. As for the paper to receive the toner, I've got a bunch of  Pulsar's Toner Transfer Paper.

The container for holding the mordant is still being decided on... some articles I've read float the piece to be etched horizontally with styrofoam, and some have it held vertically. Each of them have their own pros and cons, and I'm deciding on what would be best for quality and usability indoors.

Should be fun :)

Decided to take a peek under the el-cheapo usb microscope to see what's the surface like between the original and polished surfaces:


Wednesday, July 06, 2016

DIY Canard Airframe 10

The downthrust has been bugging me, so I took to creating a small wood wedge that would tilt the motor down by about 5 degrees. Unfortunately (I seem to be using this word far to often) the tilt causes the sleeve of the prop adaptor to hit the lower screw >.>

Gah. Now kinda concerned if the airframe can fly or not without downthrust. Hopefully the weather will be more conducive and I can give her a spin soon. Grrr.

Monday, July 04, 2016

DIY Canard Airframe 09

AAAAAND we are back! It's been over half a year since I've worked on the canard, and now that the weather is finally warm (and dry!) I decided it was time to get back to finishing this project.

I've got the servos installed, and did a quick run to the park to make sure it still glides ok. That it didn't disappoint. Now I'm concerned about the thrust angle of the motor. The motor is a few mm below the thrustline, and I'm not sure how much downthrust to give it (or not?).

A quick google indicates some people have flown their models with no downthrust - I'll probably stick with that for now. There's also the incidence of the canard to consider. ARGH! Hopefully will have news in a day or two with the maiden!

Saturday, July 02, 2016

Is Star Wars more popular than Star Trek?

Or at least, it _seems_ that way to me. Exhibit one: Canada Day Parade, Vancouver Downtown.

I was patiently waiting for a Bleach, or Naruto, heck, anything cosplay-related contingent, but nothing showed up. One thing lead to the other and I pondered, why isn't there a Star Trek contingent? And as I turned back time, I remember that at anime cons, I _always_ see SW related costumers. I honestly cannot remember the last time I saw a Trek costumer. I definitely have, somewhere, but I can't say when.

This made me consider the universes of both space operas. From my limited point of view - I'm not a big fan of either, but definitely read alot more trek books - Harry Potter FTW btw - Star Wars is infinitely more relatable. Sith, Imperial Stormtrooper. Jedi, even your alien bartender. They are everyday slices of life, in a different skin. I can relate to them.

Trek on the other hand, is humans in post-scarcity, vs the things they find while out exploring. I can't relate that easily to Picard or Janeway. They hold grand moral values that, while I'd love to be able to hold on to, I don't think it's something a regular wolf can do on a day to day basis.

At around this point, my mind went off on another tangent. Guildwars popped up for some reason, and I was like... isn't Star Trek like PVE? It really is a group of humans banding together to explore the world, face down "evil" and save the day. Just like ST.

Starwars on the other hand reminds me of PVP. It's the clashing of people and ideologies, the grand battles, lightsaber to lightsaber, turbolaser to turbolaser. No matter the scale or weapons, it's still People Vs People.

Also, Star Trek is people in sleek, futuristic uniforms. Starwars in my opinion, has so much more texture and differences.

I think I need to cook dinner. So hungry.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Contact Lenses vs Glasses

I want to take up some water sports, and thought that having a pair of contact lenses would be much better than dealing with wet glasses (and the possibility of them falling off....)

Unfortunately, when I tried some contact lenses, it didn't go so well. My first pair was quite poor all over the place. Close, small text, like on my mobile, was just about legible. In the distance, it was visually much poorer than my glasses. The annoying part was the need to constantly blink to have the contacts rest in a good place, else I'd get like, one eye out of focus. On the flip side, I can see more or less everything just not as sharp as my glasses.

Speaking with another optometrist from the shop, I was given a 2nd eye test, and increased by a quarter of a diopter, and sent home with a new set of trial lenses. I definitely got improved visual acuity in the distance, but it was now nigh impossible to read the text on my phone, short of having it stretched out in my arm, and the text, while visible, was too small to read for long periods of time (like kindle).

I was then explained that with contacts, they are more optimized for one particular range, unless I went for bifocal lenses.

By this time, I was really sick of it floundering about with having sight that was just on the verge of being blurry, versus not being able to focus on things close by.  I was told "the vision improves after a few days". From my experience, I didn't get any significant improvement after 5 days of trying out the trial pairs.

Here's a hint: I bought a pack of contacts from the optometrist after I had my eyes checked. BAD IDEA. If possible, ask them for trial pairs ONLY, to see if contacts really are your thing, and if they work for you. Don't buy a whole friggin' 90 days worth disposable of contacts. After trying out the 2nd set of trial lenses, it obviously won't work for me as I want my sight optimized for both near and far, not one or the other.

It was only then, they explained that glasses are good for that, contact lenses, not so good. And, the best part, I couldn't return the unopened lenses. Bit annoyed, but it can't be helped. In any case, I got them to exchange lenses that matched my sibling's prescription, so all's good. They did an amazing (if expensive) job on my glasses though.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Insignia 5200mAh power bank

This is actually my 2nd Insignia power bank. I bought one of their smaller capacity power banks (NS-MB2600B-C) last year when my Nexus 4's battery started to shorten. Late last year, after retiring the Nexus, I got a Sony Z3 which has a rather large battery, larger than what the previous Insignia power bank could charge. I'll be going for a 3-week vacation shortly, so I thought it was a great excuse to "upgrade" in case I needed power on the road.

What can I say about it. It's actually much nicer in person than what's shown in photos or on bestbuy's website. The power bank is mostly covered in a matte finish that has a smooth rubbery feel, and the top and bottom are well rounded matte pieces. I really like how it looks, unlike the shiny plastic you'd commonly find for sale. There's one micro usb for charging the bank up, and another for charging our toys. A button on the side turns on the leds on the front of the case. 4 lit leds indicate a full charge. That's another thing about this design I really like - the LEDs are not actually visible when not in use, only when you press the button. Definitely makes it much sleeker and understated.

One other excuse I used to get this power bank was that it was capable of a 2A charge. Thus far, all the chargers I've had were just 1A, maybe a tad over. This guy charges my Z3 much faster than the crappy mains charger I got.

I've already recycled the packaging, boo hoo, but I really thought the packaging could be further minimized from the large plastic enclosure that is filled with mostly air. The packaging _does_ give it a bit more of a premium feel but I'd honestly feel better with recycled cardboard with a small window to show what we're getting. A small instruction guide and a short usb cable is what you'd get alongside the charger.

Thought I'd write this little blurb as this guys haven't failed me yet.

Daytona USA laptimes!

Yes, I'm still playing a game over 2 decades old. I've managed to hang on to the top spot for Advanced, but on the Expert track, there was one person who had a 2+ second lead on my best time!

Somehow, yesterday I found this line that shaved off those seconds in the first lap. On the 2nd lap, I made some minor mistakes but still did pretty well, and was very pleasantly surprised to see that I took first on the leaderboards! WOO!

Pretty sure it was the stretch after the Jeffrey corner that I gained time - that's one of the corners I always drift through with no power. That day, on the first lap, I somehow found a line that allowed me to accelerate through it. Pretty sure the 2nd lap was a bog-standard drift that cost some time.

Woo :)

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Nothing I can post!

The last half a year has been quite hectic - only had 3 Saturdays off so far since the start of this year, and I've spent a fair few Sundays at work too. So many things I want to do, but it's tough when you're in the office between 9am-10pm. Don't have the mental drive to do more than just do more than just snuggling under a blanket and reading a book.

That said, I am still keeping busy. Just finished a Science Fiction and Fantasy writing course with Gotham Writers. For the most part, the writing exercises are easily do-able in a few hours. However, the big part of the course is to submit two larger pieces for critique. This is not something that I could have done over a Sunday, it's something I'd bring my chromebook and hack at it over lunchtime.

Finally finished it last week and I though I did far better than I expected. I think it helped alot that I'm always got something to read on my kindle. The sad fact though, is that I tend to stay with comfortable genres and not expand my reading reach further out. This has changed, somewhat. It's less about me finding stuff to read but just checking out Goodreads, for example, and seeing what's interesting. Oh, and I've also been slowly going through the SF Masterworks series.

In addition, for the month or so before the course I'd switch from reading my usual fiction to how-to books. I honestly think most of them are just too damned similar. The two that have stood out so far, and I would definitely suggest reading, are Stephen King's On Writing, as well as Ben Nova's The Craft of Writing Science Fiction that Sells. Gotham Writer's own Writing Fiction, is another worthy mention. I've even bought a book on how to write romance, because hey, dialogue!

Alongside just reading how-to books - I wrote daily during lunchtime using Writing Prompts. The writing prompts also helped me when I was to write the two big projects - I was going around in circles thinking up an idea to write when... hey! I've had a writing prompt that really resonated with me (I think I wrote over 500 words in half an hour when I started on that prompt) and I just decided to take it further, and it appeared to be well received.

Still, when I look at the work of my fellow students, it is evident that many of them boast years of experience - not only in reading and writing, but also life experiences that takes the prose from ho-hum (like mine) to finely crafted pieces of art.

The question now bothering me is... what should I do next? There are soooo many thing I want to learn and explore. Nothing wrong with that. And because I have lots of crap I've explored, it sometimes makes it easy to join a conversation, because there's something in common to speak about.

Now, something in common is great for a start, but I've realized that many people tend to have deep knowledge of several fields. This is where I think I tend to fall, the lack of depth. Is it time to make my time-slices larger, and devote them to fewer subjects? Or still use small time slices to sample a multitude of different things?

This is only something I can answer, and it has been bugging me for a fair while. I think only time will tell what will happen next.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Zootopia thoughts

I think I was a bit _too_ hyped up for Zootopia, I actually left the movie theatre feeling that it was a great movie, but I was something missing.

Now don't get me wrong, the visuals, the level of detail, the intricacies are just simply jaw dropping. Also, while I generally don't really care what projects I work on, I'd really love to work on the next Zootopia. It's just that good. Not very likely, since that's probably done in the Disney production studios down in Burbank, CA.

One major thing that I felt let down with was the anti-racism angle I keep reading about online. Deep inside, I was hoping that Zootopia would mirror the Japanese shows I enjoy watching - not only lots of action and fun vfx, but always with a strong moral undertone.

In this case, what undertones there were are too subtle, and the predator-prey thing just doesn't work for me.

It's been several days since I watched it, and Zootopia's "Try Eveything" theme song randomly popped up in my youtube feed this evening. I'm one of those people that have a tough time picking up lyrics, most of what I could hear was... .... .. ... Everything. ....... ..... ... Everything.

The bloody song was really very catchy and I though I'd bring up the lyrics to see what was being sung. I think it then hit me what I really felt strong about Zootopia. Not giving up. To rise to the challenge, to keep whacking on the block until it gives.

I'm a bit misty eye'd writing this as I'm reminded of the trials Judy went through.The sheer willpower and attitude exhibited by this lagomorph reminds me that I need to try harder in everything I do. She's even the will power to say no, I'm not suitable for the job. And leaves. How many of us can be that brave in real life?!

Granted she is not "real" in the physical sense (zootopia's real to meeeeee!!!!) and she always has a family to return to after she quit. But in her heart, she's never given up. And that's what I feel the strongest about Zootopia.

Monday, March 07, 2016

Chromebook vs Tablet

I've been using both these week for very different purposes, and I really think it comes down to your needs. But let's talk about some things I like about each of the devices:

The Chromebook Flip has it's own, proprietary charging brick, like almost every laptop out there. USB charging would be nice, to bring less stuff while traveling, But you can't have everything, no? The Tab A uses a regular micro usb port, which is super convenient as I can use one cable to charge both phone and tablet. Both devices take forever to charge up, usually I let them charge up overnight. I really miss the fast charge on the Galaxy S6, that's *bloody* fast!

Form Factor:
One reason why I'm so enamored to the Tab A is the size! With the factory "book cover", it feels very well balanced, almost like a large kindle. Don't get me wrong though, holding a kindle for long reading sessions - fine. I'd get a stiff arm the few times I tried holding the Tab A up, and that's with the lighter, 8in screen!

And of course, the Tablet doesn't come with a keyboard, though any bluetooth keyboard can hook up to it.

The chromebook's really good for typing. Heck, since I've now been typing more on the chromebook than my macbook, I've had to re-calibrate my left hand when I was writing this post (on my mac), as I no longer have the Ctrl/Alt buttons at the bottom left of the keyboard. Just a few minutes ago, I was like... how do I jump from word to word again? On my mac I use my thumb to hold down the alt/option key; on the chromebook it's my little finger on the ctrl key. Blargh.

Media Consumption
VLC definitely runs better on Android. Some very old files I can't playback on the chromebook play back fine on the tablet, or the desktop vlc. Something about the chromebook flip: Supposedly it only takes 64gb sdcards, whilst the Tab A can take up to 128gb.

I still feel dirty when I say out loud or type "apps". Ewww. Can't explain why. But anyways. The play store is definitely more vibrant than the chrome store. That's one major thing when I was hunting for games. Definitely much more choice - though not necessarily better games - on the play store.

Booting up
The chromebook does zero to login screen in under 10 seconds, though it does take some time to churn when loading up google docs. And google docs does churn alot when your word counts go into 5 digits. And that's on my macbook - I haven't reached that many words on my chromebook yet, but I can foresee myself splitting up into several chapters per document.

The Tab A is the regular android bootup, but, how often do you reboot a tablet anyways? I rarely reboot my tablets. Pretty sure my mini's been online several months since the last ios update. Phone on the other hand, would do good to reboot ever so often - never know when a wakelock spike would come in *sigh*

I appear to be rambling now, and am actually quite tired, so I'm going to end this pretty pointless post right here. Good night!

Monday, February 29, 2016

I got a new tablet...

I can't believe it. But I bought myself... a Samsung tablet. I think many of my colleagues were like... what the hell? Didn't you hate Samsung?

Oh yes, I did. But hear me out. So basically, I was lusting for a tablet as the Galaxy Tab 3 7.0 I got is really getting on my nerves for being so damned slow with the 4.4 update. So, I started looking at a tablet to replace it.

Samsungs, were naturally NOT even considered. I was looking at Lenovo's Yoga Tab (I could feel the lag, so no). Lenovo Tab 2 (not bad) as well as others from Asus. But these were really the entry level tablets, and I wanted something to play games with.

Some how or other, I thought I'd give the Samsungs a quick look, and realize that the tablets didn't have that much of Touchwiz. From what I see, it's mainly in the systems menu, and the ability to run split screen apps. If not, it felt very similar to my Nexus 4.

I was not convinced, simply because, yanno. It's a Samsung.

The very next day, there was a special offer of 30 bucks. Win much? I was like... nahhhhhh.... then all the black tablets were sold out and I was >.>

As luck would have it, Staples had one of the black ones in stock (woo!) and I got it. I'm pretty sure the tablet I got (Galaxy Tab A, 8in) was going to be replace by an upgraded version, as they even threw in the samsung casing at no extra charge! Win!

Now the tablet is all swell and good (it's more of an impulse purchase, really), but I really like it, and it's because the extra screen estate gives a better layout of the play store somehow improves the user experience - on my Z3 I always felt the play store was rather crap, compared to the ios store.

Gaming on it is also pretty good, been playing Monument Valley, The Room, Colin McRae Rally and others. It's all pretty good! It's definitely not as fast as the Z3, Colin McRae rally runs way smoother on the Z3, but it's adequate. Maybe if I really fall in love with the 8in 4:3 android form factor, I'll sell this baby and get the Tab S2. *That* tablet, while rather expensive, has a damned good screen, and the processor is pretty damned fast.

I'll think about it.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Asus Chromebook Flip

I've never been a fan of the Chromebook concept. I could never get over the concept of a machine that couldn't run Houdini, and filed it in the i don't find it useful pile. Now several weeks ago, I made plans for a 2 week vacation to the UK to visit some really important landmarks (Broome Bridge, for example), and I like... hey, I'd like to have a small PC with me to properly check emails, not on the phone or tablets.

The first option to come to mind, is a macbook air. Which I promptly threw out the window. Stupid expensive, and I already have a mbp at home. Having a 2nd osx machine makes zero sense. I must admit I was searching through ebay for cheap deals, but nah. I would have no use for it on a daily basis.

Next, I was checking out the Microsoft Surfaces. You know, those are really amazing machines. Superb hardware, good screen and nice keyboard. Sure, I can nitpick it doesn't have a nvivida gpu but I've got a mbp for that.

However, after being introduced to linux and osx, there's absolutely no way I'm going back to windows unless I have to, and I already got a VM with Windows 8 that I've not used in almost a year.

Plus, it's about a grand, which is not something I'd like to bring along on an experimental trip - going to be staying in hostels this time. Finally, as with the macbook, I have zero use for it in day-to-day use.

I then came upon some comments about using Chromebooks for travel: They are highly affordable, no setup drama, compact. More reading also brought up the point that linux could be installed on it, and various google apps (like Docs) run offline, so hey, why not!

After much mussing about, I decided on the Asus Chromebook Flip. It's relatively expensive, almost 400 dollars (cad). I could get an Acer Chromebook for about 250 (cad, before tax). However, several things drew me to the flip:

- Very small size, thanks to the 10in screen. I think it might be the smallest chromebook.
- IPS Screen. Yes please.
- All metal construction.
- Touchscreen!
- Multiple "modes" like the lenovo yoga laptops.
- Looks like a macbook:


So, what do I think about it after a week of use?

Battery life is superb. I've only charged the battery once this week. I've mainly been doing some writing with it using Google Docs, and web browsing in bed and testing various apps and figuring out how to play media on it.

Now the hardware is pretty good; screen's pretty damned good, keyboard is solid. There's a webcam, hdmi out, two usb ports and a headphone jack. I only wish the keyboard is lit - in the dark, it's quite difficult to type.

Chrome is not my browser of choice, but it works and it works very well. I'd daresay it renders webpages faster on the chromebook than firefox on my mbp!!! Google Docs works as it does on osx, and the offline version works fine.

One thing I noted though, is if I created a new document whilst offline, I can't actually find it inside the Docs/Drive app. Only after getting online, can I find it. A bit annoying, but what can you do.

Vimeo, youtube, facebook, gmail, all run as expected. And one really nice thing is that it requests for the full desktop versions of website, not icky mobile versions. This is particularly bad on my ipad mini, it chugs really bad on some websites, and less to be said about my Samsung tablet the better. The chromebook does feel laggy sometimes, but it's usually on sites with an annoying amount of advertisements and videos. And it's usually just a minor stutter when scrolling, it gets up to speed rapidly (Google Docs does this as well when I'm writing, it lags/stutters for a few seconds when it first loads up, then runs smoothly)

The built-in media player doesn't play the videos I've collected very well. Thankfully there is a VLC app for chrome. While it works very well in general, some formats cannot be decoded, and the interface took me awhile to understand. It is also rather crashy, at times, I have to pull up the Task Manager and kill the gpu task before I can start it up again.

I'm probably going to get a 64gb card to fill up with stuff to watch before I head off. I've never bothered attempting to copy the files to the chromebook's ssd as speeds are fine off a sd card, and surprisingly, it reads off my hfs backup drives (osx file system) just fine.

Speakers on the flip aren't very good. Mine is quite soft, around 50%. But going over 70, 75% introduces lots of audio artifacts. Oh well. I still haven't tried the audio jack, should be fine.

The screen is sufficiently bright, with good viewing angles. It _is_ rather small, so increasing the text magnification to 125% seems like the way to go. The resolution is also relatively low, on paper. In practice, I can't say I want or need a higher resolution screen. A lower resolution screen, would actually help battery life in my opinion - less stress on the GPU, and less pixels hopefully means less power draw. I mean, my Z3 averages 4, even 5 days before recharging. The Samsung S6 with its super amazing screen barely makes it to 2. I'm going to get off my "I hated my Galaxy S6 experience" soapbox now.

The touchscreen works quite well, but honestly, I haven't used that mode much apart from quick tests. The keyboard is well sized, only a few % smaller than the keyboard on my 15in mbp. As mentioned before, I wish it was backlit.

Ok, I'm rambling, and I need to sleep shortly as I've been working over 60hrs a week since the new year.

In summary, my chromebook experience as been very positive so far:
- Highly afforable
- IPS Screen
- Lightweight

It's a great fit for my needs; checking email, web browsing, youtube, offline writing with docs. Affordable, will hurt, but not as much as say a surface or mbp if it gets stolen/damaged. Super lightweight, less than a Kg!

I'll complain if I start to hate it. Like a certain famous electronics brand. ;-)

Monday, January 18, 2016

Pluggable Bluetooth Foldable Keyboard

Early this new year, I decided to try my hand out at writing - again - and decided to take a writing course to help guide me. I've read lots of books on how to write, and I never really got anywhere with that. Perhaps, having a proper teacher to guide me would help.

This is the perfect excuse to buy a new toy, a portable keyboard. Loads of keyboards are available, but I wanted something that was both cool and usable. The Pluggable Foldable Keyboard fit not only both requirements, but also within my budget - the Microsoft Universal Portable Keyboard is supposedly the creme ala creme, but it's almost double the price of the pluggable, and perhaps 15% less cool as it only has one fold. It does however, appear to have a much better keyboard layout.

Depending on how things go, I may pick that up if the pluggable dies. But anyhow, here's a short review for the Pluggable keyboard.

The keyboard appeals to the geek in me. Made of 3 sections, 2 of the sections fold over the middle, forming a compact, solid brick to bring along. The pluggable also includes a very well thought out case that folds over to become a stand for your phone or tablet. What's better, is there is a slide out stand, so you can adjust how your device tilts.

Switching on the keyboard simply involves flipping open the keyboard, and tapping a key will connect it to the phone, assuming it's already paired up. The keys themselves are not as big as the keys on a macbook pro (that's the only comparison I can give, really), about 1.4cm vs 1.5cm on the laptop, and the laptop has a wider spacing between keys. Based on my quick calculations between the Q and P keys, the Pluggable is about 85% of the macbook pro's keyboard.

In practice, the Pluggable took a while to get used to. The right shift key is rather small, and shares the space with the up arrow key. Many times when I wanted to type a question mark, I ended up moving the cursor up and adding a slash. I got over it a few hours later.

On the left side, things are rather cramped, and I tend to hit the Capslock key, again, that was less of an issue once I got used to it. Page up/down, home and end work as expected, as well as the Ctrl-home/end key combos.

The main thing that I can't seem to get to work is using the Ctrl-Delete/Backspace to delete a whole word. I use that quick frequently, and I have to go back to holding down the backspace. Rather annoying, if I'd already typed out a long sentence and want to get rid off.

If not, so far it's been great in use. I've seen some reviews saying that the keyboard is easy to tilt when pressing the keys on the left and right edges. And this is rightly so... if you are smashing the key.

Verily, you CAN tilt the keyboard up on its side, but it requires a significant amount of pressure. I've no idea how people are getting it tilted to one side in normal use.

The build quality is also very surprising. The keys themselves are well made, and with a pretty good feel to the response. When folded up, it's made of a strong light metal, and the brushed finish gives it a luscious feel, without being a fingerprint magnet.

The case is also well designed, and everything fits together like eggs in a carton. Given as I've only been using it for several hours over the last 3 days, I can't tell you much more. Very pleased with this purchase though. The good sized keys, wireless connectivity and compactness of the package are a boon for writing on the go.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Z3 Battery Life Oddities

2 days ago was the start of another charge cycle, and I was hoping that I'd eek out maybe another day if I bothered to turn off the wifi connection during the day as I only have a wifi connection at home.

Oddly enough, the battery kept draining even though I only turned on my phone quite rarely.

Today, I just left my wifi connection switched on, so that it'd be hunting for it the whole day. Surprisingly, the battery life dropped only by a few percent over the day. Why the hell is that? One would think not searching for the wifi every few seconds would save lots of battery.

Well I guess I'll leave it on for now :)

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Modstep and NanoStudio

I'm right now deep in overtime mode at work, which is actually not too bad, as I'm working reasonable hours (by my standards), and I get paid OT every hour I work over, which is very nice.

As I'm now logging 10hr days on average, I've decided to not work through lunch as I usually do, and spend some time NOT doing work in the hopes that the hour off work would clear some of the cobwebs upstairs. How well that works, I've no idea.

I've been working on some pieces in Symphony Pro, but not getting any kick to really pull stuff through. The mind again wanders to thoughts of electronic music, and checked out some online reviews of what's good to get.

Just before bed, I discovered Modstep, which had quite a few rave reviews. I should have checked it out further, but just pressed buy. During lunch today, I was going through the manual and app and I found it rather difficult to use. For readers of this post, keep in mind my primary tool is Finale with Logic for sequencing, not step sequencers or DAWs like Ableton/Reason.

I wish there was a tutorial to make up a song, but whatever. I'm sure it'll arrive someday.

I then took a closer look at other music making apps, and one very popular choice is Nanostudio. From the reviews, it ticked all of my boxes: a subtractive synth to play with (called Eden), and many samples to load into the pads. There is also a sequencer that I'm more familiar with that appears very well thought out for use with a tablet.

It seems really fun so far, though I haven't done more than play with the various presets for Eden and fool around with the pad instrument. I've never explored this side of music, can't wait to come up with something!