Thursday, March 10, 2011

Bye bye, Berkeley. Drawing + PC repair + Wacom Bamboo Pen & Touch


I'm now (unofficially) a UC Berkeley grad. Still waiting on getting my diploma in the mail, however. Also looking for a job. Anyway, enough of that.

During the last semester I was able to take up drawing. My friend dragged me onto, where I was reluctant to start. I knew I had the typical couldn't-draw-to-save-my-life skills but then realized soon that I could draw humans better than she could, with my mouse. I then started studying color theory, more anatomy, poses, dinosaurs, and even started the book "Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain" by Betty Edwards. At one point I was doing a study of facial features, by pencil, and just drew for hours on end, not realizing where the time had gone. Eyes, then lips, then noses, page after page of sketches: some from reference, some from imagination. For the first two weeks, I saw the world in a way I had never seen before, everything looked brand new to me.

There was a point where I did nothing but draw, for two weeks. After that I came to my senses and started doing schoolwork again, but then after about October or so (when I had finally purchased a graphics tablet, ironically), I stopped.

Here's an early iscribble work (yes it's terrible, this is before I studied color as well): my first time drawing a dress. Since it's early it's very cartoony (I started anime-style since everyone was doing it on the board) but have since then begun learning realism. I was still struck at how I was able to spew this onto my screen, where I could only spew stick figures before.

In other news, I was at a LAN party recently, where a good friend of mine whom I had not seen in a while had a broken power supply. I had read up on capacitors going bad and had my suspicions. It was a Cooler Master 550 watt, and for a while it had to be plugged in for hours before the PC would turn on. After that it just quit.

I looked at it for a while, and sure enough, there was a busted cap. The cooling fan was also very much stuck with dust, and one of the toroids had burned through its cloth-like shroud. I bought it off him for $5.

I had an extra 120mm cooling fan laying around, but no extra 2200 uF 10v capacitor. I was about to order some (no point in buying just one online, right?) when I remembered I had an evil Bestec power supply in an old emachines I had laying around. It wasn't broken, but it had claimed the lives of two motherboards before I searched about them and learned of their destructive 5v rails. I ripped it open, by removing the screws with a philips screwdriver, and found a 2200 uF, 16v cap with the correct lead spacing! I slapped that into the CM550 with a soldering iron and bam, working power supply! Tested on my system (risky, I know, but it passed the false-on test displaying all the necessary voltages confirmed by multimeter) and it seemed stable. The Bestec had some busted, leaky caps so I still don't trust this CM550 completely, but I now have a backup psu that may see action soon for a backup computer if I get my hands on a cheap 775 proc anytime soon.

More on the tablet, a sort of pseudo-review:

Once again, this is the Wacom Bamboo Pen & Touch. Please forgive my lack of a tripod. Digital artists everywhere seem to swear by Wacom, and the friend who had gotten me into drawing in the first place had a Bamboo Pen. The Pen and touch features twice the resolution, four buttons on the tablet, a pressure-sensitive eraser on the pen, and it is also a touchpad. Right off the bat: the touchpad is terrible. It may be inherent to the device or it may be the drivers, I don't know. I just know it's sluggish, unresponsive, and a tiny bit of sweat on the tablet from intense drawing registers as constant input to it. Thankfully it can be turned off.

Drawing on it is great, however. I thought I was going to use it in relative mode but absolute mode is wonderful, I can get to where I need to be on the screen with incredible speed. I wore a flat to the tip in less than a week! This caused some awkward scratchy sounds until I realized the tip is simply friction fit and you can pull and reposition it. I rotated it 180 and it's fine now. Just like a pencil that you can't sharpen, you should wear the tip evenly and rotate it from time to time.

In Gimp and Sai the pressure sensitivity is recognized, as well as the separate eraser. If I'm on iscribble I get neither but that's understandable. What's odd with iscribble is that it's insanely laggy on Windows 7, maybe from all the different features aimed towards tablet PCs that are loaded and active while it's plugged in. It is unbearable. I boot up Fedora and while it took a bit of work to get the drivers working, it is lightning fast. However, drawing in Gimp in Fedora occasionally misses a stroke, I'm going to assume it's the drivers for that fault. Linuxwacom (driver package) doesn't even recognize it as a Bamboo Pen & Touch, it reads "Wacom BambooFun 2FG 4x5" under devices, but I suppose it works well enough.

Regarding the aspect ratio of the device, it is 16:10, which mapped perfectly onto my 16:10 22", but now I'm on a 16:9 24", with proportions forced. A small amount of the tablet is unusable as a result. However, it's nice that you can select which monitor and what portion of the monitor to map to. This is done in Linux with a couple commands in the shell (and some simple pixel math), whatever, I wrote a script to take care of it.

Although ironically I almost stopped drawing soon after I got this tablet, I'm starting to draw again and am glad I got it.

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