Sunday, April 13, 2014

Heaven, Hell, Life, The Universe, And Everything

As it does every year, the time has come to extend birthday wishes to the evangelist who was inspired by the propaganda techniques of the Communist Party of China to begin releasing “gospel” tracts, which have been (ironically) loved and (unironically) hated for more than fifty years.  Happy 90th, Jack Chick!
Of course, at the same time, we have to extend our condolences, as that means that Jack has lived in this fallen world for nine decades without being vacuumed up to meet Jesus during the Rapture.  After 90 years, it has to be difficult to keep on believing that the Rapture will happen any minute now.
(How about now?  Nope.  Now?  Nope…)
He must be especially dismayed, given the rising popularity of the “entertainment” that is little more than an efficient delivery system for demonic influences.  Sorry, Jack – the Illuminati just knows how create propaganda that's more interesting and compelling than your righteous little comics.  But don't worry; I'm sure the Rapture will happen any minute, and those of us who haven't said the right magic words will suffer for our enjoyment of things like Harry Potter, role-playing games, and comic book movies.
And speaking of demonic entertainment, happy birthday to Ron “Hellboy” Perlman, who turns 63 today.  Get to work on convincing Guillermo Del Toro that the world needs more Hellboy movies before you get too old*!
And, finally, happy birthday to some dork named Jon, who, at 42, has hit the geekiest age possible, what with being the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything.
If Jon’s the answer, I don’t think anyone wants to know the question…

*I’m not saying he’s too old; he said it himself while working on Pacific Rim and making a case for more Hellboy.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Manual Override

I did some more digging around on the Internet and found a solution to the problem I was having on the Surface Pro with the Wacom drivers and my mouse.
It actually ended up being something that I had considered trying, though I hadn’t, as I’d just gotten sick of dealing with it and uninstalled the Wacom drivers.  I decided to give it a shot after seeing that someone else had done it and, confirming my suspicions, gotten it to work.
As I thought, the problem was that for some reason the Wacom drivers overwrote the drivers for the mouse, which caused the mouse to not work, as it isn’t a Wacom device.
The solution was to open up Device Manager, right-click on the “Wacom Device” that showed an error, choose to update the driver, then manually browse to the correct driver file.
I’m still annoyed, however.


Confused Jon Is Confused Department:
This morning when I got up, after getting dressed in my workout clothes and brushing my teeth, I went out to start my car, as, despite the eventual warmth of the day, the early morning hours are still chilly, and then headed back inside, so that I could go back outside to the patio and smoke a cigarette while the car warmed up.  On the way back in I noticed that there was a package next to my door.
”That wasn’t there when I got home yesterday,” I thought.  Then, “Did I order something?”
I remembered that I had, but the thing I had ordered was a T-shirt, and while I’ve encountered my share of excessive packaging, this rather large box seemed especially excessive.
”Maybe it was left here by mistake,” I thought, but upon bringing it inside and inspecting it – determining that it was too heavy to be a shirt – I confirmed that it was, in fact, addressed to me.
”The hell…?”
I opened it up and discovered that it was this statue of Batgirl.
I stared at it in confusion for a while – in fairness to me, keep in mind that I was still pretty groggy, as it was still hours and hours before sunrise – and then thought, “Did…did I order this?  Have I been sleepshopping?”
Then, somewhere in the back of my mind, a thought occurred to me.  “Isn’t it my birthday soon?  Is this a…present?”
Why, I wondered, as he was the most likely suspect, would Scott have my present shipped to me, rather than just giving it to me in person on my birthday?
The whole thing was rather baffling, and was made moreso by the fact that I couldn’t find any sort of packing slip indicating who had bought this for me.
Finally, after digging through all of the packing material, I found the slip and discovered that it was a gift from the (former) Boss Lady, and at that point grateful Jon was grateful…and especially glad that, since it’s the “New 52” version, that she selected a character whose costume redesign I actually like.
So…thanks, (former) Boss Lady!

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

It IS A Microsoft Product, After All…

So after getting more use out of my Surface Pro 2, I’ve encountered a few more problems beyond the scaling issue.
For what it’s worth, Windows 8.1 supposedly does have independent scaling, in theory, but it just doesn’t work, or at least doesn’t work in a way that yields the kind of results I want.
Basically, if you uncheck the box for choosing one scaling level for all displays, you can choose from a sliding scale that will give you more options for scaling levels.  In theory, you can try to find a sweet spot that will look okay on both displays – say 125%, for example – and when connected to an external display, the Surface will adjust the scaling accordingly.
Or something, though despite calling it that, that doesn’t sound like independent scaling to me.
It also seems to be tied to some sort of autodetect of the pixel density of your display in some fashion, though I don’t really understand the details, and I don’t see how it makes a difference, as you can’t actually select independent scaling anyway.
In practice, it doesn’t actually appear to do anything any differently from simply choosing one scaling level for all displays.
In any case, that isn’t the biggest complaint I have.
The complaint I have goes back to something that was an issue with the first generation Surface Pro:  a lack of pressure sensitivity in Photoshop.
That was kind of a huge oversight on the part of Microsoft.  After all, you’ve got a full-fledged computer that’s capable of running Photoshop, and a nice Wacom active digitizer, so naturally people are going to want to use it in Photoshop, and they’re going to expect pressure sensitivity.
Eventually, sometime before the release of the Surface Pro 2, Wacom put out some drivers that would enable pressure sensitivity in Photoshop.
What made this especially frustrating is that pressure sensitivity worked in other applications, such as Sketchbook Pro, Manga Studio, and various Windows 8 applications – of the legacy x86 variety, such as Microsoft’s One Note, and of the “modern” Windows Store variety, such as Fresh Paint – thanks to built-in drivers for the Wacom active digitizer.
Photoshop, however, doesn’t utilize those drivers, and requires a different set of drivers entirely.
One can choose to blame either Microsoft, Adobe, or both for this, but frankly, I don’t care who’s to blame; shit should just work.
In any case, Photoshop still requires those other drivers in order to recognize pressure sensitivity, so I downloaded and installed them, and, as a result, gained pressure sensitivity in Photoshop.  (I already had it in Manga Studio, as it can use either driver)
However, once I brought it back upstairs and dropped it into its docking station, I ran into a problem:  my mouse stopped working.
My mouse and keyboard are from Microsoft, and both connect to the Surface Pro via the same USB wireless dongle.  The keyboard worked fine, but the mouse wouldn’t.
Uninstalling the Wacom drivers restored the function of the mouse.
After trying the install of the Wacom drivers again, I plugged in some random old wired mouse and it worked with no issues.  Looking at the Device Manager, I noted that there was an entry for a Wacom device that had an exclamation point on it, indicating that there was some problem with it.
From what I can determine, installing the Wacom drivers somehow replaces the drivers for the Microsoft mouse with some random Wacom drivers, which, not being the correct drivers, won’t allow the Microsoft mouse to work.
I even reinstalled the keyboard and mouse software, and in the resulting setup screen that appeared after the install, it only showed the keyboard as being installed – it doesn’t see the mouse at all.
So my options are to either have pressure sensitivity in Photoshop, or have a working mouse.
Overall, as I’m largely using the Surface Pro in its docking station as a desktop computer, the need for a mouse wins out, but I have to say that it’s pretty goddamn annoying.
After all, neither the Surface Pro 2 nor Photoshop is cheap.  Hell, even the mouse and keyboard were relatively pricey.  I should be able to get my money’s worth.  And, again, I don’t care who’s at fault here*; someone needs to fix it.
For what little it’s worth, I’m not the only person who has this problem.  That’s not worth much, because no one has a solution.
Of course, there are other problems with mouse support anyway.  Upon initially docking the Surface Pro 2, the mouse cursor is invisible.  It will only reappear after undocking and re-docking.
Which, again, is shitty, and, again, I’m not the only person with that problem.  At least in this case there’s something I can do.  It’s annoying, but it works, unlike the Wacom driver issue.
So, yeah.
Still, it is a product from Microsoft, so it’s not like I dropped all that cash on the thing without expecting to have some kind of problems.
But seriously, Microsoft and/or Adobe:  get your shit together.

*That said, I do tend to blame Adobe just a little bit more than Microsoft.  After all, other software vendors – who make much less expensive products – are perfectly capable of getting their products to work with the standard driver that comes with the Surface Pro 2.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Too Clever By Half

As mentioned, I ordered a copy of Manga Studio 5 to install on the Surface Pro 2.
Unfortunately, they no longer sell it via download, so I had to order a physical copy.  Fortunately, I ordered it through Amazon at a substantial savings – almost half of the current 40% off sale price when buying it direct from Smith-Micro.
The unfortunate aspect of having to buy a physical copy is that the Surface Pro 2 doesn’t have any sort of DVD drive.
I do, however, have a spare external Blu ray burner, so I hooked that up, but the installation for that is unnecessarily complex, and I couldn’t find the installation guide, so I wasn’t able to get it to install from the DVD.
However, last night I installed an update to Manga Studio on Odin, and I realized that the downloadable “updates” are actually full installation files rather than just a patch.  You just have to provide a valid serial number in order to be able to download the updates, so I went to the update site on the Surface Pro 2 – just “the Surface” going forward – entered the serial number from my new DVD, downloaded it, and successfully installed it.
I’m so clever!
In the process of installing it, though, I learned that the license for MS5 allows you to install it on two computers, with the limitation that you can’t have both copies open at the same time.  (My Adobe Creative Cloud subscription has the same licensing terms, which is how I have Photoshop installed on the Surface and on Odin).
So, even though I got the software for about 75% less than what I paid for it the first time I bought it (not counting my later upgrade to the EX version, which I didn’t bother with for the Surface), I still ended up paying more money than I really needed to.
I’m too clever!
Oh well.  In any case, I now have MS5 on the Surface, and will begin experimenting with doing some actual drawing on it.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Bullet Has Been Bitten

After mulling if over for a considerable amount of time, on Monday I finally decided to buy a Surface Pro 2.
You may recall that I was considering several options, including buying a new desktop to use for my day-to-day computing needs and turning my current desktop into a dedicated graphics workstation, which was part of the reason I was reluctant to pull the trigger on buying a Surface Pro 2.
Ultimately, I decided I could kill two birds with one stone by picking up the docking station for the Surface Pro 2 and hooking it up to an external monitor and making it into my primary desktop – with the added benefit of having it serve as an on-the-go graphics workstation, given that it has a Wacom active digitizer, and also being able to carry my primary desktop with me wherever I go.*
So that’s what I did.
I’ve run into a couple of issues with that so far, mostly due to a lack of space, but I’ll delve into that in another post; the point of this post is to mention that I bit the bullet and now have a Surface Pro 2 – in addition to a power cover, which is a variation on the Type Cover, a removable cover/keyboard, that contains an additional battery, which extends the overall battery life of the Surface Pro 2 by several hours – and to give my first impressions about it after using it for a couple of days.
Not that I’ve really used it all that much, as I’ve mostly been setting it up and personalizing it, but overall I will say that I’m pretty happy with it.
I actually have only the most minor of complaints, and haven’t really had any issues with it so far, and that issue wasn’t actually a problem with the Surface Pro 2 itself, but rather with Office 365.
After getting the Surface Pro 2, I pulled the trigger on taking advantage of the yearly Office 365 subscription.  It’s a good deal – I can install the latest version of Office on five different computers.
The problem I encountered was one I’ve run into several times in the past – it’s a mistake I keep repeating because I’m an idiot – which is the process of setting up Outlook to connect to my work Exchange account.
This is, in theory, a simple process, but if you forget a step, or make a typo, you’re kind of screwed.
Basically, unless you have the sense (which I never do) to set up a default profile that can be automatically configured – say, your Hotmail or Gmail account – if you screw anything up while manually setting up an Exchange account, Outlook will not let you fix it.  Because if the Exchange account you’re setting up is the only account, that becomes your default profile, and if it’s set up incorrectly, Outlook will not open.  Period.  It will tell you that your profile is screwed up, and will close without giving you an option to fix the problem.
This is frustrating, and it’s happened to me every single time I’ve set up Outlook to connect to my work account**, and, as mentioned, I’m an idiot, so I never learn.
You can fix it by accessing the mail settings in the Control Panel, but for some reason I couldn’t get the settings to open on the Surface Pro 2 until after I uninstalled and reinstalled Office (and when I reinstalled, Outlook recreated my screwed up profile, even though I deleted it after the uninstall, so I couldn’t even get a fresh start).  But eventually I got into the Control Panel and fixed the problem.
So, again, more an issue with Office/Outlook and my inability to learn, though it was odd that it took so much effort to just get into the Control Panel.
As for the actual complaint I have about the Surface Pro 2, it’s really more of a Windows problem than anything else.
The Surface Pro 2 has a full HD screen.  It’s also pretty small.  So with the normal settings for displaying text/items on screen, in Desktop mode, it’s almost impossible to see anything.  So, by default, the Surface Pro 2 is set to scale everything up to 150%.  That works well on the small screen, but when you connect to a larger, external monitor, the 150% scaling looks terrible.
You can’t set the scaling for the displays independently, so in order for the external monitor to look good – setting the scaling back down to 100% – I have to make the Surface Pro 2’s screen almost impossible to read when it’s on the Desktop (it looks fine in the “Modern Interface,” or whatever Microsoft calls it since they can’t use the term “Metro.”).
Not a big deal, as I don’t do much on the Desktop on the Surface Pro 2 itself when it’s docked, but when I remove it, I have to reset the scaling, which requires logging out and logging back in.  (For some reason.)
Still, if that’s my only real complaint, I’m doing pretty well, all things considered.
So far I haven’t done much actual drawing on it.  I installed Photoshop, but that’s hard to work in on a smaller display.  I will be installing Manga Studio 5 on it, but I had to order a physical copy, as they no longer allow you to purchase it via download, so I won’t get that until Saturday.
That said, I can say that it’s an improved experience over my old tablet – at a minimum, palm rejection seems to actually work on the Surface Pro 2.  So that’s a plus.
In any case, that’s my quick mention of having bought the Surface Pro 2 and my overall happiness with it.

*Which is to say, to the living room while I’m watching TV, though I do take it with me to work.  Of course, given the ability to sync things between computers in Windows 8.1, that’s not as much of a boon as it once might have been, especially since I really don’t store that many files locally; most are on my NAS, and I can access that from any PC in my house, and, with some effort – more than is necessary, but that’s a long story –  from anywhere I have Internet access.

**There are other options available, such as simply accessing it via webmail, but using Outlook is my preferred method.  I could also set up the Windows 8.1 mail app to connect to my Exchange account in much the same way that my phone does, which is simpler, and has some advantages, but that would require that I download and install some of our IT’s security features.  I’m okay with doing that on my phone, but less okay with doing it on my computer.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Ehh, I’d Buy THAT For A Dollar, I Guess

While circumstances prevented us from doing so sooner, last night Scott and I took in a showing of the Robocop remake.
I have to say that I enjoyed it a lot more than I expected to, though to be fair, they did kind of stack the deck a little in terms of casting, what with Gary Oldman, Samuel L. Mother-Fuckin’ Jackson, and Michael Keaton – whom I discovered that I’ve forgiven for the godawful Batman movies he was in; I still hate them, but I’ve dropped my grudge against him – though the actual title character was just sort of…there.  Never heard of the guy before.
With the original, Peter Weller was already a personal favorite, thanks to his role in Buckaroo Banzai.
(Plus, the original also had Grig from The Last Starfighter)
Was it as good as the original?  Well, the two movies were made in very different times – and to be fair, the original has nostalgia on its side – and took a very different approach to telling the story of a man who struggles to regain and hold onto what little of his humanity remains after his body and mind are rebuilt, but…no, it wasn’t.
Still, it was entertaining, and while it didn’t take the same sort of satirical approach as the original, the elements of satire it did contain were pretty well-done  (though I will say that it was kind of jarring to see the kind of conservative anger that’s pretty much the exclusive province of white guys being delivered by a black guy, but if anyone could do it, it’s Samuel L. Mother-Fuckin’ Jackson).
In any case, in one scene relatively early on in the movie we’re introduced to Gary Oldman’s character, the genius doctor behind the cybernetic technology used to transform Alex Murphy into Robocop.
He’s consulting with a patient, a classical guitarist who lost his hands in an accident and is having difficulty coming to terms with his new, improved bionic hands.
Later – and this is one of the areas in which the remake departs radically from the original, though the relative lack of violence and the PG-13 rating are the biggest departures – Robocop/Murphy returns home to visit his family, and his son is reluctant to approach his Robodad.

Two things.
If it were possible to replace my hands with bionic versions that are at least as functional as the factory defaults I’m stuck with, I would be looking for the nearest thresher accident.
Seriously, I have no interest in getting something like a nose job, I would totally be up for getting a hand job if it were possible to get cybernetic replacements as an elective procedure, at least once the technology – as it is in the movie’s futuristic setting – is at the right level.
(Note:  I’d also be perfectly happy to accept a hand job of the more traditional, less technologically-advanced variety)
I mean, if nothing else, maybe the guitarist can’t keep playing guitar, but he could always pick up the holophoner.
Then there was the kid.
After observing his reaction to his upgraded dad, I leaned over to Scott and said, “His kid sucks.”
I mean, I loved my dad very much.
The only way I could have loved him more is if he had also been a robot.
Your dad is a fucking robot. 
Is awesome.
At a minimum, it would be the ultimate resolution to all playground disputes.
”My dad and beat up your dad!”
”Well, my dad is a fucking robot.  So…no, he can’t.”

Friday, February 21, 2014

Behind The (End) Times

Greeted by much rejoicing from those of us who have been clamoring for such a thing for years, Fred "Slacktivist" Clark is finally pulling together the vast archives of his deconstruction of the Left Behind series into book form, or at least, something much more book-like than the pages and pages of blog posts.
As part of that, he's holding a contest to choose a title and a cover design.
Below are my suggestions*, as well as a hastily thrown together attempt at a cover design for my personal favorite of my suggestions.

"Please Stand Behind: The Rapture is Experiencing Theological Difficulties"
"Fully Loaded: The Story of the World's Worst Books"
"All Right, Then I'll Go To Hell: Unpacking The Twisted Exegesis of Left Behind"
"Phoning It In"
"TurboJesus and His Amazing Friends"
"Forced Tribulation"

"Prayers will be answered in the order in which they were received."
Regardless of who wins the contest, I'll be sure to keep you posted once the book is available.  Whether or not you're interested in reading a detailed deconstruction of The World's Worst Books (TM), or the strange mishmash of theology they represent, throwing some money Fred's way is a worthy effort, and his hilarious insights into the world of Premillennial Dispensation - full of references to comic books, Buffy, Dr. Who, and other geeky touchstones - are so well-written that enjoyment is guaranteed.

*Also, the title of this post is itself a decent suggestion.