Posted in Art, Geek Stuff

Krita: Digital Image and Painting Program (Free)

krita

I’m always keeping my eyes open for new digital art programs to try, though old Photoshop remains tried and true for me. Anytime I find a solid art program that’s an affordable alternative to Photoshop, I try it out and pass the word around.

Krita has been around for a good while, but I didn’t hear about it until this past weekend. There’s two versions of this program:

Krita Desktop which is “a professional FREE and open source painting program. It is made by artists that want to see affordable art tools for everyone.” You can pick it up at the official downloads page.

Krita Gemini which is “painting application which adjusts to your needs – with a powerful, feature-rich interface on your PC, and a streamlined touch-friendly sketching interface on your tablet or convertible. With a range of tools and features suitable for novice or professional artists.”

Interestingly, you can purchase this on Steam. Priced at $9.99, yes, this is very affordable art program.

There seems to be two upgrade packages:

We are offering two options for purchasing Krita Gemini – a cheap “2 releases” version, which provides around a year’s worth of feature updates, and a “lifetime upgrades” package which will receive all future releases.

So if you don’t mind dropping $10 a year on the program, you can get the newest upgrades. Or, if you try it out and fall in love, you can buy the lifetime upgrade for $119.99.

Personally? I’d try out the free desktop version first. I’m not quite sure how an art program tied to Steam will perform as I always turn off big ticket items like Steam when I’m painting my digital work. The less running in the background, the better for my art.

I found the Desktop version to be pretty easy to learn, but that’s also coming from someone who’s known the ins and outs of Photoshop for 15+ years. It looks and feels like I’d expect from a paint program – somewhat a cross between Photoshop, Illustrator and Painter. I haven’t sat down and actually tried to do any heavy art in the program with my tablet, but it has all the features of modern paint programs – layers, masks, brush stabilizers for inking, etc.

Even if all you’d like to have is a program that’s better than MS Paint to touch up images, crop, resize, edit and such, the free version is something to look into. If you’ve ever used Krita, let me know what you think about it!

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Posted in Geek Stuff, Internet

IRL Rant: Time Warner/Spectrum Internet Foul Up

I don’t usually rant about IRL stuff, but this really burnt my biscuits.

This is the story of two lazy cable techs and one tech who went out of his way to clean up the mess they left behind them.

This is a story that wouldn’t have happened if people had just done their job right. But it happened. So I’m writing about it.

Earlier today, Eri posted this in jest. Eri didn’t know how accurate this was…

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A Little Background

cableboxNow, the way my Internet works – I have one underground line that runs straight from my modem, out of my house and to a green covered box in my front yard. For many years, I’ve been the only one to use this box, though there are two ports on there for two households.

Six months ago, I had an issue with my internet. It was slow to the point that I couldn’t pull up a website, much less do any gaming. So after the standard run-around on the phone, they sent a tech to my house.

He determined that the port I was plugged into had gone bad. He switched me to the second port and all was well.

However, he said that he would get a second tech out to my box to replace both of the ports. Because (in his own words) “When one goes out, the other is likely to follow.”

Now, I never got the absolute word whether this port replacement happened. But months later, when I had another Internet issue, I asked the phone support if that was done. She told me yes, it had been. They ended up replacing my modem that time, and all has been well.

Until yesterday.

Yesterday’s Foul

My net was fine before I left for work. Upon walking outside, I noted a white truck and a man working on the Internet box outside my house.

“Strange,” I thought to myself. “I didn’t call service. And I’m the only one that uses that box.”

I sensed trouble. I was right.

So, there are people who have been fixing up the place next to me for months now. It turns out they must be moving in soon, and decided to get high speed Internet.

It also turns out that the port that was dead six months ago had not been replaced. I know that now because the tech who came to install my neighbor’s Internet yesterday switched me to the dead port, gave them the working port, and called it a day.

Now, what makes me really angry is… this tech knew that the second port was dead. Why else would he have switched things around instead of just leaving mine alone? There was no reason to touch mine unless he realized the other port wasn’t working, and saw this as something that was going to take up more of his time than he wanted.

Even the tech who came out today and confirmed this saying, and I quote, “You are a victim of stupidity.”

Yes. Yes I am.

Yesterday’s cable installer purposely took my service, gave it to the neighbors who haven’t even moved in yet, and left me without Internet. He never called anyone to fix it. I guess he figured someone else would clean up his mess.

cantHe was right.

The tech who came out today was sharp. I wasn’t rude or angry towards him, but he saw what had happened and knew he needed to make it right.

He immediately called their line guy, who was very quickly at my house to exchange the dead port for a working one. It took him less than ten minutes. This wasn’t something back-breaking to do!

I got good service from the tech today. But the point is, that this tech wouldn’t have even had to do this if other techs had done their job right in the first place.

And the kicker? I had to use my work sick time to be there today for the appointment.

Yeah. Not a happy camper.

Thanks for listening to my rant.

Posted in Gaming, Geek Stuff, Internet

The Internet’s Wasteful Things

wasteful-thingsBanner created with Make it Stranger. Thanks to Xaa for bringing its existence to my attention.

The Internet is full of wasteful things and folks who are caught up in acts of virtual hoarding… myself included.

It’s easy to do because the things we hoard aren’t physical. They don’t take up tangible space that we can see, so it slips by. We purchase another Steam Humble Bundle or add another free ebook to the ever-growing backlog. And then, one day, we wonder why these digital creations have so little worth and how it got so far out of hand.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m all for having a variety of cool stuff to pick from at a low cost. I love me some Steam sales. There’s some kind of momentary euphoria gained when you find something on sale or for free and you drop it in your backlog… be it a game, an app, digital music or an ebook.

But on the flip side, it’s easy to forget that there were people… creators, artists, coders, musicians… who put their heart and soul into these bits and bites. They spent untold hours pouring everything they had into creating that game, book, app or song.

And what do I do with it? I plop it in the backlog and forget about it.

As a creator myself, this makes me feel bad. I’m so… so… so… guilty.

steamgamesMy Steam library. This doesn’t include my GoG backlog. Or what I have on Origins. Or the multitude of MMOs I have installed…

Because as a creator, I know how it feels. I know how it is to put hours of my own free time into writing and art each week only to feel like that work is drown out by the endless cacophony that each person on the Internet is subjected to in an almost constant stream. There’s just so much vying for every inch of our attention, and it’s not humanly possible to give that attention to everything.

We learn how to selectively block things out. We become less sensitive and assign things less attention-worth because we have to. But what’s the results of this?

Loss of Passionate Creation

I think it hits the creators hardest. Yesterday, I read this post called When Everyone Is Special, No One Is. It focuses on this issue from a novelist’s point of view, but the same can be said for game designers or any kind of creator who wants their works to have some worth to the world. Even this writer has fallen to the ways of an overgrown book backlog.

Now days, anyone with the right tools can toss an ebook up on Amazon to sell it (spoken from experience). Or code a game and somehow get the concept passed into Early Access on Steam. There’s no one culling these things or checking them for quality, and just so many more appear day after day. And granted, not all of them are good or worthy of the price tag placed on it (sorry creators).

But the biggest problem is that with so many titles constantly flowing in, a small talented beginner, someone worthy of attention and money, may find it almost impossible to get noticed. You could have the most awesome idea ever embodied in type or code, but unless you get the right breaks, or somehow manage to go viral, who is going to hear about it?

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Pattyd

Then you start seeing the desperate free book weekends on Amazon or Steam sales and huge game bundle sites… which probably don’t generate much more attention (unless you get really lucky).  It just lowers the worth of the product overall.

Maybe a consumer picks up the book or the game, only to toss it over their shoulder into the backlog and never look at it again. There’s no worth to that item… it’s just one of many already accumulated. This is the consequence of the Internet’s wasteful things.

Eventually, sensitive creators and would-be hopefuls start to get discouraged. Why should they bother putting their time and effort into something that it feels like no one cares about? There’s already so many games/books/apps/blogs/art out there, what’s the point in making another?

Bummer… but I understand that feeling too well.

Sadly, I don’t have an answer for it. I just know I feel guilty when I don’t give a game the appropriate time and attention that it probably deserves. There’s only so many hours of free time in a day.

Still, I can’t help but think about the creators.

Posted in Geek Stuff, Random

Amazon Prime Day 2016: The Spoils

primeday

This time last year, I didn’t even have an Amazon Prime account. Now days, I’m not sure what I’d do without it. That being said, I spent too much money at yesterday’s Prime Day sale.

However, just about everything I bought was either fitness or household related. I only splurged on one thing that was not. So that’s pretty good.

New Bike

newbike

This was partially inspired by Syp’s excitement over his new bike (so cool!) and partially inspired by my thoughts that catching Pokemon on my long neighborhood street in the summer heat would be much easier on a bike.

I haven’t had a real bike in over a decade. I’ve never once in my life owned an expensive one. This one is not an expensive one, either. I just wanted something simple I could ride down the road. This bike was on a good lightning sale, and I loved the look of it. So after a bit of debate, I decided to pick it up.

New Walking Shoes

shoes

I have trouble buying shoes because my feet are wide and they are super flat. So the normal walking/running shoes kill my feet with the forced arch support.

I bought a pair of these shoes above back in Feb/March, and they feel great. Only problem is I bought them a size too big. I didn’t really notice this a whole lot until I started walking more (looking for Pokemon). Now it’s bugging me and making my walks more difficult.

So, when I saw the same shoes for sale on Prime Day, I picked up a new pair at a smaller size.

Amazon Echo

amazonecho

This is the only entertainment item I bought. Granted, it’s a big-ticket item. However, I’ve been holding off picking up an Echo for a while.

My sister and brother-in-law were early adopters and they love their Alexa. Syn also picked one up a while back. So I’m the only one who didn’t own one yet. I also don’t have a proper non-PC music device. And I noticed that Alexa can now use Spoitfy, including the Discover lists — which is what I listen to while working on webcomic art.

I know the Echo can do a lot of other things, too, and that it’s continuing to add new features consistently. So, I decided to take the plunge. I doubt we’ll see the price of this device come down much more for quite a while.

Misc Stuff

There’s various other small things I picked up as well.

A small table fan for my desk at work – that way I can cool off after taking a walk (hunting Pokemon) out in the parking lot. I actually got this for free using the points my Amazon card has been accumulating. 😀

A Dirt Devil hand vac… to replace my aging cordless hand vac of 6-7 years that can no longer hold a charge.

A set of cafe style tumblers… to replace my less attractive plastic cup set that’s over 5 years old now.

Did you participate in Amazon Prime Day? Want to share what you picked up? 

Posted in Geek Stuff

ComiXology Unlimited: Trial Thoughts

comixology

I’ve been meaning to get into comics sometime. As strange as it is, I’m a webcomic writer/artist, but I don’t really read that many published comics. Most of what I do read are other webcomics, and only a select few, basically because they’re accessible to me and have earned my attention.

Now, being a writer/artist, I understand real comic writer/artists need to get paid for their work. I totally respect that. I’d love to get paid for my comics, trust me! XD However, I still have trouble handing over money for comics… unless it’s something I really, really, really love. So far, I haven’t found anything that has taken me by storm. Cuz man, that’s an expensive hobby to keep up with!

Not to mention the space that print comics take up in storage. I just don’t have room for it, as much as I understand the joy and psychology of collecting issues. They’d likely get chewed on by the cat no matter what I did to protect them.

Digital comics? Yeah, that fits my space issues, and is something I’m used to being a long-time webcomic reader. But it goes back to my struggle to pony up that kind of money for something I’m stashing on my tablet to read once or (very rarely) twice. Again, I have to really love it to put money into it.

So, when I heard about ComiXology Unlimited yesterday, I jumped into the 30 day free trial. I mean, I will pay $6 a month to read an unlimited number of comics. They made it sound like Netflix for comics, which is something I can really get behind. I don’t mind subscribing to a service to read what I like and try out new series that I wouldn’t likely spend the money to do otherwise.

However, after I started the trial, I discovered there’s a catch. While Unlimited does give you unlimited access to a lot of comics, it limits you to the first handful of issues, or sometimes, just issue 1. I’m not talking about restricting what was published in the past 6 months, either. This includes older series that have been out for years, like The Walking Dead, where you can only access the first 2 graphic novels.

Now, I’m not dumb. I know exactly what this is meant to do. They can sugar coat it and try to say, “Oh, you have so much to read and try out.” But the truth is, they hook you with a few teaser issues and prompt you to buy the rest. Sure, they say they’ll rotate in new comics and stuff, but what does that really mean?

So. I like the fact that I can sample many comics with ComiXology Unlimited. I don’t like the fact that it’s being waved around like Netflix for comics, because it’s not. It’s as if you pay for a Netflix subscription, and they allow you to watch a couple episodes of a show, then expect you to buy the rest of the episodes. Nope.

If this is trying to get a new reader like me into comics, it’s not a good way to do it. Up my subscription price if you have to in order to give me access to more of each series, but don’t tease me with a carrot on a stick into your shopping cart. I see what you’re doing.

I’m undecided about whether I’ll sub after my first 30 days because of these limitations. I did want to spread the news about the service and let folks know what it really is — because you can’t see the restrictions until after you get into the trial. It may expand into something great one day, but right now, unlimited doesn’t really mean unlimited. And that’s a bummer.

Posted in Geek Stuff

iPhone SE: Unexpected Purchase

iphonese

Back in September 2013, I bought my first smartphone – an iPhone 5S. I took really good care of my first phone. I probably use it a good deal less than most folks do. I hardly ever dropped it. Always had a case and screen cover. Made sure the battery never ran down, and it served me a good 2 and a half years… until today.

The past month, out of nowhere, my phone started having battery charging issues. When I woke up in the mornings, the phone had shut itself off over night, even if I left it fully charged before I went to sleep. If the charge got under 40%, the phone shut off saying it had no charge at all. Eventually, it got worse and worse until I had to charge the phone three times a day because it drained that fast. One time, the phone even shut down at 97% while being plugged in.

So, it didn’t look good.

I knew people said it cost about $80 to take the phone and get a battery replaced… and that’s almost 1/3 the cost of a new phone. So that option was out… especially since I’d have to drive over an hour to get to the nearest genius bar to get it done.

Others I talked to said phone replacement is usually the suggested option after two years had run its course. But I was trying to get as much life out of my investment as I could. I was in no rush to upgrade to the next best phone, especially the larger and more expensive iPhone 6. Funny how I just wanted the smaller size I already had…

I picked up a battery replacement kit for my 5S, figuring that if it was on its last legs already, it couldn’t hurt but to try to replace it anyhow. And I’m adventurous. So opening up an iPhone was my project for this Saturday morning.

I actually did get it open without a hitch, but during the process, I noticed there were other issues with the phone. Namely, the screen had started to become warped outward in the top right corner. I did some research on this, and folks said that this seems to happen when the battery inside starts to swell and push outwards on the screen. Ugh…

Anyhow, I was super careful in replacing the battery and getting it all back together. Even tested the battery itself to ensure it started, and it did. But once I got all the parts back together, the phone refused to turn on again. I have a feeling there were bigger issues going on inside than just the battery, perhaps. So, that’s when I decided it was a lost cause and I’d have to deal with the fact that I needed a replacement.

Thankfully, this all happened a few days after the new iPhone SE released. Everything about the SE is almost identical to my iPhone 5S – even the screen protectors and case are interchangable, much to my pleasure. I think the phone’s a bit more gutsy on the inside, but that’s the only difference.

I went to check my upgradablity on my existing plan, and everything was cool for me to make the jump to a new phone. Except… seeing that it was a new model, it would take two weeks for them to ship the phone to me if I placed the order online. X(

Instead, I decided to see if my nearest AT&T store had anything in stock. I rarely go to brick and mortar stores, but I was a little nervous about making sure my new phone kept my old number and everything transferred correctly. So, overall, it was probably a good thing I did.

They had the color I wanted in stock, I explained the situation to the sales rep, and she set me up with a brand new SE in short order. When I got home, it took very little time to start it up and transfer all my data from my iCloud backup to the new phone. There were a few apps, like my FFXIV authenticator, I had to reset, but everything transferred just fine.

I spent a good bit of time playing Miitomo to break the phone in, and everything seems to be working just fine. Much, much nicer than my old phone, which drained from 95% charge to 60% in just 5 mins of playing an app.

So, while it was an unexpected upgrade and purchase, it was probably something that needed to be replaced in the end. Just hope this one lasts a lot longer than the previous.

Posted in Gaming, Geek Stuff, Mobile Gaming

Introducing Miitomo

miitomo

I’ve been following the development of Miitomo, Nintendo’s first phone app, since it was first announced. It did an open beta stint in Japan, where it is quite popular, and finally just released outside of Japan yesterday. As soon as I knew it was released, I downloaded and created my Mii over lunch break.

I designed my Mii to look similar to the Mii I use on the Wii U and the MiiVerse. Alongside of look, you can also customize voice sound and personality. I think mine ended up fitting me quite well.

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While dressing up and answering questions the game prompts you with is one part of the game, the biggest element is what happens when you start adding friends. To do this, you can add a friend face-to-face, meaning someone who is in the same room as you IRL. Or you can connect your Twitter and/or Facebook allowing the app to search for your friends in these social networks who also use the app.

Note, I like that this app only selects friends who use the app. So it doesn’t just dump out your whole friend list and encourage you to spam itself on those who have nothing to do with it. As far as I see, Twitter and Facebook are just a way to connect people who are already playing.

I also notice that the app starts recommending friends of friends. I made a choice pretty early on to only add folks who are directly in my social media circles, because it would get overwhelming by adding friends-of-friends really fast. To me, it defeats the purpose of getting to know folks if I have way too many people on my list. There’s only so many names I can keep up with. Sorry to friend-of-friends who try to add me. 😦

2016-03-31-11-28-17

 

The app encourages players to:

  • respond to friends’ answers – either through hearts or in comments
  • get new outfits and change fashion
  • play “drop” mini-games to earn new fashion pieces
  • visit friends (which seems to happen automatically)
  • take and share miiphotos both in app and on social networks

This all seems pretty simple when you list it out, but the app has just been released, so it has a lot of room to grow. I’m having fun learning little interesting facts about friends I wouldn’t normally know – especially those I only know through social media. It’s a game that provides a way to connect people through slice-of-life moments, which can end up pretty fascinating… depending on how much you put into it.

Looking forward to making more Mii friends!