J188 – Chance Encounter; Harmless

[3/31/2008] Man, it’s been a long time since I drew Unit 518. I don’t think I ever made this explicitly clear, but 518’s hand has six fingers (there’s another thumb opposite the “normal” one).

What? She’s a demoness, isn’t she? And a superweapon on top of that…

The bag Sam’s holding was bought back in this comic. Also, tied-back hair really looks like short hair from the front. Hence the sometimes unnatural behavior of Sam’s ponytail to make it visible in some panels. Sigh.

Alrighty, that’s it for today. Next week — moar plot? (yeah right)

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dcomic 459

[080331]

459! This update actually being written on time! (as opposed to early XD)

So. There is absolutely nothing special about today’s comic. At all. Therefore, I have absolutely nothing to say about today’s comic. At all. Over the break I drew 477 and 478, but they were both pieces of crap, which is somewhat unfortunate. Too much time got taken up for the car project and other odds and ends, whose status ensure that I will have plenty of entry material for the coming weeks.

Anyways. This entry is being written at dinner on my old laptop whilst I am eating my dinner. Sadly, it may be the last entry being written on this computer. My TC4200 came in the mail today and will begin some real roadtesting tomorrow when I start classes for spring quarter; if it lives up to my expectations I’ll reformat and retire the 500m at the end of this week.

I’ve been playing with the TC4200 for all of the last five hours and my thoughts have largely been positive.

This TC4200 is around two years old, assuming the memory (which is timestamped) was not replaced within the machine’s lifetime. I bought it from an ebay seller in Canada for what I think is the relatively small sum of $450 USD. An X41T, as I have said before, would have cost me $600. The TC4200 has a 1.733GHz (technically that should be .733 repeating; fractional bus speeds ftw) Dothan Pentium M 740, 512MB of DDR2 533 (also repeating) memory (actually a downgrade from my 500m which currently has a full GB), a 40GB 5400RPM drive, 12.1″ screen, blah blah blah. Physically, it’s an interesting change for one who has only used a long line of Dell.

When I first powered the thing on, the fan kicked in like a bitch for a couple seconds (I really hate how some desktop graphics cards and motherboards do the same thing; it’s really annoying) before it loaded into Windows in about a minute. The BIOS on this computer is a piece of junk; it’s very poorly layed out if you ask me. Dell’s more recent BIOS iterations have been falling into the same groove, which is somewhat unfortunate.

The guy probably didn’t load the thing with an HP recovery disk, but there was still a substantial amount of crap I didn’t need in the provided installation so I spent a few minutes deleting some stuff and setting Windows to my preferred settings (I don’t have the software to do a full reformat here in my dorm, which is, again, unfortunate).

After piddling with all the litte settings and making sure basic functionality was all good (wireless, ethernet, USB, blah blah blah), I obviously flipped the screen down and tried the tablet mode. I kinda know how to use XP tablet edition having used a TC1100 and an X41T, but when you’re trying to do day-to-day tasks in tablet mode, things get annoying somewhat quickly (I guess it could just be me not used to it yet, of course).

Writing on the TC4200 is actually quite pleasant. Tablet PC edition’s handwriting recognition and correction software is usually much better than I thought, but can have fits of random which J has seen on AIM. The really big thing is that it doesn’t like interpreting symbols and it tries to correct words that it doesn’t know (like a more forceful version of autoformat/spell check). “Writing” in AIM with J, it makes all my “meh”s “men” and all my “cuz”s “out”, etc. There are also some circuitous functions to backspace or delete or insert, etc, but like I said, overall, better than I thought.

Drawing seems to be a different story. When you simply move the mouse around the screen there’s a bit of lag, like the mouse has a bit of intertia and you’re pulling the dog on a leash. I’m pretty sure this is intentional, but I have no idea how to turn it off. This lag seems to either go away or not be a bother when you write, but somehow it’s different for drawing.

Drawing performance, oddly enough, seems to vary across programs! Drawing performance is pretty much crap in OpenCanvas 1.1; it lags quite a bit and I have a hard time doing precise strokes. Paint is actually a bit better, and OpenCanvas 4 offers performance that’s not too much worse than my Intuos3 tablet. This leads me to believe this whole mess is a software problem, so hopefully I can find some way to get rid of it, if not just suck it up and get used to it.

Overall, drawing performance is a bit worse than I had hoped for. I guess that’s why a Wacom Cintiq starts at $1000. Overall computing performance is better than my 500m by default (1.73GHz Dothan should be just under 50 percent faster than my 1.4GHz Banias), so I have no complaints there.

Battery life is very impressive. I’ve had the thing browsing and playing music on and off to simulate my usage patterns in class and it’s within the fourth hour as I write this. and down only seventy six percent. This is simply amazing. I am definitely impressed. To boot, this is with a relatively high power (drawing) Pentium M and a not so energy conservative Hitachi hard drive. I could easily see 7-8 hours with the normal extended battery, maybe up to HALF A DAY with the expensive 12-cell extended battery. Those figures are simply incredible.

It’s not as light as I would have hoped. Then again, four pounds must just not be that much lighter than 5 pounds, since 5 pounds just isn’t that much lighter than 6 pounds. Then again, I went to the Stanford bookstore today and picked up (pick up as in physically pick up, not as in purchase or anything like that) a Lenovo X300 and a Macbook Air, and holy crap where they light. And thin. I don’t like Macs, but holy cow that thing is an impressive piece of engineering.

At this point, the TC4200 has just gone into standby (at 5 percent battery) just under its FOURTH HOUR.

So. Pictures. You can see the size difference between the TC4200 and my D830. This is the first ultraportable class machine I’ve owned; the D830 is considered “mainstream”, though the D830 is a bit lighter than most lower-grade 15″ machines. On the other hand, I think the TC4200 is heavy for its size. It’s also pretty thick with respect to say, the XPS 1330 or a Sony TZ (or is that SZ? or ST? Goddamn you Sony and your queer numberiing), but to someone who started with a 6lb 14″ laptop in 2002, it’s pretty darn small. Sorry if the pics load slow. Comcast seems to have throttled my up bandwidth even more…

That’s it for now.

dcomic 458

[080323]

WELL. Spring break time again; time to try to do a significant amount of drawing while I still can. Honestly, I’m surprised I’m still a good seventeen comics ahead of the site; it implies that after my september rush I’ve been able to keep drawing an average of one comic a week, which, historically, seems to be pretty amazing. Then again, I did put up illustrations and stuff on the weeks that I did those, so the actual number should probably be closer to twelve or thirteen.

The pages near the end of part five turned out to be pretty crappy; I think I was probably just rushing to get ’em done. I tried to start doing all the comics by tablet, but it turned out to be too difficult and/or too time consuming. There have already been two examples posted and there will be two more (slightly better?) examples coming along down the pipe. It might just be that I’m trying too hard to keep things clean on the tablet; I should conceivably be trying to aim for paintchat quality rather than anything significantly higher.

But let’s save that ’til the actual comics come up.

SO most of the anime I’m watching is actually wrapping up now. In fact I don’t think that anything I’m watching this season is going to carry on into the next season. This is the first time such a thing is happening since Hayate started airing a full freaking year ago; I will actually have ten series ending at once which is pretty insane. H2O actually ended with episode twelve just this week; I think Aria the Origination or Hayate is the furthest behind.

Subseqeuntly I took the time to do some electronic spring cleaning. I already deleted a whole ton of stuff about a week ago, so now it’s just a matter of archiving files onto my 500GB archive drive. Loaded about 3GB of data on there today. It used to be that I’d take these breaks to do a reformat, but with XP you really don’t need to clean out the crap too often. Once a year is probably good enough; my D830 has been clean since July. It’s getting a bit slower but there’s only another quarter to go.

I take a special effort not to do anything queer with the D830 since it’s my main machine at least 75% of the time (Colette and the 500m probably share the other 25% equally) and I don’t have the utilities to bring the system back up if anything super-bad were to happen while I’m working at my dorm. It’s good that it’s a pretty new machine as I can put a lot of crap on it without it bogging down too much.

Speaking of bogging down, I got to try using an X41T the other day. The actual tablet part is really nice; there’s actually a noticeably greater amount of feedback than on my Intuos3 which I think will be really good for drawing. The only problem is that the hard drive really does make it slow as hell. On a relatively old 40GB/5400RPM drive I can get boot times under a minute on my 500m; the X41T takes more than twice the time. And I could upgrade that 40GB/5400RPM unit if I wanted to which isn’t possible with the X41T.

Sadly the 500m may finally be seeing the end of its days; I finally bit the bullet and purchased a tablet PC from ebay last week. It’s not a TC1100 or an X41T, but a TC4200. At $450 I honestly think it’s a steal; the C840 I sold recently netted $350 so I’m essentially getting this thing for $100. Plus shipping of course. With all this ebay stuff, the postal services are the real winners.

Sadly, it’s shipping from Nova Scotia, so it probably won’t be here ’til the end of the week. That’s rather unfortunate as I’d like a bit more time to play with it before going back to school; if it’s a satisfactory unit, I’ll probably retire the 500m. I honestly hope that’ll be the case; I think having a screen to write on will help transition to tablet drawing in the longer run…

Anyways, that’s all for now. Tired and going to bed.

J186 – Personal Bubble

[3/18/2008] Gah, so unmotivated lately. I really need a vacation. Oh look, spring break is in 4 days…

I like J’s pose in panel 1, and his expression in panel 2 (despite it not being quite the right expression for what’s going on). Oh, also, sorry the comic is late. I was really busy last week and this weekend.

Hmm, I’m just rambling aimlessly. I should stop now.

dcomic 457

[080317]

This comic is untexted because I can’t think of good text. Yes, it looks simple, but there’s nothing I liked. So too bad. Will work it out some other tiem. I texted and png’ed the next like ten comics though, so we should be smooth sailing with respect to comics for a while.

Speaking of which I just finished “Part 5” over the weekend way up at #475. That’s 475 – 447 = 28 pages of “Part 5” madness. Like that rant a few weeks ago, that’s the longest of all the storyline segments so far. Whether or not it’s the best of the storyline segments is up for debate, but I certainly hope it isn’t the WORST…

Tried some random tricks here and there throughout this story segment, but I think I’ll go into it some other day.

The search for a tablet PC goes on with much disappointment. My top two choices (and really, it’s a really limited choice considering my price point of around $500) have turned weren’t necessarily duds, but they turned out to be rather lacking and I’m rather sad.

I actually got to try using the cheaper of my top two choices, the HP TC1100 and what I initially thought was a really innovative design makes it really awkward to use.

So like the keyboard detaches from the TC1100 in order to save weight and the main body can be carried around as a slate tablet. That was the supposedly innovative idea. The thing is, while the slate mode is all good, the keyboard attached mode is a PoS. Because the mass of the computer is in the screen it’s really top heavy and coupled with some standard give on the hinge you get a really flimsy getup if you’re using laptop mode. It also doesn’t help that the screen is right up in front of the keyboard due to the large hinge.

Then we’ve got relatively weak power and battery life and there’s no option for an extended battery. Yeah. Anyways. It was cheaper than the rest. That’s about it.

So we move onto the ThinkPad X41T. I was actually almost going to buy this for between 500 and 600. Despite the lack of a touchpad, it meets pretty much all my requirements which is essentially battery life, weight, and form factor; in that order. Options for extented batteries, less than four pounds, and it doesn’t look like a slab of plastic. And hey, the, the 1.5GHz Dothan ULV is better than my 1.4GHz Banias and consumes like half the power.

But holy crap, I found out it uses a 4200RPM hard drive. The problem is that it isn’t just ANY 4200RPM hard drive; it’s a blasted 1.8″ 4200RPM hard drive and it’s freaking proprietary. A proprietary 1.8″ 4200RPM hard drive. What a piece of crap. The hard drive is already the bottleneck in every freaking computer these days and here they had to make it even slower. We’re talking about the transfer speeds of a USB stick and the latency of a fast internet ping. That’s ridiculous.

And this drive costs more than a hundred dollars. A hundred dollars for this weak piece of proprietary junk. No thank you Lenovo. Why the hell did you have to do that. Even the TC1100 had a regular 2.5″ drive.

So we pass the ball back to HP with the TC4200. Battery life? Supposedly 4.5+ hours when new. Weight? Just over four pounds. Form factor? Hell, the styling is starting to look like Justin’s NC8430. That’s a good thing. I think HP’s NC series actually looks pretty nice. Can’t really say the same for their DV or TX series, though. Those are the shiny pieces of plastic I try to avoid.

The thing is with the TC4200 we’re approaching the realm of more normal sized and normal weighted notebooks and we’ve already moved out of the range of ULV processors and 4200RPM drives. At the size of the TC4200 I’m not totally concerned yet, but if it gets any larger it’s starting to defeat half the purpose of tablets (imo), the ultraportability.

But nonetheless, the TC4200 can be had for substantially less than the X41T; something like just over 400 to just under 600 respectively. It also has a compatible extended battery, but the placement is awkward. There’s a touchpad, which neither the TC1100 or the X41T have; that’s always a plus. I can probably drop in my extra lower-power (but substantially weaker) Banias Pentium M in order to squeeze the battery; in general I feel there’s a good amount of flexibility with this machine.

As of now, the X41T is still under debate. I figure if I can get one cheap, it’s prolly worth the crappy drive, but once over 500, I’d rather have the TC4200. Or so I think. I actually have managed to accumulate the funds for this, but then there’s the project car…

J185 – π Day 2008

π Day 2008

You know what this means — pun-haters, avert thine eyes!

[3/10/2008] Yeah, I realize it’s 4 days early. I also realize the second comic uses the same pun as the very first π Day comic. The first one, of course, is a subversion of a math-based pickup line.

Anyway, this comic was originally going to be posted just before π Day, but D made me rush it into production. Blame him for the early festivities.

And if you didn’t get it, the other girl who appears in the other comic is e. If you don’t get the first comic … read it out loud a few times. There’s a grand total of 5 puns in the two comics (counting a double/twin pun as 2) for your enjoyment (or not).

Um, yeah, that’s all I have to say.

dcomic 456

[080308]

So I don’t really know anything about KimiKiss (though some people tell me it’s better than True Tears, which I think is pretty damn good), but I do know that there exists a KimiKiss laptop. It’s obviously not available in the US, but nonetheless, those of you looking for a KimiKiss laptop (and I’m sure there are tons of you) can hop over to Japan and pick one up for less than a grand USD.

But who the crap needs KimiKiss when you’ve got Hamtaro?

Anyways, I caught up with the season’s anime and had an impulsive clean-my-hard-drive moment this week and subsequently cleaned out the drive on my main machine. Much to my own surprise, I’m only using 30GB of 80GB of space. I’m not quite sure of the breakdown, but it’s probably like three to four gigs for my XP installation, four to five gigs for programs, something on the lines of ten gigs for music, another four to five gigs of images, and the rest is probably split (unequally) between anime and miscellaneous stuff (ie standalone programs, transport tycoon, text documents, etc, etc).

You’ll notice that anime now makes up a very small fraction of the total; something on the lines of ten to fifteen percent. Quite the local minimum I daresay; it’s very helpful to have external storage, whether that be simple HDD, NAS or full-out server.

Speaking of anime, last season’s big downer, Shakugan no Shana II, has made a comback in my anime book. Unlike Nanoha StrikerS, shit actually started happening. I actually stopped at episode eleven, just as things began to pick up in episode twelve. In the past thress days I got caught up to episode 20. Probably one of the few series I’ve seen lately that makes such a turnaround. I feel the art also went up in quality by some degree and the second OP and ED aren’t bad either. I also it’s kinda dumb with the whole Wolf and Spice DVD episode 7 crap. Apparently it’snot important, but I still feel like there was a considerable jump between episode 6 and 8. Completely unecessary.

Well, I originally stopped there, but I thought I’d add that last week’s entry was the THE longest NWars entry ever. Of the past 100 entries, the average file size was 1.8KB. Last week’s entry was a whopping 7.8. Including html code, that’s 1380 words, half as long as the last essay I wrote.

This week’s comic is intentionally un-shaded. I just happened to like the lineart on this one when I drew it and I didn’t want to screw it up with crappy, heavy-handed hatches. The previous two comics got the experiment treatment because they WEREN’T so nice. Thus, I figured you couldn’t go wrong experimenting on those. I think there’s a slight rise in art quality up through 460 and then it peters off again. The first panel is also intentionally un-texted. I just didn’t like the way text looked in the first panel, so excuse my crappy handwriting.

This week’s entry is a bit more reasonable. Not a one-liner, but nothing really worth mentioning either. I thought I could go on like I did in the past few weeks, but there’s nothing worth mentioning at the moment.

dcomic 455

[080303]

And hello number 455. I actually drew two comics recently so I’ve now got another 15 pages to go before I run out. This is probably the longest amount of time I’ve had a backlog since the early days. And by all means, I’ll have it longer this time. Or so I hope.

Anyways as we all know, over the past few months I’ve been selling a substantial amount of stuff on ebay and it still doesn’t cease t amaze me how stupid people can be. But this next tale actually goes back a number of years, way before even the start the start of NW, back when the PS1 was still in widespread use (Maybe it still is in widespread use, but seeing as the PS2, the most popular console of all time, can play Ps1 games, I’d be more than slightly doubtful).

So my friend good friend (my good friend, might I add, who actually introduced me to the world of video games over course of many years) had a PS1 that didn’t power on. He was gonna chuck but I figured I’d take a look at it, since sometimes you can take something apart, put it back together, and have it magically work again (happened to my brother’s Dell X200, I’m still flabbergasted about that one). So I took the thing apart and while it didn’t magically start working, the issue with the thing was simple enough for my junior-high mind to diagnose: somehow the solder around the power connector had burnt off, so the thing essentially wasn’t getting any power at all.

Well easy enough. I bridged the gap with aluminum foil and some duct tape and the thing worked.

Machine’s actually sitting in my room now, I don’t know if it STILL works, though. But fast forwards a lotta years and I got a free Dell Latitude C840 from a friend that was missing its power supply and acting up. The unit uses a 90W power supply with the same connectors as the ones on my CpT and C600, so I tested the thing with 70W adapters to find that the power was really flaky. The thing would randomly shut down without a battery or loose the power in general. Initially I figured this just might be a problem with using a 70W adapter (but my D830 which needs a 90W adapter will work fine with a 65W unit) so I bought an adapter for something like $10.

Didn’t work. So obviously the next solution is to take it apart and put it back together or hope to find an easily diagnosable problem. Turns out it was the same thing. The solder around the power jack had burnt off, so sometimes the connector would stop touching the mainboard. Aluminum foil was a big too cumbersome for this job, so I bought a $5 soldering iron from Frys (which turns out to be the absolute crappiest iron I have ever used) and got that thing working again. Sold for freaking $350.

Now here’s the dumb thing. This is a 2000/2001 15″ laptop powered by a Pentium 4-M, which is a derivative of a processor that honestly shouldn’t have been made at all. At 1.6GHz it’s significantly slower than the 1.4GHz Pentium-M in my 500m, and with 256MB of memory and 30GB of 4200RPM HDD power, it’s an absolute piece of crap. The only thing going for it is that the battery still runs for about two hours. That’s simply amazing. Did I mention it weighs like 8 pounds? Anyways, all that for a “measly” $350. Let me show you what you can get for $350.

It’s a 2007 e1505. It has a Core 2 Duo. Two freaking cores for $350! Not to mention a DVDRW drive, 80GB of HDD, 1GB of memory, and hell the guy’s tossing in a free laptop bag! What a steal! My D830’s less than twice as capable and cost like $1500. That’s 4 times as much. Granted, it’s of a significantly better build quality, but I think I get my point across!

Moral of the story? If you want a laptop for $350, you can get some pretty powerful shit. Don’t get a C840.

So I bought my D830 pretty hastily and now I’m paying the price. When I bought the thing, I honestly didn’t consider what the crap I’d be doing in college, but what I had been doing in high school instead. And that was leaving the laptop on a desk, plugged in, just about always, only taking it to school maybe once every two weeks and when travelling. So I got a workstation computer which is perfect for that task. And I’m not just flattering myself, I honestly think it makes a really nice workstation, 15 inches are really nice to use for extended periods of time at a desk.

But I’m giving up on the pen and paper here and taking a notebook to class now, and that means moving the machine for a round trip several times a day. It’s not terribly heavy or large, but those shitty auditorium desks are really small and I’ve got a lot of peripherals to plug in and plug out. Subsequently moving my main machine around isn’t terribly practical, nevermind the 15 inch element. So my 500m, which was to be retired, got a small upgrade here and there and a new lease on life. And so it’s been going like this for the better part of six months. It’s quite suited for the task; the Inspiron 500m is one of the last Dell Inspirons to be built on a Latitude chassis, and can subsequently accept the media-bay battery from my D830 (Dell’s D-series has been going on for quite some time now), giving it something on the lines of 6+ hours of runtime. Pentium M is pretty damn sexy.

But y’know, things coould be better. The Inspiron 500m is on its fifth year (used it longer than any other computer I’ve had in the past now) and, all in all, just an Inspiron. So I thought about it and I just got $350 for essentially nothing and I’m looking to turn that into a tablet.

That’s right, btw. A tablet PC.

So I’m going to turn $350 into something like this.

I’d consider a Dell, but Dell’s only tablet was released last year and it’s an overpriced piece of junk. The aforementioned is an IBM ThinkPad X41T. Dothan Pentium M, only slightly younger than my 500m, and the tablet of tablets of its generation (at the same time, the X61T is the tablet of tablets of the current generation). And yeah, it’s about $600, and that’s at the lower end of the spectrum. Well I only have $350, but now comes an experiment.

Essentially what I’m going to try to do is to get a house from a quarter (I’m sure you’ve heard this story of this dude who trades a quarter for some piece of junk and trades that junk for a sofa and then for a car and for a house or something cool like that). I figured if you can sell a C840 for $350 and buy an e1505 for $350, why can’t you sell the e1505 back at a higher price, buy a slightly better computer, do the same thing and BAM. You’ll make up the difference in no time. This might be a tedious process, but hell I’ve got nothing better to do, and side projects are always something to look forward to. Then I can start getting some real tablet practice on the go and browse the internet on the same 12″ screen. That’ll be great.

So we’ll see how it goes. I’m planning my first step-up to be an HP TC1100 which may even get me straight to $600 if I’m lucky.

End of entry. That took fucking half an hour.