dcomic 463

[080427]

462 up, 481 drawn.

So Colette had an interesting hiccup this weekend (something to do with the Apache server, though I have no idea what; all I know is that it made a log file 9GB long o_O It looks like it decided to keep reporting some error over and over and over again…) so I rebooted her for the first time in about a month (about 24 days online!) and decided to install XP SP2. For the first time ever, all my computers are running “up-to-date”.

Honestly I never had a problem with SP1 and since the Dell OEM cD I usually do installations with only came with SP1 I didn’t bother to update for the majority of the past two or so years. Plus, SP2 used to crash my 500m in standby so naturally I’d try to steer clear. There are other reasons which are shadier, so I don’t think I’ll mention ’em.

Like a good friend of mine is considering switching to Mac for the duration of his college whatever-it-is-you-do-at-college for the increased “stability” and “security” of the Mac platform over Wintel (specifically XP). Now I don’t really like the Apple company for a variety of reasons, but I will tell you that you should probably buy their stock because it will probably go up as Vista seems to be pushing John Does away from the Wintel platform. I don’t really like the direction M$ is going either; I think they should stick with their core competency. Software dammit. They need to get off Google’s ass and show those Leopard and Penguin people a real OS.

They say the introduction of Vista parallels that of XP and I will agree to an extent. I myself ran with 1998 (and not even SE) up through the prototypical days of the NWars site (2004ish?) before 98 really didn’t want to work with my (new at that time!) 500m. I mean, XP was indeed bloated compared to 98. The reactionary in me didn’t let me switch until I had to. It’s hard to tell if the general resistance to Vista is comparable or greater than the general resistance to XP, but whatever.

But I’ve had a good experience with XP these past 4 years. By the time of the 500m, something like two years after the release of XP, it was already pretty good. I didn’t really mind switching (we’ll see if that’s the case with Vista in 2009!). Besides my SP2 standby BSoD (arguably caused by crappy Intel 855GM drivers) it was pretty stable too. I mean, I’ve had a BSoDs since then, but the vast majority have been due to overclocking/undervolting tinkering rather than anything to do with the OS itself.

And security? I’ve been adamant that viruses can be prevented solely by means of smart browsing and so far the theory hasn’t failed me. I’ve never touched a piece of antiviral software (save for the good old HiJackThis) in all my years of running XP and I’ve gotten maybe 1 or 2 infections that warranted a reformat. Call it luck, but I think there’s a degree of truth behind the theory if it’s been generally holding water for the better part of four years.

XP SP3 was released to manufacturers last a few days ago. Various flavors will be available to the public in a matter of days as well. I was using a beta on the 500m before I switched over to the TC4200 and there wasn’t anything terribly special about it. It was hard to verify the existence of the mythical 10% increase in performance when your computer is only used for word processing and internet. I’d also upraded the 500m to a 5400rpm drive in the middle of last year so any previous experience with the machine isn’t terribly comparable.

I recently noticed that some of my XP installations didn’t like to boot with a flash drive plugged in. This used to happen to me all the time when I first moved up to XP, but somewhere along the way it stopped happening or I stopped noticing. The issue arose again when I switched to a phone that could be charge by USB and act as a USB flash drive thanks to the installed MicroSD card (which is hella slow I might add). Maybe it’s just because of my extensive use of standby these recent years.

The inconvenience of shuffling large amounts of data between Colette and either of my two laptops via network, internet or 1GB USB stick finally became great enough such that I invested in a USB HDD enclosure. I used the Hitachi drive which I pulled from the TC4200 (though I might switch back; the Fujitsu drive makes a lot of noise, and the battery increase isn’t significant) and a cheap (but nice looking) Coolermaster enclosure. The drive will usually run with a single USB jack which is real nice. Previously any large file transfers I did were with an old 12GB IBM desktop drive using an IDE/USB adapter and (yet another) power supply.

This led me to move a lot of unused and yet-to-be-archived stuff off my D830 and Colette, leading to my now having nearly 60GB free on the former machine. That’s pretty slick. It also finally prompted me to rearrange my anime music collection which has been on my to-do list for a very long time. I finally standardized it such that one playlist will work on any computer with the same music file structure (assuming the actual music structure components are there) which is nice.

Ok I actually wasn’t going to write anything this time, but look what happened.

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J190 – Two More Paintchats

[4/13/2008] These are the paintchats that Derek refers to in his rant. (The theme of the first one was “hawtness”, hence the arrow on mine.)

For the second one, the theme I gave Derek was to build off of my last update. I asked him if he wanted to hand me anything, but he didn’t. So I just drew whatever. The girl I drew is the locomotive Union Pacific 844. Not sure why the colors all wound up so light this time. Anyway, the lower drawing of her is during her “glory days”, and the top image is afterwards (I had intended to expand to the right, but Derek’s drawing was occupying that space. (I realize now I probably should have drawn in her right arm; it’s not supposed to be missing.)

Blah, swamped with work. Hooray for incoming 4-day weekend…

dcomic 461

[080413]

461 and drawn up to 480. Will try to draw 481 on tablet (again).

So J and I had a paintchat session just a little before I’m writing this update and I chose to draw on the TC4200 instead of my Intuos3 (about the 4th drawing session I’ve had on this thing; I’ve done a few doodles in class and a comic on the tablet PC as well) and I think the benefits are really beginning to show – aka, it’s beginning to feel a bit easier to use the tablet PC, maybe even over the Intuos.

One of the contributing elements is that between now and, errr… before, I figured out a major contributor to some of the lag I was getting in OC1.1 and less significantly in OC4.3. It turns out that there’s some dumbass setting that’s checked by default (press and hold the pen for right click) that somehow induces lag in the aforementioned drawing programs. Another setting “flick gestures” (or something like that) was another contributor. Turning off those two settings (and possibly the clean install) seriously made drawing a much more pleasant experience.

So here’s the chat from 08/01/09, about three months ago on the conventional tablet:

And here’s the chat from yesterday, on the TC4200. I’ve cut out J’s part on both chats in case he wants to use them as his own update (which I’d guess he would; both pictures have some color adjustments).

Anyways, I don’t think there’s a question whether or not the yesterday image is better than the 08/01/09 image. The issue is that it’s hard to tell if the improvement is due to the benefits provided by drawing on the TC4200 (and I couldn’t really pinpoint what those are besides just being able to see what you draw) or some other external factor. I don’t want to come right out and say “due to an increase in artistic ability” because that could mean anything here. Another thing to consider is that this paintchat took barely half an hour (if the OC millisecond counter is to be believed) and I definitely felt like I was erasing much less than with the Intuos.

Nonetheless, TC4200 drawing seems to be looking up now, thouhg it remains to be seen how well it holds up in a “real” completed piece. I think it’ll do really well for the most part; I just don’t realy have the time to push out a completed piece at the moment. I’m mildly worried that drawing on a screen will forfeit my already crappy abilities to draw without a screen (aka with the Intuos3), and render THAT 400 dollar investment useless. to take an optimistic perspective, it might make me BETTER on the Intuos.

Why that matters at all is because there are limitations (I think) to the TC4200. The machine is relatively slow (something like just over twice as slow as the D830 on wPrime 32M, BUT about 40 percent faster than my 500m). Because all my graphics programs are single threaded (especially OC; that seems to make no use whatsoever of the second core) it shouldn’t make too much of a difference. Nonetheless, I had the Pentium M 740 running full tilt whenever I was actively painting in the paintchat yesterday… but I’m wondering if that’s just the networking mode that eats up so much computing juice.

Specially when I keep undoing and redoing big filters in PSP, it’s not that helpful to have a single core Pentium M.

I think there’s some program I could use to make the TC4200 act like an input device for another computer but I haven’t looked into it nor know how good the performance will be. If it’s decent though, it means I’ve got a $450 Cintiq which doubles as a laptop. That’s some pretty sick shit there.

Also, first paintchat session yesterday after a connection broke:

… and that’s all for now.

J189 – Half-Golem (?)

[4/7/2008] I was too busy this weekend to draw an actual comic. At any rate, I felt like sketching instead. This is what I got.

Anyway, I’ve wanted to do something like this for wuite some time now. I don’t know why, there’s something about the sort of hybrid concept that intrigues me (*cough* 518 *cough*). The structure of the right arm is shown in the diagram in the upper right of the picture.

One of the problems with this drawing is that there’s almost too much stuff going on, so parts don’t layer properly (the right leg, for example, is hard to pick out). It also doesn’t help that her body geometry is far from normal. I’m also not too happy with her foot (can’t…draw…bare…feet…). Perhaps I’ll draw her from the other side sometime.

Erm, anyway, that’s that. Yeah.

dcomic 460

[080407]

460!

So I drew a comic (479) on the TC4200 last week. For the most part it sucked balls, but it looked like a comic and not a piece of crap. I’m at least becoming confident that while there’s a upper limit to art quality that needs to be pushed forward, there’s also a lower limit to art quality that’s slowly being pulled up as well. Like my worst art now is still better than my best art two years ago. Something like that; at least in the same vein.

On the whole, I’m very happy with this laptop. There are very few downright less-than-good things I can say about it, and while drawing seems to be one of them, part of the problem may just be my less-than compitent tablet-based drawing skills.

There are a lot of small touches that, while not very significant individually, I really liked on the whole. I might have mentioned that the keys seem to be textured to resist wear a bit better than standard Dell keys. The clickers on the trackpad and touchpad are also reubberized for the same effect, as is the palmrest, which seems to have a protective sheet over it. I like how they did away with the legacy ports and included three USB ports instead (and one on each side of the machine to boot, rather than three in back or something). I even comment on the power cord; it’s about twice as long as the ones I’ve had on Dells and I can use the machine on my bed in my dorm. That’s a really nice change. Then there’s the hidden latch and the little scrolling thing on the trouchpad and I could go on and on. Regardless, my 500m has worked five long years and deserves a rest.

I did a clean install over the weekend with the 80GB drive I raped from my 500m and lo and behold, HP’s software still kinda sucks. There were like three or four drivers for all the little custom buttons and inputs on the tablet and I wasn’t really sure which ones did exactly what and which ones I needed so I played around with them and stuff still doesn’t totally work. Some of the functions overlap with the functions provided by Windows Tablet and it’s all a very confusing mess. The tablet driver was also kinda flaky, so I stuck with the Wacom driver (though I had honestly hoped that HP’s driver would help the drawing). This is actually the first time I’ve done an installation from a non-proprietary external optical drive (my dad’s Latitude X300 has a proprietary one) and I’m surprised how smoothly it went, especially considering I used an old desktop IDE optical drive with an adapter instead of something more conventional (no other choice here: I sold my external Plextor drive a long time ago).

Tablet mode actually had some uses that I didn’t foresee. When you’re reading manga or a PDF file, you can use it like an ebook and have a portrait screen. When you’re watching anime in an inconvenient location, it can also be easier to switch to slate mode than to have the thing in laptop mode. So on and so forth.

Interestingly, it’s also hard to find wallpaper for the thing. You only need 1024 x 1024, but it needs to work centered in landscape or portrait mode, which can be challenging. At the moment, I’m using this rather simple Aria wallpaper which just happens to work without any modification (though the wallpaper I had on my 500m nearly worked well) [100614: dead link].

So I changed the hard drive here in part to squeeze the battery and in part to increase storage capacity. I bought the drive a while ago specifically for the low power consumption (and it was on sale at Fry’s; planned to make a non-external-powered external drive, but that never materialized). It’s a Fujitsu MHV2080AH (80GB, more than I thought I’d ever need at the time, and still more than enough considering how I impulsively delete/move stuff now and then. All of my machines now have 80GB drives; unless you count Colette’s pseudo-external 500GB) and it’s a little loud, but it as an idle power draw of 0.6 watts, which is still pretty damn good for a 5400rpm drive. The 40GB Hitachi 5k100 that came with the TC4200 drew 0.9 watts. The Hitachi 4k80 I had in my 500m drew the same. Active power consumption is about 2 watts for all three drives, but we aren’t doing any really heavy disk work going between class to class. Ideally what we’d want is a Hitachi 4k120 drive (0.3 watts idle, desite being a 4200rpm drive), but I’d have to buy it and I haven’t been able to find it cheap.

In my battery squeeze quest, I considered swapping the Pentium M 740 with a Pentium M 1.3/1.4 (11-27 watt TDP versus 6-22 watt TDP, respectively), but I was in Newark with my good friend generalachoo who suggested that I should undervolt the 740 instead. Since all laptop BIOSes are a piece of crap, this implies software undervolting, which is not a terribly elegant solution, but extra battery life is more important than elegance here. Using the free RMClock, I was able to stably shave abut 0.3 volts off every SpeedStep level on the 740, dropping the idle voltage from 0.9880 volts to the lowest allowed voltage (at least by RMClock) of 0.7000 volts. Full throttle voltage went from 1.3080 volts to 1.0040 volts. Not necessarily a good representation of temps, since I’ve been using it on my bed for a few hours now. I could have brought in the Pentium 1.3 or 1.4, but like I said, RMClock wouldn’t let me bring those below 0.7 volts, so it’d be a pointless loss in performance, considering the machine is idle 90 percent of the time.

All in all I estimate that I’ve gained about 30-40 minutes of battery from the drive and the undervolting. I haven’t actually done the whole battery drain test, but based on the relatively accurate (at least for this battery) windows battery monitor, I should be getting anywhere from 4.5 to maybe even FIVE hours under light loads (notetaking and browsing only with screen brightness at uber-low). The 740 also idles at least ten degrees lower than it used to, which is a pretty good drop as far as undervoltng goes. Got a similar result with Colette’s Athlon XP. Completely stable under Orthos/Prime95 for at least an hour on each Speedstep setting (and significantly more at lowest and highest) I might add.

Anyways, I’ve been playing with the undervolting settings on my D830 as well, but I ain’t done with that yet. I was hoping to draw another comic over the weekend, but it didn’t happen. Oh well. That’s all for now. Have a nice day.