Month: October 2018

Progress update: 10/30/2018

A bit of a slower day today. Didn’t get much sleep the night before because of a sick kiddo, and as such I ended up sleeping a good chunk of the morning away which hit me right in the productivity.

I wrote 8336 words today and revised 4,129. Not a bad day, but I didn’t get much other work done aside from writing because the morning was shot.

On the podcast/audiobook front I recorded and finished chapter 7 of Dice Mage. I also submitted a support ticket to the good people at Libsyn to get the slug for the hosting I’m paying for there switched to reflect Dice Mage rather than Blake Byron, which I’ve abandoned for the moment. Once that’s sorted I’ll upload the first seven chapters and start my great experiment seeing if podcasting is a decent way to build an audience!

That’s it for today. It was an abbreviated day so it’ll be an abbreviated day.

Progress update: 10/29/2018

I’m going to start a new thing where I do a quick update at the end of a work day talking about everything I accomplished that day. I figure it’s a way to keep myself accountable while also providing some encouragement to get my butt in gear and get stuff done.

Today I wrote 11,941 words across seven projects I’m currently working on. I had a bunch of outlining in there as I’m currently outlining one book for my pen name, and another that I plan on releasing under my name.

I also revised 9,086 words on a project for my main pen name that I’m putting the finishing touches on. I’m a little behind on that one, but what can you do?

I’m getting closer and closer to finishing the sprawling 200,000 word doorstopper GameLit novel I’ve been working on for almost a year now. Even when I finish that there are going to be heavy edits to be done, but simply being close to the end on a project that’s the longest book I’ve ever written feels pretty good. I’m going to have to bust my butt on revisions to get it out by the holiday season though.

I also made progress on the Dice Mage podcast audiobook experiment I’m going to try with that book. Everyone keeps talking about how audio is the new hotness, and I figure I’ll give it a try and see if it’s any good for audience building. I finished editing chapter 5, and recorded, edited, and finished chapter 6 as well. I plan on releasing that to the world now that I have six episodes banked to get those download numbers up when it goes live on various podcasting services.

I also started, but didn’t finish, a couple of blog posts. One about making dining reservations at Disney World, based on a recent experience I had dealing with that frustration, and another about my experiences with the Sega Genesis on the occasion of that system’s 30th birthday.

That’s it for today! Time to hit the sack and prepare for another full day tomorrow.

Huion GT-191: Final review

So if you’ve been reading this blog then you know I’ve had some good and some bad experiences with Huion and the GT-191. I have one sitting on my desk right now so I’ve decided to go with Huion, and I figured I should write a final review about all the pros and cons and why I ultimately decided to go with the GT-191 despite some problems.

Huion GT-191

So here’s the thing. Huion is giving you bang for your buck. They’re not giving you perfection. If you’re an amateur artist or someone who only uses Photoshop from time to time then it’s going to be a great tablet for you. If you’re the kind of person whose professional livelihood depends on color accuracy and things like that then it might or might not be the tablet for you, but it’s definitely a contender for the price.

The good:

Price:

The price on Huion products can’t be beat. I got mine through a sale they were running on eBay that gave me a brand new device, straight from Huion, at a substantial discount. I think they were trying to get rid of older versions of their Kamvas line now that they’re releasing newer versions with pens that don’t require charging. Either way, a 19″ pen monitor at Huion prices is a great deal. Especially compared to Wacom and their exorbitant and prohibitive pricing.

Setup:

Setup was quick and easy. Everything on the Huion is using old technology that’s well tested. It uses an old fashioned USB 3.0 connection and an HDMI cable to provide signal from the computer to the monitor. If you’re running a fancy new MacBook Pro with its USB-C connections that might be an issue, but there are a lot of people out there running on hardware that isn’t at the bleeding edge and these older connections are appreciated.

Actually setting up the monitor only took maybe fifteen minutes. That includes attaching the stand, connecting the wires, and downloading the Huion software.

The user experience:

This is what really matters. The experience of putting a pen to the screen is about the same as using a Cintiq 22HD. There’s a little bit of parallax that really becomes obvious when you’re moving the pen around, but you also got that on older Wacoms. It doesn’t hold a candle to the new Cintiq Pro line and the complete lack of parallax, but it’s pretty easy to train yourself to look at where the cursor is on the screen and adjust your stroke accordingly. This is especially easy if you’re upgrading from a tablet where you’re used to the disconnect between pen and cursor.

I’m not saying the parallax is a deal breaker, just that it’s there and is about the same as what you’d expect from a last gen Wacom monitor. You’re not getting the complete lack of parallax of the new Cintiq Pro line, but you’re also not paying the equivalent of a down payment on a cheap car on this monitor either.

Other than that the experience is natural and easy. Drawing on the screen or on the provided screen protector is a pleasant experience. With the protector on it feels like drawing on paper. The screen protector does blur everything just a bit, but you’re going to get that from any screen protector that has a paper consistency. Again I’d compare the screen resolution to the Cintiq 22HD in terms of quality and graininess.

The stand:

This is wonderful. Seriously. I wish Wacom would figure out how to make stands like this. All it takes is a little pull on a lever and the stand moves forward and back providing whatever angle you want. The real beauty is the stand has a tiny footprint that makes it easy to fit the GT-191 on a desk.

Compare that to the 22HD and larger in the last gen of Cintiqs. That stand was a beast and it ate up desk real estate. One of the reasons I ended up getting rid of my 22HD was the thing was just so damn big that it was unwieldy and unpleasant to use. Or compare that to the Cintiq Pro line that doesn’t come with a stand at all.

The Huion doesn’t have this problem. The stand is compact and gets the job done, and it just works. Wacom could take a page from Huion on stand design.

The extras:

The tablet comes with an extra pen and drawing glove as “gifts.” This smacks of marketing speak to make me feel warm and fuzzy about something they would’ve included anyway, but whatever. Having a second pen is a must with a pen tablet that relies on battery driven pens. You can always have one charged and ready to go.

The bad:

Color accuracy:

This is the big one that was such an annoyance with the first one I tried out. No matter how many times I tried to calibrate the screen there was a blue tint to everything that drove me nuts. Trying to return the GT-191 to Huion and not get charged a restocking fee also took some back and forth that was annoying.

Still, I couldn’t beat the sale price they were offering and I figured for that price I could put up with a little color inaccuracy. I’m pleased to say that the screen I have now doesn’t have that tinting issue, but it’s still washed out and not all that vibrant for an IPS panel. It’s really obvious looking at my calibrated Asus PB-278Q which sits just above the Huion tablet.

Another consideration is that the Cintiqs also appear “washed out” compared to monitors designed to pump out more saturation, and this is deliberate. Huion is doing the same, but the colors on the Huion are definitely a little more washed out than what you’ll get on a Cintiq.

It’s not a huge issue for me though. Like I said before, this is a bang for the buck unit. If you’re doing digital art or photo manipulation seriously then you have a second monitor you can mirror your current Photoshop window to anyway so you can periodically check on what you’re working on, but it’s definitely a concern if pinpoint color accuracy is something you absolutely have to have.

Parallax:

I talked about this up above, but wanted to include it in the cons down here. Parallax is there, but it’s about on par with what you can expect from a Cintiq 22HD or a 13HD. It’s especially obvious if you twist the pen around as the tip will quickly become disconnected from the cursor on the screen. This wasn’t much of an issue for me. I’ve worked with tablets long enough that I can deal with the disconnect between what my pen is doing and what the cursor is doing, but it might be an annoyance for some. Watching where the cursor is versus where the pen is can be helpful, though, and the disconnect is way less with the Huion than it would be with a traditional non-screen tablet.

Does it compare to the lack of parallax on the new Cintiq Pro line? Not at all. Parallax is nonexistent on those bad boys. Is it a small enough annoyance that the price difference more than makes up for it if you’re starting out with digital art or on a budget? Most definitely in my opinion.

“Only” High Def:

This is really a matter of opinion. The last gen Cintiq displays were all good old 1920×1080. The picture looked decently crisp on the 13HD and a little grainy on the 22HD.

With the GT-191 you’re also getting “only” 1920×1080 resolution. The display looks a little grainy, especially with the protective screen over it, but it’s not a huge deal. It’s definitely not as crisp as a display on a Cintiq Pro 16 or running AstroPad Pro and an iPad Pro, but again it gets the job done. I’ll also note that the Cintiq Pro running at 2K also looks a little grainy and pixelated, and running at 4K on a 15″ monitor made everything so small as to be uncomfortable.

The GT-191 really is a nice compromise between screen size and resolution. 1080P works for a monitor that size. Would 4K be nice? Yeah, but that would up the price and we wouldn’t be having this conversation about a value pen screen.

No tilt:

The GT-191 doesn’t have tilt functionality in its pen. I don’t use tilt so it’s not a big deal for me. If this is a big deal for you then you’ve been warned.

Cable placement:

Cable placement is a little awkward on the back of the device. The ports are on the bottom of the screen, and that means if you’re sliding your monitor forward and back on the aforementioned stand a lot then you’re going to spend some time pushing the cables out of the way. This also doesn’t seem like a great arrangement in terms of cable strain over the long term, but I also haven’t seen any complaints about this so who knows if it’s really a potential gripe.

Just be warned that the cable situation in the back isn’t ideal, and you will spend some of your time moving cables out of the way if you move the stand up and down a lot.

The verdict: bang for your buck

Bang for the buck. That’s what it all comes down to. A last gen Cintiq 22HD will still run you $1700. A last gen Cintiq 13HD will run you $800. To get into the new Cintiq Pro 13 you’re looking at $1000. For the Cintiq Pro 16 it’s $1500. When you go higher than that for the Cintiq Pro 24 and 32 you’re looking at behemoths that swallow your entire desk and cost the price of a cheap used car with some mileage on it or a good down payment on a new economy car.

Does Huion still have some issues with their tablets? Yes, but in my experience they’re all issues that existed on the last generation of Wacom Cintiq tablet screens, and they were all things people learned to live with. That’s something else to consider. Every generation of Wacoms has had their issues, and people pay a premium to deal with those issues.

Weigh all of that against the price, because damn. That price is amazing. If you’re on a budget, dipping a toe into digital art, or only need to use a screen tablet occasionally for work like I do then that price can’t be beat. Wacoms are expensive. Like “I do art for a living and can justify this expense” or “corporate bought all of these with a line item in the budget that was going away if we didn’t spend it by the end of the year” expensive. That’s a lot of money to spend, and I think for the money the Huion is a great, if slightly flawed, alternative whose price more than makes up for those quibbles.

Bang for your buck. That’s what Huion delivers. It’s up to you to decide whether or not you’re willing to shell out an extra thousand bucks to get something slightly better in quality and way smaller in terms of screen size to have Wacom on the branding.

Dragon 13 discontinued, Dragon 15 discounted

Do you use Dragon Naturally Speaking? Specifically are you on Dragon 13? Well I’ve got good news and I’ve got bad news for you.

The bad news is Dragon 13 is being discontinued. Nuance is no longer going to support it after 2018. It’s pining for the fjords, and at some future date a Windows Update is going to break functionality and Nuance isn’t going to fix it.

Now for the good news. If you own Dragon Naturally Speaking 13 Professional they’re offering Dragon 15 Professional at a steep discount of $99. Check the software notifications you probably ignore every time you open Dragon 13 and you’ll see a notification and a link to where you can get the discounted rate.

It’s only good through October 31, 2018, so be sure to act fast. This is a great deal on 15 and well worth the upgrade. Especially if you’re using it for a business purpose!

Introducing Dice Mage!

I got my start in the whole full time writing thing doing erotica and romance. I make no secret of that and I’m not ashamed of it. I’m proud of figuring out a way to make a full time living doing something I love, and I’ve actually come to really enjoy romance as a genre in my time writing in it!

Having said that, for the past four years I’ve always been shooting for the goal of releasing something under my own name. It’s something I was working towards way back in 2016, but then life got in the way. My dad was diagnosed with cancer so I was taking care of him, then he passed and I was taking care of his estate. I also had a string of a couple of surgeries that weren’t life threatening, but put a cramp on my writing time. Through this all my wife was pregnant, then she gave birth and I was helping around the house while she was home on leave, and after that I made the decision to keep my daughter home for her first year.

Suffice it to say my plate was full, and it was taking every bit of time and energy I could dedicate to writing simply to keep up with my existing pen names and maintain an income that kept my family in the lifestyle to which we’ve become accustomed.

So some of the GameLit and fantasy stuff I was working on went on the back burner for awhile, but as of a couple of weeks ago I’m excited to say that I’ve finally released a GameLit adjacent book, Dice Mage!

If you’re not familiar with GameLit, it’s a genre that goes hand in hand with LitRPG. It’s a story that includes gaming elements as part of the story. In Dice Mage that translates to a normal college dude who was minding his own business when he was tapped by a goddess to be her champion in a game of the gods taking place on his college campus, and he has to try and save the world with a set of magical dice that give him the powers of a badass mage! Maybe. If he can ever figure out how they work.

I was super excited about this genre when I saw it moving up the charts in 2015-2016, and I’m excited to finally release my own entry! I’m also a little annoyed that I didn’t get a start in the genre a couple of years ago, but life happens and all you can do is move forward.

So there you have it! You can check out Dice Mage at Amazon and give it a read. It’s also in Kindle Unlimited if you’re a subscriber. I’ve been doing this writing thing full time for nearly four years, but it feels good to finally have something out there under my name!

Doctor Who and the perennial alien existence plothole

I was watching the opening of the new Doctor Who this afternoon because as an old man with young children I can’t always make time for things like worldwide simulcasts the day it launches. Jodie Whittaker was amazing in the short amount of time I saw her, and I’m looking forward to finishing the rest of the episode. Which I totally haven’t yet because, again, young kids in the house.

There was one thing that struck me as a bit odd, and it’s something that’s bothered me ever since I first started watching the new series about a decade back. There came a point where some new characters we’re all supposed to get to know and love over the course of the season were menaced by a scary electric tentacle alien thing.

And they all acted like it was impossible that the thing could’ve been an alien. The Doctor’s admission that she was an alien was met with disbelief.

This is despite the past decade featuring a staggering number of instances where the world learned that yes, there were very much aliens in the world and they weren’t all necessarily coming to earth to phone home and leave us all feeling warm and fuzzy with their glowing fingers. Cybermen and Daleks invaded the world and fought each other. Daleks invaded the world a few more times, because why not? Give the audience what they want. An interstellar version of the Titanic nearly crashed into Buckingham Palace. There was the Christmas Invasion where Tennant lost his hand.

Recently under Capaldi’s tenure there was an invasion of Cybermen being led by Missy, and the continued saga of the Zygons low key trying to take over the world every few months, so none of that “cracks in the wall handwaves all the other invasions away” nonsense some people spout about on the Internet.

The point is there have been plenty of alien invasions over the past decade of nuWho. Let’s not even get started on the old series. One of the first things I thought of was the Loch Ness monster that Tom Baker took on during his tenure, and it turns out this was referenced by the Seventh Doctor in a quote about how humans like to forget things.

I understand that they have a show to run here and the stories are more fun if earth isn’t aware that there are aliens out there. I know that the show is constantly refreshing itself and the new creators want to free themselves up to tell new and interesting stories.

It’s just that it all seems a bit… lazy. They’re just hitting the reset button on earth’s knowledge of aliens despite earth being ripped into the galactic community time and time again. I don’t know that there’s a good solution to this problem either. New creators want to try new things before they inevitably go back to the well and give fans the traditional rogue’s gallery of baddies, but it really starts to stretch believability to have an earth that’s been made aware of aliens so many times in the past and then have everyone suddenly forget it. No matter how many times they handwave it.

I suppose the fact that they haven’t come up with a good solution to this problem despite the show being on the air for coming up on sixty years shows that we all need to sit back and repeat the MST3K mantra while watching a new series of Doctor Who. It’s just a show, we should really just relax.

And so far it does seem promising. A new Doctor is always exciting. For all that I’ve been going on about this for nearly six hundred words like the unapologetic geek I am, I really am excited about the new season and can’t wait to see what Whittaker does with the part.

I just wish they could figure out a way of building on past lore that doesn’t involve selectively declaring bankruptcy on that lore until they’re ready to acknowledge it again.