Monday, February 11, 2013

Microsoft Surface Pro

It's been a while since I have posted, so I figured I would talk about a new piece of technology I recently acquired. If you haven't inferred from the title of this bolt what I'm talking about yet, it's the Microsofts Surface Pro. I have been looking forward to something like this for a long time ever since I first used Photoshop. 

Now, I know there are other devices out there, including convertible laptops, which have been around and are about to come out but this is the one I decided to choose.

Windows 8

Getting Windows 8 was an upgrade I decide to pass on when it was initially released, after I had tested it out on my 2004 Sony Viao. I knew it had potential (just not in a desktop environment) and the Surface Pro delivers what I want, a Cintiq style device packed into a mobile tablet. 

Learning the gestures and new layout was fairly simple after a few hours, I feel very comfortable navigating and getting to where I need. 

The first most striking thing I noticed with Windows 8 were the login options, if you choose not to use  a local account you can sign in with your Microsoft account. It's kinds like a mixture of a domain login and a cloud login, where your login is dictated my your Microsoft account. All your setting are stored on Microsofts servers. Logging in with this made getting to the SkyDrive and syncing my data extremely easy. Most of the services I use from Microsoft automatically set themselves up before I even opened them, pretty nifty in my eyes.

One Note is pretty cool too, up until this point I would use my iPhone to take notes and because I don't have an official iCloud email i cant easily sync them to my computer anymore. They had taken away the simple options to sync those note to my computer and organized them accordingly through the Mac Mail app. One note automatically saves files into my SkyDrive storage and I can access it anywhere. I wish had this in school.


The first few things I looked at as soon as I set up my device were the hard driver and battery. I then set up my power options to a scheme I saw fit for how I'll use my Surface. I tuned down the brightness, sleep times, and maximum processor state while in battery mode, as well as turing off bluetooth (I hardly use it). I got the 128GB version of the Surface Pro, and I'm sure glad I did, after installing the majority of software I wanted on this device I was left with 67GB or storage. That means including the recover partition, OS, and backup storage my Surface is using a total of 61GB of space, somehow I don't think 3GB, I would have had if I had bought the 64GB version, of free space as wiggle room would fly very well.

I calibrated the pen but have found only a few applications which take advantage of its supposed capabilities. As far as I can tell it doesn't have a rotational/tilt axis sensor, just the 1024 levels of pressure. When tilting the pen the cursor slide past the nib and directly under the point of the pen. My current Wacom pen does not work with the touch screen, like some had speculated, maybe I need a different type.

The onboard camera is pretty blah, but I didn't buy it to take photos. Skype works fine with any camera. 

The type and touch keyboards are cool. I plan on using the type cover around the house and the touch on the go. The touch has some getting used to and I'm constantly hitting the wrong keys, especially when trying to hit backspace.

Boot time is pretty quick, about 30 seconds. 15 seconds faster then my Viao with A fresh Windows 8 Install.

I decided last night to lay on my couch and sketch while watching a movie in the split screen mode, it was pretty bitching until the fans started whirring began to get warm. It wasn't as hot as some laptops I have owned but I was questioning how well the fans could keep up. After about 40 minutes I decided to switch to a game of solitaire. The whirring stopped but it stayed very warm. I concluded it was most likly the combination of my hands covering the intake vents and resting it on my sweater was causing it to not get enough air flow. I would have hoped it would have lasted longer before it started making fan noise to keep up with cooling.

File Transfer are pretty slow, I'm used to moving large files to and from my computers over my home network. But moving a few movies over the network the shared micro SDXC card took a long time, like 4+ hours for 14.6GB of data. Granted this may have also been due to bottle necking at the micro SDXC write speed.



Takes a very long time to open no matter if I'm opening a fresh scene or a larger file. I'm not expecting to use maya full time on my surface, mostly to show off models in the round if I'm out and about. The user interface is kinda small and it's a little hard to make selection in the viewport. It runs fairly smooth but not something I would settle with in a working environment. It's perfect for showing off examples in a meeting or on the go.


I was very disappointed in the performances of the pen in photoshop. During the initial conferences Microsoft said the surface pro was designed to run the adobe software. I guess it runs the software fine, but using the pen to draw is pretty sad compared to my Intous 4.  The pressure sensitivity didn't work, I kept getting the warning triangle in my brush settings. If I drew to quickly the motion of my curves would not register and it would just give me blocky rectangular shapes. Hopefully this can be remedied with an update, whether it be a new driver or a patch put out by Microsoft or Adobe. But for now I'll leave my sketching to another software.

Sketch Book Express

For a free software this app is pretty sweet. The menu and brush options are fairly bare, but for sketching you don't need much else. This was one of the few apps which actually was able to recognize the pen pressure. I do wish there was a mirror horizontally in addition to its mirror vertically option.

Fresh Paint

By far this is the most interesting app I have seen on the surface. So far the way it handles mixing paint and color is awesome. Now, I'm not a huge digital painter, but from my experience with photoshop to get the same effects it slows down my strokes considerably, almost to the point of not wanting to paint like that. But Fresh Paint makes it super fun. The down side is I'm not able to change the size and dpi of the pages I'm painting on (or I just haven't fond the setting). So for me it feels like a novelty app, a deliciously fun novelty app.

MS Paint

The only reason I tested this was because the the poor pen support from photoshop, and I was surprised at the results. Even though it's standard brush, MS Paint dominates Photoshop in fluidity and control with a pen. I wasn't able to use pen pressure with it and the eraser painted black. Hell, I was even able to create a 1920x1080 doc at 207 dpi. If didn't have other software MS Paint would definitely a tempting software to sketch in.


Alchemy required me to in stall java, and as a mobile device I wasn't too excited about that, but oh well what can I do. Alchemy works exactly as you would expect, the only down side is the menus are hard to navigate and easily disappear. I constantly found my cursors working it's way off of the buttons I was trying to press, It was a little annoying bit did not ruin the sketching process. The only time my process was interrupted was when I couldn't see the strokes as I was drawing them, only to realize blind mode was on because I clicked the wrong selection with the pen. Considering it has more options then Sketch Book Express I'm going to keep it in my arsenal. 

Art Rage 2

I bough this software months ago in anticipation of getting the surface. But I feel I might be a little bit slower then some of the other softwares, especially when you get in to the paint mixing and bigger brushes. It's not unusable though, considering it has more of variety of brushes and tools than Fresh Paint. It doesn't handle bigger brushes well, the longer you uses a continuous stroke the faster it begins to slow down. The slow down is not terrible but is noticeable, not that it will keep me from using it.

Remote Desktop

Another nifty app, Remote Desktop is very simplified, so simplified in fact I can't create a list of connections. I can only build a list of recent connections, by first connecting to a server. Also i cant find an option to limit bandwidth, color, or resolution. Not that it's a huge deal, once its set up logging in and out of different computers/servers was a breeze.

Here is a video I made to demonstrate some of the things I tried out.



This could be very playable game. I had every setting on low, but I couldn't manage moving around the map fluidly. I also couldn't get the sticky camera to work, then again I'm a DOTA noob, Gasp!


This game reminds me of Myst and Riven, albeit a much easier version of them. I finished the first episode in about an hour and a half. It seemed to lend itself very well to the touch capabilities of the surface. I only had to close and reopen the app a few times to correct freezes. The story and environment were a refreshing step back from the every day humdrum or modern gaming.


Well thats it, after my first two days of playing with my new toy, I wrote this.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Designing Ships

The last few months I have been designing space ships for potential use in a short film. Out of all the designs I have made these are the 3 which I am developing further. Hopefully with some more design work and planning these shapes will turn in to one fully developed 3D model. As most of my sketches I do I like to start with shapes and build upon them. Each ship will have its own unique aspect of how it moves and acts.

The first two rows of ships are pretty straight forward; solid, sleek and un-transforming. The third, however, will take on the aspects of a solar sail when unfolded (I'm still working on how that will look), it will look like a a mix between a blooming flower, spanish galleon, and a real solar sail.  

Texture wise I would love to combine styles form two artists of whom are both legends in their field; Zdzisław Beksiński and H.R. Giger. But that is a design I will most likely finish near the end of my concept phase.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

and.. Start!

Well it's about time I start using this a a real blog, now that I have a real front end website I no longer need to try to to cheat by using blogger as one.

So on to the nitty gritty of blogging and I must admit I don't read a lot of blogs so I'm just winging it as a WiP updater/ throw my thoughts out on paper type thing. Ok, here it goes...

Since I have quite a bit of extra time to work on personal projects, as well as some other working tidbits, I have decided to enter the CGSociety's CGChallange celebrating CG Society 10th year.

The rule are simple make any thing you want with any tools you want as long as the final out come includes the number 10 in some fashion. 

I won't indulge you with my final idea just yet, as I would like to keep some mystery to this assignment. But what I will leave you with is a basic blocked out lion.

Toodles =D