Showing posts from May, 2017

Surface Pro 4 at 5 months and counting Part 1

Microsoft had cut the price of the Surface Pro 4 by close to 20% weeks before announcing the new Surface Pro. Unfortunately, I had already purchased a Surface Pro 4 with a Core i5 processor, 128 GB storage and 4 GB RAM at a price which I thought was a steal at the time. The Surface Pro 4, like most Microsoft products, is a misunderstood device, with Apple fans (as usual) turning their nose up to it, and desktop users wondering who the target audience is when cheaper 2-in-1s from Acer, ASUS, and Dell are available.

The Surface Pro 4 isn't a desktop replacement, nor does it have the mobile app functionality of iOS. Although you will see the device used in schools, the Surface Pro 4 is ideal for the corporate environment because of its access to corporate Windows tools. It's certainly not a gaming device nor a desktop replacement, though I've been told by dedicated PC gamers it can work hand-in-hand with the XBOX One and the upcoming Scorpio. Ignorant (and idiotic) mainstream…

Steam Client on Fedora 25 with Betop controller for non-gamers Part 2

Continued from Steam Client on Fedora 25 with Betop controller for non-gamers Part 1
Notes on using the Steam Client with Fedora 25 / Acer ES-11
1. Big Picture mode works with the Acer ES-11's Intel HD display adapter. However, selecting the minimize option while running Big Picture mode makes it difficult to reposition the Steam Client on the ES-11's 12" screen.

2. If you have an external display connected to the Aspire ES-11's HDMI port, Big Picture mode applies to the Primary Display only, even if you drag the Steam Client window to the Extended Display. You can, however, mirror the display to run Big Picture mode on the external monitor.

3. The BETP-2175 controller is immediately detected by the Steam Client, as long as the controller is already set up for Linux.

If the controller isn't detected, try one of the following steps:

a. Exit the Steam Client, and reconnect the USB connector of the BETOP controller to a different USB port. For the Acer ES-11, the c…

Steam Client on Fedora 25 with Betop controller for non-gamers Part 1

Although Steam focuses on providing a dedicated .deb file for Ubuntu, and polishing their Debian-based Steam OS, the Steam community is devoted to keeping users of other Linux distributions happy with packages for their Linux flavour of choice. Even if you aren't a hardcore gamer, or prefer playing games on a mobile device, there is a lot to like about running Steam games on your Linux laptop.

Contrary to avid PC gamers steadfastly recommending high-end PC components are required to run games, you can actually run plenty of Steam games on a modestly-equipped laptop. There are plenty of casual and free to play games on the Steam Store, and it's a good way for students of game development to learn the trends and the design methodology of today's developers (and have fun too).

This article was tested with Fedora 25 Gnome 3 Workstation, a BETOP-2175 wired controller, and an entry-level Acer ES-11 laptop.

For more details on the BETOP-2175 wired controller on Fedora 25, refer t…

CorelDraw Graphics Suite 2017 looks good! Home & Student X8 not eligible for upgrade

CorelDraw Graphics Suite 2017 brings along with it compelling new features such as LiveSketch and custom nodes. Corel users will also be happy to know that there is improved support for the Surface Dial and Surface Pro family of products for this release. Having been a user of CorelDraw since version 10, I'm pretty happy Corel is making efforts to hit the right marks with the 2017 version of the excellent suite.

Note: I'm both regretful and embarrassed to admit I recently purchased a boxed set of CorelDraw Graphics Suite X8 Home & Student (US$79.99 at Amazon at the time) and wrote a somewhat scathing review regarding its usage on the SP4 despite my devotion to the suite of applications.

Considering that Corel provides Academic and Upgrade purchases, it's only logical that the boxed set of CorelDraw Graphics Suite X8 Home & Student isn't eligible for upgrading to CorelDraw Graphics Suite 2017. Although I'm perfectly happy with X8 Home & Student and don…

Beijing's Forbidden Kingdom and the electronic guide Part 2

Continued from Beijing's Forbidden Kingdom and the electronic guide Part 2

The coverage of the guide is excellent and the electronic narrator is surprisingly very clear and careful in speech. A true Sino-enthusiast will appreciate some of the anecdotes regarding the emperor's numerous concubines and the relationships between the mythical and real creatures (the Qilin, Phoenix, and Elephant being the most curious). The content is clearly written by mainland Chinese scholars with some pieces of information not found in Western historical sources (in some countries like Greece and Japan, some of the tourist guides are written by self-important Americans who think a degree and language skills make them native experts).

Note: Although I own a library of Asian literature and translations, there were some very interesting tidbits I hadn't known before that I learned from the electronic guide.

On the downside, the electronic guide can be buggy. There were times that I had to shake …

Beijing's Forbidden Kingdom and the electronic guide Part 1

If you're traveling to Beijing, the Wall and the Forbidden Kingdom are probably on your list of places to visit. As someone who works in the capital and has a background in Chinese history and culture, I have mixed feelings about tourists visiting the Forbidden Kingdom. On the one hand, the immense palace has great significance to Asian history and has played a part in several global events prior to 1947. I always learn something new on every visit despite my reduced interest in history of late. On the other hand, most of the details and relevance of the Forbidden Kingdom are lost on most Western tourists, as evidenced by the Europeans and Americans I saw leaning against the western wall of the Hall of Preserving Harmony during my last visit to the Palace Museum.

Unlike the national museum in Taipei or Shanghai, the palace museum really isn't a museum in the traditional sense of the word, as foreign visitors just follow the crowds or wander around looking out for English signs…

Do you use a portable speaker? (Philips SBM110BLK SoundShooter) Part 2

Continued from Do you use a portable speaker? (Philips SBM110BLK SoundShooter) Part 1

Will I stash the rounded, somewhat heavy (due to the battery), and bulky SBM110BLK in my laptop bag along with my Air or Surface Pro 4? Probably not, unless I'm presenting in a class or training room. However, I'll keep it close to my Zotac ZBOX miniPC and Kindle Fire HD 8 at home when I need an extra boost in volume when watching 70s-80s shows.

1. To switch between audio in source and micro SD on the SBM110, press the Play/Pause button.

2. The integrated audio cable actually doesn't snap back, so extending it completely can be an issue if you want to replace the cable back to its niche on the speaker (or prefer to avoid loose handing audio cables).

3. The LED is red while charging, and turns off when charging is complete. It's extremely difficult to tell how much battery charge the product has at any point while in use and during charging.

4. Although specifications indicate 0.…

Do you use a portable speaker? (Philips SBM110BLK SoundShooter) Part 1

If you look at the consumer electronics market, the focus is on expensive headsets with "stylish" designs and various levels of noise-canceling features. Smartphone manufacturers focus their efforts on cameras,  so speaker design and audio chips are pretty much at the end of the target release features of manufacturers, even if (or especially because) Apple made the arrogant decision to eschew the audio port.

Although desktop users are perfectly happy with enormous speaker sets, laptop users are somewhat left in the cold in terms of improvements in audio, which is probably just as well since their gaming headsets and expensive smartphone cans are right next to them when they work or play with their ultraportables or 2-in-1s.

Having recently been given the grenade-looking Philips SoundShooter SBM110, I briefly wondered if I need portable speakers at all. The SBM110 is durable, accepts micro SD cards, and provides adequate sound output.

However, as a non-audiophile and slightl…

Unsolicited App Selections for Android 7.x (May, 2017) Part 2

Continued from Unsolicited App Selections for Android 7.x (May, 2017) Part 1

5. YouTube for Android - The YouTube app for Android is one of those apps that has largely been forgotten because it's used regularly and pretty much on everyone's device. However, the app becomes a surprising luxury if you're a FreeBSD, Linux, macOS user, or working in a country which bans YouTube videos.  YouTube has been the subject of controversy for Google and there are many things to hate about the service. Trump, idiotic gun owners, hate-crimes, overt racism, religious extremism, violence porn, and a generation of moronic egotistical vloggers reflect the many evils of the world.  One of  the worst things about YouTube is the comments section, which like most popular online venues has become a cesspool of hate, ignorance, self-entitlement, and the use of "free speech" to behave like a total *sshole.

On the other hand, it's easy to overlook that YouTube is used for education and…

Unsolicited App Selections for Android 7.x (May, 2017) Part 1

While staying at a friend's house in San Diego (Thanks Gen!), I was aghast at a neglected iPad Air in the guest room and promptly brought it to my buddy, who calmly told me he didn't use it anymore because his Android smartphone took care of all his needs. As someone who rotates using multiple devices (which included an aged iPad 2), I was thoroughly shaken. Three months later, I realized just how much of a hypocrite I was when I realized I only used my iPad 2 as a second screen text editor when I write Unsolicited But Offered articles for FreeBSD, Linux, macOS and Windows. My humble Moto G4 Plus and budget Kindle Fire HD 8 took care of all my modest mobile app requirements.

The Moto G4 Plus, which is complemented by my lightweight Lumia 650 with Windows 10 Mobile, has the following apps:

1. NHK World TV - For free TV content, NHK World TV is highly recommended for those interested in Japan's culture and history. Forget about the ludicrously shallow and myopic geek culture…

Quick Fix: gstreamer conflict when running dnf upgrade

If you have both the multimedia and RPM Fusion repositories enabled for Fedora 25, you may encounter an Error: transaction check error when running dnf upgrade due to conflicts between gstreamer1-plugins-ugly-free and gstreamer1-plugins-ugly software packages. The error prevents software updates from installing and persists even if you use the Software Application Installer or use the -best option for dnf.

To resolve this issue, uninstall the gstreamer1-plugins-ugly package and then run dnf upgrade again. The ugly plugin will be upgraded along with other packages.

CorelDraw X8 Basics: Working with line art Part 4

Continued from CorelDraw X8 Basics: Working with line art Part 3

Making interesting panel frames
If you draw boxes for panel frames using the Corel preset Rectangle or Polygon tools, the lines don't look as natural as lines drawn using a traditional technical pen or brush. You can draw more attractive frames using the Artistic Media tool and straightening the lines using the Shape tool.

Note: Comic book frames were drawn using various types of pens or brushes creating a very natural effect thanks to the texture of the paper. Vector drawings don't have the same attractive ink bleed effect.

To use the Artistic Media tool to create panel frames and straighten the lines using the Shape tool:

1. Using the Artistic Mediatool, select a Preset brush from the list and draw a panel frame.

2. Using the Shape tool, select nodes and click the Delete node button on the bar.

3. To align the nodes to a straight line, click the Convert to line on the Property bar.

4. If needed, align the nodes …

CorelDraw X8 Basics: Working with line art Part 3

Continued from CorelDraw X8 Basics: Working with line art Part 2

Outline Pen Flyout and corners
One of the main differences between drawing in vectors and drawing in bitmap is that there's no "weight" in the lines, and strokes have no character because it's built using math rather pixels. The lack of variability (and the predictable consistency) of vector objects makes illustrating easier for those with limited or no skill in drawing (like me).

To change the weight of the node outlines, do one of the following:

Select an Object, open the Outline Pen Flyout tool and select the Line outline thickness.
Select an Object, open the Object Properties Docker, and select the Outline thickness.

Another characteristic of vector node curves is that the ends don't look as natural as brush strokes using a digital paintbrush. Corners are sharp and even and lacks the features expected from hand-drawn illustrations. You can improve the appearance somewhat by changing the Corners…

CorelDraw X8 Basics: Working with line art Part 2

Continued from CorelDraw X8 Basics: Working with line art Part 1

Differences between the Artistic Media tool Presets, Pressure and the Calligraphic options
CorelDraw comes with several presets for the Artistic Media tool. You also have the option to switch to the Pressure or Calligraphic settings. Note that strokes created using the Artistic Media presets, Pressure, or Calligraphic tool don't work in the same way as drawn nodes. They are Closed Objects in themselves and the nodes behave differently during editing. Fills and pen outlines are applied based on your stroke, unlike node objects drawn from scratch using the Pen or Bezier tool.

The Surface Pen works with both the Artistic Media tool and Calligraphic tool very well, though you would still need a lot of node editing afterwards using the Shape tool to get the ideal curve or stroke. The Pressure tool has a slight advantage over the Calligraphic tool when used with the Surface Pen. If you're comfortable with the Surface Pe…

CorelDraw X8 Basics: Working with line art Part 1

There are obvious advantages to working with vector graphics when creating illustrations apart from lossless scaling and accuracy. It's also a great way to start learning drawing in general, even if you don't have any artistic talent or interest in art.

This article uses CorelDraw Home and Student X8 installed on a Surface Pro 4. The panels are drawn by the author and inspired from the 1960s Spider-Man animated series episode, Spider-Man battles the Moleman (Episode 27).

Note: This series of articles applies to CorelDraw Home and Student X8, which is not eligible for upgrading to the new CorelDraw 2017 Graphics Suite.

CorelDraw tools used in this article include the following:
Node editing with the Shape tool Artistic Media tool (Calligraphic and Presets)Freehand and Bezier tool Outline Pen fly out (Corners and Outline)Align and Distribute Transformations - Mirror copy Spiral tool Importing an image as guide
Depending on how comfortable you are with CorelDraw, a Wacom tablet, or…