Ariela's Love-Hate Relationship with Her Computer

by Ariela

Surface Pro 2, image courtesy of TechSpot. It's ... okay ... I guess.

Surface Pro 2, image courtesy of TechSpot.
It's ... okay ... I guess.

In our comedy of chibis last week, I revealed that I grudgingly use a Surface Pro 2. I feel some amount of shame over this. Between my membership in the graphics community and the tech community, I have been strongly inculcated with scorn for Windows. So this is me justifying my choice publicly, and also griping about the situation that led me to it.

Before I left NYC in 2012, I had an iMac desktop and an Ubuntu laptop. I used the Mac for image processing and the laptop for when I was on the go. I had an Intuos II 4"x5", but I did a lot less imaging then, so the tiny work surface wasn't such a hardship. I'd gotten the iMac secondhand as a discard from my uncle's office when they upgraded, so by the time I moved, the cost of packaging it properly to keep the screen from breaking would have been far greater than the value of the computer. Also, when moving to Chicago I started telecommuting and my day job set me up with a workstation at home, and two desktops for one person seemed ridiculous. So I left the iMac with Terri and went to Chicago with my Ubuntu laptop as my only personal computer.

By the time the laptop began to die, I was convinced that running PhotoShop in WINE wasn't going to cut it for me. While I know GIMP has its enthusiastic supporters, it doesn't work for me and I loath using it. I also wanted to get something with a touch screen, since my tiny Wacom tablet was getting cramped, and I prefered the idea of a display I could work on directly.

I was all set to get an iPad and ditch the laptop entirely until I discovered that iPads can't run the full version of PhotoShop. Print resolution for me is 800 dpi and I sometimes work as large as 18"x24". PhotoShop Express maxes out at 72 dpi and 1000 px x 1000 px. So I abandoned that idea and began looking for computers with touchscreens built in. I didn't want to have to get a box and then also an expensive external display.

With Apple making nothing with a full computer operating system and a touch screen, I began looking at PCs. Reviews quickly made it clear that the most sensitive touch screen was on the Surface Pro line. The Surface Pro 2 had come out a few months before and I decided on that. I named it Yang Guifei, a joke which no one has yet gotten, but pleased me.

It came with Windows 8.1 64-bit, and ... it did what I needed it to do. Which was what I had aimed for, but other than that it had a lot of annoying quirks. It also didn't recognize different levels of pressure from the stylus in PhotoShop, which infuriated me at first, but then I found a driver online that fixed that, and after that, the only problems were those that inveitably resulted from an OS that was trying to be both a laptop and a tablet simultaneously and managing to be neither particularly well. Windows 10 eliminated some of that jankiness (the onscreen keyboard no longer pops up every time I put my mouse in a text field despite having keyboard cover attached), but brought with it all the problems that everyone knows and hates about Windows 10. It still reboots unpredictably for no reason I can find, so I have been inspired to save obsessively, which isn't a bad habit, but I shouldn't have to protect myself from guerilla rebooting. And as with any Windows machine, its primary purpose seems to be to run Windows updates.

My Surface Pro 2 is 3 years old now and is beginning to show its age, so I am starting to watch tech news again to see what I might want to get next time. Apple just unveiled its newest laptops, and still hasn't added a touch screen, which has me and a lot of other graphics people I know scratching our heads. (I remain uninterested in buying a computer and an external touch screen, so AirDisplay and Duet's promise of being able to use an iPad as a touchscreen monitor for another device is not enticing to me at all.) Then, as if we don't already have enough proof that 2016 is the year Normal decided to take a leap out a window, Microsoft came out with the Surface Studio, which has impressed the heck out of most people I have spoken with.

I'm hoping to eke at least another year out of this computer before I have to shell out more money. I'm hoping Apple will release a MacBook Pro Pro with a touchscreen before then, but chances are good that I will wind up with a Surface Pro 5.

New Product: Tech Serenity Prayer

by Ariela

On days when you need help remembering how to take a deep breath and not take a baseball bat to all the machines in sight, it helps to have this Tech Serenity Prayer at your desk.

How it Came to Be

As with almost all of my art, the inspiration for this piece came from something that happened to me. In my day job I do tech stuff for a non-profit. I describe it as "playing a programmer on TV" - I don't actually do any programming, but I am the admin of a bunch of the applications we use. Recently one crashed and burned in ways that I don't want to relive in the course of this blog post, but it was offline for an unconscionably long time. I've never heard Support use the terms "dangit" and "horrified fascination" in consumer-facing correspondence before.

Some time during this fiasco, I quipped that I needed a serenity prayer for tech problems. Then I realized that there was no reason I couldn't have one, I just needed to figure out if "a hammer" or "rm -rf/" was funnier. After a brief poll of some programmer friends, I decided to go with the latter.

In the tradition of feel-good text, I used a Copperplate hand to write it out, but I put it in white on a blue background to reference the classic Blue Screen of Death. 

Prints are available in two sizes: 8"x10" for $30 and 11"x14" for $45 (matted dimensions).

New Product: Database Administrator's Oath

By Terri

Demonstrate your all-encompassing database mastery with this oath on your cubicle wall.

database-administrators-oath.png

How it Came to Be:

Ariela is all about logical next steps. We've done a Coder's Oath and a Sysadmin's Oath, so next up was a Database Administrator's Oath. We are getting further outside Ariela's zone of familiarity with this content. While she uses databases, she has not ever been and never hopes to be a DBA. So she consulted friends who are DBAs to compose the oath text.

The border art is a pretty version of one of the standard ways of visualizing a relational database or relationships in a data set. Ariela went with circles only for visual unity, worrying that if she tried to introduce squares and triangles and whatnot it would be overwhelming. More variables means more complicated, and this isn't supposed to be a representation of real data, just evocative of relational databases in general.* 

The circles are all primary colors, two shades of each, and are supposed to represent different kinds of data. The lines are all tertiary colors rather than secondary and are meant to represent different kinds of relationships. A line between a yellow circle and a blue circle will be in the green family, but it could be yellow-green or blue-green, depending on the relationship between the two data points. Ariela felt this was a more elegant solution than arrows, because relationships do go two ways, even if one datapoint is a daughter of another.

 

*It is likely possible to backwards-engineer a data set that will fit the relationships portrayed here.