This is my favorite phone as a Photographer

For the past decade or so, my primary criteria for choosing a smartphone has been its camera capabilities. For numerous years after the Nokia Lumia 1020 was released, there was no innovation in smartphone camera capabilities. Happily we've finally reached a point where smartphone cameras are better than ever, and here's my current favorite.

The post This is my favorite phone as a Photographer appeared first on Pocketnow.

AT&T Reminds Us That 5G Will Be Awesome Someday

We've been hearing about the advantages of 5G's high speed wireless data connections for years now, but if you have a 5G capable phone, you probably rarely see significant speed boosts and you may not even know why you would want higher bandwidth. Now AT&T has some new use-case scenarios that will give you a better idea of what 5G will be useful for in the future.

The post AT&T Reminds Us That 5G Will Be Awesome Someday appeared first on Pocketnow.

How (and why) Email could become your favorite messaging system

Your email hatred is probably misplaced. The beauty of email is that you can modify it to do anything you want. There's probably already an easy way to fix what you hate and turn it into a dream hot rod of internet messaging.

The post How (and why) Email could become your favorite messaging system appeared first on Pocketnow.

The Huawei Mate 40 Pro camera is great with a few gotchas

Ever since the Huawei P20 Pro came out with its 40 megapixel main camera, Huawei has been killing it with some of the best cameras on phones since the Nokia Lumia 1020 from 2013! How's that Mate 40 Pro camera doing these days?

The post The Huawei Mate 40 Pro camera is great with a few gotchas appeared first on Pocketnow.

Here’s how to play full Xbox games on Linux with xCloud (video)

Microsoft released a beta of their web-based xCloud game streaming service recently. It would seem that this version of the service will work with any web browser that supports WebRTC, so let’s see how that works.

I decided to plug an Xbox controller into the USB port of my Pinebook Pro running Manjaro Linux and the open-source Chromium web browser.  

If you have an Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription, you can try the new beta web-based streaming service at Xbox.com/Play as well. The system requirements say that you need a Windows 10 PC or an Apple iOS 14+ device, but… guess what… Linux works, too. 

Of course, you’ll also want a high-speed 10Mbps+ internet connection for the streaming, and an Xbox controller plugged in via USB or paired via Bluetooth.  Microsoft mainly built this version because Apple won’t let them make a game streaming app for the Apple App Store, so the web-based method is a workaround for that. The bonus is that this web-based version happens to work with a lot of other platforms too. 

Xbox Linux

This Pinebook Pro has extremely low specs by the way. It’s a six-core, 1.4GHz, Pine64 ARM processor with only 4GB of RAM and 64GB eMMC storage. If that was running Windows 10, everything would be laggy!  

See below for how Xbox Game Streaming actually works on this very inexpensive Linux laptop running Manjaro XFCE Linux.

As you’ll see, the simple games work quite well, while more action-oriented games are probably going to need a bit more processing power on the client-side. Outriders worked ok, but there was certainly some latency, and Halo 5 Guardians turned out to be practically unplayable. 

The post Here’s how to play full Xbox games on Linux with xCloud (video) appeared first on Pocketnow.

I have no interest in the new iPad Pro, iMac, or AirTags

Earlier this week, Apple announced a bunch of new stuff on a video live stream. We’ve got new commercials for Apple TV shows, a purple iPhone, Podcast stuff, an Apple TV remote that actually makes sense, some AirTags, new iMacs, and a new iPad Pro. 

AirTags 

The first really new Apple product for 2021 was the AirTags, and I immediately said, “Welcome to 2013!”  AirTags are little battery-powered Bluetooth things that connect to your iPhone and help the iPhone’s “Find My” software keep track of the locations of the tags. Sounds familiar because these kinds of things have been around for many years. A company called Tile was one of the first to release this type of gadget back in 2013.

Nokia released a similar Nokia Treasure Tag in early 2014 that had similar functionality. I had a bunch of Nokia Treasure Tags attached to my Nokia Lumia 1020 and they certainly worked as advertised… just the same as today’s Apple AirTags. I stopped using them after getting a new phone because they were kind of a hassle. I mean, how many batteries do I have to keep around and keep replacing? Sure, the removable battery can be replaced pretty quickly, but still, it’s another thing to manage, and I never lost anything while I was using the Treasure Tags anyway. So what’s the point? It costs more cognitive energy paying attention to the battery levels of all of these tags than it costs to remember where whatever it’s attached to is in the first place.  

iMac 

The new iMacs are bringing back a rainbow of color options like the original iMac had in 1998. It has Apple’s new M1 processor, an extra thin form factor, and it comes in 7 colors. That’s cool and all, but the front has a big pastel-colored chin and a white bezel that looks really bad to me. What’s more, is that the white bezel is going to interfere with your white balance perception since that will reflect the color temperature of your ambient lighting instead of the color temperature of the display.  Looks like the display is still pretty reflective too, so glare will still be a problem. That’s not so good for creative professionals.  

Having the computer really thin is nice I guess, but how much does that really matter?  The stand is still pretty thick, so it’s not going to save a whole lot of desk space. Maybe it makes the iMac easier to move, but if I’m going to put a computer on a desk, that’s probably where it’s going to stay until I replace it. That being said, I have seen iMacs that need replacing kind of frequently, so maybe that is a good thing since we’ve had to carry them to the car and then to the Apple store for repair kind of often. That’s in contrast to the HP workstation where a repair person just comes to the office and replaces parts right there under warranty the next morning.  

iPad Pro 

Apple’s new Center Stage feature for video calls on the iPad Pro is probably the most impressive feature, but again… “Welcome to 2010, Apple!” This awesome feature was something that first appeared 11 years ago in Video Kinect for Xbox. Honestly, it makes way more sense having this feature plugged into a big screen TV than it does an iPad. You’ll need to set the iPad on a stand to make any use of it, and as you move away the people on the screen will look so much smaller. With Xbox Kinect and a big TV, I could walk around the whole room and the video call camera would follow me beautifully.  It was even cooler when the person on the other end had the same thing in their living room… we could both walk around doing other stuff and it was like there was a camera crew focusing on our faces on the TV.  

The iPad Pro does have a new mini-LED display now that’s supposed to display color better, but it’s still a glossy screen that’s going to have a lot of glare when using it in real life. Apple’s video looks to be extremely processed to remove or hide the glare of the environment completely. It looks super fake because it is. That’s not how the screen is going to look in real life.  

I’ve never thought that the iPad Pro deserved the “Pro” moniker. It’s not great for creative pro stuff anyway. See “13 Reasons why I don’t use an iPad Pro & Apple Pencil for graphic design“. The M1 processor and 16GB of RAM options in the new iPad Pro seem like kind of a waste since it won’t run really high-end programs like those available on macOS. 

The post I have no interest in the new iPad Pro, iMac, or AirTags appeared first on Pocketnow.

Google’s starting to learn about Smartphone User Interface Design

The latest Google Android app to drop the hamburger button is now the Google Play Store. Thank goodness Google is finally learning about better smartphone user interface design. Google Photos removed the design element last year and Google Maps removed it in 2019. The YouTube app removed it as well. Hopefully, the Gmail app, Google Drive app, and Google Calendar apps are next.  If only we could get that awesome experimental Google Chrome user interface back too!

Why is the hamburger button such a bad design?

Oh my! There are so many reasons! Your first clue is in the name. If we have to make up a ridiculous name to describe an interactive element, that means the designer failed miserably in creating a button that clearly communicates its function. Every time you call it a hamburger button, you’re insulting whoever put it there.

We’ve actually talked about this before numerous times, (see: What’s wrong with hamburger buttons?), but we can summarize again.

  1. People don’t know what it does. There’s no indication as to what it’s supposed to be and what it’s supposed to do other than “something”. This is because people don’t understand icons. They do, however, understand words, because we learned about words at an early age and almost all humans have been taught about words for hundreds of years. It’s a really good way to communicate.  See:
  2. It’s often used inconsistently. The hamburger button might be used for one type of thing in one app and another type in another app. There’s no consistency and therefore no way for a user to predict what’s it’s going to do. I’ve seen some apps with multiple hamburger buttons, maybe one at the top and one at the bottom, and they both do completely different things. That’s not user-friendly at all.
  3. Placement at the top is the worst possible location for interactive elements.  Also, see:

Our 2014 & 2015 articles about this were mainly targeted at Microsoft for implementing hamburger buttons in Windows 10 Mobile and Windows 10. I believe this poor design decision is part of what contributed to the fall of Windows 10 Mobile as all of the data seems to show that hamburger button-based user interface designs have reduced engagement and reduced usability. See:

Okay, okay… I know what you’re saying, “But Adam, the Pocketnow mobile website has a hamburger menu at the top! Hypocrisy much?”  I know, I know, but my excuse is that I didn’t design this site, and the person who did doesn’t read my articles about user experience design or the advantages thereof. It looks like Google does read them though since they’re definitely moving towards a better user experience design among their apps.

The post Google’s starting to learn about Smartphone User Interface Design appeared first on Pocketnow.

13 Reasons why I don’t use an iPad Pro & Apple Pencil for graphic design

I hear some graphic designers have started using an iPad for creative work.  But why?  I guess it might be okay for drawing since it’s thin and light and you can buy a stylus for it, but there are so many other pen-computing options available, and there are so many other aspects of graphic design that software available for the iPad seriously fails at.

1. Photoshop on iPad isn’t real Photoshop

A couple of years ago, there was a lot of hype about Adobe bringing the real Adobe Photoshop to the iPad. When it was released every article about it had the “Adobe brings real Photoshop to iPad” headline, and then in the first paragraph explained that it was not the real Photoshop and only had a limited subset of features compared to the Photoshop version that one would normally use on macOS and Windows. There are so many features missing! It doesn’t even have the same menus. Forget about anything advanced like channel operations or custom plug-ins.

2. No InDesign or decent Typography design for that matter

It’s not easy to get your font collection into an iPad. I have fonts from the ’80s that still work on macOS and Windows, but getting them into an iPad is not an easy thing to do.  We switched from QuarkExpress to InDesign around the turn of the century and InDesign has been essential in the Graphic Design business for just about anything print-related. I create data merge templates that interact with database tables for creating automated print layouts all the time.  I use global regular expression print programming styles to create formatting rules for typography across documents. None of that is remotely possible in any iPad graphics apps that I’ve seen so far.

3. Lack of my preferred apps

Besides the big ones like Adobe CC, none of the other high-end design programs that I normally use or would ever want to use are available on an iPad. Affinity Designer might be one exception, but still… What about 3D animation/design programs like Maya, Lightwave, Blender, Dimensions, etc.?  Could I design 3D exhibit mockups, environmental design sculptures, product packaging, or signage on an iPad? Not likely, and certainly not easily.

Often in web design or electronic environmental design displays or kiosks or social media posts, I’ll want to create some animations to help display the information. Adobe AfterEffects and all of those 3D programs are great for this too. So again… not really possible on an iPad Pro.

4. Photo editing & culling

As a graphic designer, I do a lot of photography too. I may need to set up still life photos of food products in a shooting tent, or any kind of package products, or I may photograph events, or building interiors/exteriors for signage mockups, or people interacting with each other, or people headshots, or emergency response set-ups for the American Red Cross during the aftermath of 9/11. Websites and printed products rely on photography. Often I might be on location and need to do some photo editing right there during the shoot.

Maybe my client wants to post articles during a conference right after a session ends, or maybe we want to do some culling right away.  Adobe Lightroom on the iPad is actually pretty good, except it still has limitations. The most annoying one is that you have to “import” the entire library before you can start doing anything. With the Wacom MobileStudio Pro that I usually bring on remote shoots, I can open Adobe Bridge, point it to the SD card slot, and start culling & editing right away. And it’s the same interface as on my desktop workstations!

iPad

I’ve been using Bridge since before it was announced by Adobe, so that’s one reason I like it over regular Lightroom. The other reason is that it’s faster for me since I don’t have to import files into a database. The second most annoying thing with Lightroom on iOS is that you can only work with one photo at a time whereas, on macOS or Windows, I can apply changes to huge selections of RAW files at the same time.  On Linux, I’ve been enjoying Darktable and RawTherapee as well, and again those don’t have iPad equivalents.

When it comes to tethering for photography, iOS is kind of weak as well. The Nikon Camera Control app that I would use on iOS is kind of awful. On my Windows tablets, however, I have a fairly awesome qDSLRDashboard program which works pretty beautifully.  qDslrDashboard is open source as well and there are versions for macOS, Windows, Linux, Raspberry Pi, and Android… There was an iOS version, but it was removed by Apple.

5. Goofy foreign UI designs relative to what I’m used to

Illustrator Draw on iPad is nothing like Illustrator on Windows & macOS and neither is the other Illustrator app called Illustrator for iPad. Why do we need two again? I’ve been using Illustrator for decades, and the iPad versions are nothing like what I’m used to. It’s completely different and most of the features I rely on are completely absent.

Why should I invest in learning iPad apps when their capabilities don’t come close to desktop apps?

Illustrator Draw also depends on non-discoverable gestures, which are known to require more cognitive energy to memorize versus a more-obvious user interface design which requires less cognitive energy. That being said, Illustrator’s interface on macOS and Windows has remained very consistent since Illustrator 7.0 in 1997.  I can switch between macOS and Windows all day and the Illustrator user interface has been the same between the two platforms for 24 years. Illustrator Draw and Illustrator on iPad however, are completely different.  What’s more… Illustrator on Windows has a “Touch” workspace that enables a nice touch & pen-friendly user interface. Do you think that UI would be the same as the touch UI in Illustrator on iPad?  Well, it isn’t. Not at all. 

This is true for Photoshop for iPad as well as Premiere Rush and every other Adobe app on iPad. I found the Photoshop for iPad use interface to be terribly designed in the “easy to learn” sense. Even though I’ve been using real photoshoots for 26 years, the iPad version’s interface is unrecognizable. I couldn’t even tell how to paste an image. What the heck is that big white circle button supposed to be? Why should I invest in learning these mystery-meat user interfaces that break consistency when the app capabilities don’t even come close to their desktop equivalents anyway?

6. Using an iPad Pro as a companion device doesn’t make sense

Being a bit slower at doing everything I need to do is better than being faster at doing nothing.

I hear that some people justify using an iPad for graphic design as a companion to a full desktop Mac or PC.  It can be used as a pen display for a desktop computer with some extra software, but I already have much better pen displays on my desktops. It can also be used to do some things locally while syncing your files to the desktop computer for more-complicated tasks. That’s all well and good, but I can do that with a Macbook or a Windows tablet/laptop too… AND, if I use a Windows tablet as my companion device, I can have exactly the same full-featured graphic design programs installed. 

That also means I don’t have to waste cognitive energy learning a foreign interface for the “lite” versions of graphics programs that are available on the iPad.  Nor do I have to waste cognitive energy memorizing which functions are possible on the iPad vs. which functions are possible on my desktop computers because my “companion” device would have exactly the same functions (just a bit slower perhaps). Personally, I think being a bit slower at doing everything I need to do is a lot better than being faster at not doing the things I need to do. That is unless it’s unbearably slower of course.

Here’s a Samsung Galaxy Book from a few years ago that has a similar form factor to an iPad, but it includes a Wacom digitizer/stylus and it runs all of my full-featured graphics programs.

7. I want to learn new programs to expand my skills

While to me it doesn’t make much sense to invest cognitive energy in learning an iPad app that only has a subset of features of what you can do with more powerful desktop software… it does make sense to invest in learning new programs that do provide additional features and capabilities that expand my skill set.  I have yet to see an iPad app that does anything better than what I can already do.  However, I do frequently see new Windows, macOS, and Linux programs that I certainly would like to learn and maybe add to my toolbox.  Things like Sketch, Lunacy, Affinity Publisher, Zbrush, Sculptron, Unity, Darktable, Davinci Resolve, Renderman, Foundry Katana, Houdini, etc. might currently be over my head, but if I want to keep growing, a lot of those programs might be good to learn. None of them are available on an iPad. If you use only an iPad for graphic design, your ability to expand your skillset will probably be very limited.

8. Scraping plastic across glossy glass is not my favorite drawing experience

I’m sure people can get used to it, but after using Wacom Cintiq displays and tablets for decades, the Apple Pencil and the iPad’s glass display just don’t feel like a comfortable drawing experience.  I really don’t like the screen glare either, but that can be remedied somewhat with some antiglare screen protectors. Screen protectors can also modify the feel of the pencil on glass experience, but I really don’t enjoy trying to install screen protectors either.

Shiny screens are so bad for doing graphic design work because you can’t see the stuff you’re working with.

9. Thin bezels are bad for drawing.

I suppose this one depends on how you hold the stylus/pencil while drawing. I like to rest the side of my hand on the drawing surface for more stability and accuracy. If you use the stylus like an Asian calligraphy brush or oil painter, then maybe you don’t rest your hand against the surface. Anyway, thin bezels kind of suck for pen interaction because then the side of your hand that’s resting on the drawing surface for stability is going to fall off the edge. This is especially annoying when accessing user interface elements on the edges of the screen, and they’re all on the edges of the screen. Professional grade drawing tablets and displays have wide bezels that give your hands a lot of room to stabilize your drawing fingers while being able to reach every part of the active area. This is the same reason that your desk in school is wider than the sheet of paper you might be writing on.

10. The Apple Pencil’s double-tap gesture isn’t as good as real buttons

It’s cool that Apple added a double-tap gesture that can be programmed to switch tools on the Apple Pencil, but Wacom’s programmable hardware buttons and eraser end tip are so much better. Firstly, Wacom’s pen buttons can be programmed for modifier keys that can be held down while using the pen. You’ve also got more programmable buttons. The Wacom Pro Pen 2 has 2 programmable buttons and a programmable eraser tip in addition to the drawing tip. The Wacom Pro Pen 3D ads a 3rd programmable button which helps a lot for additional modifier keys that are certainly going to be useful in many 3D programs. Plus the buttons are easy to find and differentiate by touch, and they can be invoked with a simple squeeze. A double-tap on the Apple Pencil requires a lot more finger movement which reduces the stability of the pencil in your fingers. It requires more physical movement, which is less efficient.

11. Charging the Apple Pencil

I’ve used battery-powered pens plenty of times in the past and it’s hugely annoying when picking up the stylus and it doesn’t work because the battery is dead. Some pens have an extremely long battery life that lasts for months or years, but the Apple Pencil only lasts 12 hours before needing a recharge. It does recharge pretty fast and the new one can charge while it’s magnetically attached, but still… I’m way happier with the battery-free Wacom Pro Pens and Intuos and ArtZ pens that I’ve been using for decades.

12. The Apple Pencil doesn’t have screen hover indicators

Over the decades, I’ve grown used to seeing a tool indicator on the screen beneath my pen tip when using a pen display. This is extremely useful!  While looking at the content I’m working with, I can instantly tell what tool I’m using. I don’t have to look around for other “selected tool” interface indicators. It’s right there at the end of my stylus! Furthermore, when I have a brush selected, I can see an outline of the brush’s shape that indicates which brush I’m using as well as the size of the brush. I swipe a touch ring in the bezel or hit a keyboard shortcut to change the size of the brush while I’m looking at it hovering over the content I’m working with. In some programs like Corel Painter, the hover indicator even shows me a representation of the angle that I’m holding the brush at.  Apple’s Pencil doesn’t work that way.

In Corel Painter, I can see an indicator of my brush size, shape, and angle before even touching the screen with my stylus.

13. Keyboard shortcuts

Graphics programs on iPad tend to have very weak keyboard shortcut support. Photoshop for iPad only has a small list of them. None of the iPad apps have discoverable keyboard shortcuts and I haven’t seen one app with customizable keyboard shortcuts. On macOS and Windows, we can easily see what the keyboard shortcuts are because they’re listed in the menus or the tooltips. Plus, we can program keyboard shortcuts for things we do very often.

Why are keyboard shortcuts good?  Well, they speed things up a lot.  With an iPad Pro, you’re probably holding the iPad in one hand and using the pen in the other hand. That’s a waste of the other hand that’s not interacting with the software.  Okay, maybe you’ll get a stand or something so you can poke the screen with one hand and use the Apple Pencil with another… that’s better, but it’s still not very efficient since you need to move your eyes around the screen in order to look at what each hand is going to poke at.  With keyboard shortcuts or hardware express keys or a programmed remote for my non-dominant hand, I can build tactile motor memory for my preferred functions and activate them by touch WITHOUT looking.  I can keep my eyes on the content and my dominant hand on the pen, while controlling the pen’s behavior using my non-dominant hand and tactile controls instantly without moving my eyes or losing the spot I’m working on with my dominant hand. It’s much more efficient.

Conclusion

Maybe if you only ever want to do sketches and drawings and paintings digitally on a fairly small iPad screen, then an iPad would be ok. If you ever want to grow to do any other aspects of graphic design like UI design, 3D design, environmental design, web design, print design, signage, animation, etc. It seems like the iPad is going to be a very limiting factor.

Does Apple even really care about creative professional fields anymore anyway? Sure, in the ’80s, Macintosh computers were great for graphic design since they had good support for postscript printing and fonts and a great graphical user interface for the time, but today there are just as many if not more professional creative tools on Windows and Linux with just as many if not more professional creative hardware options. I still think Adobe, Wacom, Autodesk, should make a Creative Pro Operating System so that creative professionals and the software/hardware developers that support us won’t have to be a slave to Apple’s demands.

Have I just not bothered to use an iPad & Apple Pencil long enough to see the advantages? Let us know in the comments below.

The post 13 Reasons why I don’t use an iPad Pro & Apple Pencil for graphic design appeared first on Pocketnow.

Facebook’s Empire shows Australia who’s boss (why you need the Freedom-Friendly Fediverse)

Earlier this week, Facebook decided to block the ability to share news articles for people in Australia. This is in retaliation for Australia’s proposed law to require Facebook and other tech platforms to pay news sources when articles are shared on their platform. The law is an attempt to bring support to journalists and news sites since posting content on Facebook gives Facebook more of the profits and traffic than the original source might get.  So now Australian people can’t post news articles on Facebook and no one in the world can post news articles that were published on Australian news sites. Sounds a little extreme, but when you’re the emperor of a massive community, anything goes I guess. 

Are we all slaves to Facebook? 

This should show you how much power Facebook really has over the internet population of humans. Content creators, businesses, and consumers might be getting a little too dependent on the Facebook Empire.  It should be clear by now that Facebook can affect a country’s economy pretty heavily.  Using Facebook to gain/keep customers is very lucrative. If they decide to cut you off, you’re probably going to struggle.  

As a user, are you getting paid for all the data you’re giving Facebook?  All of your Messenger conversations and articles and likes and comments and interactions?  No, you’re not. But Facebook certainly is profiting off of it! Facebook isn’t just Facebook either. It’s also Instagram and WhatsApp which increases their surface area for data collection and manipulation significantly. If any of those Facebook properties are part of your business, things could get pretty rough if/when Facebook decides to take more advantage or cut you off. 

What is the Fediverse? 

A couple of years ago, in response to one of Facebook’s founder’s suggesting that Facebook should be broken up, you may remember that I wrote, “Facebook should be broken up and Federated.”  What is the Fediverse though?  Basically, it’s a collection or network of other social networks. There are some that focus on videos like Peertube, some that focus on images like PixelFed, some that are a lot like Twitter such as Mastadon. The brilliance of it is that they all work together though. I can have a Mastadon account where I can follow other Mastadon users as you’d expect, but I can also follow Peertube accounts, PixelFed accounts, Pleroma accounts, Friendica accounts, etc. It’s like a bunch of little countries getting together to build a global economy, but everyone still has their own autonomy and independence.

What’s more… in the Fediverse each type of social network (see a list here), is open-source software that you can install on your own server or rent from a hosting provider. Here’s a hosting provider you can set up your own instance on right now. Each server installation is called an “instance”. You can make one instance only for yourself if you want, or you can make one for a whole group of people to use. For example, if you were a big business, or a big family, or a sports fan community, or a government, you might want your own instance for like-minded users. People already do that kind of thing with Facebook groups, but the difference is that with a Fediverse instance, you can “own” the whole thing. You’re the one who decides what the policies are and you don’t have to depend on someone else who may not have your best interests in mind.

The Fediverse is very small at the moment, but the concept is huge. It may sound familiar too. The internet was built as a network of connected networks. The World Wide Web is a network of connected web servers & web browsers. It makes a huge amount of sense to make a diverse network of interconnected social networks that all work with each other. This page has a list of instances and indicates which ones are open to new users if you want to join one without learning to make your own instance.

The potential for a federated social network that supports local economies instead of pouring all the money into the Facebook empire has a lot of possibilities. It would probably take a big marketing budget to get users to switch to any specific Fediverse instance or set of instances and educate them on the advantages. The free open-source software community has a budget of about zero, so it’s not going to come from there. However, if a country like Australia wanted to promote their own alternative to Facebook, with incentives and perks for local businesses, plus the global connectivity of the Fediverse, others might follow. Maybe Twitter will become part of the Fediverse too (their Bluesky initiative is exploring implementing the ActivityPub protocol that the Fediverse uses.)

Is there anything stopping a single Fediverse instance from conquering everything like Facebook already has? Sure… diversity & freedom. People are diverse, our technology should be diverse too. The Fediverse is already a very diverse place with a wide variety of different types of social networks and different types of people. Encouraging that diversity on the internet encourages positive progress the same way biodiversity has encouraged evolution on Earth.

The post Facebook’s Empire shows Australia who’s boss (why you need the Freedom-Friendly Fediverse) appeared first on Pocketnow.

XP-Pen Artist 24 Pro Review

For creators these days, a pen-based interface is pretty important. It has a much more direct interaction method versus traditional mouse or trackpad interactions. The old mouse and trackpad are disconnected from the information that you’re actually interacting with on the screen. Touch displays solve that to some degree, but fingers are big and clunky. A more-precise stylus provides much more accuracy. We’ve covered some Wacom displays here on Pocketnow before, and I’ve personally been a big fan of since starting as a graphic designer in the late 1900’s. Today, we get to review a competitor to Wacom’s high-end pen displays in the form of the XP-Pen Artist 24 Pro. I’ve always sworn by Wacom pen tablets/displays, so it will be very interesting to see how the XP-Pen Artist 24 Pro compares, especially since its price is considerably less than a comparable Wacom pen display.

Specs

The Artist 24 Pro’s screen size is about 23.8 inches diagonally which is 20.74 x 11.67″. The display resolution is a nice 2560 x 1440 pixels. In terms of the whole monitor’s size, it’s 24.88 x 14.57 x 1.76 inches. For color gamut options, we’ve got an awesome 90% of Adobe RGB color gamut! You can also use 88% NTSC or 120% sRGB with a color depth of 16.7 million. The contrast ratio is 1000:1 and the response time is 14ms. The viewing angle is about 178 degrees and you can get a brightness level of 250 cd/m2. There’s a 100x100mm VESA mount, too. The stylus doesn’t require a battery and supports 8192 levels of pressure sensitivity as well as 60 degrees of tilt sensitivity.

What’s in the box

The XP-Pen Artist 24 Pro includes a slew of wires and accessories for connecting the display to your computer.

If you have a display port capable USB-C port, you can use the USB-C to USB-C cable in the middle of the above photo to connect the pen display directly to your computer. This works really well and supports the full resolution of the display. If you don’t have a USB-C display port, you’ll have to use the USB-A to USB-C cable on the left to connect to your PC for data transfer AND you’ll have to use the HDMI cable on the right to connect to your GPU. If you have to use the HDMI cable, then you’ll probably only get a 1920 x 1080 pixel display resolution, so it’s better to have a USB-C display port.

You actually get two pens for the Artist 24 Pro! There’s a big cylindrical case to use to keep one safe as well.

The other end of the pen case also unscrews to reveal 8 spare pen tips for when you wear out the one that’s already in the pen.

All of the ports you’ll need are on the back in the above inset area. You’ll need the DC power whether you use the USB-C display port or not. There are two additional USB-A ports here (labeled “Host”) which you can use to connect other peripherals such as a keyboard or whatever.

Hardware and Design

First of all, the 90% Adobe RGB color gamut is beautiful. Getting as close to 100% Adobe RGB as possible is very important for photographers and graphic designers. It’s a wider color gamut than you would get with other monitors or laptops. The Adobe RGB color gamut is an improvement over Apple’s DCI P3 color gamut as well.

The Artist 24 Pro ships with a screen protector over the monitor display area, and that screen protector sheet was very reflective. I was much happier after peeling off the protective plastic which revealed a beautifully anti-glare screen. This is so much better than using iMac’s or Macbook Pro’s which have extremely reflective screens. The Artist 24 Pro diffuses ceiling light reflections really nicely. It’s a joy to work with. Still, I like to keep the ceiling lights off and use a well-placed lamp for room lighting in order to avoid glare completely.

The display looks great, but what about the pen interaction interface? Well, that works great as well. Windows 10 has pretty good inking and pen interaction usability, except for a few bugs that were added in the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update. The Artist 24 Pro software driver has some good workarounds for Windows 10’s problems, and we’ll talk more about those in the Software section below.

Let’s talk about those express keys and roller dials in the bezels though! There are 10 express keys on each side! That’s 20 programmable hardware buttons. Twenty!! There’s also a dial on both left and right bezels and this too can be programmed to control whatever you want.

The bezel buttons feel great. Not only do they have nice tactile feedback, but they also have some texture differentiators. As seen above, one button has a dot protrusion while another has a dash protrusion. This helps you identify the location of your express key buttons simply by touch. You can keep your eyes on the display and what you’re doing with the pen, while feeling for the programmed controls you’re looking for by using touch alone. This is a huge efficiency booster. Most people use regular keyboard shortcuts for this kind of thing, but being able to program your own hardware buttons to do the things you want is a huge advantage. If you’re left-handed, you can program the buttons on the right side to be your most-used functions, while if you’re right-handed, you can program the buttons on the left side to be your most-used functions.

Wacom’s Cintiq Pro 24 doesn’t have this many programmable bezel buttons at all. It doesn’t have any. Instead, they sell a separate programmable remote that you can hold in your non-dominant hand. Personally, I kind of like the bezel buttons since they’re built-in, don’t require charging, and won’t be as easy to lose as a wireless remote.

20 programmable express keys to memorize is an awful lot though. Some people make stickers to place on the buttons so it’s easier to remember what they do. I might start with programming only 5 of them since that would be easier to memorize and personally, I was really happy with the 6 programmable bezel express keys on my Wacom Mobile Studio Pro 13.

Pen accuracy is quite good as well. It’s very precise and very smooth. The pen has two hardware buttons that you can program as well, but it does not have an eraser on the back end. Also note, that XP-Pen includes a nice drawing glove for resting your hand on the display without getting sweaty hand grease all over. Excellent touch including this!

The included stand attached to the back is very robust. There’s a lever at the top that unlocks the stand’s angle.

It’s easy to pull the lever forward with one hand and lift or lower the display to whatever angle you want. Release the lever to lock the stand in place at the desired angle.

The top right corner is where some normal monitor controls are located. The button on the right is the power button. To the left of that is a display settings menu button that looks like a hamburger. Then there are + and – buttons for navigating the settings menu and changing things like brightness or contrast.

A small clip style pen holder is included, but it’s not so obvious how to use it.

It turns out there are two little rubber circular insets on the left and right sides of the monitor. If you pry the little piece of rubber out, a screw hole appears behind it. You’ll need a flat head screwdriver to screw the pen holder clip into the side.

Even though I tightened the screw, the clip still spins and wobbles, so maybe I didn’t install it properly. I didn’t see any instructions about this aspect of the tablet. Anyway, you might want to buy a different kind of stylus holder. I think I would prefer a desk-top stand that holds the pen upright for me.

Software

There are two driver versions available for download from the XP-Pen website. At first, I tried the “Official” driver and later tried the “New UI” beta driver. The normal official driver software is shown above. It’s not terribly customizable, but certainly good enough.

The dialogue for programming the bezel express keys and dials is not super intuitive. The keys are labeled with numbers and drop-down menus let you add customized functions. At the top, there’s a row where you can add specific programs and when that program is in focus the buttons will use the customized functions for that program. One issue with this driver is that I can’t program the pen to behave differently in different programs. So for example, the “Windows Ink” option is pretty terrible in certain apps like web browsers, the Windows 10 Photos app, the Windows 10 OneNote app, etc. I would want to turn that off in those programs, and it’s not possible with this software. However…

Later on I decided to uninstall the official driver and try the “new UI” beta driver, and it was much better. The user interface design is obviously different, but my previous complaint about not being able to control the pen behavior on a program-by-program basis is fixed.

The interface for customizing the programmable dials and express keys is much improved in the new software as well.

The Express key customization interface now has labels for where the buttons exist on the bezel, but now there’s side-scrolling for matching the key numbers to new functions.

The new software even has the ability to disable certain aspects of the software completely. Thankfully an import/export for saving your configuration settings is here as well.

The interface for programming the Express keys is very extensive too. By default, one of the pen buttons was assigned to the eraser function, but I was able to change it to a “double left click” function pretty easily here.

Pricing & Availability

The XP-Pen Artist 24 Pro is only about $899.99 USD which is less than half the price of a Wacom Cintiq Pro 24. That’s some significant savings. You can order the Artist 24 Pro from the XP-Pen online stores in the United States, United Kingdom, European Union, and Australia.

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • $900 is half the price of something comparable from Wacom
  • 20 programmable Express keys in the bezel
  • Included stand has a great range of angles
  • Gorgeous 90% Adobe RGB color gamut and anti-glare screen
  • USB-C displayport compatible
  • Includes all the accessories you could possibly want
  • Included stand can be replaced with a Vesa mount stand

Cons

  • There’s no easy way to show an overlay of what each of the bezel Express keys is programmed to do while you’re working (in case you forget)
  • Included pen doesn’t have an eraser on the back (hold a button down to erase instead)
  • 90% Adobe RGB isn’t as good as 100% Adobe RGB color gamut
  • Some may prefer a desk top pen holder rather than the included bezel mounted holder

Conclusion

That list of “Cons” above are very minor nitpicks compared to the list of “Pros” which are pretty excellent. As a pen display, the XP-Pen Artist 24 Pro feels very similar to the high-end pen displays from Wacom. The Wacom Cintiq Pro 24 is probably a good competitor. Wacom’s Cintiq Pro 24 has a 99% Adobe RGB color gamut though, plus a higher resolution display, more ports, and there’s a version that also supports touch… but it’s more than double the price of the XP-Pen Artist 24 Pro! So yes, the Wacom Cintiq Pro 24 is better, but is it twice the price better? Maybe not.

If we look at how the XP-Pen Artist 24 Pro compares to something that’s closer to its price range, for example, the Wacom Cintiq 22 for $1200, the Artist 24 Pro still looks like a much better deal at $900 with its better resolution, better color gamut, better bezel buttons, and better stand.

If you’ve been craving a new Wacom pen display for graphics and drawing, but are still saving up for a good one, you just might want to consider an XP-Pen Artist 24 Pro instead.

The post XP-Pen Artist 24 Pro Review appeared first on Pocketnow.