This is an odd place to be for a former Lead Blogger for The Unofficial Apple Weblog, but here I am. Sure I have an iPhone Plus and my work machine is a 13-inch MacBook Pro Retina, and I work for an awesome creative software studio that’s often working with Apple on cutting edge software for our clients. But, I realized sometime during the past year that in order to avoid the dark-side of my workaholic nature, and in order to still enjoy technology as I always have, I needed a separation between my work computing and my personal computing. And so I took the 13-inch MacBook Pro Retina that was my personal machine and which I’d been using for work for 2 years, and I sold it, and asked work to provide me with a computer.
This then sent me into determining exactly what I need in a personal computer. I knew I didn’t need another machine that simply became a replica of my work machine and was ill-used. One of my long-term goals has been to produce my own graphic novel, and over the past 5 years I’ve been trying to move from traditional art to digital art in support of that goal. What did I want in. a personal computer in support of this? A touchscreen interface with some sort of pen entry with pressure sensitivity, of course. On the Mac side of the world, there are no solutions for this. The closest to it is the Modbook Pro, but it’s a clunky hack that is based on older Apple hardware. Not to mention it’s expensive.
This summer there was a nice sale on the Cintiq Companion Windows tablet, so I bought one and that became my personal computer. It’s been a great improvement over the Wacom 13WX tablet that I used to own and which had a cumbersome external box that had to be hooked up to a separate computer to actually use the device. The Companion is a great drawing computer, and surprisingly, Windows 8.1 is a great OS for a device that straddles the world between tablet and computer. And it’s so much better than the days of XP (which was the last time I was a Windows user). Sure, it has a bit of a split personality between the two different versions of Internet Explorer, etc., but more often than not it works at its chief job of getting out of my way and letting me do what I want to do.
Thanks to the Cintiq Companion and some time refining my characters, I’ve relaunched Bosh and Bill, both as a graphic novel initiative, and moved it from a dying Crowd Fusion site to an easily maintained Tumblr site (Sorry, Brian). And now I’ve finished at least an early draft of Page 1 of the first Origin story of Bosh and Bill and I’m getting good feedback on it from r/comic-crits.
So, it’s been great. But guess what? The Companion is still just a tad bit too big and cumbersome for sketchbook level doodling when I am sitting in my recliner at night juggling one of my kids in my lap, or when I’m reclining in bed at night. You know what’s a horrible tool for drawing on? The iPad. It’s just bad. People are making great art on it, but they’re basically training themselves to be specialized digital finger painters and they’re doing lots of infinite zooming and strategic erasing to get to the detail they want. It’s not convenient for an actual mobile creative workflow.
You know what is conducive to that? My brand new Surface Pro 3. I picked one up yesterday courtesy of some Christmas + early birthday gifts from my family. It’s the lowest end i5 model that was on sale for $899. I also got the cyan blue keyboard cover for it for $100 more. That’s on par with the cheapest MacBook Air you can get, and you know what? It actually is better. It’s faster, the screen is closer to “retina” than an entry level MacBook Air, and it’s a great slightly-larger than an iPad tablet device that can do so much more. I’m writing this blog post on it and so far I love it. The N-trig based pen needs calibration on a semi-regular basis and isn’t as good as the Companion’s Cintiq pressure sensitive pen on its matte paper-like screen, but it works great as a balance a kid on one knee and doodle a bit drawing device that I will actually use to accentuate my workflow and produce more drawing more often.
Also, has anyone been paying attention to OneDrive? Holy unlimited online storage, batman! I have 10TBs of storage currently available to me and if I get close to loading that to brim I just have to email them and request more. That is an amazing game changer. The smallish hard drive size on both my Companion and Surface (128GBs each) doesn’t matter with that type of large available always on storage with full backup. It’s great. Suddenly, Google Apps for free vs $100 a year for full on Office 360 PLUS UNLIMITED CLOUD STORAGE = a no brainer in Microsoft’s favor. This is all incredibly smart, and I’m very bullish on Microsoft these days due to all these smart changes.
So, in any case, I’m mostly Windows in my personal life now. So far it’s working out great. I’ll keep you posted.