Astropad, to be or not to be deceived…

I’ve seen the newest doo-dad app that was launched lately that’s supposed to make use of the ipad as a makeshift cintiq. And by that I mean astropad.  I’ve also tested it, and I’ll outline my personal impressions below.

At first I thought I would be a regular 9.99 app. Boy was I in for a treat. This app costs 49.99. 50 bucks in order to be able to just use it. I would say off the bat that it’s overpriced. Given, it has nice features like panning, and in some way it tries to emulate a wacom’s ring dial/button. But it pales miserably in comparison to that.

Now in all fairness, I have to admit I don’t own a wacom pen or a 53 pencil. But as far as I’ve seen, they don’t offer much on the pressure side. And a tablet without pressure sensitivity for a painter is about as  useful as a potato. I somehow have my doubts that with a pen, things would fix themselves. I’ve used a regular stylus. It sucks. It feels like using paint. Incredibly neanderthalian. The performance is better than that of duet, what speed and fluency is concerned. But I would still not spend 50 bucks on a glorified duet app. My sense of practicality would just go and wring my neck.

So, 50 bucks for the software, another 50 or more for a “pressure-sensitive” stylus and you got yourself a poor-man’s cintique, right ? Wrong. For about 100 bucks you could just as well get a first hand wacom (small but still useful, 1024 levels of pressure beat the shit out of 0 levels of pressure on those overpriced styluses) or a second hand one, which could be bigger even if it’s older. You would gain far more.

For me personally I think astropad is a waste of money and time. Others might differ. But think about this: if you still want to use you ipad to paint or sketch, why not get a 53 + paper and use that, rather than use cluncky photoshop and pan around to see parts of the UI ? It’s like shooting yourself in the leg. Ugh.


Affinity just murdered Photoshop in cold blood

Everything started out when a friend of mine sent me a link to a video featuring Affinity Photo. I was blown away by the features instantly. So I became curious. And sure enough I discovered my way into the beta. Now, I’m a ancient Photoshop user. I know it’s ups and downs, its immense powers and its slippery slopes. On a good day, it’ll help you out and then some. But in a bad day, it’ll take out your PC, churn it to butter and spit it out like it was nothing. It’s become a monster of an app, that’s so far flung from the original design, you can’t even recognise it any more. It’s packed with as many features as hairs on a man’s head. Not all of them useful, or known.

But being the serious designer that I am, I have to use it to do web, ui and all sorts of graphic design. That doesn’t mean I’m happy about the amount of physical resources it uses though. Let me assure you, I’m not ! Adobe did such a bad job at managing resources, it kills my workstation grade laptop at work when trying to do a simple iOS/Android app design. On a 1700 Euro laptop with 16 Gb of Ram, state-of-the-art processor and a nVidia Graphics card with 2 Gb of memory to boot. It’s absolutely absurd. And there’s days I have to run it in parallel with Adobe Illustrator or AfterEffects. It makes you want to cry tears of blood.

But getting back to the point. I’ve installed Affinity Photo, and I was very surprised to see a interface that felt like home. Very very Photoshop-like, which for me is a big +. I had virtually no trouble finding my way around the app and menus. They are where you’d expect them to be, and that’s a good thing ! Remember the fact that you’re trying to break a industry standard here, with a more competitive product that handles similarly. Breaking UX would be a huge no-no ! So, a big thumbs up to Serif for taking the time to study competition and create a familiar layout. Very pleased ! The workflow however, is similar and isn’t. Some things you’ll recognise, others not. Like masking. Or layer Styles. I expected layer styles to be a palette that enabled me to set styles for the currently selected layer. It’s not. Its a collection of saved layer styles. Not happy about that. To apply layer styles you have to right-click on a layer and select Layer Effects. This feels unnatural when compared to Photoshop. Also, the choice of effects is relatively scarce. Doesn’t bother me that much, considering this is supposed to be a photo-editing app (for web design and UI design you got Sketch and Affinity Designer, remember ??), but the fact that I have to have the move tool active (its not active by default, the hand tool is) is not necessarily something I’m happy about. That or the fact that I have to rightclick to use effects on layers. But on the other hand, I understand why a raster app intended for photo manipulation and adjustment would want to have that function pushed more into the background. It’s not that used.

Masking feels a bit hit-and-miss. It’s not really polished enough, nor is it really understandable how it works outright, which from my point of view is a big minus. You would expect a photo-editing app to have first-class masking capabilities, since that’s should be its strongest selling point. In this case it’s not. But being in beta, I would expect some things to work oddly at best. Still, this means there’s room for improvement. The mask workflow feels very complicated and hard to grasp. It should be made considerably easier, if not similar to the one in Photoshop. Apply masking on layer, work with mask as you would do with a regular layer (paint/fill/gradient/etc). Right now it’s just bad. I wouldn’t recommend it.

Selection tools are really nice, and the brush selection mode is very impressive compared to Adobe’s standards. I’m actually quite pleased with that !

Brushes are a delight, since they retain most of Photoshop’s brushes features. Really cool how easy the whole app feels when workign with them. Very pleasantly surprised ! You can change the settings for brushes by clicking a small clipboard-like icon to the right of the brush palette. You can also change brush dynamics ! Wow. Also, you got more blend modes than in Photoshop ! Nice !

To preview blending modes, you can just hover you mouse on one mode and it will update the canvas real-time. Nice !

To invert a layer, you can use the same commands as in Photoshop. CMD+I. However, it will create an adjustment layer which has to be dragged over the layer you want to invert. A bit of a drag if you’re used to Photoshop’s way of doing it. All in all not bad, just different.

Haven’t seen any automation features yet, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they would turn up later on or even during development. What i’d like is macro recording (was nice in Photoshop, would be nice here as well) and javascripting to create plugins. The reason why I’m mentioning javascript is because its one of those languages even designers understand (most anyways) and with a open enough API that’s well documented, you can do all sorts of wonderful things ! I hope they won’t disappoint me in this aspect.

All in all the app feels very rugged for a beta, is packed with most if not all of the features you know and love in Photoshop, and will probably save you a pretty penny too ! Can’t wait for it to get out so I can buy it. In my article I’ve only touched base very lightly about what the app can do. If you want to see for yourselves if it meets your standards, I suggest giving Affinity a visit, and trying out the beta for yourselves. I’m sure you’ll be as impressed as I was. Oh, and did I forget to tell you it only runs on a Mac ? Yeah… Sorry bout that. It does. And I am really happy about it.

The app is available for beta tryouts here if you want to see more for yourselves.

Magic Mouse – A designer’s nightmare review

So, I decided to get a magic mouse as well to accompany me in this new Mac-ish experience I’ve started of late. Aside from the fact that getting it meant going through all kinds of hell with the courier (on that on my other blog, Anti-Turma), I had some very high hopes set for this tiny piece of engineering.

Design & Ergonomics

I can’t say I’m disappointed by the design. Its tasty with a side of drool. It’s like a jewel. Very high quality build, look and feel. No complaints in this department, but the ergonomics are complete and utter shit. Its very very shallow and doesn’t feel well in my hand. Given that most of my life I’ve only used gaming-grade mice, this particular one struck me as a cumbersome experience. Being heavy and the weight being distributed along the whole of the mouse, it feels like trying to move a brick around the table. Not cool at all.

It’s noteworthy to add the fact that this mouse has a lot of gestures that enable it to be more productive, which is great, but at the same time, those really crap ergonomics, make it a nuisance and hinder in usage. The low profile makes it virtually impossible to slide with 2 fingers from app to app without moving the mouse at the same time. This is crap ! Apple, what the fk were you thinking ? Same goes for the single-finger swipe to go back or forward. It happened to me several times. Would’ve been nice if the front profile would’ve been higher so as not to strain the finger(s) and move the mouse around.

Another annoying this is the fact that the whole damn surface is one huge button. I can’t rest my fingers on it without making it click, especially because I got heavier fingers/hands and I do sometimes feel the need to not click anything, you know ?!


Again, comparing it to gaming-grade mice, it falls short of being able to set the dpi on the fly. This is especially useful when playing but also when doing illustration. Illustrator has some very cool vectoring tools, that need a mouse with a very low DPI setting to work properly and have accuracy. The only thing that is adjustable and not on the fly, is the tracking speed, which is not the same thing and it somehow does a weird combination between the windows cursor acceleration and the pointer speed. Not ideal.

What would also be nice was if the mouse had the start-stop switch redesigned. If you just cut your fingernails, its some kind of special hell to have to turn it off and on. Also, it doesn’t have a lithium-ion battery pack, but runs on regular joe batteries. This is both positive and negative, depending on the situation. I wouldn’t have minded if it would’ve used a 3200 amp li-ion battery charging through USB/Lightning to the Mac. Also, why not include VOOC ? Its a device you use every day, so it gets depleted fast. Would be nice to be able to charge from 0 to Hero in 1 hour. In that way, it feels a bit stone age.

On the other hand, if you really ran out of juice on your mouse, you can just pop open a bunch of batteries and start it right up back again if saaay, your laptop was shut. But then, if you wouldn’t have any juice left in your Macbook, what would you possibly want to do with the mouse ? Its only compatible with Mac computers anyway ?


Even with all its inconveniences and annoyances, the Magic Mouse is still a nice thing to have, especially if you really hate wires and are not an OCD designer that wants all his vector knots looking spic and span. I would even go as far as to say this a perfect mouse for desk and everyday office work, as well as programming. Its very easy to switch from a desktop to the other with a flick of a… well 2 fingers. Provided the mouse doesn’t go wild and starts to slide away during the gesture like it did in my case.

The Magic Mouse feels very nice on web pages and when editing a lot of documents. The reason for that is because, there, you need little to no precision and the gestures are really helping your productivity jolt forward. So I’d say, if you’re a secretary or someone who’s handling copious amounts of text, do get it. It will save you quite some time.

If you’re a graphic designer, in love with product design, like me, and have hopes of using it as a every day tool, I have bad news for you. You will want your money back and will want to throw it out the window. Its that bad. Its quite shit for you, really. Unless you do a lot of traveling. Then it’s ok-ish. But even then, I would rather recommend getting the Logitech Performance MX instead. Its wireless too, and it’s far, far superior in terms of ergonomics and functionality. You can see some specs here: Logitech Performance MX Wireless Mouse – Product page

In conclusion

The Magic Mouse is a decently-performing, stunningly-looking mouse. It will not cure aids, it will not help you become a better anything, and it will definitely not help you automagically conjure up design out of thin air. Get real. It’s just a mouse. A decent one, but only a mouse. Make of it what you will, I for one, will go back to my trusty Roccat Kone XTD.

Ergonomics: 4/10

Design: 10/10

Features: 7/10

Overall Performance: 7/10

Accuracy: 6/10

Battery life: 0/10 Obs: The mouse was new, and so were the batteries, which is why, I cannot comment on battery life yet.

Switching from PC to mac – a complete experience


Haven’t been here in quite some time to post anything, so getting a new device seems to be as good a reason as any to write a new article for my blog. Before starting though, i have to confess that the reason why i switched from PC to Mac was because of the many people I know that are so happy with their macs and their makky experience, as well as the fact that my pc and subsequently the OS (windows) was starting to get on my last nerves.

And so my Macquest began. I have bought a late 2013 MacBook Pro with a reasonable enough spec to put any high end PC to shame. It is powered by a quad-core i7 processor, beefed up with 16 Gb of RAM memory. For graphics, its sporting an integrated 1.5 Gb Iris Pro and a Nvidia Geforce 750 GT M with 2 Gb of available Video memory. To boost it all, it runs on a blazing fast SSD with a total capacity of 512 GB of flashy goodness.

I would say this would embarrass an aspiring PC any day of the week just by the specs alone. I won’t go into the financial details as it makes little sense to do so, mostly because the price varies in each country and also depends on how old and used the purchased mac is. But since I’m writing this article to share a bit of my experience with switching from a PC to a Mac, from an advanced user’s perspective, I should get this ball rolling. I’m going to try to get this article split up into 2 parts. The good bits and the rather unpleasant ones of both the Mac and the PC, and I’ll close up with my personal opinion about switching over, why you should and why you shouldn’t do it. Shall we then ?

The PC experience

My first experience with a computer was with a pc. That was the very first thing I saw when my dad brought me to his workplace sometime in the early 90’s (1990 – 1994).But so much about history. Lets get to the facts. Basically I’ve been a PC man all my life. Deciding to switch over to the mac was sort of a spur of the moment thing as well as endless windows and driver installs gone wrong. Plus the age. I’m not close to 30 and my tolerance for doing geeky stuff is closing in on 0 fast. However, the PC is not that big bad wolf everybody is painting it to be. Most of the computers in the wild are PCs. This is largely because of the small costs attributed to the manufacturing as well as materials. A pc is cheap and easy to repair. Basically the whole marketing of a PC is based on the fact that components are easy to swap and can be done even by someone that doesn’t have that many technical skills. This could not be more WRONG ! Installing the components is the least of your problems ! Drivers are the biggest pains in the butt. See, windows was designed to be so modular and extendable its actually very easy to break. Most of the drivers out there don’t work with all of the windows versions that have been released. Each OS version has its own driver. This can be a nightmare for network administrators and service people that take care of PC networks. However. Windows as an OS is not bad. Its quite easy to pick up and learn and even easier to operate. And its very flexible. However that has the downside of permitting any amateur to fiddle with its innermost parts and breaking it, ending up in a PC repairshop only due to the broken OS. But, those that end up mastering Windows, will later, have no trouble of mastering OSX as an operating system.

Here’s my pro and con list for the PC:


– can be as cheap or expensive as you want it to be

– parts easy to replace

– performance equal if not greater than that of the best Mac desktop / laptop

– very wide usage

– easy to pick up and learn

– interfaces with a lot of equipment

– heavy gaming industry pushing its evolution further.


– very hard to maintain

– software is really bad and causes a lot of headaches

– keeping a PC up to date requires upgrades, which can end up very costly

– OS is not very good or stable.

– independent makers cannot guarantee their hardware will integrate seamlessly with the Windows OS

– different drivers for each OS version

– vulnerable to internet attacks

– easy to hack and crack


If you want to be flexible, have the very best of hardware performance, but are prepared to pay the price of having to figure out drivers, compatibility and stability issues, then the PC is the tool for you. It will offer you a lot of hardware power and performance, but you will loose considerable amounts of time with configuration, crashes and making the whole damn thing work. And after a while, when Microsoft issues a new OS update, you might be suprised to find out they botched up some security setting and you’ll need to work around that.

The  Mac experience

The very first time I saw a proper Mac, was when I was still in the university, right before deciding I wanted to be a graphic designer. I used to work for a publishing house, which also had its own print shop. There is where I first fiddled around with a old G3. Can’t really say it was a pleasant experience, mostly because the machine was old and outdated (this was happening sometime in 2005) and it was really trying to keep up with the demands of a more modern Photoshop. I was, however, intrigued by the simplicity and the streamline appearance of the OSX. So i did a bit of research about Apple, and became an admirer of their capacity to integrate hardware and software so well together. I can’t say I’m a die hard Apple fan that would stand in line to buy their latest shit. Quite the opposite really. I hated the iPhone for quite some time. And I still do. But it has something that just keeps people from coming back to it time and time again. It’s not the build quality or the nice graphics. Its the fact that it performs so admirably well what it was designed to do in the first place. But back to the Mac. I can only say I’m very impressed. It could be because the Macbook I got is one beast of a machine, or because its flying with that outrageously large SSD, or because of the finely tuned Yosemite. But, in the end, I believe its all of it put together. The software is rock solid,you don’t need to crack your head with drivers. Just plug and play. You don’t need to be bothered with folders that give you direct access to the OS, and you don’t really need it either. Plus, buying a Mac gives you licence for all of the office tools you need, without having to buy them. You do, however, need to buy them if you bought a second hand Macbook, as their licence is tied to your Apple Account. But that’s ok. They are cheap. Cheaper than their Microsoft counterparts, and they don’t need a monthly subscription. I’ve hated Microsoft Word all my life. With Pages, you will forget all about Word and the hardships you used to endure with it, like struggling to move a rectangle around. Pagination is a dream with Pages. Its so damn easy a kid can do it (and they do, because it comes full of templates for children and teens, for home works, report cards, essays, etc).

Most of the people shy away from buying a mac because of the costs. But to be perfectly honest, they are not that big in comparison with the lifespan of a Mac, which is definitely bigger than that of a PC. A friend of mine still uses a late 2009 Macbook that works ALMOST the same as fine as it did the day he bought it. A PC in comparison will start to degrade in about 4 years time (if you buy a top-notch PC, you might be able to drag it on 2 years extra, but not more). And you will get the Mac’s value back tenfold in terms of productivity. You’ll be spending less time configuring and fixing your computer and more time working with it. And that’s not just me, but a lot of others that are starting to care less about configuring their PC’s and want to care more about getting the job done.

There are also downsides to owning a Mac. You will have to pay for everything. No freebies. Freebies are not as easy to find as with a PC. The warranty on a Apple computer is of just one year. After that you need to buy extra Apple care. And its NOT cheap. But you get what you pay for. Then there’s the price of all of the adaptors and cables. They are insanely expensive. A VGA to Lightning adaptor here, costs about 50 euros. The same price you would be dishing for a Apple Keyboard. And a mouse is closing in to about 70 Euros or more. And its not very good ergonomically speaking. Its quite crummy. But its got a touch surface and feels really premium. The keyboard too has 2 extra USB slots on each of its sides, for sticking sticks into it. Its a chiclet, which means you will either hate or like it. I personally wasn’t a big fan of chiclet keyboards, but still got accustomed to it, and its starting to grow on me. I’m still having trouble with the layout of the buttons and how close they are in opposition with my old Windows keyboard. But hey, something’s gotta give. Oh, and get this, the Apple keyboard also works on a PC ! How cool is that ?


– increased productivity

– easy to pick up and easy to master, especially if you’ve already worked on a PC. It will seem ridiculously easy to work with.

– less hair pulled out because of incompatible drivers.

– no crashes

– no viruses (a firewall is still highly recommended)

– amazing Operating system. Works on all systems and is backwards compatible too in opposition to Windows

– a hefty software bundle that enables you start working the day it comes home. You do need to set up an Apple Account though.

– great design. This is a prop for people like me who are suckers for good industrial design.

– Apps are easy, look good and work great. Sketch is an example of such an app. It’s amazing for web and app developers, as well as illustrators. Can’t recommend it enough. And for 99 Bucks, its very very affordable for all designers, as opposed to Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop. (where now, you have to pay a monthly fee of 50 dollars/euros if you want to enjoy the full suite of apps that Adobe has to offer.


– the price. its huge.

– cost of cables and Apple approved additional peripherals.

– very small warrantee. You have to get additional Applecare to benefit from proper warrantee.

– Apple likes to restrict access in a lot of areas of the OS. This becomes a nuisance for developers that want to work on iOS or OSX apps. They will spend a lot of time trying to circumvent those apple restrictions.

– the fairly large cost of a Apple Developer license. 99 Dollars a year for a license feels a bit on the expensive side.

– the computers are not upgradeable. Once you bought a configuration, you’re stuck with it ! So make sure you buy something that will endure.


If you’re a graphic designer like me, that hates having to deal with installing antiviruses and stuff just to keep malicius trojans away, the mac is for you. If you hate drivers and don’t want to be bothered to learn how to manage a PC, get a Mac. If you want to concentrate on the work more, get the Mac. But be sure you can afford getting the best one and make sure you’ll afford to buy extra Apple care.

Should I switch ?

This is up to you. It depends what priorities you have set for yourself as well as the budget you have allocated for purchasing a computer. The most important question you need to ask yourself is: What do I need it for ?

If its gaming, then get a PC

If it’s graphics, then get a Mac

If it’s office work, then get a Mac

If it’s high end simulations and research work, then get a PC and install Linux.

If you want portability with a punch, get a Macbook Pro. There is nothing else better.