The Cintiq 13HD

 Art, Photography, Technology  Comments Off on The Cintiq 13HD
Apr 212014

A few months back, my Intuos graphics tablet died, so I replaced it with an Intuos Pro.

Well, I’m 3+ months into using it, and it’s not really working for me. It may be the change from a smooth surface to the rough surface of the Pro, or the general feel of the stylus, but whenever I use it for longer than 30 minutes, my fingers hurt.

I’m holding the stylus as light as possible without dropping it, and my fingers still hurt.

So I have spent the last week or two looking for an alternative.

I like my Samsung Galaxy Note 8, and I like drawing directly on the screen, so I decided to look along those lines.

I spent a LOT of time looking at the Microsoft Surface Pro and Surface Pro 2. The Surface is a nice ultra-portable laptop, but I had a few reservations about it, chief being a display that is just too small for me. I think Microsoft did a great job with the Surface, and it’s pretty to look at, but I don’t like the Windows 8 interface, and the extra money to get 8GB of RAM and another $140 for a keyboard are, in the end, deal-breakers for me. I will probably revisit the platform when they come out with a new version, or my VAIO dies.

I also spent a lot of time looking at Yiyinova displays. The 22HD was the only one I was seriously considering, but the VGA connection bugged me. I would have had to put in a second graphics card to run it, and I didn’t want to mess with that. I already run two DVI displays, so there wasn’t any room to hook up a Yiyinova without adding another card. (And it doesn’t do HDMI.)

While I was flailing around, I found that MacMall was having a big sale on Cintiqs. They use an HDMI connector, and I still have one of those left on my graphics card.

To be honest, I wasn’t even considering one, because of the pricing. But the current Cintiq line has some nice specs, and it’s something I’ve always wanted. Even on sale, the new Cintiqs are a bit out of my price range. So I checked MacMall’s refurbished Cintiqs. Bingo! That’s the pricing I’m willing to go with. The refurbs are significantly cheaper, and come with a one-year warranty.

I decided on a 13″ Cintiq because I don’t have room for anything bigger. (Not much, anyway.) Also, the 22HD was $1599. Ouch. The refurbed 13HD was only $799, plus tax and shipping. I could live with that.

When it showed up, the tablet itself was pristine. No scratches, dust, or fingerprints. Nice. The stand and pen case, well, those were dirty, but not damaged. I have a tub of yellow goo called Compu-Clean that works wonders on this kind of stuff. It removed all of the dirt, dust, and other random stuff from the rubbery parts.

I’ve been using the 13HD over the weekend, and I really like it a lot. Setting it up with my dual-monitor system was kind of a pain. My main monitor is 1920 x 1200, and the 13HD is 1920 x 1080, so if I used the Cintiq as a mirrored display with my main monitor, my main monitor would get all messed up. (It changes the resolution to something that looks unpleasant.) I wound up mirroring my second display, a 1920 x 1080 Asus display. The Asus display isn’t terrible, but it’s kind of janky and over-saturated, and I’ve never been able to get the colors to not look weird. As a box that shows video, it’s fine. As something color-accurate… that ship never sailed, and probably never will.

One other minor beef with the 13HD is the stand. It’s cheap, and prone to collapsing if you aren’t really careful with it. So be careful with it. You only get three angles to choose from.

I like the controls on the side, but the controls on the Intuos Pro are better, and it’s a $500-$600 cheaper tablet. Instead of the great circular control of the Intuos, there’s a circular button with four buttons on it, and one in the middle. Meh. It’s okay, but not nearly as flexible. Instead of 8 more buttons (4 above, 4 below), there are only 2 above and 2 below. For the money, I want more buttons.

But these are minor complaints. Using it is a joy. While my Galaxy Note 8.0 has a capable pen and digitizer (also by Wacom), the S-Pen is too small and becomes uncomfortable over time. Also, there’s a distinct lack of really good drawing programs in Android. Autodesk Sketchbook Pro is the only program I can be remotely productive with, and it’s lacking far too many tools. (Gradients, anyone?) In spite of its limitations, I love drawing on my Galaxy Note 8.0. It bring a kind of immediacy I just can’t get from a graphics tablet.

The Cintiq improves on that experience quite a bit.

Using the 13HD with Clip Studio Paint (also known in the US as Manga Studio Pro) is a breeze. I love CSP for designing quick and dirty graphics and forms. It also runs Photoshop CS6 just fine, too. I tweaked the settings for Photoshop to change the controls to suit my workflow better. The only downside– I had to shove both programs in my Asus monitor window. Oh well.

I haven’t had a chance to put Lightroom through its paces yet, but I will soon. I hope this will speed up my photo editing workflow– using a pen on sliders should be faster than mousing over a bunch of sliders. We’ll see.

Apr 022014

Juan had a question about how I did the Anki cards for the A+ exam. I started to write a reply, and it turned into a book. So I figured I’d post the reply as a blog post instead.

I created two types of cards for this deck.

Card Type #1: Basic Question/Answer Cards

The first type of card is a basic question/answer card, with a multiple-choice question on the front, and the answer on the back. I used that for all of the practice questions and mock test questions. That was about 60% of my deck.

Filling up the deck was pretty easy that way. I just copy/pasted the data from my PDF books (in Foxit) into a text editor, cleaned it up a little with find/replace, dumped it into a spreadsheet, then saved it as the proper data type to import into Anki. It takes some time, but it’s still a lot faster than typing every question out.

This is why I recommend the O’Reilly bookstore. All of their books come in PDF format (among others), and are DRM-free. DRM is a pain in the butt. It serves no real purpose, other than interfering with my lawful use of the material to study. I can get around the DRM with Greenshot (which takes a screen capture, then OCRs it), so it’s not like it stops anything, it just makes everything less efficient. (And it doesn’t stop real piracy!)

Sadly, Microsoft Press just left the O’Reilly store, so you can no longer get the DRM-free version of their excellent A+ prep books.

For some books, my only choice was using the Kindle Chrome app. You can’t copy/paste because “reasons,” I guess. I used Greenshot to OCR each chunk of data I wanted, and it would dump the OCR-ed text straight into the clipboard. It was generally about 97% accurate, but fixing that last 3% was really annoying.

Then I dumped the questions and answers into a spreadsheet, and added them all to Anki.

I recommend getting good mock test questions. Lots of them. Dump them in after you do the mock tests, so you don’t forget the trickier questions. If you dump them in before, you’ll lose the “I’ve never seen this before!” effect.

Also, add the study questions for things you don’t already know cold. Don’t clutter your deck with useless info you already know. (“The sun is hot,” “Water is wet,” that kind of stuff. If it’s that obvious to you, leave it out.)

Card Type #2: Fill In The Blank (AKA Cloze Deletion)

The second card type I made was a Cloze card type. “Cloze deletion” is a fancy way of saying “Fill in the blank.” You add tags around the data you want to be turned into a “_____” in the question field, and it gets revealed in the answer field as the original text. So if I tag the word “ABC”, in the question card is shows up as “___,” and on the answer card, it shows up as “ABC” again.

Anki uses HTML tags (actually XML) to mark Cloze fields. <c1> for starting the first Cloze field, and </c1> to end the first Cloze field. So it makes it really easy to turn any raw text into a Cloze card without using the editor. Just take your sentence, add the tags, and import it as a Cloze-type card.

If I need to remember, “Standard ABC has a transfer rate of XXX MB/sec,” I would set “ABC” as Cloze field 1, and “XXX” as Cloze field 2. That way, I would get two different question cards.

The formatting would look like this:

Standard <c1>ABC</c1> has a transfer rate of <c2>XXX</c2> MB/sec.

And just that would generate two cards.

One like this:

Front:”Standard ___ has a transfer rate of XXX MB/sec.”
Back: ABC

And another like this:

Front:”Standard ABC has a transfer rate of ___ MB/sec.”
Back: XXX

That forces me to think about the right answer, and try to remember it.

I find it’s best to do it one fact at a time. A card like this:

“Standard ___ has a transfer rate of ___ MB/sec,”

is more confusing than helpful. I could put in any combination of standards and data rates, and be right and wrong at the same time.

For remembering general concepts, and keeping things straight like Windows licensing options, interface data speeds, and graphics card standard resolutions, Cloze Deletion cards are really hard to beat. While I’ll start to remember the multiple choice answers over time, I’m forced to think about the answer for every Cloze card I get, because the answers aren’t pre-chewed for me.

One final trick: if you have a Logitech gaming keyboard with a bunch of programmable G-keys, you can program them to add the Cloze tags (as well as do other things) in the plain text editor of your choice. That saved me a lot of time, too! I had a whole set of G-keys programmed with Cloze tags for up to four facts.

Is all of this tedious? Hell yeah!

But is it effective? OMG yes.

And it’s cheaper than going to one of those schools that charge an arm and a leg to give you the same info you could get yourself.

Dead-tree vs. E-Books

The only way to get the data in quickly from paper books is with a cheap scanner and some good OCR software. There’s a ton of OCR software out there, and some of it is even free. I’ve done scanning and OCR for some of my Japanese test prep. It’s not fun, but it’s doable. It just adds a lot of unnecessary time. (But it’s still faster than typing.) has a good list of OCR software alternatives. Some are even free/open source.

If you have a paper book by one of the O’Reilly publishers, you can register it on their website, and you may be eligible for a $5 e-book upgrade. Not all publishers go with this, but some do. It’s worth it to check it out. That could save you a ton of time.

Otherwise, I’d consider the money on paper books “lost,” and go buy digital editions I can work with more easily. Wrestling books and scanning every page I need is a waste of time I could use studying.

I prefer DRM-free books, but some of the best books are Kindle-only. So I bought whatever I felt was the best for me.

I only bought paper books if they came with a PDF version, or some other electronic version of the book. One of the Network+ books is like that. It uses some weird Adobe secure PDF thing that’s a pain in the butt to install, and even less fun to work with. My copy/paste is limited by DRM, for “reasons.” I can always use Greenshot in a pinch, but I don’t enjoy going that route.

It’s a big long of a reply, but I hope it helps. Any questions, just put them in the comments.

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