Thursday, 17 June 2010

BareBones PRW Setup

Hi Folks, After a brief hiatus busy field testing the ultimate Photoshop RoadWarrior rig, I have finally accumulated sufficient gear to put together the Barebones required to operate out in the field for a full WEEKEND, without needing a mains supply Recipe:

  1. MacBook Pro + SSD
  2. Wacom Intuos4 Wireless
  3. External battery (Hypermac or Batterygeek)
MBP Settings (4.5 Hours continuous use)
  • Brightness - 2 notches down from full brightness
  • Bluetooth on
  • Wireless off
  • Keyboard Illumination - off
  • Graphics switching - off
Wacom Intuos 4 Wireless - Full charged, lasts almost a month with regular use, (Few days if used continously - but have yet to be able to discharge the battery).

External Battery - Field testing Hypermac 150 (as a optimal choice between weight vs extended MBP life)

Initially, the main issue was ensuring the Wacom wireless worked with a reliable laptop with minimal connectivity issues, The MBP proved to be a excellent candidate.

Next, was finding a suitable (lightwieght) Plein Aire rig from which to use to paint with. Traditional plein aire pochades and rigs were too heavy. Ultimately, a combination between a lightweight tripod and adapted lightweight plate sufficed.

Lastly, was ensuring one could work beyond the 4-6 hours barrier without resorting to a local starbucks/eat for recharging. And initially the powergorilla was thought to be the solution (however it only extended the power rather than recharge the internal battery. This posed a serious problem, for the true outdoor plein aire experience)

Lucikily, a detailed serach for external batteries for the new Mackbook pros (which ahve a unified body) unveiled both Hypermac and Batterygeek as a good candidate. Since we are based in UK, hypermac seemed more obvious, and a small outlet Protenica had them in stock.

So, here we are. All ready to go for the weekend of solid digi plein aire painting!

Full test results after a weekend of testing it in the field at London Bridge Quarter and Thames river. Untile then, here are some pics of the barebones setup.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Wacom Intuos 4 Wireless + MBP

Here is a initial provisional report.

On the fateful first day of a newly elected UK PM and Deputy PM, a nice pleasant surprise in the form of a custom built new MBP - Core i7 Solid state Anti glare rig arrived in our studio.

Finally, perhaps a perfect foil to the current challenges of running a Windows laptop rig that has the occasional driver conflict issues.

OSX Wacom Driver Installation - V6.15a
Installation was fairly straightforward and upon switching on the Wacom tablet, was bluetooth paired immediately in a seamless manner. Score!

Integration between desktop, applications and general usage as a mouse device was again seamless.

Usage of the new bristle brushes with Photoshop CS5, was seamless with minimal lag. barrel rotation was picked up with ease, and on the way home - even managed a abstract landscape painting without any fuss.

Initial full power on settings on the field, allows for a battery read out of 3 hours (from full charge), and with some tweaking of colour brightness/settings was able to optimize it for 4 hours field life.

WACOM Pen & Setup

For our initial test, here seems to be the ideal setup within Photoshop
  • PEN: (Right click - lower button) ---> Modifier (ALT) - allows for instant colour picking
  • PEN: (Double click - upper button) ---> Right Click
Circular Ring
  • Everything disable except for: Zoom/Brush size and Canvas Rotate

All defaults changed to:
  • Custom Keyboard shortcut Bind to Load Foreground Colour
  • Modifier (SHIFT) - straight lines
  • x
  • Pan
Circular Ring
  • Custom Bind F1 - New Layer
  • Custom Bind F2 - Duplicate
  • Custom Bind F3 - Merge Visible
  • Custom Bind F5 - Flip Horizontal

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Wacom Intuos 4 - Full Test Run (Windows)

Finally, with all those teething issues sorted we stuck to our simple rules for our first proper full day field trial.
  1. Have spare laptop batteries (with the Fujitsu hot swapable battries - had 6.5 hours continous use)
  2. Use only ONE wacom pen/tablet device at any one time (anything else = syntax error)
  3. Bluetooth shortcut/hibernate function enabled
For our test, we took the wacom I4 WL for a full day out at the Tower of London, and it did remarkably well. What worked the best was the lightweightedness of the wireless tablet. Fantastic piece of kit

Full report & pictures: Next

(next week, we will retest this with the new speced out macbook pro + wireless I4 WL in comparison)

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Intuos 4 WL - Vista Tablet PC

Throughout the week, I have sought to optimize and repeat the same parameters in order to address any lag issues with regards to Photoshop and the Wireless Wacom.

Interestingly, these conflicts can be of two main reasons:
  • Memory issues? (how Windows Vista allocates priority to variosu programs)
  • Driver conflict (Tablet PC - pen-enabled drivers vs Intuos 4 drivers)
Thus, let me share the problems unique to my Laptop + wacom combo. Perhaps you have had a similar experience or no problems whatsoever. It will be great to compare and to find the best outcome.

  • Fujitsu Siemens T4220
  • OS: Windows VIsta
  • RAM: 4GB
  • Specs: T7700 Intel (core) 2 Duo - 2.4 GHz/ 2.4 GHz
  • Programs Running: Photoshop
  • BG Programs: Bluetooth/RunDll32
Driver Conflicts

On booting up Vista, if you pair up your bluetooth with Wacom i4 WL - this automatically disabled your tabletPC pen. Upon loading up Photoshop - it will say tabletpc driver is wrongly installed (x2)

Conversely, if you load up Vista and use your normal pen enabled facility then your installed wacom drivers go offline and say there is a install error. This is solved if you merely reboot vista without having to reinstall your drivers.

(I've tried uninstalling/reinstalling the drivers to test out various combinations)

Summary: If you use Wacom Intuos 4 Wireless (please do not use the pen-enabled pen facility. It just causes conflicts.


If you have your web browser, and few other programs such as Open office running. Ther eis minimal to no lag.

However, if you have Photoshop running.....

Everytime one tries to alt-tab between various programs there will be a 5-15s lag/freeze to the system. Dont panic. This will correct itself accordingly.


Do set up a shortcut to your bluetooth pairing with Wacom tablet. And if your laptop memory allows, stick your laptop onto hibernate.

Now, everytime you want to use the wacom tablet, just switch it on/off at will and it will reconnect instantly.

NB: Eventually, Vista will run out of memory (dependant on how large your file is for Photoshop when you hibernate) of if you are runnign multiple programs, and the whole process needs to be repaired. So ensure Photoshop is closed prior to hibernation.

Happy Digital Easter painting!

Next up - Midnight Plein Aire testing (London Bridge) to retest wirelss functionality at 4-6 degrees celcius

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Wacom Intuos 4 Wireless - Setup

The next aspect we will look at are the ease and reliability of setup.

This is because, although wacom drivers are relatively straightforward - the need of a bluetooth related driver can cause some issues on certain operating systems, and perhaps some conflicts with pre-existing drivers.


Installing the OSX drivers, with pre existing Intuos 4 related drivers, the process is relatively seamless - allowing one to use both the standard Intuos 4, or wireless without having to change your grip pen.
Mind you, if the wireless Intuos is also paired to your colleagues Mac, it may have grounds for some hilarity/confusion.

Setup: Vista OS

Installing onto an existing Wacom driver setup - for the regular intuos or tabletpc drivers, was relatively straightforward within the first instance.

However, with repeated use or on a restart, various software conflicts arose requiring a methodical re-installation. This meant, uninstalling every wacom driver device on the existing PC or tabletPC rig, and re-installing.

Currently, Wacom have released WacomTablet_614-3 as standard, and WacomTablet_615-3a.

Installation of the former, results in some noticable lag and freezing issues when switching between the desktop and photoshop, or mapping issues (where in Photoshop, the tablet is only restricted to 2/3rd of the screen).

Thus, uninstaling the driver, and re-installing with the WacomTablet_615-3a version, seems to solve the following issues:

  • I4 WL Trayicon is now displayed, and shows your I4 wireless battery charge
  • Expresskeys are now correctly activated and can be customized.

Dependant on how your system reconnects bluetooth devices, you might have to set up a existing shortcut when you switch your I4 wireless on/off. Otherwise, you might find yourself having to reconnect with a pin code/verification processs at every instance - which can be a slight pain (as your system goes to sleep/powers off)

NEXT: I4 WL - Field Tests >>
NB: WIthin our roadwarrior tests, operational temperatures for wacom should be versatile enough to be conducted betwen 1 degree to 35 degrees celcius. This will involve subjecting the Intuos 4 WL to biting cold winds (easy with the typical British weather) and warm humid climes (except for showers/saunas - thats just a recipe for electrical shorting)

Preliminary tests at 4 degrees showed some great lag and connectivity issues. Mind you, it could have been just Vista. So to be fair, we will try the same tasks of painting with photoshop at 5am and 6pm on most days for a week.

Wacom Intuos 4 Wireless

As a visual concept artist, sometimes it is important to have a portable setup for work within the field, and for continuing education of a artist via life studies and plein aire work.

Thus, the goal of the ultimate photoshop roadwarrior would be a blend of software/hardware accuracy, portability and availability for the modern digital artist.

Life of the Photoshop Roadwarrior

For many years, I have been a proponent of tabletPCs for this purpose, in particular I have found the Fujitsu Siemens tablet PCs (Windows XP & Vista OS) to have a great mixture of battery life , relative portability and sufficient performance for field work.

However, the drawbacks become more apparent in terms of weight, portability and raw computing firepower as our 3rd gen T4220 becomes dated. In addition, with the new raft of ultraportables/macbook pros available in the market, perhaps it is about time to review the life for the photoshop roadwarrior

In particular, perhaps the current gen of laptops and tabletPCs may have improved anti glare options. Nevertheless, one has to sometimes think outside the box and this is where the wireless Intuos 4 may be able to offer a complementary bridge towards folks with existing laptops, tabletPCs or ultraportables for a relatively modest price $399 USD (£340).

I4 Wireless: Pros
  • Improved accuracy
  • Improved Pen pressure support (2048 levels of pressure)
  • Ultra Lightweight (2.2 pounds/ 0.997kg)
  • Functions as a dual A5 Intuos 4 USB or wireless bluetooth mode
  • Intuos 4 - ambidextrous Expresskeys
Compared to existing wacom penabled digitizer technology, the wireless I4 has almost entirely the same technology and fidelity of the Intuos4 range, and thus this means being able to bring your daily desktop workflow into the field (if required), whilst remaining failry portable, ultralightweight (less than 1 kg!) and modestly priced.

One can argue, that with the wireless Intous4 - this can be a relatively worthy investment for the digital artist lasting all the way into your professional years for every kind of purpose, workflow and daily usage. In comparision, the main industry standard of the Intuos 4 A4 (desktop) is overly large and good for everyday heavy use but certainly is not somethign one would lug around for demos, meetings or usage out in the field/exposed to the raw elements.

NEXT: I4 WL: Setup >>