The Quick & Dirty:

  • 9+ years in the biz, 10 messing around
  • All the latest in HTML, CSS, JS & PHP (Sorry, no .net or Ruby skills yet)
  • Cross-browser compatible code from Photoshop or Illustrator files.. or napkins!
  • Custom Specialities in Wordpress theming & plugins, Twitter & jQuery
  • Subversion, server-log analysis, and blocking hack-attempts (of late).
  • Data/Project Geek. I ♥ timelines.

I’ve compiled some handy PHP functions I’ve had to whip up. More extensive code-samples are also available.


Wordpress-from-static HTML


The iPen Review

The iPen, by Finger System, Inc.

First off, sometimes you can judge a book by it’s cover– especially when a marketing department has ahold of the cover. By this I mean the “Ages 5 & up” label. Yes, this IS a kids play toy, and I’m going to try and take it seriously. I hope that doesn’t make me a kid. Likely does.

First Impressions

first 15mins:  holy crap this is fussy! How does this work right at all?

second 15mins:  let’s try to figure some workarounds..

third 15mins:  ok, now with a basic system in place, perhaps there’s a chance.. a very small chance..

last 15mins:  It brings back the good ol’ days of owning a pocket pc.

1 month in: with the right linux-config’d system in place, the iPen has it’s place, and can even replace the need to own a full $1700 tabletPC. For $15, it’s a steal. But the whole repetitive stress thing isn’t any better or worse, but that’s my fault for being tied to this thing for 12hrs /day!

“The System” (My Linux config)

0) You really should use the old-school optical 1mm grid they provide.. graph paper doesn’t cut it. I ended up cutting a 2″x3″ square out & taping it on the corner of my laptop (nearly over the trackpad!) when I’m not at my desk. However, when running in ‘super slow mode’, i need the whole thing. Choose cutting wisely.
1) hold the mouse a bit more upright than a regular pen, especially when not using the grid-pad :(
2) Slow the mouse settings all the way down: xset m 0 0, (or see my ultra-slowed-down xorg.conf)
3) Use xournal to scribble notes & PDF annotate, zoomed in to full-width (150%), unless running ultra-slow, then tis fine zoomed out where the notebook lines are like college-ruled. (yes, i measured). Xournal also supports graph paper, colored paper & custom-paper sizes. Handy for when I rotate the screen. Also, I found having the default right-click to be the ‘hand’ is very handy (like acrobat’s hand/grab-drag-scrolling)
4) Use cellwriter for single character input (aka PocketPC-land!). Takes some config, but it gets pretty good.
5) Firefox plugin: “Grab and drag”!  This is when it hit me: “Don’t try and use a pen like a mouse. Use a pen like a pen!”

The Speed Test

With cell writer config’d & trained (not a hard process at all),
and using the sentence: “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog”:
Typing: “THe quick brown fox jumped over hte lazy dog” is 8-9 seconds, with only 2 errors.
Cellwriter: “the quick brown fox jumped overthe lazy dog.” in 58 seconds, first try, then 44s!, with 2 errors as well.
Handwriting on paper: 13seconds
Xournal: 24seconds.

A 5-6 times increase in time is wretched. Especially if I in-line corrected about 4-6 characters thanks to a shaky nervous hand! No doubt I’ve cellwritten faster since this early test, but I seriously doubt it will ever come close to touch typing. The other variable is that when typing, I type faster than I think, so I’m always stopping to think about what I’m saying. But with cellwriter, I’m writing so slow, I can think about what I’m saying. Trouble is, if it’s too slow, I’m thinking about writing the characters & forgetting about what I’m saying.


It’s amazing just how sensitive the nature of handwriting is. There’s 2 very strong components to pencil writing that is lacking with this digital pen.
1) Pencils are pressure sensitive across a gradient, not a binary on/off. You can swipe a pencil and get a line. When you lift a pencil while handwriting, it’s more a light drag across the paper than it is a full 1mm lift. Hopefully I’m explaining this right: the ipen requires a 1mm lifting or dropping of the pen to register a swipe. This is not natural, however oddly enough, when the mouse is super-slow, this problem dissipates, as well as with getting used to it.

2) Tracking. When we lift a pen and move it, it now resides to write in the new location. On the slowest mouse motion, the ‘mousing area’ is still 2″ wide x 1.5″ high. This is hardly a one-to-one (like true tabletPC’s have) with a 13.3″ diagonal screen! Second, this pen is very sensitive and you have to lift the pen a good centimeter off the surface to stop it from moving the mouse cursor (to get the mouse cursor where you want it, relative to the hand-on-paper position). This is also shown when setting down & picking up the pen.. a mouse or trackpad will leave the cursor & mouse, the pen must be set & picked up again.
One last comment, I’d prefer to have a scrollwheel where the right click button is. But some of that is solved by FF’s grab-and-drag plugin. If only that plugin was across all X/GNOME/KDE applications!

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Posted in desktop theory, hardware, interaction design, LAMP, life-of-a-geek, Linux, Reviews, Software, ubuntu Tagged , , , , , , , , , Comments Off

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