Friday, November 25, 2005

The Most Pointless Thing in the World...Ever!

I think I’ve discovered it.

The most pointless thing in the entire universe.

I’ll need to tell you the story that leads up to the discovery.

A few days ago, Sunny and I were grocery shopping at the local Aldi. (They don’t have much of a selection, but you just can’t beat their prices). As soon as I walked through the door, my Spider-Sense started tingling.

This store had shiny gadgets on sale. Shiny gadgets with buttons and flashing lights and everything!

As I’ve mentioned in my previous posts, I consider myself somewhat of an ‘artiste’, (although not a very good one). You can imagine my delight when I discovered that Aldi were selling Graphics Tablets for a paltry $40!

(Quick note to those that don’t know: A Graphics Tablet is a device that lets you use a pen to actually draw directly into your computer…think of it as electronic paper. You draw on the tablet, and the same thing appears on your screen.)

I’d wanted one of those for a good long while, but had only ever seen them in excess of $100.

It was ‘justify buying it’ time. Luckily at this time of the year, this wasn’t too hard. Christmas is coming up, these are incredibly cheap and on sale, and if we don’t buy it now, they’ll all be gone. Early Christmas Present a go go, Baby!

Aldi do this every so often. They get a specific gadget (everything from iPod Shuffles to Sat-nav handhelds), and they get snapped up within days. If I wanted to buy it, I had to get it then, or at least within a day or so.

Anyway, today we went and bought it. Of course, even though it’s not Christmas yet, I had to try it out (Got to make sure it works, don’t I?).

Ok, so I got it home, installed it, and was impressed. I was half expecting it to feel cheap and not work quite as well as the expensive brands, but I was surprised to find that it looked and felt substantial, and worked like a dream.

It was forty bucks, but it feels expensive

The pen is pressure sensitive, so if you’re drawing, using something like Adobe Photoshop, a light touch will get you a thin line, pushing hard gets you a thick line…

Basically, it’s as close as you can get to drawing on paper with a computer (But still being able to do all the whiz-bang effects and stuff in photoshop). Well, at least as close as you can get without shelling out a few grand for one of those touch screen tablets (The ones where you draw directly onto the screen).

The only bad thing I have to say about the hardware is that Windows XP shits a gold brick if you try to run the tablet and a regular mouse side by side. The tablet DOES come with a cordless mouse (although it only works on the tablet, which is connected to the PC via a USB cable), but the mouse is the one part that really lets the rest down.

It’s plasticy as hell, feels horrible, and isn’t very ‘smooth’. It feels like a $2 mouse that’s been used on a cornflake mouse pad for a few years.

Basically, it just doesn’t come anywhere close to my regular optical mouse.

It’s not such a big problem. I can switch the tablet for my mouse while the computer is still on, so it’s just a case of unplugging one wire and plugging another in. The USB sockets I have on the front of my case make this especially easy.

Anyway, now that the hardware review’s over, this brings me to the most pointless thing in the world.

Let me explain some of the software that comes with this thing.

There’s some great stuff, some good stuff and, as the title of this post suggests, the most pointless thing in the universe.

My favourite thing is the Pen-lock software. You can password any file you like, and it uses your signature as the password. This system is nigh unbreakable. You see, as well as comparing your signature to the example you gave to the program, it also goes off the speed at which the signature was drawn, the pressure of the stylus on the tablet and what parts are drawn first.

Basically, it doesn’t just go off what the signature looks like, it goes off the way it looks and the way you write it.

Even if someone got a copy of your signature, and traced it onto the tablet, it wouldn’t work because they wouldn’t write it the way you do.

In short, the password is your signature the way that you and you alone, write it. It’s the poor-man’s biometrics (That’s fingerprint recognition to the layman), and as secure as a voiceprint.

There are a few bits of other software. One allows you to draw directly onto a document in your favourite word processor. Great for signing letters, especially if you need a good few copies of it. You simply finish your document, click a button in the taskbar, pick up the stylus and sign it. Easy!

One that’s absolutely no use to me, but would be great for others is the handwriting recognition software. You start a small program in the background, start writing, and it converts your handwriting into type-written text, and this works with any Windows Application.

Now, I can type a hundred times faster than I can write, but this would be perfect for someone like my Dad, who uses the Biblical System of typing:

‘Seek and Ye Shall Find’.

You know what I mean. ‘Tap’, search, search, search, ‘tap’. Let’s just say that text chatting with him, I can ask him a question, get up, make coffee and a sandwich, watch the complete extended version Lord of the Rings Trilogy, and be back just in time for his answer.

If he could just write his responses, it would be so much quicker.

But this leads me to it. The most pointless thing ever created. The one thing that the creator of should be sacked for, put in a crow cage and hung up on London Bridge for tourists to point and laugh at.

I’m talking about ‘Quicknotes’.

Here’s the basis of this app. You start it up and get a screen that looks like a piece of paper. You write your notes on it, and then (Gasp) you can print it out!

Think about this. You’re sitting at your desk, and want to write yourself, or somebody else, a note. You could:

  1. Start up your computer. Wait for it to boot up. Start up Quicknotes. Pick the colour and type of pen you want to use. Write your note on the tablet. Click print. Choose your print quality. Start printing. Wait for your print out. Go get your printout.


  1. Get a piece of paper. Write your note.

Quick, simple and costs the princely sum of one piece of paper, and a 7 cent bic pen, rather than expensive printer toner..

Now, to be fair, Sunny pointed out that it would be useful if you where in an office and needed lots of copies of the same note to circulate. However, my plan would be:

  1. Write note, visit photocopier.

Using Quicknotes is the equivalent of setting up a webcam conference to talk to people who are sitting at the same desk as you.

Now, I’m all for computers, they make life simpler and easier. Using mine I can write to my parents who are 3500 miles away, and they’ll get it in seconds rather than 7 days. I can start up Messenger and talk to them with the webcam, which costs me nothing but my normal internet bill.

Many of you, especially the more sarcastic ones out there, will point out that a Graphics Tablet could be considered pointless because pencil and paper is easier and cheaper. Yep, but then it’s not on my computer, and I can’t edit and enhance it with all of photoshop’s groovy features.

However, only an idiot could think that using a computer to get handwritten notes on paper could be any simpler and easier than actually getting a pen and writing the damn thing.

Pen, paper…you don’t need a computer in the way.


Kato said...

Aldi is creepy. It's like, if you just glance at the stuff, it looks like real brand names. But if you get up close, you'll notice they aren't Keebler Oreo's but rather Orio's and feature the Feebler Gnome on the package. Weird.

Quicknotes, ha! Classic overengineering. Those pads seem to be pretty popular, though. I'm pretty sure Gabe at Penny Arcade uses one to do his stuff. It's a really nice way to get drawings into the computer to then modify with Photoshop et al.

Lav said...

I just found your blog after searching about the tablet and I must say, it appears that you can just leave the mouse plugged in along with the tablet and its all good, rendering the cordless crap redundant =)