May 5, 2006

Wishes, Wacom and Mac Displays

Yesterday I suddenly discovered that my desk chair was not so comfortable. It's not that I hadn't noticed it, but that I hadn't noticed it. So we ran off to Office Max, Best Buy and Office Depot where I found, first, a Microsoft ergonomic keyboard. This is a keyboard with the keys for the right and left hands split apart and angled. I'd bought the similar Belkin keyboard recently but, all things considered, the incline of the keys wasn't right for me. But when I placed my hands on the MS keyboard, I instantly loved it.

Then off to the chairs. These weren't the highest-priced by any means, but I tried a few: I tried one of those nifty-looking mesh chairs, but it felt like sitting on reasonably hard metal. A few others that were okay. And then I found one that more or less fit my body; I just sunk into it. Interestingly (yeah, right <grin>) I'd managed to pull my back slightly earlier in the day, but when I sat in this chair, it seemed to ease it instantly. And leather, too. And not expensive.

So. Finding myself in an electronics superstore, I checked out the monitors. My problem is that I need more screen space, but the cheaper and easier solution — getting a couple of 20+ inch screens — doesn't sound workable. Thing is, programs like Photoshop have toolbars that sit on the screen and, if you're working on a wide image, they get in the way. Yes, I could get two monitors, but I'd like to keep my CRT for its clarity, and even if I had two LCDs (the cheapest and easiest solution), there would be that non-intuitive area where the beveled frames of the two monitors met. Not exactly intuitive or user-friendly.

But — being in an electronics store — I saw that the larger LCDs weren't large enough, so I headed over to the -presto!- TV department. Where I promptly found a 42-inch LCD that claimed it could be used as a monitor. It was glorious. Lots of screen space. I could fit probably three browser windows in the thing and read really l-o-n-g web pages without scrolling. Luckily, though, it was on, which is why I noticed that I could see the pixels in the display. Not so small, either. The specs stated a *far* lower resolution than the Mac 30-inch's 2500+ resolution for its 30-inch display — like, it was less even than the 1024×768 res I'm using on my 19-inch monitor. I'm not sure who would be using something like this as a monitor or, rather, exactly where they'd need to sit to use it, but it was clear that that wasn't the answer for me.

So, after a little more soul-searching, I realized that the only answer for now, unless one of the PC manufacturers comes up with something larger than 24 inches, is the Mac 30-inch monitor. Oh, it's not a "monitor" … they call it a "display". So I'm going to have to get over the idea of spending $2500 for a monitor, and figure out a way to use it *with* my CRT.

So. The other thing on my wish list is a Wacom Intuos 3 pen tablet — a kind of mouse stylus thing. Here, again, it's tough to decide which size to get because of the way they talk about it. The Intuos 3 comes in various sizes, the smallest of which is 4×5 inches, but references in the Wacom forums were only to A4, A5, etc., whatever that means. Anyway, the "mousepad" surface is surrounded by a frame and, because I put my mouse/pad on the desk to the right of where I sit, the larger the Wacom, the odder the angle at which I'd have to hold my arm. I mean, it's not as if I want to sit with it in my lap (although that's not a
bad idea, really; I'd just have to try it first).

I note that, if I place my cursor (with my mouse) in the top left of the screen and drag it to the bottom right, I've only moved the mouse about two inches; that would seem to indicate that I could get away with a smaller Wacom. But, not knowing what issues there might be, I headed over to some Wacom forums I'd found … where I found a discussion about how the Intuos performed on wide screens (oh ho …). My understanding is that the "pad" part of the Intuous is mapped to positions on the screen (although I *believe* you can set it to a regular mouse type of action/movement), so where the screen is extra wide:

You can use any size tablet with a widescreen monitor. However, if the proportions of screen and tablet do not match, a circle on the tablet becomes an ellipse on screen, and you need to move a bigger distance on the tablet in x- or y-direction to move the screen pointer the same distance.

The tablet driver has an option to force 'proportional' mapping. This means that only a part of the tablet with the same proportions as the screen is actually used.

A bigger tablet allows more precise working on small details, but it often requires big movements of the hand to reach across the whole screen. – If you want to be mobile with the notebook, a smaller tablet is better to carry around.

That sounds workable but leaves me with the question: how big is big? That is, forced "proportional" mapping would seem to mean that only a part of the "pad" area would work (likely a lengthwise part) … but that might mean that I'd need a larger Intuos to make up for the lost pad space.

Gad. What a hassle! And thus, my big excuse not to buy any of this stuff for a while. At least, I'd like to see it in action somewhere. Preferably both of them, but I can't imagine where I could find a Mac monitor hooked up to a PC with an Intuos 3 attached. But … one thing at a time, one thing at a time.

5 Comments to "Wishes, Wacom and Mac Displays"

  1. Adrian says:

    A4 is similar to 'letter' size for you american's ;)
    And A5 is half that size.

    I use a 19" LCD monitor and a 17" CRT monitor, I certainly tend to run nicer graphcis stuff on the CRT because the colours are better, I just like the real estate space on the 19" :)

    The gaps between the monitor screens is something I've gotten used to, but then, I don't tend to have something stretching across both….

  2. DianeV says:

    Thanks, Adrian. That sheds some light on it, although it would be a *lot* easier to follow the forum discussions if they'd just use the physical size. Maybe not, though, because we use different measurements here in the U.S. Now I'll just have to figure out whether they're referring to the overall size of the tablet or just the active "mousepad" area.

    Interesting point about your CRT having a better display than the LCD. Would that be because the CRT is of better quality, or because CRTs generally have a better display? I'd heard about a graphic design shop here that had obtained LCDs only to switch back to CRTs.

    Truthfully, what I'd prefer is the better display; unfortunately, I think the size limit on CRTs is about 24 inches, and that's a diagonal measurement, of course.

  3. Adrian Lee says:

    CRT's do give better pictures than LCD's.
    Pretty much every 'designer' I've worked with has adamently stuck to CRT's screens.
    Crisper, more vivid colours, no ghosting etc…

    Even soe high end gamers prefer CRT's, as LCD response times have dropped over the last few years, gamers have gotten happier with them, but they can be annoying in terms of the ghosting effect you can kind of get, and the washed out blacks.

    Happy medium is plasma screens, as thick as an LCD, the quality of a CRT, lol. Expensive though, and I believe the bulbs only have certain life expectancies. no idea if they can be replaced, and if so, how much that costs either….

  4. DianeV says:

    Hm. Thanks. Off to NewEgg and elsewhere, to see what kinds of large CRTs they may have.

    I'm wondering if the ghosting is due to a lower refresh rate.

  5. DianeV says:

    Found this CRT-LCD benefits comparison at ViewSonic.com.

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