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Software Tools for Scripts

51c1pf0fe7l-_sx331_bo1204203200_From time-to-time, I prepare scripts both in my working life and my diversions. It is surprising to me that people often ask what software I use. The flip answer is “a few billion cells between the ears.” As much as you will be told software is needed, your first priority should be storytelling. Knowing what story to tell and how to tell it counts far more than getting things into the right arrangement of 12-point Courier type. People were writing scripts long before specialized software tools came along. I recommend that anyone starting out putting their efforts (and money) into really understanding story construction. To use a quote attributed to Frank Lloyd Wright when he was asked what kind of pencils he used, he said, “It’s not the pencil, it’s the man.” The tool is not the key issue in script preparation. If you’re looking for a place to start, I usually tell people to start with Robert McKee’s Story and work their way from there.

onenote_2013All that said, there are software tools that can make the job easier. For research, I like having a notebook tool that integrates well with clipping from a web browser as well as taking notes, storing files, images, and other digital whatnot. My favorite these days is Microsoft OneNote 2016, which is included with most Office 365 subscriptions. I used to use Evernote, but I found their note editor lacking for my tastes and recent issues around pricing and security became a turn-off. Microsoft OneNote is in many ways a style-wise clone of the excellent but now defunct Circus Ponies Notebook on the Mac. Unlike Evernote, OneNote uses Microsoft Drive to sync or to keep notebooks 100% offline on a USB device. Some people use Literature and Latte’s Scrivener product for this, but the Windows edition is lacking in several departments, not the least of which the user interface fails to work well (out of the box) with high DPI displays like you’d find on notebooks from Microsoft, HP, Dell, and Lenovo. (I personally use a Microsoft Surface Book day-to-day and love it.)

For the actual writing of script or a screenplay, there are number of dedicate tools. Why not just use a regular word processor like Microsoft Word? Primarily to make your life easier when it comes to format. If you’re submitting material for studio filming, Hollywood has a fairly exacting (and somewhat tedious) format, devised to simulate a typewriter circa 1951. This gives a uniform pagination and readability to most scripts that is demanded by Hollywood system. For other applications of scripts (graphic novels, television, radio, marketing, stage plays) the formats are a little less exacting, and primarily exist to enhance communication with the performers and other production professionals. If you plan to submit work to a particular institution, it’s best to read up on their format—most publish their submission guidelines on the web.

Always submit material (especially unsolicited material) in the format that the receiver requests. For Hollywood-oriented material, agents and studios won’t even look at a script that is not in the standard format.

tqufekmeI’m primarily using Fade In Professional by Kent Tessman these days. I’ve used Movie Magic Screenwriter and Final Draft from time-to-time, but development on Screewriter has gone into hibernation (if not completely moribund) and Final Draft, even in their latest version, Final Draft 10, can’t seem to work out how to use a high-DPI display on a Windows machine such as Surface Book.  After an extensive discussion with FD’s VP of support, I concluded that Final Draft was unsure when they would fix the display problem or even to what degree it is a priority to repair. Several of my friends that use Mac’s for screenwriting still swear by Final Draft as the industry standard (at least for Hollywood Screenplays), but other friends depending on relatively current PCs seem to be abandoning it.  Being able to clearly read the type is a pretty basic feature for what amounts to specialty word-processor.

Why Fade In? Short answer: Easy, Reliable, and Inexpensive. Fade In uses the same TAB-ENTER paradigm for typing a screenplay that most screenplay tools use, so when you’re typing Scene headings, actions, dialog, etc. all fall into place naturally. It handles the MORE-CONTINUED pagination that is critical to correctly formatted screenplays for the major studios. It natively uses Open Script Format (an XML standard for exchanging scripts), but can handle reading and writing Final Draft’s proprietary format, and easily imports content from MM Screenwriter (which FD still can’t do well.) Being the new kid on the block, it doesn’t have a lot of celebrity endorsements (although it has picked up a few,) but it produces the clean copy you need to capture a screenplay, graphic novel, or script quickly and efficiently. It generates the same format as the others, and it’s less that a quarter of the price of Final Draft for the professional version—with the advantage that you can actually see the type on a modern laptop.

Almost all for-pay product versions have a trial version, so you can try out the different programs to see what makes the best tool for you.

If you’re looking for a zero-dollar solution, I recommend you look at Celtx. It is free for screenwriting, but if you want the bells and whistles, you’re going to be shelling out around $99/year.  Adobe Story is another option, especially if you are an Adobe Creative Cloud customer.

For almost all other editing chores I use Microsoft Word. Talking to my colleagues in the comic-book industry, MS-Word is actually one of the most popular tools they use for creating scripts. If you’re specializing in this area, head over to Fred Van Lette’s pages for a free set of templates. Word is available by subscription from Microsoft and probably has more editing tools that most users need. It’s collaboration tools for markup are pretty much the standard for businesses the world over.

k380-multi-device-bluetooth-keyboardThat’s about it for my scripting software tools.  Of course, there’s other things in my bag of tricks like Powerpoint, but it’s more for collecting information together for producers and artists, than actually writing.   Likewise, I keep a stable of apps on my iPad for writing, but my best investment was a small, inexpensive Bluetooth keyboard (a Logitech K380) and a lightweight portable stand.  I toss both in my briefcase when I’m traveling light.   I tried keyboard iPad covers, but they turned out to not be for me.   I like to have my iPad light when I’m reading and the keyboard covers weighed me down.   A Bluetooth keyboard gives me a quality typing experience when I need it with little fuss.  It’s helped my productivity when writing more than any app on the iPad.

SAP BW/4HANA: The Next-Generation Data Warehouse, Delivered

modern libraryFrom its earliest deployments some three decades ago, the data warehouse has been a disruptive technology. As data has become more central to every aspect of what businesses do and ultimately what they are, the data warehouse has become an increasingly critical part of the enterprise data landscape – spinning off a series of subsequent disruptions in its own right (data marts, data warehouse appliances) and playing a central role in the emergence of many others (business intelligence, big data, data science.) Throughout this time, although data warehouses have handled a wide range of workloads in service a of a vast number of use cases, their core value proposition has remained fairly consistent.

In general, any data warehouse solution fulfills five basic requirements[1]Vincent Rainardi identifies these traits in his own blog  and with some additional annotation I concur.:

  1. An integrated view of the business’ data for strategic analysis
  2. A consistent view of the company’s data resources with data that has been cleared of anomalies which can lead to a false impression of the business’ function
  3. A consolidation of the company’s data history beyond what is retained by current operations for deep analysis of the business’ functions over time
  4. A tested and verified environment for analysts to access data so that each new draw of data doesn’t become a “science experiment” in and of itself
  5. A performant environment for doing data analysis that does not interfere with day-to-day activity of the business

Since its introduction, SAP Business Warehouse (BW) has served as the foundation for data warehousing solutions that meet all of these requirements. Now SAP BW/4HANA, merging the power of the SAP HANA in-memory platform with the business process expertise of SAP BW, takes that value proposition to a new level.  Compared with SAP BW environments running on on a traditional database (such as Oracle or IBM DB2), SAP BW/4HANA presents a whole new paradigm for data warehousing, delivering next-generation data warehouse capability for organizations facing unprecedented business and technical challenges.

Integrated View

As a true data warehousing solution, SAP BW/4HANA fully integrates data as required from multiple applications. But businesses today must integrate data from a wide variety of sources beyond the traditional operational business systems. Using SAP HANA Smart Data Access, SAP BW/4HANA can rapidly access live data in remote systems including other data warehouses, business systems, operational data stores, data marts, dynamic tiers of analytic storage (such as SAP IQ), and even Hadoop systems with big data.  A solution that brings all of these disparate sources together in real time into a single virtual repository is called a logical data warehouse. Designed from the ground-up as an in-memory solution, SAP BW4/HANA uniquely delivers this much-needed model.

Clean and Consistent View of Data Resources

Uniting the diverse data sources that today’s businesses rely on is an important first step, but it is only half the battle. A business must be confident that its data has been appropriately prepared and cleansed  to provide reliable results. Not only does SAP BW/4HANA support the logical data warehouse concept, it adds the necessary management and control over these data sources to provide consistent views of data where it is – avoiding the traditional requirement for an ETL  process that physically moves that data into local storage.

Consolidation of Data History

In keeping with core data warehousing requirements, SAP BW/4HANA provides a consistent view of data history for  the business. But when incorporated with technologies such as SAP HANA Streams for streaming data and SAP HANA Vora for data managed by big data technologies (Hadoop, Spark), SAP BW/4HANA provides a much more complete and up-to-the-minute picture of data history, including Internet of Things data from sources such as consumer devices, RFID, smart meters, and portable monitoring devices.

Tested and Verified Environment

SAP BW/4HANA organizes not only the data, but the metadata of the logical data warehouse. This creates a comfortable and logical environment in which an analyst, a data scientist, or an end user can access this data in a consistent and reliable fashion – such as with SAP BusinessObjects Cloud.

High-Performance Environment

Because SAP BW4/HANA is exclusively tuned to leverage the SAP HANA infrastructure, which was built from the ground up to solve business analytics data problems, it can deliver outstanding performance far beyond BW on traditional databases. For example, SAP BW4/HANA can resolve in seconds data inquiries that used to take hours.  With this vastly enhanced performance, companies with SAP BW/4HANA can operationalize real-time solutions, such as real-time customer sentiment analysis and retail offers, self-adjusting marketing campaigns, and in-clinic health solutions. Where previously the sheer volume of data and complexity of relationships within it stretched the capability of traditional environments to the breaking point, SAP BW/4HANA delivers real-time results.

Although data warehousing has changed significantly over the years, at a fundamental level what businesses need a data warehouse to do has remained much the same. The real challenge has been delivering those same core capabilities in the face of fundamentally transformed data environments and business processes. Designed  from day one to address the requirements of a new business and technological landscape, SAP BW/4HANA delivers true next-generation data warehousing capability, while helping businesses to ready themselves for the inevitable next wave of disruptive change.

Follow the conversation on Twitter at #TheFutureOfDW AND #BW4HANA

References   [ + ]

1. Vincent Rainardi identifies these traits in his own blog  and with some additional annotation I concur.

More than a Database

Old wooden card catalog with open box in the archive library

The modern data warehouse calls for capabilities that go far beyond what a traditional database can provide. SAP BW/4HANA fills that gap.

There was a time, not long ago, when even the stickiest data management problems for business had a simple solution.

You need to keep track of day-to-day business operations?

Get a database.

You need to do some quick reporting on some of that data?

You’d get a database for that, too.

You need to do more advanced analysis on all that transactional data?

Hey, what do you know—that sounds like another database problem.

 

Over the years there has been a steady progression from online transaction processing to operational reporting to online analytics processing. As the need for more powerful and sophisticated data warehousing solutions has grown, databases have been reoriented from rows to columns and have been optimized for massively parallel processing. But the basic underlying technology has remained much the same. Even in the era of big data, we’ve seen oversize repositories of semistructured and unstructured data evolving new features that push them in a more and more database-like direction.

It’s a formula that has worked for a long time: Got a data problem? Get a database.

But today your business faces an unprecedented sets of challenges. Bigger data volumes. New data types. A deluge of machine data from the Internet of things.  Digital business models that require real-time performance all the time drive the need for zero-latency reporting. Data-driven businesses need more complex, more extensive, and yet paradoxically faster and more easily accessed analytics. To succeed, you  need a deeper understanding of the Why behind what your customers, your competitors, and the market as a whole is up to. These are the challenges of the modern data warehouse. And to meet these challenges, you need something more than just a database.

Time for a New Formula

SAP BW/4HANA is more than a database. BW/4HANA merges the power of the SAP HANA in-memory platform with the unmatched business savvy of SAP Business Warehouse.

BW/4HANA provides a single version of the truth. It’s is the only data warehouse system built from the ground up to enable real-time analytics and real-time transactions on the same data and the same time. Traditional databases still require you to split analytics and transaction processing and to copy data from place to place throughout the organization.

BW/4HANA lets you solve in seconds analytics problems that take other systems days. It’s the only data warehouse system built from the ground up for extreme performance by using such techniques as  memory-first, column-based calculation. Traditional databases, by contrast, continue  to plod along with column-based caching.

BW4/HANA saves you time with a pre-delivered structure. It’s the only data warehouse system with pre-built data objects for SAP applications (and other systems)  as well as with industry-oriented templates.Traditional databases typically leave it to the user to develop governance and schema techniques, making implementations slower and much more complex.

BW/4HANA is ready for the Internet of things at petabyte scale. It is the only data warehouse with integration for streams (HANA Streams), Hadoop computation (through SAP HANA Vora), and multi-temperate data (Dynamic Tiering/NLS)

Perhaps most importantly, only BW/4HANA is backed by SAP, the world leader in business application technology—ensuring that your business can run smarter, better and faster.

Differences that Make all the Difference

In a world where “get a database” is no longer a sufficient answer, SAP BW/4HANA brings all of your data together and makes it actionable. A data warehouse solution built on BW/4HANA can  accelerate your business into real-time—eliminating the boundaries between operations and analysis, putting data into the hands of decision-makers throughout your organization.

Follow the conversation on Twitter at #TheFutureOfDW AND #BW4HANA

The Data Warehouse Revolution Is Coming

Winding Boardwalk through Forest, Pohara, Golden Bay District, Nelson Region, South Island, New ZealandModernizing the data warehouse is no longer just a passing thought in most major enterprises, but is increasingly becoming the imperative. A centralized structure for all our data that took shape in the 90’s is increasingly appearing to be outdated and incomplete as the sole architecture for business analytics.

Why is this?

Three trends are working strongly against the centralized, single-database approach to the data warehouse. First, is business is becoming increasingly transacted through web and digital interfaces. Just as the ATM displaced human interactions for banking transactions, now business are interacting with the customers, employees, partners, and even machines through digital interaction. And that interaction is creating a wealth of data, if we can leverage it.

Second, but strongly correlated with the first is the proliferation of data sources and the amount of data with which business professionals want and need to engage. It is becoming increasingly difficult or impractical to move such vast amounts of data. In some cases, it might even make sense that the data be treated as impermanent stream of time-sensitive content. The practicality of dealing with big data and its consequences begs for new solutions over centralized of reservoirs of storage.

The third trend is continuation of increasing pace of digital transactions. The demand is always to conduct business more quickly and efficiently. This pressure, usually spawned by competition places increasing strain to make decisions and analysis ever more quickly. Business problems like fraud detection, real-time web interactions, customer service, and customized consumer offers all become increasingly part of this his speed decision making process.

SAP customers already are reaping the fruits of this trend towards more powerful computing. Leveraging power of SAP HANA, SAP’s business suite S/4HANA powerfully combines core business applications and operations with in-memory computing. This enables real-time operations. By extending this idea to warehouse, real-time business operations.

What is needed is a new approach to the data warehouse. We need an approach that combines the power of an in-memory data engine with access across a range of data sources and stores. A new system for managing the data warehouse would need to understand multiple temperatures of data (that is, how important and urgent data is) as well as be able to work with vast distributed technologies such as Hadoop. Of course such an engine would need to understand streams and other forms of temporal data. And most importantly, we would need a warehouse that with our applications and BI tools.

Sound like too much?

Well, at SAP we’ve been revolutionizing the platform for data analysis. We invite you to find out more about a data warehouse system that can do all this and more: a revolution in data warehouse management is coming this September.

Follow the conversation on Twitter at #TheFutureOfDW

Tablet Buttons?

Wacom Express keysI like sculpting with Zbrush on a tablet, but Zbrush really needs a few buttons to modify what the stylus does, notably Shift, Ctrl, and Alt.   There are a handful of other functions that is handy to have working on buttons rather than menus.   Unfortunately, most tablets really don’t have enough convenient buttons in place that can be easily customized.   This goes for my HP Spectre x360 and the Micrsoft Surface.   I’ve tried a few software solutions such as Radial Menu and TabletPCMouse, which give you pallets of onscreen “buttons.”  These work well enough for “tap-and-go” functions like “save” or “undo”, but they are less effective for function modifies such as “hold down shift for smooth” or “hold down alt to reverse the stroke depth.”   Because of palm rejection software/firmware, simultaneous touch and stylus is often rejected.  This means it’s hard to touch the screen with a finger at the same time as the stylus.   This leads to lifting the pen far enough from the screen before you can activate a screen function with your finger tip.   After a while, it was clear this was “clumsy” to coordinate getting the stylus an inch from the screen before I could press a button.   Tools like radial menu can make buttons “sticky” (press once for “on”, again for “off”), but this too has its workflow weaknesses by adding an extra press of a button.

It was becoming clear: I needed the feel and simplicity of buttons.

One solution was just to pair a Bluetooth keyboard, but when working with my computer in my lap or on the go, this was inconvenient and often more than I needed.   I could, of course, work with the Spectre X360 in laptop mode, but this also felt a little off, because the open screen is pretty far from my face and I like the intimacy of a sketchbook feel.  The tablet form factor was more comfortable than laptop form factor.  I thought of building a button box out of game controller (as some have done on the TabletPCReview forums.)

Then I saw that Wacom had just released a small button box originally designed for Wacom Cintiq 27HD.  It’s called the Wacom ExpressKey Remote.  At $99 it isn’t cheap, but using Wacom Cintiqs and tablets, I knew they were well experienced in making artist tools.   I ordered it the first day it was available, week before TechEd 2015, without hesitating.   It was waiting for me when I returned.

It connects to your computer by a small USB 2 wireless transceiver that sticks out about 10mm from the side of your laptop (it would be nice if this was bluetooth instead.)   The Expresskey Remote is in a thin little package about 50mm x 135mm and 10mm thick.  It has a soft rubber back, so you can set it on the screen and move it around as needed.   I let it sit next to the tablet on a customized lap desk that Vaughn constructed from unfinished bed desk.  Despite some comments on the web, I found that you did not need any other Wacom product installed.   I installed Wacom’s 6.3.15-1 driver without a Cintiq connected (although the transceiver for Expresskey Remote must be plugged in.)   Wacom intends the ExpressKey Remote for use with their profession products, so your mileage may vary, but I did not need to plug in any of my other Wacom products to install or later configure the Expresskey Remote.  (Hoperfully Wacom will clarify this aspect themselves in their FAQ, but as a customer of theirs for more than a decade, I wouldn’t count on it.

One install note:  If you’re using Microsoft/Ntrig’s wintab driver, you may need to reinstall or “repair” it after installing Wacom’s drivers.   I found that pressure sensitivity was in my stylus was lost until I repaired wintab-1.0.0.20-64.

Wacom obviously knew Zbrush users would want this.   As soon as I started Zbrush, a custom template was installed for the ExpressKey Remote.   It’s a great starting point to my eyes.   I have so far only made one change, which was to add the “M” key in place of the one of the less use buttons.   All-in-all, the 17 buttons work quite well, though my old friends, ctrl, shift, and alt are the principle ones I need.  I may re-assign another button to be “ctrl-shift” simultaneously just to simplify selecting meshes.   So far I haven’t felt the need to do this, but on many of my Cintiqs, I set one key aside for this just to avoid “fat finger syndrome” where I miss getting the two keys just right.

The Expresskey Remote definitely has made working with a tablet much easier and more comfortable.   To me it feels similar to working on my large Cintiq 21UX, but in a nice portable package.   The bottom line question I expect to be asked, is it worth $99?   I’d say yes if the comfort and time for art counts.  Compared to other approaches, I feel I can work faster and easier.  Could it be made better?   Probably.  For example it would be nice to use Bluetooth rather than a proprietary receiver.  Some might want fewer buttons and others more.  Some might want a bigger device and others smaller.   It’s hard to please all the competing ergonomics, and I have only focused on one application, Zbrush.   Overall, I think Wacom has hit on the right accessory device for tablets and two-in-ones.

 

 

ASUS Zenbook UX32VD Dead iSSD Workaround

issdA little background: The ASUS UX32VD was a slick ultrabook 2-1/2 years ago.   It featured an i7 Processor, 512GB of Disk with a 24GB iSSD cache and easily outfitted with 10 GB of RAM.   A nice little zBrush and Photoshop machine.

My trusty unit had been running great for the last two years.   Out of no-where it suddenly developed a terrible flaw: It took more than five minutes to boot, and almost as long to shutdown.   Reinstalling the OS didn’t help, repartitioning the main drive didn’t help.   Reloading drivers didn’t help.  Wiping the system clean didn’t help.   It seemed to be a motherboard problem and no combination of BIOS settings could get me around it.

A quick chat with ASUS confirmed my worst fears.   It’s out of warranty, the mobo probably needs replacing and I can mail it them for diagnosing (for a fee) and likely have the motherboard replaced (for a really big fee) and pay shipping both ways.   It was too much to invest in a 30-month old computer (hence I’m now typing this on an HP Spectre x360.)

What nagged at me was that after it got past booting (or shutdown), the ASUS worked reasonably well.    If I could get past this strange  boot-up problem, it would make a handy backup machine.    I started going through the internet and found this is not a novel problem with the ASUS UX32 series.   It seems that iSSD chip can fail (whether it’s the chip or its connection to the motherboard is a matter of debate) and when it goes, it causes the BIOS to have some real problems.  The standard solution: replace the motherboard.   Having rejected the cost of motherboard replacement, again, I was stymied.

Then I ran into his thread in the NotebookReview forums.   It turns out some folks were doing the unthinkable: remove the iSSD chip from the motherboard.  This was clearly a job requiring a delicate touch, finesse, and a steady hand.   Putting my experience in theoretical mathematics to work, the solution was obvious: get someone else to do it.

Fortunately, I had at my disposal my roomate Vaughn, who, besides having a good nature, is a trained mechanic with steady hands, patience, and skills with all manner of tools large and small.  After a bit of study and debate, we agreed we understood what chip needed to go and that with some persuasion the chip could be freed from the motherboard.  The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley …

The surface mount technology for the  ISSD chip was definitely pretty tough.   Through warming with a soldering iron it loosened unevenly.   There was a loud “snap” from the motherboard and half of the chip broke free.   A suitable amount of heart stopping examination revealed the motherboard seemed intact, so Vaughn proceeded to free the remaining half of an SSD chip from the circuitry.   A few minutes later, the other half chip was lying aside.

To cut a too long story short, a piece of insulating tape was applied to the wounded motherboard where the iSSD had been.   A few minute of re-assembly and the old ASUS UX32VD was booting in less than 15 seconds and shutting down equally quick.   It was a radical repair, but for less than a half-hour’s work, the ASUS UX32VD was returned to working condition.   Definitely not for the inexperienced, but it’s several hundred dollars less than an a motherboard replacement.

Hope this helps out someone else with a mysterious misbehaving ASUS UX series!

I’ll be at TechEd 2015 in Las Vegas

550x305_VenetianPalazzoI’ll be attending TechEd 2015 in Las Vegas this October.   While my schedule isn’t finalized, I’ll spend much of free time in the product showcase discussing data warehousing.and SAP’s latest technology HANA Vora.  The event is going to be held in the Venetian and Palazzo Hotel on the Las Vegas strip October 19-23.  If you’re at the event, drop by and say hello!

 

 

 

HP Spectre x360 & Zbrush

c04728044I’ve probably mentioned that I toy with Zbrush from time to time in other posts.   A fantastic sculpting program, I’ve always been looking at ways to liberate it from a workstation to a nice portable form factor.   Most of my solutions over the years is to take a laptop running Zbrush and Wacom tablet or more recently, a Wacom Cintiq 13HD.   This has been a bulky, but serviceable solution (The Cintiq 13HD is quite light and slips into the back of my suitcase perfectly for long trips.   Well, my trusty ASUS UX32VD developed iSSD rot (a disease that has been cured, but not without wailing, gnashing, and general misuse of a soldering iron…), so this was an excuse to pick up a shiny new HP Spectre x360 (13-4102dx) with it’s clever 2-in-1 design, QHD display, ultrabook form factor, i7 processor, etc., etc.   I figured I’d just be using my beloved little cintiq with this little speedster.

31lgRGSTy9L._SX425_Little did I know HP had an early Christmas present hidden in the Spectre’s design.   It turns out that the Spectre’s screen is not just multi-touch–it’s a pressure sensitive active pen display!   OK, so it’s active pen (Synaptic’s technology), what does that mean?   Well it means that with the right stylus, you have a nice, multi-level pressure sensitive device.  After reading the reviews, I picked up a Dell 750-AAGN stylus.   It had the advantages over the HP “Active Pen” in that 1) it was slightly cheaper,  2) had a 1mm tip that fells very comfortable and 3) was better rated by other reviewers who had tried it.   It runs on a AAAA (that’s 4 A’s) similar to the Wacom’s stylus for ipads (the Wacom creative stylus)–buy ’em by the bag full.

I fired up Photoshop CC 2015 and I was really pleased with the results.  Nice line variation with gentle modulation of pressure.   Perfect!  I didn’t even have to install a driver!

I then fired up Zbrush 4r7.  🙁   No luck.   It worked, but wasn’t pressure sensitive.  Apparently Zbrush can’t see the Active Pen technology in Windows 10.  I installed my Wacom drivers and figured it was just one of those tech things that I’ll have to wait for Pixologic to work out.   But this got me to wondering what is so different about Photoshop?   The signal is there–why does Photoshop see and and Zbrush doesn’t?   It turns out it is my old nemesis, wintab.   Active pen uses the new Microsoft interface to the stylus (introduced with the Microsoft Surface technology in Windows 8) and Zbrush depends on the “traditional” stylus interface, wintab.  Score one for Adobe being up to date on windows tech.

So I thought about it a little more.  How do Microsoft Surface Pro users get wintab programs like Zbrush to recognize the nifty pressure sensitivity with their n-trig (now owned by Microsoft) styli?  We’ll it comes down to a wintab driver.   After reading a bit more, I found someone else who had tried this magic driver, and sure enough it not only works for n-trig styli, but also Synaptics Active Pen!   All I had to do was find it.

The Synaptics website was no help.  They’re not well set up for end users and if there is a wintab driver out there, it isn’t to be found.   Then began the merry search of Microsoft’s labyrinthine web site.   It was a bit of search, but burried in the surface section is here.   (A shoutout to surfaceproartist’s blog for finding this little jewel is in order.)  In the myriad of SurfacePro drivers is one little file “Wintab-1.0.0.18-64-bit.zip”.   Trembling with excitement, I installed this unassuming bit of technical magic, fired up Zbrush 4R7 and voila!  Zbrush now recognizes pressure sensitivity on my HP Spectre 360’s display with the Dell active pen stylus.   While I will not suggest its a perfect replacement for Cintiq, it is ideal for on-the-go use.  It works well with almost no lag on my setup.  Hopefully Zbrush will support active pen in the future or Microsoft will package this little driver standard with Windows.

2015-09-09_16-47-38

Various stroke strengths with the Dell 750-AAGN Stylus on an HP Spectre x360 running Win10

Hopefully this helps someone else with active pen setup!

 

Analytics & Advanced Analytics: What’s the difference?

AE ChalkboardAdvanced Analytics” is a relatively new term in the data management and data warehousing business.   “Basic” analytics is relatively a straight forward affair, mostly involved in answering ad hoc  questions (that is, questions that haven’t been pre-planned) about a set of stored data.  Most often these are business questions such as “How many customers have bought product X but haven’t bought product Y?” or “Did the London office sell more of product T than it forecast?”  The mathematics of the question isn’t very hard… generally it is basic arithmetic logic like adding up totals or perhaps computing a single average. Nothing exceptionally sophisticated or complicated.

By contrast, advanced analytics has grown out of the scale of the data we are now dealing with.  Even before there was big data, we started collecting enough data that we could start process it statistically.  So advanced analytics is often the intersection of large amounts and statistics.  We can start to answer some more interesting questions, predictive questions likes “Based on the last 12 months sales and social media trends, can we expect to sell more drought resistant crop seeds?” or “Is the current availability of low cost transportation going to suppress the costs of moving our heavy machinery for the next six months?”   These predictions can help business optimize or improve their offerings by better understanding market and customer needs.

Advanced analytics often relies upon both complex algorithms and statistical processing to tease out trends and correlations that is not directly obvious from the data.  What is often overlooked is that power of advanced analytics needs to be unleashed through availability of well curated set of data in the first place.  That’s where data warehouses come in and the power of high performance data management systems come in.  As we see the amount data available to us continuing to build, we begin to see the data warehouse paradigm will need to shift from basic analytics towards advanced analytics.