a pencil hack

This post about the Grip Matic pencil was the start of a friendship. So when my Grip Matic’s rubber band tore and I could not use it properly I kind of did not like it. That is, until another friend mentioned Sugru. I had some cables to go through with Sugru and some stuff was left over and was put to use with the pencil:

Some Sugru makes a Grip Matic usable again

Now of course the cost of a plastic mechanical pencil is far from prohibitive and normally I should have bought a new one. But I would have smiled less.

Livescribe, is it worth it?

/* What follows is a revision of a comment I left on Facebook when a friend asked me whether Livescribe is worth the trouble. My friend is a graphics artist with a world best seller under his belt.*/

– Is it worth it?

I have the Sky WiFi model (2G). Yes and no. WiFi connectivity at home has been problematic and so far I have changed WiFi channels twice and “forgotten” the network once to make it work.

The pen is longer and fatter than what I am used to (hell, I’ve cut my Rotring Art Pen 4cm shorter). But this does not seem to cause any difficulties in handling it because to me the pen seems properly balanced.

If I were you, I would try to have one. I suppose that you make rough sketches and drafts all the time and the ability to have them converted to PDF automatically is handy. Integration with Evernote is something cool and I do not think I would use Evernote if not for the Sky WiFi.

However keep in mind that it needs its own paper (google Anoto pattern) and so far any paper that I have seen is ruled, including paper that you can print on your own. A cool feature of Anoto printed paper is that the pen recognises both the notebook and the page number of the notebook when you see it listed on Evernote. Helpful when you want to track something from the PDF back to the physical.

Ink is also another thing. You have two color choices: black and blue ballpoints of medium size. It is quite possible that refills for the Faber Castell Trio multifunction pen match but I have not checked yet. And I think they are also black and blue only.

It is not what I imagined it to be for me, but I think I will not use a sketch / paint program for drawings that I need to do for presentations and / or documentation for the next year or two.

The fact that you can record audio while you scribe is really cool for presentations. You can also play, pause, stop and even replay from a certain point of your notes and downward.

/* I am posting this right after sharing a sketch with two coworkers who are away from me */

reading: Kindle vs your Tablet

So I got myself a Kindle. Simple, not Paperwhite.

Ever since I got my Nexus 7 back in 2012 I am using it for ebooks and social networking fooling around. The Nexus 7 is a cool device for reading for it can read virtually all formats. EPUBs (with and without Adobe DRM), djvu, PDFs and other more obscure formats. Of course there’s a Kindle app for Android, so them too. But there’s something that puts you off reading using a general purpose device. The angle is never right and the lighting might not help and …

And that is why I am only reading technical stuff on the Nexus 7. Office use only. The Kindle on the other hand is a vacation device.


I bought myself a present yesterday: A Chromecast. Why you may ask? Mostly because I wanted something to send Youtube videos to the TV for the kids. I was doing it with OpenELEC on the Raspberry Pi, but it was not the most straight forward thing for the children.

Setting up the device was not straight forward, but this was not Chromecast’s fault. I had to fiddle with the WiFi channel of my home router (I switched from auto selection to some specific channel) in order to make it see the home network. After that, the device connected to the Net, upgraded itself and worked like a charm.

Things I tested:

  • Driving the Chromecast from an iPad and a Nexus 7. Youtube videos displayed fine and you could use the tablet for other stuff after it started streaming the video.
  • Tab casting from a Windows machine using Chrome.
  • Full screen casting of a windows machine, again using the Chrome extension.

Tab and full screen casting has about a 1.5 second delay between the laptop and the TV screen, but once you get used to it, it does not really bother you.

After one day of using it I believe that Chromecast is great both the idea and its execution. But I find it overkill for Greece where you’d mostly stream Youtube and use no other applications. Granted it is cheaper than something like Airtame, but there may be cheaper options. What sold me, was its ability to work with Chrome in order to share your desktop to the screen. Sort of a Hangout screen sharing with your TV.

Now let’s see whether edX streams through Chromecast just like Coursera does.

Jotter – new gadget

Parker Jotter, Navy Blue mechanical pencil
Parker Jotter, Navy Blue mechanical pencil

When I was a kid, I was fascinated with Parker pens. They were the good pens around that were not highly expensive and as such I was sometimes allowed to write with them at home.

The years passed and a lot of ballpoint Parkers (and fountain pens) came along my way. But the need to write with a ballpoint diminishes by the year, so they are all stuffed in a box waiting for the kids to use them.

I still write on paper, but I am more of a pencil person (I count 14 mechanical pencils on my desk). So when I found out that Jotter had a mechanical pencil version I could not resist. I visited eBay and got a Navy Blue one. And since for these pencils the tip is not retractable (which means it can damage your shirt’s pocket), I am using a Faber Castell eraser cap to protect the tip when carrying it around.