Archive for the ‘Digital Design’ Category

Product Review: HP Envy x360 Laptop

I am a computer science graduate student with an undergraduate degree in art and design. I have had this computer for five months and keep it at home on a desk; I carry a beater 10-inch wiped netbook with Linux xUbuntu to class. I bought the HP Envy x360 12GB RAM / Core i7 / SATA HD 500GB / SSD 128 GB for a little over a thousand US dollars at a local brick and mortar store.

◙ It is flawed — walk away!! ◙

I do not like island / Chiclet / Mac style keys. At least they are crisp, I have a full size QWERTY with 10-Key number pad, and it is easy to turn the back-lighting on and off.

1) The keyboard only came with one CTRL key, on the left! I use copy and paste a lot for code and other text, so I had to remap the keyboard and sacrifice the ALT key on the right to make it a CTRL key.
2) The insert slips into overwrite at odd times in a text field forcing me to stop typing and correct it.
3) The cursor loses focus and drops a right hand click drop down menu when I am trying to use the touchpad, causing me to hit the ESC key or try to move the cursor and click somewhere new, sometimes several times a day, which is annoying af.
4) The cursor loses focus and vanishes completely, requiring me to shut down the laptop and hold the power button for 15 seconds. Sometimes I have to do this two or three times. This makes me shut down all my projects and programs and is extra annoying af.
5) The pen stylus costs a lot but does not work for crap with Adobe Illustrator. The tablet screen often cannot differentiate between a hand touch and the pen stylus so if for some reason you are the master of “hover pen” vector technique then this may not bother you. It does not register drawing points on a path well. It is mediocre with Photoshop. I would describe it overall as under-performing compared to any Wacom product, even the non-visual pen stylus tablets.
6) The OS / HP skin of the OS is LOADED WITH ADVERTISEMENTS! I was bombarded with ads and click-bait. I downloaded an ad suppressor app that hid all of the sources except one which I cannot pinpoint that launches from the lower right hand corner of the bottom tool bar. These are full out advertisements for external media and products that have nothing to do with my laptop. You cannot strip these off via the Control Panel, they are hard built into the OS. I learned C / C-Sharp / C++ coders have stripped out the adware on their copies of Win-10 but it just re-installs itself whenever there is a Windows update. Advice is to find a reputable suppression app unless you love love love pop-up ads interrupting you all the time.
7) I immediately ditched McAfee and have a very aggressive and detailed firewall / anti-spyware / anti-virus suite which has stopped un-authorized attempts to access my webcam over 100 times in the five months I have had this laptop. This has been ongoing and I am not visiting any unusual websites: my server use is through my university, so it is very boring information searches for class projects or a knitting pattern and some online shopping. Literally I would show anyone on earth or my mother my use history, it is that boring and vanilla. No clue what’s the sneak attacks to access the webcam but it seems to be new to Win-10. Using Chrome most of the time and Firefox some of the time, so I do not think it is from a browser and also neither of those companies were sending themselves data from the Pentagon. Looking at you, Microsoft…

I am stuck with this laptop because I paid for it and I need to use particular software in Windows like Adobe, Axure, etc. I do not have the technical skills or experience to parse which problems in items 1 – 5 are OS versus hardware failures. This is just a collection of my experiences. I regret giving HP a chance, but, hey, my beloved Toshiba laptops are gone. I just wanted a keyboard I could live with and hoped the tablet features would be nice. 😦 HP is evil and their tech deserves to be burned as a coal substitute.

Free Lesson on Web Design for Accessibility

February 25, 2019 Leave a comment

I made this free usability guide for anyone working on a website, app or software design. This is a collection of information that covers a wide range of barriers and disabilities and how to make your design work for the widest possible number of people. There is a tremendous amount of information and many tools to help designers make their creations accessible; but the problem is that they are scattered all over the internet, so I pulled them all together in one place.

PDF below:

Web Accessibility Lesson


Century Old Die Cut Card

April 1, 2016 2 comments

doves litho


This century old die cut card is also an embossed stone lithograph print. I bet it cost a few pennies extra when it was sold! Notice how the artist managed to curve the text to follow the shape of the note card in the design of the greeting card. Here is a 300 dpi high resolution scan JPG for you to print for collage or use in a digital design.


Free Owl Photographs You Can Use

October 21, 2015 2 comments


In September 2014, I went to a lecture given by Northern Illinois Raptor Rehab & Education at Emily Oaks Nature Center, Skokie Park District. This a wonderful group that helps injured birds, cares for birds that cannot return the the wild and participates in breeding programs for at-risk species. Part of their mission is educating the public about the value of raptors to the environment. The lecture was a joy because I got tons of great photos of live owls up close.

I love having a good reference photo to draw or paint from. You can get high resolution owl photo downloads from this event from my morgueFile account here. There are nice close up shots of a Great Horned Owl (above), Saw Whet Owls, a Barn Owl and a lovely Barred Owl.Scroll through the various images to find them; for some reason items in “most recent images” are not coming up in chronological order.

WordPress Hates White Space

September 4, 2015 Leave a comment

WordPress, or at least some of its templates, really hates white space. Even the &nbsp; or <br> tags for HTML will not work and something overrides the code to remove empty space. I personally don’t think text, images and video should be rammed together. I was particularly tired of embedded videos and images being run together with each other or jammed together with text above and below. I came up with a simple hack if you want to space elements out in your blog posts and put negative space between different parts.

My solution for giving space is to insert a blank image. The background of this template is white, so I just made two white rectangles in Photoshop. Here is one at 550 x 20 pixels. You can save it and use it:


Here is a thinner blank image giving a gap of 550 x 10 pixels:


I just insert these blank images as I would any other image in areas that WordPress is not allowing space between items. If the text is against the video box, add in a white rectangle. If you want to make sure there is a gap between photos in a series, then put a rectangle between each photo.

Making a different size rectangle is simple; just give it the pixels dimensions you want when you create a new file. If your template has a different color background, just screen cap a page of text, sample the background color with Photoshop’s eyedropper tool and use the bucket tool to fill your rectangle. Test it out in a block of text in a draft post to make sure the color matches and the rectangle blends in invisibly.

The nice part of this process is that you do not have to upload the rectangles over and over again. You can use an uploaded rectangle repeatedly. I just select the uploaded blank rectangles from the images gallery: when writing your post go to Add Media > select the Media Library tab > select your rectangle to insert.

Categories: Digital Design

Teacher Hack: Easiest Method on How To Learn and Teach Animation

August 19, 2015 Leave a comment


This is the fastest, best way to learn animation and teach it to any age student. File this under Hack to School: I adapted a 3D stop motion animation app to make 2D hand-drawn cartoons using a tablet computer. A smartphone can also be used, but the smaller screen size will make the process more difficult. This method is easy, gets quick results and is fun. This is a great way to combine hand-made art for painting and drawing with digital skills. I found that kids came up with ideas and completed their drawings on a varying timeline so a whole classroom of students were able to share a single tablet and everyone made a cartoon. Enthusiastic go-getters made more than one cartoon.


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Categories: Digital Design, Video

Vintage Bird, Hawk and Owl Etchings

July 28, 2015 1 comment

Here are some vintage to antique etchings scanned from an old magazine which I cleaned up in Photoshop for you to use. All are 300 dpi high contrast black & white images. The adorable owls are my favorite!

Hawk family

Some kind of hawk family, species unknown.

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