Category Archives: everything

Decisions, decisions: Bamboo vs Cintiq vs iPad

I just wrapped up a coaching session on digital facilitation techniques and best practices that started with an overview of some of the hardware choices available, how to hook them up, and how to decide which to use for different situations. To help myself (and my client) think about the big picture, I created this graphic that shows one poor laptop besieged by input devices:

Thesetup

The idea is to get a feel for how they all connect to the computer. Some examples of software that can be used are also there. Working from the middle out, we have the laptop itself. Above it are some software choices: Sketchbook Pro (SBP) or PowerPoint (PPT) for displaying templates like The Grove’s Digital Graphic Guides or custom ones you create yourself, and a web conferencing system (WebEx in this drawing) to connect with meeting participants. Then, around the laptop are three possible hardware/input device choices: The Wacom Cintiq LCD tablet, the Apple iPad, and the Wacom Bamboo tablet. As you can see, the iPad and the Cintiq have displays and can mirror what’s on the laptop, while the Bamboo does not.

Connecting To the Computer

These instructions assume that you have the hardware and you’ve followed the packaged instructions for installing the software drivers that come with them. Don’t try to use the tablet without the drivers. It will only make you unhappy.

The Bamboo is the easiest to connect: just plug in the USB cable and you’re good to go.

The Cintiq and the iPad are tied for second, depending on whether you have a greater fear of cables or of configuring software. The Cintiq comes with a “black box” that has one cable on one side that attaches to the tablet itself. On the other side of the box are 3 cables: one is the power cord, one is a USB cable that plugs into the computer, and the third is the DVI (digital video) cable that plugs into (most likely) an adapter and then into your computer, unless you’re using a computer that has a DVI out already. Your Macbook Pro doesn’t so you need one of those little dongle thingies (mini display port to DVI for the newer ones). If you’re not picky about how it looks you can get a cheaper, non-Apple one from Amazon. I have one of each and can’t tell the difference once they’re hooked up. Switch on the power on the tablet and you’re good to go. Don’t forget to calibrate it to the pen EVERY SINGLE TIME you turn it on, switch from mirroring to not mirroring your display, or hook it back up again. Bleh. You do this in preferences and it only takes a second, but still! Every time.

The iPad takes a little prep, but then it’s easy as long as you’ve got a wireless connection or a computer-to-computer network set up and the technology gods aren’t particularly pissed at you for any reason. What makes it work is a little app by Avatron Software called Air Dsiplay. Air Display turns your iPad into another monitor for your computer, as well as an input device. It’s so incredibly cool. Download the app on your iPad and follow the on-screen instructions (for Mac or Win) to install the desktop application and establish your iPad as connectable. Then, as long as the iPad and the computer are on the same wireless network (or ad hoc network, which means your computer creates a network that your iPad can connect to, but you won’t have Internet access while this is going on), the iPad can be selected in the Air Display drop down on the computer. Once you do that, the iPad becomes a second monitor. You’ll see your computer desktop and applications in miniature on the iPad, and you can control them with taps and swipes. No joke. It’s really freaky and really cool all at once.

When to Use Which?

Use the Cintiq if you possibly can. I realize that’s a little oversimplified, but I stand behind it. However, since sometimes you can’t:

The Bamboo is good for situations where you need to be portable. For instance, if you need to facilitate a virtual meeting while on a business trip, it’s much easier to pack and carry than the Cintiq and much more reliable than the network-dependent iPad. Drawbacks include the difficulty of writing legibly with it — you’ll have to practice a lot and get used to zooming and panning — and the awkwardness of writing on one surface while watching another.

The iPad is not yet good for web facilitation, despite the indisputable coolness of Air Display. I’m hoping that it’s going in that direction, though. Right now the tracking (the time between drawing a line and seeing it appear) is too slow, and I’ve had it not work on some wireless networks depending on how the network is configured. For now, I’m sticking to using the iPad for in-person digital recording only.

The Cintiq is the easiest to use (once it’s hooked up) but taking it on the road is a lot like traveling with an octopus: cables and stuff everywhere. Because you can look where you’re writing, you get much better fidelity for text and drawings. It works really well for visually facilitating web-based meetings.

If you really want to freak your computer out, and I don’t recommend this although I did try it myself, hook it up to the Cintiq, then hook that up to a projector (you’ll need a switcher to make this work). Once you have that set up, turn on Air Display and add your iPad as, technically, the fourth monitor (laptop screen, Cintiq, projector, and iPad). Then watch the poor computer cycle through them trying to get a fix on what on earth you want it to do, and at what resolution. It kind of makes your eyeballs hurt in sympathy. Poor thing.

Disclaimer: I do work for The Grove, but I’d have linked to the Digital Graphic Guides anyway because I think they’re fantastic for web-based facilitation.

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Exercises in iPad visual note taking | Flickr – Photo Sharing!

Media_httpfarm3static_eiwty

Lori Lum‘s refreshing visual notes, drawn on her iPad. I just love the bright, clean look of her drawings!

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Second IFVP Online Graphic Jam!

Today’s IFVP Online Graphic Jam met via WebEx, hosted by me. It was a bit of a mixed bag; at least four people were unable to connect because WebEx either didn’t work with their (admittedly older) OS, or because even though they had updated Java, WebEx insisted that they hadn’t and wouldn’t open. Bummer #1.

The whiteboard isn’t nearly as smooth as Elluminate’s, either, as you can see from the images here. Even those who were using tablets and pens had shaky lines. Bummer #2.

I logged in from my iPad as well, thinking it would be perfect for drawing on the whiteboard. Alas, the iPad can watch, but can’t join in. No tools at all except chat. Bummer #3.

And when I saved out the whiteboards, they were all stretched and weird, like this:

Weird-travel

What’s up with that, WebEx?

On the plus side, once we figured out how to give everyone control of the pen so they could share the whiteboard (not very intuitive), we had some fun graphically jammin’!

The Graphic Jam, for those who don’t know, is where a bunch of people quickly draw a symbol or illustration of a particular concept. We tried to limit ourselves to 30 seconds per topic, but our timekeeper was lousy and kept getting distracted watching all the other drawings unfold! (Yes, that would be me.) It was fun to have that immediate opportunity to review everyone’s work — it’s a little more delayed in a paper-based jam.

Naturally, our lousy timekeeper also forgot to hit “record” on the session, but at least I did manage to save out the drawings that we made:

01_free_for_all02_how_we_feel03_quality04_speed05_travel06_info_overload07_collaboration

 The first is the initial warm-up free for all, when everyone played with the tools to see what they were like, all at once, with no particular aim in mind. Next we each drew how we felt just then in a grid — you can see a couple of folks who were sleepy (it was very early or late in the day for them) and me with my hair all standing on end as I coped with the technology. I was still recovering from having to wade through obscure menus to enable drawing for everyone on the shared whiteboard. We also noted what we were drawing with (tablet, mouse, etc.).

The next few drawings are the graphic jam. The concepts we selected were, in the order they’re shown in the gallery: quality, speed, travel, and information overload. We tried to keep it to 30 seconds, but like I said, our timekeeper shouldn’t quit her day job.

The last drawing is one that we did all together, without speaking or writing any words. The task was to illustrate collaboration, collaboratively. It was interesting to try to jump in and be helpful and build on what others were doing.

Finally, we had a very brief discussion/Q&A about different tools for digital storytelling. 

The next jam isn’t scheduled. We’re looking for people who have access to other meeting tools, like Adobe Connect, or who are willing to host a group using one of the free collaborative tools available. If you’re interested, let me know!

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Elluminate as a platform for digital recording

Yesterday, Nancy White (@nancywhite) organized a little jam session for IFVP folks who wanted to try out Elluminate to test out its visual recording chops. Five or six of us got together for an hour and tried collaborative whiteboarding, screen sharing, video conferencing, and media sharing. 

I used three different input methods to draw on the whiteboard: a mouse, a Wacom Bamboo tablet, and a Wacom Cintiq tablet. I definitely got the best results with the Cintiq; the Bamboo was okay, and would work for a meeting that didn’t move very fast. The mouse isn’t suitable for digital visual recording, but I think we all knew that already.

Nancy did a little series of exercises with us. The first one was for everyone to draw simultaneously on the whiteboard with no direction: just pick up the pen and draw. It was very chaotic, and even when we started out with a specific aim in mind, it quickly degenerated to doodling because the space was too crowded with other people’s work. The second thing we did was to work in a divided space, in which we each took a square and drew what we liked inside it. This was more organized, but it wasn’t really interactive. The last thing we did was to all illustrate a specific concept — “frustration,” for instance. We did this on a blank undivided canvas, but it worked better than the first one, although there was a little bit of overlap in some drawings. 

Tomorrow I’m hosting something similar in WebEx so that we can see how it compares. If you’re interested, drop me a note and I’ll get you an invite to the meeting. You don’t need a tablet to participate!
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Launching DigitalFacilitation.net!

Hi! Welcome to DigitalFacilitation.net. This is a spot to collect information, examples, links to tools, and tips for using technology in visual practice. It’ll build up over time. Special thanks to Fred Lakin for the twin gifts of the idea and the domain name. For starters, here’s a collection of links that I keep meaning to gather in one place:

If you’re into digital visual practice and you’d like to be a contributor here, please drop me a note!

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