Microsoft’s Surface Studio 

Microsoft ruled nerd Twitter this afternoon.

Panos Panay, who runs Microsoft’s hardware team, has earned a reputation as the “M. Night Shyamalan” of tech presenters; there’s always a twist. Last year, the Surface Book’s detachable screen wasn’t unveiled until halfway through his explanation. This year, Panay introduced the Studio as an industrial-looking iMac competitor, then pivoted and revealed how the machine converts into a digital creator’s easel, controlled via touch, pen and an intriguing new accessory called the Surface Dial.

I could quibble (the event ran a half-hour too long), but it’s hard not to be impressed with the device and its carefully-orchestrated introduction. In the video above, when the music paused and the artist placed the Dial on the screen, my jaw dropped. I felt it in a visceral way.

Others seem to agree; Microsoft ruled nerd Twitter this afternoon.

New blog theme

Leave Wordpress development to the experts.

I’ve switched up my WordPress theme, opting for a barely-customized version of the platform’s most recent default, Twenty Sixteen.

A few reasons for the change:

  1. I’d rather leave theme development to the experts. I don’t have the time or interest to maintain a custom theme or to leverage the latest WordPress features.
  2. I’ve been drawing more lately, and I wanted a theme that could showcase comics and illustrations. Twenty Sixteen’s robust post format support fits the bill.
  3. My previous theme (my own adaptation of Independent Publisher) lost its charm in recent months. My decision to limit the front page to post excerpts (rather than full posts) proved ill-advised.

I’ll continue tweaking my Twenty Sixteen child theme; better formatting for link posts and a snazzier main header are both on my to-do list. But I hope to avoid custom changes that would require ongoing maintenance.

A better iPad lap stand

There are 1,001 different iPad stand designs out there already. But few of them work well on the lap.

Yes, there are already 1,001 tablet stands out there, ranging from $5 cardboard easels to aluminum docks that cost nearly $200. But very few existing models work well on the lap. Either they’re fixed at limited, inconvenient viewing angles (e.g. Apple’s Smart Cover), or they’re too narrow to span the gap between your thighs (a la my beloved Satetchi R1).

Here are the key features of my proposed alternative:

  1. This stand offers a place to rest your keyboard—but does not include the keyboard itself. Although I liked the BrydgeAir keyboard dock while I had it, I don’t like plunking down $100+ for an accessory that may not be compatible with future iPad models. This stand invites the user to add his favorite Bluetooth keyboard rather than rely on a proprietary port or form factor.
  2. The BrydgeAir keyboard dock inspired the drawing’s hinge design. These pivoting arms grip the iPad across its widest bezels, so that its screen remains unobscured. They’re rimmed with a rubbery material to prevent scratches on the iPad’s screen. They allow the iPad to be removed quickly (unlike bulky keyboard cases). The hinges rotate 180 degrees, allowing the user to lock in her preferred viewing angle. And these arms would ideally slide sideways along a channel or rail, so that the stand could be used with smaller tablets—or with the iPad Pro in portrait orientation.
  3. Because the iPad Pro is fairly heavy, the base would probably require some counterweight to prevent the assembly from toppling over. Admittedly, this would make the lap stand less portable. The anchor weights could be extra batteries—to charge the iPad on the go. But that would add complexity, inflate the cost, and (most critically) impact the stand’s longevity (since batteries lose their capacity over time). Better to embed some other dense material near the stand’s front edge in order to counterbalance the iPad itself.

There are probably engineering concerns that make this design impractical, and the market for 12.9″ iPad accessories may be too small to justify much experimentation from third-party manufacturers.

But something like this stand would go a long way towards making the iPad Pro a true laptop replacement—i.e. by letting it perch on my app.

Tilt Brush 

‘Tilt Brush lets you paint in 3D space with virtual reality.’

Painting from a new perspective: Tilt Brush lets you paint in 3D space with virtual reality. Your room is your canvas. Your palette is your imagination. The possibilities are endless.

VR grows more interesting by the day; it’s encouraging to see the medium do more than port first-person shooters.

For example, this VR painting app (launching with the HTC Vive headset) is intriguing for both artists and art-lovers. Imagine stepping into a comic book or viewing a portrait from your preferred, alternative angle.

Be sure to check out the demo videos.

UPDATE: Watch Glen Keane play with Tilt Brush. Keane helped animate several classic Disney films (e.g. The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast)

‘DigiGirlz try out HoloLens at developer education session’ 

Who could object to Microsoft’s “DigiGirlz” program? YouTube commenters, that‘s who.

Here, teenaged girls get a developer-track introduction to Microsoft’s augmented reality platform. Afterwards, several participants explain how the experience makes them determined to pursue a career in tech.

This is inspiring stuff; it’s hard to imagine anyone objecting to the “DigiGirlz” program that made this possible. …Until you read the YouTube comments, that is.[1] Many of the top-voted remarks repeat the same question: “’DigiGirlz?! What about ‘DigiBoyz’?”

(The answer, of course, is that we’ve had “DigiBoyz” for decades. It’s called “the tech industry.”)


  1. Never read the comments.  ↩