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First Impression (9) - iSketchNote (2) , A Second Thought

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Previously, we gave our first impression of the crowd funded iSketchNote, which although showed great promise appeared not to be quite ready for market release. Well, since then the guys at ISKN appear to be working very hard and have produced updates for both the iPad app and the iSketchNote's firmware. So we decided to offer our second, humble, opinion. Here is what we think. 

Being the richest man in the cemetry doesn't matter to me. Going to bed at night saying we have done something wonderful, that's what matters to me - Steve Jobs

What is iSketchNote?

Essentially the iSketchNote, is a drawing tablet, or slate as they call it, which allows one to digitise artwork and notes using ISKN's customised pens containing a magnetic ring. The ring is used to detect the position of the pen over the tablet and one's drawing's are directly digitised into their proprietary iPad app, relevantly called, iSketchNote. Sounds good. However, there is always quite a high degree of complexity involved in any applications that requires the development of hardware, firmware and software at the same time.

This was evidenced in our first impression of the slate, where we encountered what could really be deemed to be early  teething problems. At the time we thought it didn't quite cut the mustard. Since then ISKN have released a number of updates for both the slate and the app. According to the screenshot of their website, seen below, the new release of the app (version 1.4) is a bug fix release that has solved freezing when transferring files in stand-alone mode and corrected some display issues. It has also fixed export and video share layer crashes, as well as a magic eraser bug problem that has also been fixed. This, again, all sounds very good.

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Updating the iSketchNote app is simply a matter of navigating to the app store and clicking on update. The firmware of the slate also needs updating, which is a more complicated procedure, as a PC or Mac is required. Since, previously, I had installed the Slate Firmware upgrade application, seen below, on my PC I was all set and good to go in performing the firmware update.

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Once the firmware upgrade application is installed one needs to connect the slate to the PC, using a standard mini USB cable. A set of dialogues follow that guide you through the firmware update process. This can be seen below, where in my case the slate's firmware has been upgraded from version 1.0.0.6 to 1.0.1.2.

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Seconds of the iSketchNote with Firmware 1.0.1.2 and App Version 1.4

So the burning question is what do we think of the iSketchNote now? Well, we are quite impressed!

I hope you are more impressed with me now - Ugarte
If I had time to think about you I probably would be - Rick (From the film Casablanca)

It seems that the slate is beginning to achieve its full potential, after the firmware updates. It now appears that one can reliably use the full drawing area without glitches. Although I have had to adjust the way I write, that is write slower, in order to accommodate the slate's "sampling rate". Also, I have noticed that it is best to work with a single pen and add the colour of the pen to the palette, if it is not already there like black for example, before one starts. 

I really need this slate to capture engineering ideas and maybe learn how to draw caricatures and cartoons in my spare time. That is, to use it as a kind of white board of innovative ideas for new engineering design products and blog articles. To fully test the slate I decided to sketch one of my latest projects on an A4 landscape drawing pad, placed on top of it. In turn the slate is connected to aniPad Air, while digitising the result using the iSketchNote at the same time. The set of images below show the result.

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This is the original scanned sketch, which was drawn, using the included black pen.

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Here is the digitised capture produced in iSketchNote and exported as a Scalable Vector Graphics format, .svg, image. Clearly, the original image on the iPad looks much, much sharper than this exported image. It appears that the image is exported without any line weight information, although without looking at the raw svg image file I cannot confirm this.

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This is a copy of the same image imported into Adobe Illustrator with the image's line width set to a weight of 1.5. Yeah! We are almost there, as this is a fantastic result. The slate has almost reached my expectation and its full potential, although there is still this niggling bug bear of having to hold the page one is drawing on in place, to prevent it from slipping. Maybe I could get a large peg or something to hold it in down? I'm desperately looking for a solution because I'm finding it really  annoying. Maybe double sided tape?

 When I first started this review the song "Say Something (I'm giving up on you)" by A Brave New World and Christina Aguilera kept on bouncing about in my head, again and again. Was I subconsciously telling myself something? Well, as if reading my thoughts the slate has not only decided to say something, but now its screaming out aloud! I'm glad i've not given up on the slate, because finally it may be the extremely useful tool that I thought it would be, to archive my engineering design work and projects.

This is a great product that is getting better all the time. To ISKN I would say keep up the good work. Great job.

[P.S I have just received the Nuvo Student Flute expect a review soon. I've written this review with Cantique de Jean Racine (Faure) by Edward  Higginbottom and the New College Choir, Oxford playing in the background. This is songwriting at it's best. It was written by Gabriel Faure and won him first prize on graduation, when he was only 19. Amazing and just like the slate innovation at it's best.]

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