2 months with Slingshot fibre in Auckland Part 1

As with most countries, the broadband and fibre network in Auckland and New Zealand are dominated by large telecommunication network companies. Just as in the US, where companies such as AT&T, Time Warner Cable, and Comcast have a hold on the infrastructure on which Internet services are built on, Auckland has the powerful Spark and Vodafone dotting the streets with their broadband ads and free Wi-Fi services.

However, as with most cities, there are smaller companies that resell fibre and network services which aren't the ILECs, but rather separate service providers. You'll occasionally receive fliers in your mailbox regarding VDSL/ADSL/Fibre plans from Freedom, Stuff, and MyReplubic, plus from the increasingly popular 2Degrees.

A young technical manager based in downtown Auckland told me that despite all the promotions and discounts advertised for fibre and ADSL services, the prices are still pretty high and consistent across providers even by Oceanic and European standards…

Unsolicited Question: VLC and Wayland on Fedora

Q: VLC and Videos video playback on Fedora 25 is choppy or won't play at all. I've installed all the codecs from RPM Fusion but videos still won't render. What gives?

On lower to mid-range hardware, VLC and Videos may struggle to render .avi, .flv., and .mp4 files if you're running Fedora 25 with Wayland, the default display server.

If you don't have any urgent requirements regarding running Wayland, you can switch to Gnome with Xorg from the login screen.

To log in to Gnome with the X display server:

1. On boot, select the user from the list.

2. Click the Settings icon, and then select Gnome on Xorg.

3. Enter the user password, and then click Sign In.

Note: If you selected Gnome on Xorg and logged in using a specific user, Gnome on Xorg is retained on reboot, unless you switch it to Gnome or Gnome Classic from the list of desktop environments manually.

As an alternative, you can also install video player frontends such as SMPlayer, which may have a lower overhead th…

Batch creation of CBZ files using ComicZipper (macOS)

ComicZipper is a free desktop utility for macOS for creating CBZ files from image folders.  The utility, which is available from the App Store, doesn’t require any other compression packages on macOS Sierra. Just drag folders with .jpg or .png into the ComicZipper window to create files. Although you can just use macOS Finder’s built-in compression options, ComicZipper allows you to compress several folders at a time.

Scans compressed using ComicZipper in this article are He-Man mini-comic books from the author’s own collection. The output files were viewed in Perfect Viewer for Android, Comics Manga Reader for Fire OS, Bookman for iOS, and Comics ++ for Windows 10.

You can exclude unnecessary metadata files and folders from Preferences > Exclude List in ComicZipper. To ensure compatibility with Android, Windows 10 Mobile, and iOS .cbz viewers, check that the folder only contains supported image formats such as JPEGs and PNGs. Remove .html or .txt files. In addition, it’s good idea…

Corel Photo-Paint X8 Basics: Surface Pen, Object Manager, and illustration Part 3

Continued from Corel Photo-Paint X8 Basics: Surface Pen, Object Manager, and illustration Part 2

Colors and Color Palette Manager
As you work with the different tools, CorelPhoto-Paint lists the swatches at the bottom of the screen so you can reuse colors as needed.

If the default color palette isn't enough, you can add industry standard color palettes using the Color Palette Manager (Window > Dockers > Color Palette Manager).

Although the Surface Pen isn't perfect at capturing strokes in Photo-Paint X8, you can still complete a pretty good piece of artwork with a bit of patience and practice on a Surface Pro 4. Photo-Paint X8 also has an excellent Mask system for selecting areas based on specific conditions.

CorelDraw and Photo-Paint X8
CorelDraw and Photo-Paint X8 work hand-in-hand, so if you prefer to work with a vector drawing, you can export the selected vector illustration to a .cpt file for opening in Photo-Paint.

 To export a vector illustration to .cpt in CorelD…

Corel Photo-Paint X8 Basics: Surface Pen, Object Manager, and illustration Part 2

Continued from Corel Photo-Paint X8 Basics: Surface Pen, Object Manager, and illustration Part 1
Objects, Object Manager, and Drawing tools 
Corel Photo-Paint uses the same engine as CorelDraw, but unlike CorelDraw, the application doesn't use Layers, but rather Objects. The Object Manager (Window > Dockers > Object Manager) handles Objects in Corel Photo-Paint, and provides options to change how the Objects appear, much like the same way Layers work. You can arrange the Objects over each other, change the Object Mode to adjust the appearance of colors, lock, toggle visibility, delete, and move Objects. Objects also have their own attributes, such as Opacity.

Objects, unlike whole Layers in other applications, only refer to anything you've made, and are independently modified or changed. For example, you rotate the selected Object only, while with Layers, rotating a Layer rotates everything on the Layer.

For this example, a new Object was created on top of the Background

Corel Photo-Paint X8 Basics: Surface Pen, Object Manager, and illustration Part 1

Corel Photo-Paint X8 is included in the CorelDraw X8 Graphics Suite. The application has a complete set of photo editing and painting tools for illustration and graphics. This article gives an overview of using Corel Photo-Paint X8 with the Surface Pen to create a basic illustration using the available painting and drawing tools.

This article uses Corel Photo-Paint Home & Student X8, a Surface Pro 4 with a Core i5, 4 GB of RAM, and the original Surface Pen. The colored illustration is of Sam Keith's The Maxx (the Outback version) from the 90s comic book series from Image Comics. All drawings in this article are by the author.

Note: Sam Keith revised the appearance of the Maxx several times during the series, which is one of the reasons why the Maxx was so visually interesting. I'm certainly not going to embarrass myself and imitate Keith's style, but will base the drawing from The Maxx #3, which featured the original design of Maxx in the Outback. The scan is from the a…

Debian 9 Stretch Basics: Setting up MariaDB Part 2

Continued from Debian 9 Stretch Basics: Setting up MariaDB Part 1
Creating a user with privileges for databases and tables
As always, using the root user in any system isn't recommended regardless if you're just studying MariaDB or running a home database server. After installing MariaDB on Debian 9 Stretch, only a root user is available for accessing the available databases. Create a new user with privileges to all the databases and tables.

Note: The procedure described here doesn't include giving the new user the ability to grant privileges or create other users.

To add a new user with a password and privileges:

1. Log into MariaDB as root.

mysql -u root -p

2. The user accounts in MariaDB are stored in the mysql database and user table. Access the mysql database and select the user table.

USE mysql;
SELECT user FROM user;

Note that only root is the entry under user for this example.

3. Create a user with a password.

In this example, the user 'basil' is created with …

Debian 9 Stretch Basics: Setting up MariaDB Part 1

The stock DVD install of Debian 9 Stretch doesn't install any SQL server software packages. If you are using or studying MariaDB, you can set up a MariaDB server as you would in Fedora or Ubuntu, with very little differences in the configuration steps.

This article uses Debian 9 Stretch and MariaDB 10.1.

To set up MariaDB in Debian 9 Stretch:

1. Update Debian if you haven't already.

apt update
apt upgrade

2. Search and install the mariadb-server package, which installs the client package and the latest version of MariaDB server.

apt search mariadb-server
apt install mariadb-server

3. If you opted to reboot the system after running updates and installing MariaDB, verify if the MariaDB service is started and already running.

service mysql status

Note: In most cases, MariaDB is already running on startup in Debian. For more details on starting MariaDB on Linux, refer to Starting and stopping MariaDB automatically.

4. Run the secure installation script included and take note of the roo…

Adding signatures to PDFs using Acrobat Reader DC (macOS) and Xodo (Windows 10) Part 2

Continued from Adding signatures to PDFs using Acrobat Reader DC (macOS) and Xodo (Windows 10) Part 1

Acrobat Reader has long been part of the document workflow in the enterprise. Unfortunately, the PDF application has received much criticism and ridicule in the tech community for its vulnerability to malware and numerous security issues. Moreover, in Adobe's push for users to purchase their Adobe Cloud products, Acrobat Reader DC (the "cloud" version of the PDF viewer) has become bloated, confusing, and unusable compared with more stable and reliable PDF viewers found in Linux, Android, iOS, macOS, and Windows.
The macOS version of Acrobat Reader DC is almost exactly the same as the Windows version, if you prefer using the application over macOS Preview or Mail.

Note: Both Preview and Mail in macOS both support embedding of signatures.
To add a signature using Adobe Acrobat Reader DC (macOS):
1. Click Fill & Sign from the options panel.
Note: The Send for Signature opt…

Adding signatures to PDFs using Acrobat Reader DC (macOS) and Xodo (Windows 10) Part 1

Signing documents, letters, and contracts on PDFs is standard practice for most companies today. Unsurprisingly, it's extremely rare to encounter a professionally produced PDF that uses a dedicated signature line that digitally accepts signatures. Instead, most signatures are added manually using the PDF reader the receiver uses to view the PDF.

Xodo is a popular alternative to Acrobat Reader in Windows. Adobe provides Acrobat Reader DC for macOS. This article uses Xodo for Windows 10 on a Surface Pro 4 running Windows 10 and Acrobat Reader DC for macOS on a Macbook Air.

Adding a signature using Xodo for Windows 10
Xodo is an excellent PDF viewer that is light and stable. Xodo provides apps for iOS, Android, and Windows 10.

To add a signature using Xodo in Windows:

1. With the PDF open, click or tap the Edit (pencil) icon.

2. Click Signature from the Edit toolbar.

3. Click or tap on the area where you want to add a signature. Click My Signature or New Signature.

3. Using an input devi…

ArtRage Lite 4 (macOS) and the Intuos Draw for non-digital painters Part 3

Continued from ArtRage Lite 4 (macOS) and the Intuos Draw for non-digital painters Part 2

ArtRage Lite 4 comes with stencils and stickers. The stencils don’t work in the same way as the physical French curves used by traditional drafters but work like preset masked areas.

Experienced digital painters and traditional artists know that the type of canvas or paper “grain” is important to achieve the effect they are trying to produce and ArtRage Lite 4 includes several types of art paper and canvas you can use when you start a new painting. Dedicated settings for grain size, roughness and “metal” properties are available in Canvas Settings. Note that the resolution for a new painting defaults to 72, an oddly low value considering that traditionally 96 or 150 is used. Depending on your final output, crank up the resolution before starting your work.

You can, of course, resize, crop or expand the canvas as needed.

As mentioned in Part 1 or Part 2, users who have tried even earlier versions o…

ArtRage Lite 4 (macOS) and the Intuos Draw for non-digital painters Part 2

Continued from ArtRage Lite 4 (macOS) and the Intuos Draw for non-digital painters Part 1

Intuos Draw, macOS, and ArtRage Lite 4 functionality is pretty seamless, such that sketching with the pencil tool in ArtRage retained the accuracy of my admittedly clumsy drawings on paper. The tool wheel on the lower-right hand corner is very convenient, and a change of pace from the toolbox UI found in GimpmyPaint, and Corel applications.

Disclaimer: As mentioned in Part 1, I’m not a digital painter so if you’re looking for a comparison of ArtRage Lite with other desktop or mobile painting apps, look elsewhere.

Since I mostly work with black and white vector technical illustrations, I experienced the same difficulties picking out colours using the color wheel as I did in Corel Photo-Paint and Linux alternatives. Real digital artists, however, would no doubt have little problems selecting and mixing colours.

ArtRage Lite can be used for digital inking and colouring. Users can import bitmap imag…