Archive for May, 2011

Best of 2011, so far

Not a great year for music so far. I only really-really-really loved two albums so far, in the first half of 2011.

1. PJ Harvey – Let England Shake (my post about it)

2. Austra – Feel It Break

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MOG/RDIO/Pandora/Online-Radio in your living room, the cheap way

I’ve been trying to convince my husband, JBQ, to get us a Sonos player for a while (over a year now). I pushed the issue again last night, since now we are RDIO subscribers, and we would like to listen to our RDIO collection without having our TV “on” (we currently use our Roku XD|S for RDIO, connected to our main HDTV, and an analog cable from the Roku to our Yamaha receiver that powers our big speakers in our living room). But the $350 price tag of the Sonos (for their cheapest model) is still prohibiting for us.

It was during dinner that my husband had the idea: “why don’t you buy a second Roku, just for music, and connect a PC monitor to it that would be sitting next to our amplifier? I bet it’ll be cheaper than a Sonos“. And of course he was right again:

Sonos solution:
$350 – ZonePlayer 90

Cheaper solution:
$60 – Roku HD
$60 – 17″ 1280px LCD monitor
$5 – HDMI to VGA (or DVI)
$3 – Audio cable to connect to your amplifier/receiver
$2 – Android or iOS Roku remote app (optional)
= $130

There. My husband just saved us all $220 bucks. Enough for two Kindles, to read a book next to your loved one, while listening to music.

To me, the important thing here is that we won’t have to have our TV ON in order to listen to music. I hate having to do that, turning ON a huge 50″ TV just to put an album to play. The unobtrusive, smaller PC monitor can always stay ON, since the Roku has screensaver support. And if it dies after a while, it only costs $60 anyway. As for the Roku, it never turns off, so you can use its remote app on your mobile phone/iPod at any time.

In some ways, this setup is similar to the prototype Be, Inc. announced in 2001: HARP (“Home Audio Reference Platform”), based on their BeIA/BeOS operating systems. Here we are, 10 years later with a similar idea, but in a much smaller size than HARP:

Be’s HARP platform

Of course, the Sonos solution offers other advantages, like multi-room support, no need for an external PC monitor (free Android/iOS remote app, otherwise it will cost you an extra $350), and iTunes streaming support among others. However, if you just want music in a single room only, and you never buy any music (since you either use Pandora, or you now subscribe to unlimited services like we do), this solution is far cheaper and works well-enough. The RDIO app on Roku is crashy, but RDIO knows about it, and I believe an update is pending. MOG, Pandora, Tune-In Radio, ShoutCast, Soundcloud, and MP3Tunes all work great, and more applications are added on Roku as the time goes by. Definitely more than for the Sonos platform.

Personally, I think Sonos needs to either rethink their prices a bit, or move to a cheaper platform (maybe a next generation, cheaper Sonos, based on Android?).

Update: Some folks over at the Roku forum suggested the new AppleTV ($99) or an Airport Express ($95) instead — that is, for existing users of iOS devices that run the latest software version. This way, they can run/stream any of their music apps via their iOS device, and then redirect audio output via Airplay on the Airport Express or AppleTV, that are connected to an audio receiver. The signal is sent encrypted, in the Apple Lossless format, so there’s no loss of quality on the way to your living room’s big speakers.

Since I already have a 4th Gen iPod Touch that supports Airplay, I might wait for a new AppleTV model, or a major software update for the current one (with third party apps and all), and then go for that solution (although my receiver has no optical-in, so that would be another $35 to get a converter). However, for users who don’t own any of the devices needed, that would be $300 to $330 ($200 for an iPod Touch, $99 for AppleTV or Airport Express), so my original suggestion still stands.

I have a dream…

As much as the dSLRs have redefined indie filmmaking and democratized it even more, I feel that paying $800, plus the cost of lenses, is still prohibiting for many people. What I envision is a Canon S95-type P&S camera, specifically made for filmmaking students & film enthusiasts, and as a “test” camera for professionals, that costs no more than $300:

Video recording properties:
– 3072×1728 (3k, windowed): 12p fps, up to 30 secs of recording
– 2048×1152 (2k): 25p, 24p
– 1920×1080: 30p, 25p, 24p
– 1280×720: 48p[->24p], 50p[->25p], 60p[->30p] (option for unlimited real-time recording, or slow motion with up to 30 secs of recording)
– 960×540: 72p->24, 75p->25, 90->30p, 96->24p, 100p->25/50, 120p->60/30/24 (slow motion only, up to 30 secs of recording)

Other features:
– Full manual control (shutter, aperture, ISO), P, Tv, Av, auto modes
– 50 mbps VBR bitrate h.264, 4:2:0, with optimized h.264 encoder compared to the current Canon cams.
– 192 kbps VBR AAC or PCM, stereo. No mic input (size restrictions, let people buy external recorders, as they should anyway)
– Customizable colors (ability to get very low contrast, saturation, sharpness if desired, also skin tone/R/G/B), movie look profiles, including a port of Technicolor
– f/1.4-2.2 IS lens, 28mm-105mm (~4x zoom), physically large aperture. The Olympus XZ-1 is today the closest P&S camera with a similar lens (examples: 1, 2, 3).
– 2/3s 10MP CMOS sensor with vastly improved rolling shutter, high quality internal resizer
– 3.5″ 24bit touchscreen at 640×360 or higher resolution
– Option to turn off the touchscreen after recording started if an external monitor is connected (to save battery in-camera)
– mini-HDMI out, live, uncompressed RAW output up to 2k (“4:2:0 makes the most sense with a single-plate sensor, since that’s fundamentally what the sensor sees, and anything beyond that is interpolated“, my husband says)
– mini-USB connector & charger
– USB-to-USB cable to provide 3D support with genlock
– 37mm or 43mm filter thread
– standard tripod mount
– SDXC slot
– manual focus with ejectable mini-wheel that also supports a larger follow-focus wheel addon. Hidden when not ejected.
– autofocus in macro/std/wide modesl & focus lock
– smooth continuous autofocus, smooth exposure jumps when in auto
– Touch-focus, and touch-exposure in addition to a traditional exposure scale and possibly zebras
– miniature timelapse support as in current Canon cams
– some timelapse options
– gridlines and crops for various sizes including 2:35:1

If you think it’s “good”, then it’s not good-enough

Some of you might have already heard of “The Asylum“. This Hollywood filmmaking studio is known for its cheesy B-movie mockbusters (the SyFy Channel usually broadcasts them, but they can also be streamed via Netflix). Reportedly, the budget for these movies range from $250k to $1 mil, which is ultra-low compared to other productions.

The Asylum usually gets a bad wrap for the low quality of their works, but the truth is that none of their movies so far got in the red. They all made money. Not much money, but enough to sustain the studio and its few employees. Because The Asylum always manages to bring food to their table, I can’t feel nothing but admiration for what they do. Sure, their movies are pretty bad, but they’re still consumers out there who watch them enough to pay for the style.

My problem with The Asylum lies on a side point instead.

My issue with them is the fact that they don’t try hard enough to make one good film per year. If for example they have a budget for 3-4 movies per year, they should strive to exceed themselves for at least one title. The well known LionsGate studios started with the same premise as The Asylum back in the ’90s, producing cheap B-movies. But at some point they created one “better” film, and it brought in so much money, that within 10 years they became of the biggest studios in Hollywood.

Instead, The Asylum writes their scripts within a few hours (usually who ever in the company wants to have a go at it), then they shoot for just a few days (thankfully using the RED One camera as of late), and the post production team only has a 2-3 weeks to finish off pretty complex CGI (which of course they end up looking pretty bad). Basically, these are movies that happen on the go, they have no soul or deep thinking.

What I propose instead, is to keep doing these cheap movies, since they pay the bills. But for one of these movies, for the same budget (I don’t suggest they should increase the budget), they should try to make something awesome. Other writers/directors then and again have surprised us in the last decade, making great movies for less than The Asylum’s movie budgets: Monsters ($500k), “Hunter, Prey” ($420k), Brick ($425k), Napoleon Dynamite ($400k), Paranormal Activity ($15k), Open Water ($500k), Primer ($7k), Once ($150k), In the Company of Men ($25k), A Dog’s Breakfast ($120,000), Dogtooth (250k euros, Oscar-nominated), and… Tarnation (218 bucks).

Obviously, the writing/directing staff they have right now are not up to snuff on innovating with the given budget and time constraints. The company needs new blood. Needs at least one title per year that’s original, and not a “mockbuster”. There are countless talented writers/directors fresh out of college who are able to produce great works under these conditions. Young professionals who wouldn’t mind moving to a third world country for a month or two to shoot their movie for even cheaper. Vimeo is a great place to start hunting for that new blood. It’s time for The Asylum to reach out to the young filmmaking community and for once create something that it doesn’t suck. They have the amount of money needed, all they still need is the will, vision, and possibly a few more weeks of production time.

Science Fiction without the Fluff

A few weeks ago, famed director Duncan Jones posted some tips about how to make good science fiction. I agree 100% with him, especially his #1 tip (“Nail down the rules of your film’s movie science”).

I would like to expand on his #3 tip: “Know what kind of sci-fi story you’re telling.” In it, Jones makes a distinction between soft and hard sci-fi. Soft sci-fi is often blurred with fantasy, while hard sci-fi plays with more strict rules, and strives to be realistic. It’s that second kind of sci-fi that I personally enjoy. As I’ve written in the past, realism is very important to me. The reason I watch movies & TV series is because I want to escape to their universe. So the more plausible they feel, the more grand, cohesive, well-described and expansive their world is, the more they can convince my brain to let go and lose myself into them.

Any science fiction work that features the following, are automatically rejected, and treated by me like boring fantasy instead:

1. Religion
I don’t mind religion being socially studied in a sci-fi work, but when religion becomes integral to the plot and spirit of the work, then it’s all going downhill. Like in BSG, Caprica, LOST.

2. Time Travel
I don’t like time travel. Time travel is plot-CHEATING. It’s the easy way out when writing fiction. Sure, sure, there have been works where time travel was more intelligent than in other works, but the majority of the time it just ends up being a cheap “let’s fix the past” plot that falls apart in the end. If there has to be some time travel, it has to be an accidental, mysterious, and unpredictable space-time rift (not “machines”), that ONLY goes forward in time and has absolutely no effect on resolving the plot.

3. Alternative timelines
Even worse than time travel, is the usage of alternative timelines. In the grand scheme of things, these ultimately serve no purpose other than being filler episodes. See, when the audience is engaged to a particular situation and cast, and then you suddenly present an alternate version of them, then all rules already established in the work so far goes out of the window. It’s carpet-pulling. And that never, never works (I hated it on JJ Abrams’ new Star Trek for example). Shows like Fringe make a bit more sense because its “parallel universes” idea depicts two very different worlds in direct collision, and that stands out better as a plot. Instead, “alternative timelines” that have to do with small changes between the two worlds (worlds that often don’t even know of each other’s existence) are just filler plot.

4. Hallucinations & dreams
It’s one thing showing hallucinations/dreams that progresses a particular plot (e.g. an alien race that can only communicate with the unconscious mind, or a virus attack), and another spending whole episodes with hallucinations/dreams for the sake of these hallucinations/dreams. These are yet just another kind of a filler that don’t progress the main plot. The 1st episode of SGU’s Season 3 would have been such an episode, if it wasn’t canceled. As much as I love SGU, I thank the Gods I didn’t have to endure yet another of their hallucination/dream episodes.

5. Aliens who look just like humans and speak English
Please, don’t make aliens look like humans that speak English. It’s nearly scientifically impossible, and that makes your work silly. Not a problem using technology to translate, or having humanoid aliens that can learn English after a while though. But make most of the aliens races to look and sound from nothing like humans to very little. SGU is possibly the only “exploration” sci-fi TV series that got this 100% right.

6. Over-done drama
Like, episodes 7 and 9 of SGU, and most of BSG. Please, keep it in check. Drama is good, and without it there’s no engagement. But when over-doing it things also become boring — there’s a balance to be found. And no, I don’t care if Kate will marry Jack or Sawyer. That’s so below me (call me arrogant, but I don’t care about stupid shit). Instead, create drama about important, complex things, not things where if the (obviously educated, in the future) opposing parties would sit down for 10 minutes, discuss and easily fix their problems.

7. Mumbo-Jumbo technobabble
If you’re going to write science fiction, sit down first and understand the science of what you’re going to write about. Think of how technology and society is likely to progress, and use these imagined, but well-defined technologies to serve your plot, rather than “rerouting conduit X through dilithium chamber B to remove the deuterium purge vent”. And definitely don’t try to fix things with impossible science (e.g. patching together completely incompatible technologies), usually at the 10 last minutes of an episode (as in ST, SG-1, SGA). And for Christ’s sake TV writers, if you want to say “CPU”, or “graphics acceleration”, or “math co-processor”, just say it as such, there’s no reason to soften it for us and call every computer thingy a “memory”. It’s funny that sci-fi writers have no qualms about using crazy technobabble for non-understandable technology, but they use the dumbest language possible for current technology. Finally, avoid too many… holodeck malfunction episodes. One is enough.

8. Super-heroes
Super-hero stories are fun most of the time (I love the Avengers, Wolverine), but they’re so out there scientifically, that they eventually turn into a mixture of fantasy and science fiction goo for me. If anything, I mostly watch these for their usually excellent drama rather than the “sci-fi high”. Super-hero stories are nothing but modern-day wizard/knight Medieval fantasy stories.

9. Dinosaurs [and dragons, vampires, werewolves etc.]
If you’re going to create monsters, create unique monsters for the planet you’re writing for. Human-oriented plots dealing with Earth’s prehistoric dinos would involve time travel, and quickly that whole plot starts to sound primarily like fantasy to me (e.g. Spielberg’s new “Terra Nova” show).

10. Zombies
I don’t like zombie stories. This is not to say that some zombie-based works aren’t great (they are), but for some unexplained reason I can’t lose myself in the whole “apocalyptic virus” world, even if one day it might become closer to reality than any other form of science fiction.

Bonus: Never write episodes/chapters that are obvious patches for your previous mistakes. For example, on SGU’s S2E9 episode “Visitation”, we get a whole bunch of people arriving on the ship via a shuttle, only to kill them all a bit later. Why this whole episode existed at all? Just so the main crew gets a new shuttle (the previous one got destroyed a few episodes back). So we got 43 minutes of useless drama just to fix the missing shuttle problem that shouldn’t have existed in the first place since it’s integral to the survival of the crew.

Bonus 2: Be careful with your chronology. There are too many writers placing super-technological stories in just 50 years into the future (e.g. as seen in Outcasts, Space: Above & Beyond and other works). For example, deep space exploration (not likely for another 200-300 years at least), realistic AI and Androids (another 100+ years) etc.

So far, there’s no TV series that comes close to the standards I have set. Some get some parts right, but lose in others. In the movie world, probably District 9, Serenity, Blade Runner, The Matrix came close. In the book world, I highly suggest you download and read the free eBook “Spinward Fringe Broadcast 0: Origins” (also available for free download via the Amazon, Apple iBooks, B&N mobile apps).

The Greek rural migration

My favorite progressive newspaper, The Guardian, has an article about Greeks migrating back to rural places. And I’m saying “back”, because before the 1960s, Athens was a pretty small city, not the ~5 million headcount behemoth it is today (that’s almost half of the whole Greek population). Suddenly, it had a population explosion after the vast majority of people from mountainous villages left their livestock, fields, and homes for Athens or abroad (mostly Germany), in hopes of a better [easier] life.

A few months ago I read another article by a Greek politician urging people to go back to their villages. Many took that remark pretty bad, but I must have been among the few who thought that this is the only good workable idea for both citizens, and the country. See, most of these Athenian people already are property owners elsewhere. There are very few “true” Athenians that have been there for many generations. The rest usually still have a property stake back at their old village. It’s just that no one wants to go back there.

Skiadas, my village. My father’s old house is visible in the pic.

My own village used to have over 400 inhabitants when my dad was a kid in the early ’60s. An extremely lively place. Today, there are no more than 40 or 50 people living there, mostly old people and returning retirees. My own generation in the ’80s was the last to see the school operating in the village. If all their descendants, that still have a stake or property at the village, were to come back from Athens or abroad, we’re looking for at least 1000 people! Thank God for the Summer or Easter, where the village comes alive again when these compatriots arrive for vacations. The community is still strong among all these people, since everyone knows everybody else, even if they don’t all live at the same place anymore. See, we don’t forget who we are: we’re Souliotes.

I spent my early years in Athens (I was born there), and then we moved to the city of Preveza. When my family got into debt in the early ’80s (long story), my father took us all and went back to Skiadas, his village (where he already had built a house all by himself in the ’70s). In the beginning, adjusting to the mountain life was difficult. Every other kid there was like a mountain goat, running faster than me and without fear in the dangerous terrain. Sometimes without shoes. The school sucked too. We were 25 kids in all 6 primary school grades, in a single room, with a single teacher. The teacher had no time to spend more than 15-20 minutes per day on each grade. And it was cold (no heating to speak about, in a place that ices/snows in the winter).

But I managed my way through all this. My family did too. We picked ourselves up financially, and 3 years later we left the village for the nearby town of Louros, that had a high school and more work for my father (he used to be a house builder). The point is, my family is living proof that taking a step back can help you stand on your feet again and then leap forward. If only more people saw it this way (at least anyone who doesn’t have children that need to go to school, since most schools are closed there now). Instead, the whole department of Epirus is full of abandoned villages. The land is not seeing any new crops, there are fewer sheep & goat flocks than what they used to be, and the houses are falling apart.

And their owners? The owners are still drunk with the city life. The easy life. But what’s the price to pay for this easier life? Themselves into debt or misery, the country into debt, and a Mega City becoming more dirty and more dangerous with every passing night.

Why I don’t like Lady Gaga [anymore]

I liked Lady Gaga’s first album. I really did. I found it to be a very nice pop album. Then, the second album came about, and while there were some good ideas there, her music started to become overly kits and forceful. Her videos became more cheesy than ever.

Now, having heard 2-3 songs from Gaga’s upcoming album, things are even worse than before. The music is even more kits and more forceful. The songs are not different than DJ Bobo’s style of Eurodance from the early ’90s (without the rap part). In fact, if these new songs were to compete with the rest of Eurodance in the ’90s, Gaga would not be nearly as popular back then. I can hum at least 50 better Eurodance songs off the top of my head than any of Gaga’s new songs. This one or this one for example are 100 times more catchy than Gaga’s new songs.

In fact, thinking about it, it’s a real laughing matter how the US, Canada, Australia, and UK have fallen for Gaga’s version of Eurodance, while they completely scoffed off the original genre exactly 20 years ago. It makes the rest of Europe, Brazil and Japan look like musical revolutionaries!

Normally I would not write all this about a pop star, but it is my opinion that Lady Gaga is very talented, and I feel disappointed about her new music. If her first album is any indication, she knows how to write songs that are both danc-y, original, and have a soul. But the direction she has taken, trying to become a Eurodance queen 15 years after the death of the genre, and not achieving it, rubs me the wrong way. She can do better than writing cheap, cheesy, and soul-less music.

Ads and commercials

I said it before, but ads/commercials don’t work with me — no matter how expensive they were to make, or how clever subliminal messages they use. I never watch commercials on TV apart to check their filmmaking aspect (professional curiosity), and I never click on web ads (I want to help out sites, but I don’t seem to find any ad of interest).

In short, I never buy shiz that I don’t have to buy. End of story.

When a few months ago the Gawker sites changed their site design to a “tablet-style app” look, I found that their ads were getting in the way of the otherwise ingenious web site design. They would have big blocks of ads, but their in-article videos or images were too small. Made no freaking sense.

Also, when I click to some youtube link from Reddit and there’s a 30 second ad in there, I close down the tab immediately before reaching the video. And going through Hulu’s 2-3 commercials before an episode starts, is also an exercise in patience. Not because I don’t want to support all the companies involved, but because I don’t care about these products, and I don’t want to spend so much time watching ads. If I need a specific product, I do my research, I read reviews, and then I make an educated purchase.

The way things have been so far, I have to give up minutes of my life for things I don’t care about. Neither myself, or the ad owner gains anything out of it. Even the site owner, who gets paid to show ads, loses in the long run, after viewers get pissed off eventually having to endure ads.

So I’ve thought about the problem, and I think that what would work for me (for both news sites and video sites), is 3-to-5 seconds 16:9 high-res ads (in semi or full-screen). I need these ads to be infomercially-designed. For example, if that’s an ad about DELL’s new laptop, I want to see a quick 360 view of the laptop, some basic specs along with what takes this product apart compared to its competition, and a link to the product or a review online (that would open in a new tab). If it’s an ad about a less distinct product, let us know what the product does, and graphically show us what its uses are. After that, I want this ad GONE from my screen. I DO NOT want to have to click “skip this ad” to go and read an article (like on or view the video. The ad must automatically go away from full screen and diminish itself into a very small graphic (no bigger than 64×64), or a simple text link. The rest of the web page must contain no other ads. Not even these huge Facebook boxes (self-ads) that Gawker uses asking you to be a member of their Facebook group. The web design must be lean, mean, and clean.

Basically, the only ads that would work for me, are “awareness” no-frills, no-fat ads. Quickly show me:
1. What is your product.
2. How can it be used (if relevant).
3. What sets it apart from its competition.

If I care about such a *family of products* then I will research about many of them by myself, and I will remember to check out your specific product too. I don’t need 30 second ads, I don’t need to be convinced (I won’t, so don’t waste your 5 seconds), I don’t need ads that permanently sit within a news article polluting it, and I definitely don’t need ads that make the web site’s design look like ass.

News tickers suck as widgets

The latest thing I strongly feel that I have to pick on is Android widgets. News-related widgets to be more precise. Like the Facebook, Twitter, and NYTimes widgets. They all suck. They’re completely and utterly useless.

Instead of showing actual text of updates/headlines/news, all there should have been there were pretty icons & numbers. For example:
– Facebook: A 1×1 widget showing the number of unread notifications & messages.
– Twitter: A 1×1 widget showing the number of unread replies and messages. I wrote about it last year, nothing came out of it.
– NYTimes: A 4×1 widget showing 10 “news category” icons (5×2 small icons at the same style as Android’s “power control” widget), with each having a number on them if there are unread articles under the said category. NYTimes has over 10 categories, so these can be customized by the user to fit in the matrix.

See, in their current incarnations, these widgets just fit ONE single news item to show each time. Who in their right mind turns ON their device just to read a single item? And then the user must hit a very thin “next” arrow icon to get to the next item. Difficult to hit properly, and honestly, why bother? If all you want is to read all news items, just open the freaking app! It will be MUCH FASTER to just gaze through a vertical screen full of info, rather than having a 2-3 line overview of a single item each time.

Having icons and numbers instead (the way NewsRob does it), it is more visual, and so it’s way faster for the brain to find the right information. For example, by knowing that there are 6 unread “sports” news items at NYTimes, the user immediately can make a calculated decision as to if he must read them now, gaze through them now or later, or he should let more of these articles accumulate before he sits down and goes through them. In this situation, the widget helps him make decisions about how to use the main app, and when, and how much work that would be to do so approximately. The way things are now, we just click “next”, “next” “next”, often spending time reading headlines we don’t always care about. The information coming from Facebook or NYTimes is so much, that trying to fit it on a 4×1 or 4×2 widget is utterly ridiculous. Heck, there’s a reason why these kinds of apps are even more successful on a tablet than on a phone: too much information that requires more resolution. So their current widgets use a broken widget design. Instead, in this case, the widget must simply help us decide if it’s time to open the main app or not.

Is all this really too difficult to comprehend? Where are the usability designers in this day and age? Are they hiding somewhere? Or are the managers don’t listen to anyone anymore?

iOS Apps: CamLock & AutoPainter


My friend Alastair (of Glidetrack fame) yesterday introduced me to CamLock, an interesting iOS camera app that lets you control various aspects of the camera when shooting video.

Of course, the most important feature for me, is exposure lock. It’s the only way to shoot a video, under a somewhat controlled lighting, where brightness doesn’t jump left and right — making it look very unprofessional. But apart this basic feature (that all phone should support by default), the app comes with other features too, like locking white balance, locking focus, setting exposure by tapping somewhere in the scene, and using a grid and a bubble indicator to keep things straight while shooting.

Unfortunately, there is a bug with iOS 4.3.x and exposure doesn’t stay locked if you try to lock it before you start recording. Thankfully, it can be locked after you start recording, so the problem is not really that huge.

On the iPod Touch 4th Gen that I tested the app, the focus lock does not work. I’m thinking that the camera model on the iPod and iPad might not support that. Here’s a video I shot showing the exposure lock:


The other app I got across today was AutoPainter. You can make any of your pictures look like Aquarell, Benson, Cezanne or Van Gogh. It’s fully automatic, and it works surprisingly well. There is also a way to direct the program to pay extra attention to some objects in the picture, but this is only optional — depends on the look you’re after. I used this on my iPod Touch, but I bet its “AutoPainter HD” version looks great on the iPad. There’s a more full-featured version for the PC & Mac too (samples).