About Me

Monday, October 19, 2015

Faber-Castell Loom, Pelikan Königsblau, Squared Moleskine Review

I bought this in 2015 from Metzner in Bamberg, Germany. I got the metallic blue pen with fine nib. This is quite a heavy pen but the barrel has a very nice feel and grip. The plastic clip is spring-loaded but sometimes makes a squeaking noise when it opens. 

The pen has a decent weight from the metal barrel and section. The pen's weight applies pressure on the page, which means you only need to move the pen across the page to create a stroke. I do like the dotted design on the nib.

I inked this pen with some Pelikan ink, called Königsblau, which has a royal blue colour that resembles the pen cap.

The pen writes quite smoothly for a fine nib. The nib produces a line that is finer than my Waterman Kultur with a fine nib.  I find that the nib dries out when unused for a few seconds and can be a bit hard to restart. On the other hand, the ink dries quickly on the paper and is probably helped by the fineness of the line. The backside of the nib writes as smoothly as the normal side of the nib. This is good for getting even finer lines.

The nib lays down a solid line and the ink flow is consistent. I didn't see much variation in ink shading, but a broader nib might show some. The edges of the ink strokes are sharp.

I used a Moleskine notebook and the ink didn't bleed through the page too much. However, because the ink is quite dark, you can see the writing from the other pages coming through the pages.

Lamy AL-star, J. Herbin Orange Indien, Dotted Leuchtturm1917

I bought my Lamy AL-star in 2015 from Müller in Bamberg, Germany. I got the copper-orange 2015 special edition pen with medium nib. The aluminium barrel and overall design gives the pen an industrial look-and-feel. It is a practical pen and can easily handle rough situations on a daily basis. I do have to see how well the anodised copper colour will hold up to wear-and-tear.

The pen writes quite well but the smooth spot on the nib is quite small. I find that the nib dries out more quickly when uncapped than my other fountain pens. The pen is quite long when the cap is posted, but this isn't a problem. The pen has a nice industrial feel because of its aluminium body and nib that is devoid of any fancy design.

I inked this pen with some J. Herbin ink, called orange indien, which has a copper colour that resembles the pen.

This was my first time writing in a Leuchtturm1917 notebook and I had a bit of trouble writing because sometimes the ink appeared to "slide off" the paper as it wasn't being absorbed. This resulted in some very light ink strokes that are subsequently hard to read. However, I didn't have the same issues when writing with my Waterman Kultur with the darker vert réséda ink.

Because the ink wasn't being absorbed into the paper fast enough, I found myself smudging the ink when making corrections to previous things I wrote. It is currently autumn here in Bamberg, Germany and maybe 8 degrees in my room, which may be affecting the drying time.

The bleed-through is a bit worse than for a Moleskine notebook. Sometimes I can see blotches of ink on the other side of the page when writing at my normal speed. This is not a thinker's notebook!

Waterman Kultur, J. Herbin Vert Réséda, and Lined Moleskine Review

I bought my 12EUR Waterman Kultur in 2012 from a local supermarket store in Grenoble, France. I have the clear and colourless demonstrator pen with a fine nib. I think this is a good pen to use in everyday situations when you don't want to worry about damaging it. It's probably the only pen that I would let others use without feeling protective. I like the clip because it is spring-loaded, which means the clip is less likely to "over bend" on thick sheets of paper or clothing.

The pen feels sturdy and of good length when the cap is posted. The pen is quite light and does not apply much pressure on the paper under its own weight. The line produced by the fine tip nib is quite thick and looks more like it came from a medium tip. The backside of the nib is much thinner, but very scratchy.

I inked this pen with some J. Herbin ink, called vert réséda, which has a nice light green colour.

The ink flows easily from the nib and takes a few seconds to dry. These few seconds allow the ink that's already on the page to react (through water tension) to subsequent movements of the nib. This results in ink strokes with light and dark shading and this gives the writing a bit of character. It's a bit like writing with water colours.

The edges of the pen strokes are sharp. I did notice that the nib sounds and sometimes feels like it's being dragged over a sheet of fine-grained sandpaper.

This was my first time using a Moleskine notebook and the pages are thinner than I expected, although the ink didn't bleed through to the other side that much. My way of avoiding bleed-through is to write faster, thereby enhancing my productivity! I get ink imprints on opposing pages if I close the notebook before the ink has completely dried. My natural handwriting is quite large so the narrow ruled line made my pen strokes feel a bit cramped.

Ink and Notebook Update

This weekend, I went on a bit of a stationery shopping spree. I went to my local stationer, called  Metzner, located on Hauptwachstraße 28, Bamberg. It's a decently sized store with a large range of pens, but a fairly small range of notebooks. I decided to get a white hard covered A6-sized dotted Leuchtturm1917 notebook. It's a German brand that sells slightly cheaper than an equivalent Moleskine notebook.

I'm doing tutorials and practicals for a compiler construction course and I'll use this notebook to jot down some teaching notes and the answers to the practicals. I'm also supervising three software engineering groups and I'll use this notebook to track their progress. 

I got some A5-sized soft covered Moleskine notebooks to write my research notes and German language lessons. They're very simple looking with a single-threaded spine to keep all the pages together. I wonder how well the cardboard cover will hold up because it isn't laminated.

When I was at the counter to pay for my Leuchtturm1917 notebook, I spotted a collection of fountain pen inks. I had been looking for pots of ink by the fountain pen displays but couldn't see any. They have some Lamy and J. Herbin inks. I have never tried J. Herbin inks so I thought I'd get an orange indien for writing comments and vert réséda for normal writing. I already have Pelikan royal blue ink for everyday writing. 

I think I'm all set up for some serious writing and hope to have reviews of my pens, inks, and papers up soon!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Microsoft Surface Book

I really want to like the Surface Book that Microsoft has just announced, but boy is Microsoft making it hard! As of writing this post, the dedicated website for the Surface Book lacks the showmanship and technical details needed to persuade a reader to buy the damn thing. It just looks like an uninformative and half-finished website. The website has been split into four sections: key features, innovation, in action, and tech specs.

Key Features

This section of the website gives a broad overview of the key features of the Surface Book. Unfortunately, none of the key features that are mentioned do much to reel in an interested reader:
  • Powerful laptop
    "The first full laptop has arrived in the Surface family. Surface Book is a powerful laptop with a full sized, backlit keyboard for fast and natural typing."
    No mention of the awesome processors/brands that are used or how fast it can accomplish standard tasks.
  • Portable clipboard
    "The 13.5” PixelSense™display detaches easily from the keyboard to become a thin, light tablet that works perfectly with OneNote and Surface Pen."
    No mention of the awesome weight, dimensions, and battery life of the screen.
  • Creative canvas
    "Turn the screen around and reattach it to use Surface Book like a creative canvas. By reconnecting it to the keyboard, you unlock its full creative power in a pen first mode."
    The need to reattach the screen sounds more like a nuisance than a feature. 
  • Graphic horsepower
    "With an optional discrete graphics chip, Surface Book is built for even the most intensive creative tasks like photo and video editing."
    No mention of the awesome graphics chips/brands that are used. No mention of whether multiple external monitors is possible.
  • Serious creativity
    "Use the multi-touch PixelSense™ screen and Surface Pen to create with all the desktop software you already use, like Adobe® Photoshop® and Illustrator."
    No mention of the ability to sense 1024 levels of pen pressure. No mention of the awesome pen resolution, sampling rate, and output latency.
  • Mobile studio
    "Surface Book is the creative professional’s laptop, designed to power through professional grade photo and video editing."
    No mention of the awesome battery life under typical "creative usage".
  • Full Office
    "Surface Book works perfectly with the full suite of Office products, driving your productivity to new heights."
    Hardly a feature.
  • Markup webpages
    "Write directly on webpages with Surface Pen in the all-new Microsoft Edge browser and share your notes easily."
    Surely a better "feature" would be the ability to markup work documents in Office, PDF,  etc, and images.
  • Limitless apps
    "Surface Book has all the power you’ll need for even the most demanding creative apps. Use Adobe® software with a pen or mouse."
    Again, hardly a feature. Everyone expects a Windows PC to run all Windows apps.
At the very least, Microsoft should give links to extra information for each of the key features.


This section is just like the "Key Features" section. A bit of text with nothing to show for:
  • Meticulously crafted
    "Surface Book’s one-of-a-kind hinge folds and detaches to transform from laptop, to clipboard mode, and then into a creative canvas."
    No video or pictures showing how the hinge works. Personally, I think the hinge on the Lenovo Yoga Pro laptops look much better and you don't need to detach the screen to use it as a "canvas".
  • One click to Cortana
    "Click and hold the top of Surface Pen to activate Cortana, your truly personal digital assistant."
    Is there a special microphone in the pen that picks up your voice? Difficult to see why this one button is innovative.
  • One click to OneNote
    "With one click of Surface Pen, a blank OneNote page appears for quick notes."
    Shortcut keys are hardly innovative.
  • Rest your hand
    "With Palm Block technology you can rest your hand on the screen to write naturally, just like a pad of paper."
    No videos of this working to show to the "creative professional" how well it works. 
  • Detachable Keyboard
    "Surface Book uses Muscle Wire to hold its screen in place securely, while still allowing it to detach perfectly with the push of a button."
    How exactly does Muscle Wire work? What problem did it solve? How is this detachable keyboard better than the Surface Type Cover? This is one of the key selling points of Surface Book.
  • PixelSense™
    "Our PixelSense™is a true-to-life screen technology designed for beauty, touch and pen."
    No video explaining and describing what PixelSense is. This is one of the key selling points of Surface Book.
  • Natural writing experience
    "Surface Pen combines 1024 levels of pressure sensitivity with low latency for a real pen on paper feeling."
    No video demonstrating the natural writing experience.
This section was extremely underwhelming and lacks any innovation. The thought I'm left with is why the Surface Book laptop is any better than the Surface Pro tablet. I mean, the Surface Pro is marketed as "The tablet that can replace your laptop."

In Action

This section is supposed to showcase the use of Surface Book in real-life situations. Yet, all it has are a few stock images and a short sentences listing out some situations. No videos, pictures, or stories to illustrate and persuade the reader. Hopefully Microsoft will update their website with some nice multimedia.

Tech Specs

This section gives confusing technical details on the Surface Book. I know from looking at the Surface Book teaser on YouTube that the detachable keyboard contains some batteries, discrete graphics chip, and external ports. Unfortunately, the technical details provided in this section does not clearly delineate the hardware features that resides in the screen or in the keyboard. For example:
  • Weight
    "Starting at 3.34 pounds (1,516 grams) including keyboard"
    What about the weight of the screen? Will I be carrying around a 1kg screen?
  • Dimensions
    "12.30” x 9.14” x 0.51 - 0.90” (312.3mm x 232.1mm x 13.0 - 22.8mm)"
    How "thin" is the thin screen?
  • Battery life
    "Up to 12 hours of video playback"
    What is the battery life of the screen by itself? How much battery life is provided by the batteries in the keyboard?
  • Memory
    "8GB or 16GB RAM"
    Are all the memory located in the screen?
  • Ports
    "Two full-size USB 3.0,  Full-size SD™ card reader, SurfaceConnect, Headset jack, Mini DisplayPort"
    As far as I can see from the stock images, only the headset jack resides on the screen. All other ports reside on the keyboard. I think this is crippling because the screen cannot be used as a standalone tablet, like the Surface Pro.