Unboxing the Bamboo

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This post was originally published in 2009
It may contain stale & outdated information. Or it may have grown more awesome with age, like the author.

WacomBambooMy Wacom Bamboo arrived earlier today: hooray!

I’ve been wanting a device like this for a long time, but it wasn’t until recently that I actually needed one. I’ve started using the online Chinese character learning service, Skritter, and have found that it really helps me learn (and remember) new words. One learns/practises characters by writing them, which I’ve been using a mouse for. Not really ideal – I find it quite difficult to draw/write with a mouse, and even though I’ve become proficient at writing characters this way, I don’t think it’s as helpful in terms of increasing my ability to write Chinese characters as say, using a Wacom tablet would be. Don’t get me wrong – I’m confident that Skritter with a mouse is still by far the best way to learn/remember characters. I just think practising the characters WITH A PEN is more helpful when one’s goal is not only to be able to read Chinese, but also write it. Most probably with a pen.

So, I asked for one and it was given. Thanks Parental bodies 1 and 2 :)

Parental body 1 managed to fool me during the grant application process, which is no mean feat. Scroll to this sub-story.

The Bamboo was purchased from Ascent, a (NZ) online computer store. It is hands down the best online store I’ve ever seen – backed by impressive customer service. There was a slight hiccup in ordering: we tried to use a credit card, but Ascent has had cases where Person X buys a product with Person Y’s credit card, without Y’s knowledge, and now verify card ownership by looking the given details up in the phone book – bad luck if you’re unlisted! A phone call later, and we had a bank account number. Another phone call, this time to phone banking, and the money was transferred. Phone banking transfers are faster than online transfers here.

Delivery was quick.

Ubuntu 9.04 recognised it as soon as I plugged it in – there was no delay. Although I had read that this was the case, I was quite surprised. Thanks to WINE, the windows tutorial program, included on one of the CDs worked perfectly, and I was able to quickly go through the basic usage tutorials.

Then it was straight to Skritter.

[…]

I’ve used it for about an hour, and all I can say is: whoa. It’s a joy to use. In fact, I’m going to go and use it some more now.

[…]

This thing is … responsive, natural, it really is like I’m writing! It is awesome to able to practice the same motions as I would use when writing with a real pen + paper with Skritter. Wacom + Skritter = heaven. Also it’s matte black, and the pen comes with a little holder, that is reminiscent of an old inkpot.

Here are some pictures of the grand unboxing:

The package arrive about a day and a half later.

The package arrived about a day and a half later.

Ripping open the outer padding reveals some plastic padding

Ripping open the outer padding reveals some plastic padding

There it is!

There it is!

Another box!

Another box!

Some text... I have no time for reading!

Some text... I have no time for reading!


Finally!

Finally!

Skritter is the best, bar none. This coming from a guy with (seriously) 6 1E5 exercise books filled with handwritten characters + 3 at varying stages of completion, stacks of flash cards, Rosetta Stone, ProVoc… Compared to all methods of learning Chinese characters I’ve tried, Skritter is the best. Writing characters over and over in an exercise book, flashing cards in front of my face, sitting in front of Rosetta Stone, none of them were working very well anymore. It’s as if the efficacy of these methods is reduced in proportion to the number of characters learned. Skritter gets around this problem by rotating the characters according to a proven repetition strategy that in most cases will give a retention rate of ~95%.

Obviously it’s not a 1-stop-shop for Chinese language learning, but it definitely takes care of the character recognition/reproduction learning side. With gusto and style. Not to mention in less time than the aforementioned methods require!

Go there, prove these sentiments to yourself: write some Chinese characters.

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Tricked! I’m one of those annoying people that just loves to trick people. I’ve always been this way. I like to defend this “feature” of my personality by claiming that my tricks are aimed at helping my nearest & dearest develop a strong sense of logic and critical faculties, but the honest truth is that I just like to confuse people. A joke is anything that I find funny.

The earliest “encouragement” I remember administering was to my brother. While watching TV, if any text came up on screen he would ask me what it said. To which I would reply: “Learn-to-read-“. He loved it. Another favourite was the old “137” home-phone trick with babysitters. That’s where one hides a portable phone somewhere and secretly dials 137, then hangs up. In NZ this results in a callback, which is when the phone rings but no-one is there (phone: “ring ring”, babysitter: “hello? hello?…”). Oh and another one: the invincible arcaroc dinner plate: while drying dishes, ask the babysitter: “Do you think this would break if I dropped it on the floor?”. Without waiting for a reply, drop it. Heh.

Anyway, all this has made my mother (and brother, wife, Garry, etc…) determined to trick me in a similar way. The day she ordered the Bamboo she succeeded. After emailing her to ask whether I could have the tablet, I received this reply:

Ascent products: Grant Application

Ascent products: Grant Application

I thought, maybe Ascent had some process by which parents could state an amount their offspring were allowed, and send these messages if the products the offspring wanted fell below this amount. At which point this email would be sent out. Dur dur dur.

Well done Mum!

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