Two Years In (or rather, Out)

So it’s time for a bit of review! Yes, I know! Everyone gets sick and tired of reading year-end reviews of the past year, but in the first place, I like writing them as a form of reflection and record, and in the second place, this one is original, since I’m doing two years in one go!

So, slightly over two years ago, I came out. As a trans woman. After not serving as a subdeacon in Church (lockdown), not seeing my daughters (lockdown) or my dad (lockdown), I had simply lost any reason to pose as a man. So, after a bit of a depression in summer, I came out. First to Irina, then in the KDE community. In retrospect, that was easy… Irina walked to her desk, took out the she/her pronouns pin she used at Worldcon in Helsinki and pinned it on my dressing gown. The next day, she gave me one of her medieval-style dresses that was too long for her.

The first time I wore it, I kept the curtains of the living room closed for fear people might see me. It was a Sunday morning, and I got a big hug when Irina came up from church (it was still pandemic lockdown, with limited church services, but she’s choir, and I could only attend when invited, which was not that Sunday.) She gave me a big hug.

Of course, I hadn’t given much thought to my name…. But I ended up taking an easy-to-pronounce name from the conworld Irina has been working on since before she met me, as suggested by Irina. These days, we mainly play TTRPG in that world. It was a perfect fit, since I had never played a PC with that name, even though I have played a lot of girls and women in that world. It also is very suited to me calling myself out in exasperation when I do something dumb: “Hallaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa… Jij doos!”

For KDE, it was a bit harder, but not worth all the emotional explosions I underwent at the time. I say it was a bit harder, but that’s because while I started accepting I needed to come out, I also had started noticing someone else close up was going through something similar, and I didn’t know who to prioritize… But in the end, our sysadmin, Ben Cooksley, simply replaced my old name everywhere with my new name, and a KDE contributor who is also a admin helped me fix it on IRC.

After that, it was simply a matter of telling all sponsored Krita developers and volunteers about my v2.0 release, and people started getting used to it.

In december, I started going out, after dark, in one of the dresses I had ordered by then. Like most trans women, I became a bit of a shopaholic, and while at first I only got black (like most trans women), I got into colour preeeeetty quickly.

By March 2021, I was ready to be out in public, and my first stop was the dentist, for the first time since the pandemic started. That caused remarkably little commotion, only the assistant had to run to the dentist after she had done the preliminary work to warn him.

After that, the GP. My doctor admitted complete ignorance about transitioning, even though she had a transmasc boy as one of her patients already. Still, she got me a referral to a brand-new gender clinic quite close by, Nijmegen. Dear reader, I now have my appointment for the intake: February next year. The Quality Standard Somatic Transgender Care specifies a maximum wait time between referral and intake of SIX WEEKS. This was over NINETY WEEKS, or 23 months to the day.

(The other GP, I have two who take turns in their practice, told me that waiting times of two years were just peachy because it would give me time to reflect before I started undergoing medically unnecessary interventions.)

I did the things I could do on my own: get laser to stop that stupid denial beard I had just shaved off from coming back, get voice therapy, nag the insurance company to do something for me to get my intake earlier.

Voice therapy was great fun: Suhail from Voice in Progress turned out to be an excellent teacher, and Irina and I went there together so she would know about the exercises I’d have to do at home. That amused and pleased Suhail, and it was really useful. Of course, when I went into my first puberty, my mom was all like “stop with that burr, it’s not cute. Keep a clear, high voice!” So I had a tendency to speak in a higher voice anyway. (Which caused much bullying, of course. Everyone assumed I was gay because my voice was a bit high.) In about a year, I was done there already.

Duygu Demir from Huid en Laser Kliniek Deventer turned out to be in the same building as my GP, and she, also, did and is doing an excellent job. It’s expensive, and the insurance still wasn’t doing anything for me. The last time I had a call with them they were telling me they really needed the psychological diagnosis, because otherwise something else might be up, without specifying what.

Weirdly enough, voice therapy is covered, except that the insurance company creatively keeps invoices back over year breaks so I never go over my deductible, so I have to pay everything myself anyway. With physiotherapy, they went the other way, collecting several years worth of invoice and processing them at once, so I had to pay for the sessions after the ninth anyway.

May arrived. I was happy: my hair was getting long enough that the wind would blow it into my face when walking down the street. I was pissed: a shopkeeper thought it absolutely necessary and a total hoot to misgender me. I started exploring DIY hormone replacement therapy.

Lockdowns happened again, though not as severe, but I’ve always been a bit of a homebody, and not going anywhere didn’t bother me much. I worked hard on Krita… But then my eldest daughter announced she was going to have a wedding. She was already living together with her boyfriend on a farm house somewhere in the North. And by now, I only boymoded when doing something I needed to show my passport for, like getting vaccinated against covid19.

I also had lost quite a lot of weight, and my boy clothes simply didn’t fit anymore.

By the time the wedding ceremony was planned, I wouldn’t be able to boymode anymore, at all. No fitting clothes, and panicky fits when trying to wear them.

So I decided to tell her. But it wouldn’t be fair to tell my children one by one, so I used the family whatsapp chat group for that. That was a big mistake! Eldest immediately sneered at me, though the middle one complimented me on my new name, and the youngest one reacted a bit cooler.

Long story short: Irina and I were disinvited from the wedding, and I was told that by coming out as trans I had once again destroyed the “normal” life she had built up. I guess growing up in a house where gay, lesbian and trans people are guests all the time was a problem for her. That, or she had read too much Harry Potter.

I also told our priest, and he said he’d accept me completely, but since Halla wasn’t a saint’s name, I needed to have a proper name for church purposes. I chose Antonia, my third name, and my mother’s name. He has been exceedingly good using that ever since when I had the chance to take communion!

Summer came and went. Lockdown ended again. By now, I really wanted to get onto HRT, so I prepared a statement for my GP: either she would prescribe, she would refer me to a local endocrinologist, she would assist me getting HRT from GenderGP and help out with blood tests, or I would do everything on my own.

We were on our way to Egmond aan Zee for our first vacation in years when I got her call: she would cooperate with the GenderGP route. Yay! The place we stayed was a privete holiday home where we’d been before, and the owner knew us, but she was completely fine with me. As soon as she was done telling us about her gay uncle and had left, I completed the application with GenderGP. That needed a selfie…

An awkward trans woman taking her first, reluctant selfie.
A picture of myself that I had to send to GenderGP for identification purposes.

The vacation was fun! I walked in the dunes, and noticed for the first time the advantage of hiking in a skirt: women were a lot less cagey when noticing me coming in their direction on the dune paths. In church, the pastor opened with the usual “bro” — and then corrected herself to “Sisters — it seems the brothers are rather absent today!” And pretty soon, after we had returned, my HRT meds had arrived!

After a month of taking those, I started feeling really good. I got more supple, tits started to bud, skin started to clear, body hair started to disappear. We celebrated Christmas in beautiful evening gowns, together. That’s exactly one year ago today!

Then in January, I got my booster shot. Ten days later, I got sick, and took to bed for a week or two. Ever since I’ve been sick on and off. Good days are great, bad weeks mean puking my guts out, spending all day lying down on bed and being unable to think because my brain just feel like it’s being steamed. Was it covid? I don’t know. I wasn’t able to do a test because the instructions were too complicated. While I had been teaching myself new cuisines, new painting techniques and reading lots of history earlier in the pandemic, by now I was reduced to reading the simplest and most repetitive of Japanese manga. Ah… A festival. Ah, they drew a yukata. I recognize that. Zzz…

We still managed to keep Krita development up, but I would lie if I said that I was pulling my weight. And of course, in February dictator Putin started out on what would become his greatest war crime to date, the invasion of another sovereign country. His actions in Syria and elsewhere were, of course, already war crimes, but this was on another level. And also another level of sheer stupidity. You can have a working army, or a lucrative kleptocracy, but not both at the same time. Even Mencius already warned about that!

Then, back to the personal, my dad came to visit for the first time since February 2020. I had kept onto one of my pairs of jeans, but I was all like, should I boymode, or not. When I put on the jeans and white dress shirt — my uniform for many years, I had twelve long-sleeved, twelve-short-sleeved white dress shirts and three pairs of identical blue jeans — I started shaking, and I also noticed that I had gone from size 52 to size 42. My prediction about my old clothes stopping fitting me was spot-on.

So I met him in a purple dress with flowers and beads embroidered, and all he said was “Can’t say it’s unexpected. Also, that dress suits you.”


From then until now, life has been boring: I work on Krita, recently on adding a simple little feature, undo/redo for color sets, which blossomed out into a many-month refactoring that I’m still working on. I try to paint now and then, which is hard, because one of the problems I keep having is that brain fog, but also seeing double and having the weirdest tingling, shaking sensation in my left arm.

Oh, and apart from the usual amount of street harassment, I got targeted a couple of times in the street for being trans. Last time, it was September, my ring finger got hurt, and it’s still too thick to make it possible for me to wear my wedding ring.

Irina now wears it on her necklace that also has her little cross.

We bought a new kitchen, and it was a pain to get the fitters to finish fitting it. They started in October, and it’s still not completely complete, though usable.

Dutch Parliament debated the new trans self-id law, and after all the usual fascists spewed their misinformation, a decision was postponed again. So I went and got my “expert declaration” and Irina and I went to Alkmaar, my place of birth, to get my birth certificate fixed.

The person handling this was SO friendly and congratulated us. And that was a bit of a pattern, because after that I needed a new passport, in the name of Halla Simone Antonia Rempt, and get the change carried through with banks, mortgage bank, pharmacy and lots of other places. And everywhere people were genuinely happy for me!

And, apart from getting sick all the time, I’m really happy, too. Life is so much easier compared to before!

Merry Christmas!

A slightly more confident trans woman taking a selfie in her new Christmas festive dress
Festive Christmas dress!

Two novels

I’ve often said I started working on Krita just because I needed a Linux application to draw maps for the novels… But I have never shared the novels themselves. I don’t think I’ll get them published, so maybe here they are?

They were written in the nineties, and are… sexy, in places? And inappropiate? And the third one, which was more inappropriate got lost through a change of laptops. Damn, I miss that text, it was cool.

You might also think that there’s a lot of cultural appropriation here, especially in “Droi”, where a whole class of evil magic has been derived from Buddhism. On the other hand, I could, back then, read Sanskrit, Pali, Classical Chinese, Classical Tibetan and so on. I think the scenes where the heroine fights against how debased her belief system has become are the best.

Oh, I also think the sex scenes are good!

There’s also plenty of conlanging, and while I have lexicons and grammars for the languages in question, I won’t be sharing those :P.

Anyway, without further ado, here’s the juvenile

Murxao (sweet juvenile romance with added cats)

And Droi, (protag’s thought process) imma gonna fix this world to avenge my dead wife.

This is all in Andal, a world that’s different, and which I started creating when I was eleven or so. My original thought back then was “there should be someone home when the kids come home from school, but you need two adults working to earn enough, so, any marriage should be between three people, one of them staying home for the kids.”
Yes, I was pretty innocent when I was eleven.

A tale of too many macs

For someone who really doesn’t like the company or the platform, I’ve had curiously many macs. It started with a Powerbook Pismo which I got secondhand to investigate some problems Krita had with big-endianness (it had a powerpc cpu and ran Debian), during the first Krita kickstarter I got KO GmbH to buy a mac mini so I could work on porting Krita to macOS. That one was horribly slow, so then in 1015 I got a 15″ macbook pro. In 2020 I first got an M1 MacBook pro, to look into making Krita ready for the M1 cpu.  And after that an M1 mac mini for KDE’s binary factory. I haven’t noticed other projects making use of it, though, and it’s a bit unstable.

And then, since I still could get a good trade-in value, I decided to swap the 13″ M1 for a 14″. The 13″‘ screen was always a bit too small for me and I hated the touch bar with a vengeance.

I’ve been using it now for a bit, and here are my impressions…

The out of the box experience was… Trying my patience a lot! First it needed to download and install 6.1 GB of updates before I could even start sending over my user files. That took hours, even over my really fast glass connection..

Then I wanted to transfer my user folder from the old macbook to the new one; I was warned that that would take five hours. In the end, it was “only” two hours. But that worked really well: everything was copied and ready for me.

Only at that point, by now it was early in the evening could I log in. Asnd that didn’t work. I needed to futz with my Apple ID from another Apple device — and that several times. When that was finally sorted, and I don’t remember <i>how</i> I sorted it in the end, macOS insisted on setting up all kind of stuff I’ll never use, like iCloud.

The next day, I could finally setup my development environment, dropbox and other stuff. Dropbox on M1 macOS has a problem: it can no longer install the kernel extension that would automatically download an off-line file, which means… For every file in Dropbox that I want to use, I need to manually make it available off-line. That’s still not sorted.

As for the development environment, installing XCode took, once again, hours. I only use the command-line stuff, the IDE I use for working on Krita is Qt Creator.

So, now I was all set to go and build Krita. At that point it was clear that this laptop is amazingly fast. Compiled C++ files scrolled by at a clip that I only know from C on other computers.

Actually developing, though, is not such a nice experience. The problem is mainly with the keyboard. As far as keyboards go, the actual keys type fine. It hasn’t got a lot of travel, but it’s easy on the nail polish, it feel good — typing text is a lot of fun. It’s got function keys again, which is also nice.


It’s missing so many keys. I know, that’s par for course with Apple, but when using Krita, a missing Insert key means no easy way to create layers. And there’s a lot of inconsistency between applications. In Terminal, you switch tabs with Control-Tab, in Firefox with Option-Command-Left/Right, in Qt Creator with Option-Tab. I haven’t figured out what it is in Kate. Navigating around text is also inconsistent between applications. And that means that I just never get any finger memory down: especially since I also use all other operating systems…

The window manager is also pretty primitive and needs help from an external utility called Rectangle.

And the permissions stuff is crazy. The wacom tablet driver needs permissions to use Accessibility — as does, for some reason Dropbox.

The hardware for the rest is fine… The screen is good, I don’t mind the notch since I run pretty much everything full-screen, all the time. Battery life is good, but not as good as the 13″‘ battery life was.

As for the rest of the hardware, the screen is fine, I don’t mind the notch, because I pretty much always use all applications full-screen, because of how bad window management is compared to KWin, even with Rectangle.

And I have got a cute cover sticker with Kiki on it!

A pretty laptop sticker


About Names…

I was named after the then-king of Belgium and my parents. Apparently, discussions with both the minister and the grandparents were getting heated enough that naming me in the Rempt family tradition (Simon, Cornelis, Simon, Cornelis, ad infinitum) wasn’t going to fly, and putting in the names of the granddads as second, third name wasn’t going to work either.

So I was a Boudewijn Simon Anthonie. My mom has always been pissed it wasn’t Anthony, but that was a spelling mistake on my dad’s part, at the registry office. My dad is Simon, my mom was Antonia (born 1939, so what was the connection to the NSB’s Mussert again? Though I also had an Antonia aunt who was born before WWI.) And my “roepnaam” — what my parents put on the birth card as what they were going to call me was “Boudy”.

Yeah. When that got known in primary school, it heralded much bullying.

And in secondary school, feminizing my name to “Boudewina” was pretty much a fave of the bullies — and that group comprised all of my classmates, pretty much. Hey! Boudewina! You’re sitting like a bitch — kick. Hey Boudewina, you’re walking like a tart, push. Hey, Boudewina, your test resultts are good like a girl’s — stomp.

(And years later, when I was in my fifties, and I was out to my wife, though not in public yet, when I was fifty, the local comic book shop owner revived “Boudewina” all on his own…)

When I got into free software, and irc, and Linux, “Boudewijn” was too long — too many characters for a Linux user name back in in 1993. So, I shortened it to “Boud”. And that worked?

Pretty much the only problem I had was teaching people the right pronunciation, but I didn’t really care about that. There was one Krita sprint where I was near the table where Cyrille, Dmitry and others were hacking, and one after another put their finger in the air and shouted, “Boud, boud, can you take a look at this?”

And then corona happend, and I had no reason anymore to fake being male, and came out, first to my wife, who also doesn’t live with her baptismal name.

And I was like, I need a new name, and, NOOOOOO, it doesn’t need to start with a “B”. Fuck that letter ‘B’! Like so many of us, I went through all the table-top RPG player character names of all the people I had played in the past thirty years. Unlike many of us, they all had different names — I didn’t want to contaminate one character with another — but I didn’t figure out anything appropriate. Maybe because I had so many names I had used before?

At that point, Irina, my wife, suggested “Halla”. It’s an Ilaini word (and Irina and I got together over our respective invented worlds and languages) and it means “blackbird”, and I’ve always been really partial to blackbirds… And I had never used this, the most common girls’ name in Ilaini, for any of my PC’s, so it was free!

So, in the end, I once again didn’t name myself, but got named by someone else, by  the woman I’ve been with for over thirty years, and the name just fits!

(The really weird thing right now is that I not only never played any PC with the name Halla, but also that meeting other Halla’s in Valdyas is really making me feel discombobulated.)

My Librem 5 has arrived

Well, it arrived two weeks ago, but I had a pretty terrible cold so I didn’t really take a look… Here are my initial findings:

  • It’s a brick. It thick, fat, heavy and feel awkward to hold. But it’s got three manual kill switches.
  • On startup, it asks for a disk encryption password, which the manual didn’t say anything about. I guessed it would be 123456, based on some quick googling, and it was. You need to press OK yourself, it doesn’t figure out that the password has been entered.
  • Then you get a bit of text scrolling past when the thing is booting
  • Then there is no wizard to set up accounts or anything — I got asked for a password and again it was 123456
  • Then I noticed that when it’s charging it gets REALLY hot.
  • And then I could start exploring the software a bit…

I know how hard developing for mobile Linux is. I worked with Nokia on the Maemo/MeeGo Documents application based on KOffice/Calligra. I’ve worked on Plasma Mobile for Blue Systems. I know that after the N900, with its mostly GTK stack, everyone until Purism has tried to build their mobile Linux UI on Qt and later QML. (Well, FirefoxOS was different, but Blackberry, Nokia, Ubuntu, Palm… That was all Qt.) And they all failed, for various reasons.

This thing runs GTK-based software again. And it’s really bad. It’s slow; even scrolling in the Settings application is not smooth. The browser doesn’t scroll smoothly. And its’s buggy. Starting the Usage applet randomly pops up a dialog asking whether this or that applet should be force-quit. There are two back buttons in the system update applet next to each other, but only one works.

  • And finally, battery life is abysmal.

I haven’t seen a Fairphone yet, but literally nothing in the Librem 5 is an improvement over the Nokia N9. Well, maybe the killswitches. It’s as if there have been no developments whatsoever for the past ten years. And in the meantime, since I first backed the 2017 crowdfunding campaign I have sort of lost interest in mobile devices…

Should we stop flying to our free software conferences?

Whelp, the latest IPCC report doesn’t beat about the bush. It whacks right into it. And, yes, while governments and companies need to take responsibility and finally start to DO something, we all still have a personal responsibility.

As KDE we’re working on the energy consumption of our applications (which already has shown something we, the Krita developers, can do right away), I changed to buying the electricity I use for building Krita (and everything else) from the local windmill coop… I don’t drive, never have, and that pile of wood next to the stove dates back to 2018, and we’re not going to burn it any more. (Why would we — it’s too warm in winter, when we came to live here in 2007, we needed that stove because it was too cold otherwise!)

All of that is peanuts.

But there is one place where we, as a free software community, have to take responsibility (that word again) and stop doing something we absolutely love to do, and for which we’ve been pining.

In-person conferences with a world-wide attendance.

I’m hating having to say this, and I’m hating that I have to say that it is inevitable, and I hate that many of my Krita collaborators won’t actually be meeting me, the improved second release, but… We, as a free software community need to have this discussion, and until now, all I’ve seen has been silence.

Flying always scared me irrationally, but that’s not the reason I think we should stop it. Cheap air travel is only possible because it’s subsidized, untaxed and airlines are being kept alive only as a matter of national pride. And that’s the only reason we can actually afford to fly people from all around the world to conferences, sprints, Akademies and the like.

Our conference model is built upon something we wouldn’t be able to afford if air travel was priced in accordance with its real cost.

And, we’re probably not going to miss the presentations, much? Most presentations at free software conferences are, honestly, a bit meh. A conference with presentations is something we’ve copied from Academia. What we’re really missing is the meetings, the chats, the sitting together at a table and making notes, the occasional pair programming, the making new acquaintances, the gossip.

And the remote conference format pretty much only provides the presentations, with a bit of chat, which we already have next to it. And I really cannot handle remote conferences myself. For meetings and BoF sessions, I get a headache in a minute or ten. For presentations, especially when pre-recorded, I get bored in under a minute. That sucks.

Maybe we can find a better on-line get-together activity. Max Miller from Tasting History has a virtual cocktail party with his patreons. Maybe the next virtual conference could start with planning and facilitating the socializing, and only add in a program as an afterthought?

But whatever, we still should not go back to burning enormous amounts of kerosene for our get-togethers. Would it be too much to say that that would be criminal?

Krita, Qt and OpenGL — again.

I have previously written about this subject, and back then couldn’t reach any conclusion. The options open to us were all confusing: we could try to write Krita’s canvas directly in Metal, OpenGL and Direct3D and show those in native windows in our QtWidgets based application.

We could try to rewrite our canvas in QRhi, the semi-private GPU API  abstraction Qt 5.15 and up provides — though it might not have enough functionality for us, since it us just written for what Qt needs for QtQuick.

We could try to rewrite all of Krita in QtQuick and integrate our canvas into QtQuick’s render loop: but yes, that means a complete rewrite, because you cannot put a QWidget in a QtQuickWindow, and putting QtQuick into a QWidget window means you’re rendering using OpenGL, which breaks on Windows, now that Qt6 doesn’t come with an Angle option.

So we had a big blue button meeting on Friday, where we discussed this issue and some other issues.

Here’s what we concluded:

We will patch Qt6 to render OpenGL using Angle on Windows and macOS.

In the meantime, using Qt 5.12, we’ll move forward adding QtQuick based elements to Krita.

And we’ll try  to make a QtQuickWindow based version of Krita for Android. Sharaf Zaman has succeeded in prototyping that, so we know it can be done now; something we lost in the migration from Qt4 to Qt5.

We also want to strip out the CPU-based canvas in Krita and port our usage of QPainter on OpenGL surfaces to straight OpenGL.

And finally, something we should have done during the port to Qt5, we’ll move uploading the canvas textures into a thread, which should solve the performance problems on macOS.

All in all, it was a very focused and very productive meeting, though I guess the conclusion might be a bit startling. And we’re a bit daunted, but only a bit: we already patch the heck out of Qt anyway.


A new macbook pro — first impressions

Two days ago, my macbook pro M1 arrived. I mainly got this device to test Krita on and make ARM builds of Krita, but it’s also the first macbook anyone in the Krita community that allows playing with sidecar and has a touch strip.

So, SideCar works, as expected. There is one problem, though, and that’s that the pressure curve of the Apple Pencil seems to be seriously weird, so I first thought I was painting with a sketch engine brush. But apart from that, it’s nice and smooth.

KDAB has published a library to integrate support for the touchbar: kdmactouchbar — so on that front we might see some support coming.

Krita itself, the x86 build, runs fine: the performance is much better than on my 2015 15″ macbook pro, and rosetta seems to even translate the AVX2 vectorization instructions we use a lot. Weirdly enough, X86 Firefox doesn’t seem to be able to load any website, and Safari is very annoying. Looks like the macOS build of Kate isn’t notarized yet, or maybe I need to use the binary factory build for that. XCode took about two hours to install and managed to crash the system settings applet in the process.

We haven’t succeeded in actually making an ARM build yet. We first need to build the libraries that Krita uses, and some of those seem to build as X86, and some as ARM, and we haven’t figured out how to fix that yet.

The laptop itself is, well, a laptop. It’s not bad, but it would never be my favorite. Yes, it’s very fast, that’s what everyone says, and it’s true: Qt builds in a mere 20 minutes.

The keyboard is nice, much better than the one on the 2015 macbook pro, so Apple was able to make some progress. But the edges of the palm rest — well, all of the edges are really sharp, which is quite painful when typing.

Really cute was the way the language choice on installation tells you to press Enter in all the language, including four dialects of English.

MacOS 11 is also really annoying, with an endless stream of notifications and please-use-your-finger-to-unlock for the most innocuous things. The visuals are appallingly ugly, too, with really ugly titlebars, a cramped system settings applet and weird little pauses now and then. And if the performance monitor can still be put in the menubar, I haven’t found the way to do that.

Anyway, that’s it. We’ll be making ARM builds of Krita one of these days. If you value your freedom, if you like the idea of actually owning the hardware and being able to do whatever you want with it, don’t buy one.

Two New “Tablets”: Wacom Cintiq Pro 24″ Touch and Remarkable 2

In 2018, I discussed the digital painting devices I had used up til then. These were a Lenovo Thinkpad X61t, a Lenovo Thinkpad Helix, a Microsoft Surface Pro 3, a Wacom Cintiq Hybrid Companion, an iPad Pro 12.9″, a Wacom Mobile Studio Pro 16″ and a Lenovo Yoga 920.

I didn’t discuss the Wacom Graphire, the Wacom Intuos 3, the Huion H610 or the Yiyniva MVP22U that I also had around, probably because apart from the Intuos 3, all of that hardware was stored in the Hardware Attic.

But recently, the Hybrid Companion became even more unusable (it was already bad because of the enormous parallax): the screen’s brightness just couldn’t reach visible levels anymore.

And the Wacom Mobile Studio Pro has been dying for over a year now — not good for expensive hardware bought only in 2017. When running as a computer, it would shut itself down randomly, probably because it was getting too hot. So I got myself a Wacom Link device so I could use it as a regular cintiq, but after two days of usage… The display would reset itself randomly and finally it wouldn’t power up anymore, at all.

Of the hardware in the original survey, I still have the Lenovo Yoga 920 — it just has had its screen replaced for the second time, but apart from that, it’s fine.

The screen was broken… The motherboard too. The replacement was too dim, and had to be replaced.

And the iPad is also still fine, probably because I don’t use it for anything but reading comics. The pencil these days never gets even charged because I don’t want to port Krita to iOS and I dislike all the drawing applications that are available for iOS. And the Pencil is really nasty to hold, because it’s top-heavy.

So, what came next…

In 2019, we acquired a Pixel Chromebook (a loaner from Google) and a Samsung Tab S4, for the ChromeOS and Android port. The Tab S4 is nice for reading comics, too, but screen is small and the pen is a bit too small to hold comfortably, for me at least. And Krita on Android is still a bit rough, so no way that would be my main drawing device. (Though Sharaf is working full-time now on improving Krita on ChromeOS and Android.)

Then we had the 2019 Krita Sprint, and I wanted to setup a working HDR test system, so I got an Intuos Pro Large. I hadn’t realized Large meant Huge though… It’s not a display tablet. I actually still like the old Intuos 3 we got crowdfunded in 2007 better.

The demise of the Mobile Studio Pro left me without a display tablet, so I decided to invest in a real Cintiq.

The 16″ model has been out of stock for quite some time now in the Netherlands. I thought, whatever, and got the 24″ one. There’s this saying about donkeys, and I guess I’ve proven I’m not a donkey, because once again, this was waaaaaaaay bigger than I had expected.

It has completely conquered my analog art table:

I’ve had it for three weeks now. Let me sum up my experience with it in the first part of this blog post. The second part is about the Remarkable 2 I received around the same time (I backed their fundraiser way back then).

First: this is the right size for a display tablet. Everything I’ve used before felt cramped, and that’s coming from someone who likes to paint on 3″ by 3″ panels with oils and brushes. At first, it feels downright heavenly to work on.


There are a bunch of severe issues with it, Windows 10 and the latest Wacom drivers. There are also issues using it with Linux + KDE’s Tablet KCM, but those aren’t really Wacom’s fault. I haven’t used it with my mac yet.

  • I won’t whine about size and weight. But the bezels are ginormous, and though they are a nice magnetic area for the expresskeys remote to latch on to, they are just too much.
  • If you turn up the display brightness, the fans start impersonating fighter jets taking off. If you don’t it’s really quite dim. And after a while, you get the fans anyway. I wish my drawing was good enough to get fans that easily.
  • The thingy you click in to put your pen is is tacky, ugly and flimsy. Not a 2500 euro including VAT experience, not at all.
  • The legs only have one elevation, though it’s quite a good elevation, for me.
  • The driver and settings software and Windows 10 is GHASTLY.

Let me elaborate on that, because it really is a big deal.

On Windows, there are two ways for applications to talk to tablets, and vice-versa. The ancient and usually reliable “wintab” and the not-really-new-but-we-pretend-it-is and OS-supported “Windows 8 Pointer API, most often called “Windows Ink”.

By default Windows Ink is enabled. This totally makes it impossible to map either side of the rocker switch to right-click. If you do that, and try to use it, Windows will draw a round circle around the cursor and do nothing. You cannot even use it to right-click in Windows Explorer. Whether this is a Windows bug or a Wacom driver bug, I don’t know. I do know that the regular workaround for this issues, switching off flicks, is no longer possible in the latest builds of Windows 10.

This means, with Windows Ink enabled, you cannot right-click with the stylus. At all.

But if I disable Windows Ink in the calibration screen of the Wacom display settings utility (that means, we switch to Wintab), suddenly the right click button starts working! Yay! Both pan and the popup palette work in Krita!

Only… If you have a multi-monitor setup, and given that this is a display tablet, that’s a given, you will get offsets. The offsets get worse the more screens there are to the left of the cintiq. But even if you place the cintiq lef-most in Windows’ display configuration setting, tablet events arrive a bit to the left of the stylus point. And if your displays have a heterogenous scaling factor, the offset gets wild.

This is not a bug in Krita; it happens everywhere, but it doesn’t happen for the mouse events that are generated after the tablet events are discarded. Those are pretty much in the right place.

In short… You can have a right-click button on the stylus or accurate stylus mapping, but not both.

I guess we’ll learn to work around this in Krita by also looking at the mouse events, and taking the coordinates from that. But please, Wacom and Microsoft, work together to fix this?

So this weekend I wanted to test our last release by painting for a couple of hours. Instead it’s the third weekend I’ve spent investigating mouse/stylus/button issues and settings.

And now about the other device that arrived! It’ll never run Krita, but it promised to be very cool indeed. I got a Remarkable 2 tablet. That’s an e-ink display which promises the best ever writing experience.

I wanted to use it for notes, jottings, character sheets, and making diagrams while thinking. Also reading PDF’s of standards documents, programming manuals and articles about graphics and painting.

The hardware looks gorgeous, too. Very stylish, with a nice black pen, a nice leatherette cover and a flush screen design.

There are two problems, one I don’t care much about, and the other one damning.

The meh problem is that in order to put PDF’s on the tablet, you need an account and a Windows, Android or ipadOS application. Or you can futz around with ssh. Well, given that I ssh into our music sever laptop to start a screen session in which I run ogg123, that’s not a biggie. Might be for others, isn’t for me.

But… I’m a leftie. I’m not just to the left of AOC when it comes to politics, but I draw, paint and write with my left hand. Most of us lefties have learned to turn the paper counter-clockwise until the top is parallel with our hand.

Then we start to write.

On the remarkable this wil every friggin’ TIME that I start writing at the top of a page close that page because a gesture from the top downwards closes the open document.

It’s as if I’m crumpling up every piece of paper I’m writing on, always, all the time.

But apart from that, the acccuracy, speed, handwriting detection, screen quality, build quality — it’s all close to perfect. The pen is a bit too rough for my fingers, but okay, that would erode with enough use. Only, using the Remarkable is next to impossible for me!

ETA: I figured it out! I can hide the ui for selecting tools, and that also hides the thingy that closes the document on touch. I can finally use the Remarkable  — though I still tend to create new pages all the time with the palm of my hand.

Checking out the Competition: Clip Studio

So, last week I read a review in the German C’t magazine of Krita 4.4.0. It was all very complimentary, but the conclusion was:

Mit seinen Animations- und Vektorfähigkeiten hebt sich Krita von der Konkurrenz ab. Funktional bleibt das Programm allenfalls hinter dem japanischen Clip Studio Paint (ehemals Manga Studio) zurück.

Well! I mean to say, that’s not what we want to hear. I’ve played a bit with Clip Studio on iOS, but I never really dug into what made the application different from, say, Paint Tool Sai or Medibang.

So I got a trial license and gave it a try, first on my macbook pro (2015), then on Windows on my Thinkpad T470p. I recently got a new cintiq, a 24″ Cintiq Pro Touch, to replace the broken Cintiq Hybrid Companion and the even more broken Mobile Studio Pro. It’s conquered my painting table…

The first thing you notice when starting Clip Studio is the really busy opening screen, which is actually separate from the actual painting application. Just like Krita, it shows the latest news, but also featured images, new tutorials and so on. There is a row of options on the left side, some of which open a browser, some of which open a page in the right-hand panel and one of which starts the application.

Clip Studio's Starting Screen
Clip Studio’s Starting Screen

I kind of like the presentation of the news items, and the featured image on top.

Starting Clip Studio shows a rather traditional window. On macOS, you can only open Clip Studio on the primary display, you cannot move the application from, say, the monitor to the Cintiq without making the Cintiq the primary display. On Windows, that’s not a problem, but several of the dialogs will show up on the primary display, not the one where the Clip Studio window is placed. This even happens for the brush editor floating palette.

Clip Studio's main window
Clip Studio’s main window

Also on macOS, Clip Studio comes with its own titlebar and titlebar buttons which don’t work like the default ones on macOS do.

Then I loaded one of my old comic pages in PSD format, and started experimenting.

I found out, in the settings, that Clip Studio has the same problems with Wintab vs Windows Ink Krita has, which is kind of a relief. I also got the same problems with the rocker switch set to right-button, and with misplaced cursors if not all screens have the same display scaling. In general, the touch screen functionality of the Cintiq is quite bad…

Something that Krita has, that Photoshop doesn’t is group layers that are either pass-through (as in Photoshop) or have their own projection. Clip Studio has that, too, but it’s a global option in the preferences dialog, and cannot be set per group layer.

Another setting is between “default” and “high quality” canvas — that sounds a bit like Krita’s setting where you can choose between nearest neighbour, bilinear, trilinear and high-quality scaling mode. It suggests that Clip Studio is also using OpenGL for their canvas implementation, but… Their canvas is really smooth and responsive on macOS, where we are still struggling with OpenGL on macOS.

Their tool system is different: they have separate tools for pencil, pen, brush and eraser. Tools then have “sub tools” that you can select in the top-left second column panel, and then settings in a panel underneath. That works quite well, much better than Photoshop’s fold-out toolbar buttons where you long-click, then select a tool, and the others are hidden again.

The panels show text and icon for the currently selected tab, and icons for the unselected tabs. Those icons are, on Windows, a bit cut off, and hard to recognize. To me, it looked a bit like Hangul…

What I really appreciated is that the layer properties aren’t in a dialog, but in a panel, and this works really quite well. There are layer-style like things you can add to a layer, and mark a layer as “draft” — so for instance the fill tool doesn’t take that layer into account when using the composed image for filling, or as a “reference” layer. I want to convert Krita’s layer properties dialog to a panel, too!

There are two color modes: dark and light, and both lack contrast a bit. It doesn’t help that if you make the cintiq brighter than 50% a boeing 747 starts taking off in your work room, drowning out music and speech. Such fans…

Clip Studio Paint really is geared towards making manga, manhwa or manhua (even though it isn’t for sale in the PRC, only Taiwan). So there are lots of options for showing things like bleed margins, and I want that, too, for Krita. A new canvas decoration would be the best place to implement that.

Krita does have a comic book manager which handles pages and generating epubs, so we’re equal in that regard. What we’re missing is the number of templates and presets; what is also missing is the frame layer type, for comic book frames. And our text tool and balloon collection isn’t good, but I already knew that.

There are a bunch of other useful features, some of which already got discussed on, like an option to assign a color to a grayscale layer and use that color to render the pixels. That should be implementable, though, and the workarounds discussed in that thread shouldn’t be necessary.

There’s a filter that makes raster line-art fatter — not sure how useful that is.

There are two other big differences that I could see in one Sunday of playing around and following tutorials: materials and 3d models. Materials are things like patterns, but also models of buildings and other resources that you can use to, for instance, easily add a lace border to a dress. This is worth investigating. The inclusion of the 3D models is something we had tried to achieve in one or two Summer of Code projects, but it never got anywhere. Might be worth reviving as a project.

Another thing worth investigating is whether we shouldn’t create something like Blender Cloud or the Clip Studio community system, where people can take out a subscription and access and share resources, tutorials and so on.

Painting-wise, I think Clip Studio is doing fine, though our brush engines are more versatile, but their performance on macOS is much better.

In the end, I probably should go through all the menus and make a detailed feature comparison, and then we, Krita developers, could decide which features are neat enough to nick. I wonder when Adobe will then poach those new features for Photoshop…