The good news is I just upgraded to Manga Studio 5 and the new version is in many ways a VAST improvement over the previous version. It still has the text-tool bug that chops off the corners of your text if you don't pad the line with spaces, but the tools for creating dialogue balloons have gone from "click everything 7 times hell" to a set of dreamy new tools that are very natural and intuitive and let you even draw the balloons by hand if you want! But man... Smith Micro really needs to clean themselves up... the English-language user manual for MS5 is chocked full of handy screen-captures of the user interface IN JAPANESE. I'm not sure how they thought that would be okay for sale in the rest of the world. And then the tools themselves are labelled in weird and very wordy Japanglish ... every art program I know has a "magic wand" tool, but in Manga Studio it's called something else. And every magic wand tool has a "tolerance" setting to control the color variance, so everybody knows what it does, because they all call it "tolerance", but in manga studio it's called something like "Maximum Color Boundary". WTF?! So now in addition to learning Manga Studio, they're making me learn this whole new lingo that only exists in their program. But despite those weird drawbacks, this new MS5 version is still a VAST improvement over the previous version, so I'm glad I got it! And I would recommend it if you're interested in making comics.
EDIT: Aside from the changes to the dialogue tools, Manga Studio 5 standard edition also adds a couple of features that really should have been included in MS4 Debut, but weren't, namely the eyedropper, gradient, PNG support and colored text. (Although you still can't rotate text. wtf?) Layers are a bit different. There isn't a black+white layer anymore, there's just black or grayscale, which while I liked the B+W layers I understand this makes the raster layers a little simpler for most folks (who probably weren't using those layers anyway). But MS5 standard edition also includes vector layers, which is a big plus. A number of features like toning and masking have been moved to what they're calling a "Feature Layer" -- it's hard to explain, but I'm preferring it over MS4 Debut. Connecting multiple dialogue balloons no longer requires a separate text folder, since dialogue is done on a vector Feature Layer -- and you can have multiple blocks of text on a single text layer as well. Speed lines, focus lines and vanishing points are no longer filters -- they've been moved to materials. I don't think I prefer that, but I understand why they did it that way -- if you want other kinds of focus lines or speed lines, you can still create your own materials for that.
The bad news is my comics will probably be delayed a bit in the coming weeks, despite having this great new software. Luckily Tiffany has a machine and my oldest daughter Alex has a Bamboo tablet that I can borrow to get some work done, but it's going to be slow that way since I have to share the machine and won't be drawing on-screen anymore. So yeah, I'm really lucky and grateful that's the case, otherwise I'd be getting no comic work done in the next month or so.
In previous years every time I've gone to purchase a computer because I needed one, Dell was always the most popular brand, but I always found that I could get more for my money buying from HP. And most of the time, HP has done really well for me. They've been good, solid, reliable machines. Well this TouchSmart that I've been doing all my cartooning on is a big exception. Last night it failed (COMPLETELY) - it won't turn on at all, no post beep, nothing. In itself that's frustrating enough, but this is the 3rd time it's happened with this machine in the last 2 years. I've never had a problem like this with any other machine of any brand. And it's little consolation to me that HP decided to discontinue the TouchSmart series.
So... now we're trying to figure out how to deal with it. I'm hoping to replace it with a Lenovo ThinkPad. I did a little research and found that 3rd party reports rank Lenovo at the top of a list of 9 major manufacturers. On that same list apparently HP and Dell rank 6th and 7th respectively, so... there's that. Lenovo on the other hand is owned by IBM and make a lot of notepads used by first responders (EMT, police, fire men), so it's no wonder their machines are durable. Problem is I don't know if I can afford the Lenovo. This HP was about the same price when I bought it -- somewhere between $2-3k and we've had to pay $600+ twice now to have it fixed outside of their 1 yr warranty... so all-together this machine's probably cost me more than a thousand dollars over what it would have cost me if I'd bought a Lenovo at the time. The last time we had it repaired again they let us purchase a warranty for the repair work... so in theory if it's exactly the same problem as before, we can get the repair repaired under warranty. We'll see...
But even if we get it repaired under warranty, then I know I'm just biding my time for the next 6 months until it fucking dies again the same way. Apparently people who've purchased these machines know about this -- it's a common problem -- so HP must know about it as well. To me, it's unacceptable that they know about this MASSIVE FLAW and the only thing they're willing to do about it is discontinue the series and SELL me additional support and warranty when it breaks. So at this point despite having great experiences with HP in the past, I don't really feel like I can recommend them in the future.
Anyway, while we try and figure out what we're going to do about my work machine, I'll probably be spending more time working on the ComicComet hosting site, so that's also some good news. I have been doing more work on it recently and I really do want to get it coded enough to start signing people up for it. So hopefully in a few weeks while we're waiting on resolving the computer issue, I'll be a lot closer to that goal.
I hope you guys are all having a better start to 2013!