Revisiting Art Programs 2014

So it has been a rather long year and sometimes stuff gets updated. To keep with that trend, I'm going to update my original opinions on the art programs that I tried out over a year ago. This time, hopefully with some place markers to see how much will get updated next year (because I can't tell how far FireAlpaca has gotten since I last tried it...just a version number without a date). The list this time will also have a couple of extra programs dumped in because why not.

- Krita
- Gimp
- Paint.NET
- Pinta
- MSPaint
- OpenCanvas
- PaintTool SAI
- MyPaint
- FireAlpaca
- AzPainter

Following the previous post on the matter, the images shown are just sketches and any colors that are added were just because I felt like it. For the most part, I tried to stick with Windows on this run because supposedly everything is always worse on Windows (from personal experience) which means I might have more stuff I can bitch about. Some of these programs CAN run under wine or crossover, but the listed supported OSes are the ones supported natively.

Krita (Linux/Windows):
What better program to start off with than the premier artwork studio for the linux world. As of this post, the current Windows version is 2.8.3 and honestly I only did the most basic of things with krita, but it does have the ability to select sections, crop, cut, apply filters, etc. In short, it's still pretty much a mixture between a standard painting application with some of the finer pieces of GIMP included. Probably most of the actual drawing artwork can be done with just Krita and maybe even be used to completely finish images, or just add those finishing touches in GIMP. There was some noticeable lag with some of the brushes, though whether by design or not, I don't know. While it didn't hinder my drawing, it was a problem while filling in some white background. Possibly it might just be a Windows only bug. Drawing in Krita doesn't feel bad, but there are other alternatives that just feel better, and that is what I'm judging on this time around.

FireAlpaca (Windows/Mac):
FireAlpaca has been one of those programs that I have no idea if it's alive or not. As of this post, the current version is 1.1.12. Everything feels pretty much the same as it was before, with no changes to the interface as far as I can tell. Drawing feels smoother than in krita despite the relatively small repertoire of brushes. It has some basic selection tools and a rather nifty helping tool for perspective planes, but aside from that, it's pretty bare bones as far as image editing is concerned. As a drawing application though, it fits the bill and the UI lends itself to being uncluttered which makes usage convenient.

Paint.NET (Windows):
As one of the normal recommends by various people in the internets, I decided to add it to the list just to make the list a little longer. Current version at the time of this post is version 4.0.5. At first, the image tabs really put me off balance since it takes a rather unique approach to thumb-nailing them, but after some thought, I realized that it at least had some reasoning behind it. Paint.NET is slightly less of a drawing application and more of an image application. Brushes are absent, but the staple image editor functions are available with filters, effects, color correction, etc. It also lacks pressure sensitivity which pretty much makes it pointless to use with a tablet, thus it really shouldn't be in this list but I'm putting it in anyways. All in all, it has more features than most of the drawing oriented apps, as expected, but not really enough that I would toss GIMP aside to use Paint.NET. In terms of image editing, it's not the worst but as before, it also isn't the best.

Pinta (Linux/Windows/Mac):
Pinta is more or less modeled after Paint.NET and thus it has a large number of similarities with Paint.NET in being much more image editor heavy rather than art creation heavy. As of this post, it is version 1.5. Once again there is little use for a tablet with this program, but thanks to having a model to take from, most if not all of the same filters, effects, color correction tools, etc. are readily available. In terms of the interface itself, I like the capabilities that Pinta provides where the windows can be put as side panels, tabs, separate windows, and even tabs alongside the actual canvas. It also extendable with add ins which is a definite plus...but in terms of actual plugins made for Pinta...well they are lacking. It's better than Paint.NET at being Paint.NET, but aside from the rather flexible UI, I can't say I would toss GIMP away for Pinta either.

MSPaint (Windows):
So yet another totally not relevant image editor that lengthens this post. The infamous MSPaint that only those who want to troll or don't know any better use for their image editing. Bundled with Windows 7, I have no idea what version it's at internally, not that it really matters. It's the most basic of basic image editors with no support for layers, filters, effects, any semblance of decent selection, or any of the useful features an image editor should have. It has no pressure support, and overall I just don't like it with it's large, clunky interface. If there were something I could praise, it would be that the program at least doesn't seem buggy. But it really doesn't provide much for artwork creation aside from it's limited brush set and subpar brush engine that really lends itself to creating strange dark spots. Despite all of my hatred of MSPaint, it isn't unheard of to see some people use MSPaint to make some fantastic works of art. While I myself will never come to like MSPaint, I can't hate the people who manage to make really neat artwork using MSPaint.

GIMP (Linux/Windows/Mac):
So we come to one of the few major feature-full image editors available for linux. A variety of people claim that GIMP is about the equivalent of Photoshop (or a subpar version of photoshop), but since I have never understood Photoshop, I can't really claim whether one is better than the other for any specific reason. The version is currently 2.8.14. GIMP is pretty extensible with plugins, brushes, and it allows for numerous custom additions that the community has taken advantage of and thus there is a gallery of features available through plugins. In terms of actual artwork, it's meh. A little fiddly to get things started, as I had to go to Edit > Input Devices and change the mode of my tablet stuff to screen/window before I could get the pressure sensitivity to work well. Surprisingly enough, there is an input lag bug due to libcairo and Gimp's ruler (#736411) which can be worked around by hiding the rulers that are normally shown by default. The brush engine in GIMP isn't spectacular, but it gets the job done and with a little tweaking, I'm sure the pressure sensitivity could be a lot better. With just stock settings, it feels kind of light for the amount of pressure I'm exerting, but otherwise it's not particularly bad.

OpenCanvas (Windows):
This program is one that gets fairly regular updates throughout the year and honestly has some pretty compelling features. The current version as of this post is version 6.0.05. Aside from the basic needs of artwork creation, there are also some of the finer image editing features like filters, transformations, and perspective rulers. They also have a spectacular event function that can record and play back your entire drawing so that you or others can review the process up to the final product directly from oC. The provided brushes are not completely trash or anything, but I do find them to be somewhat lacking in comparison to some other programs. Interface-wise, it's clean and reasonable enough to maneuver through, though the way it looks feels dated. As a plus, the windows do have edge snapping, so aligning windows side-by-side is a snap and they all have shortcut keys bound to them. oC covers most of the bases that a lame artist such as myself could want, as I would expect from a paid program, but I feel like the brush is a little heavier than what I want.

MyPaint (Linux/Windows/Mac):
Previously this was my favorite art program for linux and so I had some decent hopes for it on Windows despite knowing that there would definitely be bugs. Updates are not lightning fast and the current version is 1.1.0. Somehow the UI had a little bit of a revamp since the last time I tried the Windows version, but it was also broken. Moving around some of the windows was impossible, and I had to compromise with tabs. This isn't present in the linux version though and honestly my recent try of MyPaint on linux was commendable. It has relatively little extras like a scratchpad and some layer blending modes, and for the most part is a plain and simple drawing application. If anything, I would consider MyPaint in the better half of this entire list despite it's lack of the finer image editing features like a selection tool. This does make corrections a slight hassle if you aren't accustomed to reworking your stuff, but in a sense, it does provide a closer experience to the pen and paper.

PaintTool SAI (Windows):
Once again, we come around to PaintTool Sai and the original reason why I wanted to give everything a second shot. It was surprisingly updated within this past year to version 1.2.0, but as far as I can tell, nothing has really changed at all. Supposedly there is also another version in development that is available for download. That was updated earlier than 1.2.0, so it's technically older going purely by the date, but it's apparently a complete revamp of SAI. At this point, I'm fairly used to the interface despite it being an older styled UI unlike the windowed UIs that a lot of other programs tend towards. There is something about the brush engine that just feels nice about SAI and thus even after a year of much derping, I still enjoy drawing on SAI. Of course, I still gripe about SAI not being on linux, but it isn't like that is going to change anything.

AzPainter (Linux):
The final program on our list unless I magically find another one. Currently at version 1.0.5 as of this post. It has a somewhat slightly convoluted past of originally being a Windows only program, getting reworked from the ground up as AzPainter2, and then getting ported to Linux as AzPainter again, not to mention that there is a companion program called AzDrawing which is for the linework/inking...Luckily enough, the linux AzPainter is the latest and greatest from Azel (the developer) since he swapped to linux fulltime. If I were to be completely honest, I hate how everything looks because it's all so grey and hellishly old looking. I would describe the brush engine as...heavy...really heavy. So heavy that I literally crank the the opacity to 20% when I use a brush and even then, it's pretty solid. Some slight setup is needed to get everything ready for single handed tablet use (need to right click on eraser, set as registered brush, and then change device settings to set button 3 to use registered brush). You can conveniently setup shortcuts to everything available and so I set all of the windows to qwertasdf to be able to toggle them on/off. I noticed that a certain times, the mouse seemed to lag for a little bit (but possibly that could be attributed to my linux setup since you never know with linux). It has some nice filter options, the ability to align to certain patterns (grids, or a focal point for those speed lines, etc.), mirror view, an image window (for if you are copying from a reference), a rather fancy select tool, and some other really nice features. I didn't find any rotation or transformation tools (for selections), which is kind of disappointing. My major gripe is that there isn't a brush outline that shows how large the brush is, but otherwise it's a pretty good drawing application whether using the new linux version or the finalized windows version (AzPainter2).

And with that, my current top picks still stick to the past choices of MyPaint and PaintTool Sai, but AzPainter probably follows right behind that. Mostly it's because drawing with AzPainter vs MyPaint just feels harder to draw what I want and the lack of an indicator that drop AzPainter out of my favor.


If I Used Firefox

So I somewhat follow the Linux Action Show because at some point I started following it as a convenient source for possibly important linux news, but that is completely besides the point. I'm only bringing that up because they are having a firefox challenge sort of thing where they try to live in Firefox for a week. Today's post is just a what-if situation where I would have to use firefox. Granted, there are probably tons of people who use firefox without a problem...so I'm ignoring those people.

Firefox itself doesn't really surprise me or anything, it's just a simple web browser with the normal features that I'd expect. Rather, I went exploring for some extensions and userscripts to make everything cooler for the generic me. Most of the stuff I came across were extremely limited and so the list was wonderfully short.


- Adblock Plus: Well this one was a given. Obvious reasons are obvious.
- Ank Pixiv Tool: A rather nice one-click button that you can use to download pixiv images, though it doesn't exactly click together with the userscripts I also found and thought worked well. For the unenhanced pixiv experience though, this makes downloads simpler, even if only by a smidgen.
- Download Status Bar: This really isn't something needed or anything, but I'm a chrome/chromium user...I'm used to it.
- DuckDuckGo Plus: For a more private search...though if you are really gunning for privacy, you need a combination of things rather than just a search engine that doesn't save searches. On the other hand, !bangs are great if you remember to use them.
- FireGestures: A convenience thing so I'm not dragging my mouse all over the scre- OH WAIT...
- Greasemonkey: The gateway to userscripts. It's definitely a requirement for any and all userscripts.
- PDF Viewer: It's a jealousy thing. Chrome has it, so Firefox should too.
- SoundCloud Downloader - Technowise: On the rare occasion...some things just HAVE to be in my possession.
- TinEye Reverse Image Search: Sometimes it's just too much effort to use Google's image search when this extension has a right click context menu option.


- Get Random Anime: It adds a link to the top of any myanimelist anime list and returns a random anime that isn't on said list. It's uses are limited, but at least it could waste some time if need be.
- Pixiv++: Adds some rather nifty features that make browsing Pixiv even more unbearably hard to stop.
- Manga OnlineViewer: Honestly this reminds me of android manga readers. It has the standard load all pages in one page, but it also has a great toggle-able thumbnail filmstrip on the bottom to jump to any page in the chapter.
- Manga Loader: If Manga OnlineViewer were considered feature-full, Manga Loader would be the opposite spectrum and be next to feature-less. It loads up the pictures in a no-frills page, with a little more speed than the previous one does.

Unfortunately, there really isn't very many anime/manga related userscripts or extensions. Of course, everything should have equivalents in Chrome, though AllMangasReader is still by far the best way I have found to manage my manga. Some things that were skipped were Rikaichan and NyaaTorrents Search. I don't have a real reason for skipping them aside from just not really using them personally.


A Short Lived Gentoo

Around the beginning of the month, I decided I would take a jump and try to gentoo it up. After a day of derping around, I gave up on it for the time being, so don't expect some amazing success story where my laptop became razor fast.

A lot of the day was spend doing partitioning and copying magics to re-organize my partitions and split my single arch partition into a root and home partition to share with my gentoo install. This included a fair amount of resizing and moving partitions as well, so much time was wasted.

Installing gentoo itself is actually not really hard, somewhat time-consuming, but nothing that would take more than a day. Customizing the kernel was probably the part that took the longest because there are quite a few options, most of which I have no idea what they deal with or the major differences that would occur by using one over the other. Compiling only took around 10-15 minutes and at worst, installing the base system would probably take just an hour to a couple of hours. The REAL grind is what comes after installing the base...at which point I gave up. I wanted to be somewhat lazy and install wicd because I couldn't trust myself to remember how to manually set up internet connections.

This was a terrible decision. From base, I needed another 165 different packages and all of them had to be compiled :/...So after many more hours of compiling, I finally exited the liveDVD I was using (yes, I used the liveDVD instead of the minimal liveCD) and rebooted to my brand new gentoo install. Apparently I was still missing dbus and so I couldn't launch wicd. At this point most of the day was used on the install and thus I decided to give up on it for the time being. The gentoo install is still on my hard drive, but nothing is going to happen to it for a while.


The Mobile MAL

During the many hard times that may occur over the span of your anime otaku life, sometimes internet fails and leaves your tracking a terrible mess. Of course, this is under the expectation that even without internet, you are still watching anime because something so insignificant as internet obviously can't inhibit anime consumption. So, for the most part, this is under the assumption that for whatever reason, your computer can't be used to keep a history of your escapades or you just really want to keep your list bleeding edge despite nobody caring. With this assumption in mind, the goal is the most convenient and painless way to keep your list updated on minimal internets, aka around 50 kbps aka 6.25 kB/s or slightly less. This speed was picked because t-mobile has a bunch of asshats who believe in throttling unlimited data after reaching some bullshit arbitrary limit. It's not fucking unlimited if you are going to put a limit on it.

So that brings us to the wonderful MAL clients available to us for android because I don't have or want iOS stuff (aside from my ipods). As with many projects related towards anime fandom, they either die really really quickly or die slow deaths, examples will be Herro and MAL respectively. There was no reason to point out any examples, but I did anyways. Anyways, there are a number of MAL clients and this will probably end up being similar to the manga viewer post. Once again, I'll state what I'm planning on judging this time as well. Primarily interface will be rather important, as well as speed. While extra features are definitely a plus, having a MAL client do the basic shit is essential, which includes updating your anime/manga list with additions, removals, scores, changing statuses, and giving some info about anime. To make things more confusing, we will be going in reverse order.

The list of android MAL clients I'm looking at:
- Atarashii!
- Pocket MAL Client
- MAL for Android 2
- Momo MAL

MALO: At some point, I'm sure someone thought this was a good idea. Stick MAL with an ugly UFO icon that probably isn't a UFO icon and give it the most basic of navigation. The top has your lists that I'm sure everyone is familiar with, the Watching, Completed, On-Hold, Dropped, Plan to Watch. The bottom of the screen has a simple toggle between anime and manga lists. There is no sliding, everything is a tap to navigate. Aside from that, you have a bar that allows you to refresh/sync your lists, search for anime in your list, or search for anime not in your list. The menu button gives you the option of settings (of which there are 2...one to say if you want your manga list or your anime list first, and the other to toggle images), a broken stats button, and the option to log out of your MAL account. Unfortunately, this is where the review ends, because it still hasn't loaded my lists... In short, it's buggy at best, the UI is old, and shit just doesn't work on the throttled interwebz available to my phone at the moment. Giving this one a rank would be like giving last place 3rd. There is nothing worse than this one. Skip it and move on.

Momo MAL: So this one promises Momo from ToLOVERu which is great, because who doesn't like Momo? She's like the only one actively trying to get with Mr. Impotent and get the anime moving somewhere. Unfortunately, aside from the great icon choice and some slight jabs with shit like "Momo is sad!!", this app doesn't load my list either. It tries for a second or two before it gives up, which isn't nearly enough time to get the list on slow internet. The UI itself isn't too bad either. There is a single sidebar that can bring you to your bullshit stats, Anime list, Manga list, search, and synchronize. Sure the preferences aren't actually preferences but instead is just the option to logout or Rate app/Like facebook page and the About page, but w/e just label shit preferences anyways. If it had anything really going for it, it would be that the list interface is a nice sliding one so you can swipe across the screen to go between your Watching, Completed, etc. In this case, it's better than MALO so it gets a 4/10.

MAL for Android 2: Don't ask what happened to the first one, that died many moons ago. This client sports an ugly glossed icon and keeps things simple. There are no side bars at all and the menu button only provides you with the option to donate. No, you can't log out. There is the main bar at the top which provides the basic toggle for anime or manga list, sync/refresh, search, and the menu button. The rest is dedicated to your media list, with a cropped landscape image of the portait anime poster fitting 6 series per screen. On top of those are a simple tinted overlay that has the title and the watching count or score if it's in completed. Tapping on an anime brings up the full poster, you can change all of the basics, some stats about the anime, and a summary on the bottom. The main bar also changes to give you a direct link that you can open in a browser of your choice and the option to remove the anime from the list. Aside from everything being colored in MAL blue, it's not all that bad. It has some hickups with my snailweb and thus some of the images don't load fully, but it works. All in all, it's barely passable with a 5/10. Honestly if your internet isn't snailnet, Momo MAL might be a better choice though because if it weren't for that lacking bit about having really shit tier internet, it would probably be better than this one.

Pocket MAL Client: This is where things start to pick up in the UI deparment. Almost everything about this UI has a bit of sliding. The left sidebar is the navi for Watching, Completed, etc. and it even shows the number in each list along with shareable "how many days I watched anime" stat. The right sidebar has a toggle for anime or manga, the recently watched page that includes stuff added to plan to watch, and a user search. Pulling down brings out a text filter that narrows down your current list based on what is currently in the text field, and it works wonderfully. The very top bar has the generic refresh/sync, search, and menu button. The settings are actually decent settings that have a use, such as syncing at application start, showing tags, pop ups after doing certain actions (changing score, status, progress, etc.), and the godsend auto date which sets the start and finish dates for you. The list view is also fantastic and seems to employ a mix of caching loaded images and lazy loading images as needed. So stuff you frequently scroll through are already cached on your phone, and stuff that you don't see as often will pull as needed. It makes for a really nice look even without good internet. Each series is put on a card with 3 cards per screen that shows the anime poster, title, status of the anime, type (OVA, ONA, TV, etc.), your score, and your progress. Long-pressing a card puts a +1 progress button over the poster, otherwise there is a ellipsis menu button on each card that you can use. Selecting an anime brings up all of the info in a nice layout with pretty much everything you could want to access on top and the finer anime details below. You can set score, progress, dates, status, and even tags. Aside from the right sidebar (which has a gap between the anime/manga toggle and the other menu options...probably on purpose...but in general there is just something I don't feel is right with having the right menu bar, it's way beyond personal preferences here though), everything is really well done and so this app deserves a 9/10.

Atarashii!: One of the newer clients that does a couple things I find rather convenient even though their uses are severely limited without some better internet. Luckily, they all fall under pluses and thus it's not like I'm going to judge extra features under the same bullshit internet restriction that I have. This client follows a similar UI to MAL, showing 4 posters per screen with no wasted space and overlayed with the title, a menu button, and the current progress. The menu buttons give +1 progress and mark as completed options. Follows the same sort of thing as Pocket MAL with respect to poster cache management which is nice and has a simple slide to swap between manga and anime lists which is REALLY nice. A single button on the top bar is your navigation for Watched, Completed, etc. and is followed with a search button for MAL and a menu button that provides sync, logout, about, and settings. The settings provided are nice and deal specifically with how the app displays information to you and when to sync. Probably the best setting is the ability to toggle if the list should be shown with covers OR a traditional list view with cropped posters and it can fit 7 series per screen. Choosing a series shows things completely opposite to Pocket MAL, and instead of all the interactable things first, it's all of the information about the series first. It also doesn't have the finer details of the anime series (not that they matter too much...but some stuff like genre would have been neat). Here is where the judging stops, and I give a rating of 9/10. Fortunately, that is not all there is to Atarashii, as it has a sidebar that can bring up a profile page, your lists, friends, Top Rated, Most Popular, Just Added, and Upcoming series. The latter features are fantastic for finding new series to add and follow. It joins together a number of things into a single experience so you don't have to go searching around for the latest chart or anything.

So after another steel wall of solid text, we come to the conclusion of which MAL client is better. Between Atarashii and Pocket MAL, it's really sort of a toss up of preferences. As just a MAL client, Pocket MAL is spectacular and covers pretty much everything that you can do in MAL with your lists with a great UI and Auto Date. For something that can give you a fairly complete experience from season to season, Atarashii can cover you with it's pages for the upcoming anime and even stuff you might want to check out. Now all we need is for the two clients to combine together to pierce the heavens and have an application that looks fucking amazing, can do everything you can do with MAL for series editing, AND provide shit from start to finish. For myself, I will be sticking with Atarashii since my current flow relies mainly on the computer for starting series and so having the ability to search for new series that strike my fancy and add those to my list while on the go trumps having Auto Date in my case.

- Edit 09/04/24 -
I thought I would add one more to the list because it's going to be short. The application is called "AnimeTrakr" and it has a rather nice UI along with the ability to look at the running anime. There are some things that make keeping up-to-date really nice with screencaps of episodes and things. The only really problem is that those features apparently cost money and as far as I can tell, there isn't any MAL sync in the free version.


Tracking Anime Exploits

The number of anime series to date is a vast and constantly expanding endpoint, thanks to there being a fairly large list of new series added each season. Sometimes it's not always easy to remember that horribly obscure anime that had such a generic plot that it was completely unmemorable from any of the other similarly dull anime. Sure there are people that may find said series to be the grand tier of all anime and you are insane for not remembering any of it, but w/e I don't remember anything important from KoiChoco or Fortune Arterial besides one having an election at the end and the other having a vampire. Unless your memory is outstanding, remembering specific anime and even what episodes you are currently on for the duller anime might not be the easiest thing to do. Thus the internet has come up with some rather shitty sites that almost cover your needs of tracking what episodes you are on, what stuff you have already watched, and other useless stats that can be used to formulate just how shut-in you are. For anyone already into anime, this stuff is pretty much old hat and you probably already have an account in one or all of the websites that I'm going to list.

AniDB: This website is kind of ugly, though can be somewhat fixed with some css magic. It's database of anime knows no bounds and it's got some nice extra details about the releases out in the wild and wonderful tags. Aside from all of the dead or nonexistant clients, and zero dealings with manga, it's probably at the top of the list providing a bunch of information on any series. The fact that there are no well maintained clients for aniDB kind of kills it's usefulness unless you want to manually deal with it, which I don't.

Uranime: Honestly, I've never even heard of the anime prior to scouring the internet for information on the topic of keeping track of anime. If I haven't heard of it, most likely you haven't either, which also pretty much means it's a website with a small minority of people and nobody really cares about them. They also don't have many clients either...there is one on Android if you use uranime though.

MyAnimeList: This website is the defacto site for keeping track of your anime and manga, for better or worse. The API kind of fails and doesn't get updates, the website layout is also rather ugly, but there are more clients than I have fingers on one hand and a number of them are actually still alive. It might have it's ups and downs...very heavy downs...but almost everyone uses it, and thanks to the exporting feature, moving elsewhere is always an option even if moving back really isn't.

Herro: A short lived dream of a single otaku to create the greatest successor to anime/manga tracking that mankind has ever known. Started in 2013, as of ages ago in 2014 the website is 404'd and dead. RIP that site. This is just incase you once recalled hearing about a tracker called Herro...because you probably only heard about it once :3.

Melative: A slightly different premise holds melative up in comparison to the rest of the sites available. It more or less is a generic tracker of the media you consume, so it isn't just anime or manga, but it can be music, light novels, visual novels, games, etc. It has a microblogging feature as well where you can blurt out how Oshino Shinobu is best girl or maybe just say all of the typos and other fansubbing errors with a hashtag like "#FansubIsDead", though I have no idea if you can actually search stuff via hashtags, so it is more for effect than anything important. The API is available and for the most part everything is fine and dandy. If there was anything to really gripe about, it's that about nothing has really changed since 4 years ago though I say this while refreshing my email inbox for that mythical reset password email that has yet to appear. So if anything, YMMV. There are some clients too I guess...but on the whole, melative is dead to all but it's users.

Anilist: The cute spawn from the guys at anichart that fancied a modern, minimalist approach. I like how they organized and displayed the information, though I guess it should be expected since anichart looks and works fantastic even on the shittiest of internet speeds. Just add some tags and release a fucking API that has been promised since eons ago, and maybe things could get somewhere. At the very least, it's still on the horizon as of July 2014 just as it was on the horizon an entire year ago. Of course, until that API gets released and people make some clients, this website is going to stay on the list of manual management.

Hummingbird: Yet another new-ish anime/manga tracker that at least has an API out, which means some clients can, and some have, add support for HB. Probably the closest to being an actual replacement to MAL/AniDB with some strange affixation towards a community profile, so each episode update shows up on your feed and you can write your own statuses too. In a way, it's like a better version of Melative with a focus on anime and manga. You can pretty much use it like a microblogging medium and it has some twitter-like aspects (followers and following), as well as the all important breakdown of what you watch. The API has two versions apparently with the first version being dead and the second being used as the base of the website already, but doesn't have any documentation at the moment. If there is anything else going for it, since moving to Github, it has seen some popularity since I remember seeing it in the trending some ages back.

So now the end result of all this derping around. Honestly, it really doesn't matter what you want to use to track your anime/manga. It can be an excel sheet or a piece of paper or even papyrus reeds for all I care. A number of the websites above do what is needed, and that is to track anime, thus it all really comes down to what sort of stuff you are expecting from it. As for myself, I like having things really easy, so a desktop client and maybe an android client are preferred which narrows this list down to just HB and MAL for me. Continuing on this convenience, converting to HB is not completely flawless and some series do get lost moving from MAL to HB and thus I hesitate a little to go fully to HB because if I ever want to move back to MAL, I'm not going to get all of that information back. To bring things to a conclusion, I'm really just waiting for Anilist and Hummingbird to mature before swapping to either, because decrepit as MAL may be, it's still there with my list of anime since years back.


Manga On-The-Go

So with the wonders of having tons of android applications in the palm of my hand, it's a good time to search for more anime/manga related things that can enhance our overall nonproductive past-time. This spans more than just simple things like wallpapers or ringtones, but actual apps that might count as objectively useful. First on the mental list is one that I have been searching for for a very long time is a manga reader. I'm not going to lie, this is going to be one hell of a fucking long post with multiple walls of text. Be prepared. Hug your dakimakura if you have to.

Reading manga from online is a fairly funny experience thanks to the nature of it and thus the list of manga readers is constantly fluctuating. Luckily some don't die, even after being pulled from the Play Store, and so this comparative list will encompass some of those as well. Now there are a lot of shitty manga readers and this list will completely ignore most of those. The ones that I will look at are:
- Manga Galaxy
- Manga Infinite
- Manga+/MangaBlitz
- Manga Rock
- Manga Searcher
- MangaWatcher
- Mango
- Ultimate Manga

So we have a list of applications, now we need some criteria to go on. My criteria is rather shoddy, but as long as it accomplishes them, they are good in my book.
- Nice, easy to maneuver interface
- Basic features (notification of new chapters, backup/restore, filtering/search, offline library)
- Aesthetically pleasing
- Most of the manga sources

Manga Galaxy:
This app was recently pulled from the Play Store around July currently there is a link to the latest free version on the Manga Galaxy facebook page. Honestly, I find this app to be really well done. It has a dark theme and everything from the list of manga to the settings are clear and easy to understand. It has filtering, searching, offline library, bookmarks, download queue, backup&restore, notification of new chapters, and recent updates. Lazy loading along with rather aggressive cache management make shuffling through the manga list smooth and yet not smooth at the same time. Put simply, everything slides up and down like butter, but until you lift your finger from the screen, no images are loaded and pretty much any of the images that fall offscreen are instantly removed.

Then there is the lazy loading, which in theory is supposed to be loading things only as needed and thus the experience should be rather smooth and equal throughout, but a slightly different approach was used in which a chunk is loaded up first (so maybe like the first 20 manga of the list) and then nothing else is loaded until you reach the bottom of that list, then a window pops up and tells you it's loading more of the list. Deviantart uses a similar method, but you can literally scroll down forever and not notice the lag time between loading unless you hold down the page down key. It's a shitty comparison, but maybe you get the idea. Honestly, I wouldn't mind waiting longer to cache the whole search and forgo the waiting inbetween "chunks" because it's just smoother that way. Of course, I say this without a paying a lick towards any sort of resource/memory management or maybe constraints that the Android SDK might have (so who knows, maybe you can't do much while someone is moving around the UI).

More about the app itself, the manga list shows just the covers of each manga and the extra information (synopsis, etc.) are shown after selecting a manga, which I don't mind. There IS however, a lot of "wasted space" in my opinion. On my Nexus 5, I am only shown 4 series at a time complete with the whole series picture and title. It's not a killing blow or anything, but I wouldn't mind seeing more of the screen being put to use. Another gripe is the lack of list view, which is apparently possible, as the "latest" listing type utilizes it, but not available for the offline library, favorites, or history pages.

Enough of the bad though, there are also a number of really neat things that I like about this app as well. You can select the default first page, toggle a global search through all sources, and it has a rather nice advanced image viewer that does lazy loading beautifully (on local stuff). All in all, even though there are some very minor ticks that I happened to point out in length, the app itself is a pretty solid pick that I honestly find really appealing both in features and presentation. I'd give it a 8 out of 10.

Manga Infinite:
If I had to sum up my first impressions of this reader, it pretty much sums up to "shit's ugly". It's like the prototype UI to a reader that could be, but isn't. There aren't really any settings to speak of and the download queue screen looks atrocious because it's like halfling between slide out side bar and an actual tab. This app just looks really bad in comparison to something like Manga Galaxy, and doesn't even have as many features. It does have online sync...I think...and the ability to clean the cache with the press of a button. I'm just calling it here and giving it a 5/10. It's ugly, clunky to use, but does have most of the basics features working.

Apparently this one had an identity crisis when it was pulled from the Play Store. Long story short, it's interface is nothing short of a sexy sort of simple, and it is damn simple. You are greeted with your local library when you boot, which you can toggle to show your unread, favorite, or all of your local manga. Sliding out the left sidebar, you can get to a search, download queue, and updates for the manga you have in your library. You have next to no settings, and by that I mean you only get three checkboxes to worry about. There were no fucks given for looking overcrowded or not and so it shows series covers slapped right next to each other and a simple tinted overlay with the title on top giving me a glorious 9 different series per screen. Lazy loading once again for the covers, which isn't bad. I don't like how the logo is plastered as default though (something plain or nothing at all would have been better in my opinion) because it draws my eyes away from the stuff I actually want to see...the covers ._.

The search screen is particularly beautiful though. Literally a toggle in the corner for what source to use, a small space for if you want to search for a manga title, and the rest of the screen is dedicated towards genre toggles. The problem is that the search function is kinda shitty. Using the "All Sources" search will give all the results for all of the sources...without combining the same manga series into one tile, thus you can find the same series from a different site...at least I think it's a different site. Using specific websites apparently causes the search results to only show 20 rows before it just stops, but the search is persistent. There is also no "download all" button that magically queues up the entire series, so you have to tap every single chapter to add them to the queue. At the very bottom of the list of available chapters is the "Notify updates" button which has it's positives and negatives. It allows for selecting specific series for notifications...but it's off by default on everything, even if it's in your library. So you would have to toggle it on for all of your manga if you want it, unless you want just a couple of really main ones (like if Mahou Shoujo of the End released a new chapter) which you just HAVE to know about as soon as it is up. Otherwise, there still is that sidebar.

There also seems to be some bugginess in the app. After selecting a manga series from the library, it shows the chapters available locally and an info button on the upper right corner...sometimes this button works as it should and show the info page with the ability to tap chapters to download more...and other times it doesn't do anything.

Unsurprisingly, this app also suffers from not having a list view, but thanks to it cramming as much shit into a screen as possible, I honestly don't even mind because it still allows for some rather rapid scrolling. It also doesn't have quite as many sources as some of the other apps, but it does have a number of the major English ones. All in all, the minimalism is really nice and there are just a small few quirks that might need to be refined. Maybe even some nice settings for the otherwise spartan image viewer. I'd give it an 7/10.

Manga Rock:
So we come to the "premier" manga reader, at least in terms of being the first search result on the list when searching for a manga reader. It's been around for a while and seems to have been able to come back to the Play Store at least once or twice. There are a number of things done right in this app, surprisingly enough. They have a wonderful series picture view that can just about fit 9 series per screen and even have a list view. There is a search button that seems to work, the filters screen is for the most part a nice looking screen, though taking a leaf out of MangaBlitz's book would be nicer in my opinion. The lazy loading is spectacularly done, making the manga list just feel spiffy and responsive. It's also nice that they used a normal loading animation rather than their logo. Viewing information on a manga gives a convenient download button where you can toggle different chapters you want to download, or a spectacular "select all" button. The sidebar gives access to the entire list of manga from a selected source, the latest updates to any series from said source, a favorites list, an offline library, recently read manga, discovering new manga, a backup/restore, download queue, notifications, and settings.

Bringing back things to gripe about, the settings page is more dedicated towards info about the app than your settings apparently. The actual settings are condensed into the manga sources to use, language of the interface, and then "Personalize" which just has everything else that could be considered a setting. Another issue I have is actually with the color used in the manga list, which is white, in comparison to pretty much EVERYTHING ELSE, which is a dark grey to black. Another peeve is calling the offline library "Downloaded" instead of "Library" or something. Sure it's still technically a totally fine listing title, but pretty much all the other ones use library, which I feel is a better choice of words.

The most glaring flaw to the cheap manga lover such as myself is that there is a "Full Version" of this application. Sure, it's fine having ads maybe persistent at the bottom or inbetween chapters since you can't fuel prolonged development off of good will alone, but Manga Rock is the only one so far that has a free version where you are restricted to only having a single series downloaded locally. It's an annoyance in an otherwise rather nice manga reader. Hell I even like the image viewer which is on par with Manga Galaxy's viewer...only Manga Rock's looks nicer thanks to some really clean icons. As much as I hate that it's a paid application, it still gets a 9/10 because a large number of things right.

Manga Searcher:
This one is similar to MangaBlitz in that it is a simple interface. Not sexy at all, but it's simple. You get four tabs, no settings to speak of, a simple image viewer, rather odd choice of icons that kind of make sense...but don't, and a lot of disgustingly wasted screen space. The four tabs are "Top 100", "Surprise", "Favorite", and "Loading". Most of them are easy to understand except maybe Loading...which is your download queue. At the very bottom of the screen, you get a search button without anything. It's literally just a search where you enter a query and search for it. There is no filtering, no genre specifications, no anything, just a simple search. You don't even get told where the manga is coming from, it's just magically there and the stuff you search may also magically be there. This should really be a 3 or 4 out of 10 because comparing with MangaBlitz, this one doesn't even have basic features.

Now we finally reach my original manga reader of choice since way back when. The UI has had a major revamp since then, and thankfully for the better though you still have the option to revert to the older UI. In both views, there are 9 series that can be fully seen and 3 series partially seen per screen, giving access to a total of 12 series per screen with the cover size set to "small". It's not quite as hardcore as MangaBlitz with it's spacing, so there is some unused border space around each cover, but it's not overbearingly wide like with Manga Galaxy. It has a sync feature along with a cloud library apparently dealt with over the developer's own server, along with a local backup/restore. There are also categories available for customization and a kind of neat, but completely useless profile page with stats of how much manga you read over some duration, achievements, genre preferences, etc.

The searching works a little different in MangaWatcher than it does in the other manga readers as first you choose a manga source, which it will then take some time to load the entire list displayed in a listing where you can search for a specific manga, or use genre filters and sort by ratings or alphabet. After that, you add the manga to your library, move on to the next one, and just continue down the list. It makes mass adding series of a certain genre or genres just a little bit convenient (Manga Rock also can do this).

One nifty, but almost irrelevant feature is the ability to modify specific series to change the title, reading direction, storage folder, and viewer settings on a per manga series basis. I never use it, but it's there. The rest of the interface is rather simple to use, though I would really prefer a dark theme to match the rest of my phone rather than the off-white and blue theme that matches nothing. If anything, at least it's consistent with it's theme. The only major gripes I have with MangaWatcher is the nonsensical cloud sync library which I have yet to figure out how to correctly use, and the shoddiness of the app. There is literally a button to Check and Fix stuff because once upon a time, EVERYTHING in the manga list would get duplicated and ruin stuff. Now things seem to run fairly well with maybe the occasional crashing that happens infrequently. Thanks to the shoddiness, I'd give it maybe a 7 or an 8. It does what it's supposed to do, but it's not the prettiest of the bunch at doing it.

Now we are at Mango, the "dead since ages ago" manga reader that is still online, but gets no updates or anything. The project itself looks dead, so if you encounter any bugs or anything, you are on your own. With that said, it looks simplistic and kind of ugly, but it still keeps a number of settings and has pretty much all of the basic features. The sources list is somewhat lacking in comparison to some of the other manga readers, but it's also got most of the major English ones. The search is kind of similar to MangaWatcher in that you select your source first, but it does add a slight bit of finesse between that and the results and gives some other options to browse the manga list, such as by popularity, or the latest updates, or the artist, as well as genres, though when I say genres, I mean a single genre at a time.

There are no sidebars here at all, and there are really only 4 options that consist of: "Browse Manga", "My Library", "Favorites", and "History". Thankfully all of them are well named and I don't really need to explain that. It has persistent ads to support development...of which there is no development, so these ads are more just there to get some money. Of course you could pay to remove the ads...but if you are going to pay, you might as well go for Manga Rock. Flicking through pages in the clunky image viewer is workable, but not a very grand experience. All in all, this one is a pretty simple one. It might crash sometimes, it looks kind of ugly, it does have the basics, but there are better implementations now so this deserves a 6/10 in my book. It does still work and look better than Manga Infinite.

Ultimate Manga:
This is another rather minimalistic application that is even more spartan than MangaBlitz in more ways than one. There is a severely limited catalog of sources, only list view for manga, no filters or genre searching, no settings, a mega simplistic viewer, and a white theme. On the plus side, it has a download queue, a local library, and a download all button.

Though functionally on the lesser end, the layout and overall performance is actually rather nice...but the major issue is that the main function seems to be broken and manga can't be viewed or downloaded from two of the sources. The remaining two sources consists of one that is not in English and therefore useless to me, and the other I've never heard of BUT at least one is working. Unfortunately, the developer seems to have gone MIA since there hasn't been an update since April. As it is, I can only give it a 4/10. It's minimalism is nice, but you have to go far down the rabbit hole to enjoy it.

Thus we come to the end of the list and as a small bit of extra information on MangaBlitz, the info button bug is apparently known to the developer and fixed in the next (currently not released) version. Supposedly, eventually the 20 rows of manga series will also get lazy loading, along with the viewer getting some inertial scrolling, though how long that will take is up in the air. As the final pick, I'm somewhat surprised to say that my ranking has given Manga Rock as the top manga reader currently available for android. It just doesn't seem to have as many glaring flaws despite me liking some other UIs more, but it does have that single manga series offline at a time for the free version.


Android and LibMTP

So obviously being a cool guy, you have an android device or two that you may or may not want to connect via usb to your computer. While in windows, mtp is either barely passable or you just can't get the shit to work at all. In both cases, mtp is annoying to use and all around terrible in comparison to the old way of just mounting directly in my opinion. Fortunately, the Archlinux wiki has an article on that (as with almost everything else ._.) and all that really needs to be installed are gvfs and libmtp, though apparently gvfs-mtp is still available as a separate package. It has already been merged upstream and released with gvfs 1.15.2, so any version after, you probably don't need gvfs-mtp.

As a quick note, installing just gvfs and libmtp on a vanilla Arch install as of right now won't give you a working auto-magically mounting android MTP device. This is because gvfs apparently also needs a polkit authentication agent like pkttyagent, lxpolkit, mate-polkit, polkit-gnome, or polkit-kde...and that needs the session to be started with dbus-launch. Pkttyagent is included by default as a console auth agent, though I use lxpolkit anyway since having a GUI agent allows me to open things like GParted with pkexec.

Usually this is enough to get things working, but sometimes the device might have not been added yet to their massive list of udev rules. Of course instructions are on the wiki so you can just add those, reload udev rules, and maybe reboot.

Now this still has the same problems that mtp does on Windows, primarily that what is shown on the computer and the phone do not always show the same things after manipulating files with the phone because that is how MTP supposedly works. Anyway, with that MTP should supposedly be working and all sorts of magic happening with any file manager that supports gvfs (PcManFM, Thunar, etc.).