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I made my first non-trivial diagram using Noteshelf. It was a “learning experience.”

I organized the diagram into three sections. On the left are database and cloud storage symbols. In the middle are representations of background tasks, both periodic and invoked. On the right are our production server farms. All totaled, there are four db’s, 15 tasks, 10 farms, and a bunch of lines.

The results aren’t great.

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I trawled the web for an hour today and couldn’t find a decent iPad case with a stylus holder. The cases I did find were too bulky, didn’t include a stand, or had some other glaring defect.

A work friend jokingly suggested that I Velcro or tape a Baggie to the outside of my stm skinny case, and carry my stylus in it. I laughed at her suggestion at the time, but I’m not laughing anymore.

My iPad diagramming series:


My new Bamboo Stylus arrived today! It’s just long enough so that the upper inch or so rests in the space between my index finger and thumb, and hefty enough so that I feel it there. I don’t have the specifications handy, but I’d say it weighs slightly more than a typical rollerball pen, but less than a typical fountain pen.

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I’m playing more with Noteshelf and thinking about how I use a whiteboard. And I’m noticing aspects of my sketching for the first time…

My drawings mutate a lot as I create them:

  • I’ll start out leaving space for objects (e.g., server boxes, database symbols), and then decide the objects need more space. (For practical or esthetic reasons.)
  • I’ll assign colors to different entities, and later change the color assignments.
  • I’ll start recording attributes A, B, and C for state transitions, and then decide to drop B and add attributes D and E.
  • It’s very rare that nothing has to change. But even then, I’ll wish I could move the whole diagram on the whiteboard or page in toto, because it’s grown in a direction or to an extent that I didn’t anticipate.

I often wish I could do a diagram twice — once as a dry run, once “for real.”

These alterations happen more often to my drawings than they do for others. At least, it seems that way to me.


I often need to diagram things at work. It’s usually something like a system block diagram, a gnarly code problem, or client-server interactions. Sometimes it’s just a list of things I’m comparing.


Whatever the diagram is, I need to the keep it around for a while. And refer to it, scribble on it, and update it. And sometimes share it.

Since “back in the day,” I’ve used a whiteboard for this. Or sometimes pages from a pad of graph paper. I’ll noodle around, sketch things out, and leave it up.

For sharing, I’ve resorted to snapping a photograph of the whiteboard with my iPhone. (Or a couple of photographs, which I then stitch together with AutoStitch.) If the photo’s not adequately square, I straighten it out with Genius Scan. And then e-mail it. The mail message can get pretty large, so this can be a nuisance.

Eventually the whiteboard needs to be erased, or is accidentally erased. Or I lose the graphing paper doodles, or decide to throw out the diagrams.

In December, I received an iPad 2 as a gift. And I’ve gotten around to thinking, why not step up my game and use the iPad for this? (Yeah, I’m being dramatic and rhetorical. Sorry. I’ll re-phrase: “I’ve decided to use the iPad for diagrams and simple drawings.”)

I haven’t completely figured out how I’ll do this. I’ll write about my experience here as I go down the learning curve, mistakes and all.
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