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FAQ: How do I fix issues with my Wacom Pen?

Issues with the Wacom Pen

We have had numerous reports of issues with the Wacom pen. Two general issues have been reported:

  • Angular, polygon-like writing while in Blackboard Collaborate class
  • Unwanted pen strokes in both Blackboard Collaborate and Acrobat.

This situation has been generally referred to as the ‘pen issue’ however it is important to realize that the results of our investigation reveal that it is not a single issue but is instead at least two different issues with several known causes. Any one or more of the causes can cause the unwanted behaviour.

Any user experiencing issues with Wacom pens should start by doing all of the items in the document until the behaviour become more normal.

System Resources and Resource Hogs

Often when we see reports of pen issues we notice that the system resources are running higher than expected. That is, the laptop is pushed to its limit as far as memory and processing power is concerned. All of the equipment supplied to staff is of very high quality and are more than capable of handling simultaneous usage of BBC, D2L, email, office applications and Adobe products. Under normal circumstances, then, the laptops should not be taxed anywhere near their capacity.

We do know, though, that when pen issues occur that the system resources are sometimes running very high. You may find some relief by simply closing all other applications during your class.

Note that we are not saying close your other applications while in BBC, only do it if your pen starts to behave erratically.

If you suspect that your system resources may be an issue, just start the task manager. You can do it by pressing <ctrl><alt> <delete> or simply by right-clicking on an empty part of the taskbar and then selecting ‘start task manager.’ When you get the task manager, click the CPU tab so that it sorts the biggest users first.

See the image below. Notice that the writing is seriously compromised. The word ‘testing’ is very angular. The letters are formed by a series of lines instead of consisting of smooth curves. Notice also that the CPU is running at 100%. In this case it was caused by using Polycom PVX while a BBC class was going on and while running First Class. It is a deadly combination. If you try and sustain a PVX call while using BBC and First Class it will happen after just a few minutes. Notice that PVX itself (vvsys.exe) is taking up 57% of the resources all by itself. One takeaway from this, I suppose, is not to run PVX while in class! It WILL cause pen issues every time. There may be other resource hogs—we will keep you posted.

BBC

If you think about what is happening here, it is easy to see why the writing is angular. Normally the operating system handles multiple tasks by sharing its time between them. The computer is so fast that you don’t really notice that this is happening. As the system resources measure starts to climb, though, the computer is having to do more and more tasks. The time it can devote to any one is therefore smaller. For the pen this means that the sampling rate is smaller. The pen is moving significantly between samples and the software is compensating by just drawing lines between sampled points.

Here is the big take-away: Don’t run intensive tasks during BBC sessions. These typically involve software that works with audio and video and would include Polycom PVX, Skype, Windows Media Player (unless you need it for class), Adobe Premiere, Windows Movie Maker and Elluminate Publish.

Pen Drivers

The pen driver is the software that allows the Wacom pen to work correctly. The ghost comes with the pen driver that was current at the time the ghost was created so this should not be a problem for any of you. The software may have been inadvertently deleted, though.

If the driver is not installed then the Wacom pen will operate, but not nearly as well as it should. You will notice two things:

  • The pen position will not be absolute. That is, normally the pen position is mapped to a particular part of the screen. The default is that the top left of the tablet is always the top left of the screen and bottom right of the tablet corresponds to bottom right of the screen. If the pen driver is not working then this will not be the case. You will be able to use the pen more like a mouse. Putting the pen on the tablet basically picks up from the current mouse position rather than immediately sending the pointer to the spot on the screen that corresponds to the spot on the tablet.
  • The writing will not be smooth. Without the pen driver the writing is much more pixelated and jagged.

If you suspect you are missing the pen driver, check the control panel and see if it contains a Wacom entry. See the image below.

Wacom Tablet Properties

If it is missing from your system you can download and install the drivers from the Wacom website.

Select your tablet model and operating system from the drop down menu.

After you install the drivers you should reboot before proceeding.

Java

Because BBC is Java-based it is important to ensure that your Java installation is working correctly. The laptops come pre-configured with Java, but through normal operations (program installs, updates, etc.) the configurations may change.

You can do a check by opening the java control panel which is in the windows control panel area. The first thing to do is to see if you are running a current version. At time of writing the current versions are 6.1.29 and 7.1.7 Get this from the about tab. See the image below:

Java

Sometimes pen issues—and many other issues, such as other BBC tools that do not work correctly—can be associated with a bad cached java file for you classroom. You can fix this by deleting the old file. The next time you access the classroom the BBC server will simply send you an updated copy. To delete the old Java files for you classrooms follow these steps.

  • Start the Java Control Panel.
  • Click the Settings button on the General tab (see image).
  • Click Delete files and wait for the system to do its thing—this may take a minute or two depending on how many classes you have. Click OK to back out.

Temporary Files Settings

Updates

When you are downloading and installing updates (windows update process, adobe updater and java update) your computer will often experience slowdowns. This WILL cause your pen to 'stutter' if you are also running a lot of other programs as it might cause your system resources to run to a higher level than is normal. You might consider generally turning off adobe and java updates and leaving your computer on overnight to allow the windows updates to occur. At any rate you are recommended NOT to run updates while using BBC.

Windows Pen Settings

It may be that your Wacom pen is expecting that a continued press on the tablet is registering ‘wait for a right-click’ command. As such the pen will hesitate every time it touches the tablet. This can manifest as a pen that hesitates before writing, and thus, produces the angular kind of writing that is also associated with a system that is close to 100% with system resources

The feature in question was turned off on the ghost so the majority of you can just ignore it. If you suspect it is an issue for you, here are the steps to fix it.

Open the control panel and select pen and touch.

Pen and Touch

You will see a bunch of options. Click 'press and hold' then click 'settings.'

Pen Actions

Un-check the box indicated below then click OK.

Tablet PC Input Service

The Tablet PC Input Service, also known as wispis, can cause some other pen issues. It seems to interfere with the Wacom pen in that it makes the pen more sensitive than it needs to be. You will notice its effects as unwanted connected letters because it does not stop writing even though the pen is lifted, Words seem to be connected and sometimes attempts to dot i’s and cross t’s result in stray marks across words.

The only CDLI application that actually needs wispis is the ‘smart board tools.’ If wispis is not running the pen will not work for the smartboard. It does not need to be running for the Wacom pen to work. You can turn it off and set the system to leave it off until actually needed.

Do these steps:

Click the start button and enter services.msc into the search box. Click on the entry that appears to start up the services tool.

Start

You will see a long list of running services. Type 't" and you will jump straight to the right one, Tablet PC Input Service Properties. You can right click to stop the service if you wish to do so now, but you can set it to remain stopped unless manually started. This is a better strategy.

Services

Double click on the Item shown highlighted above to open it up.

A new box will open up. See the image at the right. From the General Tab change the 'Automatic' drop-down to manual. Normally using the pen starts the thing (and causes trouble for Wacom in BBC). This will make it stay off. Click also on Stop to stop the service now.

Press OK to back your way out again.

Tablet PC

Try using the pen. It will be noticeably smoother and, better yet, it stops much of that annoying jumping around.

While it is possible to remove this service we do not recommend that you do so. Smart boards and other such devices depend on it to get their pens to work. If you need to use a smart board you will need to turn on the service to do your session properly. Just remember to turn it off again when done.

Smart Notebook Software

This software is included with the ghost and has been set not to interfere with normal usage. That is, it has been set NOT to run automatically on startup. There were two reasons for this: First the software has a toolbar that is always somewhat visible. As such it is just in the way. Second, allowing this to start on boot up significantly increases the time needed to boot.

The software has an updater. If you have allowed it to do its thing your system may now have a different version of the software from the original one and it may have new settings that interfere with your pen.

The first advice is to leave the smart software as-is unless you have a particular need to change it.
The second is that if you do need to reinstall or update the software then you should monitor the install and choose NOT to have the software run on boot up. It will ask you but if you are just clicking ‘yes’ or ‘nest’ you may miss it!
If you notice that the Smartboard software is running on startup then there are two methods to make it stop doing that.

First check your startup program group. One is shown. Notice that the smart is NOT in the group. If it is there on your laptop then just right-click on the smart icon and choose delete. That will fix the issue the next time you boot.

Start

Unfortunately it MAY not be there but auto-starting anyway. The most recent version available is like that. If you suspect that Smart is running, despite your wishes then you will see an icon in the system tray like the one shown.

Fortunately you can use CCleaner to make it stop. Do this:

  • Find the CCleaner folder on your start menu and start the program.
  • When the program starts choose Tools from the navigation bar at the far left and startup from the sub menu.
  • Find the processes that start with Smart, click to highlight them then from the right-click menu choose ‘disable.’ See the image below for the three steps.
  • Reboot.

CCleaner