Using your Android or iOS tablet as a second monitor

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As we’ve seen previously (The more screens, the better – Our guide to multiple monitors ), having more screens to distribute your desktop across can be a huge benefit to your computing experience.

And as you’ll have noticed in the title, if you’ve got a tablet, you can even bring it into the mix, as long as you’ve got access to a WiFi network and have installed a few pieces of software. Lets take a look.

Apps
There are quite a few apps out there for Android and iOS, on both Windows and OSX. This post isn’t really about all the variations available, so to keep it simple, I’m using Air Display by Avatron, which is available for all four configurations (Android (OSX/Win), iOS (OSX/Win)).

It’s a simple matter to set up, just install a server application on your desktop, and a client application on your tablet. Configuration took a minute or two and then I was sharing my screen.

MacAndroid.jpgIt’s about the network
The way these desktop-extending apps work is they basically fool your operating system into thinking you’ve just connected another monitor to the system. To your operating system, the tablet looks just like a monitor, and is treated as such.

You can drag windows on to it, launch your computer’s applications from it — it’s just another screen.

Screen with benefits
Ok, it’s not really just another screen. This new mini-monitor also becomes a touch screen. Yep, you can tap on your screen, and the computer’s cursor immediately snaps to the location you tapped. Which means all your mouse functions are also now available on the touchscreen tablet.

Portable
For me, one of the best uses of a tablet as an extended desktop is when I pair my iPad up with my MacBook Pro when I’m on the go.

Imagine pulling up to your favourite table at your local coffee shop, setup up your laptop, and next to it, your tablet. Extend the screen onto your tablet and poof! You are now uber productive while being extremely portable.

Refreshing
Since you’re actually getting an extended desktop sent through the network to your tablet, don’t expect blisteringly fast screen updates. Depending on the app and desktop, you can make Flash animations appear on your device. In my case, I managed to get just under 60 frames per second in my highly un-scientific HTML5 Fishtank framerate test :smileyhappy:

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Drawbacks?
No system is perfect. Using the tablet as a second screen requires a WiFi network connection. This can be a bit tricky in some locations where you’re only allowed one WiFi connection per person.

Also, if there are multiple WiFi networks in the same building, say at a university, you must make sure that your devices are all on the same WiFi network.

Why?
Well, I like using the extra monitor provided by my tablet as a news desk, tweet monitor and reference desk. Yep, just a passive display that I can occasionally glance at that means I don’t have to Alt-Tab to check on stuff. Much less distracting that way, I find. And it’s a portable solution to my multiple monitor addiction.

Thoughts?
Got a favourite computer and tablet configuration you want to share? Tell us about it and we’ll all learn something!

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Reinventing the Walkie Talkie

walkie.jpgBack in the day, this kind of thing was what people used to talk to each other over distances, using radio waves. You were limited by the power of the unit and the type and number of obstacles between you and the person you were talking with.

And generally, your conversation could be overheard by anyone else using a similar device.

Fast forward to this century and the digital dataphone. And this nifty Android & iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad app called HeyTell, brings the Walkie Talkie concept up to date.

Simple, but it works
HeyTell is a simple app. On an iOS device (I assume it’s similar for Android), HeyTell uses your contact list to manage contacts and invite others to the app.

Using HeyTell is drop-dead simple:

1) Select the contact to speak with

2) Push the ‘Hold and Speak’ button
That’s it. The voice message is beamed to their device. They can talk back to you immediately.
And that’s the way it works. It’s not real-time two-way communication, rather staged delivery of voice messages… a great way to check in, update someone, when it’s not convenient or practical to send out an email.

And it’s free (excluding Internet charges).



This post of is one of many I publish weekly at the Future Shop Techblog. Read more of my stuff here.


Remote control your computer from your iPad

Some say that the iPad is a magical device. I won’t go that far, but it is kinda cool, though it does have its shortcomings — especially when you compare it to a desktop or laptop computer. There are just many things done much better on a computer than on an iPad, which is why it’s neat that there’s computer remote control software for the iPad.

One of the easiest I’ve found to use is LogMeIn Ignition. Part of the LogMeIn family, Ignition lives on your iPad (or iPhone, or iPod Touch, or Android) and allows you to control any computer you’ve registered with the LogMeIn service.

Here’s how the process works:
1. Get a free LogMeIn account
2. Install LogMeIn Free client software on every PC/Mac you want to control
3. Register those computers with your LogMeIn account information

If you stop here, you now have the ability to control any of your registered computers from any other registered computer (that’s running the client software), or through the LogMeIn web interface (which is very slick!).

4. Install the LogMeIn:Ignition client on your iPhone/iPod Touch or iPad

And you’re done. You can now control any of your computers via your iPad.

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Continue reading “Remote control your computer from your iPad”

Android, Blackberry or iPhone? Which is right for you.

Earlier today I dropped in to the CityTV’s Breakfast Television set to chat about the three main types of data phones.

Basically we were looking at the data phones, and the types of people who each type of phone is best suited for — or not suited for 🙂




Here’s my notes from the early morning chat:

Blackberry – Research In Motion – RIM
This is the ‘Go To’ business device. It’s the Star Trek communicator for the C suite set. You know you’re a blackberry type if you covet the device for the following reasons:

1) Huge business and government penetration – the key here is that most government departments and divisions, and the organizations that do business with them have similar technology. They speak the same language, look at the same screens and share the same experiences.

2) Security – The Blackberry system is based on a proprietary server technology that routes all communication through a central server system, managed by RIM. BlackBerry is basically a totally integrated package that includes phone, hardware, device software and hosted service, providing you with a complete end-to-end email solution.

3) Keypad – Though more recent models use the touch screen interface similar to the iPhone, the hallmark feature of the Blackberry over the years has been miniature chicklet-style keyboard. This has caused numerous thumb-cramps over the years, yet somehow, the work of government has been done. Go figure.

Google’s Android
This is Google’s contribution to mobile communications. If you remember the old BASF commercial, Google doesn’t make the phone, Google makes the phone better. Google provides the operating system, hardware manufacturers provide the phone tech.

1)  You love the concept of an open and somewhat hackable phone operating system. This lets you configure the device to do exactly what you want, how you want.

2) You accept the risk of an open and somewhat hackable phone operating system. This means that an application you add to your Android based phone could potentially cause you unforseen grief in the future. The Android store is open to anyone with minimal regulation and oversite. This is a good thing, and a bad thing.

3) You enjoy being at the bleeding edge of technology. There is no finer place to be, as long as you really, REALLY, know what you’re doing with this technology. There are different Android devices running slightly different flavours of the operating system. Yet, you know which apps will and won’t work on your phone. Yes, you are an Early Adopter..

Apple’s iPhone
This is the gold standard by which all other data phones are being measured. Apple has basically taken control of this market, and for very many good reasons. Apple has created the telephone appliance.

1) an outgrowth of the iPod — the iPhone is much more than a music player with a phone glued to it. It’s really a full-blown data appliance that you’d expect to see on Star Trek, but not only in the executive suite of corporations — the iPhone is the device for the rest of us.

2) The Apple store enabled a safe environment for developers and consumers to explore the digital application market place for mobile digital devices. Apple ran the store, and had the right to approve applications available in the store. Putting the Apple reputation on the line, applications had to be safe, mainstream-acceptable, and technologically sound. You’d not get porn, viruses, or faulty programs from the store on Apple’s watch.

3) It’s a data appliance. It must work. Every time. All the time. Apple guarantees it. Your mom and dad could use it, and that’s what Apple’s banking on. You don’t need an IT department to support it (like the Blackberry) nor have to deal with esoteric interfaces and commands (ala the Android). It just works.