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 über 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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A spacy new way to browse music on your iPad

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Listen­ing to music on your iPad is usu­ally a visu­ally-sparse affair. Load up your play­er, nav­ig­ate to your lib­rary, and select the muisc. Play, and do oth­er things. Not any more…

Outta this world!
Plan­et­ary is the new (and free!) app from Bloom Stu­di­os that gives new mean­ing to nav­ig­at­ing through your music col­lec­tion. To quote the developers:

Fly through a 3D uni­verse dynam­ic­ally cre­ated by inform­a­tion about the record­ing artists you love. Vis­it plan­ets that rep­res­ent your favor­ite albums and con­trol the play­back of your music on iPad by brows­ing and select­ing astro­nom­ic­al objects.

Plan­et­ary is just the sort of sci­ence fic­tion exper­i­ence you expect when using an object from the future like iPad. You’ll want to show your friends this beau­ti­ful app. We’ve made it even easi­er to share Plan­et­ary at home; it looks incred­ible when you hook your iPad 2 up to a big HDTV or pro­ject­or using the HDMI access­ory.

Now Plan­et­ary won’t (yet) replace the iPad’s nat­ive play­er as it doesn’t sup­port playl­ists, or search. But when you think about it, it really doesn’t need to — as the app is more a visu­al eye-candy lay­er being applied to the act of brows­ing through your music col­lec­tion.

Very pretty; you’ll use it to show off your iPad, and it’s free — why wouldn’t you get it :smileyhappy:

A great over­view in the video below.

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Libraries are dead. Long live the Librarian!

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I love it when coin­cid­ence and syn­ergy lead to a blog post, this post in fact.

In a post earli­er this week, Seth God­in lead us through the his­tory of the Lib­rary and the Lib­rar­i­an. In his post, he even­tu­ally settled on the some­what alarm­ing concept that the Lib­rary was basic­ally dead:

Wiki­pe­dia and the huge databanks of inform­a­tion have basic­ally elim­in­ated the lib­rary as the best resource for any­one doing ama­teur research (grade school, middle school, even under­grad). Is there any doubt that online resources will get bet­ter and cheap­er as the years go by? Kids don’t shlep to the lib­rary to use an out of date encyc­lo­pe­dia to do a report on FDR. You might want them to, but they won’t unless coerced.

They need a lib­rar­i­an more than ever (to fig­ure out cre­at­ive ways to find and use data). They need a lib­rary not at all.

Book ware­house?
Giv­en the migra­tion of inform­a­tion from paper to digit­al forms, the lib­rary will per­haps, out­live its role as a ware­house for books. Rather, it’ll become a place where some cool tech and some very well informed people meet and do great things with inform­a­tion (and here’s where the next part of the coin­cid­ence hap­pens)  — such as Bib­li­on: The Bound­less Lib­rary, a cool new iPad app from the New York Pub­lic Lib­rary:

… go on an exclus­ive jour­ney deep into the Library’s legendary stacks. This app is designed to open up hid­den parts of the col­lec­tions and the myri­ad storylines they hold and preserve…through a unique immers­ive exper­i­ence. In this free iPad app you will hold doc­u­ments, images, films, audio, and essays — dir­ectly from the col­lec­tions in your own hands.

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Also earli­er this week, the New York Pub­lic Lib­rary launched the redesigned and updated Bib­li­on app. In this case, Bib­li­on is a themed approach to explor­ing the lib­rary. The first release digs into the huge archives relat­ing to the 1939–1940 Worlds Fair in New York. Down­load the free app and you’ll:

  • read ori­gin­al essays from such prom­in­ent writers as Kar­en Abbott, Wil­li­am Grimes, Henry Jen­kins, Elli­ott Kalan, James Mauro, and oth­ers
  • view Gen­er­al Motors’ fam­ous Futurama ride, in full col­or, from the ori­gin­al carou­sel!
  • explore the devel­op­ment of the Fair’s designs, uni­forms, build­ings, and exhib­its, includ­ing Sal­vador Dalí’s then-shock­ing Dream of Venus extra­vag­anza
  • rel­ish the out­rageous res­taur­ant ideas that nev­er made the cut
  • learn about the fate of the Czechoslov­akia Pavil­ion after the coun­try was invaded by Hitler
  • dis­cov­er what was bur­ied inside the West­ing­house Time Cap­sule … which won’t be opened until the year 6939!
  • fly from story to story, chart­ing your own jour­ney through the stacks…

It’s made of lib­rar­i­ans!
Cool apps like this don’t  just magic­ally appear out of thin air. Developers need to cre­ate the code, and con­tent man­agers need to pull all the inter­est­ing con­tent togeth­er in a way that makes sense to you and me, the view­er. In this case, the con­tent man­agers are Lib­rar­i­ans, and it’s excit­ing to see them cre­at­ing these mashups of lib­rary sci­ence and tech­no­logy.

What about the books?
As much as I enjoy read­ing a good book (the ink and paper type) I think their days are numbered. Except for sig­ni­fic­ant works of a his­tor­ic­al nature, many books more eas­ily stored, searched and ref­er­enced digit­ally. Which means the book ware­houses (lib­rar­ies) can evolve into their next phase. I’m not sure what that would be, but I bet we’re going to love it :smileyhappy:

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Not an April Fools Joke: Trainz for iPad

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Ever since the Apple II days, I’ve been a flight sim­u­lat­or geek. I’ve always been inter­ested in avi­ation, but due to my less-than-per­fect eye­sight, a career as a pilot wasn’t in the cards. But that didn’t dim my interest in avi­ation. And giv­en my interest in com­puters & tech­no­logy, it seemed nat­ur­al that I’d grav­it­ate toward flight sims.

Which is why I can recog­nize the pas­sion of folks who are inter­ested in Train Sim­u­lat­ors. True, I don’t ‘get’ that interest or pas­sion, but I can recog­nize and appre­ci­ate it when I see it.

And that’s why I’m tak­ing the plunge later today and pick­ing up Trainz, an iPad Train Sim­u­lat­or (when I’m on Wi-Fi and not 3G, it’s a 136MB down­load!). It also helps that it was on sale for $.99 (down from the usu­al $4.99) :smileyhappy: Maybe I’ll learn some­thing about someone else’s pas­sion!

The com­pany line

Based on the suc­cess­ful PC fran­chise, TRAINZ Sim­u­lat­or arrives on iPad and is com­ing very soon to Android!

Build and oper­ate the rail­road of your dreams.

Trainz Sim­u­lat­or for iPad includes everything you need to build and oper­ate your own dream rail­road. You can build a fun lay­out in minutes, faith­fully recre­ate a steam rail­road from days gone by or devel­op a fully fledged pro­to­typ­ic­al route; the choice is yours.

The Video
As you’ll see, it’s not only a train sim­u­lat­or, it’s actu­ally a train lay­out sim­u­lat­or. About 12 way through the video you’ll see you’ve got the abil­ity to cre­ate your world, build­ing the ter­rain, lakes, etc. Very cool little app. And on sale this week­end for less than the cost of that cof­fee you’re drink­ing right now :smileyhappy:


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A Photo Project, An Update, and a Contest?

Ear­lier today the folks behind one of my favour­ite iOS dig­i­tal dark­room apps (FX Photo Stu­dio) announced a great new col­lab­o­ra­tive pho­tog­ra­phy app and pro­ject, in the form of a con­test:

As a ges­ture of appre­ci­a­tion to its loy­al fans, Mac­Phun is also devel­op­ing the first ever jointly col­lab­o­rated, free stand­alone wall­pa­per app that will show­case user-sub­mit­ted pho­tographs edited with FX Photo Stu­dio and oth­er pho­tog­ra­phy iOS apps. With MacPhun’s sup­port, the app will pro­vide the ideal plat­form for aspir­ing artists and pho­tog­ra­phers to gain increased expo­sure for their work. To kick off the sub­mis­sion pro­cess, Mac­Phun will be hold­ing a two month pro­mo­tion on their Face­book page. Prizes include iTunes gift cards, photo print­ing gift vouch­ers and much more. For more infor­ma­tion on this con­test, please vis­it: http://www.macphun.com/photoproject/

To help kick off this great idea, FX Photo Stu­dio & FX Photo Stu­dio HD have been updated to iOS 4.3 and now include a new fil­ter cat­e­gory, Sketches:

Mac­Phun has col­lab­o­rated with estab­lished artists from North Amer­ica and Europe to cre­ate a new “sketches” cat­e­gory. The newly added cat­e­gory con­sists of six car­toon-styled fil­ters pro­vid­ing users with a total of 187 fil­ters to mix, match and share with friends. The addi­tion of more pre­cise tun­ing con­trols for con­trast­ing, adjust­ing hues and sharp­en­ing fil­ters, pro­vide even more unequiv­o­cal tools to users, mak­ing one of the most use­ful image edit­ing apps on the mar­ket, even bet­ter.

And to make it even eas­ier for new iPhone and iPad2 pho­tog­ra­phers, FX Photo Stu­dio and FX Photo Stu­dio HD will both be dis­counted to $0.99 and $1.99, respec­tively, for a very lim­ited time.
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