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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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‚Äôt (yet) replace the iPad‚Äôs native player as it doesn‚Äôt support playlists, or search. But when you think about it, it really doesn‚Äôt 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‚Äôll use it to show off your iPad, and it‚Äôs free — why wouldn‚Äôt 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‚Äôll become a place where some cool tech and some very well informed people meet and do great things with information (and here‚Äôs 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 ‚ÄĒ 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 Dal√≠‚Äôs 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 ‚Ķ which won’t be opened until the year 6939!
  • fly from story to story, charting your own journey through the stacks‚Ķ

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‚Äôs 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 1/2 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:

Mac¬≠Phun has col¬≠lab¬≠o¬≠rated with estab¬≠lished artists from North Amer¬≠ica and Europe to cre¬≠ate a new ‚Äúsketches‚ÄĚ cat¬≠e¬≠gory. The newly added cat¬≠e¬≠gory con¬≠sists of six cartoon-styled fil¬≠ters pro¬≠vid¬≠ing users with a total of 187 fil¬≠ters to mix, match and share with friends. The addi¬≠tion of more pre¬≠cise tun¬≠ing con¬≠trols for con¬≠trast¬≠ing, adjust¬≠ing hues and sharp¬≠en¬≠ing fil¬≠ters, pro¬≠vide even more unequiv¬≠o¬≠cal tools to users, mak¬≠ing one of the most use¬≠ful image edit¬≠ing apps on the mar¬≠ket, even better.

And to make it even eas¬≠ier for new iPhone and iPad2 pho¬≠tog¬≠ra¬≠phers, FX Photo Stu¬≠dio and FX Photo Stu¬≠dio HD will both be dis¬≠counted to $0.99 and $1.99, respec¬≠tively, for a very lim¬≠ited time.
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