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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How-To: Streaming stuff around your house

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In this increas­ingly wire­less world, it seems odd that it’s actu­ally kinda dif­fi­cult to get music or oth­er media from one device to anoth­er.

In my case, I have pho­tos, movies and music all stored on a cent­ral stor­age device on my net­work — a Net­work Attached Stor­age device, or NAS.

Get­ting to that media eas­ily with oth­er devices means I have to have a some­thing run­ning and act­ing as a serv­er to man­age access to the media. In my case, it’s a small win­dows based com­puter that acts as the serv­er.

Or should I say ‘serv­ers’ because to get my media streamed around the house is a feat that requires more than just one piece of soft­ware.

ituneslogo.jpgLet’s start with iTunes
I have that run­ning  and shar­ing its lib­rary (which is poin­ted at the media on the NAS). iTunes allows any oth­er copy of iTunes run­ning on my net­work (and that I’ve enabled Home Shar­ing on) to see the shared lib­rary and use the media on it.

So now any com­puter run­ning iTunes can play music from my shared iTunes lib­rary. This means my Apple TV (2nd Gen) can see my media lib­rary too.

But mov­ing a com­puter from sound­sys­tem to sound­sys­tem is a little clunky, so read on, gentle read­er, read on.

iPad, iPod Touch, iPhone
It’s fairly easy to plug your iDevices into most home sound sys­tem these days, so I won’t go into details on that, but that’s how I get the music to the room I want listen in.

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WiFi2HiFi

Now things get a bit more com­plex. Stream­ing media to these devices requires anoth­er piece of serv­er soft­ware run­ning on that serv­er box. And a match­ing applic­a­tion on the iOS device.

The iDevice is the receiv­er, and the Serv­er is, erm, the serv­er.

There are cur­rently three sol­id iOS receiv­er apps (and match­ing free serv­er soft­ware):

With all three, the basic prin­cip­al is the same:

1) Point the serv­er soft­ware (on the PC) at the dir­ect­or­ies you want to share with the iOS devices
2) Let the serv­er soft­ware build a cata­logue

Now things get a bit dif­fer­ent
With Air Video and Stream To Me, you just:
3) Point the app (on your iOS device) at your serv­er (usu­ally using an IP address).

If you’re using WiFi2HiFi, it’s easi­er — you just start the serv­er soft­ware, and it auto­mat­ic­ally detects your iOS device with the app run­ning and streams all your computer’s audio to it. So whatever you’re play­ing on your com­puter will be streamed to the iOS device.
4) With Stream-To-Me and Air Video, you have more con­trol. The match­ing serv­er soft­ware lets you view your media lib­rar­ies and select the media you’d like to stream.

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Stream-To-Me

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Air Video

As of this writ­ing, Air Video only streams video (with on the fly con­ver­sion or queued con­ver­sion), while Stream-To-Me sends most video and audio formats without con­ver­sion.

So depend­ing on your needs, you’ve got hard­ware and soft­ware options for get­ting your media to you using your exist­ing devices. Very cool, and con­veni­ent way to get your stuff to where you are.

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Show your parents you care — tech style

It’s highly likely that many of you, like me, are respons­ible for tech­nic­al sup­port of your fam­il­ies’ com­puter sys­tems and inter­net con­nec­tion.

googfooter.pngEarli­er today I found a great little micros­ite (by Google) that’ll help you sup­port your par­ents with their online issues.

http://www.teachparentstech.org/ is the site that helps you build a friendly little email and bundles links to appro­pri­ate self-help videos.

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Obvi­ously this won’t address every ques­tion they’ve got, but it does:

  • Get them using email (they’ll need to in order to view the mes­sage)
  • Get them watch­ing online videos through a browser
  • Teach them how to do some­thing to cus­tom­ize their com­put­ing exper­i­ence
  • Give them a sense of accom­plish­ment and inde­pend­ence as they use new tech.

Here’s what your out­go­ing email could look like:

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It’s not just simple issues either, here’s a video show­ing how to set up an email autorespon­der in Gmail — though sim­il­ar email apps work in much the same way.

And it’s a great little mar­ket­ing and brand­ing oppor­tun­ity to get Google into their com­put­ing exper­i­ence.

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Things to do with your new iPad, iPod Touch or iPhone

Black Fri­day has come and gone, and you’ve likely got a new gad­get, gizmo or toy — I’m going to assume it’s an iPod Touch or iPhone — which is a per­fect oppor­tun­ity for me to dig into my archives and pull out a few posts that may help you and your new baby.

So, these are from the archives, but did I miss any­thing? It’s how I use my iPod Touch, but what do you do with yours — maybe some­thing I should look into or try on mine? Let me know…that’s what com­ments are for 🙂

Portable computing with Portable Apps

Not every­one wants to lug a laptop around with them between classes or across town to a study ses­sion at the lib­rary. Or per­haps you’re mov­ing between a work com­puter, your home com­puter and a remote work­s­ite com­puter, yet want to make sure you’ve got your suite of reg­u­lar-use tools at hand (’cause you cer­tainly can’t guar­an­tee they’ll be installed on com­puters you don’t con­trol). This is where the concept of the ‘port­able applic­a­tion’ comes to the res­cue. …more



This post is an excerpt from one of my weekly posts on the Future Shop Techb­log. Check out the full post here.

A simple and easy way to back up your Google Docs

If you do a lot of your work on vari­ous com­puters in dif­fer­ent loc­a­tions (as I do), con­veni­ently access­ing your doc­u­ments is import­ant.

Though I carry a 2GB USB drive every­where, I actu­ally find it easi­er to use Google Docs and store my work ‘in the Cloud’, so to speak.

But, that amorph­ous blob of com­put­ing-stor­age could crash, or my Inter­net con­nec­tion could be down. My pro­ductiv­ity would end unless there was a way to backup and con­tin­ue my work on my USB drive too. And there is.

Fire­Fox + Grease­Mon­key script + Down­LoadThem­All == Solu­tion
If you under­stood the above head­ing, then you can see how I solved it. If not, bear with me and all will become clear(er).

First, install and run Fire­Fox. You can’t con­tin­ue (and your brows­ing exper­i­ence will be greatly improved) until you do.

Next, if you’ve not yet installed Grease­Mon­key, do so now. This little applic­a­tion runs soph­ist­ic­ated scripts with­in your browser to improve your online exper­i­ence. There’s a whole host of cool Grease­Mon­key scripts to explore.

Thirdly, install Down­loadThem­All — a nifty Fire­Fox addon that auto­ma­gic­ally down­loads all the links or images on a web page. You’ll see how that works for us after the next step.

Finally, install the Google Docs Down­load Grease­Mon­key Script. This is the crux of the solu­tion. To quote the doc­u­ment­a­tion, once inside your Google Docs account:

Just nav­ig­ate to the doc­u­ment list that you wish to down­load and select the doc­u­ments you want to down­load by click­ing their check­boxes or click the select: all link at the bot­tom of the page. Click the drop down menu on the right side of the page that reads “Down­load Your Doc­u­ments” and select a format. A new win­dow will open and you now have a list of links to down­load all of the doc­u­ments that you selec­ted.

The beauty of this script is that it you can select which format you’d like for out­put (PDF, TXT, CSV, Open Office or Microsoft Office), and it works with reg­u­lar Google Docs accounts, as well as Google Apps for Domains accounts.

To sum­mar­ize
By simply nav­ig­at­ing to my Google Docs main dir­ect­ory, select­ing ‘All Doc­u­ments’ (mak­ing sure they’re all checked), and then launch­ing the Down­loadThem­All Add on (now in your Fire­Fox Tools menu), I’ve eas­ily cre­ated an edit­able loc­al copy of all my work stored in the G-Cloud. And any work I do on a loc­al copy can be eas­ily impor­ted (as a new file) back into Google Docs.

Admit­tedly, it’s not as easy as stor­ing it all on a USB stick. But a stick can be lost, and I’d rather have my backup go south, than all my fin­ished work should I actu­ally lose the stick.

Your thoughts? Would this work for you or am I too para­noid?  🙂

A few Twitter tips for TV media

TV Test Pattern of Color Bars - Broadcaster's Twitter TipsRecently I had the oppor­tun­ity to help intro­duce a loc­al TV news anchor to the rather con­vo­luted world of Twit­ter, via Twit­ter.

That ses­sion gave me pause to think about what the TV news media really knows about this new media and its den­iz­ens.

So, to save repeat­ing myself, and per­haps help a few oth­er TV types enter into the Twit­ter-sphere, here’s some of the items we’d dis­cussed.

  • What’s Twit­ter all about? Check out the best Twit­ter intro. video ever.
  • What’s an Avatar? Avatar = your icon, just anoth­er name. You use them on many net­works, Face­book, Linked­in, Twit­ter, etc. Here’s an example of an Avatar gen­er­at­or.
  • Short­er tweets work bet­ter. You’ve only got 140 char­ac­ters. Terse works in Twit­ter. Not like broad­cast. Don’t be con­ver­sa­tion­al. Get to your point quickly.
  • What’s a ReTweet? ReTweet­ing or RT is when someone spreads your tweet to their list of fol­low­ers. I RT your mes­sage, and my tweeps see it. That’s why short tweet is bet­ter, it leaves room for RT without major re-edit­ing.
  • Tweet about some­thing that NOBODY ELSE HAS. This is where you add YOUR value to your fol­low­ers. Wire ser­vices are all on twit­ter. Plug some­thing exclus­ive to your broad­cast (and say so) rather then some­thing that moved on a wire ser­vice.
  • That being said, sub­scribe to all the Twit­ter wire ser­vices and news organ­iz­a­tions in your geo­graph­ic region. Oth­er­wise you won’t know what’s hap­pen­ing in the Twit­ter-sphere that’s import­ant to your broad­cast.
  • Mon­it­or men­tions about your Twit­ter account using http://search.twitter.com. Just enter your @username as the search cri­ter­ia and you’ll see all the men­tions of your account.
  • Remem­ber, Twit­ter is a Social Media. Inter­act with your fol­low­ers, don’t just ‘spam’ them with announce­ments of a story you’re run­ning in your next news­cast. Inter­ac­tion is key to devel­op­ing and main­tain­ing an audi­ence in the Twit­ter-sphere.

*** UPDATE *** I found this excel­lent list from the Poynter Insti­tute. If you’re get­ting your feet wet, this is the place to start!
*** UPDATE 2 *** Here’s anoth­er great list I plucked off of a recent #journ­chat (Twit­ter form­al chat for journ­al­ists, writers, blog­gers, etc)

So, did I miss any­thing? Please feel free to add to this list in the com­ments. Oh, and feel free to fol­low me on Twit­ter 🙂