How to run your favourite desktop utilities from almost any computer using Portable Applications

photo.JPGIn the course of my day, I use two or three main desktop and laptop computers in two or three different parts of the city.

And yet, working on different devices, I still have access to a core set of tools and utilities that I find essential to my daily work. Here’s how I do it.

Some of the computers are ‘client’ managed, so I don’t have complete control over the software suite I have available to me.

There are two options that I use, though I find myself moving to one more often these days.

But before I get ahead of myself, let me write a little bit about the applications. Continue reading “How to run your favourite desktop utilities from almost any computer using Portable Applications”

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.

LMI1.jpg

Continue reading “Remote control your computer from your iPad”

Tablets will be the story this holiday season

The iPad has been out for a bit now, and it’s the tablet that all the others will be compared against as they jockey for position going into the holiday season.

But overall, I think this is the year that tablets finally start to make some headway into the marketplace; a marketplace already crowded with Desktops, Laptops, Netbooks and Data Phones.

So, why consider a tablet? Here’s a few things to think about.

Middleground
Tablets won’t replace your main computer, nor will they replace your laptop. They’re not powerful enough to do a lot of the work those computers do. But, they will fill in the middleground between your smartphone and your computer, simply because they are smaller, yet not too small, and offer a great interactive experience.

Tablets are  great to bring to meetings, light-weight and yet functional enough that looking up calendar conflicts or taking simple notes is a very simple process — and the tablet is much less obvious than a laptop when sitting around the boardroom table.

Oh, and you smartphone jockey’s out there, yes, you can do all that stuff on your handheld Android/BlackBerry/iPhone, but the screen size is kinda limiting when you want/need to share the view.

Cloudbusting
Using some cloud computing applications such as DropBox, any notes you create on your tablet are instantly stored in the cloud account and accessible to your other computers.

And, if you’re in that meeting and need to reference something stored on your desktop, you can use desktop control software such as LogMeIn Ignition (on the iPad / iPhone / Touch) or a VNC client written for your tablet. A couple of quick touchpad strokes and you’re working on your desktop computer as if you were sitting in front of it.

Ok, those are the big reasons that a tablet wins for me. And here’s a few more that are really just icing on the cake:

  • Inherently portable – smaller form factor makes it easier to take everywhere. My iPad is with me daily, whereas my laptop or netbook only came out when I thought I might need it
  • Casual usage – since it’s with me I use it more to jot down notes, surf, etc during otherwise dead time
  • Tactile, friendly, engaging – a tablet seems less imposing than a full-up laptop. People like to share work on a tablet, it’s easy to hand around a meeting and solicit feedback.
  • Portable media – tablets are great for watching movies or videos on the bus or wherever because they’re smaller and sleeker — no huge keyboard to haul around in addition to the screen.

So, in my humble opinion, yes, the tablet will make some serious inroads this holiday season, especially if the price can stay low, the hardware delivers, and the software is developed to live in this new middleground.

So that’s why a tablet appeals to me, how ‘bout you? Are you in or out when it comes to considering a tablet in the near future?



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


Lots to think about when diagnosing a slow Internet

Occasionally I get a tech question in the inbox that is quite common. So much so that it makes sense for me to put and answer the question here where more can read and benefit from it.  By the way, if you’ve got something you’d like to ask, feel free to drop me a line through my contact me page.

So, the question deals with Internet speed, and this one is pretty complex because there are quite a number of factors that contribute to the ‘perceived’ speed of the Internet on any given computer:

Q:Hi, my laptop’s internet runs really slow.  I use firefox and internet explorer (they’re both updated). I have tried my laptop on quite a few different internet connections and have run multiple virus and defrag tests with no problems I have 24% free space on my hard drive.  My internet runs really laggy, and i want to sign up for a mobile / stick plan but if my computer can’t run fast there isn’t a point.  is there anything I can do to fix this?

Ok, there’s a lot in those few lines but not really enough to diagnose the problem completely.  Sadly there are a number of things that could impact internet speed, including;

  • the sites you try to connect to,
  • other running applications competing for network or system resources,
  • virus / trojan infection (though in this case the computer was scanned quite heavily),
  • the amount of RAM memory in the system,
  • the age and version of the operating system in use and the age of the computer — this one is important as a 6 year old computer trying to run a modern operating system may have issues as drivers are outdated,
  • hardware no longer supported, or it’s simply not capable of performing modern multi-media tasks that didn’t exist when the computer was originally designed.

As you can see, there are a number of potential issues here, and all of them require more information. So, in this case my recommendation was to consult an expert — giving them access to the machine so they can bring all their experience to bear on the problem.

Since at this point, we’re  not experiencing proper internet speeds, call your internet service provider, and discuss the speed issue with them.  They’ll likely ask a number of questions and have a few tests and tweaks you can perform while on the phone.

Then, if there’s nothing more they can do, perhaps find a trusted service tech or tech-savvy friend and have them help you out, since there’s so many variables that could cause the problems.

Bottom line, good instincts in searching out help. Giving your consulting tech a lot of information or access to the machine will likely generate a number of possible improvements.

And, since I mentioned it above but you likely skimmed over it to get to the meat of this post, if you’ve got a tech question that you think I could help you with,  feel free to drop me a line through my contact me page. I’ll give it a shot 🙂

eeePC Netbook Ubuntu mod and a bit of fun

As you can see, I’ve managed to get TweetDeck installed on my languishing eeePC 8G Netbook.

Originally we’d picked the eeePC up as a light web browser, but found the native Xandros OS a bit weak.

Time passed and we’d not had time to really explore the potential of this little guy…until now.

First off, the OS needed a rework. I was considering a TinyXP (stripped down) Windows XP install, but decided against it for a number of reasons.

Then Easy Peasy was released. It’s a fork of Ubuntu Linux, optimized for the requirements of the netbook’s smaller form factor (screen, keyboard, wifi, etc).

Cutting to the chase, the Easy Peasy installation went perfectly, following these instructions.

Then, to make this refreshed netbook work for me…it needed TweetDeck (the ultimate Twitter client) which runs on Adobe AIR. Ubuntu and Easy Peasy don’t include AIR, but lucky for me there was a simple walkthrough which I’ll summarize here:

  1. Open the Terminal
  2. Download the file from here using the wget command:
    http://airdownload.adobe.com/air/lin/download/1.5/AdobeAIRInstaller.bin
  3. The name of the file is AdobeAIRInstaller.bin
  4. Save the file in the Home folder (Places > Home Folder)
  5. Run this command:
    chmod +x AdobeAIRInstaller.bin
  6. Now run this command:
    sudo ./AdobeAIRInstaller.bin

The normal installer will open, install it. From now whenever you download a .air file, just double click it and it will be installed.

So this means we simply browse to the TweetDeck download page, click on the Linux Version, and select ‘install with AdobeAirInstaller’ when prompted by the operating system.

Poof done! TweetDeck now installed and the eeePC netbook can now play with Twitter like the big boys.