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’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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DOS on the iPad? There’s an app for that.

5374144373_36b6e593f5_m.jpg[UPDATE – looks like Apple has pulled it from the app store again]

I’ve got a rather strange, yet family friendly habit — I tend to collect computer emulators; software written for hardware, that acts like older hardware in order to run older software.

With me so far?

Over the last few years, Apple has been slowly relaxing the emulation standards in the iTunes App store for emulator apps, witness the Commodore 64 and rumored
Amiga emulators — though sadly, I doubt we’ll ever see one for the Apple ][

In the last 6 months, a DOS emulator has appeared, disappeared, and now reappeared in the store. And it’s a pretty solid app. Continue reading “DOS on the iPad? There’s an app for that.”

Free photo app Instagram just got better

iglogo.jpgThe free and popular instant photography sharing app for iOS, Instagram, just pushed an update through — and it’s a nifty little update too!

Aside from some bug fixes, two new filters were added in the 1.0.7 update;

Walden
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Hefe
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And one has been retrieved from the cutting room floor after a bit of a populous revolt;

PopRocket
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I love the filter upgrades, but the app upgrade didn’t go off without a hitch.

In my case, Instagram lives on my iPad, which I use for post-production editing and sharing of my photos. I like to think of it as my iPad Darkroom.

And this update to Instagram had me worried for a moment — it wouldn’t read any images from my photo roll or photo albums.

But after a full shutdown and restart, whatever database issues it had seemed to clear up, and I’m happily playing in the darkroom again.

iOS devices seem to be the most prolific when it comes to mobile digital darkroom apps, for now. I’m thinking that once more developers get busy working on the other devices, there’s going to be a whole lot more awesome photography happening out there… and I can’t wait!
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My top Apps of 2010

bestapps.jpgEveryone’s got a Top ‘something’ of the year list, so I thought I’d jump in with my picks for Top Apps of 2010 — with a little twist; only one app, per platform, amongst the 3 platforms I use (Windows, iOS (iPad), and Internet). Yes, Internet, for my purposes is a platform — it’s mostly device agnostic, and had great new apps this year.

So, without further adiu…
Continue reading “My top Apps of 2010”

Kobo eReader updated — much better!

Though it’s a great device, I’ve always been a little disappointed with my Kobo eReader. Sure, I got the cool black one, and it will let me read my ebooks, but the reading experience was never that polished. It’s almost as if the software running the eReader was unfinished.

Some of the things that annoyed me were:

  • strong flicker when changing pages
  • confusion over power light status (blue/red/purple — means what?)
  • confusion over charging process / status
  • battery life wasn’t as good as I thought
  • text size was not changeable  for some ePubs

But the key word above is are ‘annoyed’ – past tense.

Not Annoyed
Kobo’s released their latest firmware update, and it addresses many of my concerns. And after doing the update, this thing feels new. Snappy! To quote from their website:

What’s In the Upgrade

Everything that we talked about here, here, and here.

The highlights:

  • The ability to resize fonts for any ePub file, no matter where it comes from.
  • Improved battery management
  • The ability to hide/show the preloaded free classics
  • Charging lights that make sense (red/violet when charging, blue when finished)

The Upgrade Process
Initially the upgrade was available to people who signed up to an ‘early access‘ program — ostensibly to help manage the rollout of the upgrade and catch any bugs that may still be in the code.

Then, after a period of time, the update was enabled for everyone.

Here’s how the upgrade works:

  1. Launch your Kobo desktop software on your computer.
  2. Connect your Kobo eReader to your computer.
  3. When prompted, download and install the updated Kobo desktop software.
  4. Restart the Kobo desktop software, and reconnect your Kobo eReader.
  5. Follow the prompts as the Kobo desktop software recognizes that your eReader hasn’t been updated yet.

It’s really that simple. You may have to repeat steps 1 and 2 a couple of times as it seems that the Kobo desktop software doesn’t always ‘phone home’ to see if there’s an update.

Oh, and you will need a paper clip (to hit the recessed reset button) and a bit of manual dexterity as you have to push 2 buttons and the middle of the Navigation Pad all at the same time to set the unit into update mode.

The firmware it didn’t ship with
Kudos to Kobo development staff for listening to customer concerns and getting this update out. While I’m glad to see this firmware release fix these issues, it’s unfortunate that the Kobo eReader didn’t ship with this version initially.

But hey, it’s out now and it works well. Time to read another book!