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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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!