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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How your mobile phone or tablet could save your life

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Believe it or not, there are many ways your mobile smart phone could be used when you find yourself in the middle of an emergency situation,  aside from the obvious — making a phone call for emergency assistance, I mean.

The recent events in Japan and New Zealand have shown that when disaster strikes, getting the most accurate information is likely the best way to make choices that could save your life.

Browser
Provided the event hasn’t taken out the local mobile network, your mobile phone’s browser will help, linking you with many local, national, and international news services, as well as many different channels of communication (email, voice chat, twitter, etc).

Hardware
f1.jpgBut there are other ways your smart phone can help. For example, many smart phone’s display screens are bright enough to be used as a makeshift flashlight when the power goes out. Color Flashlight is a leading Android app and Flashlight 4 is one of the most popular ones in Japan right now.

As well, most phones these days know where they are in the world, either by triangulating between communications towers, wifi sources, or built-in GPS systems. Tie this in with any of the popular mapping applications and you have a good visual understanding of where you are. Helpful when you have to find an alternate route or transportation system in an unfamiliar city.

An app for that? You bet!
As you can imagine, there are many things that you could need in an emergency. And, of course, there are some apps that can help.

During the Tsunami warnings following the Japan earthquake, information like that provided by this Hawaiian-developed Disaster Alert app helped keep islanders informed about the impending waves.

And after an event, finding people and shelter is a priority.

Google launched their Google Person Finder during the Christchurch earthquake, and updated it for the Japan event.

And the American Red Cross has released their free Shelter View app.

So as you can see, with just a few bookmarks, perhaps an hour of app-store browsing, and a few dollars investment, you can have a pretty good emergency preparedness kit all tucked neatly into your mobile data phone.

I think it’s time I started on mine, what have I missed that I should add?
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The gauntlet has been thrown: HP’s webOS TouchPad

tp.jpgYesterday Earlier today in San Francisco, HP revealed a few new products; the new Veer, the Pre 3, and the new TouchPad — a direct competitor to the Apple iPad.

And the TouchPad is going to be a very cool device. My thoughts:

  • Same weight as an iPad — I was hoping for lighter
  • Cool inductive charging using the Touchstone technology
  • webOS – a very slick and intuitively designed operating system
  • True multi-tasking (iPad uses task switching or hot-switching — the app is suspended in background so no data processing occurs when an app is not in forfront)
  • Cool Touchstone technology pairs your HP smartphone with your TouchPad to share data, display presentations, etc (see below).

Continue reading “The gauntlet has been thrown: HP’s webOS TouchPad”

When is an iPad not an iPad?

sj.jpgOk, perhaps it is actually “magical and revolutionary”. Or perhaps we’re just moving toward the day that yes, there really is an app for that.

Smart phones and tablet computers are set to explode this year, but what will really move the hardware is innovative software created by developers who can see beyond the traditional fare that is currently available on the software menu. Continue reading “When is an iPad not an iPad?”

The Steve Jobs Way

Tomorrow Apple will likely announce a new look and feel for the MacBook Air and an update (perhaps significant) to their flagship operating system, OSX. And once again, the reality distortion field surrounding Steve Jobs’ presentations will be set to full power. It’ll be an interesting day, I’m sure. Especially since Steve ripped into Google, RIM,  and smaller-sized tablet computers in an earnings call earlier this week.

Coincidentally, last week Bloomberg released a good, detailed episode of Game Changers focusing on Steve Jobs.

Through interviews with friends, former colleagues and business associates, GAME CHANGERS reveals the many layers of the intensely private Steve Jobs – his style of leadership, management and creative process. Interviews include Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, former Apple CEO John Scully, journalist turned Venture Capitalist Michael Moritz, Dreamworks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg, former Apple “Mac Evangelist” and Silicon Valley Entrepreneur, Guy Kawasaki and Robert X.Cringely, technology journalist and former Apple employee.

Also coincidentally, former “Mac Evangelist” Guy Kawasaki re-released (for free) his 20yr. old insight into a particular period in Apple’s life titled The Macintosh Way.

The Macintosh Way is the first book that Guy Kawasaki wrote. Guy recently got the rights back for the book, and he’s offering it free to people who follow @GuyKawasaki on Twitter.

So, it seems that this is a good week to brush up on your Steve Jobs / Apple Knowledge — for free! Now just need to dust off my copy of iWoz and my week will be complete.

It’s the iPlatform, not the iPad

Steve’s just announced the iPad (not the best name selection in the world, but it’ll do), and after watching the announcement event being reported by various online media, including our own Future Shop Techbloggers, I’m struck by the impression that the hardware is cool, interesting and looks great, but the iPad hardware is not the story here with the implications. …more



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


Apple Tablet prediction as a game

So, tomorrow’s the big day that Apple lifts the veil on projects under development and ready for release in the next year.

The mythical Tablet is likely the biggest announcement tomorrow, and technology pundits have not been shy in predicting what the device will have (or not).

This all sounds too serious to me, so let’s have a little fun with it. Thankfully I don’t have to do the hard work, because David Weiss launched his Prediction Scorecard .pdf.

…as an Apple Event approached work conversation would take second place to speculation about what Apple would announce. Lunch time conversation was consumed with a battle of predictions and the white board in front of my office became the location for people to publicly make their claims. After the event we would gather around the white board and collectively determine who did the best.

I’ll be following along, and will post my score after the dust has settled — why don’t you do the same? Fun for all, for free 😉