Sunday, September 1, 2013

Summer Adventures of a Droid Tablet!

Week 1: Adventures of a Droid Tablet
The night before the first class of a Summer Session course I was teaching this past July at the local college, my laptop died with everything setup on it to use a Wacom Tablet, ScreenCast-o-Matic and SmartNoteBook. So, I took the Teacher PC, armed with a PC Projector, in one of the computer rooms and added these 6 components:
(1) USB Mic
(2) USB BlueTooth Dongle
(3) USB Memory Stick with Virtual TI-83
(4) BlueTooth Wacom Graphire 6x8 Tablet
(5) Windows Journal Pen App
Since I was stuck using WimpDoze, I exported Windows Journals to *.tiff and converted these to PDF format using ZamZar or the tiff2pdf commandline tool in an Ubuntu Linux shell. Then I stored all PDFs on SlideShare and all MP4s on YouTube and linked everything to Edmodo.

Week 2: Adventures of a Droid Tablet
This week I tried the following setup instead. Note, Screencast-o-matic would not work online, I had to download a Windows app to my Desktop:
(1) USB Mic
(2) WiFi DROID 8.9" Tablet
(3) Virtual TI-83
(4) Xournal Pen Windows App
So I finally retired the laptop and the Smart Airliner Slate (aka Wacom Graphire 6x8 Art Tablet). Now I don't have to carry around all that bulky stuff. I may still need this old setup as a backup option when I'm speaking at conferences and I have to setup a quick screencast. 

I would love to drop the USB Mic too if I could figure out how to use the Droid's Mic with this configuration. I would then be truly wireless! This new incarnation of the Kindle has an 8.9" HD screen, dual WiFi, dual speakers, dual cores as well as a webcam and mic. I think there's a version of Teamviewer, called Teamviewer for Meetings, that uses VOIP so I wouldn't need a separate Mic. IDK if it's free or cheap. I suppose I could go back to using a wireless lapel mic? Maybe I could use a BlueTooth Headset Mic? You see, my lapel mic disappeared after Hurricane Sandy destroyed the Math Building at my High School....

I am also experimenting with other Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) apps such as SplashTop. I'm using Splashtop2 for Droid and SplashtopStreamer for Windows. 

I'm focusing on Teamviewer and Splashtop as these Desktop streamers are available for both Windows and Linux and the client app is available for Droid. I usually have to use Windows whenever I'm on the road, say at a conference. However, I usually use Linux all day every day at the High School. Further, all my tablets are now Droids!

Week 3: Adventures of a Droid Tablet
This week I tried the following setup instead. Note, Screencast-o-matic takes a long time to render MP4s (ie: 75 min video takes about 45 min):
(1) USB Mic
(2) WiFi DROID 8.9" Tablet
(3) Virtual TI-83
(4) Xournal Pen Windows App
(6) SplashTop DroidApp/WindowsStreamer
Adding SplashTop to the mix went very smoothly. I find SplashTop more responsive than Teamviewer. Teamviewer has two advantages over Splashtop, however. First, the streamer can run from RAM so you don't have to have admin rights to install it if you're on the road using someone else's PC. Also, using Teamviewer for non-commercial applications is always free. 

SplashTop, on the other hand, had to be installed by the admin. Further, Splashtop requires a $16.99 per year subscription unless both your Tablet and PC are using the same wireless router! Still, I found using a capacitive stylus much easier when using SplashTop in non-trackpad plus smooth mode. Using the stylus takes some getting used to, but there's always a learning curve with any new technology solution. Right now, my Droid is on a WiFi router and my PC is on a wired Ethernet LAN. If both devices were on the same WiFi router, then I think SplashTop would be even more responsive!

Week 4: Adventures of a Droid Tablet
The only thing new this week is my using my finger as the stylus! Actually, the finger works even better than using a capacitive stylus. Before I tried all this, I read everywhere that you need to use a stylus to get the best results, I beg to differ. The stylus worked great on the Wacom Tablet, for instance. 
Also, it seems that the Kindle Fire HD does have BlueTooth, but it's a bit limited. BlueTooth connectivity is limited to input from a headset mic or wireless keyboard and output to external speakers or headphones or car stereo. So, using the Kindle's mic remotely over BlueTooth to record my voice on a PC for a screencast is not in the cards. BTW, I think you can also add an external mouse via BlueTooth or USB.

Week 5: Adventures of a Droid Tablet  
I did everything the same way this week as last. Everyday I'd start by hooking up my USB Memory Stick (to backup my screencast and smartnotes at the end of class) and USB Mic. Then I'd start up Xournal and VTI from my Documents folder. Then I'd start up SplashTop Streamer on the PC and SplashTop2 App on the Kindle. Then I'd play a Youtube or go over the homework for about 45 minutes. Then I'd start up Screencast-o-matic to record new material for about 45-90 minutes. Then I'd do some practice problems from the new homework page while the video rendered. 
After class, I'd upload the mp4 to YouTube and the pdf to slideshare, link these files to edmodo and back them up to my USB drive.

Observations: Adventures of a Droid Tablet 
What's nice about the Droid Tablet (Kindle Fire HD 8.9") is that it's more compact than the laptop and I can see what I write right on its screen unlike the Wacom Tablet!  

I like Xournal since it exports to PDF format directly. Say goodbye to Windows Journal!

The Teamviewer App is very easy to use and connects my Droid to the PC Desktop via RDP over WiFi instead of BlueTooth.

I played with TeamViewer for Meetings's Streamer and App combination. It adds VOIP and Whiteboard mode for free. However, I had a lot of audio feedback using VOIP. I think the problem is that TeamViewer for Meetings does the exact opposite as compared to Teamviewer. Teamviewer allows you to control a PC desktop from a mobile device. Teamviewer for Meetings lets you control several mobile devices from the PC desktop thereby conducting a virtual meeting where several coworkers can connect to the meeting from their tablets or cell phones. The people using mobile devices cannot affect the presentation, but they can hear the presenter via VOIP and the can participate via VOIP. So, when I had the tablet near the PC running Teamviewer for Meetings, I inadvertently setup an audio feedback loop! 

Plain vanilla TeamViewer is still a nice solution if you want to run the Streamer from RAM and you don't want to pay a subscription fee for remote access over the internet.

Teamviewer is very easy to setup and I can set the resolution of the Droid to match that of the PC so I can use the full screen on both devices. However, Splashtop is more responsive when using a capacitive stylus to write notes on Xournal.

There are several Splashtop Droid Apps. Another one, which costs $8.99, is Splashtop Whiteboard. This gives you all the bells and whistles of a SmartNotebook without using SmartNotebook. I think that Splashtop Whiteboard is to the Droid as Doceri is to the iPad. Also, I wouldn't need Xournal if I used this version of SplashTop.

What's interesting about SplashTop is that it's not meant to be used the way I am using it! I'm using SplashTop2. SplashTop WhiteBoard is a relatively new addition. Also, there's SplashTop X Window which gives you a second desktop to extend the size of the display for your PC. There's even SplashTop HD for viewing movies and and playing video games in high resolution remotely from your desktop to your tablet. Not all these apps are free! There's Streamers for Windows, Mac and Linux (beta). Also, there's apps for iOS and anDroid. That's 6 different configurations available to you! 

Beware, Splashtop is only free if both the PC and the mobile device are on the same local WiFi router. Otherwise, I think you need to pay a subscription fee of $16.99 per year or $1.99 per month. Luckily, I have a free account from the college. 

So, if you look at SplashTop marketing and reviews on YouTube, you will see that people are using this setup to watch flash videos on iPads (flash is not available on iPad) or to use productivity apps such as Windows Office on a Droid Tablet (there's no office apps on iOS or anDroid). That's all well and good, but I need to screencast and whiteboard!

BTW, SplashTop recently renamed the app as SplashTop Personal. Now you don't need all the different apps such as SplashTop2, SplashTop HD, SplashTop X Window or SplashTop WhiteBoard. All that functionality is in SplashTop Personal. However, you still have to pay $1.99 per month for remote access over the internet and $1.99 more per month if you want the features of a WhiteBoard app. Now you can choose from SplashTop Personal, SplashTop Business or SplashTop Enterprise! What an embarrassment of riches to choose from!

Conclusions: Adventures of a Droid Tablet
I will use a similar setup in Linux when I go back to my home school:
(1) USB Mic
(2) WiFi DROID 8.9" Tablet
(3) Virtual TI-83 or SAGE
(4) Xournal Pen Windows App
(6) SplashTop DroidApp/LinuxStreamer

I may try a BlueTooth Mic or some sort of VOIP solution that lets me use the Droid's Mic. At present, this does not seem to be an option in SplashTop. SplashTop sends the PC's video and audio output to the Droid and the Droid's Mouse (stylus) and Keyboard output to the PC. I hope they will add an option to reverse the audio in the near future? If I use SplashTop Whiteboard, I could get rid of Xournal too. Also, I use a desktop screencaster in Linux called avconv that renders in realtime so I don't have to waste time rendering after class. So, my Linux setup would be much simpler:
(1) Tablet (remote Mouse, Keyboard and Mic)
(2) Virtual TI-83 or SAGE
(3) avconv screencaster
(4) SplashTop DroidApp/LinuxStreamer

Using a BlueTooth Keyboard and USB Mouse may be an option when using productivity apps remotely via Splashtop. With this setup, I can use the tablet as a full-fledged laptop! If I had my druthers, I'd use a Lenovo IdeaPad 13" Yoga which is a laptop when you want it and a 13" tablet when you don't! However, the Kindle's price point is unresistible! BTW, there's an onscreen keyboard on the Droid, but it takes a lot of screen space.

Stay tuned this Fall, when I teach preCalculus starting from the back of the book with Sequences and Series! Also, I won't use a Graphing Calculator anymore. I with by programming in Python on an online Computer Algebra System (CAS) such as SAGE! ... and don't forget to follow the new paradigm: "Bring Your Own Device" (BYOD) to work!

Finally, did I mention that no SmartTech hardware or software was harmed used during the production of this blog?

A. Jorge Garcia
Applied Math, Physics and CS
Teaching with Technology, 
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mathforum apcommunity
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