Gareth Halfacree’s Hobby Tech continues in the latest Custom PC Magazine, with a tutorial that’s sure to generate some interest: creating a companion display for your desktop or laptop using nothing more than an outdated and cheaply-available Android tablet – or smartphone, if you’ve got good enough eyesight for that to be useful. As usual, there’s also a review and some vintage computing goodness to mix things up a bit.
First, the tutorial. As with most of the projects that appear in Hobby Tech, I created this for personal use before deciding it might be of interest to others. Having no room for a true second monitor, but frequently running out of window room on my slightly cramped 1,920×1,200 main monitor, I worked to turn an old Android tablet into a secondary display. It’s an easy enough trick to do on Linux, although likely somewhat harder if you’re a Windows user, and extremely handy: I can open anything from a terminal session to a browser window on the display, stream it live and wirelessly to the tablet, and interact with it using my desktop’s keyboard and mouse.
It’s a purely software project – aside from the mounting of the display, which I carried out with Sugru – and one that has certainly seen more use than anything else I’ve documented in the column. It’s particularly useful for keeping an eye on my playlist while I’m working, and while it isn’t without its faults – the tablet has a tendency to drop its network connection every now and again, necessitating a reconnect – it’s been great value for money.
In addition to the tutorial, Hobby Tech this month includes a review of the Embedded Artists 2.7″ ePaper Display – which, as the name suggests, is a compact electrophoretic display designed for embedded hardware. It’s a clever bit of kit compatible with most microcontrollers, although my review concentrates on its use with the popular Raspberry Pi. As an added bonus, while my unit was very kindly supplied direct from Embedded Artists in Sweden, several UK suppliers for the device have appeared since my review including Cool Components – meaning you can save yourself the otherwise cripplingly-expensive postage charges.
Finally, the vintage computing section of the column this month is something very dear to my heart: a look at the IBM Model F keyboard. Built using the company’s patented buckling-spring mechanism, the Model F is generally considered to be the best keyboard in the world – and anyone who says the Model M holds that position simply hasn’t tried a Model F, as the M is merely a cost-reduced and significantly mushier variation of the design. As a writer, I do an awful lot of typing, and I used to get the worrying early symptoms of carpal tunnel and repetitive strain injury. Since switching to an IBM Model F from a Personal Computer AT, I’ve had no such problem – 30-year-old technology solving a problem modern-day gear simply couldn’t touch.
All this, plus the usual news snippets and a bunch of stuff written by people who aren’t me, awaits you at your local newsagent or other magazine retailer, or digitally via Zinio and similar services.