Duet Display turns your iPad into a fast, reliable, and truly legitimate external monitor

Duet Display

Duet Display

We’ve all been there – you’re out and about working on your laptop, and you just need that extra screen real-estate.  Because furiously command-tabbing, or four-finger swiping to change apps or spaces just isn’t cutting it.  Your iPad or iPhone is sitting next to you with e-mail or Twitter open…but you need something more.

Naturally, I’m getting at the fact that you can use your iPad as a second screen for your computer – that’s nothing new.  What is new is the fact that there is now a solution that’s lightning-quick, super-reliable, and truly organic.

Duet Display, an app made by Kairos (a team of ex-Apple engineers) is the app that makes this happen.  And all you need to do is get over the “wireless aesthetic.”

What I don’t like about other apps

The biggest gripe I’ve had with display apps that I’ve bothered to plunk down the money for in the past years is that they’re just…slow.  If you’ve ever used Screen Sharing or VNC with a slow machine (as I often do when I make old machines into headless servers) or over a slow network connection, there is a visible lag between your mouse moves and keyboard clicks that can quickly become insanely infuriating.  Especially when typing, the instant feedback becomes important.

So really, this eliminates a lot of functionality – I can’t use the wireless solutions for word processing, or even e-mailing…or for anything remotely mouse-sensitive (heaven forbid I try to use Photoshop).  What does that leave?  Well, maybe web browsing…?  Or pulling up a document for reference?  And in that case, why have it at all?  I can use Chrome or Safari on my iPad.  I can pull up documents in Box / Dropbox / etc.

And, what’s more, those apps require wireless.  Sure, if you’re home then it’s probably OK.  But once you get onto even semi-public wifi, you throw reliability out the window.  Dropped connections with an external display app are doubly annoying, as your computer reacts to the attachment or detachment of an external display by refreshing the screen.  Sure, there’s the ad-hoc network, but then you lose Internet access.

Why Duet Display blows wireless out of the water

Duet Display is by far the best “iPad as an external monitor” solution I’ve ever used.  I know there’s something enticing about the “wireless aesthetic” – we have wireless mice, wireless keyboards, wireless networks, etc.  But in this case, the wire is worth it.

1) The connection is rock solid

No dropouts.  Not one.  I use this app day in and day out in both my main job and my side jobs.  Hours of use on end.  High-performance mode (60 fps, retina).  And not one drop.

2) Fast enough response to feel truly organic

I can’t stress how important this is.  I can legitimately use my iPad as a real monitor.  I haven’t yet found an app that makes me say “oh, I guess I can’t use this on my iPad.”  There are reports out there where people have used pro-level apps (in this case, Pro Tools) flawlessly on the iPad using Duet Display.  I believe every word.

How I’ve used it (with great success)

At work – tertiary display, passive

On a daily basis, the iPad sits beside my normal monitors at work (two Thunderbolt displays) and serves as my sidebar for web development.  I have Tower, CodeKit, Dash, and anything else that’s really not a huge focus at the moment, but is good to have up for reference every so often.

At home – tertiary display, active

When I’m working on web development projects at home, I don’t have the luxury of the big monitors, so the iPad becomes a more active display.  Typically, I use it for some of the same things – Tower, CodeKit, Dash – but also for my Web Inspector pane in Chrome where I do more clicking and poking around, and for the occasional diff in Kaleidoscope.  I’ve also pulled up Word / Excel documents for editing or reference, or an additional web browser if I need to look something up.

On the go – secondary display, very active

Part of my day job requires me to move across campus a good bit.  My unit is spread out across several buildings, and I regularly have meetings across campus as well.  For the class I teach, I sit in the computer lab while students work through the videos (flipped classroom style).  When I freelance, I’m sometimes in coffee shops or otherwise on the go.  Regardless, I stick my iPad in my backpack along with my laptop when I leave my office, so that I can pull it out for Duet Display when I need it…and I’ve found that I nearly always use it.

In these cases, the sky’s the limit.  I’ve used Photoshop, Sketch, Sublime Text, web browsers….you name it…all without issue.

What I don’t use

The touch feature is pretty slick as well, but for me, I just don’t use it.  Maybe I’m just in “desktop” mindset…but I haven’t had the need.

I also don’t change orientation of my iDevice a lot – but I have done this accidentally, and after a quick recalibration, Duet jumps right back into action.

You can supposedly run your Mac with the Duet display as the main display…not sure why you’d do this, but I don’t.

Caveats

  1. First, one consideration for this review: I’m using a 2013 Retina MacBook Pro, i7, 16GB RAM.  (As you can imagine, it’s no slouch.)  I haven’t tested on less-powerful and/or older machines.
  2. There is no Windows support for Duet…yet.  It’s on “the list” for future development.  But for now, it’s Apple-only.
  3. Performance does take a little bit of a hit if you “chain” the iPad through another hub – for instance, if I connect the iPad to one of my Thunderbolt displays and run Duet, there is a small bit of lag.  Connecting directly to the Mac is your best bet.
  4. If you’re really into aesthetics, the cable makes things a bit cluttered and ugly.  (But seriously…it’s just one cable. You really have to be a perfectionist to care that much.)

That’s it, really.  I can’t think of anything else.

My wish list

  1. Right now you can’t connect multiple devices simultaneously.  Not that I really need that capability, and not that I have another iPad…but I would probably tinker with setting up my iPhone 6 plus with Duet if I could.  This is also supposedly in the works.
  2. A bigger iPad :) (fingers crossed)

TL;DR / Summary

The short version: Duet Display will give you a true “extra monitor” for your Mac that responds with incredibly fast performance and rock-solid reliability.  You can do everything on that screen (provided the size is enough for you) that you would do on your laptop.  Nothing else on the market compares, or even comes close.

My strong recommendation: spend the $15, plug in the extra cable, and enjoy the productivity that ensues.

BONUS – Duet Display is currently celebrating 1 million hours of use, and is on sale for $8!  Grab it now – and check out their other social media giveaways in conjunction with TwelveSouth.  (Incidentally, TwelveSouth stuff is great too – I love my BookArc and Compass.)

AirTurn announces its new pedal “Ped”

The PageFlip Ped

The AirTurn Ped

The next bluetooth pedal is coming in February, and it’s called – simply – the “Ped.”  It’s Airturn’s newest product, and is supposed to be ultra-low-profile (.7″ / 18mm, have ultra-long battery life (6 months to a year), a mode switch for different uses, and more.

I’m anxious to get my hands on one.  I’m long overdue to review the PageFlip Firefly that I’ve been using for a little while now, and it seems like a perfect opportunity to do so has fallen into my lap.  So…if all goes well…we’ll soon have a followup from my popular comparison of the AirTurn BT-105 and PageFlip Cicada.

NOTION 4 on sale for $50!

NOTION 4 boxA lot has happened with NOTION in the past few months – the former Greensboro startup was purchased by PreSonus, and headquarters moved to Baton Rouge, LA.  Their software remains one of the top music notation options available on iPad, and the companion desktop software is by far the cheapest notation product on the market (aside from the open source MuseScore, of course).

And for a limited time now, you can save 50% off of their usual $99 price tag, and get NOTION for $49.50.  See here for more details:

https://shop.presonus.com/products/notion-prod/Notion-4

‘Heartbleed’ and what it really means to end-users

Once more out of the ether I emerge…and with a new theme, nonetheless.  More on that later.

There’s been a lot of talk (and some panic) about this whole Heartbleed thing in the past few days.  Since most folks that I know are not going to be familiar with what OpenSSL is, or care to learn, I decided to put together a quick “How does this affect me” guide to what this thing actually is, and what you need to do.

What is Heartbleed?

So, imagine that you buy a nice new set of windows for your house, with really secure locks.  These windows are great, and the fact that you have them makes you feel more secure.  Until the manufacturer reveals that they’ve just discovered a flaw in their design, that’s been there the whole time they’ve been making their windows.  This flaw potentially allows someone to bypass or disable those locks…if they know how.

That’s Heartbleed – something called OpenSSL is the “window” and someone’s discovered a flaw that’s been there for a while.  It’s not a virus, but a defect.

How bad is Heartbleed?

Heartbleed basically allows someone with the proper knowhow to eavesdrop on (and steal) information that was theoretically being passed securely via SSL (the green padlock).

This is potentially very bad.  Potentially.

So the bad guys found this flaw?

No.  There are plenty of people (“ethical hackers”, or “white hat hackers”) who try to find system vulnerabilities before the bad guys do.  Heartbleed was found by some of these folks proactively.  There hasn’t yet been any confirmation that anyone’s data has been stolen via Heartbleed.

But still, I should panic, right?

Not quite.  Why?  Well, SSL is used on sites that are collecting personal data (such as login information, credit card numbers, etc.) – the “green padlock” shows up in the URL bar on most browsers:

SSL example

HOWEVER, OpenSSL is only one kind of SSL out there.  This does not mean that all green-padlock sites are now compromised.

So, what exactly IS affected?

Only sites that used OpenSSL to generate their SSL certificates.  But who’s that, you ask?

That’s a good question, and many folks are putting together lists online of sites that were using OpenSSL, and were therefore exposed to this vulnerability.  Since Heartbleed was discovered, many places have patched the hole.

A couple of these lists are here:

An important note: most banking sites out there (the holy grail for hackers) use their own “brand” of SSL – and are therefore not vulnerable.  Check anyway, but you shouldn’t have anything to worry about there.

So…what do I do?

As it says on the cover of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, “Don’t Panic.”  There are two things you should do; one is reactive and one is proactive.

Reactive – visit the lists above, and if any of them recommend changing your password, do it now.

Proactive – download and use Google Chrome as your browser.  Then, download the Chromebleed plugin so that it can monitor your browsing and alert you if a site you’re visiting is vulnerable to Heartbleed.  If it is, don’t use the site.

Conclusion

That’s really the minimum that you should know about Heartbleed to be an “informed citizen.”  This does sound a bit like Y2K in terms of hype, and people not really truly understanding the nature of the thing.

It is serious, there’s no doubt.  It’s possible that hackers have known about and exploited this for a while now.  But it’s also possible that nobody found it before the good guys, and that patches will be rolled out quickly enough to prevent anything serious from happening.

If you want to learn more about Heartbleed, visit http://heartbleed.com/, or simply do a search on Google (or Twitter #heartbleed).

Hope this has been helpful!

— Matt

PageFlip’s new Firefly pedal – coming soon!

First: yes, I’ve posted again.  Hopefully this will be the swift kick I need as a busy semester begins to wind down.  I’ve had a great experience this semester, and would love to share some of what we’ve done in Music Tech classes here.  More on that later.  To the point….

PageFlip’s George Wolberg has informed me of their Kickstarter campaign for their new product – the PageFlip Firefly.  With the attention that my PageFlip vs. AirTurn post has garnered, I think it’s appropriate to keep that train of thought going on this blog.

The key points of this new pedal are supposedly thus:

  • Programmable “Mode” buttons
  • Illuminated pedals
  • Longer 30-minute timeout period
  • Optional wired connectivity in addition to wireless Bluetooth
  • Brand new design that’s “rugged, hefty, ergonomic, and silent” – emphasis here is probably on “silent”

I am hoping that I will be able to get one for review at some point, and if I do, I’ll definitely reopen the PageFlip vs. AirTurn debate.

Here’s the message straight from PageFlip:

Hi,

We have exciting news at PageFlip!

We have launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for our next-generation page turner pedal: the PageFlip Firefly. The Firefly promises to be the most advanced page turner pedal on the market. It features five programmable mode buttons, illuminated pedals, a long 30-minute timeout period, wireless OR wired connectivity, and a new design that is rugged, hefty, ergonomic, and silent.

Please visit our Kickstarter page to see a demo. You can find us on www.kickstarter.com by searching for PageFlip, or go directly to: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/106246461/pageflip-firefly-programmable-bluetooth-page-turne

Our Kickstarter campaign lets you place an advance order to get the new Firefly pedal within three months at a 33% savings! In addition, if you order a PageFlip Cicada on our Kickstarter page, you can save $15 and get the pedal within a month — just in time for the holiday season.

Please visit us at www.kickstarter.com (search for PageFlip) and help spread the word. Feel free to contact us at support@pageflip.com if you have any questions or comments.

Regards,
— The PageFlip Team

I am personally excited for some of these features – the programmable Mode buttons and the silent operation in particular.  Only a couple of weeks left – and over halfway to go at this point.  Let’s make this happen!

Noteflight releases version 3.0

After a months-long hiatus to focus on other projects, I’ve returned to the blog world.  I know you all missed me.

UNCG has been using Noteflight in a few classes here on campus for over a semester now, and I have to say that the integration with Blackboard makes it VERY slick.  I’ll blog more about that later, but the big news is that today, Noteflight released its much-anticipated foray into HTML5, with their version 3.0.

Users can try it out by going to Noteflight.com, logging in, and clicking a link at the top of the page.  Also, visiting Noteflight.com on a mobile device (Apple devices: iOS 6 or later) will now take you to the new HTML5 interface.

Noteflight on the iPad!

I haven’t taken the time to play with it very much, aside from tinkering on my iPad just because I could.  But it does look pretty slick so far!  There are some speed issues (which NF acknowledges in their release notes), and some other features that haven’t been ported all the way over to HTML5 yet, but that’s a big reason why Noteflight has kept their old Flash version available, labeled “Noteflight Classic.”

I will post more about our experience with Noteflight Campus a bit later on, as I find more time to evaluate.  I’m also headed down to NOTION’s headquarters today for a product tour, and I’m excited to see what they’ve been up to in the years since I last used their software.  More on that later as well.

So, head over to Noteflight, check out version 3.0, and let’s have some comments!  What do you think of it?

Spotify’s use for the classical musician

Just a quick one-off here, as I’m quite busy with other projects.  I happily subscribe to Spotify.  If you don’t know what that is, you should definitely find out, quickly.  And while it was mostly for personal enjoyment and exploration of music while at work, I’ve found another great use for it as a classical musician preparing for an audition.

The search function is great for typing in the name of a piece you’re expected to prepare for an audition (let’s go with Mendelssohn’s Midsummernight’s Dream, scherzo section, which is standard fare for clarinet auditions).  If I were unfamiliar with this excerpt, and wanted quick access to a large sample size of recordings for my preliminary research, Spotify is perfect.  If you are specific enough in your search query, it’s possible to line up a number of recordings right in a row of the same movement.

That way, I can listen to a number of them back-to-back and listen for interpretive differences, tempo differences, etc. that will help me better prepare for my audition.  It may be true the Naxos can do something like this as well, but you can’t argue with the swiftness that Spotify offers.  And, Spotify has access to some pretty good recordings too!

Its classical library is even getting deep enough where this might be useful for use in schools too – I searched for Eric Whitacre’s Sleep, and found at least 10 recordings.  The “best” recordings may not necessarily be there, but isn’t that a subjective thing anyway?

The cool part about being a paying subscriber is that I can Star the recordings I like (or all of them!), make a playlist, and sync that playlist to my iPhone / iPad for later listening as well.  Audition prep on the go!

Spotify is definitely changing the way I start to prepare for auditions – please feel free to add any info about how it’s helping you!

Protecting your accounts – some password tips, and 2-factor authentication

This post comes a bit later than I originally intended, but with things so crazy here at work as the semester has gotten underway, I’m surprised that I’ve had any time to sit at my desk in the first place.

It may be old news by now, but this article, which details the now-infamous hacking of journalist Mat Honan, is one of the scariest things I’ve read in a long time, at least from a digital life perspective.  Before you continue reading this post, please take some time to read the article if you haven’t already.  (note: the article contains some strong language).

Done?  Good, read on.

Since the time of the hacking, Apple has reportedly stopped allowing iCloud password resets over the phone, and Amazon followed suit some days later.  But the underlying premise here is still very real, and very concerning – just how secure are your sensitive data and accounts online?

This post is going to be a short post with a few links for you to read, focusing on two security measures that I strongly recommend you take.

First, if you have a Google account, enable 2-step verification (also called 2-factor authentication).  It involves a traditional password (“something you know”), but adds an access code sent via SMS to your phone (“something you have”).  It takes more time, but you can opt to do this every 30 days if you’re on a trusted computer.  Plus, you’ll get an SMS in the event that an unauthorized party successfully gets past your password phase on your account.  Rather than go over it in detail here, I’m going to instead link you to a good article and video about it.

Second, in general, your passwords should be strong passwords.  Some guidelines to follow can be found here.  Also, one of my favorite webcomics did a strip about this topic as well, seen here.  Bottom line – password length matters more than all of those “special characters” that website ask you to enter.

Finally, I am exploring password managers such as 1Password.  I haven’t ever used one before, but they seem like a decent enough idea.

Please take steps to secure your online identities and information.  Don’t wait for the companies who hold all of your personal information to patch their holes.  Not everyone who hacks accounts like in the story above is doing it just to educate the masses…

Screencasting on iPad (a followup)

Recently, Technology for the Classical Singer posted an article on how she handles screencasts from her iPad (which are coming out great, by the way!).  I wanted to share a slightly different approach that I came across, mostly because the audiophile in me doesn’t like the idea of feeding the iPad headphones back into the mic.

The solution posted by Tech4Singers wins in terms of simplicity; the screen recording app takes care of the uploading and all for you.  You don’t need a computer at all to use it.  My solutions do require a Mac computer.

Disclaimer: I have two potential solutions, and both are more complex than the one that Tech4Singers suggests.  But I’m assuming that those of you who want to record iPad screencasts are fairly tech-savvy anyway…so you’ll be able to hack it.

  1. The setup begins with an iPad with Touchposé, being projected via AirPlay onto a Mac by way of Reflection
  2. Hook up a microphone to your Mac (or use built-in).  Personally, I have a cheap set of MXL 990/991 mics that I feed into my machine using an M-Audio Profire 610, and I use a pop filter to boot.  I’m a bit more hardcore, I guess.
  3. Download and install SoundFlower (by Cycling 74), an audio rerouting application.  You may need to restart your computer after this (I honestly don’t remember).
  4. Open Audacity, set output device to SoundFlower, turn on monitoring (passes input directly to output without need to record), and make sure your input is coming from your microphone, whether internal or external.  This step will allow us to record our voice during the screencast, and send it to SoundFlower.
  5. Open System Prefs, and set system output device to SoundFlower.  The iPad sound is sent to Reflection during mirroring, and Reflection sends its audio to the default audio device (it doesn’t have its own audio options).  Now we have our voice via Audacity, and the iPad sound via Reflection both being fed to SoundFlower.
  6. Use Quicktime to do a Screen Recording (Lion or later required), selecting SoundFlower as the audio input device, and selecting the area of the screen that Reflection is running in rather than doing a full-screen broadcast.  Now, the audio that we’re feeding to SoundFlower is routed to the input on Quicktime during our screen recording.

The only real downside here is that you are not able to monitor the iPad audio, but neither can you really with the sound coming out of the headphones as in Tech4Singers’ solution.

The second iteration of this setup involves skipping the SoundFlower setup, but involves some post-production merging.

  1. Same as previous – iPad w/ Touchposé –> Reflection on Mac
  2. This time, you’re recording the iPad on Reflection, including sounds.
  3. Set up a microphone as above, and feed it into a new track in Audacity.
  4. Record on both Reflection and Audacity – you’ll end up with a video (with audio) from Reflection, and you’ll get an audio track in Audacity that can be spit out as a WAV or MP3 file.
  5. Merge these two in an application like iMovie, and fine-tune your audio sync as necessary.
  6. Export from your video app.

This second solution is a bit simpler overall, but what I love about my first solution with SoundFlower is that it produces a video instantaneously that can be uploaded right then and there.  The second solution requires less messing around at first, but you add the post-production step, which is not only not really ideal, but takes a lot more time as iMovie (or your app of choice) to bring in, and then re-render the video.  And again, no audio monitoring of the iPad here either.

Regardless, I think Touchposé and Reflection have a lot of use for me in other settings, as I do workshops and training at UNCG on the iPad.  I could see that coming in handy, since half the battle on the iPad is knowing where and when to tap!

That’s it for me.  Hope this has been educational, at the very least.