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How to Use Your Android Tablet as a Second Monitor (8bitbuddhism.com)
74 points by rodrigo975 10 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 60 comments

I needed a similar setup some time ago, and I was so frustrated by the Linux remote desktop open source solutions, that I ended up using Nomachine, which turned out to be very impressive.

I'm mystified by the enormous gap between the open source solutions and Nomachine, both in the technical and usability areas. The open source solutions are sadly terrible; those who aren't convinced, just try Nomachine.

It's puzzling because solutions like X2Go (which I found to be the most usable) rely on older NX protocol versions (v3 was open), but still, they have terrible performance. This means that in the last 10 years, there has been no virtually development in the open source remote desktop field.

Have you tried xrdp? Here's an example usage [1]. Your X server would run a sort of RDP emulation layer, and then any RDP client works. Obviously you'd tunnel it over a VPN or SSH.

I haven't used NoMachine in like 10 years or so. Back in the days (~15 years ago), I used to run it on UltraSPARC machines running Debian and Gnome. It worked marvelous, even with a FOSS server (FreeNX IIRC). It even worked on the Nokia N-series! Although it sucked to run it on a Mac; you had to run a complete X server, which looked terrible (including the fonts).

[1] https://github.com/deskor/xrdp

Yes (specifically, the original distribution (https://github.com/neutrinolabs/xrdp) and the one provided in the repository of my o/s), and it fell flat on the usability side - gave me a blank screen after logging in. Gave up after an hour or two of attempts. X2Go worked straight out of the box, but it's very slow (on a 10 Mbit home wifi connection).

Xrdp has horrendously bad documentation and installation scripts but it does mostly work after configuration.

You have to manually edit /etc/xrdp/startwm.sh to make xrdp launch a desktop environment when it accepts a connection. If you don't do this, you'll get a blank screen or something non-useful, like a session with just one Xterm window and no desktop environment.

Note that Linux does not support shifting sessions from the local keyboard, mouse & screen to remote access. Further, the major desktop environments don't support simultaneous sessions from the same user.

With any of the remote access tools that don't simply take over the local screen and keyboard, if you have an active session on the physical screen, you won't be able to connect to it remotely, nor will you be able to start a new session remotely under the same login. you'll need to log out from the physical screen before attempting a remote connection.

Finally, Xrdp clipboard sharing does not work with Linux clients.

I've tried xRDP and it is still as terrible for fluid workstation interactions as is the whole RDP protocol. Sending only changing parts of the display is a great concept for data use reduction, but a quick x264 compression and simple input replication works much better on systems with 100Mb+ connections

I also hate all open source Remote Desktop solutions, but I ended up using SPICE with Proxmox. Nothing else will forward audio and handling Remote Desktop at a virtualization level is the most reliable and flexible of everything else that I have tried.

Only downside is that it doesn’t work with LXC containers, but that’s not a big problem considering only five or so machines need graphics.

EDIT: another downside is lack of client support on iOS. I’d love to work on my iPad with a Magic Keyboard but no client exists that handles SPICE AFAIK.

Can you please explain how you setup nomachine to use your Android tablet as a second monitor

Nomachine is my savior. I love it.

This is quite similar to my latest project Weylus [1]. You still have to create the virtual output yourself but then you do not only get a second monitor but all the touch events are handled properly and you can even use a stylus/pen with pressure sensitivity. Additionally it also works on iOS/iPadOS.

[1]: https://github.com/H-M-H/Weylus

Oh wow, pretty impressive. Have to try that out tomorrow!

This is tangential to something I want to achieve: I have a 2016 iMac. Does anyone of you know if I can use that as a second display? Apple removed target display mode, which means the Mac with it's amazing screen is collecting dust.

I have used it to ssh into my Linux machine and have it as my main terminal and documentation viewer machine using synergy, but that is tiresome.

Yes! We built that into Luna Display: https://shop.astropad.com/pages/meet-mac-to-mac-mode

We are also launching a Kickstarter at the end of the month to add Windows support to Luna.

Cool product! I am a Linux user, so that is not quite for me. But almost!

I was just bummed that target display mode was removed in 2012. The last Mac I owned voluntarily had it, and the one I have now just sort of ended up in my hands. Now it is just an amazing display I don't really want to use since I can't run a proper OS on it without ruining the Mac os experience for my wife.

This is neato but I would suggest you splurge for the USB monitor if you can. Still can't watch movies on it, but they are great little screens for the money.

My main issue is, without a stand, they sit on the table and are uncomfortable to use for long periods. The ones I have used are VESA mountable though - so it is a problem with an easy solution.

My employer gave us a small budget to improve our WFH setup. I bought a USB "monitor" with a cover that folds back into a stand. I'm surprised how much I ended up liking this.

I bought a cheap £20 windows tablet from ebay(an old Tesco Connect 8 tablet), put windows 10 on it, and now I can seamlessly connect it as a second screen from anywhere, the windows "remote screen" feature is incredible for that. With 2 clicks it shows up as a regular secondary monitor that I can just drag things onto.

I'm a big user of Remote Desktop on my Windows 10 computers, but am unaware of any "remote screen" feature. I did a quick internet search but couldn't really see any information about such a feature built into Windows. Could you tell me more about how you achieve this?

It's an Intel feature, Wireless Display/Miracast, that works pretty well on compatible Windows 10 devices. You need a compatible Intel WiFi adapter and Intel graphics (either standalone or in hybrid mode).

I believe this is the Miracast feature that was common for a minute on some TVs and other devices but sort of fell by the wayside later on.

You can mirror or extend your screen from one Win10 device to another Win10 device on the same network (assuming, of course, that it's not some sort of locked down or public wifi, etc.)

Please correct me if I am wrong, as I've not used this function in probably a year or more.

Yep, on one Windows 10 machine you need to go to Settings->Projection Settings, switch it on there, then from another Windows 10 machine you can simply press Win+P and select "connect to screen", then click on the other machine name.

The only caveat is that both machines have to use Wi-Fi - it doesn't work over LAN at all. And yes, I believe it uses Miracast underneath.

>both machines have to use Wi-Fi - it doesn't work over LAN at all

This has to be one of the most baffling statements I've ever read on the internet. What on Earth could the possibly be doing that this is the case?

Edit: Never mind. Another comment says that it's actually a feature of certain Intel WiFi chipsets, so it's not that you have to be using WiFi in general, it's that both devices have to be using specific Intel WiFi chips that support the feature.

Yeah, it seems sort of silly that there's no basic feature for remote "projection" over LAN built in now that I think of it.

They already have remote desktop built in, so it seems like something they could add without a ton of fuss.

Mmh. There are external, portable usb-c monitors, which are convenient because you can plug them into any usb-c laptop. But they are „dumb“, only work in connection with a laptop. I wonder whether there is one that can act as an Android tablet when not plugged in.

True. But I've looked at various small portable screens and they're rather expensive. The advantage of using something you already have is you save money and it's one less thing to carry.

That aside, I struggle to understand why laptop to tablet still requires magic in 2020? Are manufacturers afraid of cannibalizing sales for one line to another?

Well I travel a fair amount for work and would like to have an external monitor for the work laptop, but also a personal tablet. With a 2-in-1 device I could solve both concerns without adding too much travel weight.

there is a hope:

"Lenovo working on dual-purpose Android tablet and external monitor, ‘Yoga X’"


I'm looking for one to combine with my MBP 2015 which has TB2/HDMI. However, even if ignoring that requirement, from what I can tell these all have terrible brightness. I, for one, cannot stand such.

or you can simply use spacedesk.. https://spacedesk.net/

Caveat emptor: server runs on Windows only.

In this same vein, i use DroidCam and my phone as a high quality webcam. Full version is 5 bucks, money well spent!

I started messing with that but found obs.ninja easier to use with better results. Then again, I already use OBS' virtual camera as the source in my conferences, if only for basic resizing and color correction of my mediocre webcam.

Ended up not using it after a while because I didn't like the way the phone still gets pretty warm after an hour or two conference (same as DroidCam et al).

    The final step is to use a VNC viewer
    app on your tablet to open the x11vnc session
But is there a trustworthy one? Why would I allow all my information go to an app made by some company or individual I don't know and don't trust?

If you start Steam, and have a client for Steam Play (e.g. TV or Android device with Steam Link) you can use that device as second monitor by alt tabbing out of Steam.

I’ve always just used twomonusb, has just about worked and required very little configuration

I took a look at the app on the play store, the horrible grammar doesn't exactly inspire confidence in it.

Use spacedesk or miracast if your device supports it

... or you could just use TeamViewer or any other screensharing software without all the hassle if you really think that using a RDP is a "second monitor".

This actually allows you to use both screens and move windows from one to the other. Not at all the same as just screensharing.

I don't understand the need for more than one monitor. Just setup your desktop so you can switch virtual workspaces with a key combination. It's faster than turning your head.

That's your work style then. In many cases, I got the documentation on one screen, and my IDE on the other. Other times, it's more a distraction (i.e., whenever I just have mail or WhatsApp on the other) -- I'll turn off the second monitor then.

> I don't understand the need for more than one monitor. Just setup your desktop so you can switch virtual workspaces with a key combination. It's faster than turning your head.

Virtual workspaces and multiple monitors are unrelated. The former provides multiple working layers, the latter extends the size of those working layers. Both can be great.

This is such a bizarre idea. I have 7 monitors on my home office - 6 24" in a 2x3 grid and a 27" widescreen vertically beside them.

I use them all. It's so nice to have my IDE, documentation, 2 terminals, CI status, Slack, music, source control, diffs, etc all visible at once.

Not only is it faster to my move my eyeballs than key combo to another desktop, it's about having all the info visible at once.

Your comment is like saying "Why bother having 16 registers in your CPU? Just use a single register and go out to cache every time you need a new value."

I don't think my setup is bizarre at all. The human eye has only a small area of sharp vision, so you can't even see all your screens sharply at the same time (unless you step back). With virtual workspaces you can switch screens extremely rapidly, without even moving your eyes.

And as a bonus, you're helping to save the planet as you're not burning energy for monitors you're not looking at.

Another bonus is that you don't feel under-equipped anytime you move to a different computer (or a laptop).

By the way, I'm curious: how do you quickly know which screen has keyboard focus without manually scanning all your screens? And how do you quickly switch between windows?

For me, the "which window do I currently have active" problem is primarily an issue on Mac OS X since it opens all windows that have the name "Firefox" and will select focus of one ... I guess the last one that was used? But that means that some random window goes zipping by and grabs my attention - but that's not the one that's open.

As for the swiping motion and "human vision can only see a little bit at a time", you're right, but I can see motion and changes in things pretty well on the edges.

Further, I find the animation experience of my whole world changing in front of me when I go to a different workspace to be incredibly distracting - enough that I might forget what I'm doing. Turning my head to the right (I tend to work on my left monitor) is a much less mentally confusing experience.

To add to that, right now, I have Hacker News open to the left-most, taking up half the screen, Slack in the center, and then the documentation for a new feature taking up the whole right screen. That means that my docs are a slight turn of the head away, and no distracting animations. When I close this window after completing this message, I'll easily be able to replace Slack and Firefox with my IDE (which will be split down the middle with two documents open concurrently), and I'll be able to go right to work, and my spec sheet will still be to the right of my vision and ready to be developed against.

If the coding gets really, really complicated, I'll be able to easily have 3 windows open, side by side by side, at the width of the window I like (around 120 columns), all in a comfortable range.

I am perfectly capable, also, of picking up my laptop and going off to the couch - I did it last night for a change in scenery - and working from there; but, I prefer the real-estate that a 1440p and a 1080p (of different sizes) next to each other provides me.

> Further, I find the animation experience of my whole world changing in front of me when I go to a different workspace to be incredibly distracting

What kind of animation does your OS use? For me, on Gnome, the transition is instantaneous (no animation). Switching between workspaces is snappy.

Also, if you change tabs in your browser, then you also have "the whole world changing in front of you". I'm curious what exactly makes a virtual desktop not pleasant to use for you.

I don't actually change tabs in a browser that often. I tend to have what I want open and I don't keep very many tabs open.

There's also to do with the frequency of the action. I don't open new tabs very much; and, when I do, I tend to already be distracted and doing something off-hand, like looking at Reddit. Deep in work, it's far more distracting and would be far, far more regular.

As for relevant operating system:

  * OS X
  * Linux (Mint, generally)
With multiple monitors, I've generally stopped using the virtual desktop experience.

As a long-time dual monitor user planning to upgrade to 3 along with an upgrade to a 3080 next month, you are a god among men and I aspire to your level of screen real estate.

What does it take to run all of that these days? Can you manage with two video cards?

Yes, most video cards these days can run 3-4 monitors using DP. Make sure you check the stats on the specific cards you buy.

https://multimonitorcomputer.com/index.php is a good resource.

I sometimes, for debugging purposes, need to type some long, obscure hex string in one editor from another machine (don't ask). Using a keystroke to switch windows causes me to lose my place. A two-screen solution would be helpful in this case.

Also, sometimes I like to play music videos on youtube while doing other stuff and it would be nice not to have to context switch away from the concert. Really, there are quite a few handy applications for a separate physical display.

I use my phone in a cradle as a second screen but it's not ideal.

A tiling window manager.

Yes, most of the time you only need one screen, two screens mostly generate distractions. But I have noticed that switching workspaces is a context switch for your brain, just like passing through a door. You often forget what you were doing right after leaving a room for that reason. And when I truly need two different windows in a shared context, like some documentation in the browser and my code editor, it saves effort to have them truly side-by-side.

It depends on what you're doing. When I am supporting seminars on Webex, I still leave email and other things running on the second display so I can continue to monitor the conference while keeping up with the piles of emails and tickets coming in.

When I'm editing video or photos I can keep the document open and filling the main screen with tools right next door on the second display.

Lots of reasons I like a second screen, mainly so I can see both desktops at once (rather than flipping between them). Its usefulness just depends on your workflow.

I think it depends on the person. I also prefer one monitor. I'd rather have a big monitor than several screens. Also, I never really have more than one window open at a time. I don't mind switching between windows. But some of my coworkers swear by multiple screens and one app per screen.

I think it's the same with tab management in the browser. I average 4-5 tabs open at a time, never really going above 10. But many of my friends are rolling with 80+ tabs at a time.

Another good example of why two monitors are useful is to have on one your favourite confenerence program with all the nice videos from your colleagues, and on the main one the page/board whatever you are discussing about. I.e. a Confluence page with collaborative editing on one monitor and Zoom/Teams on the second one.

for me its about headspace.

I setup my screens to associate with what task I have for that screen.

One for my RDP to my workstation I use for Config Manager and Corp Domain tasks, One for Azure and Intune tasks and my laptop screen for web browsing and email tasks.

I'm thinking of getting a third extra screen now for the VM tooling I'm doing. but that might just live on my RDP screen.

"8-bit Buddhism" sounds even worse than 2-bit Islam. Honestly people, think a bit before choosing a name for your tech blog.

I believe it’s a reference to the 8-fold path, and I thought it was quite creative: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noble_Eightfold_Path

Wouldn't it be more clever to call it 3-bit?

8-bit and two-bit have very different meanings and connotations.

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