If nothing else, you get an "A" for effort!
After a long and fruitful relationship with my TC1100, I've finally purchased a new MacBook Pro to replace it.
However, I still have a warm place in my heart for tablet computing, and I find the tablet screen invaluable when working with Photoshop. It seems like the most natural thing in the world for me to try to find a way to use the TC1100's screen with the new Mac, so I've been researching that possibility. The final result I'm going for is something like a Wacom Cintiq. Though I have low hopes about things like pressure sensitivity, any kind of tablet functionality at all would be a great deal better than nothing.
After a few attempts with different software, I've settled on using a simple VNC client on the PC side and OSX's built-in screen sharing capability on the Mac side. This setup can effectively turn the tablet screen into a clone/mirror of the MacBook screen. The touch screen is functional, but it doesn't run very smoothly. I have to move the pen very slowly in order to make a line that isn't made jagged by the low refresh rate (or whatever the problem is).
I'm happy enough with this setup; like I said, it's a lot better than nothing. (If anybody has any better ideas, though, I'm open to them.) My task now is to optimize the TC1100 so it can run the VNC client as smoothly as possible. What's the best operating system for the tablet in this setup? I'm currently running Windows 7, but I'm thinking either downgrading to XP or switching to Linux, because they seem lighter. What do you think? Also, what in your opinion is the best VNC client for my purpose? If there are any other ways you can think of to help improve performance, I'm all ears.
Alternatively, if you can think of a solution better than VNC, that would be awesome.
It just feels right that I'm able to put my good ole' TC1100 to real use. :D
Last edited by Thunderous; 04-14-2010 at 01:48 AM.
Are you using Ethernet or 802.11g? Ethernet should be a little better. Can you upgrade to 802.11n (preferably of the 300Mbps channel bonded variety?) A quick search shows people are trying to mod the TC1100 Bios' whitelist to allow 802.11n cards, but I don't know if anyone has succeeded.
Have you tried Synergy? I've never used it, but I think one thing you could do with it is to use the whole tablet PC as sort of a "Virtual PC" for the Mac. I mean, you could move your mouse from the Mac to the tablet PC and start a program there, enter some text (using the Mac's keyboard), and then return to your Mac stuff back on the Mac. I know that you're trying to go in the opposite direction... I just don't know if Synergy does mirroring.
You'd have more options with a Windows notebook - or if you're willing to run a Windows Virtual PC under Mac OS X.
Thanks, John! I tried.
I was just using the TC1100's regular old Wi-Fi capability. How would I do an ethernet connection—just connect the two computers with a cable? Sorry I don't have much experience with this area.
If there is some BIOS workaround to improve the TC1100's networking speed, I'm willing to try it... but I don't want to risk bricking the tablet and I'll probably need some pretty explicit instructions. haha.
Synergy was actually the first thing I tried, but I couldn't get the TC1100 to find the Macbook on the network. I might try again though--if I could get it to work, I would love the ability to actually extend my desktop to the tablet (rather than just cloning the display). Maybe using an ethernet cable would help with the networking problem?
Also—should I use Linux on the tablet, or not? I already have a spare hard drive with an Ubuntu install, I'll probably check it out for any noticeable speed difference before too long...
I actually have been planning to do a Windows 7 install with Boot Camp as soon as I can. Tried once already, but apparently my product key from when I bought it for the TC1100 won't work a second time. I tried to image the tablet's W7 hard drive onto a Boot Camp partition, with very messy results. I really don't want to have to buy the thing a second time, but I don't know what to do...
But! If/when I do get Windows on the MacBook, what other options are you referring to?
Thanks Maiklas for your very helpful post!
I suspect your bottleneck is the bandwidth between the PC's, not the processor/OS, so although Linux won't hurt, it might not give you a qualitatively different VNC experience. To test my theory, try Ethernet, and see if it improves VNC substantially. I still doubt it will be great, mind you, just hopefully better.
To connect two computers with Ethernet, buy an Ethernet hub for about $12 and connect two ethernet cables, one to each computer. Or you can connect the two computers directly (without an Ethernet hub) by using a crossover cable.
I don't recommend hacking your BIOS in hopes of getting 802.11n, as bricking is a very real possibility even for those who know what they're doing. An alternative is to get a USB 802.11n "nub", which should work regardless of the whitelist.
If Ethernet improves the performance, you could consider moving to Gigabit ethernet. Cost would be $15 for a PCMCIA card for the TC1100 and $45 for a Gigabit Ethernet hub, plus a little more for quality cables. I'm assuming your Macbook already has Gigabit Ethernet. Because Gigabit Ethernet is so fast, it will use a lot of CPU, and then moving to Linux might show some benefits.
As for Windows-only software, there is...
Maxivista: Maxivista works better than VNC in my experience, probably due to better compression and a more Windows-integrated implementation. Unfortunately, Maxivista won't do what you want, but it will do something pretty cool. It will let you use your tablet PC as a second monitor for your laptop. You can drag windows from your notebook right over to your tablet PC's screen, and it's all so seemless and slick that you forget that there are really two computers running. You can also use Maxivista in remote control mode, letting you use the notebook's keyboard and mouse for the tablet PC, but Maxivista does not allow you to do remote control at the same time as mirroring, which is what you want. The Maxivista website says they do not support use under Virtual PC on Mac OS X, but I got it to work that way. I've bought Maxivista, because I think it's so useful. There is a free trial.
Input Director: I've not used this, but it's free. It has something called "mirror mode" and the ability to send mouse input from one computer to the other. Unfortunately, I think it lacks the ability to actually mirror the displays. What I'm thinking is that you might be able to use Maxivista to mirror the displays and Input Director to mirror the mouse, thereby achieving what you want: you might be able to see the Macbook display on the tablet and be able to use the pen on the tablet to control the Macbook. I think Maxivista tends to drop out of full screen mode when you use the mouse on the computer that's serving as a mirror, but you might be able to adjust the configuration options to get the behavior you want.
I just connected the two with a crossover cable (lucky I had one lying around). It took me a while to sort out IPv4 addresses and all that stuff, but eventually I got them to see each other over the ethernet. Ran my UltraVNC client, and I did actually seem to notice some better performance—the line I drew still lagged behind my cursor by a fraction of a second, but it was much less jagged.
Did some research and plan to try a different client program, RealVNC. Apparently it's a little better.
I'm really sick of Windows clogging everything up, so Linux looks highly appealing at the moment... maybe over the weekend...
The Windows double-program setup sounds like more work, but if I have time I'll try it after I get a working Windows installation. I also want to try Synergy again soon with the ethernet cable.
Thanks again for your time & help
I have done a bit of this kind of thing, all with Linux. I can say that it will probably work (VNC stuff is pretty good). But with one significant caveat: Windows will almost certainly have better performance. I guess the commercial aspects of developing proprietary software for Windows gives the edge here, because RealVNC is much faster than anything available on Linux - it uses a different protocol.
Still, consider that a 100mbps ethernet cable (the crossover) is roughly ten times faster than the usb cable you would use to connect a standalone tablet to a PC, and you can imagine that the bottleneck is more likely latency than pure bandwidth - and latency is a much harder hill to climb...
That's interesting about Windows. I might try going back to XP then...
I checked out the RealVNC website, however, and this page says that the free version is compatible with Linux. Is that not what you were referring to?
The new MacBook Pro models came out less than a week after mine came in the mail, so I was able to send it back, get a full refund, buy a new one with a faster processor, and save $90. Hurray... but now I'm back to using the TC1100 as my main computer for a week and a half, so no more experimentation until the 26th at the latest.
I put Ubuntu on the tablet again, and I love it. However, when using VNC, would it help at all to use something smaller like PuppyLinux? I was just thinking, maybe the less it's trying to do in the background, the better...
Sorry, I think I got my TLAs mixed up.
What I meant to say is that (if possible) you want to be using the RDP protocol (rather than the more standard RFB protocol). This is a proprietary protocol designed and used by Microsoft for Windows VNC applications.
There are clients for other OSs, but I believe the server must be a windows machine. The real benefit is that rather than trying to cram the whole image down a pipe, RDP sends commands (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Remote_Desktop_Protocol)
You are correct that RealVNC has a linux client, it was my faulty memory on that one. My VNC of choice on Ubuntu has been xtightvnc, although the built-in one in Ubuntu (go to System->Preferences->Remote Desktop) is quite serviceable.
Personally, I have never got it to the point at which I could actually draw with it as such, but I did get it good enough for selecting music and such like using wireless 802.11g.
Hope this helps!
gigabit PCMCIA should work.
Or if you want portability, try a 11n PCMCIA card, and setup an adhoc connection from the tc1100 to the mac...