Run Two Monitors from your Laptop

If you’re like me, you can’t have enough digital desktop space. However, if you’re like me, you switched to a laptop many years ago, and had to take a step back from desktop computers that could easily run as many monitors as you could fit on your desk. Macs have always had an advantage here, running dual monitors since the late 80’s. This was one of the reasons they gained popularity for desktop publishing.

While most laptops natively support one external monitor in addition to the built-in screen, I’ve found myself at times wanting two big displays since I usually don’t have my laptop open on my desk. I find it cumbersome and recently downgraded to a 13“ MacBook Pro since I typically use the laptop as a laptop on planes and in coffee shops where it’s cramped. I may even go AirBook next.

Low and behold, about a year ago the geniuses at DisplayLink invented a microchip (let’s call it a magic box) that allows you to run a monitor off nothing more than a USB connection. How does it work? It compresses the video signal to fit into the 480 Mb/s data stream that USB can handle. Back in the day you had to have a separate video card for every monitor or pair of monitors, which used far more power and generate more heat. No more.

So now they’ve licensed the chip and there are all varieties of magic boxes out there. I highly recommend this USB display adapter from Diamond Multimedia, which works on Mac and PC and also has a built in 3-port USB hub since you’d be losing a USB port otherwise:

diamond multimedia usb monitor2 Run Two Monitors from your Laptop

Installation is a snap. Install one DisplayLink driver, which you can find here for free, then plug it in and go! The box has a DVI monitor port, so you may need an adapter for VGA, etc.

The only drawback is that the refresh speed is a little sluggish. You’ll notice this when you drag windows around or play a video. It can support HD resolution on up to six additional screens (one monitor per box), which is great, but I would not recommend it for watching movies or gaming. That’s what your main monitor is for!

At Astek, we’re completely laptop-based, which is great for a flexible work environment. And now the only significant limitation has been removed. I tested it out first on one workstation, and then bought them for the whole office. It’s $60 for the box, so around $300 total investment including a monitor for a significant increase in productivity. Here’s my current setup:

astek two monitors andy swindler desk2 Run Two Monitors from your Laptop

What would you do with two monitors?

SIPA 2011 Publishing Conference in D.C. Recap

We’re big fans of the Specialized Information Publishing Association (SIPA), an organization focused on the ever-changing needs of niche publishers, typically in the B2B space. As members and speakers, we’ve enjoyed getting to know the diverse groups involved, and I often learn as much as I teach at their seminars, since publishers are in the middle of a bone fide revolution.

Tom Lynch and I attended the national conference in Washington D.C. this month, and added “exhibitor” to our list of credentials. Astek’s growth has always been fueled by word of mouth from our happy customers (thanks!), but we felt it was important for us to add another layer of support for SIPA, as well as to get some extra exposure for Astek by having a booth that stood out and quickly became known as “Astek Lounge.”

I’m thrilled with how well our booth turned out, thanks largely to Vin at Vin Design, who is an expert in experiential design.

Astek SIPA booth andy swindler tom lynch2 SIPA 2011 Publishing Conference in D.C. Recap

First things first. Tom and I headed over to IKEA to pick up some essentials. We were creating something very different from the blue table we were provided — a space that would invite people to come in and stay awhile. And it worked!

Astek SIPA booth tom lynch IKEA2 SIPA 2011 Publishing Conference in D.C. Recap

While we were giving away real apples (on the right), we decided to have a contest and give away another Apple in the form of a new iPad 2. People entered by scanning our QR code (on the left) to register for our ePiphany newsletter. This gave us an opportunity personally to help several SIPA members get their QR code readers installed and working on their smart phones, which proved most painful on Blackberries.

Astek SIPA booth2 SIPA 2011 Publishing Conference in D.C. Recap

Check out Astek iPad winner Brad Forrister, of M. Lee Smith Publishers/Business & Legal Resources, basking in his new toy (green cover of course):

Astek SIPA booth ipad winner brad forrister2 SIPA 2011 Publishing Conference in D.C. Recap

We had fun experimenting with colorizing QR codes, and used them on the table tents strewn throughout the lounge to make it easy to learn more about Webany CMS, ePiphany, and the people at Astek:

Astek SIPA booth webany tent2 SIPA 2011 Publishing Conference in D.C. Recap

Astek SIPA booth ePiphany tent2 SIPA 2011 Publishing Conference in D.C. Recap

Astek SIPA booth people tent2 SIPA 2011 Publishing Conference in D.C. Recap

I gave a talk on mobile publishing to a standing room-only crowd. Every couple of years publishers are thrown for a new loop in technology: SEO, CMS, social media, and now mobile. We’re helping many publishers figure out how to go mobile, which is the fastest growing content consumption market.

SIPA is a very progressively-minded organization, and hired Astek to run Twitter for the whole conference. Rachel was putting in 12-hour days back in Chicago, but it was a raging success. Several members participated, both those at the show and ones who could not make it. We had two Twitter walls (one shown below with Kati and Anne), and hashtags for the conference and each seminar to facilitate macro and micro topical real-time conversations.

SIPA2011 kati anne2 SIPA 2011 Publishing Conference in D.C. Recap

I tweeted the awards ceremony in real-time and Rachel picked up the broadcast to retweet through @sipaonline. It was a blast and really demonstrated the power of Twitter to the attendees. We’re racing with it, offering this service to all kinds of conference organizers. Twitter has come a long way since I first wrote about it in 2008, and the conference aspect has become the clearest way for me to explain its true potential to people.

We had a tiny bit of downtime in the booth, which Tom used to show me how to juggle apples:

Astek SIPA booth tom lynch apple juggle2 SIPA 2011 Publishing Conference in D.C. Recap

At the end, we donated the IKEA furniture to the local Boys & Girls Club of America, who were as thrilled to get it as we were not to ship it home. Now that’s a win-win.

See you in Miami!

AstekArrow4 SIPA 2011 Publishing Conference in D.C. Recap This post was featured in ePiphany, Astek’s Monthly Newsletter |  Other ePiphany Articles

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Trade Show Tech vs. Space

After recently attending SXSW Interactive in Austin, TX, and the CoreNet Global Midwest Summit in Chicago, I was struck by the major distinctions between the trade show floors and technology usage.

Leave it to a corporate real estate association (CoreNet) to know how to make incredibly inviting spaces that made me want to sit down and stay awhile, and even get a bit of work done. Placing lunch tables behind the trade show floor created multiple motivations to move through the space and discover new companies.

Leave is to the ultimate geek conference (#SXSWi) to treat the trade show floor in the most traditional, and in my opinion unappealing, format — rows upon rows of standard booths, with only a couple of premium players creating spacial environments. But even these were typically focused around a stage of some sort rather than a space inviting people to stay awhile.

On the technology side, I’ve never seen such focused and practical usage of cutting-edge technologies like Twitter and Foursquare as I did at SXSW. In this environment, it seemed strange not to look at a piece of technology regularly, whether at lunch or in a session. At CoreNet, a more traditional environment, I was the odd man out to have my phone visible during a session.

Next time I’ll get pictures!

trade show marketing1 Trade Show Tech vs. Space

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