Earlier this year Microsoft and ASUS showed a new technology that might be baked in to future laptops, an auxiliary display, a small LCD on the outside of a laptop that can display email, battery, CPU, Wi-Fi signal and all sorts of things. It’s much like the Flipstart (that hasn’t shipped). I like the idea, but don’t wait to wait until Windows Vista/Longhorn so here’s how to make your own that’s almost as good…It’s also a great and cheap way to add a LCD to a PC case, this HOW TO uses the now free Konfabulator! Here’s how!…
Editors note: this has been republished as a special MAKE Extra How-To.
Before we get stated, if you just want to see a video of this in action click here and click SUBSCRIBE, this is our iTunes feed that contains the video and a lot of other cool things (or just view here).
What is an auxiliary display?
From the Microsoft press release- Auxiliary displays. An ASUS-designed auxiliary display concept for mobile and desktop PCs and peripheral devices, such as cell phones, remote controls, keyboards and watches, offers immediate access to calendars, recent e-mail, digital media and other data. It would also offer updates on the status of the PC while the machine is turned off or the lid of a mobile PC is closed. PCWorld story here too.
Here are a few photo of Auxiliary displays from the Microsoft press center. The ASUS laptop looks really interesting, it has a big hump on it for the display.
Microsoft also posted a complete Powerpoint with the technology from WinHec that Google found here. If you’re interested in the technical details as it was presented check it out here.
There’s also a device called the Flipstart PC that seems to have this idea built in to it now as well. It doesn’t seem like this device is shipping however.
There have been rumors that MS might use the SPOT watch technology for this too, that could be interesting as well.
My little prediction is that the next generation of Mac iBooks/Powerbooks will have something like this, or some other laptop maker- perhaps it’ll be part of a music player / removable drive. The reason I mention this is because of a patent and this drawing. More on that here.
It seems to me you could do something like this by using the iPod screen. Anyhow…back to the HOW TO.
Making your own
So – I was tired of waiting around for Vista/Longhorn, Flipstarts and whatevers, I cooked up a lower-tech version that basically does the same thing. My version will not work without the system on, but it looks really cool and can actually do more- and the best part, I found a use for an older Pocket PC I wasn’t really utilizing.
In a nutshell, we’re going to turn a Pocket PC in to a secondary monitor and display items on it much like future Windows Vista/Longhorn will. Our example is powered by the USB, so the machine needs to be on, or mounting inside a PC case.
This is a simple HOW TO, just some software installing and you’re off. You can also do some hardware modding if you want to really kick it up a notch too.
My example is mounting this to the outside of a Laptop, but this is a cheap and easy way to add a LCD to a PC case. So PC modders, check this out.
- Windows XP PC
- Pocket PC device (with USB cable and/or Wi-Fi)
- ActiveSync 4.8
- Innobec SideWindow 1.01
- Konfabulator for Windows
If you have a Pocket PC you’ve likely installed ActiveSync if not get it here, I use 4.8 because I can sync over Wi-fi. For this HOW TO we’re going to run a cable from the Pocket PC to PC so it can charge and sync at the same time as we use it as a second monitor (our auxiliary display), but you could sync it with Wi-Fi too.
As long as your Pocket PC syncs with your PC you’ll be able to make it a monitor.
The Pocket PC
You can use just about any Pocket PC, I used a HP h4100. It’s tiny, Wi-Fi enabled and Bluetooth enabled.
I have a nice collection of Pocket PCs and I’m also using them for some project or another.
I really think I’ll start using them in case mods now, you can pick up Pocket PCs for $50 or even less on Ebay too.
I’m using a USB cable that syncs and charges for this, that way I can use the Pocket PC as a display and have it still connected.
You could use Wi-Fi but that will drain the battery.
Installing Innobec SideWindow
The most important application for this “hack” is Innobec SideWindow, once installed it extends your desktop right onto your Pocket PC.
- No installation necessary on your PDA.
- Cradle up and go! No messing around.
- Supports high resolution (480×640).
- Virtual Resolutions up to 768×1024.
- Portrait or Landscape.
- Use your stylus like a mouse.
- Appears to Windows XP as regular monitor.
There’s a free trail here and it’s only $14.95 if you want to buy it.
Once you run the installer you have the following options (double click the icon in the task tray or Start > Programs).
You can change the color depth, portrait or landscape orientation, as well as resolutions up to 768 x 1024.
Go ahead and test the display, make sure your Pocket PC is plugged in via the cable / cradle / Wi-Fi, you should be able to see you mouse on the screen once it’s active if you move it off your PC screen.
If you’re having problems, right click the XP desktop and choose X to view the display properties, sometimes you just need to tell Windows XP to “Extend my Windows desktop onto this monitor” by clicking the check box and clicking Apply.
I wanted to have some little icons somewhat like what the Flipstart / “Windows Vista” Longhorn. Konfabulator is an amazing application that has thousands of Widgets that can display anything and everything. It might be free now too, they’re getting scooped up by Yahoo.
Once you download and install browse the widget gallery and download all the things you’d like t display. I figured I could download a dozen or so of these widgets and make my own display system. I was going to code up some little apps to do this, but why bother- these Widgets are perfect for this.
Here are the Widgets I downloaded. Once downloaded, double click them to run.
Once Konfabulator is installed, and the widgets were added, I just moved them over to the other display.
Screenshot from the auxiliary display. It’s really slick. I have Wi-Fi, music playing, calendar, email, disk status, memory, CPU, weather, time, battery and even RSS feeds!
Here it is on the actual screen. Don’t forget, the LCD can be operated with a finger or stylus too!
On a side note, here’s the way Microsoft has so far shown they’ll manage the auxiliary display in Longhorn/Vista.
I like dragging and dropping the widgets.
I adjusted the width to 400 so I could fit more widgets, but still read the text. You can also run the display the other way if you’re mounting this in to a PC.
Mounting the Pocket PC
For a PC case mod, you could just mount the Pocket PC to the case after cutting out a hole. Here’s an example of what it could look like.
For my version of the ASUS auxiliary display, I just taped up the Pocket PC and USB cable to the laptop.
It looks pretty neat and if I want, I can remove the sleep function when the lid is closed so it can remain on.
I brought the laptop to a local coffee shop and a lot of people were really interested, so who knows this might really take off one day! I might do a real mod, but for now the tape job is fine and works.
The real application here is for PC case modders of course, but this was fun. Awhile back we had a story about using a PSOne screen. From now on, anytime anyone wants a second tiny display for a PC, this is really the way to go, you can do the entire things for under $50 if you hunt for deals on old Pocket PCs! For you PC case modders, this is a cheap and easy way to add a LCD and for laptop owners this is a neat way to get some extra screen room for info display- why wait for the future, operating systems or devices to ship, when you can build it now!
Photo via Gear Live.
Another useful thing is to mount the Pocket PC (or keep it in the cradle) to use as another monitor to see at all times too. That’s how the program was intended to be used I think :-]
And that’s it!