Using Samsung Dex As Your Only PC – Is It Possible?

Our smartphones are now so powerful that they rival certain desktop and laptop solutions. Within that slim phone body you’ll find a full-on general-purpose computer, limited only by the mobile operating interface designed for touchscreen use.

The Android operating system actually has an upcoming desktop environment where you can hook up a mouse, screen and keyboard to your Android device and use it pretty much as a PC. However, Samsung has done something special for their premium line of smartphones. It’s called Samsung Dex and offers a very intriguing value proposition.

What Is Samsung Dex?

Starting with the Galaxy S8 series of phones, users can buy a special Dex Station, which allows you to plug a screen, mouse and keyboard into the device. Your Galaxy S phone is then docked on the station and automatically launches the Dex environment.

At the time of writing, the Note 10 and Note 10+ phones offer Dex without the need for a dock. You can use a USB-C cable and the Samsung Dex app to run Dex on Windows or Mac. Pretty useful if you want to have a private desktop environment on a public PC or any machine that doesn’t belong to you.

The Note 10+ can also be used for Dex by connecting it directly to and external display via USB-C. The phone screen becomes a touchpad and of course you can also connect a keyboard wirelessly. Turning your phone into a desktop PC within seconds.

Finally, certain Samsung Tablets, such as the Galaxy Tab S4, can be switched to Dex mode with a tap. Connect a mouse and keyboard and it’s a bit like having a laptop.

Our Crazy Dex Mission

It’s a neat idea, but just how practical is Dex? The crazy mission we’ve accepted is to use nothing but Samsung Dex for one whole day of typical work. The goal is to see how viable it would be to use a Dex-enabled smartphone as your only computer. Taking the phone with you when away from a desk and docking it when you sit down for more serious purposes.

We’ll be using a Note 10+ via the Samsung Dex application, but the test applies to any Dex-enabled phone. Apart from performance, which is obviously going to vary from model to model.

The Dex Desktop Environment

The Dex desktop should be pretty familiar to anyone who has used Windows, Ubuntu Linux, MacOS or any modern PC operating system. There’s a wallpaper, there are icons and a sort-of start menu.

The big difference here is having your apps open as windows. Some apps, like Google Chrome, behave in a similar way to the Windows version when it comes to moving them about. Others are just the normal app encapsulated in a window.

It’s very simple and straightforward, which is a good thing overall. The UI is rather chunky and you’re always aware of this still being a phone you’re working on, but it gets the broad strokes right.

Multitasking

Given that your specific Dex device is up to it, multitasking is by and large a breeze. In the case of the Note 10+ which we used for this experiment, there’s a whopping 12GB of RAM on tap. So opening a bunch of apps or internet tabs never posed an issue.

That’s not to say that there are significant niggles. For one thing, most apps aren’t designed with Dex in mind, which means they don’t conform to the same conventions. There are also limitations to software here that aren’t present on more traditional desktop setups.

Notably, Google Chrome doesn’t support having multiple windows with tabs. For most people that is going to be a problem at some point, because splitting your screen into two windows with specific sets of tabs is a common need. 

Clearly this isn’t the fault of Dex, since Google would have to update Chrome to run in this manner, but it does expose how much of a kludge Dex is at the moment. After all, app developers are under no obligation to conform to Dex conventions.

Working With Windows

While Dex might look like Windows or something like it, the lack of refinement quickly becomes apparent when you actually try to work with UI elements such as Windows. 

In Windows, it’s become second nature to use the various gestures that instantly snap open windows into various configurations. The most used one has to be the good old side-snap. Pushing a window against the sides of the screen will make it take up half the space instantly. If you need to have, for example, a web page and a word processor open at the same time, this is a critical feature. 

Unfortunately bumping a window against the side of the Dex desktop is about as effective as Simba bumping up against his dead dad in The Lion King. Which is to say that absolutely nothing happens. Manually resizing windows is therefore a chore and really bogged down the whole experience.

Dashing Out & Coming Back

One place where Dex really did shine is in staying out of the way. First of all, our phone blissfully kept working as a phone while Dex was running. It’s easy to forget that your phone is actually powering the PC experience. Until you thoughtlessly undock it and the picture disappears. 

The good news is that simply docking the phone again brings things back exactly as they were, unless you manually killed an app while in phone mode. So as a solution where you can leave and come as you please, Dex gets full marks.

Is Dex Ready For Primetime?

The short answer is “no”. Dex is simply too limited and too clunky for anyone wanting to do sustained productive work. Where Dex really shines is in a pinch or for users who have very limited desktop PC needs. It’s a great way to temporarily convert a TV into a computer for the purposes of writing an essay, but as a daily production driver it’s not there yet. 

Dex is close however, copying some of the quality-of-life features users have come to rely on in more mature desktop OSes will go a long way to making Samsung Dex viable. Convincing or sponsoring more developers of popular productivity apps to include Dex optimisation, will finally seal the deal. 

4 Services To Hold Meetings In Virtual Reality

Modern virtual reality (VR) is finally good. All the problems that made the VR of the 90s and 2000s awful have essentially been solved. It’s not perfect, but VR is finally ready for mainstream use. So what does a typical person actually want to do with VR?

Apart from the entertainment options, which are numerous, there are actually some pretty cool professional uses for VR as well. Virtual offices, where you have a private space with a traditional desktop only in VR, means you can take your personal workspace anywhere. 

It also means that you can now share a virtual space with colleagues and collaborate. A much more immersive and natural way to work or meet with people who may be anywhere else in the world. This is much more than just a Skype conference call. Once you’ve experienced the sense of presence that a good VR meeting package provides, it’s hard to go back to 2D faces on a screen. 

Which is why we went on the hunt for the most promising apps to hold meetings in virtual reality.

What We’re Looking For

For some context, there are some features that make a VR meeting app more appealing than others. We really like it when users who don’t have access to VR hardware can still join in. In fact, this is crucial. Usually this takes the form of smartphone or tablet apps, with the odd desktop client thrown in the mix.

We also prefer applications that are not locked to a single VR platform or headset. VR is a technology that is still in the infancy of mainstream adoption, so any meeting solution has to be as inclusive as possible.

Apart from that, these services have their own niches and strengths, which means that different projects will feel more at home with different solutions.

Meetingroom.io (Free, Up To 8 People)

MeetingRoom is a little basic in the looks department, but is specifically focused on providing a collaborative space for work. This makes it one of the best VR productivity tools on this list. The company sells itself as providing “space as a service” and offers possibly the widest support for various platforms.

This includes Android, iOS, OSX, WIndows, Vive & Focus, Rift & Go, Windows Mixed Reality and more. This is the one VR meeting solution that’s most likely to exclude none of your participants.

The meeting rooms themselves come with various project management, sharing and presentation tools. On the free tier you are limited to a single room, with up to eight people. There’s also an expiry timer, whereas paid packages offer persistent rooms.

Rumii (Free, Up To 5 People)

Rumii is a seriously impressive service, which is currently conspicuously absent from the iOS App Store. You will however find it on PC, Oculus Go, Android and Mac. 

So it’s actually not that bad, since the iOS users you work with are likely to have one of the other platforms. The good news is that Rumii lists iOS as “coming soon” on their site, so perhaps by the time you read this, this issue will be solved.

At the time of writing, the developer has released Rumii 2.0, which really steps up the game visually and brings advanced features to the table. Free for up to five users and with 3D object interaction, it’s clear that this virtual reality meeting app is going places.

You can have private rooms or be part of a public gathering and HD video streaming is now also a part of the virtual space. Rumii is definitely one of the options you must try before settling on your preferred solution.

vSpatial (Early Access/Pricing TBA)

vSpatial is one of the most visually impressive apps to hold meetings in virtual reality that we’ve seen. It’s been built from the ground up as a way for teams to collaborate together in a virtual space. You can also use it as your own personal VR workspace, since you can conjure virtual displays and bring almost any Windows 10 application in your VR workroom.

Right now vSpatial needs a Windows computer as well as one of the mainstream tethered VR headsets. However, the company is working on bringing the app to standalone VR headsets such as the Oculus GO and Quest.

Luckily, those without access to the right VR gear are not left out in the cold. You can also use the 2D desktop app to join in on the conversation. Although some of the most advanced VR-specific functions are obviously not going to work.

It has expressive avatars and very attractive VR office spaces. The Windows 10 app integration is especially cool. Even without the VR meeting aspect of vSpatial.

AltSpaceVR (Free)

We very nearly lost AltSpaceVR back in 2017 due to financial troubles, but at the last moment Microsoft swooped in and bought the company. Now, with effectively infinite dollars, they remain one of the most innovative providers of VR meeting spaces in the industry.

AltSpace is compatible with a wide array of platforms. The Vive, Oculus headsets and Gear VR are a given, but it also works in 2D mode in Windows and with the Windows Mixed Reality headsets. Sadly, the Android app has been discontinued and iOS was never supported. However, if all your participants have access to at least a Windows machine, it’s a great tool.

The colorful world and artstyle is friendly and accessible. Despite not specifically being designed for business use, event hosts have the tools needed to do great presentations

It’s not suited for work collaboration, but as a way for a group of people to meet and talk, it’s one of the most comfortable and intuitive solutions out there.

Virtually Together

While most meetings could probably have been an email, these virtual reality meeting applications are perfect for those times you really need to have real time to wrestle with the tough problems as a group. 

With remote work and gig-economy jobs on the rise, there’s no reason to abandon the key advantages of face-to-face meetings just because you’re miles away. Just slip on those goggles or boot up that app and you’ll be hanging out around the VR water cooler in no time.

The Galaxy Note 10+: Everything You Need to Know Before You Buy

It’s been just over a month since Samsung released the much-anticipated Galaxy Note 10 phones and the initial excitement has had time to cool in the glare of cold reality. Since Apple launched their iPhone 11 series at the same time, general smartphone hysteria is still at a fever pitch, but a month living with the latest, greatest smartphone is still enough to dull the edge of pure hype.

The phone we used during this 30-day period is a 256GB Aurora Black Samsung Galaxy Note 10+. It is however not the US model using a Snapdragon system-on-a-chip. Instead, this is the version using Samsung’s in-house Exynos 9825 SoC. The difference between these two chips is essentially imperceptible. 

If you have a Note 10+, you have one of the fastest phones in the world and the margins between the top contenders are hardly enough to influence your buying decisions, unless you only care about synthetic benchmarks.

So the first thing you need to know about our time with the Note 10+ is that performance was never once an issue. If something runs poorly on this phone, it will run poorly on any contemporary smartphone. With that small point crossed off the list, we can dig into the real-world experience of using the Note 10+.

What We Got In The Galaxy Note 10+ Box

If you’ve bought a modern Galaxy phone since Samsung decided to embrace USB Type C, then you’ll know that quite a few bits and bobs were included in the box to help ease the transition. 

You’d get an OTG adapter to connect USB A devices to your phone, as well as a Micro-USB to Type C adapter and a USB A to USB C cable. Sadly none of these rather useful accessories were included with the flagship Note 10+. Inside the rather attractive box you’ll find one pair of AKG “tuned” USB-C earphones, one USB-C to USB-C cable and a wall charger that takes USB-C exclusively.

One problem immediately presents itself here. If you want to connect your Note 10+ to any device that doesn’t feature a USB-C port, you’ll have to go out and buy a Type C to Type A cable or cannibalize it from another device. It’s especially weird since one of the unique flagship features, dockless Dex support, needs a USB cable connection to a PC and you’ll rarely find USB-C connectors on PCs that aren’t relatively new. Even then, it’s still not a standard, widespread feature.

A very welcome inclusion is the factory-fitted screen protector and included silicon cover. Both of these are basic but very serviceable. The clear silicon cover does hide the rear finish of course, but if you are going to make use of a cover, it’s best to wait until your phone arrives to see if you like it. 

Silicon covers for the Galaxy Note 10+ aren’t cheap and if you’re happy with the bundled one it would make more sense to put that money towards a Samsung Care plan.

The failure to include a 3.5mm to USB-C adapter is however inexcusable in a phone of this caliber and price. It’s a small additional cost, but there’s no way the typical Note 10+ user isn’t going to need a way to connect an auxiliary 3.5mm audio cable to their phone at some point. Adding the cost of such an adapter would surely not have moved the needle on profitability. 

Aesthetics & Build Quality

Starting with the S8, Samsung really has been upping its design game and flexing its tech muscles. The last few generations of Galaxy flagships have developed a distinctive, futuristic design that really feels too advanced for 2019, compared to what else is available. 

The now-signature double curved screen has creeped even closer to the edges of the device, almost completely eliminating the bezel. More than 90% of the front of this phone is screen and that’s a revelation. 

Of course, this leaves the issue of where to put the front-facing camera, but barring some sort of future under-screen camera technology or a motorized pop-up solution, it’s hard to imagine how the designers at Samsung could have made this less obtrusive. The front camera has been reduced to a single, tiny hole punch that very quickly becomes invisible during daily use. 

It’s fairly simple to toggle apps between full-screen and normal mode. So if you can’t abide the hole punch in certain apps, you can simply restrict the edges of the app to stop short of crossing into that zone.

Ergonomics

How well specified a phone is doesn’t matter much if it’s a literal pain to use. Make no mistake, the Note 10+ is massive. Operating it with one hand isn’t impossible, but it takes some doing. By using all four fingers to lift and move the phone, you can just about reach every corner of the screen.

YouTube URL: https://youtu.be/aFtDcW-Kk7M

Samsung is aware of this and has had a “one-handed mode” in their note phones for a while now. It’s not activated by default and it does make using the phone with one hand as easy as using a smaller phone, by dynamically altering the display and user interface as you use it. 

We didn’t feel the need to activate this feature, but users with smaller than average hands will surely be glad the option is there. If you are curious, this mode isn’t hidden too deeply. 

Simply open Settings and head to Advanced Features > Motions and gestures > One-handed Mode.

The Under-Screen Fingerprint Reader

One of the worst casualties of the screen ratio wars has been the fingerprint reader. Facial recognition and the very wonky “iris scanning” that debuted with the S8 just don’t work as well as a traditional fingerprint scanner. 

However, moving the fingerprint reader to the back of the phone causes all sorts of usability issues. If the phone is in a car mount, unlocking it is a pain and you have to resort to a passcode or pattern. If the phone is laying on its back, you have to pick it up to unlock it or, once again, fall back to the passcode.

YouTube URL: https://youtu.be/lYtdxDedCLM

So everyone will be overjoyed to hear that the under-screen fingerprint reader works flawlessly. It’s fast and, once you learn where it is located, pretty easy to use. Samsung has an OS-level overlay that pops up whenever an app asks for fingerprint authentication. Everywhere we tested it worked as advertised. Whether it was web-based authentication for Paypal or in our banking app, it just worked. 

While some have complained that under-screen readers are noticeably slower than the traditional kind, this was never an issue. Regardless, Samsung released an update that included speed improvements for the reader about halfway through the month. While we are happy to believe it’s faster now, it seems just as snappy.

The Camera(s)

It’s basically impossible to find a flagship smartphone, or even a mid-range model, that has what any person could call a “bad” camera. Differences in camera performance between the top dogs these days often come down to subjective preference or subtle technical differences that make no difference to the average consumer.

The Galaxy Note 10+ does not have the best cameras on a phone today, by various measures. However, it’s hard to imagine anyone being unimpressed with what is clearly a serious push by Samsung to make this an incredible all-round content creation machine. 

There are three rear-facing cameras on the phone, from super-wide to telephoto. The easiest way to demonstrate what you get is to show you. Here are some head-to-head photos with the Note 9, with the exception of the new ultrawide lens of course.

Note 10+ Ultrawide

This first image is the result of the Note 10 Plus ultra-wide angle lens, which the Note 9 lacks.

Note 9 Wide Angle Lens

This is the Note 9’s standard wide-angle lens.

Note 10+ Wide Angle Lens

Here we can compare the results, since this is the Galaxy Note 10+ standard wide angle lens.

Note 9 Telephoto

The Note 9’s telephoto lens was a welcome addition and it still looks pretty darn good.

Note 10+ Telephoto

Video is also a pretty important aspect of modern premium smartphones. So we decided to head over to the local off-road motorcycle racing track and put the Note 10+ through its paces.

First, here’s a clip using the ultra-wide angle lens and “super stabilization”. Of course, YouTube does do a little damage to the visuals with its compression, but it remains a level playing field since this happens to all videos uploaded to the web.

YouTube URL: https://youtu.be/sMQkjq9wQAY

For an action sports event, what you really want is slow-mo, and here the Note 10+ really impressed with its standard slow motion setting.

YouTube URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OLPEapciQZs

As you can see, the Note 10 Plus is a step up from the phone it replaces, but you have to look at the photos side-by-side, as if the Note 9 takes poor photos. The inclusion of the ultra wide lens is however a pretty big deal if you are a serious phone photographer. It’s one killer feature that justifies upgrading from the previous generation Note.

Everything here was shot on full-auto, as most people are likely to use the phone. However, the built-in camera app includes plenty of manual options for those who want to achieve near-professional results.

Dockless Dex!

Samsung Dex is a desktop environment that’s been built into their phones since the S8’s release. By using the Dex Station accessory, you could connect a screen, mouse and keyboard to your phone. Docking the device takes you straight to Dex where you can do virtually everything you could with a regular light productivity machine.

The Dex stations were rather pricey, although these days you can pick them up for a fraction of the launch price. Still it doesn’t seem that this has caught on with users, so Samsung has done something new with Dex for the Note 10 release.

You can use Dex with a Windows or Mac by installing the Dex app on it. Then when you connect the phone to the computer via USB, Dex opens up as a desktop app. 

Now, it’s fair to ask what the point of this is when you’re already sitting at a computer. But there are quite a few use cases where this form of Dex makes sense. Internet cafes or other public computers are one example. You can also use Dex on your work computer to ensure none of your personal information gets mixed in with company data.

Dex is a neat app and worked pretty well. There was certainly some detectable lag, but nothing that rendered the application unusable. Most importantly, Dex makes it dead easy to transfer data between a computer and your phone and the Note 10 is powerful enough that normal phone operations keep working as usual, even while Dex is running.

The Stylus

No review of a Galaxy Note device is complete without looking at the actual “Note” bits of the product. 

The bottom line is that writing on this screen feels eerily like writing on paper with a pen. Side-by-side with our Note 9, the experience is pretty much the same. The Note 10+ feels perhaps a tiny bit more responsive, but not that you’d notice day-to-day. The new stylus has a much longer battery (technically a supercapacitor) life. The Note 9 will last 30 minutes before needing a recharge. 

The new stylus will keep trucking for more than 10 hours, which we did not test. Simply because there’s no reasonable scenario where you’d use the stylus for that long without putting it back into the phone. You don’t need to pay attention to the battery life anymore.

YouTube URL: https://youtu.be/ZaXp-0Y-tVs

Which is good, because the stylus can now perform remote control functionality. Using it with the PowerPoint app and as a remote camera trigger is awesome. However, the app has to specifically support it. Some macro-like customization would have been nice. 

This is the best stylus experience on any phone. If you like to doodle, write notes, mark up PDFs or do lots of presentations on the go, it’s brilliant. If you don’t care about this aspect of the Note10+, you’re much better off saving some money and getting a Galaxy S10+.

Real World Battery Performance

The Note 10+ has an absolutely massive 4300 mAh battery and you’ll find various reviewers around the web subjecting it to torture tests that empty the phone out at a little less than 12 hours of abuse. 

While that’s an interesting metric on its own merits, most people would rather like to know what sort of performance they can expect on average, day-to-day. After using the Note 10+ for a month, we can definitively say that unless you plan to be away from any sort of charging facility for more than 24 hours, battery life isn’t something you need to spend any time thinking about.

We made a point of starting the day off with a full charge and only putting the phone back on charge at bedtime. Usage during the day included general web browsing, YouTube Music, moderate amounts of gaming and more Netflix than is strictly recommended. When at home or in the office, the phone was set to use WiFi, with about two hours of LTE use during commutes each day of the week.

For the most part, after a full work day, the Note 10+ still had at least 40% left in the tank. We’re sure very heavy users might get closer to that 12-hour torture test mark in real life, but the vast majority of users should have no issues. 

For the sake of interest, going to bed with a full charge and leaving the phone unplugged overnight typically used about 8% of the total capacity. The Note 10+ does of course learn your usage patterns and adapts to them to optimize battery use, but we saw great battery performance out of the box.

However, let’s say you do manage to drain the phone into the red – what about charging time? In a word – woosh! The included wall-charger rapidly fills the meter back up. Going from 60% to 100% takes 40 minutes. Bear in mind that you can buy a faster 45W charger, but we’re sticking to what you get for the asking price.

Who Should Buy a Note 10+?

You’ll notice that there isn’t much in the way of negative sentiment when it comes to the Note 10+. While it’s not a perfect device, it does represent a sort of premium smartphone pinnacle. It’s not the best at any one thing, but the device has no real weaknesses either. Whatever you want to do with the Note 10+, it will comply without complaint and gives a generally flawless performance.

The biggest problems relate to its size. We strongly recommend holding one of these phones in your actual hands before buying one. It’s no larger than the Note 9 to hold, but anyone else not accustomed to this relative bulk need to try before they buy.

The physically smaller Note 10 may be a better all-round choice and if you don’t want the stylus functionality we strongly recommend you consider the Galaxy S10 and S10+ instead.

Which brings up the next most important issue – Note 9 owners. If you have a Note 9, the Note 10 doesn’t bring enough to the table to warrant an upgrade. If it is your natural time to upgrade then you’ll definitely feel happy with your new phone. There are no backwards steps here. But don’t cut your time with the Note 9 short for this phone. The cost simply isn’t justified.

If you are considering buying a Note phone for the first time, there has never been a better time to get onboard. Make no mistake, the Note 10+ is the true Note.

The big, no-compromise phone that has the best specifications when it launched and is aimed at enthusiast users. Which is the main point, the Note 10+ is an enthusiast-class device. It is more than anyone needs, but exactly what many of us want. 

Samsung has reached the summit of this particular mountain and that shows in what’s on the horizon. The Galaxy Fold may now be the next cutting-edge tech-geek phone and there are strong rumors that the Galaxy S10 and Note 10 phones will be the last of their respective lines.

Instead they will be merged into a new hybrid device. If true, this is the masterpiece capstone of a legendary smartphone line and it’s undoubtedly a great one.

9 Tips to Teach Your Grandparents Tech

The world of technology is changing so quickly, that the daily tech skills you learned just ten years ago are probably irrelevant today. If you were an adult in the 80s, computer skills weren’t nearly as important as they are now. That generation of 30-something adults are now hitting retirement age and if they haven’t consciously kept up to date, modern technology can be quite intimidating. 

From smartphones to smart TVs, it’s a lot to take in all at once. It often falls to the younger generation to help their elders use and enjoy the benefits of modern tech. We have quite a lot of experience providing help and instruction to people of all ages. That experience has provided a number of key lessons when it comes to dealing with elderly users. 

If you’ve got users in your life who fall into that category, these general tips will help make the process of teaching technology much easier.

Never Condescend

Never judge someone for not knowing something about technology. There’s a long list of things any given person knows nothing about and someone who isn’t tech-savvy doesn’t deserve to be talked down to. 

Always have patience and respect for the person who you’re helping. If either party gets frustrated, take a time-out and try again after a few minutes. Listen to the person to understand where they’re coming from, don’t simply wait for your turn to speak.

Take Existing Knowledge Into Account

Each user you’re trying to help isn’t a blank slate! Take the time to get a handle on what your user already knows. Older users may actually have technical knowledge that’s out of date, but can still be built upon. 

So take the time to assess what level and type of knowledge someone has and adapt your instruction to match it.

Be Aware Of Physical Limitations

Many older users have problems with their eyesight, hearing, dexterity and even the speed with which they can follow instructions. Be open about this and ask that you be told of any issues such as these coming to the fore. 

Using accessibility features such as a screen magnifier or voice controls can be a part of your lesson. Older users might be dissuaded because of these problems and be unaware of the many features modern devices have to compensate for them.

Explain Yourself

Don’t assume that the person you’re trying to help isn’t smart enough to understand what’s going on under the hood. If you explain it well enough, it’s possible to help anyone understand how something works in principle. 

So don’t dismiss questions about the technology itself or give needlessly simple answers. If understanding the nature of a particular technology will help the person use a device or application better, proactively include those explanations.

Chill With The Jargon

Jargon is a good tool for knowledgeable people in a field to efficiently talk to each other, but it’s also a major barrier to entry for anyone who isn’t already an insider. 

In practical terms this means you should not use jargon tech terms unless absolutely necessary. Instead explain things in common parlance, using terms that most people would know. 

Encourage a Hands-On Approach

As far as possible, you should let the person you’re trying to teach do everything themselves. Resist the urge to take over, even as a demonstration. Instead, have them act out your instructions using their own hands. 

There’s an ocean of difference between passively watching someone do something and doing it yourself. So give them every opportunity to get hands-on time.

Focus On Building Confidence

Fear is a major factor when dealing with technology. In turn, fear is driven by the unknown. If you don’t understand something, it’s easy to find it scary. 

So while direct and clear instruction is still very important, if you want older users to really “get” the technology you’re trying to explain to them, it’s important to replace fear with confidence.

You should make it clear that you can’t “break” something just by using it. As long as someone’s crucial information is backed up or safely in the cloud, the worst that can happen is having to reset something. 

The best way to learn a specific piece of tech is to play with it freely. Making mistakes is an important part of learning and modern devices are pretty foolproof. So make a point of allaying these worries and encouraging the person to explore freely.

Teach Them To Fish With a Problem-Solving Mindset

One of the biggest mistakes you can make when teaching someone about technology, is to have them memorize a rote set of instructions in order to accomplish a specific task. Why? Because as soon as something off-script happens, the user needs to get someone to help them.

Instead, it’s better to instill a problem-solving attitude when it comes to technology. If they encounter an error or something happens that wasn’t covered in the instructions, encourage a Google search and independent attempts at fixing the issue before calling for help.

Always Keep it Relevant!

Adult education, referred to as andragogy, has a big cardinal rule – keep it relevant. 

Adults learners value their time and want to know what the practical application of a piece of knowledge is. So, unless the individual is interested in the technology for its own sake, you’ll get much better results by always framing information in terms of its relevance and usefulness.

No One Is Too Old To Learn

The stereotype of older people being unable to learn anything about new technology is a complete myth. We know plenty of people who were at retirement age when they learned skills like coding or desktop support. 

Which means you have to park your prejudices when helping older users get to grips with new technology. After all, how would you like to be treated if the roles were reversed?

How to Connect Two or More Computers to One Monitor

There was a time not too long ago that it was rare for a household to have even one computer. The idea that each person would have a computer would have seemed laughable in the early days of the PC revolution. Now, most people are armed with multiple powerful computing devices, both on their person and when at home.

If you have multiple computers in your home, do you really need to move between them to use them all? The answer is of course no. You can use a single mouse, keyboard and monitor setup to control several computers. 

The exact solution for you will depend on the configuration of your computers. Are they side-by-side on the same desk? Are they in different rooms? The various methods of controlling multiple computers from a single set of monitors and controls below cater for virtually any mix of multi-computer setups.

Connect Two Computers to One Monitor with Multiple Ports 

The first answer comes from modern computer monitors themselves. Most good monitors now have multiple inputs, just as televisions do. Two HDMI or Displayport sockets is fairly common, but you may also have a monitor with a mix of VGA, DVI and HDMI. It all depends on its age and model.

In order to switch between the two different computers with one monitor, you need to access the internal menu of the monitor and change the input.

The main advantage of this approach is that you can probably use the monitor you already have. The main downside is that you still need two sets of input devices or will have to manually plug your keyboard and mouse into the other computer each time you switch. For a computer you only occasionally need to take control of, such as a home media server, this is a quick and affordable approach, but it’s not ideal for other situations.

Certain ultrawide screens can display the input from two different computers at the same time, in a split-screen configuration. Which obviously has its own uses, but unless you already own an ultrawide monitor, it’s not worth going out and buying one for this reason alone.

Hardware KVM Switches

“KVM” is short for Keyboard, Video and Mouse. A hardware KVM switch is a physical device that can accept connections from multiple computers and then output to a single monitor, while accepting input from a single keyboard and mouse.

KVM switches vary significantly in both price and functionality. You can get a basic 2-port VGA model for about twenty dollars, or spend hundreds of dollars on a high-end 4K 4-port unit with rather fancy features such as picture-in-picture options.

The big advantage of a KVM switch is that they are straightforward to use. Just plug everything in and use each computer with no performance penalty or potential for software glitches causing downtime.

There are plenty of downsides too however. For one thing, all of your computers need to be physically connected to the KVM switch. All display and USB cables have length limits before you need to start buying a signal repeater or simply live with all of your hardware within a few feet of you.

KVM switches can also be slow to actually make the switch, depending on the specific hardware you are using. It might take a few seconds to change between computers and if you have to do so constantly that can be a bit of a pain.

Software KVM Switches

Software KVM switches are actually not the equivalent of hardware KVM switches in most cases. What you actually get is a software solution that lets you use multiple computers with the primary computer’s mouse and keyboard. 

Each computer still needs to have its own monitor and be in the room with you.  Examples of these software packages include:

So these are actually software “KM” switches and don’t really solve our problem at all. However, if you combine a software KM switch with our first solution where we plug two computers into one monitor, you effectively get a KVM switch without paying anything extra!

There are true software KVMs as well, such as Stardock Multiplicity (30-day trial). Unfortunately that product is not free, although you can try it out to see if it works for you. However, compared to the price of a hardware KVM, Multiplicity is a real bargain and adds many advantages. Such as a lack of cabling and the ability to KVM computers that are very far away.

Software KM switches such as Mouse Without Borders even lets you seamlessly use the clipboard and drag files between machines as if they were one.

Remote Desktop Solutions

If you need to control two computers using one monitor and a hardware KVM switch is out of the question, what can you do? Especially if you aren’t willing to shell out for a professional software KVM switch. 

The optimal answer is to use a remote desktop client and server application. Basically you run the client app on the computer you will physically be sitting at and run the server application on the second computer you want to control.

The screen of the remote computer exists as a window on your primary machine. You can maximize it at any time, in which case using it is just like sitting in front of the machine itself.

There are plenty of free remote desktop clients to choose from as well, so really it seems like using a remote desktop app is the best solution of all, right? Well, there are plenty of potential flies that could end up in this multi-computer ointment.

Since you are relying on a network connection, any problems with that connections can be an issue. No network means no control of the other machines. A poor connection can lead to bad performance, including audio and video lag. Additionally, if the remote machine hangs or has any sort of problem that needs a physical fix, you can’t just reach out and fix it.

Of course, there’s no reason you can’t use remote desktop technology with a machine that’s right there. In fact, with a little meddling under the hood, you can connect two computers together directly with an ethernet cable and run the remote desktop software over that connection, which will be nearly 100% reliable and more than fast enough.

There are many good options, but VNC Viewer and Chrome Remote Desktop are both excellent choices and free!