Sidecar For iPad/Mac

This week I received my Sidecar iPad mount and have been playing around with it. Sidecar Venostech is a product that I originally backed a few months ago on Kickstarter as I’ve been looking for something like this for some time. Essentially its a very robust piece of plastic with a spring mechanism in the middle. It allows you to temporarily mount an iPad, iPad Mini or iPhone (presumably any other tablet or phone) to the side of your laptop screen. With a slick app called AirDisplay Avatron Software I am able to extend my Mac desktop onto my iPad. This is great for me as I’m on the go a lot, working in hotels and spaces where I can’t lug around a second monitor.

 Image Credit: Venostech

Image Credit: Venostech

The Sidecar is very easy to attach to the iPad and laptop (provides easy one handed holding while you twist the knob to tighten and holds the iDevice securely in place. The Sidecar has rubber padding that protects both the Mac and the iDevice from scratches or damage. The Sidecar is available from Venostech’s website for $29.99 plus shipping. A quick note is you don’t have to use this for a desktop extension. For example you could use it to have Omnifocus running right next to your screen or some other app that you use frequently. I’ve found a lot of success running a dual monitor setup using the product, in conjunction with AirDisplay.

Speaking of AirDisplay, I’ve tried several Mac to iPad screen display apps and AirDisplay is the best I’ve found. Air display is available in the iOS app store for $9.99 and you must download the companion Mac app (free) from Avatron’s website. The companion app sits in my menubar (behind Bartender) and you can select weather it automatically connects or manually connects. One thing that I was concerned with originally is the need for WiFi when using this setup. Very often public WiFi is not configured to allow devices to talk through the firewall. You can lug around a Airport Express to create that wireless network but I’ve found an even better workaround. Use your iPhone as a WiFi hotspot. AirSharing works great when used as with an iPhone as the WiFi hotspot. Just be careful of your bandwidth caps.

Overall I am very impressed with the Kickstarter funded Sidecar. This was something I’d been looking for and now that I have it, my productivity when on the go has increased. A couple of downsides to it: If your using an older iPad (1–4) the weight of the iPad may cause damage to the Macbook Air’s display hinge. I have a Macbook Air and a iPad Air and so far working just fine. Hopefully I’m not proactively signing up for a Genius Bar appointment. The only problem I experienced is depending on where you mount it it might tip the laptop back or just the screen. I’ve found when mounted in the middle or closer to the bottom of the screen the results are improved. You can go into display preferences (if using with AirDisplay) and adjust the orientation of the monitor depending on the arrangement. Display preferences do remember this when connected to AirDisplay so you should only have to do this once.

Good luck and great job Venostech and Avatron!

Belkin Wall Outlet with USB

The problem I was having, in the kitchen never having enough outlets plus always having to locate my adapter to charge iDevices.

This was an easy solution. The Belkin 6 outlet wall adapter with USB was the perfect fit. Picked it up at Home Depot for less than $20. It screws into the decora wall plate screw making it impossible to pull out of the outlet. There are 6 outlets and 2 USB ports on top. I am able to charge both my iPad Air and iPhone 5S at the same time.


Passbook App Good but not Perfect

I'm a frequent flier and the idea of a paper boarding pass seems so 1998 to me. My airline of choice (most of the time) is United Airlines. United has been doing a very good job with electronic boarding passes since it's inception several years ago. First it was an emailed link that would bring up a web page, then a email containing a PDF, app delivered boarding passes and now, integration with iOS Passbook.

When I first experienced Passbook in iOS 6 it was a very cool concept. I promptly loaded up all my rewards and membership cards that had been taking up space in my wallet. Did you know you can make a pass for a card or membership program that doesn't have an integrated service? When United updated their app for iOS 6 it brought with it the inclusion of Passbook boarding passes. At first this was revolutionary and the function of having a swipe to display boarding pass from my lock screen was amazing.

Over the past few months it seems that the passbook app has been going downhill, or at least the user experience. Lately I'm not getting consistent delivery of my boarding passes to the lock screen and very often when I swipe it brings up the wrong boarding pass (boarding pass for a future or past flight segment). I'm actually finding that the electronic boarding pass on the United app is a more streamlined experience than using the Passbook app.

As a related note I wish that Passbook offered an automatic delete feature. For example it automatically deletes the pass 72 hours after the pass expiration. I fly a lot, sometimes 6 boarding passes a week. At the end of the month it's not uncommon to have 30 or so older passes in passbook that need to be deleted.

I'm sure that Passbook is due for evolution, specifically as Apple enters the NFC and mobile payment space. My hope is that the app developers and apple will continue to develop this interface as the desired user experience is extremely beneficial to the consumer. 

Lighting and Micro USB Charging Cable

Here's the dilemma, I have several iOS devices that charge via a Apple Lighting style connector. I also have several devices that charge via a Micro USB platform. I'm conscious about space when I travel and don't like carrying around a lot of cables. I would prefer to just have a couple that would charge all my devices. There are times that I want to charge both my iPad and iPhone at the same time. You can see the issue here. Last month I discovered a really good solution that fixes this problem. Apple makes an adapter that goes from Micro USB to Lighting

   Link to Apple Micro USB-Lighting Adapter


Now I can carry a lighting cable and a Micro USB cable with the adapter on one end that can charge all my devices and keep me from having to carry too many extra cables. Just for the record the things that I charge with Micro USB are my iPad keyboard, Verizon hotspot and Monoprice backup battery.

Hopefully this will work well for you too.