I’m just barely old enough to recall that sound through the speakers of an airplane: “*Ding* You are now free to move about the cabin.” It was never fun to know that I had to stay in one place, even if there wasn’t really any better place to be; sometimes I just wanted to know I could move around. (Of course, nowadays you’re discouraged from ever getting up unless you have to. Grumble grumble, get off my lawn.)
I feel the same way when I’m projecting my computer screen through a data projector. I want to move around, but the keyboard and mouse tie me down to the computer. Sure, there are some things I can do, like use a presentation remote to advance through PowerPoint slides while I walk around, or getting a remote keyboard that I can carry with me, but sometimes I just need to go back to the computer. That’s true even if I’m projecting from a laptop, which… is just wrong. The whole computer is portable, but because I have to be cabled in to the data projector, I’m stuck up at the front (if the classroom is well designed, at any rate) of the room, tied to the wall.
Doesn’t that just make you angry? Wouldn’t it be great if you could project from your laptop, but be wherever you want in the room? Even though walking around with a netbook or laptop in your hands is cumbersome, wouldn’t it be nice to have the choice?
There are many expensive data projectors that would allow such, but… I’m cheap. I want to find something inexpensive, have my cake and eat it too.
Meet the Imation Wireless Video Extender!This device works on both Windows and Mac computers, and is comprised of two (or three, if you count an AC adapter as a separate piece) components. The USB dongle is plugged into your computer (so you do need to have a powered USB port available), while the curvy base station has a power adapter and the data projector plugged into it. (The base station can connect via VGA or HDMI, and will support sound from the computer, too.) Once the USB dongle is recognized, it loads the drivers onto your computer (from a USB key partition on the dongle itself; no downloading drivers needed). Depending on your operating system your computer may require a restart the first time the drivers are loaded, but after that your computer will recognize the device as being a separate screen on your computer.
On the computers I’ve tested this with, the default behavior is to make the data projector an extended desktop, which is perfect for running PowerPoint in Presenter’s Mode (where the slides show on the projector, but the presenter notes show on the laptop). Alternately you can just tell your computer to mirror the screens, and what you see on your laptop is what will show on the projector. Look Ma, no wires!
I have also tried extending my laptop to my TV using the HDMI connection from the base station, but quickly decided that my own television is not a good enough device to watch computer content on. (The colors were wacky, and the resolution was low enough to look bothersome. There’s a reason the purchase price of a monitor is higher than the purchase price of the same sized TV!) So, this isn’t what I’d want as a solution for watching video on my TV or anything, but so long as you’re piping to a data projector or additional computer monitor it seems to work very well.
And… given that at the time of writing this blog post the device is under $100 from Amazon, the price is fairly right, too. You are now free to move about the classroom. *Ding*