Trying to Tame the Tablet

Printing and Viewing

Just a couple years ago, it was absurd to think about printing from a phone or tablet. Now, it's easy to set up network printing for Android devices, and Linux users easily can share printers with iOS devices as well. So printing, interestingly enough, is fairly ubiquitous. Figure 4 shows an example of printing from Google Drive.

Figure 4. My printer has native Google Print support, but it's possible to set up a traditional printer.

Speaking of Google Drive, the native Google application does a decent job of creating Microsoft-compatible Office files. The newest version of Drive even allows editing and creating spreadsheet files! When combined with Android's built-in file viewer, it's difficult to find a document Android can't read. I've never been stuck in a meeting unable to view an e-mail attachment, which would be a real showstopper for me at work.

Geeking It Up

If you're stuck wearing a tie and attending meetings all day, the above information might be all you're interested in. For me, although I attend more meetings than I care for, I also have the opportunity to be a geek. A tablet computer offers some really great apps for system administrators or just geeks on their lunch break. Here are some of my favorites:

  • ConnectBot: this is the de facto standard SSH client for accessing remote servers. As with typing long documents, the on-screen keyboard can be frustrating for more than a few quick server tweaks, but the program itself is awesome. If you've ever SSH'd into a server on a cell phone screen, the 7" of real estate on the tablet will be a godsend. No geek is complete without a command-line interface, and ConnectBot provides remote access to one.
  • WiFi Analyzer: I've mentioned this app before in Linux Journal, and rightly so. It does exactly what's on the tin: it analyzes the Wi-Fi networks in your area. Whether you want to find an open channel or check signal strength in different areas of your building, WiFi Analyzer is amazing.
  • WiFi Map Maker: I had never heard of this application, but a reader (Roman, I won't mention his last name out of respect for his privacy) sent me information on it. If you need to make a quick-and-easy map of Wi-Fi hotspots, this is hard to beat. It uses the built-in GPS on your tablet to create a thermal map of Wi-Fi coverage in real time.
  • SplashTop: now that SplashTop supports controlling Linux workstations along with Windows and OS X, it's become a whole lot more usable for me. Using its custom application installed on your computer, SplashTop allows remote control of workstations with incredible responsiveness. It's a bit like VNC simplified and on steroids. Heck, it's even possible to play PC games over the connection! (Not that you'd ever do that at work.)

At Home: a Boy and His Recliner—and Tablet

I don't think I've watched a television show or movie at my house in the past decade without a notebook computer sitting on my lap. Whether it's to look up an actor on IMDB or to catch up on RSS feeds during the boring scenes, an on-line connection has become a requirement for me in my recliner. In this case, I've found the Nexus 7 to be a decent replacement for a full-blown laptop. Not only can I do all the things I normally do with my laptop, but I also can use an XBMC remote application to control the TV. If I happen across a cool on-line video, I can send it to my XBMC unit quickly with iMediaShare, which uses Apple's AirPlay technology to stream video directly to the TV. It gives me a certain level of satisfaction to stream video from an Android device to my Linux nettop running XBMC using an Apple protocol, yet having no Apple hardware or software in the mix. Truth be told, it works a lot more consistently than the Apple TV and actual AirPlay does at work too. iMediaShare has both a free and paid version, available on the Google Play store.

One thing I never do on my laptop is read books. Even though I can read countless Web articles on the computer, for some reason I can't bring myself to read actual book-length material. With the tablet on my lap instead of a laptop, flipping open the Kindle app allows me to read a few pages of a book if there's nothing interesting on TV. Why the Kindle app? I'm glad you asked. As it turns out, even though it has the absolute worst interface for finding a book in your collection, it has some features that I find indispensable:

  • With the "Personal Documents" feature Amazon offers, any DRM-free ebook can be e-mailed and stored on Amazon Cloud. They can be retrieved from any Kindle device or app (excluding the Cloud Reader, but I don't read books on my computer screen anyway).
  • WhisperSync used to work only on Amazon-purchased materials, but now it works on Personal Documents too. This means I can pick up my cell phone to read a few pages at the doctor's office, and then pick up my tablet later and automatically be right where I left off. Because this works across platforms, it makes the Kindle reader my go-to app.
  • I keep my DRM-free e-book collection at home on Calibre. With Calibre's export feature, sending a book to a specific Kindle device's e-mail address is a single click away.

I really do wish Amazon would improve the browsing interface for Android devices. I suspect Amazon is trying to push people into buying a Kindle Fire, however, since it also won't release the Amazon Prime streaming app. Oh well, the WhisperSync feature makes all the difference for me, and I'm willing to suffer a cruddy interface when opening a book.

Pure, Down-Home Entertainment

The tablet size and touchscreen really does make it a perfect device for simple gaming. Whether you want to sling Angry Birds at a bunch of pigs or use the tablet like a steering wheel to drive your 4x4 across rough terrain, the Nexus 7 is awesome. I'm not much of a gamer, but as it happens, that's exactly the type of person tablet games are made for! If I want to play a quick game of Solitaire or even shoot a couple zombies, the tablet interface is perfect.

Entertainment doesn't stop with games, however. I've mentioned Plex in recent issues of Linux Journal, but it bears mentioning again. If you have a collection of videos on your home server, Plex will transcode and stream them to you anywhere. It works at least as well as the AirVideo application on iOS, and the server component works excellently on a headless Linux server. When you add Netflix, Hulu Plus, Smart Audiobook Player, Pandora, Google Music, Amazon MP3 and the ability to store local media, it's hard to beat the Nexus 7 for media consumption.

And in between Work and Home

One place I never expected to use my tablet was in my car. No, I don't read books or watch videos during the daily commute, but I certainly enjoy listening to audiobooks. With its built-in Bluetooth connection, I happily can stream a book through my car's audio system. I find traffic jams much more palatable now that it means more time for "reading".

I've also found Google Map's ability to download maps for off-line use to be awesome. I opted to get the Wi-Fi-only model of the Nexus 7, so when I'm in the car, I don't have Internet connectivity. My car doesn't have a navigation system, so the 7" screen and off-line maps make for an incredible GPS system. Google's turn-by-turn navigation is amazing, and the nice big screen means it's more useful than my phone's GPS. I don't have a great way to mount the tablet in my car yet, but I suspect with a bit of Velcro it won't be a big problem.

Where to Go from Here?

I've given you a glimpse at how I use my tablet on a day-to-day basis. I hesitated to do this though, because I don't feel I'm really using the Nexus 7 to its fullest potential. Based on a few conversations I've had with fellow readers, however, I don't think I'm alone. I don't think tablet computers will replace desktop or even laptops any time soon, but I do think they have a place in our daily lives. Hopefully this article gets you started with integrating a tablet computer into your everyday life. I look forward to hearing about and sharing your experiences, so please write me at




New Trent IMP62B Stylus:

Google Drive:


WiFi Analyzer:

Dave's Apps:





Shawn is Associate Editor here at Linux Journal, and has been around Linux since the beginning. He has a passion for open source, and he loves to teach. He also drinks too much coffee, which often shows in his writing.


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Spot UV Postcards's picture

I think there are lots of ways but taming the tablet is the particular one to make the experience more accurate

Google Docs

greenseo's picture

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Google Docs

greenseo's picture

this is a great text.
I think it's great!
thank you keep it up

tame it man

nick edward's picture

IF u are looking for tame your tablet than why not just make it dual os just like having both windows and android in 1 . . . if you are willing to make your own brochur just click in brochure holders

IF u are looking for tame

nick edward's picture

IF u are looking for tame your tablet than why not just make it dual os just like having both windows and android in 1 . . . if you are willing to make your own brochur just click in brochure holders


sidewalk signs's picture

If u are Trying to Tame the Tablet it is good to have ur own experience with tablet . . .


sidewalk signs's picture

If u are Trying to Tame the Tablet it is good to have ur own experience with tablet . . .

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Glossy Business Cards's picture

if there is a say the when u find some thing u special just take it than i would like to tke this idea of Tame the Tablet

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Anonymous's picture

Hi there - so many reviews of the Nexus 7 out there, yet almost no one mentions the HUGE privacy invasion Android represents. Everything EVERYTHING on your device goes to one giant US for-profit corporation to use in any way they wish. Even when the Nexus 7 is powered off, the darn thing will grab any nearby wi-fi and send make contact. Run a sniffer on the thing - you'll be amazed at what goes out. Read the Android privacy agreement - you abrogate all rights to Google.
Those of use who are blessed by not living in the United States are absolutely appalled at the privacy invasions you folks seem to take for granted on your devices. A sad comment on what has happened to your country.

I think now a days tablet pc

Gina Gomege's picture

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Jason H Austin's picture

The fact that there's a blog post and a long discussion on something that should be taken for granted speaks volumes. Not a good catch-up strategy I'd say. I hope Google will rectify this in the next version, including a hires camera on the back. Go to any tourist spot and you'll notice people taking videos with their iPads! What will smaller iPads enable? That's right, more tourists taking videos with them. Remember the days when "calling people" used to be the primary feature on a smart-phone!?
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I like treq for anroid how

cari uang's picture

I like treq for anroid how about you?

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Leather journals's picture

wow ! the tablet is really fantastic & the pen also !

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ibaikal's picture

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ibaikal's picture

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mini tablet compare

nicholasdan's picture

Yes,Google Nexus 7 tablet is good.
Here I find a high performance-to-price ratio tablet-FNF ifive mini 2. Compare with Nexus 7:

  1. it has dual camara:2.0MP front camera and 5.0 MP back camera;
  2. The thickness is 9.4mm, while Nexus 7 tablet is 13mm;
  3. It have more function and input/output port than Nexus 7 tablet,for example:card slot,HDMI port,external 3G dongle support;
  4. The price is cheaper, only US$159.99

Google Docs

Anonymous's picture

I find Google Docs very well.
Great invention that I have to have every day.
It can hardly be imagined without me!

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kitapbigi's picture

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The Limited Liability Company or LLC is not a partnership or a corporation. Limited Liability Company (LLC) is a relatively new business structure allowed by state statute. An LLC is a distinct type of business that offers an alternative to partnerships and corporations, by combining the corporate advantages of limited liability with the partnership advantage of pass-through taxation.

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Google Docs

Anonymous's picture


My wife & I share info like shopping lists using Google Docs, which works well.

I've found Evernote to be too awkward to use on phones & tablets, but that may be just me. Never tried Dropbox.

Netflix is great on the Nexus. Hulu won't play unless you opt for Plus, which has less content than the free version.

Generally, our tablets are for info consumption; info creation is still best done from a laptop or desktop.

Reply to comment | Linux Journal

see page's picture

This is a good tip especially to those new to the blogosphere.
Simple but very accurate info… Appreciate your sharing this one.

A must read article!

Shawn, have you tried the

tvphil's picture

Shawn, have you tried the gesture typing on the keyboard that came with Jelly Bean 4.2? I find it much easier, you might like it as a stylus replacement. It's nearly identical to Samsung's Swype keyboard.

Hacker's Keyboard

xrat's picture

Great review. My findings are similar. -- Since you mentioned ConnectBot, I couldn't live (on the command-line) without the Hacker's Keyboard: