Browsing articles in "Gadgets"

Parallels Access–Use Desktop Applications on your iPad the Right Way–WIN!

Jan 30, 2014   //   by Karen Lopez   //   Blog, Data, Fun, Gadgets  //  No Comments

I’ve been using Parallels Desktop for Mac ever since I purchased my MacBook Air a couple of years a go.  This virtualization software lets me run Windows on my Mac so that I can use all the data modeling and database tools I need.

Just this week, Parallels asked if I wanted to try out a new product, Parallels Access.  (So as to not confuse this with Microsoft Access, I’m going to use the full name of the product in this post.)  This product lets me use desktop applications as if they were built for the iPad.  It works by installing an app on my iPad, plus a service on my desktops (Windows or Mac).  Then when I want to run a “real” application from one of my computers, I can fire up the app on my iPad and start using it. And it pretty much works.

I’m hosting a contest to give away five, yes FIVE, subscriptions for this product.  Details at the bottom of this post.

Isn’t This the Same as Remoting In to Your Desktop?

I’m betting right now you’re thinking: “I have RDP or some other remote app and I can use that, but it’s a real pain to navigate around on an iPad.”  Yes, yes it is.  I’ve tried several remoting apps over the last few years. I usually use them when I am out of my office and have to grab a file or fix something without having to find a computer to use a real keyboard and mouse.  And it’s painful.  Very painful.

What’s different about Parallels Access is that they’ve added iOS-like gestures and interactions to make it feel like the application you are running is a native iPad app.  Instead of telling you about it, let me show you a few:


Quick view of gesture features.


Precision pointer


iOS keyboard, with a Windows Key and a Mac Key.

How I Use Parallels Access

Today I used Parallels access to work with some Excel spreadsheets, which I have done in the past with either iPad apps or via remoting in to a desktop.  Both ways are painful. It’s almost impossible to widen a column or cut and paste data in Excel using the iPad and the iPad apps don’t always support all the features I need.  I won’t be using this as my main method for working with Excel, database or data modeling tools.  But having the ability to pinch to zoom in applications  is very nice.  In ERwin Data Modeler, I was even able to reposition entities and fine tune relationship lines.  That just doesn’t work using a basic Remote Desktop tool.  Heck, it doesn’t even work as well on my touch screen desktop.

I also love that the keyboard is an iPad keyboard that features a Windows Key when you are on a Windows desktop and a Mac one when you are on a Mac.  That’s how keyboards should work.

I’ll post a more detailed review of how I am using Access to work with my desktop applications in the future.  For now, some gratuitous screen shots.

Access touch on iPad - LauncherAccess touch on iPad - Data Model

Win a 1 Year Subscription to Parallels Access

There’s a 14-day trial for Parallels Access available, but I have a better deal for you: enter to win one of FIVE one-year subscriptions (worth $4.99 a month or $49 a year) I have to give away via Twitter.  Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Follow me @datachick
  2. Tell me where you would use Parallels Access.  For example, “I would use Parallels Access from my deck, sipping a beverage with @datachick” or “I’d love my data with @datachick”.
  3. Contest ends Friday, 1 February at midnight EST, so tweet before then.

I’ll pick 4 random winners from the tweets and one special one chosen as the best tweet.  Just make sure you mention me (include @datachick  in your tweet) and the product (Parallels Access) so I see your entry.


  • Your tweet has to mention me and Parallels Access
  • Your tweet must be posted publicly – not a DM.
  • Your tweet must be published before 1 Feb 2014 at midnight EST
  • If you live in one of those places that has laws against these contests (Allô Québec!): Sorry, you can’t be part of this.
  • If you live in one of those places that has a law requiring a skills testing question (O Canada!) I will give you a fancy data modeling question to do.  No worries, it will be an easy one.
  • A winning tweet and your twitter account have to be Safe For Work.  Let’s call it “SFW USA”.  That works.
  • No more than 5 entries from you.
  • You don’t have to own an iPad (2nd through current generation), but you’ll need one to use this product.
  • No returns or exchanges.  No whining.  No bad data. No tipping. Bribes are discouraged by Management.

Good luck and get touching and tweeting!

Standards, FTW–Apple VGA and HDMI Adapters with the Surface Pro + Ethernet USB Adapter

Mar 13, 2013   //   by Karen Lopez   //   Blog, Gadgets, Surface  //  No Comments

MacDisplayAdapters + USB Ethernet

You know I’m a fan of standards, both internal organizational standards and external open standards.  Today was one of those days that made me feel like hugging a few more.

Have Surface Pro, Willing to Travel

Microsoft Surface Pro VGA Adapter - MIAI have a Surface Pro.  It has been fun to get to know it, but I’ve had one thing stopping me from making it my primary travel machine: I would need to use it as a presentation device.  When I bought it, the Microsoft store was out of the Surface Pro VGA adapters and due to hardware differences, the one for the Surface RT won’t work.  I figured this was a typical Canadian retail outage and I could pick one up in the US or online somewhere.  But then I started searching., All sold out.  So then I tried  Not available online.  Unavailable for pick up in any store I searched for.

I did see that Microsoft online stores would let me order, but I was worried that if I ordered I would then get a dreaded “backordered” email a few days later.  So I resigned myself to wait.

But Wait…

Then I noticed something I should have noticed all along: the adapter wasn’t a proprietary connection like the power supply; it was Mini DisplayPort Adapter.  Where had I heard that before?  Thinking, thinking….BINGO.  My MacBook Air uses Mini DisplayPort adapters.  Could they work?  I doubted it.  I was sure there’s be something that just wouldn’t work.  But I grabbed my set of VGA and HDMI adapters (the bottom two adapters in the photo)  and hooked them up first to my TV, then a monitor.  Bingo.  They worked.  I didn’t need to wait for Microsoft or lug around my heavy Targus Dual Display Dock that I bought.  I could just keep using  the same adapters for both my MacBook Air and my Surface Pro.

I didn’t have to install any drivers.  All I had to do was configure the Surface to use an external device (Left side swipe to open the charms, click Devices, then Second Screen) and it all just worked.

Wired Ethernet

That left the USB Ethernet dongle (the top adapter in the picture), something else I needed because sometimes I stay in hotels that don’t have Wi-Fi but do have wired Internet.  I do travel with a small wireless router, but sometimes there’s an issue with the hotel’s proprietary login/charge screen. Having the option to wire up my tablet is a bonus.

I tried just plugging in my Apple USB Ethernet cord, but no joy.  So I did some searching and came across these two blog posts that made it work":

That worked.  So now I have two display options, HDMI and VGA and I know that I can find these in lots of retailers if I need more. 

Standards, FTW

Apple USB Ethernet on Surface ProThis all worked because neither Apple nor Microsoft chose to use proprietary adapters or appware to support video out on their devices.  This is why standards are better for consumers.  I can Reduce the purchase of more eCrap and iCrap.  I can Reuse things I already had.  Hopefully, they are Recyclable as well. They will at least have a much longer lifespan that all my proprietary connectors from the last 15 years.

Standards help consumers, even if they cut a bit of icing out of the math for the manufacturers.  This is why Europeans have pretty much forced device manufacturers to use standard chargers.  We need standards.  Standards make stuff just work.

Subscribe via E-mail

Use the link below to receive posts via e-mail. Unsubscribe at any time. Subscribe to by Email