Using Remote Assistance with a Tablet

This last week one of my faculty asked me to help her re-direct her tablet display to the dual-data projector system in one of our larger auditorium classrooms.

At the end of the last academic year, our department had a little money left over. I recommended to one of our faculty she might invest in a tablet. Tablets are the “wave of the future” in classrooms, at least I tend to think so.

I am frequently frustrated by faculty who lock all technology from a classroom. Many faculty have rules against smartphone use, tablet use, laptop use in a classroom. Why??? I tell my students technology is welcome. When I taught in the classroom, I allowed students to record my lectures on their smartphones. Students would fact-check me during a lecture, or use Google Earth to follow along on our geography journeys. And yes, sometimes I would be found to be wrong. I tend to lean towards conservative estimates in my lectures, and students would often find my numbers to be a little off. They would find more people to be living in poverty, less people well-educated, more prevalence of disease, those sort of inaccuracies. These “inaccuracies” are OK, because the students are doing their own investigative research and building their own picture of a situation or event. I diverge.

I coaxed her into buying a Dell Latitude 10 with a full version of Windows 8, not Windows RT. Recently, the University of Illinois – Carbondale, purchased Latitude 10s for all incoming freshman. Using a tablet was a new experience for her, and she is only mildly intimidated by new technology. I set the tablet up for her, and she accepted it with slight trepidation. She is always a good sport, though, and rapidly works to integrate technology in her courses.

She approached me this last week asking if I could help her re-direct the Latitude 10’s display to the projection system. I said, Sure. Do you want to be able to roam free, without cables? Or, do you want to be cable-free? She replied she wanted to be able to pass the tablet around so cables won’t work.

I had a wireless VGA system laying around from a previous project. This device might work but I would have to find a micro-USB adapter, as the Latitude 10 has only micro-USB. I like to figure out ways to do things with parts on hand, or without parts – using software I have already or open source solutions I can get for free. The department our faculty work for has little money for technology, and with the new budget year only 8 weeks old, I don’t really want to hit them up for money to buy stuff.

I had used Remote Assistance years ago to work on my dad’s computer. Being 460 miles away, a home visit wasn’t going to happen. I remembered RA being slow, stiff, and cludgy, but that was over a really slow connection, perhaps even dial-up. Like I said, it was a long time ago.

But, we have a good physical network, a good wireless network recently upgraded in our building. Why not try using Remote Assistance to gain access to the Latitude 10’s desktop? No anchoring cables and the software is already installed and useable.

I set about Friday morning to uncover the details. The longest part of the procedure was remembering how to access the Control Panel on a Windows 8 Dell Latitude 10. I slept many times since I initially setup the 10, and have touched a bunch of technology. A quick google search refreshed my memory on gaining access to the Control Panel. Another quick google search led to me Remote Assistance help for Windows 8.

The next obstacle was the search I was required to perform in the “Services” area of the Windows 8 Control Panel resulted in zero results. In other words, when I searched for “remote assistance” zero hits were returned. Wow, Microsoft, seriously??

Not to be stopped by ridiculous results, I searched for “ask for remote assistance,” and was rewarded with a link that allowed me to open a Remote Assistance wizard. The RA wizard allowed me to generate a keycode and a “requestauthorization” file I could share with my desktop computer. My desktop was attached to a projection system – theoretically. Not really, but once I had the RA connection established, projecting an image is simple.

I dumped what Microsoft calls “requestauthorization” (I think, I’m away from the file as I write this), into a shared folder. At the desktop, I accessed the shared folder, clicked the keycode file, and Remote Assistance launched. The app requests the keycode generated by RA running on the Latitude 10, so I entered the 8-digit code and, boom, I have access to the Latitude 10 desktop from the desktop – and I can still use the Latitude 10.

Now, I am sure there are apps available which do the same thing as I have done, with more bells and whistles than those available with Remote Assistance. RA has, like, one bell, and no whistles; I didn’t hear any, anyway.

If you have a Windows 7/8 tablet and want to project your desktop through a data projector, you can use the same technique as I have. Some of you may even have wireless data projectors which might be able to eliminate all of this stuff. We don’t; all of our data projectors are pretty mundane.

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