A hard tablet to swallow

Recently, I’ve been experimenting with tablets. No, not the sort that make you dance for hours or think you’re reeeeeaaalllly interesting. The sort that glow enticingly and give you something to swipe at on train journeys. That’s right, this is going to be a fairly geeky post.

I want a device onto which I can load a large number of images, sorted into albums, then run a slideshow with nice smooth transitions to show to prospective wedding photography clients. Let’s say that I had a couple of hundred images but would also want to be able to add new images or remove old ones fairly easily.

Preferring the Open Source option, I tried a couple of Android tablets including the Asus EeePad Transformer. Getting the images onto the device was easy: I just pushed a microSD card pre-loaded with the images into the appropriate slot. After waiting a minute or so, there they were in the gallery app. Unfortunately neither of the Android tablets I tried displayed images at a high enough quality. It’s not the resolution of the screens, but it seemed that the bit depth of the image was too low. It might have been something else, some automated image scaling perhaps or a limitation of the display, but it looked like old school bit depth problems.

My friend Alan kindly lent me an iPad. I’ve been impressed with the screen quality of iPads in the past. What I hadn’t tried to do before is get a large number of images onto an iPad. There’s no card slot on an iPad, you have to buy what is essentially an SD card reader (but Apple call a camera connection kit) for £25. Even then I’m not sure if you can copy the files off the card onto the iPad itself. If you don’t have one of those card readers (I don’t) you have to get your thinking hat on!

I tried downloading a zip file from a webserver, but Safari didn’t like that. I could save individual images from within Safari, but it’s not a great way to manage a couple of hundred photos! I tried Dropbox, but you can’t select all the images in a folder and save them out in one go. It’s one image at a time again. All the images end up in a single “Saved Photos” folder too, making managing them a bit of a pain.

Andy Stanford-Clark suggested I used an app called iZip to open zip files, which worked for smaller zip files through Dropbox or Safari. Finally, a solution of sorts! But it would be a lot of hassle to load new images this way.

Of course, I’m grateful to Alan for lending me his iPad, and I had a great time playing Where’s My Water, Tap the Frog and Angry Birds. But the Android tablets made it so much easier to perform a simple task than the Apple offering. It’s just a shame the display quality isn’t good enough on the Android tablets. Of course, I’m keen to see Ubuntu running on tablets soon. It’ll be interesting to see whether I run into the same rendering issues as I experienced with the Android ones.

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    13 Responses to A hard tablet to swallow

    1. You know Ubuntu One lets you download a whole folder at once to an Android tablet, right? So, sync your photos folder from your Ubuntu machine, go to Android tablet, browse to a particular subfolder of your synced Photos folder, long-press, say “download whole folder”. And there’s all your photos on the tablet…

    2. Hi Tony: I too was looking for a way to convey imagery (in my case, it was for website work, presentation, interaction with Prezi.Com presentations to customers, etc. I found the Samsung Galaxy Tab fit all the criteria, and kept me outside the iPad-proprietaryness. Also, after a short phone conversation with Tech Support, I’ve established a connection to the device via cable that literally makes it like a flash drive is connected to the PC, that makes pictures, and music literally a drag away from being able to be used. I’ve also been told there are several apps that are being developed to focus specifically on the things you and I are talking about, which makes me even more excited in general.

      Hope that helps and please do keep me updated on your progress. As tablet technology and usage increases and gets more showcased, it’s going to be important to have ties to people that care anything at all about performance. Cheers!

    3. Tony says:

      @Stuart getting images onto the Android tablets wasn’t hard. SD card worked, I’m sure U1 would have been fine too. They just displayed poorly.

      Then getting images onto the iPad was hard.

    4. Tony says:

      @Mike thanks for the feedback, if I can get my hands on a Samsung Galaxy Tab, I’ll give it a go. 🙂

    5. Apparently the eeePad uses 18-bits with dithering to emulate 24-bit color depth, in order to have a better 3D experience. The browser is the only app that shipped with that device to support real 24-bit color. Perhaps there’s an Android app that supports that too or maybe a bug can be filed against Gallery in CyanogenMod and you could use custom firmware.

      The EeePad is a great device for many reasons, but not suitable for all uses. I returned mine for other reasones, I hope you find a better device other then Apple’s – or perhaps try the bug report + CyanogenMod route.

    6. BiG says:

      It’s general and well known bug in Gallery software bundled with Android 3 (and probably this bug is present also with Galllery bundled with Android 4). Presented on all tablets with Android 3. It’s been described in many forums – problem with high resolution images. Gallery creates preview images (display resolution) and they are unsharp/blurry.

      But solution is very simple – you can use different picture/multimedia viewer. I’ve checked myself and can recomend QuickPic or Perfect Viewer. Both work very well. And interesting thing is that if you view images once with different viewer then even Gallery app shows them perfectly. So probably these previews are stored on internal memory and used by many apps.

      Good luck with Transformer (TF101 – not badly designed TF201). It’s really very good tablet and after recent upgrade to Android 4 (ICS) it’s blazingly fast. 🙂

    7. Tony says:

      Thanks for the comment BiG. I did try a couple of slideshow apps but there didn’t seem to be any difference between them on the Transformer. The issue was also present when viewing images in the browser. I think the Transformer was running android 3.1.

    8. Pete McPhedran says:

      Hi Tony,

      This is going to sound strange considerig all of your considerations, but the BlackBerry PlayBook is probably a great option. I know it’s not open source, but it has an HD display and HDMI out to connect to external devices like HD TV’s, etc…

      You can wirelessly or wired sync it with all sorts of things like any PC so file transfers would be a snap.

      Although I am Canadian, I am not employed by nor even liked by RIM. That’s a long story…

      Oh yeah, and they are dirt cheap right now to boot.

      Good luck,


    9. I’ve been reloading this page the last few days waiting for a good answer, but since none of the answers were right for me, I decided to find a solution myself. I have an ipad with the retina display and pictures look great on the screen. I have now installed MLPlayer Lite on the ipad and minidlna on my Ubuntu 12.04 server. It works great for viewing pictures as long as I am on the same subnet as my server.

    10. Tony says:

      That’s a neat solution Mattias, but sadly doesn’t fit my use case! Hope it works well for you though.

    11. BiG says:

      I see that iPad display is best for you. So you should stay with it. Now the only thing is to add pictures to iPad. You have few choices:

      1. You CAN copy multiple files from SD card (naturally you should buy SD card reader)
      2. You can use cloud service to keep photos and then nice client to copy many pictores to iPad at once with folders. So you can try few options and choose best one (if Dropbox client doesn’t work the way you like it you have also iCloud, Ubuntu One, Google Drive)
      3. At last yoou can install iTunes in virtual machine and upload pictures to iPad this way

      Good luck with any of these options 🙂

    12. Tony says:

      @BIG, thanks for the suggestions. The photos do indeed look good on the iPad, although I have only borrowed it, it is not mine!

      I don’t have a Windows or Mac OS licence so I can’t run iTunes in a virtual machine. I have heard it might run under Wine now, but I’m not sure if USB is supported yet. I tried both Dropbox and Ubuntu One and they didn’t easily allow large quantities of photographs to be managed. The Ubuntu One app isn’t even a proper iPad app, it’s designed for the iPhone.

      The SD card is the way to do – I borrowed an SD card reader and got it working. It’s still not easy: The photos have to be in a DCIM folder and the files named in the way a camera names them. You can’t create your own file names! Importing is easy, but moving lots of photos to an album is tedious and deleting them just as much of a pain. But at least they look nice. 🙂

    13. BiG says:

      Things change in this area very quickly. I’ve tried to run iTunes on my Ubuntu 12.04 32bit but it only installs. No luck to make it running (garbage on screen) and it doesn’t recognize my iPhone or iPad 2.

      Best way IMHO to work with iDevices under Ubuntu is to install packages for them and auto-mount them like any other USB mass storage devices. You can then access tem like normal removable storage. So you need SD card reader only if you’re in the field without Ubuntu laptop.

      I’ve tried to load photos to iPhone or iPad by creating custom directory under DCIM with files named by my own convention. They were not recognised and never displayed. But today I’ve upgraded my both iDevices to iOS 5.1.1 (from 5.1), rebooted and everything works. Pictures are recognised and displayed. 🙂 So I don’t know what helped – reboot o upgrade but things are OK right now. 🙂

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