Can you use a tablet as a cintiq-like device?

Discussion in 'The Tablet PC Life' started by Steve B, Jul 26, 2011.

  1. Steve B

    Steve B Moderator Moderator

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    So, still on my meandering quest to out-fox Wacom and still get a more powerfully run wacom experience with a bigger onscreen painting area.

    I've seen that the M4's are these gigantic 14.1" 4:3 screens- basically the size of the entire body of my sweet little 12.1" x200t!! Not HUGE, but the screen dimensions look to be just as big as a normal 8.5 x 11. A nice improvement. Plus, the res is pretty good-- 1400 x 1050. !! Cool, ok, but (IMO) the cpu and fan is cr*p- or atleast very tempermental. I was thinking, is there a relatively easy way to just get one of these and use it basically ONLY as the screen/wacom input-- letting a more powerful desktop with a better fan run the unit?

    The M4's come pretty cheap (200-300$ on ebay), and perhaps even cheaper if it had no cpu or battery, etc. I could probably cobble together a Frankenstein desktop from parts a computer-geek friend of mine has for less than 100$. I've got a relatively nice 22" lcd for a second monitor, etc. I guess I can't leave good enough alone, and keep pondering if I could have an "office" setup with a more powerful computer, 2nd screen for palettes and reference material, bigger wacom tablet, etc. and my awesomely mobile x200t for when I'm in the field or can't retire to the office to work.

    Can this be done? I've read a little about DIY Cintiqs, and it seemed (frankly) perhaps more work than it was worth. It seemed like it might be easier to do this kind of mod if you've basically already got the wacom digitizer and lcd screen together the way you do on a tablet pc? I'm really looking for the potential of more power (as I'm working on bigger canvases), and a bigger drawing area. Better pressure sensitivity would be cool, but as I've never experienced it, I'm not sure it's a luxury I'm willing to pay for yet. So, for now, 500 levels is fine, until having more somehow becomes a viable option that I haven't figured out yet.

    Looking for some input from those who have tread this water before.
     
  2. Shogmaster

    Shogmaster Scribbler - Standard Member Senior Member

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    I've thought up such a DIY scenario several years back when the first gen TPCs were going for less than $200 on eBay (Toshiba 3505, Viewsonic whatever the heck 10 incher) where one would take the screen off and then frankenstein a Cintiq monitor out of it. Never had enough spare time and know how to try it.

    The biggest hurdle would be the driver IMO. To make the Wacom driver recognize it, you have to retain the UART serial connection, but how does one manage that? I don't even know how you UART connected on a laptop or desktop externally. We would need a UART to USB adapter that would fool the Wacom driver.
     
  3. thatcomicsguy

    thatcomicsguy Scribbler - Standard Member Senior Member

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    This question seems to come up every few months.

    In fact, my very first interaction with this forum, (or near to it), started with that same question. I was hoping to drive an M4 screen with an M200. I figured that they might have almost the same pin outs and such, being so close in model type. I never went ahead with the project, though.

    I did some research into what it would take just to drive a rescued flat screen from an old laptop with a desktop PC. It's possible, but people just don't do it very often. The reason is that once you buy the necessary controller board, (apparently, it's too hard to rescue the one from a laptop), and various small electronics needed, you've already spent more on a 'free' flat screen than you would on a brand new monitor twice the size. But some people have nonetheless put some effort into collecting knowledge on that front. . .

    The DIY Cintiq "Tabletmod" scene is small but vibrant, and there are pre-made kits you can get with controllers and screens and everything you need. Not super-cheap, but available. They've worked out a lot of the kinks.

    www.TabletMod.com DIY Cintiq

    But the trick there is that they don't even touch the whole issue of driving rescued Wacom boards from Tablet PCs. They just, as I'm sure you know, use pre-existing full Intuos tablets and drop their screens right over top of them.

    By contrast, what you're talking about is driving the Tablet PC Wacom component through a hardware hack. If you can work out how to do that, then you're onto something pretty special!

    It MUST be possible, and once you can do that, then things get interesting. But nobody I know or have read about has ever tried this before. Things might have changed, of course, since I last scoured the web looking for info on the subject, and I wonder if the new Arduino community could help. . ?

    Anyway, I think the way to solve this problem is to just jump in, get the hardware, and start hacking and solving, beating your head against the wall until it gives. After a month of that, you'd be the world-wide hobby expert on the matter and we would all celebrate, because there are lots of people who would probably want to follow in your footsteps. Me included!

    I've not wanted to take on that project myself, though, because it does look like a demanding job and my needs are met well enough with the M4 as it stands, but it would be awesome if somebody could solve it. Once there are instructions and a beaten path, it would open up so many options!

    (My favorite DIY Cintiq project is so cool it hurts; you end up with a 15" 1600 x 1200 dpi screen. Costs about $500 in parts, including the Intuos Wacom tablet. I came close to going that route but couldn't justify the time and money cost when I already had a functioning system which works well enough. But still. . , if I were to jump into another DIY project, that would be the one I'd pick. I'd want to make it portable, too.)

    Anyway. . , what I'd do is send the Tabletmod folks an email with your question and see what they have to say. I'd bet they've thought of it before and would be able to offer some insights.

    Cheers!
     
  4. Hattori Hanzo

    Hattori Hanzo Scribbler - Standard Member

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    Someone here in the forums has made a thread about his conversion.
    The problem is not the serial or USB connection of the digitizer, but the DVI/VGA to LVDS conversion.
    Normally external displays are connected via VGA, DVI, Displayport, HDMI or such. Internally they use LVDS, which is quite different in some aspects and converting this is not easy, as you have to handle a high frequency signal. If you're asking if such a thing is possible, you need a ready to use device for conversion and afaik they're not super cheap.

    Maybe Agent9 comes along and if doesn't have already researched this a bit for his own projects, he might be able to point you to the thread I mentioned.

    Edit
    D'uh! I'm a little on the slow side today...
     
  5. Steve B

    Steve B Moderator Moderator

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    Yeah, I was looking at tabletmod.com, and that's where I began to ponder. It sounds like it's a terrible pain in the ass though. ::sigh:: I'm curious about the project in general, it all sounds a bit fun, but I have ... oh... zero experience in this sort of thing.

    First I thought "Hey, I've got a pretty good 21" lcd, perhaps I could use that, buy a Extra Large Intuos 4, and whammo, with some blood, guts, and tears I could have a mod-cintiq for 500$ or some such." Then I found out that you need to have the power source be external for the screen-- implying that the transformer needs to be outside of the body of the screen, right? And then...

    Well, then I recognized this was a bigger deal than I thought, and more expensive, if you have to buy the correct type of monitor, plus the Intuos, etc. And I began to wonder if I could just be patient and get an older Cintiq on ebay for about 1000-1250$, and save myself the hassle. Does anyone have any experience with the older 21ux? The 5 year old models? I have some fear, I think I read it somewhere, that there were issues with the color and the screen being crap??? That's where I began to wonder if there was value in doing a mod, because I could use an actually good screen. I have to say, I think I've been pampered by this Superbright Outdoor screen-- great color, very bright and vibrant, awesome angles, etc.

    Anyways, I know this is wandering away from the discussion about converting a tablet, but you guys seem to know something about it all, so I'm just sort of picking your brains. !! :) I'm up for a technological adventure, that's not the issue, but I want to get something that works if I'm going to go through the trouble of exploding my brain and putting it back together, ya know?

    I think my main issue is that I'm also working with real media, and it's difficult to not compare the experience of painting on a 12 x 18 watercolor sheet, or a 30 x 24 sheet!! (dreamy!), versus doing it on the my laptop-- zoom, paint, shrink, zoom, paint, shrink, zoom, pan, paint, shrink, etc. Other than that I've been pretty cool with my x200t. Utterly awesome screen, silent as a dream, pretty fast all in all, good battery life, runs cool too, etc. I thought there might be some value in having a desktop setup as well though. I have wondered if it's worth trying the 2ndary screen for the laptop-- then atleast I could check out what I was doing on a larger scale. Perhaps that would be helpful (as discussed in the thread I had earlier in July).

    Sorry for the rambling. Your input is appreciated guys. If you've got more to say, or other thoughts, I'm happy to hear them.
     
  6. Spey

    Spey Pen Pal - Newbie

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    Seems this could be accomplished similarly to this paralleled topic thread.

    Originally posted here: http://forum.tabletpcreview.com/tab...andard-desktop-pc-touch-pen-input-device.html

    Not sure if this helps, but it seems that you could accomplish more or less what I saw in the uTube video with a Win-7 Dual Touch (finger touch screen and/or pen touch) TabletPC and/or a Slate (TabletPC without keyboard) by just running the device using extended desktop and a secondary monitor with no need for a secondary PC. Two examples as follows:
    1. Run TabletPC (or SlatePC) with secondary monitor in “extended desktop” mode (TabletPC display being selected as “primary” display). This would function pretty much just like the video. The Tablet would accept finger and/or pen based input, while the “extended” desktop (secondary monitor) would display any other program windows simultaneously.
    2. Run TabletPC (or SlatePC) with secondary monitor in “extended desktop” mode (secondary display being selected as “primary” monitor). When I run in this configuration, the pen based input on the Tablet works very much like an auxiliary digitizer (when pen is used on Tablet PC screen, the input point is displayed on the larger monitor). Any window open on larger monitor accepts the pen input (so Tablet is used as digitizer and drawing is displayed on window that is open on larger monitor).
    I just sent daughter off to college with Win-7 TabletPC (Wacom Pen based) and 21” widescreen TV/Monitor hooked up via docking station with axillary wireless keyboard/mouse combo and a sound system with option for both of the above scenarios (she just needs to choose which display is primary to allow TabletPC functionality as a TabletPC with secondary monitor, or function as a digitizer for larger auxiliary monitor when she wants to draw like using a Wacom digitizer). One cord connection for the dock connects all peripherals, and provides charging supply to TabletPC. A quick simple portable and great desktop solution inclusive cable connection to TV/Monitor along with wireless remote control.

    Hope this helps give another option/perspective solution.

    Regards,
     
  7. kinggeek

    kinggeek Pen Pal - Newbie

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    Waking up an old thread I know.

    I have a solution that uses an old under powered pen tablet (can be got cheap on ebay). A lot of these have pressure sensitive digitizers so you share the serial port over the network and then send the image back over VNC. Works suprisingly well. Video and how to Turn an old Pen Tablet into a 'Cintiq' style digitizer - kinggeek.co.uk.
     
  8. Steve B

    Steve B Moderator Moderator

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    Kinggeek- this sounds neat. I'm curious.

    I see from the video that you're using the tablet pc to draw on and visual is on an external monitor. But the art program is actually running on and being powered by the desktop pc? Can you explain a bit more how you're sending the software info from the desktop to your tablet pc? And how you are then sending only the tablet pc's pen input back to the desktop? How are you bypassing the tablet pc's cpu and using only the digitizer? Also, what kind of lag is there between the two? Sounds cool. It's something that has been much discussed before.

    Your version runs on Linux though, right? Is there a way to do it in Windows?
     
  9. stoneseeker

    stoneseeker Scribbler - Standard Member Senior Member

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    Genius stuff!

    Imagine being able to have the power of a desktop on a portable tablet wherever you went as long as you had a network connection! crazy. A company could really market a more streamlined version of something like this. A two part computer system: A power house type docking station desktop PC, and a take away tablet that both functions on its own, and can drive the desktop when connected to the internet. Seems many would find use for that.

    I feel there must be a slight lag in a remote desktop setup like that though.
     
  10. kinggeek

    kinggeek Pen Pal - Newbie

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    Steve B:-

    Yes, the art program (GIMP in this case but could be anything) is running on Windows (on a quad core PC with 12Gigs of RAM). The tablet is running a very lightweight version of linux which I built and can be downloaded from the website, instructions are there too (see my previous post).

    Basically you give over the tablet to running the lightweight linux which then turns the tablet into a sort of 'dumb terminal' to the windows PC. The windows PC has a virtual serial port which is connected over the network to the tablet. The PC then uses VNC software to connect back to the tablet. Latency is very good. It can very occasionally glitch a tiny bit over wireless but only on updating the tablet display, and not on the pen stroke. If that is a concern you can use it over a wired LAN or get a faster WiFi setup. It's nice to be wireless though!

    The actual full linux install comes in at under 35Mb, so you could quite easily dual boot the tablet if you did not want to dedicate is solely as a digitizer.

    All the software involved is either free to use or fully open source. Once it's all properly installed (which is a little long winded) a couple of clicks on the desktop gets you rolling.
     
  11. Steve B

    Steve B Moderator Moderator

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    This is really interesting, cutting edge stuff. I saw a video on your blog, but it is from a distance. It would be interesting to see you drawing on your smaller tablet closer up, so we could see if there was any real lag or not. Also, what sort of art programs are you using on your version of Linux? Besides Gimp, I've wanted to try Krita, which looks pretty powerful. Also, can you port Windows art applications in your version of Linux? I was thinking of programs like Artrage or Photoshop or Painter. Artrage the most. I'm just trying to get a better grasp on the applications and limitations of what you're offering. It sounds really interesting! I might have to try it! :)

    I know next to nothing about Linux, but I was looking up if I could run Artrage in Linux, and it seems that Wine Doors provided this option at one point. Do you run something like that _with_ your version? Or is it one or the other? If I could run Windows applications through this method you're proposing, that would be of particular interest to me, as well as to others, I'm sure.
     
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2012
  12. stoneseeker

    stoneseeker Scribbler - Standard Member Senior Member

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    wait... he said he is running the art program in windows (on the desktop). So he can use any windows compatible program he wants. Linux is only being used to drive the tablet and let it communicate with the desktop, but the desktop is windows and is running whatever art software you want to run! Unless I'm mistaken here.

    So I don't think you have to worry about Linux compatibility. It's pretty much just acting like a cintiq for his desktop, just in a more round about way, and wireless!
     
  13. Steve B

    Steve B Moderator Moderator

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    My understanding was he was running Windows on the desktop and Linux on the slate.... OH! I see... Yes, perhaps that is true then. Is that right kinggeek? If so, that's really interesting stuff. That would mean I could run my AHK scripts too, etc. right? It sounds a lot like a virtual desktop, but better somehow..... ???
     
  14. kinggeek

    kinggeek Pen Pal - Newbie

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    Stoneseeker has it. That is exactly correct. The fact that tablet is running linux is irrelevant. The tablet simply becomes an input device/additional monitor to the Windows PC. It also scales the larger resolution PC monitor to fit the smaller resolution tablet screen.
     
  15. stoneseeker

    stoneseeker Scribbler - Standard Member Senior Member

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    im eventually going to try this.
    kinggeek - if your desktop is online and on, could you log in and operate your computer on the tablet from anywhere with an internet connection? or is it only a local network connection?
     
  16. kinggeek

    kinggeek Pen Pal - Newbie

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    This would not work for my software as it's the desktop that initiates the connection. To simply access your desktop PC from a tablet you could just use VNC and port forward through your firewall/router (provided you knew your public IP address). This would not be pressure sensitive and would not have the high resolution of the tablet, but that would be irrelevant as it would be too slow to do useful artwork over the internet in any case.
     
  17. jameless

    jameless Pen Pal - Newbie

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    something like this would not work on an asus ep121 would it, kinggeek?
     
  18. Steve B

    Steve B Moderator Moderator

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    Actually, it was exactly my understanding that it _would_ work on a normal tablet pc. I hope that's the case. If not, I completely misunderstood this. Do normal tablet
    pcs have the appropriate kind of digitizer kinggeek? Or is it some sort of special old style tablet of digitizer that I need?
     
  19. kinggeek

    kinggeek Pen Pal - Newbie

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    You might be able to do something like this with the EP121, though it seems like a powerful enough machine by itself so I'm not sure what the advantage might be. It would also depend on how the internal Wacom digitizer was connected internally.
     
  20. Steve B

    Steve B Moderator Moderator

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    Well, an ep121 is no where as powerful as a desktop, that's for sure. But if you could have it be a mobile sketchpad with a bit of oomph, then have it become a far more powerful wifi Wacom "cintiq" alternative while in the house when it's powered by a real desktop, etc. That then becomes a far more powerful and versatile tool.

    The truth is I thought of this example for some of the current new Atom slates coming out with Win8, for example, which have really good battery life. I also thought about the idea of running your Linux setup on a Galaxy Note 10.1", for example, though I don't know if you can even do that. But it too has a Wacom digitizer in it, as far as I know.

    But, more specific to myself currently-- For example, I have a Motion le1600 from 2006/2007 that would be perfect for an application like this. Underpowered for real "work", but quite functional as a mobile sketchpad. It's got a nice Hydis 4:3 screen too, and is quite thin and light by older standards (3 lbs). So, yes, this is exactly the idea of how I'd like to use your setup.

    The thing that caught me was your description of the "USB to serial hub" wacom driver". I have, frankly, no real, sophisticated knowledge about how my le1600 or x200t digitizer functions. I guess one way to try it out would be to download the driver and then try to install it on my 1600, right? If it functions, then all should be ok....???? The digitizers, to my understanding, have not changed much in the tablet pcs over the last 10 years at all.

    What kind of tablet did you specifically use for this?
     
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