back to article Samsung’s new phone-as-desktop is slick, fast and ready for splash-down ... somewhere

I’m typing this story on a phone – a Galaxy S9+ to be precise, lodged in Samsung’s new “DeX Pad” not-a-dock that turns its high-end handsets into passable desktops when connected to a monitor or tellie over HDMI. Samsung introduced the Dex with 2017’s Galaxy S8 and then updated it this year with a smaller dock that puts the …

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  1. Milton Silver badge

    WIMP

    'WIMP = “Windows, icons, mouse, pointer” in case you’ve forgotten or are too young to know better'

    Windows

    Icons

    Menu

    Pointer

    —surely? Mouse and Pointer is duplication.

    1. GlenP Silver badge

      Re: WIMP

      Although I think Menu is probably the original out of Xerox, back in the day we always knew it as Mouse. That's not a duplication of Pointer since we had various forms of pointer before the mouse to move them*.

      *Including a horrendously large graphics terminal that used two wheels to move a cross-hair cursor, a bit like a giant Etch-A-Sketch. It even needed wiping and refreshing periodically.

      Glen

      1. stiine
        Thumb Up

        Re: WIMP

        Must be a tek4010.

        1. MJB7

          Re: Must be tek4010

          More likely to be a Tek 4014. The 4010 had an 11" screen, but the 4014 was a 19" screen - it was a beast.

        2. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

          Re: WIMP

          tek4010 had a relatively small screen (~11" diagonal IIRC), so I would not call that "horrendously large", although it was normally set on it's on floor-standing pedestal. It's more capable cousin, the 4014 was larger.

          It was a storage scope, so the screen 'remembered' what had been drawn without the screen processor redrawing it (unlike on a raster CRT monitor, which has continually to repaint the screen). Over the course of a minute or two, the image started to degrade, and the image could not be scrolled. You had to clear the screen and draw the next one.

          I used to use it to do work in APL, as it could draw all of the over-struck greek characters, and I actually wrote a 4010 graphics emulator (it was a very simple protocol) in BBC basic, which was fast enough to keep up on a 9600 baud serial link.

          UNIX troff (a text formatter) had a post-processor that would allow di-troff output to be drawn on the screen of a 4014 for proof reading before the days of high definition terminal screens. I believe it's still there in groff in GNU/Linux, even it's not needed anymore.

          1. Old Used Programmer

            Re: WIMP

            Ditroff was a complete re-write of troff. Troff was tightly, and very cleverly, written but could only output to one very specific typesetter (CAT). When UC Berkeley set out to replace their CAT phototypesetters (they had two of them), the original troff programmer was dead and no one could figure out how to remove the device dependencies, so they wrote Device Independent Troff so that they could use their new--APS5 -phototypesetter.

            The APS had to go into production earlier than planned because an operator on the CAT, failed to tighten the wingnut holding the glass font wheel and that CAT was suddenly full of very small glass shards.

      2. Alister Silver badge

        Re: WIMP

        It even needed wiping and refreshing periodically.

        Did you have to pick it up and shake it?

        1. Alistair Silver badge
          Pint

          Re: WIMP

          Alister:

          There are executives that did that, during midwinter dinner parties.

        2. J. Cook Bronze badge
          Devil

          Re: WIMP

          I know there was one company where we were highly tempted to get the boss an etch-a-sketch and claim it was the latest thing.

          Hmmm.... *has an eeeeevil idea for a practical joke when the money tree bears fruit again*

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: WIMP

        " It even needed wiping..."

        sounds like an asshole...

    2. Chemist

      Re: WIMP

      Thought it was :

      Windows , Icons, Mouse, Pull-down menus

    3. Steve Channell
      Windows

      Re: WIMP

      Windows, Icons, Mice, Pull-down-menus.

      Desktop mode for a phone is old-hat.. worked just fine on my Lumia 950.. but only used it once: there really is a limited market for PowerPoint presentations from a mobile phone.

      Miracast and Bluetooth keyboards make all the cables redundant

      1. hmv

        Re: WIMP

        Regarding WIMP: I prefer gooey :)

        The only experience I've had with a wireless display resulted in so much lag that I couldn't use the mouse to point to things during a presentation.

    4. The Indomitable Gall

      Re: WIMP

      Windows Icons Menus Pointer

      or

      Windows Icons Mouse Pull-down-menu

      Both had currency, so both are right.

      But mixing the two up will always be slightly tautologous.

  2. Dave 126 Silver badge

    Shed computer

    I mentioned DEX to a friend and he said it sounded great for his shed - for office tasks, web browsing and watching video. Many of us here have an older but still but serviceable monitor, mouse and keyboard kicking around the house. DEX works with 3rd party docks for around £20, I've heard - I'm sure someone here with post a comment confirming that in a bit.

    1. AMBxx Silver badge

      Re: Shed computer

      Problem with older monitors is they don't tend to have HMDI.

      I had a Lumia 950 XL - did the same as DEX, but with Windows Phone. I have the unopened converter box (freebie) in a cupboard. Always seemed like a good idea except for the lack of support for anything other then HDMI.

      Hopeless as a portable solution too - by the time you carried all the necessary cables, it was easier to just carry a small laptop.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Shed computer

        Agreed, DEX not useful as portable system.

        Agreed, older monitors tend not to have HDMI ports, but it would appear that some people have had DEX working over DVI. And for some folks simply watching video or other tasks an older TV with HDMI will suffice.

  3. Warm Braw Silver badge

    I do most of my work in a browser

    I used to do that, but the writhing took its toll...

  4. Lee D Silver badge

    Developers?

    And Dex isn't just about Android, is it?

    https://www.theregister.co.uk/2017/11/10/linux_on_galaxy_video_demo/

    Ubuntu and Eclipse. That could be perfect for a developer, web designer, etc. on the move as well as one who needs to test their results on mobile.

    And the price is reasonable, much more than I would expect to be honest, but I can't afford the Samsung phone to go with it, so maybe that's why.

    But I think I'd quite happily consider running Ubuntu off my phone as an emergency/portable desktop, if I was a salesman, developer, IT contractor, etc. Much more so than an iPad. Hell, I'd do it and just keep the Dex bit on me for the "just-in-case" of needing a laptop and not having one, or a presentation (plug phone into Dex into HDMI projector). You can also get a mini-projector for peanuts nowadays. You could have a full Linux desktop setup on an airplane seat with things that you can slip into your pocket.

    It seems to me to have a lot of uses, it's just a shame that the phones to do it are so expensive (and even my old S4 Mini / S5 Mini could probably be a serviceable desktop with the right OS).

  5. Diogenes

    Education

    Byod. For some reason parents wont trust their kids with a $300 laptop but are happy to send them to school with a $700+ smartphone

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Education

      Byod. For some reason parents wont trust their kids with a $300 laptop but are happy to send them to school with a $700+ smartphone

      it's because even the IT guy won't trust those parents with a $300 laptop.

  6. WibbleMe

    Wast this a Ubuntu/Canonical Phone idea (Unity) that was killed off a few years back

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      More or less. Unity was an attempt to have the UI component of applications / apps so written that they would adjust to the display size and Human Input methods present at the time - I believe it started out during the netbook era ( 7" - 10" screens, mouse, keyboard).

      Samsung only need to have a few key apps ( Pareto analysis, we use 20% of apps 80% of the time) such as browser and Office to adjust to big display mouse keyboard tlfor this to be viable for some users.

      A few years back Apple took a different route: rather than plug your phone into a display you could continue working on the same document across iOS and OSX, with the document (and where in the document you were currently working) being zapped between phone and Mac over WiFi. However, the popularity of iOS over MacOS means that Apple are now giving developers tools and guidelines so that an iOS app can potentially present a decent user interface when run on a Mac.

      I stated a few years back that my personal opinion about Ubunto and DeX (and whatever Microsoft called their efforts) like solutions was that by the time you've found a spare monitor, mouse, keyboard and carried cables around, you might as well carry a little headless ARM PC with you. After all, they're not pricey, give you reduncy should you lose your phone, and don't tie up your phone in cables (so you can telephone a colleague whilst looking at a spreadsheet).

      1. Teiwaz Silver badge

        by the time you've found a spare monitor, mouse, keyboard and carried cables around,

        You're assuming a truly portable situation - clearly something like a laptop/netbook/ultrabook is still better for the occasions where you might need a screen and keyboard in a convenient bundle anywhere.

        I think most people, most of the time, are only using full desktop mode in a few predictable locations a lot of the time home - office, in between these locations, a smartphone style access might be acceptable.

        KDE are prepping for adjustable display-size apps with Kirigami as well.

      2. The Indomitable Gall

        To really take off, the convertible phone has to have a (near) universal standard, as then you can rock up to a public docking station in a coworking café and do your thang.

  7. Oflife
    Go

    ...however!

    Thing is, for modular computing to work, you need the monitor, keyboard and mouse in your transport and at your destination, else you may as well pack a laptop or Chromebook. If car, airplane and train seat backs had a built in HDMI/USB-C/TB3 ready 14" or so display and a pop out full size keyboard, Bob's your trans auntie, you're sorted and can travel light. I pack a Note 8 and it would be great if it was the ONLY device I had to carry with me, but alas, I need a keyboard and larger screen pretty much anywhere I sit down, so I keep one of these in my backpack...

    https://picosm.com/993919352790

    (The machine Apple should have made.)

    ...that when back at desk, is docked with my 4K 32" monitor via one of these...

    https://picosm.com/991256800705

    If Samsung can get transport companies and hotels to build screens and keyboards into seats, hotel rooms and coffee shop tables, then DeX will work, but you won't need the dock really, just plug the phone into the USB-C port. (MHL used to allow you to do that, I could plug my Note 4 and S5 into HDMI monitors directly.)

    1. DropBear Silver badge

      Re: ...however!

      Then again, seeing as how the first thing you're likely to do on such a thin-ish device like this is logging into this or that service / website, could you really trust the supplied default ACME keyboard to type your credentials into...?

      1. Little Mouse

        Re: ...however!

        Anhitnyg taht mkeas tnpiyg on ym milboe esiear snuods geart it me.

        1. Lee D Silver badge

          Re: ...however!

          Mini projectors are cheap.

      2. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: ...however!

        > could you really trust the supplied default ACME keyboard to type your credentials into...?

        You wouldn't have to since you enter your passcode into your phone.

  8. Alister Silver badge

    From the header image, Simon, I can only say this...

    You have a woman's hand, milord

  9. James 51 Silver badge

    It would be interesting to try dex and a Gemini side by side. I suspect that the Gemini is far more capbile on its own but hooked up to everything else, I wonder if you'd notice the difference.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      The Gemini can run Linux, so potentially more broadly useful - however, if you're running it in Android mode you have to restart it into Linux. The Register said that Libre Office worked okay on the Gemini, but there was a bit of input lag - though they did note that they were using an early model and drivers.

      I don't know if you can get the DeX optimised versions of MS Office for the Gemini's Android mode.

      If I were to get a Gemini, it would be an accompaniment to my existing smartphone, not a replacement ( so it might likely stay in Linux mode all the time).

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        If I were to get a Gemini, it would be an accompaniment to my existing smartphone, not a replacement ( so it might likely stay in Linux mode all the time).

        I have one and that's precisely how it feels at its best and how I use it permanently. I've squeezed down the Android partition to minimum and it stays in Sailfish. MY fingers are crossed that when Sailfish 3 appears for Gemini at the end of 2018 I will be able to get rid of the Android partition completely.

        1. stephanh Silver badge

          linux on android

          You can nowadays run a complete Linux distribution on Android.

          https://github.com/sp4rkie/debian-on-termux/blob/master/README.md

          This does NOT require root.

          Desktop is provided through the "Xserver SDL" app.

  10. dajames Silver badge
    Headmaster

    "Tellie"

    Really?

    "Telly", surely.

    "Tellies", though, of course; that's how we do plurals in English.

    (I remember asking my primary school teacher how to spell "telly", many years ago, and she said that I should just write "TV" because "telly" wasn't a proper word.)

  11. Mark 110 Silver badge

    Developing world use cases

    Once this makes its way onto lower end devices then isn't there a place for it in a world where people can't afford a phone and a PC? Might be a viable like that in corporate environments as well. Just give everyone a smartphone and set some hot desks up with these docks.

    Vast numbers of users just need telecoms, a browser (for their business apps), email and office. Could knock a significant percentage off corporate IT budgets.

    1. shedied

      Re: Developing world use cases

      Could knock a significant percentage off IT budgets

      But please spare the Help desk carbon units, the Reg needs to hear about those poor sods called upon to troubleshoot a Dex-equipped dekstop.

  12. RobertLongshaft

    Why couldn't it eventually replace a laptop?

    What do I use my laptop for at work? Email, Ms Office, Adobe, Broswer. I already have a docking station with a gazillion cables coming out of it but how much easier is it to carry a phone in my pocket than a heavy back filled with crap?

    1. Danny 14 Silver badge

      it wont replace because most of the apps wont work properly. I played with DEX on an s8 and it is a gimmick. most wont resize and look stupid in a tiny window on a large screen. The was an issue accessing non secure SD cards too. DEX is very niche and whilst the principle is sound you can carry an intel NUC around (the same size as the DEX dock) that will run full fat linux/windows and be far more powerful.

      it will also be cheaper (and more flexible) to get a huawei plus NUC than s9 and DEX

  13. naive

    Come on google, use the aces in your hand to make IT great again

    Define a standard interface for Android docking, integrate some things with Chrome and google apps, use these things to create a combination phone/computer office workstation against a price point that is impossible to beat, so companies can save substantial money when migrating away from MS/Azure.

    The equipment will be standard, like x86 PC's, be produced by many against an economic price.

    As a side-effect, millenials are used to to everything with their phone, making it a future proof solution.

  14. Evil Scot

    Here is an Idea

    What if we combined one of those hi capacity backup batteries that are indispensable for mobiles that do any work with a screen and keyboard in one device?

    1. James 51 Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: Here is an Idea

      Indeed, you could sit it on top of your lap while you're using it. Now, what could we call it?

  15. 45RPM Silver badge

    Ridiculous

    It isn’t innovative to try to invent one device that does everything. It’s stupid*. I wouldn’t want my car to double up as my bicycle or an aeroplane, and I wouldn’t want a bed which doubled up as a bath and a dining table. Sometimes it’s okay to have more than one thing, if your things perform different functions.

    You know the old aphorism - Jack of all trades, Master of none.

    * In the interests of total disclosure, I also thought that the iPod was stupid, that screens with resolutions greater than 640*480 were unnecessary, that the GUI itself was stupid, HD video unworkable and that tablets wouldn’t go anywhere. I might not be the best judge of what will succeed and what won’t in the computer of the future.

    1. Alister Silver badge

      Re: Ridiculous

      I wouldn’t want my car to double up as my bicycle or an aeroplane

      So... you don't want a flying car then?

      Pah! Call yourself a commentard...

      :)

      1. 45RPM Silver badge

        Re: Ridiculous

        @Alister

        ;-D

        Honestly? No. I like having a really good car, one that I can enjoy driving (as opposed to the sort of gadget that drives you around until it crashes - and then it crashes), and I’d like to have a really good aeroplane (but whilst I can afford the former, I can’t afford the latter).

        Flying cars, or roadable aeroplanes, are compromised in either environment. Perhaps I’m unwise, but I’m also uncompromising.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Ridiculous

      "I wouldn’t want my car to double up as my bicycle"

      This analogy is the wrong way round, if the car is the PC and the bicycle is the mobile. And people do add trailers, extra seats etc. to their bicycles sometimes to get a subset of the functionality of a car.

      "or an aeroplane,"

      If my car could cut out the pain of common air travel as it is, I would be more than happy.

      "and I wouldn’t want a bed which doubled up as a bath and a dining table."

      You've never owned a camper van then.

      You might not want this in your house, just as in your house you are happy to have a laptop/desktop, tablet, phone etc. for different things. But I think the target here is like the camper van, travelling. Not having to cart around a car and a house.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Ridiculous

      "* In the interests of total disclosure, I also thought that the iPod was stupid, that screens with resolutions greater than 640*480 were unnecessary, that the GUI itself was stupid, HD video unworkable and that tablets wouldn’t go anywhere."

      ... and 640k RAM ought to be enough for anyone, right?

      "I might not be the best judge of what will succeed and what won’t in the computer of the future."

      Hi Bill. Welcome to the Reg.

    4. Screwed

      Re: Ridiculous

      It appears that Rolls Royce and Aston Martin say they agree with you:

      Farnborough Airshow: Aston Martin unveils sports car for the skies

      Carl Bourne, Rolls-Royce's strategy and business development head, said the consortium rejected plans to build a flying car. "You'd end up with a bad aircraft, and a bad car."

      https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-44879378

      Then they seem to partially recant:

      The aircraft would, he said, "be a sports car for the skies".

    5. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Ridiculous

      I've upvoted @45rpm for his honesty and self knowledge.

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