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Tablets after hours – dealing with after hours technical support on the go

March 26, 2013 7:38 am 2 Comments
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Have you ever been in a situation where you need to provide support for clients outside office hours only to find that you are in a situation where you are unable to whip out your laptop and work? I have, on numerous occations too; for example during dinner time or in the middle of a movie. In short, it sucks to have to use a laptop when you are out and about. Not only it’s an inconvenience, some of your friends will consider using laptop on top of the dinner table in a restaurant as rude.

Thankfully these days we have tablets. These devices have the perfect 10inch screen and the portability it offers. Okay, whipping out your tablet at a dinner table can still be rude but at least you don’t have to place it on your lap or dinner table. So with that I’m going to share with you the applications and the tweaks that I have done to ease remote client access.

The Tablet

I opt not to use the iPad no matter how good it is. The iPad is unmistakeably one of the best tablets out there, but they are very hard to customize. So I chose to use Samsung Galaxy Tab 10 2. Obviously the newer versions such as Galaxy Note 10 and the upcoming Galaxy Note 8 would do too. Other brands as long as they are Android and have 8 inch or bigger screens, they will also suffice.

Rooting

The first thing that you need to do with your tablet is to root it. There are numerous rooting tutorials out there, a quick 5 minutes googling will show you how for your device. We need to root the device so that we can use variety of vpn access and host file modifications.

I can’t provide links for any rooting tutorials because it will vary from device to device.

Once your device is completely rooted we can proceed to more interesting things.

VPN Access

VPNAndroid provides the various VPN connectivity mode out of the box, however it does not support cisco vpnc out of the box. The workaround for this is using the VPNC Widget app from the Google Play store, this should be great if your device is rooted. Once set up, you can connect to your company vpn in one click. The author of the app have released a better version since called the VPNCilla, go ahead and give the trial a go (and leave a comment in here if it works out fine sice I haven’t tried it myself :)).

Terminal Access

ConnectBotThere are two terminal emulator applications that you definitely have to install: they are ConnectBot and Android Terminal Emulator. Again they are available from Google Play.

AndroidTerminalEmulatorConnectBot allows you to connect through ssh to remote servers easily. Seriously this is the most useful App for technical support on the go. It saves the previously connected server too so you can easily connect to it again next time.

Android Terminal Emulator on the other hand, gives you the power to explore your device from a terminal. For example if you want to download something you can easily use wget.

Hacker’s Keyboard

Hackers KeyboardThere is a free keyboard from Google Play called Hacker’s Keyboard. You should not leave home without this keyboard installed, seriously. This keyboard gives you the directional arrows, ability to access special characters easily such as tilde, ability to do key combinations such as ctrl + and many more.

This is the perfect software keyboard for terminals.

Graphical FTP Application

ES File ExplorerI don’t usually need this, but if you are dealing with a server that doesn’t have its ssh access enabled such as shared hosting, this will be needed.

The great Application that I can recommend is ES File Explorer. While primarily local file manager, it can also login to FTP servers and manage its contents.

In any case, unless absolutely necessary, you wouldn’t need to do this.

Host File Modifications

Sometimes you’ll have to deal with servers setup using virtual host, without any DNS server available. This is when you need to setup your host file.

AdAwayYou may think that you can use the Android Teminal Emulator for this, but I found it too complicated. The reason being, Android loads the host file in a different partition, you’ll basically have to unmount the partition, edit the host file and mount it back in. Too much effort especially on the road.

The answer is, believe it or not, the application called AdAway. Now, I don’t really mind ads so much cause sometimes I found interesting stuff, but this application makes it so much easier to edit your host file. So download AdAway from Google Play and install it.

When installed, grant it root access. Then from the application menu, choose “Your List”. After that, simply add your host rules to the redirection list. The App will then save and reboot automatically, no headache.

UPDATE: AdAway has been removed from Google Play, so you’ll need to get it from different source. Go to http://code.google.com/p/ad-away/ for more info.

Hardware Keyboard

This I think is optional. I don’t like this personally as it adds weight and bulk to your otherwise portable tablet, but some might be more comfortable with this.

If you choose this option, make sure to install the soft keyboard called Null Keyboard. It’s a keyboard that does nothing…no really, we need this so that when the hardware keyboard is connected through bluetooth, the Android soft keyboard won’t appear.

Obviously the advantage of having a full physical keyboard like this is having full set of keys and the full real estate of the tablet screen. However this seems closer to bringing an ultrabook, which you might as well do at this stage.

Closing

So there you are. I hope this post help those who need to do after hours technical support on the go :)

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