Use your computer’s files on your Fire with Tonido

Use your computer’s files on your Fire with Tonido

Thanks to my reader, Deb Schmalz, for the heads-up on this one!

Many of us have desktop computers with a lot of files on them. They might be pictures, music, Excel spreadsheets…all kinds of things.

We simply aren’t going to take all of them and put them on a Kindle Fire. For one thing, there is only 5.36 GB of memory available on Amazon’s table for that sort of thing.

On the other hand, it would be great to be able to quickly and simply show off those pictures, listen to that music, and consult that spreadsheet with the easy portability of the Fire.

Well, Tonido lets you do that…for free.

I didn’t write about it until I’d had time to test it a bit. While there are some limitations to it, I’m very pleased with it.

Let’s go over the concept first.

You are going to set up a free account using your computer, and download software to that computer. That software is necessary to turn your computer into a “broadcaster”. When you install it, you’ll be given a server name for that computer.

Then, you download a free app to your Kindle Fire that enables it to be a “receiver”. You enter the server name for your computer and log into the account.

That gives you access to your computer’s files.

Built into the app you download is a music player and a picture viewer.

For other files, like Excel spreadsheets, you’ll need an app on your Kindle Fire that can open them (just as you would if you put the file on your Kindle Fire using your USB cable or by e-mailing it to the device).

The process was all pretty easy…I was able to listen to music, see pictures…and edit an Excel spreadsheet with an app (I tested the last one at Starbucks).

Okay, here’s the process:

Go to

http://www.tonido.com/

on your computer (not your Fire).

Download and install the software (they have different versions for different operating systems, including Macs).

Once you install it and set up the account, you’ll have a server name and a password. You’ll need those for your Kindle Fire app. One nice thing: the app will remember the account credentials, so you won’t have to enter it every time you want to use it.

Next, get this free app in the Amazon Appstore:

Tonido

You want to install that one as well.

If you are on your Fire, go to the Apps tab. Tap on Cloud. You may need to do

Settings Gear – Sync

to get it to show up.

When you log in, remember that the server name and the password are the ones you got at the Tonido site…not your wi-fi.

Once you get in, you’ll see your computer’s folders. Tap a folder to open it, tap a file to launch it.

To go back up a level, use your Kindle Fire’s normal Back arrow at the bottom of your screen. That is a change I’d like to see: some indicator to go back a level on the screen in the app, and a way to go back to Home easily. There is what looks like a home icon, but it didn’t seem to work for me. However, it is easy enough to just use the arrow key.

When you open a file, it may ask you which of a list of programs you want to use to open it.

At the bottom of the screen, there is a toolbar. Your choices are

  • Files
  • Favorites
  • Music
  • Downloads
  • Status

To listen to music, you need to first open a folder on your computer that has music. That may be the biggest negative I saw: no search capability.

Tap a song. You’ll see the music player open up. You can play it, or skip to the next song with the double chevrons (arrows with out the sticks) on your right. The songs will play in the order that they are in your folder. I didn’t see any option for a shuffle mode, Tap the Files button at the bottom to get out of the music player..your music will continue to play. If you want to stop the music, you do that within the player. If you go Home on your Fire, the music still plays. You’ll see the notification number at the top of your Kindle Fire screen near the name of your Kindle. Swipe down, then tap the Tonido banner…that will take you back into the app so you can stop the music.

To see pictures, first open a folder that has pictures.Then, you can either tap a picture to open, and then swipe to your left to see the next picture, or tap Menu at the bottom of the screen (horizontal lines in a box) and then tap Photo Gallery. You’ll get little incomplete thumbnails, but I could tell what they were.

You can add individual files or folders to your Favorites within Tonido by “long pressing” them (hold your fingertip on stylus on it for about a second. That makes it much easier to get back to a pictures or music folder, for example. You just tap Favorites at the bottom of the screen.

You can also download files…that’s great! You’ll find your downloads within your Tonido app…you do not need to be connected to wi-fi to use them.

I’ve been using it with

OfficeSuite Pro 5

I got it as a Free App of the Day: it’s currently $9.99. You don’t need to have it to make Tonido work, but if you want to edit or view Office programs, you’ll need something.

Overall, I think this is impressive. Unlike

Splashtop Remote Desktop

which I’ve reviewed previously and lets you actually use the applications on the other computer, this didn’t seem laggy at all. Splashtop does more, but honestly, it was an effort to use.

I can see huge possibilities for this. I’ll have to see if they will let me install it on my work laptop. I would so love to be able to show a (handheld) PowerPoint to somebody on my Fire! I tested that from home computer to my Fire with OfficeSuite…it was cool! It even let me mark up the slide (draw a red circle, for example) while the show was running.

Well, if you do try it out, feel free to let me know what you think! My Fire just got a lot more useful. :) Thanks, Deb!

Update: one of my regular readers and commenters (and an invaluable resource on the Amazon Kindle forums) logically asked about security concerns with Tonido. I’m going to reproduce my response here, since I know not all of you see the comments and this is an important point:

“When I worked with people designing databases and such, I would always tell them that there is a balance between security and convenience. Generally, the more secure something is, the less convenient it is to use.

For example, most people send e-mail without encrypting it…which means that it can be read by many people you don’t intend (as it bounces off their servers). Even encrypting it certainly doesn’t prevent unwanted eyes.

In the case of Tonido, they address this openly…and some research shows that they have a pretty good rep on that.

Here’s some of their information on it:

http://www.tonido.com/support/display/docs/Tonido+Security+Features

I also think this one is helpful:

http://www.tonido.com/communitywiki/doku.php?id=generalinfo:faq

It includes:

“How secure is Tonido?

Tonido has been built with security and privacy in mind. Tonido has been audited and tested by a independent security firm that specializes in application security. Furthermore, Tonido is constantly updated to protect against any potential vulnerabilities. Tonido UI is accessed via HTTP protocol and, for a fee, SSL certificate for HTTPS access is also available allowing secure access to Tonido. Tonido to Tonido communication using P2P engine is completely encrypted using AES 256 bit encryption.”

Naturally, if you use a weak password, you are more vulnerable to someone hacking your account (not hacking Tonido). If someone steals your Kindle Fire, you could be in real trouble (since you don’t have to enter your password each time).

Ideally, of course, you don’t keep any crucial confidential information on an internet-connected computer. For example, if you do your taxes on the computer, save your files on an SD card or jump drive, and disconnect it from the computer. You are still vulnerable to physical theft, of course. Another simple thing: don’t leave your computer connected to the internet when you aren’t there or while you are sleeping.”

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

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4 Responses to “Use your computer’s files on your Fire with Tonido”

  1. tuxgirl Says:

    the description of how this works *scares* me badly. In order for this to work the way you describe, Tonido has to open a port allowing your device to connect in and grab files. That sounds like something that could very easily be used maliciously.

    I have read about some known vulnerabilities in Splashtop, which made it into a hacker’s dream come true. This sounds pretty similar, and there is no way I would ever allow it on my computer. No point in risking *everything* on my computer just to get a file to my phone or kindle.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, tuxgirl!

      I probably should have addressed that concern…I was up late (for me) finishing that one. :) Thanks for asking the question!

      When I worked with people designing databases and such, I would always tell them that there is a balance between security and convenience. Generally, the more secure something is, the less convenient it is to use.

      For example, most people send e-mail without encrypting it…which means that it can be read by many people you don’t intend (as it bounces off their servers). Even encrypting it certainly doesn’t prevent unwanted eyes.

      In the case of Tonido, they address this openly…and some research shows that they have a pretty good rep on that.

      Here’s some of their information on it:

      http://www.tonido.com/support/display/docs/Tonido+Security+Features

      I also think this one is helpful:

      http://www.tonido.com/communitywiki/doku.php?id=generalinfo:faq

      It includes:

      “How secure is Tonido?

      Tonido has been built with security and privacy in mind. Tonido has been audited and tested by a independent security firm that specializes in application security. Furthermore, Tonido is constantly updated to protect against any potential vulnerabilities. Tonido UI is accessed via HTTP protocol and, for a fee, SSL certificate for HTTPS access is also available allowing secure access to Tonido. Tonido to Tonido communication using P2P engine is completely encrypted using AES 256 bit encryption.”

      Naturally, if you use a weak password, you are more vulnerable to someone hacking your account (not hacking Tonido). If someone steals your Kindle Fire, you could be in real trouble (since you don’t have to enter your password each time).

      Ideally, of course, you don’t keep any crucial confidential information on an internet-connected computer. For example, if you do your taxes on the computer, save your files on an SD card or jump drive, and disconnect it from the computer. You are still vulnerable to physical theft, of course. Another simple thing: don’t leave your computer connected to the internet when you aren’t there or while you are sleeping.

  2. Edward Boyhan Says:

    Tonido and Splashtop are just two examples of a new paradigm for connecting portable devices and computers to each other using a wifi network. In many cases you can think of this as using a wifi network as a replacement for the ubiquitous USB cable.

    When the KF was announced, there was much gnashing of teeth (among a certain contingent of reviewers and commenters) because the KF didn’t have a lot of onboard memory , no SD card slot, and the USB connector was client-only. Hence there was no obvious way to expand beyond the 8GB provided (save for the cloud).

    This complaint has been muted quite a bit by the development of wifi apps that give one flexible access to storage on desktops, laptops, and other portable devices such as smartphones and tablets as long as they share a common wifi network.

    In addition to apps, hardware manufactures (including tonido — with the tonido2 device) have developed disk drives, NAS servers, and memory stick devices that connect over a wifi network in place of a USB cable (most of these are compatible with the KF).

    Two other apps in this space worth mentioning are: wifi file explorer pro, and ES file explorer. The former lets you look at your KF or Android smartphone files and folders from any device with a browser. So from my KF I can see the filesystem on my Android phone and vice versa; and from a laptop/desktop I can see the file systems of both the KF and my smartphone. ES file explorer lets you go the other way: from your smartphone or KF you can see the file systems on any SMB network file server (all windows, and most linux systems, and macs). This latter approach lets you have access to laptop/desktop filesystems using OS native semantics/security conventions that one is used to on these systems (security for the most part is whatever is provided by the SMB server and can be enterprise class if desired/needed). Again all participants need to be on the same wifi network. When using this latter approach no app stub has to be installed on the laptop/desktop as network file sharing is already built-in to most OS’s natively — this is an improvement IMO over the approach taken by Tonido.

    Because security and encryption standards on public non-home wifi networks is a mixed bag, I recommend doing this kind of stuff only on a home wifi network where one (presumably) has control of the wifi security environment. Also for performance reasons, I wouldn’t use any of this unless the wifi network is of the 802.11n variety (often called Wireless N). Doing this on an 802.11g network might be a tad sluggish.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Edward!

      I’ve written about

      WiFi File Explorer PRO

      and

      before. I’ve only used the latter to explore the files on my Fire, though…

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