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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Air Mouse iPhone App

My newest app find is Mobile Air Mouse developed by RPA Technology in Boston, MA. I decided to take my old Mac Mini and hook it up to our HD flat screen TV basically to use it as a DVD player. The hook up went easily after purchasing a HDMI cable to connect the Mini with the TV.

However, in order to control the Mini I still needed to connect the keyboard and mouse and, even though I have a wireless QWERTY keyboard, it still quite weird sitting on the living-room couch with a keyboard, not to mention using the mouse on "mouseable" surfaces.

Then I discovered the Air Mouse in the apps store on sale for $2.99. It fit this bill perfectly and more.

As I said, it had been my intention to simply use the Mini as a DVD player, However, the Air Mouse is so useful, surfing the web, reading emails off the Mini and viewing photos in iPhoto that there are multiple functions I can use the TV set for now that I never imagined before.


The Air Mouse application for iPhone will work with both Mac OSX 10.4 or higher and Windows PC XP or Vista but they must have wifi capability on the target computer. After purchasing the app from the App Store, you are required to go to the Mobile Air Mouse web site and download the free Air Mouser Server to be installed in your applications folder.

Once you launch the Air Mouser Server application on the target computer, you will see an icon of a yellow mouse on your menu bar if you are running a Mac, or an icon in your system tray if you are on a PC. You can then start up the iPhone app and the iPhone will automatically find the target and you are off and running. Air Mouse also lets you configure specific IP addresses, set passwords and control multiple computers. The setting are stored with the Air Mouse Server so you can control a Mac at home and a PC at the office, each keeping its own settings.


The Air Mouse has a few different screens designed specifically for running your DVD and media player as you can see in the photo above. The media screen screen contains the most common buttons you need to control most media apps. The large round middle button is used to play/pause media tracks. On either side are the Back and Next button, for going to next or previous tracks. If you double tap the Next/Back buttons they can be used to Forward or Rewind your media. Below these keys are a volume up/down, Mute, Channel Up/Down and a numeric keypad for changing channels. The Menu button has many purposes that vary depending on what program you are running on the computer but usually takes you back to the next level up or the menu selection level on the DVD player.

On the top half of the screen is the track pad. It works like the trackpad on you laptop computer allowing you to move the cursor around on the screen tap, double tap and select items or buttons on the screen.

All this was more functionality than I ever expected from an iPhone App for remotely controlling the Mini. While Apple's Remote application for controlling Apple TV is simple and elegant it can be oddly difficult to navigate menus linearly with the limited options of both the iPhone Remote App and the small white one button remote that ships with Apple TV. Air Mouse has them both beat just for running Front Row or other media apps.

BUT WAIT, there is more...

Air Mouse has another screen called web keys that can be used while you are surfing the web in Safari, Firefox or your chosen web browser. Below the top trackpad area, the web keys screen contains the most common buttons you'll need to control a web browser. The top row of keys contain Back, Search, Home and Next buttons. To open a location, double tap the search button. The second row of keys Reload, Stop, Bookmarks and Zoom In/Out buttons. These are up for the most common browsers, but if your browser is not included, you can add a new browser by clicking the Web key in the server settings for your target computer be it Windows or Mac.

With so much multimedia content being transformed and shifted to the web, you'll find as much media to access using a browser there as in any healthy DVD collection. Certainly this was more than I'd imagine I'd get from a $2.99 app.

The Air Mouse also uses the iPhones accelerometer as a substitute for the trackpad. When you are in the Accelerometer mode (you get there by tapping the crossing arrows symbol in the top left hand corner of the trackpad) you can move the pointer on the screen with hand motions while pointing the iPhone at your computer or TV screen. There is a little finesse to get used to controlling the motion and it is best for you to view the Demo video on the Air Mouse web site before trying but it really is simple and intuitive.

Air Mouse can be used in combination with any application as a substitute for the mouse and keyboard on your computer. In addition, you can assign macro functions to keys that allow you to, for instance, launch Front Row or iPhoto by one touch. The keyboard also works for text entry, typing URLs, writing in a text application or responding to emails. Air Mouse is one iPhone app that you will find increasingly more useful as you use it and one of the best Apps in 2009.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Is Apple Evil?

With success comes envy and Apple, after decades of being the underdog, is now on the receiving end a wave of success envy.

Many in the industry would say that is a good problem to have and Apple stock and sales seem to agree.

But then you've got the haters. Most would say, who cares. And I agree.

The major objections that people raise with Apple today have to do with the success of the iPhone and the Apps Store. In recent months Apple (not that it did not do so before) has been restricting applications for being available on its Apps Store. Most notably the Google Voice App and s slew of porno apps that developers and some users want Apple to sell badly.

I completely agree with the concert expressed by iPhone owners with Apple restricting Google Voice calling app, not to be confused with Google Voice that has existed on the iPhone for almost a year. Google has been an excellent partner to Apple's growth in the smartphone market, developing excellent apps like Google Maps, Google Earth, and the Google Voice driven search apps that wows non-iPhone users to the point that, I believe, it drives iPhone sales.

Apple has every right to restrict the use of applications on the iPhone that threaten the stability of the iPhone platform. They have the right to restrict apps in their store by shady or unreliable software developers that might infringe upon or sully the iPhone users experience and drive customers away.

But Google is a very reliable partner, a great software developer and they write incredible apps that sell iPhones.

Some critics speculated that in the contract between AT&T and Apple there was a clause that allow AT&T to veto or blackball applications that gave iPhone users the ability to add functions that competed with the AT&T contract. That's highly probable and even understandable since AT&T gives money to Apple in its contract. But AT&T said no, they did not stop the Google calling app from the iPhone.

At that point Apple should have put the Google app up on the Apps Store. End of story.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

10 Things to fix with iPhone 3.1

1. Wifi syncing
2. Ability to edit video (combine or string clips, add music, add voice over)
3. Control over iPhone "desktop" or ability to organize icons
4. Allow Google Voice app on iPhone for calling
5. Get rid of AT&T exclusive contract
6. Customize keyboard to add row for numbers or frequently used characters
7. Take picture by pressing anywhere on screen rather than small button
8. Customize the background under the icons
9. Give users great control over prefs, such as Hide Icons that you use infrequently but don't want to delete completely; have customizable views for Home, Work, Travel, or Weekends; easier control over toggling on/off things like accelerometer, GPS, Bluetooth, 3G, Wifi, and Edge
10. Background applications (providing Apple can insure stability)