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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.

REQUIREMENTS FOR USING

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.

USING AIR MOUSE FOR MEDIA

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.

3 comments:

Holy said...

Wow this is really a good new for everyone.Our very own iPhone / iPod touch app is finally really available in Apple's much talked about and critically acclaimed App Store.I would love to purchase it so will book for it soon.

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Horace Jones said...

How do people feel about a 2.99 pricetag for this app? I have not seen it reviewed yet on many of the iphone apps review sites, so I'm wondering if this one delivers the bang for the buck. Certainly the description leads me to think so, but what is the consensus?

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