Quantum Code – full review
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Following the update to Front Row recently made available by Apple, Ive received a lot of email regarding using the Apple Remote to control Front Row. Apple, being as stubborn as they are, have yet to provide a solution to using the Apple Remote with any recent Mac. Even if it only served to control just iTunes, Im sure Apple would sell tones of these thing.
The appeal of the Apple Remote is simple to understand:
- Its was designed to be beautiful and Mac-like.
- It was designed to be small, but with very tactile and well laid out buttons.
- It was designed to be simple. You already have 500+ button combinations with your keyboard and mouse. Why does your remote need another 40?
So the question still remains: How can I use the Apple Remote to control my Mac?
Many of you are probably thinking: Why not just use you cell phone and bluetooth? My reason is simple: Your cell phone is not a remote. Your cell phone is a cell phone. I find the solution of using your cell to control a Mac interesting, but still a bit quirky. Even once its been setup, its not always as simple as point and push. Still, if your interested, there are solution to use Romeo or Sailling Clicker to control Front Row.
The Holy Grail
The Holy Grail: the perfect solution that may seem possible but is often elusive. In this case its clear what the Holy Grail would be. You buy the iPod Universal Dock and Apple Remote and can easily control iTunes, Front Row, Keynote, or whatever other application is in the forefront. Thats just not going to happen folks. Apple is as of yet unwilling to allow this and I havent been able to figure how to use the Dock as an infrared receiver.
The Keyspan Digital Media Remote is probably a good solution for most readers. MacInTouch readers report that Front Row works with the Keyspan Remote, so long as you run the Keyspan application and configure the needed keystrokes.
The Keyspan Remote for iTunes is a powerful infrared remote that allows you to control iTunes and other multimedia applications on your Mac or PC. According to Keyspan, it would be easy to map keyboard commands to the remote:
The remote controls your multimedia applications by sending them the same keystrokes that you do when you control the application from a keyboard. For example, pressing the spacebar on the keyboard causes iTunes to play a track. The remote sends the same key to iTunes when you press the play button on the remote allowing you to control iTunes from across the room.
The Keyspan Digital Media Remote receiver reportedly works with other remotes like Apples but you have to figure out the infrared signals of the remote first, and then convert them for use by Keyspan. Dan Eble reports on macosxhints.com:
To that end, I have created a web page with a script that converts remote control configurations from Linux Infrared Remote Control [LIRC] format to Keyspan DMR format. The script is still young, but I have had some success with configurations for Sony and Pioneer remotes, as well as JVC devices other than VCRs.
Configurations in the Keyspan format to use the Apple Remote with the Keyspan receiver will come in a weeks time, unless someone can submit them to me earlier.
IRTrans and iRed
IR Trans USB
IR Trans (as in an IR transceiver) can send and receive infrared signals. It connects over USB, and has full driver support. IR Trans transforms your Mac into a programmable remote control. It is capable of learning the codes of almost any remote control. It can then send those codes from your Mac or receive them and pass them to your Mac.
The IR Trans is $99 US, currently priced as a special for Mac users. It is certainly not cheap, but I was impressed with the hardware and its capabilities. It may not have the aesthetics of the Apple Remote, but I was able to hide the transceiver and USB cable under my desk. Even with the IR Trans located there, I was able to send and receiver signals from a tested distance of 22 feet. Now the hardware alone would be useless to a Mac user, but the IR Trans comes with a registered license to use iRed.
iRed is an amazingly versatile application, powered by the IR Trans and ApplScript. With iRed you can control your Macs audio and video applications with any infrared remote control, or use your Mac to control any infrared device like a TV, VCR, or light-switch.
iRed makes it very easy to learn your remote controls signals. When your IR Trans receives those signals it passes them to iRed which can then control applications on your Mac using AppleScript. You can even do the reverse an have Applescript control iRed, and then have IR Trans send out signals. The built in AppleScript support makes the possibilities endless. Here are some of the things Ive been able to do this week.
- Use my Apple Remote to control Front Row and Keynote if either is in the forefront, or control iTunes if not.
- Have the menu button on the Apple Remote not only launch Front Row but also dim the lights to the leaving room too (we already had an infrared light-switch). This is incredibly cool to experience.
- Use my satellite remote to control iTunes, including rating songs, changing playlists, switching visualizations, or shuffling songs.
- Have iCal wake me up at 9 am by telling iRed to sends out the remote signals to turn on my TV, and then change the channel to CNN. I received this product on Tuesday and have been.
- Have iCal remind me that Survivor is on by telling iRed to sends out the remote signals to change the channel to CBS at 8 pm.
iRed does have somewhat of a steep learning curve if you really want to do some complicated things, but after about an hour I understood iReds workflow. iRed also includes ready-made AppleScript which make it incredibly easily to control your applications with your remote. With iTunes I only had to open the included iTunes example, click the function I wanted to edit (like next track), click Learn IR Code, and then hit the corresponding button on my remote.
When I first visited iReds website I was surprised to see that there was already support for Front Row, as there was an included Virtual Remote Control that had the layout of the Apple Remote. I was able to quickly teach iRed the codes of my Apple Remote, and I was then finally able to control Front Row with my Apple Remote. I was able to launch Front Row, browse menus, change volume, and other such thing. The only limitation was rewinding/fastforward or very quickly scrolling, which are done by holding down the respective button. This is somewhat disappointing, but I dont really do those things anyway, and its more of an AppleScript limit than one of iRed.
With some further tweaking I was able to not only control Front Row, but also iTunes when Front Row was not active. For those who understand AppleScript, here is an example of AppleScripts I created, which iRed runs when the centre button it pressed:
tell application "System Events"
if Front Row is frontmost application then
key code 49 spacebar
tell application iTunes
2605 end try
While the current version comes of iRed comes with a Virtual Remote Control, Ive created my own custom one for use with the Apple Remote (or any remote, but youll have to teach iRed the infrared codes). It launches and controls Front Row, and is also able to control iTunes when your using any application other than Front Row.
An Early Review
I received my IR Trans on Tuesday and have been having a lot of fun with it and iRed. While I dont have time to do a full review this week, expect one in the future. Still, I can recommend the IR Trans and iRed combo if you want to control your Mac with your remotes. Its been an honest joy to use Front Row this week, especially when controlled with my Apple Remote from across the room. Although together the combo is priced at $99 US, power users can certainly get much use from its versatility. I give both the IR Trans and the iRed four out of five stars.
IR Trans ★★★★★
$99 US, plus shipping
pros: very long range, strong infrared transceiver, excellent driver support cons: price
included with the required IR Trans, ask for IR Trans for Mac
pros: versatile with good support for AppleScrpit, includes example controls, easy to learn remote signals
cons: learning curve may fustrate some users (see online documentation)