HippoRemote - An iphone Remote For Your HTPC

Nov 10 2009
hipporemote_logo.png

HippoRemote: An Iphone Remote For Your HTPC

Every HTPC user has had a time where they needed a keyboad and mouse; whether it was for software updates, viewing streaming video content from a popular website or you just wanted to use your 100" front projector screen as the worlds largest word processor.  There are many products that fill the niche of a small keyboard with a touchpad mouse for HTPC use but few have precision and accuracy of a capacitive touch screen.  This is where the iPhone and HippoRemote come in.

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Introduction

  

There have many many time in the past 4 years that I have had to break out my wireless keyboard and mouse and use my right pant leg as a make shift mouse pad in order to get my HTPC working correctly; oftentimes this event takes place right before an important airing of our favorite TV show, sporting event or when hosting a party.  I personally hate using a keyboard and mouse with my HTPC and predominately use my MCE remote control or my Logitech Harmony 890, but there are sometimes when a keyboard and mouse are essential.   

This is where the iPhone comes in handy; with a WIFI network, an iPhone and a HTPC you can have a powerful combination......... a replacement for your pantleg mouse pad.  Without a doubt the biggest improvement in touchscreens recently has been the use and affordability of glass capacity.  They are significantly easier to use, more accurate and clearer than their counterparts the resistive touch screen.  Add that people are trying to replace everything from their TI-83 calculator to their GPS system with their iPhone and you have the demand for an iPhone app to replace your keyboard/mouse and WMC remote control.
 
There are many iPhone apps that work with Windows Media Center, ones that will allow access to your Music Library while your screen is off and ones that will have you waiving your hands in the air like you just don't care to move the mouse, but only one uses the power of the iPhones multitouch screen, intuitive keyboard and application profiles providing a dynamic remote control with access to every command for each of your favorite programs and looks better than this:
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 Beauty and the Geek Jeans by Erik De Nijs

Installation

  

Installation 

Installing the HippoRemote is actually two installations; one application for the iPhone and one for the HTPC.  The iPhone app install is the process of installing any iPhone app.  [Itunes Link] The HTPC software installation requires you to visit the manufacturer's website, download the application and install it on your HTPC.  HippoRemote provides an easy to follow tutorial on the install for your choice of OS: Linux, OS:X and XP,Vista, Windows 7.   I will only be reviewing this as an application for use with Windows 7 and Media Center.  It is as simple as clicking on the logo for your OS, reading the directions, downloading the application and installing it. 

 

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 Hipporemote.com Setup Page For All Three Major Operating Systems

 

The only configuration that is needed for HippoRemote to work is creating a VNC password, setting a static IP with your router, and then typing in your password and IP address into the iPhone app and you are off and running.... err typing.

There are two optional steps, which really are beneficial if you plan on using the application on a regular or semi-regular basis, option 1 is  installing Bonjour for Windows and option 2 is setting up the HTPC software as a service so it starts up when Windows Starts.  I chose to do both optional configurations and both are simple and with the provided tutorial from HippoRemote were completed in under 10 minutes.

Installing the Apple Bonjour Print Server gives users the ability to add computers to their Hipporemote on the iPhone with out needing to write down the IP of the PC.  This allows for faster and easier access to your computer and definately helpful if you are using this with mulitple PCs in different enviornments.

 

 

 

Programming&heading= Using the Remote

Using the Remote

Once you have the applications install you can begin using your iPhone as a remote control.  The application automatically detects what program is running when you connect to the HTPC and automatically loads a profile.  With Media Center is loads the most common buttons and tasks to the bottom bar of the application.  The default screen is a simple touchpad, which allows you to control the HTPC mouse.  The unique part about HippoRemotes touchpad is it not only allows for multitouch, 2 fingers for "right click" but is also has a revolutionary scroll wheel, pun intended.  The scroll wheel is located at the bottom of the screen and when touched a small circle appears in the center of the touchpad.  Once the circle appears you now drag your finger in a circular motion around the touchpad to scroll, counterclockwise for down and clockwise for up.  This is the best implementation of a scroll wheel I have ever use on any touch pad.  It is significantly easier and faster to use than a normal notebooks scroll design and really adds a benifit when surfing the web on your 100" front projection screen, or perhaps more mild mannared 22" LCDs.

 

 

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 Standard Touchpad with Scroll Wheel

 

 

The WMC touchpad also has a fairly standard Arrow Pad, which includes a D-Pad for moving around the WMC UI, Page Up and Page Down, Back and Guide button.  There are also links to the DVD Menu, Recorded TV, Music and Photo Libraries along the bottom of the Arrow Pad.

 

 

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 WMC Profile: ArrowPad

 

There is also a Playback Pad, which includes normal commands for controlling the payback of media; play, pause, stop, FF, RWD, Skip, Replay, Volume Up/Down and Channel Up/Down

 

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 WMC Profile: PlayPad

 

 The last WMC specific Screen is the Channel Pad, which is just a standard number pad that can be used to enter in a TV Channel's number.

 

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 WMC Profile: Number Pad

 

 

 

Conclusion

Final Thoughts

After using the HippoRemote on my main HTPC for about a week I have noticed that I have not needed to break out my spare keyboard and mouse at all.  Prior to using this app I was contemplating purchasing a Logitech Dinvo Mini or Edge for occasional use with my HTPC but I now see no need.  When I need to use a keyboard or a mouse in order to restard WMC when it locks up or when I want to access websites or show a PowerPoint presentation with my HTPC, just pull out my iPhone and within 3-5 seconds am in complete control of my HTPC.

Pros:

  • Application Specific Profiles
  • Scroll Wheel design
  • Multitouch support
  • Large Application Specific Keys
  • Price $4.99
  • Use of standard iPhone Keyboard
  • Drag function with the touch pad.  When clicking-hold you can drag an icon with multiple finger swipes and then tap the screen to drop the icon.

 

Cons:

  • Playback Pad and Arrow Pad are separate.  Many times I found myself switching back and forth from the Arrow Pad and Playback Pad, which became tedious.  Adding Volume and a Play/Pause to the Arrow Pad would be a nice touch.
  • Application Launching: the software supports auto-launching applications when you swtich to its profile, which is a great idea but the implementation is clunky.  It basically is a macro for clicking the start orb, then searching for the application by typing in the name and then clicking on it.  It would be great if you could add the folder path to the application.  I found this part of the app to be lacking and not really worth using.  It was faster and I had a higher success rate of just using the touch pad to move the mouse and click the icon for the program I wanted to launch.

 

This application has a lot to it, much more than I reviewed here.  It has the ability to auto-launch programs, control multiple PCs with multiple different operating software, and does most of it fairly well.  I have tried some of the other PC remotes for the iPhone and HippoRemote had the best touchpad, best keyboard, WMC specific keys and had the most functionality.  But for me nothing can replace my everyday use of my Logitech Harmony remote.  I cannot turn on/off the TV, Screen/Projector or my surround sound with the iPhone and there is the issue that my wife does not have an iPhone.  For what the app is it does it well and it is a great tool to have for controlling my HTPC.

 Thank you HippoRemote for providing the software for review and I hope the development of the app continues.

 

HippoRemote Website

iTunes Link

 

 

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