Quix

Some of our recent picks have been for online services that make use of bookmarklets. Google Reader, Boxee, ZooTools, Readability and Instapaper all make use of bookmarklets. This is all well and good but my browser bar is struggling under the weight of so many links. Thats where Quix step’s in.

Quix is an extensible bookmarklet. What’s that? It’s a bookmarklet (another one!) that allows you quick access to common internet commands and also allows you to extend it, adding in commands that you use often. So using Quix i remove many of the bookmarklets that I use day to day and access them via keyboard shortcuts. So how does it work.

At the most simple level, visit the Quix website, drag the Quix bookmarklet to your browser bar and your good to go. Want to do a google search for IMAX glasgow. Launch Quix and type:

g imax glasgow

Boom. A google search for IMAX and Glasgow will be run. I see that Avatar is on. To get some info Quix can help again

imdb Avatar

I now have the IMDB page for Avatar. This time I ran the search with a space in front of the command. This opened the search in a new tab in Safari. I want to save that page for reading later. Open Quix and type

evernote

The current page is saved into Evernote. The list of commands on the Quix site shows a full list of all the sites and services supported. It’s extensive and ever growing. One awkward step is launching the Quix bookmarklet. Having to select it with a mouse and then typing feels a bit sluggish. On Safari, there is a keyboard shortcut to launch shortcuts on the bookmark bar, so clicking CMD+1 will launch Quix if it’s the first bookmark in the bar. Very nice. Chrome and Firefox via an extension allow for shortcuts to launch Quix as well – see the Quix website on how to setup each browser.

So far so good. It’s easy to see what a time and space saver Quix can be. The feature I like the most though is the ability to add your own commands. The syntax page details how to add your commands but basically you create a text file that is hosted somewhere – Dropbox, MobileMe or your own webspace for example. You then add commands in the format “shortcut executable description”. The executable can make use of the following replacement tokens:

%s Replaced by any search terms that were entered after the command and / or any text that was selected when the command was issued. There’s a special case of this: %s_, this does the same except that it replaces spaces with underscores ( _ ) instead of plus signs, this is used in the Wikipedia command in the example file.
%r Replaced by the URL you were on when the command was issued.%rsReplaced by a bit.ly shortened version of the URL you were on when the command was issued.
%d Replaced by the domain you were on when the command was issued.
%t Replaced by the title of the page you were on when the command was issued.

So its very easy to add commands. Before you can use the commands you need to create a new bookmarklet that calls your custom file – visit the extend page to create the new bookmarklet. That’s it – your good to go. One issue I did have is that it can take a while for the bookmarklet to pick up new commands added to your custom file. To get around this open Quix and type ‘debug’ which clears the cache and reloads the custom file.

If your interested in my custom command, it can be found on Github. This is a fork of Merlin Mann’s original file which contained some very useful commands.

Hopefully you’ll read this an install Quix as it is incredibly useful especially when you start to customise what it can do. if your still in doubt, watch the screencast below demoing Quix from the developer himself.

An introduction to Quix from Joost de Valk on Vimeo.

DigitalOutbox Episode 38

DigitalOutbox Episode 38
In this episode the team discuss Windows Phone 7 Series, Google Buzz and ChatRoulette. Plumbing the depths.

Playback
Listen via iTunes
Listen via M4A
Listen via MP3

Shownotes
0:58 – Windows Phone 7 Series
– Brand new UI
– Fresh, fun, colourful, connected, customisable
– Different to everything else
– Zune HD is similar
– very little visual flair besides clean typography and transition animations
– I love it – makes iPhone look old (Ian’s comment by the way)
– I really like but do wonder about the battery life on something that active and connected
– dictating rigid specs for 7 Series devices (a specific CPU and speed, screen aspect ratio and resolution, memory, and even button configuration)
– doing away with carrier or partner UI customizations such as Sense or TouchWiz
– Looks like they have started from scratch – great move
– The app’s are clean, stripped down, minimalist
– Zune intergrated for music and radio
– Xbox Live
– No games to demo but
– Will have games
– turn based games supported
– Friends list
– Messages
– Achievement points
– Avatars
– Dev opportunities mentioned in videos
– Social networking
– Status updates from friends across social networks
– Really nicely done
– Apps – old apps won’t work
– 6 months until this phone launches
– Outlook looks really nice!
– Serious competition to iPhone
– I’m using an old phone!
– Game on. Three way fight – Apple vs Google vs Microsoft
14:24 – Google Buzz
– Google Buzz is a grass
– Automatically shows your followers, even those ones auto created based on your e-mail habits
– http://gmailblog.blogspot.com/2010/02/new-buzz-start-up-experience-based-on.html
– Will suggest followers rather than automatically creating them
– Will no longer auto connect to picasa and google reader shares
– Tab allowing you to show/not show buzz or disable completely
– Lots of Buzz users and improvements already
– Privacy issue – now more visible option to not show followers/people you follow on your public profile
– Ability to block anyone who starts following you
– More clarity on which of your followers/people you follow can appear on your public profile
– Noisy, can’t see easily whats new
– At least google are responding quickly to the privacy concerns
20:19 – New Google Products
– Google Goggles Translation
– http://mashable.com/2010/02/17/google-goggles-translation/
– At Mobile World Congress Google demo’d experimental Android visual search app that can translate the text in captured images.
– German – English only at the moment.
– Expected uses – street signs and menu items. So know when travelling in Germany with your Android phone, you’ll know exactly what kind of sausage you’re ordering.
– Chrome for Mac
– http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2010/02/bringing-extensions-to-google-chrome.html
– Now supports extensions in the beta release
– Also supports bookmarks sync
– Fast!
– Could replace Firefox as my cross platform browser
25:34 – BBC to release iPhone apps
– BBC have announced they will be developing smartphone apps to deliver it’s news and sport content
– Text, images, sound and video content.
– Not going down well with Newspaper Publishers Association (NPA) – say it will cripple a developing market.
29:04 – Wired coming to iPad
– Wired Magazine Editor-in-Chief Chris Anderson announced at the Technology, Entertainment and Design conference on Friday that the publication would be releasing its content for the iPad by summer.
– Readers can sift through the contents horizontally and when they find an article they want to read, touch and drag their finger on the first page vertically to browse through the pages up and down.
– They can also turn the device horizontally to take advantage of the automatically-rotating display to view two pages side by side like a magazine and zoom out to see thumbnails of the content all at once.
– The device allows for integrated media so readers can read a product review and touch a photo to jump into a video of the product. Advertisements can also be interactive. Clark touched a Camaro ad to flip it around 360 degrees.
– Will this be cheaper than paper?
– Despite all the Apple/Adobe hate, the app was created on Adobe Air and migrated to ipad with Adobe tools.
34:52 – Fisher Price iXL
– Starting ’em young. It’s tech for kids aged 3-6.
– When I were a lad we got the the fisher price radio or record player – if we were lucky. Kids these days don’t know they’re born with their kindle/iPad like things.
36:12 – Sony exist OLED Market
– Stops selling in Japan – still active in EU and USA
– 2 years after 11″ OLED it’s ow pulling out audio
– Is OLED really the future, long term at least?
– 11″ is still £3500
– LG – big screen OLED in 2012
– 7 years until they fall to todays LCD values
41:11 – PleaseRobMe
– Site aggregates public check-ins form foursquare and twitter that say they have left home
– Got a lot of press but they aren’t out to help robbers
– Trying to show dangers of sharing so much locational information online and how it could be abused
– i.e. service knows your home and knows you’ve left…not smart
– They’ve now removed the ability to search by location and username
43:31 – ChatRoulette
– All the bizarre of the internet in one place

Picks
Ian
Quix
– Extendable Bookmarklet
– http://quixapp.com/help/#basic-commands
– Works well in safari (cmd 1 to open) and in chrome and firefox with right extension – not so hot in IE
– Can extend it with your own commands

Chris
Baby Head Swap Images

Unison 2

When I moved to the Mac platform a few years ago one area of software that wasn’t well supported was newsgroup readers. There was a few but the one that stood out was Unison from Panic Software. Early in January they announced Unison 2 and I was surprised – what could they really do to justify an upgrade?

The first aspect they have addressed is making the textual world of newsgroups far more visual. Instead of seeing 1000’s of groups to browse with you can select a group o groups via the Directory. This then lists all music groups for example or all Mac groups. You can then a select a group and Unison will download the latest headers for you to browse and read. You can also subscribe to a group and each time you launch Unison it will update the groups with the latest content.

You can also use All Groups to step through the different groups available or just use the search facility. Type in a search string and all groups that match the string will be returned. Easy and fast. Newsgroups are really just lots of text messages but have been used for years to carry binary files as well. If you want to use newsgroups as a messaging platform then Unison helps with good support for threaded messages, messages updated on launching the app and a clean, clear interface. You can also reply in HTML (boo) or plain text (yah!) to messages so all formatting options should be covered.

Despite the nice messaging features most people will want to download from binary groups and Unison 2 has some nice upgrades in that area. First of all, browsing group messages will actually display pictures and music files directly in Unison rather than seeing 10’s or 100’s of text messages. You can even play the music from within Unison but to be honest this isn’t the best way of using Unison. It supports NZB files which makes downloading files as easy as using a search engine. NZB is an xml based file that groups together message ID’s for a particular file or set of files. So if I wanted to download the latest episode of Lost, instead of searching for and selecting 1000’s of messages I search for and download one NZB file which unison use’s to grab the correct messages.

Once the messages have been downloaded, Unison 2 will now extract the files, use PAR files to repair any broken files and then clean up the PAR and ZIP/RAR files when the file has been extracted. No need for any helper app’s as Unison does it all. Another new feature is the Search Browser which connects to popular NZB search engines and allows you to search and download NXB files form within Unison rather than an external browser or search tool. You can customise the search engines used so if you have a favourite site or paid for access to one of the private search engines then you can use it as well.

In use I’ve found it to be fast and reliable and the new features have really added to the usability of the application. Unison 2 costs $29 for one licence or $18 for an upgrade form version 1. I think that’s a bargain for the functionality you get in return. If you are a heavy binary newsgroup user then another option is SABnzdb which is a cross platform binary newsgroup reader that doesn’t have a GUI but once setup is very powerful and offers a number of scriptable and customisable features but for my occasional toe dipping into newsgroups, Unison 2 is my tool of choice.

Mac Mini Media Centre – XBMC

Welcome to the seventh of a series of posts on setting up a Mac Mini Media Centre. This post will look at the daddy of open source media centre app’s, XBMC. When reviewing Plex and Boxee I mentioned that both were forks from XBMC, or Xbox Media Centre to give it it’s full title. In 2004 Xbox Media Centre was born out of another well known app – Xbox media Player. Both app’s were designed as media playback applications for Microsoft’s first console, the Xbox.

When I say Xbox, of course I mean a chipped Xbox. Chipping the Xbox and installing software like XBMC really showed the potential of a games console to act as a media centre device. No restriction on codecs, a great community constantly upgrading the software meant my chipped Xbox was untouchable for quite a few years. In fact it’s still a great media player today except the chip on the original Xbox couldn’t handle HD which for me is a deal breaker. So what does XBMC offer compared to the forked products?

On first pass you can see that Plex and XBMC are very similar products. They share many of the same menu’s, options and skins which in some way isn’t a surprise although Boxee is very different in use than XBMC. In fact when you install the correct skin in XBMC you could be forgiven in thinking that XBMC is exactly the same as Plex. Almost. If you want to read about the functionality that XBMC offers, re-read the Plex review. There are a few differences though. Media shares are easier to add to XBMC and I found the menu’s generally a bit easier to use and follow in XBMC.

TV and Video’s are also browsable using the same rich content that the scrapers bring to Plex (unlike Boxee) but Music doesn’t integrate with iTunes in the same way as Plex. In fact the biggest difference I could see is that Plex has the Plex media Server which acts as a bridge between Plex and your locally stored media. It’s this that lifts Plex above XBMC in day to day use.

XBMC can also be extended via scripts and plugins. These aren’t as well organised as in Plex or Boxee but there is arguably a wider variety that allow you to access online content not only via audio and video but also via torrents and newsgroups which can integrate into XBMC. This won’t be for everyone though and I again prefer the easier to use accessibility of Plex and Boxee when it comes to installing and using plugins. With full skin support and some great skins available the look and feel is really down to personal preference and there are more skins available than in Plex which does have ports of the popular XBMC skins.

There are two iPhone app’s that work with XBMC. XBMC remote (opens in iTunes) is similar to the Boxee remote in that it allows for full control of XBMC from the iPhone. It has two modes – standard which controls XBMC via buttons and gesture which again I found a bit fiddly to use. It costs £1.79 but if you like XBMC it’s cheap for the features it gives you. Another app of more interest is XBMC Music Streamer (opens in iTunes) which allows you to stream music from XBMC to your iPhone. Again the app is £1.79 and although I’ve not tried it myself it’s got good reviews on the App Store an on other web sites so looks a good choice if you ned to stream your music collection.

Out of the three Media Centre tools I’ve used XBMC probably has the most active forums/developments but some of the developments are also in fairly obscure area’s. With a fully set-up XBMC and Plex it can be hard to tell the difference but for day to day usage I prefer Plex and will be sticking to that as my media player of choice. If you want to dabble with scripts and get into the guts of your media software then XBMC is the better choice. Either way, your spoiled for choice.

The next post in out Mac Mini series will look at other useful media applications that you will find useful alongside Plex, Boxee or XBMC. Until then, happy viewing.

DigitalOutbox Episode 37

DigitalOutbox Episode 37
In this episode the team discuss Google and your friends, sitting in a tree, b-u-z-z-i-n-g. Plus, Chris and his jowls.

Playback
Listen via iTunes
Listen via M4A
Listen via MP3

Shownotes
1:17 – Warner Stops Streaming
– Warner music will not continue to licence free streaming services.
– Not clear whether this affects existing licences with Spotify / Last.fm etc.
– CNET UK report Warner bands include “Arctic Monkeys, My Chemical Romance, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Talib Kweli, Green Day, Biffy Clyro, Marina and the Diamonds, and that nice Michael Bubble. Warners stalwarts Metallica already refuse to stream their music, the grumpy gets.”
– Warner Music want to see subscription models. They don’t like downloads or add supported free services which they see as not returning enough money. They believe a subscription model could reach a far wider audience than downloads… even for people not interested in buying music….
– What? More than a free, ad supported service? He’s deluding himself. As ever, they are looking at the music being listened to and trying to monetize every last bit – not taking into account that people will just not listen if they charge – or just as likely, listen to stolen copies instead – just because to them it’s not worth the money.
4:44 – Google Social Circle
– If you have a Google profile and are logged in, search results form social circle now displayed at bottom of first page of search results
6:34 – Google Buzz
– Google Buzz is a new way to start conversations about the things you find interesting
– Built into gMail
– Key feature #1: Auto-following
– Key feature #2: Rich, fast sharing experience
– Key feature #3: Public and private sharing
– Key feature #4: Inbox integration
– Key feature #5: Just the good stuff
– We focused on building an easy-to-use sharing experience that richly integrates photos, videos and links, and makes it easy to share publicly or privately (so you don’t have to use different tools to share with different audiences).
– Plus, Buzz integrates tightly with your existing Gmail inbox, so you’re sure to see the stuff that matters most as it happens in real time.
– On your phone, Google Buzz is much more than just a small screen version of the desktop experience. Mobile devices add an important component to sharing: location.
– Posts tagged with geographical information have an extra dimension of context — the answer to the question “where were you when you shared this?” can communicate so much. And when viewed in aggregate, the posts about a particular location can paint an extremely rich picture of that place.
– Webapp for android and iphone
– Facebook in gmail or is it more like Friendfeed?
– We’ve relied on other services’ openness in order to build Buzz (you can connect Flickr and Twitter from Buzz in Gmail), and Buzz itself is not designed to be a closed system
– Any item in Buzz can become a conversation.
– We put these Buzz conversations into you Gmail inbox. And if someone comments while you’re looking at it in your inbox, comments come in in realtime.
– Things go to your inbox when people comment on your stuff, or when they comment on your comments.
– Also when someone @replies you – just like Twitter. When you type @ and an initial, you get an autocomplete to see who you want to send it to from your contacts.
– Will be rolled out to gmail users across the world in the next few days
– Google Buzz was presented as a destination site, but a look at its APIs and developer roadmap indicate that it may actually intend to be a platform – the central hub for a world of distributed social networking
– Google Buzz data can be syndicated out to other services using the standard data formats called Atom, Activity Streams, MediaRSS and PubSubHubbub
19:10 – Google Fibre Network
– Up to 1gbps at prices US are used to paying for normal BB
– Are we scared of Google yet 🙂 Google Earth less of an application, more of a mission statement.
20:43 – UK Video Games Sales Drop
– Over-the-counter unit sales of console games were down six per cent compared to 2008’s figure.
– Sales of games for handheld devices dropped a whopping 25 per cent, according to GfK Chart-Track.
– partly due to last year’s 62 per cent drop in PlayStation 2 game sales.
(Yes but you can buy 8 PS2 games at £5 compared to 1 PS3/Xbox360 game at £40. No wonder unit sales are down. Revenue’s still quite healthy – Henry)
– software sales for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 were up last year, while Wii game sales were down about ten per cent on 2008.
– Console sales dipped by 24 per cent between 2008 and 2009.
25:40 – Glitch
– Glitch is a massively-multiplayer game, playable in the browser and built in the spirit of the web.
– The game will launch by the end of 2010
– From co-founder of flickr
– For starters, it’s all one big world. Which means everyone is playing the same game and anyone’s actions have the ability to affect every other player in the game.
27:30 – iMac Fixes
– Production halted
– The Apple Discussions forum on the topic now has some 271 pages (up from 191 a couple weeks ago) of comments/complaints and over 500,000 views (up from 400,000 a few weeks ago). It has more views than all the other threads combined — by far.
31:50 – Opera for iPhone
– to be launched next week
– We plan to reveal Opera Mini for iPhone in an exclusive press and partner preview during the 2010 Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona
32:57 – SeeSaw
– Invites now going out
– TV from BBC, C4, C5
– Limited range, not new progs
– Adverts before watching
– So so quality
– Can’t see why I’d use this over iPlayer or 4OD – less ad’s on 4OD for same content
– Looking to add more content through the year, mulling over subscription model
37:24 – Vodafone does a Ratner
– On twitter says…is fed up of dirty homo’s and is going after beaver
– Hacked?
– We’re really sorry. A severe breach of rules by staff in our building, dealing with that internally. Please keep your faith in us.
– I guess not.

Picks
Ian
Movist
– Alternative to VLC
– Minimal
– Crap icon
– Excellent keyboard support
– fast and great file support
– Movist it’s a beautiful, minimal player, with great support for codecs and, most of all, huge room for improvement.

Virtual Revolution
– 4 part series on the internet and web
– First two parts have been excellent
– Catch series on iPlayer
– Web site allows you to view episodes, clips, twitter and flickr feeds, blog – very nice

Henry
Inkscape
– Opensource drawing package.
– Cross platform
– SVG files

Shakeel
Tripit
– FREE!
– forward your individual trip detail confirmation emails to plans@tripit.com and your whole trip, from flight, car hire and hotel details are saved so all the details can be viewed and accessed from one location.
– very useful for frequent flyers/travellers
– TripIt Pro – 30 day free trial, $69 per year
– gain itinerary monitoring and mobile alerts
– track frequent flyer points

Chris
AnyDVD
– AnyDVD SlySoft (79€)
– Enables copying of copy protected content you own.
– Also enables region free viewing.

Mac Mini Media Centre – Remote Controls

Our last posts in our Mac Mini Media Centre series looked at Plex and Boxee, two great media centre applications. However one issue I haven’t covered is Remote Controls. What is the best way of controlling your Mac Mini? There are a variety of options and hopefully one of them will suit your needs.

Keyboards and Mice
The most obvious control solution is the good old keyboard and mouse. I was lucky in that I had an older bluetooth Apple Keyboard and Mighty Mouse. For me that’s fine as I won’t really use them that often, instead relying on some of the other solutions I describe below. If you need to buy a keyboard and mouse then one little bit of advice – don’t buy a Mighty Mouse! I’m not a fan of the new Magic Mouse either but thats really just personal choice. If your going to buy a mouse I’d go for a Logitech. As for keyboards, there’s a bit more choice. For one you have the newer Apple wireless keyboard.

It looks gorgeous, is light on batteries and is tiny. Exactly what you need for a living room keyboard. If only it had a touch pad at the side it would be perfect. Looking elsewhere, Logitech has a nice option with the diNovo Edge. It’s a rechargeable keyboard with a built in touchpad. It looks great and would be a fantastic controller for the Mini but tech that looks that good doesn’t come cheap – £139. Ouch.

One keyboard that’s a lot cheaper and you might overlook is also from Logitech – Mediaboard Pro for PS3. This a bluetooth keyboard that also includes a touchpad with the only problem being the windows keyboard layout but it works perfectly well on a Mac and is only £49.99. Bargain.

Remotes
Keyboards and mice are fine but the Mini is acting as a Media PC and as such I want to use a remote to control it most of the time. The obvious option is the Apple Remote. This little remote is straightforward but will allow you to control quite a bit of your Mini. Front Row and iTunes are fully controllable with the remote although you can’t do any searching from it as there’s no keyboard. Plex and Boxee are also fully controllable. If you run Boxee or Plex almost solely on the Mini then you can get by without anything more than the Apple Remote. It’s just a shame that Mac’s used to come bundled with a remote but it’s now a £15 extra which is quite pricey for what it is.

A more complete remote option is the Harmony range from Logitech. Not only can the Harmony replace all your other remotes and control your hardware, it can also work with your Mini. There is support or a wide variety of software but taking a look at the Plex wiki shows that it’s neither straightforward or without issue. If you already have a Harmony then it looks a good option but I won’t be rushing out to buy one anytime soon.

iPhone
If you have an iPhone or iPod Touch there are an increasing number of remote controls available, some far more powerful than the IR remotes mentioned above. So what are the options?

First app that should be installed is the Apple Remote (iTunes link). This connects to iTunes and allows you control your iTunes library. Once installed you can pair the app with as many iTunes libraries as you have in your house. When you launch the app you select a library and then you can browse and playback any music in your library. This doesn’t play through your iPhone or iPod though – you are merely controlling playback on your computer, in this case the Mini. The app is very feature rich though – select from and create playlists, use and update Genius playlists, search the whole library, view album art on the iPhone/iPod and even select the speakers to playback through. It’s free and well worth installing – I just wish you could send music to the iPhone/iPod as well. That would make the app perfect.

Rowmote Pro (iTunes link) is an app that really does make controlling your whole Mac Mini possible from the iPhone/iPod Touch. To work you first must install the Rowmote Helper application on your Mac which is available free from the Rowmote website. Once installed you connect to the iPhone app and once complete you then have an Apple Remote (the physical Apple Remote) on your iPhone. The advantage of this remote though is it works over wi-fi – no line of sight issues with this remote. The app also does far more than the hardware remote. You can wake and sleep your Mac, connect to multiples Mac’s from the one remote, remembering that line of sight isn’t an issue. You can also swap between applications by selecting from a list or by clicking on a dock icon which is displayed on the iPhone.

That covers the £0.59 Rowmote app. The Rowmote Pro version, at £2.99, adds a wireless touchpad and keyboard. This works amazingly well and means you can control virtually everything from your iPhone or Touch without a keyboard or mouse. Searching in Spotify is easily done from Rowmote Pro and it really is a bargain application.

Another app that works similarly to Rowmote is Air Mouse Pro (iTunes link). This too needs a helper app which can be downloaded from their website and is available for Mac and PC. Air Mouse Pro has similar features to Rowmote but supports custom media layouts, programmable hotkeys and multi touch gesture support. It also supports an accelerometer mode which works like a laser pointer to control your Mac. Air Mouse Pro has so many features yet it’s also cheaper at £1.19. It doesn’t support the remote layout seen in Rowmote so it’s probably down to personal preference as to which is better. I’ve found Rowmote Pro more reliable in use than Air Mouse but it’s handy having a Windows option on the iPhone so i have both installed.

An option worth considering is Keymote (iTunes link). Once the helper app is installed Keymote becomes a keyboard and shortcut enabler. Once the App is paired with the Mini you will see it comes with a few default keysets for DVD Player, Front Row and Expose. They are presented well and allow you to send keyboard shortcuts to the Mini. Note this isn’t a mouse and keyboard replacement – it almost feels like a keyboard extender. You can also create your own Keyset’s for any applications you have installed. Creating your own Keyset is fairly straightforward on the iPhone but it can be a bit awkward moving the key’s around. You can’t choose the size of the keys but you can swap between white and black keys to contrast the layout and the layout can be larger than the screen as you can swipe up and down through the layout. If creating your layout isn’t your thing, Keymote comes with it’s own Store from where you can download other users Keyset’s. This is a great feature and saves a lot of time but there are many duplicates in the Store so it’s a case of trying the 6 or 7 iTunes layouts before settling on one that suits. You can also upload your own Keymotes to the store if you’ve made something unique or better than what’s out there already. This is a lovely app, almost a companion to Rowmote rather than a replacement. It also has uses beyond the Mini. Keymote can be used alongside a normal keyboard like an extender meaning common tasks could easily be applied to a custom Keyset. I’m already looking at Fastscripts and Keymote as a great combination to easily launch custom scripts from the iPhone.

A free alternative to these products is Logitechs Touch Mouse (iTunes link). You again install a helper app which then allows you to connect to your Mac or Windows PC. Touch Mouse gives you a trackpad and keyboard, will display text on screen while typing and supports two finger scrolling. For free it’s excellent but I missed the app launching capabilities of Rowmote and Air Mouse.

Another free option specifically for Boxee is the Boxee Remote (iTunes link). This requires you to setup the web server in Boxee (Settings > Network > Servers ensuring the Web Server is enabled on port 8800) and allows you to control Boxee in two ways – via Gestures or Buttons. Gestures works by dragging the Boxee logo around the app screen. Clicking in a text field displays a keyboard for text entry. It’s a good app but is really for Boxee only.

Finally, a remote app to watch out for. Remoteless is an up and coming remote for Spotify which will offer full control of Spotify from the iPhone. The video demo looks good and I’m hopeful this will be a great controller that allows for full access to desktop Spotify.

Anything Else?
Another way of remotely controlling your Mac is via screen sharing. You can connect from another machine and take full control of your Mini. This means day to day use can be via a remote or iPhone and when you need to tweak then do so via screen sharing rather than the Mini having it’s own dedicated mouse and keyboard. Off course this doesn’t just work locally. You can VNC to your Mini from outside your local network assuming you set up router and Mini to do so. This means that your Mini is always controllable from anywhere in the world.

VNC is also available via a number of clients on the iPhone for those times when you have to access your home computer. It’s not ideal and the screen is small but it can be effective when needs must. This takes quite a bit to setup but opens up a number of interesting possibilities which I’ll cover in a future post.

Conclusion
Hopefully this post has highlighted the variety of options available to you when it comes to controlling your Mini. I’ve settled on Rowmote Pro and Keymote on the iPhone, screen sharing and a very occasional use of keyboard and mouse. Even the use of screen sharing is only when I’m setting up some new software.

Next up in the series is XBMC whose software is at the root of both Plex and Boxee. Previously only available as an add-on for a hacked Xbox it’s now available on Mac, Windows and Linux. I’ll take a look at how to set it up and also how to customise it as it has arguably the most active community driving it forward. Until then, happy controlling.