October 28, 2009, 10:40 AM — Getting up from your couch to "change the channel" on your Mac-based media center is so 1970s. If you're going to the trouble to mutate a Mac into something that delivers music and video via your AV gear--or even enjoy a movie on a 27-inch iMac across the room--you'll also want to replicate the experience of watching real TV as much as possible. That means having a remote control that lets you manage the works without a lot of fuss and bother.
If you own an iPhone or iPod touch, you've managed the largest hurdle in controlling your Mac's media applications--paying for the bulk of the remote. It only remains to add one or more inexpensive remote control applications to your phone or iPod to complete the picture.
I looked at a handful of capable remote control apps available for these devices--R.P.A Tech's $3 Air Mouse Pro, Evan Schoenberg's $5 Rowmote Pro, Hoofien's $4 Snatch, and RoboHippo's $5 HippoRemote. Each of them lets you control not only iTunes but the other media applications you're likely to use. All of them provide you with a virtual trackpad, clicking controls, and keyboard.
In most cases these applications work in combination with a server application that you install on your Mac. Air Mouse Pro, Rowmote Pro, and Snatch all use such server applications. HippoRemote controls the Mac via OS X's built-in VNC services. The server applications are free, so there are no additional charges.
Air Mouse Pro
Air Mouse Pro's focus is largely on that virtual trackpad and keyboard, through it does offer separate play-control interfaces for operating media applications and navigating a Web browser. Launch the app and you see a touchpad at the top of the screen, complete with left- and right-click buttons and a typical iPhone keyboard below. Above this keyboard are buttons for invoking the Control, Option, and Command keys. Tap the Minimize button to the right of these Modifier buttons and the Media, Web, and Function buttons are revealed. Using the Air Mouse Server software on your Mac, you can create hot-keys for the Function, Media, and Web screens, assigned by application. When you tap the Media button, iTunes launches by default. Safari launches when you tap the Web button.
Rotate the iPhone or iPod touch so that it's in landscape orientation and the entire screen becomes a large trackpad. Regardless of which view you're in, there's very little lag between the time you touch the trackpad or type a key and the Mac responds. You can adjust the speed for the pointer, trackpad, and scrolling with the server software as well.