Archives For Remotes

As nice as the TiVo Slide Bluetooth QWERTY remote is, the list price of $90 seems to be off-putting for many. Fortunately, various retailers are periodically offering it at more reasonable rates. Thanks to the TiVo Community, I learned that the Slide is currently available via Tiger’s ebay presence today – along with free shipping. So I placed an order. And, through some sort of psychological blinders, paying with PayPal funds doesn’t really feel like using real money. If you’re not into the ebay/PayPal thing, Amazon has a variety of listings that start at just a bit more.

Early this summer, Sonos announced they’d expand upon their success with the iOS Sonos Controller by bring the experience to the Apple iPad.  Now, the free Sonos iPad Controller app is ready and I was lucky enough to give the new app a quick try this morning with my Sonos System.

The updated Sonos Controller UI was built specifically for the iPad to sensibly utilize the extra screen real estate. Using the controller you can view your zones, your music and what songs are playing – all at once.  All screens work in landscape or portrait mode. Searching for an artist and music with the virtual keyboard works well and browsing through your music collection and the online music choices is simple much like the iPhone and iPod Touch app before it.  You can also browse, search and drag and drop to create your playlist on the fly. Get a complete view of what’s playing in every zone, complete with full-color album art, elapsed time of a song, and more. Group your zones together or play different songs in different rooms – without interrupting music playback.

Read the rest of this entry »

Digital Media Bytes

Dave Zatz —  September 29, 2010 — Leave a comment

A periodic roundup of relevant news… from our other blogs:

Spotify Shows Up on IPTV Set-Tops
Motorola has been showing off its latest IPTV hardware and software out at IBC, and it looks like Spotify made its first on-screen appearance.

New Remote Controls at IBC
The big focus at IBC for Motorola was the introduction of multi-screen TV management solutions, but that doesn’t mean hardware completely took a back seat. In fact, Motorola introduced several new IPTV remote controls including a full-keyboard QWERTY remote!

Comcast’s TV Everywhere Service, 9 Months In

Comcast launched its TV Everywhere service last December amid heated debates over how cable providers could compete with existing over-the-top TV applications. Now called Xfinity Online TV, the service is set to emerge from beta next month.

How to Solve the TV Guide Problem
There is general industry-wide consensus that something must be done about the TV electronic program guide (EPG). Just like the printed TV Guide booklet that used to arrive at my house every week as a kid, the standard EPG format is now outdated thanks to huge linear content additions, new VOD libraries, and masses of interactive Internet applications that have set consumer expectations for video viewing.

TV Bookmarks, QWERTY Keyboards, and More
The concept of how Motorola’s Medios software can be implemented continues to evolve. In this video from IBC, watch exec Malcolm Latham demo different features of Motorola’s TV guide platform.

TiVo has produced arguably the best dual purpose QWERTY-capable remote in the Slide. Granted, there’s not much competition (yet) in this burgeoning space. But TiVo has introduced something special — I expect its utility will only grow as they modernize and expand their online apps. Not only does the shrunken “peanut” allow you to type via Bluetooth (and bundled USB dongle), the Slide offers traditional IR support for basic universal and learning functions to control your television or accessories.

To expand upon my original coverage a bit, I’ve confirmed the TiVo Slide remote can be paired with hardware beyond the included Bluetooth accessory. By simultaneously holding down the TiVo and B buttons, the remote enters pairing mode. And I had no problem linking it to my Mac laptop. In theory, this process should also allow you to use the Slide with a PS3. However, to get a Slide going again with a Series3, TiVoHD, or Premiere, you’d have to re-pair it with the USB dongle by holding down it’s lone button and once again using the Slide process above.

I’ve seen quite a few comments concerning the Slide’s $90 price tag (along with disappointment in not being able to easily control multiple TiVo units). And, indeed, it doesn’t come cheap. So, fortunately for you, we’re giving away our review sample. But wait, there’s more. TiVo is also gifting a TiVo Slide… each and every day, for 30 days. Check out their details here.

Entering our TiVo Slide giveaway is as easy as it gets, simply leave a comment. (US residents in the lower 48 only, please.) We’ll choose the winner at random in a few days.

Unveiled along with the Premiere, the TiVo Slide Bluetooth QWERTY remote ($90) is finally ready for its close up and now shipping. Of course, the primary selling point and key differentiator is the well concealed QWERTY keyboard to facilitate text entry as Search and other broadband apps become regular elements of our daily television viewing experiences. It’s a whole lot more elegant and effective than my keyboard hack.

I found the slide mechanism smooth and snappy, with the individual keys having good tactile feel and clickability. My only real complaint with the form is related to TiVo’s shortening of the traditional peanut — resulting in some button size and spacing compromises. Probably not a deal breaker for most, but it could take some getting used to.

Another potential issue for a subset of owners is the limited USB port count (2) found on Series3, TiVoHD, and Premiere hardware. Because Bluetooth isn’t directly integrated into these TiVo models, a small USB BT dongle comes bundled with the TiVo Slide. So if you connect both a SDV Tuning Adapter and wireless adapter via USB, as we do with our bedroom TiVo, you’ll need to pick up a powered USB hub for Slide usage.

Click to enlarge:

lenovo-wireless-keyboard2

When it was revealed that the new TiVo Premiere can be controlled via USB keyboard, wireless or otherwise, I began my hunt for a compact and inexpensive accessory… as TiVo doesn’t provide a mechanism for transferring Season Passes between units and their own upcoming Bluetooth QWERTY remote has been met with mixed reviews and an unknown launch date. Not to mention, text entry is still a mostly infrequent task. (Until support is integrated into the third party TiVo apps.)

I landed on the Lenovo Mini Wireless Keyboard, as it met both requirements. It’s a compact but somewhat ergonomic thumbboard that regularly shows up on Slickdeals for $36, shipped free. The mini USB receiver can be tucked away in the battery compartment when not in use, which is why I couldn’t immediately locate it when the Lenovo arrived.

lenovo-wireless-keyboard5In testing, the 2.4GHz RF worked fine around the living room as I typed show titles into the TiVo and experimented with a just-passing-through Acer Aspire. The trackball is another story. It’s unusable on the TiVo (keyboard control only, not mouse), but on the PC where I could test it, the roller seemed a bit too loose. Granted, I didn’t attempt to adjust its sensitivity in Windows. But I’m still not sure I’d recommend this for daily control of an HTPC. Regardless, as an infrequent TiVo text entry device that you stash in the remote drawer, the Lenovo Mini gets the job done.

Windows Media Center is a 10-foot interface for a PC that lets you control your music, movies, photos, and other media from the comfort of your couch — provided your PC is plugged into your TV and you have a Media Center remote control. But here’s a little secret: Windows 7 Home Premium and Ultimate both come with Windows Media Center functionality baked in, whether you plug in a remote, TV tuner, or HDTV or not. And if you don’t feel like investing in extra hardware to take full advantage of Windows Media Center, you can just use your Windows Mobile phone or PDA like a remote control.

xda-developers forum member oishiiunko whipped up an application for Windows Mobile 6.0 and up that lets you navigate menus, control media playback, and control the volume using your phone. The app is called Windows Media Center Mobile Remote Control, and what it lacks in creative naming is makes up for in simple functionality. You can play and pause media, hit the next or previous buttons, and there’s a position seek feature as well.

Read the rest of this entry »