An iPhone remote for a media-center Mac

I've been impatiently waiting for the arrival of the new Mac Mini, so I could run out and buy one to use as my living-room media center. So on Tuesday, I did just that. (Yes, I left work and walked down to the local Apple Store on day one, put down my credit card and left with a Mac in a bag. Told you I was impatient.) Then I went home and attached it to my high-definition TV. It looks great, and the Apple Remote works well with the built-in Front Row software to display media files on my hard drive and in my iTunes library.

But the Apple Remote only goes so far. When I wanted to watch a TV show on Hulu, I had to break out a wireless keyboard and mouse. And not only do I not want a keyboard and mouse floating around my living room, but after a few minutes of mousing my wrist really began to ache. (As a designer by trade, I use a pen and tablet as my pointing device at work.)

Now, there are plenty of VNC-style screen-sharing apps on the App Store, programs that let you see any Mac’s screen and control it remotely. But my TV is plenty big enough. I didn’t need to duplicate the Mac mini’s screen on my iPhone, I just needed to control the cursor and type in a few short items.

I found the solution to my troubles in RPA Technology’s $6 Air Mouse Pro app. Air Mouse Pro turned my iPhone (and my wife’s) into a remote trackpad and keyboard. After I installed the Air Mouse server software on my Mac mini, the Air Mouse Pro app connected via my local Wi-Fi network and gave me control. When Air Mouse Pro is running, the top half of the iPhone’s screen is a two-button trackpad, similar to the one you’ll find on any Mac laptop. The bottom half of the screen is for other input methods you can toggle between—there’s a full iPhone-style keyboard, a set of media controller buttons, web-browser buttons, and a configurable set of function keys.

Between Air Mouse Pro and the Apple Remote, I’ve managed to banish that keyboard and mouse from my living room forever. Now I can watch movies on iTunes, web videos via a browser, and just about any other kind of content I can think of, all while sitting on my couch with my iPhone.

[Jason Brightman is the director of Web design for Macworld and PC World.]

To comment on this article and other Macworld content, visit our Facebook page or our Twitter feed.
Shop Tech Products at Amazon
Notice to our Readers
We're now using social media to take your comments and feedback. Learn more about this here.