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.]

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