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Lunch » Tags » Gadgets » Reviews » Remote Buddy » User review

Remote Buddy

A software remote control ulility for the Mac

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Remote Buddy is man's new best friend for the Mac Mini Home Theater

  • Jan 18, 2010
Rating:
+5
EDIT:  I forgot to mention the price -- Remote Buddy is $20 Euro or about $30.

Controlling your Mac with a remote control WITHOUT using Remote Buddy is like having hamburger helper without the hamburger...   By itself, Remote Buddy isn't terribly useful, but what makes Remote Buddy awesome is its ability to control several Mac applications (DVD Player, Front Row, iTunes, iPhoto,  Boxee, Plex, XMBC, etc) seamlessly using one remote control.

I use a Mac Mini as a dedicated Home Theater Media Center, and I need to be able to easily control it with a remote control in order to WAF standards (Wife Approval Factor).  I am using EyeTV to watch and record television, and I use Plex or Boxee for listening to music and watching videos.  Plex and Boxee work great with Apple Remote and EyeTV shipped with its own remote.  I was able to program my Universal Remote to issue the commands for all my applications, but there was no way to easily switch between the programs without resorting to a mouse and/or keyboard.  To make matters even worse, the recent upgrade to Apple's Snow Leopard operating system began to wreak havoc between the Apple Remote commands and third party applications to the point where Front Row would start to intercept and hijack the remote commands and launch itself rather than execute my desired command.

After several weeks of throwing my own mac mini-hissy fits, I decided to try out Remote Buddy's 30 day free trial.  However, I was skeptical that adding yet another program into the mix was going to solve my issues.  WHY DID I WAIT SO LONG??  Long story short, Remote Buddy worked perfectly.  Remote Buddy is essentially like a task switching helper application on steroids (the good kind of steroids... not the ones ruining professional sports).  It sits in the background for the most part, but springs into action when you call it.  It has it's own layer of menus that you can call up over whichever application you're running.  Remote Buddy shows you a list of other applications you can switch to (the list is quite extensive of supported apps) as well as contextual options specific to the current application you are running.  (one example of an application specific option is to toggle Fullscreen mode, or pull up a specific album or artist in iTunes... without having to navigate through the applications own menus).  Once you get into the application of your choice, Remote Buddy just fades into the background, waiting for you to call upon it again.

The part that really impressed me about Remote Buddy, however, was how much you could customize the functionality for each of the remote's buttons without interfering with the primary "navigation" functions.  For example, I use a Yamaha receiver for changing the volume of whatever I'm listening to, so I didn't need volume up/down functionality within an application.  Even though the "volume up/down" buttons also map to the up/down navigation functions in most applications, I was able to map the buttons to different functions while a show is playing without screwing up the menu navigation.  (I know that probably doesn't make a ton of sense, but just know I was very impressed by whatever black magic the creators of Remote Buddy used to make this possible for me).  

Equally impressive is Remote Buddy's support for a multitude of devices.  Most people will use the Apple Remote (or some universal remote equivalent) taking advantage of the Mac's built-in infra-red receiver.  One of the more interesting devices remote buddy supports is the Nintendo Wii controller.  Because the Wii Remote uses bluetooth to connect to the Mac Mini, it allows you to control the Mac without "line-of-site" to the Mac.  The Wii also has additional buttons which can be configured for custom behaviors, but the most unique feature is Remote Buddy's support for the Wii Remote's motion control.  This allows you to wave the Wii Remote around in the air and control the mouse on the computer.  When I tried it, it was very difficult to control, but with some practice and the right setup, you can really rack up some geek cred.

Finally, the Remote Buddy software can run a small web server on your Mac which allows you to use Safari on your iPhone (or any web browser, really), to interface with Remote Buddy from an iPhone.  The web app lets you tap "virtual buttons" to control the Mac, or you can use "gestures" and swipe your finger in different directions across the screen to emulate the button presses.  The video demo looks very impressive, but in practice, I found the physical buttons of a remote control to be more effective.  However, the Web App does have a huge advantage in navigating to specific content for supported apps.  For example, you can browse your iTunes music library from your phone and select songs or playlists to queue up while hanging out in the backyard.  The same works for using your phone to browse your list of recorded shows from EyeTV. 

Remote Buddy wildly exceeded my expectations.  If you've read this far, I assume you have a similar need to control several Mac applications with a remote control.  If so -- don't hesitate like I did.  Remote Buddy is worth it!
 

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March 12, 2010
So all this hype for the Buddy. . . dead on. I didn't think I would like it as much as I do. Dare I say, "love it?" My favorite method is using it with the iPhone because it's already always with me so I don't need to hunt it down. Thirty dollars is well worth the investment.
 
January 25, 2010
Wow, this device sounds absolutely magical. Thanks for sharing in such great detail, Andrew!
 
January 18, 2010
& the cost of it is? I don't use much of Mac but my sisters do. Will let them know about this wonderful gadget! Thanks!
January 18, 2010
The applications is 20 EURO, so I think that works out to about $30. Considering how much I control the Mac using a remote control, it was well worth it.  Thanks for the comment -- I'll update my review...
 
1
More Remote Buddy reviews
Quick Tip by . March 19, 2010
Remote Buddy is the best way to control your Mac Home Theater from your couch
Quick Tip by . March 19, 2010
seriously the coolest thing ever. got it setup and was working it's magic right it.
Quick Tip by . January 17, 2010
I watched the demo, almost makes me want to get a mac. Almost. Looking forward to @TeamAWAC s take.
About the reviewer
Andrew ()
Ranked #24
I'm a technology early adopter. I thoroughly enjoy geeking out with the latest hardware, software and electronics. I probably have as much fun setting up, tweaking, and configuring systems as I do actually … more
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Wiki

Control more than 100 applications, virtual keyboard and mouse, presentations, media center software and important system settings right from your iPhone™, iPod® Touch, your Apple® Remote or one of the many other remote controls supported by Remote Buddy
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