---------- ---------- PC Pro Realworld Computing: Paul Lynch - PDAs

Remote Controls

Most PDAs these days seem to have infra red ports, so it seems only reasonable to ask if they can run remote control programs. With the number of remotes required to run a typical home TV system, with individual remotes for TV, VCR, DVD player and satellite or cable box, anything that can reduce the number of small black losable boxes should do well, right? There was a remote control program for the very earliest model of Newton, the OMP (Original MessagePad), but that wasn't very well implemented. Since then, most infra red ports have supported IrDA, which operates in a different frequency range from remotes (typically in the range 32.7 to 56 KHz), so even if the infra red hardware is capable of supporting the required range, programming for remotes is unlikely to be supported in the typical API.

OmniRemote from Pacific Neo-Tek runs on the Pilot, and works with most remotes. It is an impressive technical feat, because as well as solving the infra red problem, it works with all Pilot models (they sell a OmniRemote hardware module for Pilots without infra red), and can even flip the screen upside down for models that use their module plugged into the HotSync socket at the bottom of the Pilot. The PalmPilot PalmOS 3 hardware upgrade includes infra red support, and this is the version with the longest range; even so, it only works half way up my living room. The Palm III has a shorter range.

Customising a button
Customising a button

Using OmniRemote, you can design your own button layout and create multiple screens of buttons. Each button can be trained against an existing remote, or assigned a macro or just exist as text on the display. A macro is a sequence of events, which can also be programmed to happen at given times, waking up the Pilot if required. Buttons can have text or icon labels, and can be moved around after they have been assigned.

Custom layout for TV, VCR, Satellite and Audio Amp
Custom layout for TV, VCR, Satellite and Audio Amp

There are some limitations: as previously noted, range is quite short; you must also take special care to align the infra red port on the Pilot with the receiver. But with those two items noted, it is a very effective combined remote control.

OmniRemote is more effective than the old untrainable four into one remote control that I used to use, and has a permanent home in my study. One PC Pro Contributing Editor has even, I hear, taken to leaving his in the office car park set in training mode.


Words and design by:
Paul Lynch
Last updated: November 24, 1998

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