5 Apps That Give You Control
There are so many TV apps out there today, and it's definitely not in my News Year's Resolution list to watch more TV. But, with all the brand new, exciting technologies to come out, with the second generation Blu-Ray discs and their built-in 3D, Skype being integrated with HDTV, and much more, it's definitely worth it to check out the brimming possibilities coming in 2010. In the meantime, these TV and remote apps will make life a bit easier when controlling the various gadgets around you, whether it be your laptop or your TV.
When my parents switched to DirecTV from Comcast, they ran into a few problems, like weird screen set-ups, less channels and choices, and overall less movie choices to rent or download for free. But, that's their beef, and as I currently do not own a television (I do better without), I only browse channels here and there to provide mind-numbing background noise should I happen to visit their home. But, for those who do enjoy their DirecTV capabilities, and own an iPhone, then the DirecTV app makes life so much easier. The DirecTV iPhone App lets you browse up to 2 weeks of shows, set recordings and control multiple DVRs in the house. Even better, it's free. By comparison, it's much, much better than the web-based method (which, frankly, is probably super slow because of the crappy house brand DVRs from DirecTV, itself), and works well on 3G or EDGE. If you have a DTV DVR and an iPhone, you should get this.
This app is the end-all-be-all of TV apps. i.TV delivers local (U.S. and Canada) television and movie listings to your iPhone, which at first may not sound all that impressive, but oh, just you wait. When you first launch i.TV, the app finds your location and asks you to choose your service provider - that's pretty much all the grunt work you need to do to get started, aside from a few channel customizations here and there. Overall, it's a breeze and only takes a couple of minutes. Just about anything you find in i.TV’s listings can be added to “My Media” by clicking on the thumbs-up icon at the top of the screen. “My Media” is basically a bookmarking system that tells you things like what shows your favorite actors are in, or what channels your favorite shows can be found on. It's an excellent feature. Even more, if you're a TiVo addict you can link your i.TV account to your Tivo and record a television show right from your iPhone. As if the realm of TV weren't enough, there is even a section on the i.TV app for movies. You can browse movies by those upcoming in theaters, or those already in the theaters. Since the app already has your zip code, when you browse the theater section you are shown a list of theaters nearby with lists of what is playing at each, along with a description of each movie. You will also get links to the map, directions and phone for each theater. Not only do you get info and ratings, but you are also able to watch great-quality trailers of the movie. I like this feature so much, I pretty much kicked my other movie apps to the last page (sorry Showtimes). It just seems the i.TV app does everything but drive you there. Future version of i.TV may include the ability to watch TV and the ability to set up recordings on your DVR. In any case, this is a must-have for TV freaks.
Now you can maintain complete control of your Keynote presentation using your iPhone. This app works with Keynote ’09 (part of the new iWork ’09 productivity suite), letting you progress through your slides with a simple swipe of the fingers, ensuring the salivation of many a business presenter, I'm sure. Hold your iPhone vertically (portrait), and you see presenter notes; horizontally (landscape), and you see the current and next slide in your presentation. It's easy to set-up, even for the complete layman, and using the app is a total joy. Some issues here and there with lagging raised my eyebrow in terms of its reliability, but unless you're stealing your neighbor's wifi from three houses down, this shouldn't pose much of a problem. Besides, the places people most often give presentations - workplaces, colleges, cafes, conferences spaces in hotels - usually have good connections. It isn't flashy by any means in terms of its extra features or abilities, and using an iPhone isn't as forgiving as the tiny Keyspan Presenter, but for giving presentations it's pretty darn good.
Whenever I cook, I have my laptop open, playing music to the likes of Amy Winehouse, Fiona Apple, Beethoven... okay, and maybe some Gangsta Luv by Snoop Dogg. It usually works out great, because my laptop is portable, I can move it where I want for optimal listening. The one problem I've always had is when I'm kneading dough, or handling raw fish, or otherwise mucking up my hands with oily, powdery, or otherwise food-related accoutrements, the last thing I want to do is touch my laptop and rub said products all over my keys, letting some undoubtedly fall between the cracks. Blah. I tested out remote yesterday, while making split pea soup, and while it's true, I still wiped down my hands a bit before using my iPhone, it's way, way better than constantly moving back and forth between my cooking and my laptop. With remote, I can control everything I have in my iTunes library, and installing the app is completely easy. Just add a computer, and voila, you're ready to go.
VLC remote (free version)
Another annoyance-saver for me. Before bed, my boyfriend and I like to watch back episodes of House, or maybe start one of the movies we have queued up in our own personal list of classics to watch (Dial M for Murder was last night, and boy, was that a winner). Usually, our movie formats are in VLC - not a surprise, VLC is nearly universally applied - so we're always opening VLC. We place the laptop on a shelf at the foot of our bed, which is great for viewing purposes, but for the lazy man in all of us, it means every time we want to adjust the volume, rewind, skip ahead, pause or stop, or start a new movie, we have to get up and finagle the laptop. With the VLC remote, now we can just operate our movie watching with a remote via the iPhone. Brilliant. Why didn't I get this before now? While it can't quite match the music library organization skills of the more OCD iTunes, VLC will play just about any video file in the world, ever. So if you're streaming video from your computer to your TV or using VLC on your home theater PC, control is now a lot easier.