Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Air HID: More than a Tool for the Lazy

You know why I love holidays? I can be a full-time lazy person for at least one day. So, while I was lazying around in bed, I realized I had to go to the computer and answer some videogame installation prompt. Now, that interfered with my peaking laziness. Hmm, I thought to myself, I have an Android phone, there MUST be some application that allows me to control the computer from afar. I mean, even my old Sony Ericsson K750i had a pretty solid integrated one. Then again, with my old K750i I was able to speak a name in my bluetooth handsfree device and the phone would call it. Can I do this in 2011 inside a modern mobile, smart OS? NOPE! But that's another rant...

Regardless, I fired up the Android market, typed in a bunch of relevant keywords, and lo and behold, there it was: Air HID :WiFi Mouse & KeyBoard. After going through the dodgy English description (admittedly translated by Google from Chinese), I got to the comments section, which was pretty filled with appreciative comments. OK, let's try it! (By now, my laziness turned into geekcitement) . 

As this app requires the use of a Wi-Fi connection between the phone and the PC, you should have a router that will stand as a bridge between the devices. As expected, you also need to run a small Java "receiver" on the machine you want to control. And yes, Java means it will run on both Windows, Linux and MAC platforms. YAY!!!

The receiver is a small window with two large buttons: "Start" and "Stop", followed by the IP address that you need to put inside the Android app, and a status message. If you don't want it on your screen, it can politely hide inside your notification tray. 

Here comes the first bug: on neither Windows or Linux, the receiver couldn't display the correct IP address that you need to insert inside the Android app. What you need to do is go to a site like http://whatismyipaddress.com/ and take your IP from there. You also need to free up some ports from the router. Sadly, I don't know which ones exactly, as I freed them all up! Yay security holes! Oh, I just realized that I can control the target computer through the 3G connection of the phone. Did anyone say awesome prank material? :D

So, once you're up and running, select "Mouse" on your phone, and the screen magically transforms into a quality, responsive touchpad, complete with dragging and scrolling abilities. You also get a keyboard, which is a bit hard to use on a small screen like the Mini, and a numpad, for laptop users in need of one. Simply place the phone on the right side of the laptop, and there you go, you have a perfectly usable numpad!

But the best feature of this application is the ability to create custom setups. Touch the "Draw" button and an empty screen appears. Here, you can create boxes and assign them to certain keys, mouse buttons, and even combinations like "CTRL+C" and "CTRL+V", like I did in the example. I also tried creating a shortcut for showing the desktop, but it sadly didn't register the "Win" key. 

The interface may need a bit more work put into it as selecting modifiers like "ctrl", "shift" can be a bit of a hassle with a big finger-small screen combo, as you can see in the video below, but overall, this app is one of the most useful I have on my phone. 

Oh, any synchronization delays you see in the video did not happen in reality, they were caused by the editing process (two video sources/formats: ogv for the desktop recording, AVI for the phone recording using a digital camera; I tried using the webcam/guvcview combo, but the picture was too blurry. Sorry `bout that.).



Upsides:

  • FREE
  • smooth, stable operation
  • works on Linux, Mac and Windows
  • only 1.36 MBs in size
  • "draw mode" for custom macros and configurations
  • small, non-intrusive, Java receiver

Downsides:

  • can't be installed on SD card
  • the target IP address is wrong
  • the interface is quite bad
  • doesn't provide info on which port to forward
Download the "receiver" from here and have an awesome new year!

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