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Using Your Bluetooth Phone as a Remote Control

by Wei-Meng Lee
08/22/2003

If you are a critic of Bluetooth who believes that the technology is a solution looking for problems, be sure to give the Salling Clicker a look. It recently won two Apple Design awards at WWDC 2003 -- Best Mac OS X Product (Best of Show) and Most Innovative Mac OS X Product.

In a nutshell, the Salling Clicker is an application that transforms your Sony Ericsson Bluetooth-enabled phone into a remote control. I was skeptical about its use at first, but after downloading the demo, I was so impressed that I went ahead and paid for it (it costs $9.95; worth every cent, in my opinion). The Salling Clicker was created by Jonas Salling, the same guy who wrote the Ericsson Client application for synchronizing Ericsson mobile phones with your Mac (which I featured in my earlier article "Bluetooth on Mac OS X").

To use the Salling Clicker, you need the following:

Using the Salling Clicker

After installation, you can locate the Salling Clicker in the System Preferences window (see Figure 1):

Figure 1. Locating the Salling Clicker in System Preferences
Figure 1. Locating the Salling Clicker in System Preferences

The user interface of the Salling Clicker may seem a little overwhelming at first, but after a while, you'll feel right at home.

There are four main tabs: Phone Menu, Proximity Sensor, Action Editor, and About. I will explain what the first three tabs do; the fourth simply displays information about the application.

Phone Menu

This tab allows you to configure the list of items that will be displayed on your phone. In this tab, there are two list windows -- one to display the menu item list and the other to display the list of actions available. For example, Figure 2 shows that I can control my iTunes, DVD Player, PowerPoint, Keynote, and System applications using my mobile phone.

Figure 2. The Phone Menu
Figure 2. The Phone Menu

To display the menu item list on your phone, first pair up your Mac with your Bluetooth-enabled phone, and then click on the Select Device... button. The Select Bluetooth Device dialog will be displayed (see Figure 3).

Figure 3. Selecting the T68i to be used by Salling Clicker
Figure 3. Selecting the T68i to be used by Salling Clicker

Choose the phone that you want to use. Note that you can also search for new devices in this dialog. In my case, I have selected my T68i. Click on the Select button to return to the main dialog.

Next, you need to click on the Publish Menu button to publish the menu item list to the T68i (see Figure 4).

Figure 4. Publishing the menu items to the T68i
Figure 4. Publishing the menu items to the T68i

You can view the menu item list on your phone by going to the Connect menu and selecting the Accessories item (see Figure 5):

Figure 5. The Accessories item within the Connect menu
Figure 5. The Accessories item within the Connect menu

Select Accessories, and you will see the name of your Mac ("eMac," in my case) as shown in Figure 6:

Figure 6. The name of the Mac
Figure 6. The name of the Mac

Select the machine name (eMac) and you should see the menu item list, as shown in Figure 7.

Figure 7. The menu items published to the phone
Figure 7. The menu items published to the phone

If you select iTunes, you would see the list of actions for iTunes. The actions list corresponds to the list you see in the Phone Menu tab (see Figure 8). Note that you need to expand on the iTunes menu item in the Phone menu tab.

Figure 8. Viewing the menu item list on the T68i and the Mac
Figure 8. Viewing the menu item list on the T68i and the Mac

In the iTunes menu item, I can use my T68i to activate iTunes, search for a song by name, play/pause a song, stop a song, etc. I can even control the volume!

Adding Your Menu Item

You can add your own items to the menu item list by clicking on the New Menu button. Once an item is added, you can add the required actions by dragging and dropping from the list of actions on the right list box.

Besides adding new menu items, you can also assign actions to a numeric keypad. For example, in Figure 9, I have added a new keypad (by clicking on the New Keypad button) to my menu item list and named it MyShortCuts.

Figure 9. Creating a new keypad
Figure 9. Creating a new keypad

I then assign some actions to the displayed numeric keypad (see Figure 10). For example, I dragged the "System: screen capture" action item and associated it with the numeric "5" on the keypad.

Figure 10. Associating actions with the numeric keypad
Figure 10. Associating actions with the numeric keypad

When I click the Apply Now button, my phone will now display an updated menu (see Figure 11). (Note that you again need to go back to the Accessories item, under the Connect menu.) Select MyShortCuts and then press "5" to perform a screen capture!

Figure 11. Using the numeric keypad
Figure 11. Using the numeric keypad

Your Mac will inform you of the action performed (see Figure 12):

Figure 12. Salling Clicker performing a screen capture
Figure 12. Salling Clicker performing a screen capture

Proximity Sensor

The Salling Clicker has one very cool feature called the Proximity Sensor. Imagine that you are listening to iTunes while you are working on your Mac. When you leave your Mac (presumably bringing your phone along with you) you might want iTunes to pause. And when you are back, you might want to continue playing music in iTunes again. This is the use of the Proximity Sensor; it allows you to specify actions to perform when you leave your Mac and also when you are back.

In Figure 13, I have set my iTunes to pause when I leave my Mac, and to continue where it left off when I come back. I tried to simulate leaving my Mac by switching off my phone. Within seconds, iTunes paused! When I turned on my phone again, iTunes continues. This is one really cool feature that has many uses. As an example, you can activate the screen saver immediately the moment you are away from your Mac.

Figure 13. Using the Proximity Sensor
Figure 13. Using the Proximity Sensor

Action Editor

The Action Editor tab shows the definition of the various actions. Each action is actually performed by an AppleScript program. You can examine the script of an action by clicking on an action and viewing its AppleScript code on the right text box (see Figure 14).

Figure 14. Examining the AppleScript code of an action
Figure 14. Examining the AppleScript code of an action

You can create and define your own actions if you are familiar with AppleScript. Alternatively, you can click on the More Actions button to view a list of actions that you can download and install from the Internet (see Figure 15).

Figure 15. Viewing the list of actions available for download
Figure 15. Viewing the list of actions available for download

Creating Your Own Actions

There are seven different kinds of actions that you can create (see Figure 16). These actions are differentiated by their icons:

Figure 16. The different actions that you can create
Figure 16. The different actions that you can create

Please refer to the Salling Clicker web site for more information about the different kinds of action that you can create.

Conclusion

I find Salling Clicker extremely useful and fun. Personally, I like the way I can control iTunes remotely. I can select the songs I want from the comfort of my bed! On the serious side of things, I use the Salling Clicker as a remote control for my PowerPoint presentations (you can also use Keynote). Believe me, you will get a lot astonished stares when you whip out your mobile phone to control your slides!

Wei-Meng Lee (Microsoft MVP) http://weimenglee.blogspot.com is a technologist and founder of Developer Learning Solutions http://www.developerlearningsolutions.com, a technology company specializing in hands-on training on the latest Microsoft technologies.


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