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December 16th, 1999


Digital Media Remote
Contact and Other Information
Manufacturer: Keyspan
Product Home Page: Digital Media Remote Home Page
Description: USB IR Remote
Address: Keyspan
3095 Richmond Parkway, Suite 207
Richmond, CA 94806
Price: US$79 Retail
US$74.95 - Outpost.com
Telephone: 510-222-0131
Fax: 510-222-0323
Requirements Mac or PC with available USB port
Mac OS 8.5.1, Windows 98

System Used For Testing 333 MHz iMac (Lime)
Mac OS 9
[Review]
Press Your Mac's Button, Remotely With Keyspan DMR

Digital Media Remote Review
by
John F. Braun

Introduction

Even though remote control of household media devices such as TVs, VCRs and CD players is commonplace, Mac and PC users typically stick to the keyboard when controlling their machines. However, the advent of comprehensive media playback technologies such as QuickTime, which now supports streaming video and MP3 playback, begs for a remote. Except for the ill-fated Macintosh TV, no consumer PC has made a serious attempt at the remote control crowd. Enter the Keyspan Digital Media Remote (DMR).


Documentation

The included hybrid (Mac and PC) CD-ROM has documentation provided in HTML format, with icons to load it into either IE or Netscape browsers. The documentation clearly describes all steps needed for installation, use and troubleshooting. Unlike prior packaging, where one may miss the fact that there is a CD inside, this package clearly states, on the back, to Look Inside for CD.


Installation

If you have Mac OS 9, then you are in for a treat, since you can take advantage of the Internet software search feature. After plugging one end of the included cable into the receiver, you can then plug the other end into an available USB port. We were able to plug it into the spare keyboard USB port, though you should stick to a port on the computer, or a hub, if available.

Mac OS 9 then presented us with a dialog letting us know that there was no driver available. When offered to search the Internet for the driver, we said OK.

Driver Needed Dialog

At this point, the device was correctly identified as the Keyspan DMR. We decided to download both the driver and the installer.

Apple Software Update Dialog

After the download, the driver was installed. We then proceeded to double-click on the Install Keyspan DMR icon, which was placed on the desktop. At the completion of this straightforward operation, we were presented with the following message:

Imagine, being able to install drivers and software and not having to restart in order to use the system! PC users take note :)

For those using a version of Mac OS prior to 9, the installer on the CD-ROM will do the trick in a less elegant, but equally straightforward fashion.

Hardware Operation

We first decided to start pressing buttons on the control to see what would happen. Nothing happened. After consulting the documentation (what a concept!) we found that removing the thin piece of plastic from the remote's battery compartment helped greatly.

Now that we had power, we found that pressing a key on the remote would cause a LED inside the receiver to start flashing, confirming that something was going on. Tests in the Mac Observer Labs measured a usable distance between the remote and the receiver of almost 100 feet. Your mileage may vary.

The control, like the receiver, is in nifty translucent plastic which gives you a glimpse of the innards, a la iMac. The physical design of the receiver is versatile, being able to either sit in place on a table, or, thanks to the groove in the middle of the receiver, also being able to be hung from the lip of a portable's screen. This groove also provides a handy resting place for the control if the receiver is used in tabletop mode.

The control and buttons were a bit smaller than we would have liked, presenting a challenge to those with big fumble fingers. Also, having a bump on one or more of the keys, or having distinctly shaped keys, could help avoid having to look at the control to know what you are pressing. This could be important for presentations when the lights are down.


Software Operation

To know exactly what a keypress on the remote will do, you should review the key maps via the Keyspan DMR Manager control panel. It will let you review or change key mappings for each application, as well as create new mappings.

Although, in most cases, the key mappings were obvious, it would have been nice to have some sort of printed documentation to let us know exactly what each button on the remote would do. Also, we found no way to issue commands that didn't have a keyboard shortcut. Although usually not an issue on Windows, many Mac applications lack keyboard shortcuts for certain menu choices. The documentation suggests that this may be an upcoming feature.

Keyspan DMR Manager Control Panel

At initial product release, the Keyspan DMR Manager was only available for the Mac platform. During the writing of this review, a software update (version 1.2) was made available, and added support for this feature on the Windows platform.


Conclusion

The Keyspan DMR is a great piece of hardware, performing flawlessly in our tests. Although the documentation could use some work, many users will find the operation intuitive. Mac users may have difficulty with applications that have no keyboard shortcuts for a specific menu command. With equivalent software now available for both platforms, the Keyspan DMR looks to be a great cross-platform solution for those who need or want to control their machine from afar.


Final Score (Maximum Score is 5 Gadgies)
4 Gadgies
Pros Easy Install with Mac OS 9
Batteries Included
Custom Key Mapping
Versatile Receiver Mounting
Receiver Visual (LED) Feedback
Cons Small Control and Buttons
Mapping of Buttons Not Obvious
Somewhat Expensive
Can Only Map Keyboard Commands



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