Archive for February, 2010
Hey Linux folks, thanks to Mark Crowther, we now have a MythTV profile. Grab it here.
We don’t talk a lot about Hippo Basic, and I’m not really sure why. We’ve worked hard on it and I’m very happy with the end result.
Lots of apps in the App Store have a base version and a pro version, where the pro version is the base version with more features. Hippo Basic and Hippo Pro certainly have many overlapping features, but we also put features into Basic that are not in Pro. Why? Because we don’t view Basic as a lesser Pro. We view the two to be complementary apps.
Pro is obviously optimized for controlling media Macs and PCs. It’s designed for one-handed operation, like the traditional remote control that everyone is accustomed to. And though they are there, in the majority of my time using Pro, I never need to access the keyboard or trackpad.
Basic, on the other hand, takes the opposite approach. With the full-screen arrow pad, it can work extremely well as a remote, but it’s first and foremost intent is to be a fantastic replacement for your keyboard and mouse.
In other words, Pro is a remote with keyboard and mouse functions. And Basic is a keyboard and mouse with remote functions. The difference is subtle, but this is the perspective that informs our design choices.
That said, what’s new in Basic v2.0?
First, big enhancements to the trackpad. We’ve redone the gesture handling to be more responsive and more accurate. And we’ve added even more multi-touch gestures. For example, Mac users can now activate Expose, show the desktop, or switch between open programs with four-finger swipes, just like you can with the multi-touch trackpad on MacBooks. Windows users the the same functionality, and you don’t even need to buy a Mac!
Second, you can now assign keyboard shortcuts and macros to gestures. This is a great productivity enhancer since you can execute frequently used commands without having to switch to the keyboard or hunt for buttons.
And lastly, we’ve included the Hippo Store where you can purchase the Boxee, Browser and Twitter Plugins we introduced with Pro. You can pick a la carte the features you want. Want to use our fantastic Boxee gesture pad, but don’t need all the App Profiles in Pro? Now you can!
Note that Plugin purchases apply to your iTunes account. This means if you run Basic on multiple devices, purchasing the plugin once will enable it for all of them.
It was a rather long and winding development process, but HippoRemote Pro 2.0 is finally done and available in the App Store. So what’s new? What changes did we make that deserve the 2.0 label?
For anyone tracking our blog, this one is pretty obvious. We’ve been beta testing user-created profiles since our last update. Beta users have created and shared profiles for EyeTV, SageTV, SlingPlayer, Spotify, TotalMedia Theatre, and more. And with 2.0, these profiles are now available to all. You can download them directly into HippoRemote from our web repository.
Wait, did I say download from the web inside of HippoRemote? Yes I did. We’ve integrated a web browser into HippoRemote. This makes it super easy to access our profile repository. But it can do so much more. How many times when watching a show, do you see an actor and instantly wonder “where have I seen him before?” And you’d either have to pull out your laptop or exit HippoRemote and start up the iPhone browser to do your search. With our browser plugin, you can access IMDb and Google directly inside of HippoRemote. No laptops, no switching back and forth between apps.
Furthermore, actor searches are just the tip of the iceberg. You can also read your email, update Facebook, check sports scores and even chat with friends via web-based instant messaging sites like Meebo. It’s total access to the web with total convenience.
And what if you’re browsing and come across a video or photo you’d like to see on your TV? We’ve created a solution for that too! We call it Link Launching. It lets you send links from your iPhone to your media PC, so you can pick the screen that’s more appropriate and comfortable for the content at hand.
Speaking of links, I get most of them through Twitter. And while Twitter’s mobile web site is quite nice, I’ve been spoiled by the performance and capabilities of the iPhone’s native Twitter clients. Scanning my timeline via the web interface feels slow in comparison.
Lots of web pages, however, are just plain hard to read on the iPhone’s small screen. I’m constantly zooming in and out and panning left and right. And since the iPhone doesn’t support Flash, tons of video links don’t do anything at all. Wouldn’t it be great if I could send the links in my Twitter feeds to my computer for viewing on my HDTV? Sort of sounds like Link Launching…
So to make this all just work, we’ve also added a native Twitter client to HippoRemote. It’s not meant to be a full-featured Twitter client, but we do support a number of convenience features that most dedicated apps lack. Auto-expanding shortened URLs so you can tell where a link is taking you BEFORE you click on it. Thumbnail previews of TwitPic and YFrog image links. And of course, Link Launching for letting you view the content you want on the screen that you want.
You might be sensing an Internet theme to all our new features. There’s just so much cool stuff happening with the convergence of Movies, TV, and Music with the Internet. And Boxee is one company that’s really leading the way. We love the philosophy behind Boxee and we love their media center software (minus some of the bugs). And so we wanted to show our love with something special.
If you run Boxee, you’ve probably tried their iPhone app for navigating the interface. It’s gesture based and quite slick. What we’ve done is tried to take it to the next level by adding multi-touch and a number of usability tweaks. Like momentum. So you can scroll long lists with a single flick. We also pull cover art from Boxee so you can tell at a glance what’s playing.
We’ve added all this stuff, but how do you access it? The Browser and Twitter Plugins don’t really belong to any particular profile. They should really be available at any time. And so we created Quick Macros. These are five customizable macros that you can access from any profile with a quick shake of your iPhone. We’ve pre-programmed them with the Web and Twitter Plugins, as well as some other useful macros, but you can edit them to suit your own needs.
Aside from big new features, we’ve also gone through and refined every existing feature as well. I can’t really remember every change, but off the top of my head:
- Improved trackpad multi-touch recognition.
- New 3 & 4 finger multi-touch gestures.
- Landscape trackpad option.
- Customizable long-tap gesture.
- Scrolling momentum option, like the Apple Magic Mouse.
- Tracking momentum option.
- Option for auto-pausing playback on an incoming phone call.
- Larger button targets for all existing profiles.
- New profiles: Movist, Opera, Pandora, The Sixty One, Zune. (Yes, we work with web apps too!)
- Speed optimizations.
- Network optimizations.
I hope you’ll agree that Hippo Pro 2.0 is a massive update. Most other developers add one new thing and call it a major release. That’s just not our style. But more importantly, we want to let you take advantage of the iPhone’s capabilities and open up new ways of interacting with your computer. I hope you enjoy it! And as always, please send us feedback, both good and bad. We’d love to hear about what’s working for you and what isn’t.
***** IMPORTANT! *****
If you are using our HippoVNC server you MUST update to the newest version.
See our previous post for notes on potential gotchas.
HippoRemote Pro 2.0 has been approved and should be available shortly in the App Store, if not already. This was the fastest approval we’ve ever experienced! Needless to say, we were caught a bit by surprise. A post detailing all the new stuff in 2.0 will be coming shortly.
In the meantime, Mac and Windows folks, if you’ve chosen to use HippoVNC, you MUST update to the latest version.
Windows folks: Be sure to uninstall HippoVNC as a service and make sure that the server isn’t running (no icon in the task tray) before upgrading.
Mac folks: Before replacing HippoVNC.app with the new version, make sure to shut down the system server if you are running HippoVNC in the background.