Review: Telekinesis – How to Get the Most Out of iPhone Remote
Hello to you, World of Apple Reader. My name is Dean Putney, and I’m a recent addition to the World of Apple staff.
As a tinkerer and technologically interested dude, I find myself working on lots of projects that require software. Writing your own programs is all well and good, but usually it’s better to try to get a hold of some software people have already written. You may be able to find some shareware that will do the trick. Free is better though, and the open source community is steeped with cool stuff that you can modify to your purposes.
My largest software project has been in progress for over two years now. I began planning to create a modular dorm room automation system during my first year of boarding school, and I continue to add pieces to it and make the system more streamlined. My documentation page for the whole project is on my website.
It’s all well and good to be able to control your music, or turn your lights on with scripts and Quicksilver key commands, but some of us have gotten our mitts on a nifty web enabled piece of equipment: the iPhone or iPod Touch. So how does one control their computer from the internet?
There are two solutions available for Macs. The shareware solution is Remote Buddy. This is a great option. IOSpirit recently added this “AJAX Remote” feature to the main Remote Buddy program, and it’s very, very nice.
Setup is a breeze, just install Remote Buddy to your computer and access the web server it automatically sets up and runs from a secured port on your computer. The interface is clean and streamlined, and if you don’t want to get down and dirty with some code, this is the way to go. No futzing around, just install and you’re immediately controlling your iTunes, moving the mouse and typing, viewing your webcam, and browsing your filesystem to launch movies.
Free is always better for me. Always. I spent a few weeks uninstalling and reinstalling Remote Buddy to stay inside the trial period, but there’s only so much effort you can put into that sort of thing. Then I found Telekinesis.
Interesting where that link leads, isn’t it? That’s right, Telekinesis is brought to you by the same fine people who make Quicksilver. They have a few other projects, as a programmer I find Visor particularly useful, but I digress.
Telekinesis is quick to set up for basic functionality. Just keep that program running and you can access your webcam, browse files, and have rudimentary control over your screen and a pseudo Apple Remote. That’s all well and good, but Telekinesis’s main strength is expandability.
Every button on the Telekinesis home screen is linked to a file with the extension “.tapp”. This is just a little made up extension like “.app” that hides a regular folder. You can make your own programs for Telekinesis very easily with a little PHP and some elbow grease, and there are a couple plugins already written on the Telekinesis Google Code site. Specifically, “Now Playing” is particularly handy to install, as it allows you to browse your computer’s music library and have almost complete control over it. It has some downfalls, namely that it tries to load your entire music library (and that doesn’t fly with my huge collection), but it’s open source so you can edit this part of the program.
Installing the .tapp files is really easy. The Telekinesis help page on creating applications tells you that you should install each .tapp in this folder:
~/Library/Application Support/iPhone Remote/Apps/.tapp
This puts your installed applications on the bottom of the webpage, in alphabetical order after the pre-installed .tapps. I’ve found a little nicer way to install these.
Since iPhone Remote has the default .tapps installed when you open it up the first time, you can tell that it’s got them somewhere easy for the program to access. This is likely either in the Application Support folder, which we’ve already looked at to install the regular .tapps, or in the .app file itself.
Right click the iPhone Remote application and select “Show Package Contents”. this brings up a new window with all of the files inside of the application. Usually you don’t want to mess with this stuff, but if you look under iPhone Remote/Contents/Resources you’ll find a folder called “www”. This folder is also inside of Remote Buddy’s package contents. This is the root folder for the web server that both programs run on your computer.
The “www” folder contains the usual web server stuff, an index file, a folder for images, but you’ll notice the “tapps” folder. This is your friend where all the default .tapps are installed. Plop your own applications in here, and they don’t get pushed to the bottom of the page any longer. You can even grab the .tapps that are already written and edit them for your own purposes. I found the file system browser easy to edit to access specific folders more quickly, and the webcam application can be quickly changed to refresh the image when it loads instead of requiring you to click on it.
Telekinesis is a very nifty program for controlling your computer from the web on your iPod Touch or iPhone. It’s easy to set up, highly customizable, and free. Try it, you’ll like it.
PS: You may also want to note that since you can access the web files in Remote Buddy it may be possible to transfer these PHP files into Telekinesis. The method calls are slightly different, but the principle remains the same.