The HTPC Primer Page 4



When you use a computer, you usually sit at a desk with a keyboard and a mouse. There's a nice flat surface, plenty of space to rest your wrists and move the mouse around, and everything is conveniently tethered to the system itself.

When you're sitting on a couch and listening to music, you don't want to juggle a keyboard and a mouse. You want to use a remote control, like the one you use to control every other piece of equipment in your home theater. Fortunately, the Vista Media Center is built to be very remote-friendly, and a compatible remote kit (with an infrared receiver) can be found for around $30. Media-minded computers like the Gateway LX-6810 often comewith their own remote and receiver, along with an IR blaster cable for further integrating the system into your home theater.

While it makes navigating the media center quite easy, a remote control still can't replace a mouse and keyboard. The thing generating your HTPC's attractive interface is a computer, and that computer needs some sort of cursor control. You can tuck a mouse next to the tower and pull it out (and plunk it on a flat surface) when you need more control, but there's a better alternative.

The Gyration Air Music Remote ($100) is my "secret weapon" for controlling a home theater PC. At first glance, it looks like a simple Vista-compatible universal remote, with all the buttons you'd need to control your media center, cable box, Blu-ray player, and other gadgets. However, a trio of buttons sit squarely in the center of the remote, sporting the Gyration logo and two icons that look suspiciously like computer mice.

Besides working like a standard remote control, the Air Music Remote also functions as an air mouse, an input device that uses special sensors to determine how it's being moved, and then translating that movement on the screen. Hold down the center "Gyration" button (or double-tap it to lock the mode) and simply wave the remote around to move the mouse cursor. It feels a bit like the Nintendo Wii controller, but much more precise. Thanks to the air mouse aspect of the remote, you can access any part of the system from your couch with a wave of your hand, instead of having to break out a regular mouse and finding a flat surface on which to waggle it.

Better still, the remote doesn't even need a line of sight with the system to function as a mouse. It comes with a USB dongle that lets it communicate with the computer through RF, so you don't need to actually point it at the system to get it to work.