The world's most expensive remote keyboard

Here’s a habit I’ve gotten into every time I visit Best Buy or CompUSA: looking over the various keyboards they have to offer1. I’ve been hunting for a good from-the-couch keyboard that can be used to control a home-theater computer (like my new Mac mini!), and I’ve never found it. I look for a small keyboard, and one that has a built-in trackpad or thumbpoint device or something capable of guiding a cursor. The other thing I look for is Bluetooth support since my Macs use it and it wouldn’t require some weird-o USB-antenna dongle to work (and I’ve seen some of these non-Bluetooth wireless devices that operate in the 2.4GHz range which has got to cause some kind of interference with a WiFi network).

Alas, nothing is right. The latest thing I’ve seen that looks interesting is Microsoft’s Windows Media Center keyboard. They have the right idea, but what’s with the restrictions? Why can’t it be used with any PC? And I’m not sure, but does this work via a infrared or what? It’s a little wide, but I guess it’s lap-friendly.

Anyway, what I wound up using was… my PowerBook of course! With the magic of Synergy, I can use my PowerBook’s keyboard and trackpad to control the mini. It’s configured so that once I move my mouse beyond the top edge of the PowerBook’s display, it pops up at the bottom of my TV. I’ve used Synergy before to do this kind of thing, but this is ideal. Communication is done over WiFi and it’s smooth— no jerkiness like I’ve experienced with Bluetooth keyboards/mice2.

I tried a wireless keyboard for a while, but oddly enough, it would start to fail when I leaned back into the couch, but would work when I was sitting up right at the edge of the couch. It’s supposed to have a 30-foot range! Maybe it’s just trying to enforce good ergonomics/posture?

  1. Can someone please explain to me why Microsoft and Logitech are competing with each other to see who can make the most variations of keyboards and mice for the market? The different editions vary so greatly— don’t they have any notion of what works and what doesn’t?
  2. This won’t be a good solution for full-screen games like Quake 3; at least not yet.

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2 Comments

I like Synergy a lot, but it was kinda buggy when I used it. Imagine the frustration when the focus suddenly gets stuck on the remote computer and you have to kick the reset button since you can't do a proper reboot...

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This article was published on March 5, 2006 12:53 AM.

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