Gmote remote control for HTPC review

If you have ever built yourself a Home Theater PC (HTPC) and later decommissioned it because you decided it was too much of a hassle to control, being that you needed a mouse and keyboard, which meant more wires and “stuff” lying around your living room, and thereby attracted the “evil look” from you spouse which in turn made you decommission it (It’s a vicious downwards spiral once you get that look…), you’ll want to try this app out: It’s called Gmote and what it does is absolutely marvelous…

…and free.

What it does:

It allows you to remote control your PC from any Wi-Fi Android device, phone or tablet.

What it requires:

Both the controller (Android device) and the PC must be on the same local network.

How does it look?

The interface is rather spartan, no useless frills or designs although it is fully skinnable, most people won’t see the point nor be able to justify spending even 1-2 minutes to apply a 101 Dalmatians background to the touchpad because frankly, you won’t be looking at it all that much.

Above is the touchpad interface screen and it’s easy to use since it works like most laptop touchpads, at the top you have two buttons, the keyboard button allows you to spawn your default keyboard (I recommend Swipe Key 3 but that’s entirely a matter of preference) and the button depicting a mouse acts as a press and hold the left mouse button.. er.. button. Long pressing on the same spot using the touchpad acts as a right click.

As you can see, even with the keyboard view, unless you’re using a smallish smartphone, you should have plenty of touchscreen space at the top to use as a virtual touchpad.

Is there any lag?

Nope. None that I could detect. Sure I might not use it to play Crysis or Left for Dead but it’s perfectly fine to browse Netflix, YouTube or any other usual media player or browser.

What about media playing?

Well, the default view is actually a media player interface complete with play, stop, forwards and back buttons among others.

How can it be free?

It’s actually supported by ads, which in a way kinda sucks. I wish an ad free paying version was available. A lot of these ad-supported free apps though, prefer this way of working because on the one hand, if something goes wrong and Smartypanty391 posts a horrible, single starred review, stating how he was ripped off by the programmer because he paid a whopping .90$ for the app and somehow he managed to mess up the (very straighforwards) install and configuration process, well, it’s a free app so…there.

On the other hand, when comparing an income of 0.99$/copy sold vs an income of even 0.01$ per single displayed ad, it becomes obvious that in the long run the ad supported version will generate more income than a paid version.

Still, I think the choice should be there. Not that in this case the ads are obtrusive, they’re tiny and at the bottom of the screen. Nevertheless, they’re there and I actually know some advertising vegans who will not install an ad supported app as a matter of principle. Like the ads are made of some important organ off a goat carcass or something.

Does it work better on a smartphone or a tablet?

Tablet, hands down. The larger screen and interface make it obvious, consider also that most people nowadays “watch” TV while stumbling on a tablet anyways, so you know you’ll almost always have that remote underhand. Dedicating a tablet or smartphone just as a remote might be unpractical but admittedly, most of us have smartphones or tablets lying around the house, some are even relegated to the oblivion shelf, where obsolency meets dust in an explosion of what can only be called waste. Why not revive these older items by turning them into a remote control (or a wi-fi webcam) then?

Do I need to install anything on the PC?

Well, yeah. There’s a Gmote server end that must be installed but it’s not intrusive and actually rather secure. You’ll find an extra tray icon and you’ll be prompted for a password the first time you connect. It also seems to run as a service in Windows 7 which is pretty cool because it allows you to log onto your session without a keyboard or mouse attached to the computer. (Assuming your BIOS allow you to POST without a keyboard…)

Score? 8/10. It narrowingly misses the 9 mark because it’s ONLY available as an ad-supported free app.

What I’d like to see in future versions:

-Ad-free paid version

-A bookmarks button for people who have more than one PC to control (I have three) where the app would remember the IP address and password for each PC

-Shortcut buttons (ctrl-alt-del, windows-D, windows-E, start Google Chrome, etc)

 

 

About the author: Luca Colonnese

 

Limited production techno music, fiction and comedy. Actually, very limited. To follow on Twitter: Child of Gla55

Website: http://www.childofglass.ca

 

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