AirSharing – an application for your iPhone or iPod touch, turning the device into a wifi storage drive and file viewer.
It would be nice if Apple would let you copy files directly to your iPhone or touch over the USB cable, but they don’t. What we can do is copy files over from a Mac or PC using AirSharing. As a bonus you get a viewer providing support for a variety of file types. More on that at the end. First, let’s look at how we copy files onto your device, and how we get them off.
Placing Files on Your Device
To copy files on from your Mac just go to the Go menu in Finder and select Connect to Server. Or hit Command-K. In the box that opens (see image to the right) enter http://w.x.y.z — but replace w.x.y.z with the ip address of your device. Don’t know the ip? Don’t worry, AirSharing will help with that as we’ll see in a minute.
A Finder window will open displaying whatever folders you’ve created on your iPhone or touch. You can drag files in or out, delete files or folders, or create new ones.
If you’re on a PC you’ll start with Internet Explorer. Go to the File menu and click open. Enter the address of your device just like the steps above – and make sure to check the box. A window will open displaying the folders on your device.
Getting Files Off Your Device.
When activated on your device, AirSharing turns it into a pocket web server. Your friends (on the same wifi network with your device) can access your files by pointing their web browser to http://w.x.y.z:8080. Again, replace the w.x.y.z with the ip address of your device. The 8080 is the port number where the web server is running. For more on what port numbers are read the end of this post.
Just like any other web page, users can right-click the file links to perform operations like saving the referenced file to disk.
As a bonus, AirSharing includes viewers for many file types you might want to open. iWork, photos, office docs, pdf, web docs – in addition to music and movies. This really comes in handy. See the developer site for a list of file formats supported. Instead of having to use iTunes to copy photos onto your device you can just drag a folder of images over and use the AirSharing viewer to display them.
Notice in the image to the right that the ip address of the device is displayed at the bottom of the screen. The ip address can be seen elsewhere in the interface of AirSharing too, like the settings page. You can also turn AirSharing off when you’re not using it, which Murphy would recommend.
If you’ve got a big web page you want to review later you can save it as a web archive in Safari and transfer it to your device using AirSharing. That way you can read it later offline.
AirSharing makes ferrying files using your iPhone or touch easy. Yes, wifi is a little slow, but it’s a pretty simple solution that doesn’t need any third party software on your Mac or PC.
In addition, you can copy content like photos, audio, and movies to your device without going through iTunes. For some that might be worth the price of admission. Check out AirSharing at the developers site. $6.99.
Free Shipping at Amazon
Does unlimited two-day shipping, free, from Amazon, seem too good to be true? It’s true. Get on board while you can. Amazon doesn’t always offer a free one-month trial for its Prime account.
Here are some reasons to try Prime out:
- It’s free.
- You can get your Christmas shopping done, now.
- Overnight shipping is only $3.99.
- No minimum order amount.
- You can share it with your roommates, even after the trial ends.
Here’s another thing: Murphy ordered a car-top cargo carrier. It would have cost $100 to ship from just about any vendor. It was free with Amazon Prime. Amazon Prime paid for itself with one order.
You might find yourself ordering stuff from Amazon you wouldn’t have before. iPods, Paul Newman’s Dog Food, diapers. How can you go wrong with an entire month of free two-day express shipping?!
What’s the catch? Not everything in the Amazon inventory is eligible, like items offered through other sellers. With the trial you’ll get a good idea for what’s eligible.
The year I got my shopping done before Thanksgiving was the most relaxing December I ever had. Get yours done. Then kick back and have a beer while your friends are scrambling.
If you choose to keep Prime after the free trial it’s $79 for a year.
I’ve wanted a wireless webcam for a while. Amazon made it pretty clear that there was one camera that stood above the rest. The Panasonic BL-C131A. The only problem was that it cost over two hundred dollars.
I got one anyway.
There were comments all over Amazon about people needing to call support to get this camera going. I didn’t need to call. But — I needed to read the instructions. Once the initial setup is complete it’s very easy to make changes to the configuration.
With the camera sending live video to Safari I spent a couple hours digging into what else it could do. There was enough to keep me busy.
Accessing the Stream
The BL-C131A displays video on a multi-tabbed web page. The main page has controls for panning left and right as well as up and down. There are also eight preset locations. You can name the presets things like “door” or “crib”. Using the presets is the quickest way to swing the BL-C131A to a given position.
You can also click right on the video to center, or use multi-directional arrow controls. Clicking to center has a slight delay. The camera’s panning motor isn’t noisy, but you’d probably hear it in a quiet room.
There’s a Windows-based program for setting up the camera that can also be used for viewing and capturing the video to disk. I don’t feel left out because of that, but others might. A negative for me: the audio from the camera can only be accessed from a PC. Mac browsers don’t support the audio control.
I tried using Quicktime to view the stream – the BL-C131A interface has settings for RTSP. I couldn’t get that to work and I called Panasonic. They said it’s not currently supported but future firmware might add the capability. (Everyone on Amazon raved about the tech support provided by Panasonic.)
The camera can also capture stills and email them or upload them to an ftp site. This capability works with “triggers” the camera can act upon. A trigger could be motion or a time interval. I used the motion trigger to send photos via email to my Flickr account. The camera sets keywords and privacy settings on the photos when it sends the email, so my Flickr account can keep the photos out of public view and tagged for further action. The BL-C131A and Flickr make for a powerful combination.
You can set up to five different triggers, each with its own schedule and actions to perform when invoked. The camera can time stamp the stills.
Sometimes Firefox has trouble updating the image on my computer. Restarting the browser usually handles the problem. I haven’t been using Safari lately, but when I do I haven’t had the problem as much. I can also view the image on my iPod touch, which never seems to have a problem. Using the ‘tap to center’ function on the BL-C131A video with my iPod is handy.
The camera has some nice additional features, like scheduled down time and reboots. I have it reboot every day, which probably provides increased stability. A green light on the front of the camera lets you know when it’s being accessed. The light can be disabled. There’s also a physical button on the camera to invoke privacy. There’s a standard tripod mount on the bottom of the BL-C131A. A small metal cable is provided to prevent falls by securing the camera to a wall.
I can access images directly from the BL-C131A across the Internet too. The interface has settings for UPnP, and my Netgear router works fine with the camera. It would be easy to check in on your camera with an iPhone. Alternatively, there’s a free service bundled with the camera: viewnetcam.com.
Video quality isn’t bad in a dimly lit room. The camera doesn’t have the kind of nightvision you see in camcorders. The heat sensor is for detecting motion, it’s not an infrared camera!
You can create multiple user accounts with different levels of access below the administrator.
The BL-C131A would be suitable as a nanny cam or for watching a door, as long as the space was lit. The interface allows viewing feeds from multiple cameras simultaneously.
The camera purchased was intended for watching an infant, but we’ve been using it to watch a toddler who won’t stay in bed. I might have been better off when I didn’t know.
I’m pretty happy with the camera. Sometimes I have to restart a browser, which is annoying. This camera has a complete, well thought-out feature set. The biggest downside is the price.
Panasonic Webcam on Amazon
Murphy used to control iTunes using a laptop. With an almost two-year-old little girl on the loose that’s not always so convenient. Laptops are a prime toddler target. If Murphy’s little angel isn’t beating on the MBP she’s slamming the lid shut and saying, “Buh-bye.”
Remote Buddy changes everything. A toddler doesn’t always notice an iPod touch or an iPhone. So now Murphy can select a playlist, skip to the next track, rate a song – all kinds of things. If a toddler approaches you can jam the iPod between the sofa cushions.
Remote Buddy has a nice layout. The buttons are easy to tap and you can browse using a very iPod-like interface. Murphy has been making lots of progress rating songs and cleaning up his library.
Murphy’s music is on a G5 upstairs, but he listens on a stereo in the living room via an Airport Express. When it’s safe to use a laptop the interface is perfect. Murphy set a keyboard shortcut to open Remote Buddy in a custom sized window – using a special kind of bookmark.
The screencast shows some basic functionality. The Remote Buddy interface launches in Safari, so you don’t have to hack your iPhone or iPod touch.
Remote Buddy product site.
This week’s Product of the Week is not exactly Mac-oriented. But if you like to tinker you might enjoy the world of JP1.
It’s been a while since I programmed my $20 JP1 remote control. It was something of a chore, but I sure am glad I did it. Sometimes I can’t believe it actually worked. (the linked remote is an updated version of mine)
A JP1 remote can be connected to your PC for programming. I bought a cable that connected to a parallel port on my pc for ten bucks. The other end has holes that match pins inside the battery compartment of the remote.
When I bought the twenty dollar JP1 remote at Best Buy it didn’t have the pins. I called the manufacturer (link is to my remote) and told them the remote didn’t have the codes for my Directv receiver. They asked me to send it in. The remote came back free of charge, programmed with the code I needed, and the pins installed. From there I could connect the remote to my computer and program it. I only paid one way postage.
The JP1 community distributes applications that make programming your JP1 remote an attainable goal. When I looked at articles on the web I wasn’t sure I’d be able to do it. The complexity depends on how lofty your goals are and what equipment you want to control with the remote.
I have a Samsung DLP (I have an older 46″ model) with three sources: A Tivo, an HD receiver, and a DVD recorder / player. The audio on the television is muted and all the sources output through a stereo receiver. One remote handles everything.
Here’s the worst case scenario, without a good universal remote: If I’m watching television on the Tivo and decide to start watching a DVD I would have to do the following:
- Press TV
- Press Input Select as many times as necessary to toggle to DVD
- Press Audio
- Press Input Select as many times as necessary to toggle to DVD
- Press DVD – to begin operating the DVD player.
That’s at least 5 key presses, if not more to toggle. With my JP1 remote it’s a little different. I press one button, and the five steps mentioned above take place, and there’s no toggling steps. How? The JP1 lets you create macros, which let you tie a series of key presses into a single button press. But there’s more: You can also use discrete codes to avoid the toggling through multiple choices – and go directly to your choice.
Here’s an example. The remote that comes with my television gives me one way to switch between the source devices that feed it (the Tivo, HD, and DVD). I can tap the Input Select button and rotate between the inputs. Or I can go to the menu system and select one. But either method requires multiple taps.
What’s worse, when someone like your babysitter is trying to use the remote they have to decipher things, like which input source they’ve rotated to. With a macro and a discrete code there is no guessing. They press the button and all the settings change in a predictable manner, no rotating or toggling through choices. That’s the huge benefit of using a discrete code on a JP1. A discrete code is a very specific command.
If you’re looking at a certain TV you might want to investigate what discrete codes it supports – if you’re interested in a highly functional remote. Just google for the model along with “discrete code”.
My remote has a row of four buttons at the bottom for picture in a picture functions, which I don’t use. I’ve assigned a macro to each button. For example, the swap button puts the television in TiVo mode, makes the stereo monitor the TiVo, and leaves the remote in TiVo mode. Two of the other buttons handle the DVD and HD tuner. Bonus: My remote comes with dedicated TiVo buttons like thumbs up and down, Tivo Menu, and 8 second rewind.
Bottom line: A baby sitter can press one button and switch from TiVo to DVD. One button! If they press something accidently and get the stereo source out of sync with the television source they can press that one button and all is well again. No troubleshooting over the phone, just one button.
I’ve been so happy with this solution over the last few years I haven’t even looked to see what else is out there in the world of remote controls. If you’ve got something you really like please post it in the comments.
I won’t be able to help you with programming your remote, but I’ll reply if you have any questions on the big picture. The software for programming your remote is a little messy, so you might need to spend a little time on your research. I haven’t tried to use a Mac either.` For one thing – the cables I found were all parallel. Start at Wikipedia, they have some relvant links.
This is the remote I have. Here’s some information on other remotes. You’ll probably end up doing some serious Googling before you’re done. That said, when I sat down to set up my remote I was done in less than an hour, including my three macros.
There are plenty of other remotes out there, and they can be programmed. But this is a highly functional remote at a bargain basement price. The surcharge is your time.
And remember, if an optimized remote is your goal you might want to look into discrete codes before you buy a television.
This might be the BEST documentation I’ve seen on JP1 remotes.
More links: Downloading the software – JP1 Beginners Forum