Sunday, November 9, 2008

Remote Buddy From IOSpirit

Computer Audiophile readers are well aware that I was not a big fan of using the iPod Touch or iPhone as a remote control. However, after a little more research and using the iPod Touch to control iTunes I soon pulled the "John Kerry" and flip-flopped by joining the iPod remote control fan club. Since then I have spent a considerable amount of time using a few of the applications commonly used to control an iTunes library. In this review I am focusing on Remote Buddy from IOSpirit.


Remote Buddy v1.8.10 is a very feature rich application.

"Remote Buddy turns the remote control in your hands into a key to your entire Mac®. No matter, whether you want to control applications and presentations, browse and playback your music- and video collection, watch TV with EyeTV, browse the web or your filesystem, make the globe turn in Google™ Earth, enter a text, move the mouse, play games or maybe just change the brightness of your screen - you can do this all with Remote Buddy! And so much more!" -

I can certainly vouch for every word of this description. You can do all of this with an iPod Touch from anywhere you can communicate with your Mac. Personally I am only interested in the iTunes library navigation and playback functions. Thus, I will narrow down the review considerably to cover only the core functions that audiophiles need to know about.


AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML) is a popular web development technique that many of you have already used, but may not know it. Remember back a couple years ago when you made one change on a website and the whole page had to reload? Thanks to AJAX techniques web pages can now communicate with a back-end server and change accordingly on the fly. No reloading the whole page if you're just selecting a date on your Google Calendar. Another major user of AJAX is GMail, one of the most popular web email applications around.

What does AJAX have to do with audiophiles and their music? Traditionally nothing at all. Now audiophiles have AJAX applications to remote control their complete music library. Enter Remote Buddy from IOSpirit.

AJAX Remote

Remote Buddy uses AJAX through Apple's Safari web browser on the iPod Touch to control iTunes and navigate your library. Nothing has to be installed on the iPod Touch. After installing the application on your Mac, just make sure it is up and running. By default the AJAX remote function is disabled. By opening the Remote Buddy preferences pane and enabling the AJAX remote you'll be all set.

Accessing you library and music is very simple as well. On the AJAX remote preferences pane there is a "Port" listed at the top. This can be set to many different numbers, but I suggest sticking with the default 8888. You'll need to remember this number to connect to the application running on your Mac from your iPod Touch. To test if Remote Buddy is working select Airport/Ethernet interfaces at the bottom of the AJAX remote preferences pane and click "Open in browser." This will open Remote Buddy on your local Mac and provide the same functionality as it will on your iPod Touch. Once your Internet browser opens you'll probably want to bookmark the RB page. Also, take note of the URL because this is what you'll enter in the Safari browser on your iPod Touch.

Accessing your music from your iPod is as simple as entering the correct web address (URL) into the Safari browser running on the iPod. On the iPod Touch open Safari and enter the URL that you noted above. It will likely look something like this . That's it, you'll be controlling your library from anywhere in the house.

I divide the remote capabilities of Remote Buddy into two part that audiophiles care about. Library navigation, and traditional remote control.

Library Navigation

Navigating your library and playing music from the Remote Buddy interface can be a little cumbersome at first. Moving forward and backward with the arrows on each line takes a little getting used to. This is one of those things you're just going to learn as you use the application. Remote Buddy has a great search feature built-in. Finding a certain song or album can be tedious on the smallish iPod screen without using the search feature. Search is accessible from the Now Playing screen, but not the library navigation screens. Maybe this will be available in version 2.0. Remote Buddy somewhat makes up for the lack of a search button in more places by separating artists and albums alphabetically. Sure this sounds rather elementary, but let me explain. When browsing for Foo Fighters I enter the Artists menu which is followed by each letter of the alphabet. From there it is simple to select the letter F and find the "Foos" from there. Some applications make you scroll alphabetically through your complete library until you find the artists you want. Not an acceptable option if your library is fairly large.

Remote Control

Once you've selected the music you want, Remote Buddy offers a decent remote to control the listening experience. From the Launcher select Remote. There you have a few buttons that are customizable through the standard RB preferences. I set my buttons for mostly standard stuff such as volume up/down, track fwd/bwd, play/pause, and even a stop button. Yes, stop is different from pause in iTunes as it will cause iTunes to forget the listening position in the currently playing song.

Wrap Up

Remote Buddy is certainly worth the price of admission at around $28. Library navigation takes a little getting used to, but the learning curve is certainly not steep. The remote control aspect of the application gives it a little old school feel like you are using a purpose built remote control with a play and pause button etc... The application as a whole could be more intuitive and Apple-like, but it still highly recommend it in the current state. This brings me to the relevance of Remote Buddy. Apple has just released the Software Development Kit (SDK) for the iPhone & iPod Touch which should bring a flood of native applications. I expect these new applications to have great functionality and be a little more intuitive and responsive. There is no timeline or even an identified application that will rival Remote Buddy. Popular wisdom says a better app will be released following the SDK release. Is it worth waiting for one of these Apple approved applications to come out? Simply put, No. Add to cart and download Remote Buddy tonight, you won't be disappointed.

Remote Buddy
click to enlarge


For further information see the IOSpirit website.