Help: Using a tablet-type device to control HTPC? - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 17 Old 08-10-2009, 12:09 PM - Thread Starter
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GIVEN:
a HTPC that runs 7MC with the MyMovies plugin and VLC that is hooked up to my receiver/HDTV, and a 4TB NAS on gigabit LAN for storage.

GOAL:
I'm bored with the keyboard/mouse combo, and my vision is going bad making it difficult to read the text descriptions displayed on my TV, so I'd really like to switch to a touchscreen tablet-type device to control the HTPC.

I'd love to be able to use hand gestures on the tablet to go through a cover-flow-type interface to read descriptions (like those in the MyMovie plugin) and select movies, music, recorded shows, etc. I'd like to find the movie I want to watch, read the description, hit "play" with my finger, and see the movie/show/music start playing on the TV and/or stereo?

Q1.
So, should I...

1. ...Simply use Remote Desktop and/or VNC? Will the touch interface work well, or will it be too slugish?
2. ...Use a Cinimar Mainlobby/DVDlobby software combo of some sort? If so, which combo?
3. ...Other?

Q2.
What wireless tablet-type device is currently the best bang for the buck for this exact purpose? (I'd like to also be able to do basic web-surfing on the device). A slick, thin, and light device, with a 8 to 10" screen is preferred.

I was thinking about waiting for the rumored Apple tablet, but I'm concerned about Apple-to-Windows compatibility and the cost.

Thanks ahead of time for your help!
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post #2 of 17 Old 08-10-2009, 12:36 PM
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I can help with Q2.

http://www.alwaysinnovating.com/touchbook/
What may be considered a negative is it runs on "mobile" OSs, i.e. Google Android, Ubuntu, Angstrom, and Windows CE so software choice beyond VNC type applications may be limited in the first few years.

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post #3 of 17 Old 08-10-2009, 12:42 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gooki View Post

I can help with Q2.

What may be considered a negative is it runs on "mobile" OSs, i.e. Google Android, Ubuntu, Angstrom, and Windows CE so software choice beyond VNC type applications may be limited in the first few years.

I was actually looking at articles on that exact device right before I came to post my questions.

I'm concerned about the limited OS/software combos the ARM processor might pose. I'd really like to ensure a smooth browser experience for my family and friends, so I'll probably need to go with a more refined solution.

That is why the idea of an Apple tablet is semi-attractive -- it's likely to be really slick to hold and operate (like a big iTouch). But, again, I'm concerned about software compatibility and price. $800 is a bit much for me to spend on an internet/media control device. lol...

I'd really like to run Win7 on the tablet device I choose.
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post #4 of 17 Old 08-10-2009, 03:40 PM - Thread Starter
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post #5 of 17 Old 08-10-2009, 03:46 PM
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I would really love to know if there is an aswer to the OP's question as I am really looking into doing something this. It would give that really big "wow" effect to my HT setup. I know that it would be possible to add a second touchscreen display and control the featurues their in clone mode.....yet wirelessly? It would have to be something like wireless HDMI I do beleive for things to work smoothly. Unless their is a remote control interface that would look smooth and work with 7MCE.
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post #6 of 17 Old 08-10-2009, 04:37 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by beankid View Post

I would really love to know if there is an aswer to the OP's question as I am really looking into doing something this. It would give that really big "wow" effect to my HT setup. I know that it would be possible to add a second touchscreen display and control the featurues their in clone mode.....yet wirelessly? It would have to be something like wireless HDMI I do beleive for things to work smoothly. Unless their is a remote control interface that would look smooth and work with 7MCE.

You might be able to pull off something like that with one of these 7" touchscreen USB monitors:
http://www.gadgetadvisor.com/compute...screen-monitor

You'd just need to add a wireless USB dongle/hub combo to your HTPC and plug it in next to your couch. Set it up as a cloned monitor and you're good to go!

That really isn't what I'm looking for though. I want a stand-alone tablet-type PC (UMPC, MID, tablet, etc) that somehow controls the HTPC remotely.

The apple tablet concept and the new Crunchpad come close, but I fear they'll both suffer from software compatibility issues with my Win7 HTPC.

I'm hoping that there is a current UMPC/Tablet/MID device that solves the problem -- one with NO physical keyboard would be best.
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post #7 of 17 Old 08-10-2009, 04:43 PM - Thread Starter
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Perhaps the Viliv S5 MID seen here running Win7:
http://www.slashgear.com/viliv-s5-mi...ows-7-2038341/

Maybe combine something like that with Mainlobby and DVDLobby software...?

The only problem I see with that one is the screen is a bit too small (4.8") for my tastes. With my poor eyesight, I really need something a little bigger... otherwise, I'd just use my iPhone with the DVDlobby web-app and be done with it.

Size matters.

So maybe the 7" Viliv X70?
http://www.crunchgear.com/2009/07/06...iliv-x70-umpc/

hmmm...
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post #8 of 17 Old 08-10-2009, 04:47 PM - Thread Starter
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Here's a potential winner...

ARCHOS 9PCtablet (UMPC) running Windows 7?
http://www.umpcportal.com/2009/06/ar...-7-tablet-umpc

Homepage here:
http://www.archos.com/products/nb/ar...try=dj&lang=en

Edit/Correction: There is still debate whether or not this will have a multi-touch screen.
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post #9 of 17 Old 08-10-2009, 04:56 PM
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I've been looking at doing exactly what you're discussing with the touch screen tablet. The short answer is, there isn't a perfect solution out there yet, IMHO. On the software side, look into "Promixis", they make a couple apps that could be of help for you. NetRemote would allow you to create a web interface that any device could operate as long as it had a connection to the internet. You would be able to pick up any netbook that you wanted then to act as your remote.

If you haven't looked over the thread on the iPhone/iPod touch remote app being developed, you may want to peruse that thread as I think it shows a lot of promise (http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?t=1124844).

As far as hardware, Gigabyte has one (http://www.engadget.com/2009/08/10/g...steeper-price/), Asus has the T91 (http://usa.asus.com/products.aspx?mo...=164&l3=0&l4=0) and will be releasing a 10" version shortly, and on the web only front there is also the CrunchPad (http://www.engadget.com/2009/07/30/c...ectivity-says/) which looks really sweet.

If going the netbook/Tablet PC route, I would personally wait until Windows 7 is release though. With the exception of the HP laptop, which is several thousand bucks, there's nothing to my knowledge available that is multitouch capable. Windows 7 will have multitouch native to the OS and it will be nice to see the hardware manufacturers react to that in their specs. In fact, Asus has a multitouch version of the T91, it was on display at CeBit this year, but has not yet released it.

If you can get it to work, the Crunchpad might be your most cost effective option, but again it's not expected to be released until November of this year, at least. Right now, I'd say be patient.

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post #10 of 17 Old 08-10-2009, 05:00 PM
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I hate to answer a question with a question, buts its necessary.

1. How much configuration/programming experience do you have? Remote control of another machine can be done with lots of hardware combinations. VNC/RDP type control is one thing (probably the most basic), others can be setup to have "modules" on each machine that communicate with each other via serial or IP connections. (the latter is what the higher-end control systems are using)

2. I think the Cinemar setup can be used on various windows based machines. I think specifically they have optomized a Samsung Q1 to work with the software. This looks quite nice. Its also not cheap.

I have designed apps for my 2 viewsonic v210 airpanels. These work quite well and were at one time rebadged as a crestron panel. It natively runs winCE which is not easy to work with but it will do VNC/RDP with an XP machine and it works ok with button type interfaces, but not so much coverflow, animation type graphics. Its also not new...you can pick them up on ebay relatively cheap. they retailed for about 1200USD.

I would also check out a Motion computing tablet on ebay. It has more horsepwer and would likely do RDP much better. Those can be had inexpensively also.

I would seriously considered a tethered monitor. IMO, the jump between RDP, and serial/ip based communication is large on the learning curve. The tethered option is going to give you great graphics and responsive control in the location that you want.
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post #11 of 17 Old 08-10-2009, 05:16 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Xyst View Post

I've been looking at doing exactly what you're discussing with the touch screen tablet. The short answer is, there isn't a perfect solution out there yet, IMHO. On the software side, look into "Promixis", they make a couple apps that could be of help for you. NetRemote would allow you to create a web interface that any device could operate as long as it had a connection to the internet. You would be able to pick up any netbook that you wanted then to act as your remote.

If you haven't looked over the thread on the iPhone/iPod touch remote app being developed, you may want to peruse that thread as I think it shows a lot of promise (http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?t=1124844).

As far as hardware, Gigabyte has one (http://www.engadget.com/2009/08/10/g...steeper-price/), Asus has the T91 (http://usa.asus.com/products.aspx?mo...=164&l3=0&l4=0) and will be releasing a 10" version shortly, and on the web only front there is also the CrunchPad (http://www.engadget.com/2009/07/30/c...ectivity-says/) which looks really sweet.

If going the netbook/Tablet PC route, I would personally wait until Windows 7 is release though. With the exception of the HP laptop, which is several thousand bucks, there's nothing to my knowledge available that is multitouch capable. Windows 7 will have multitouch native to the OS and it will be nice to see the hardware manufacturers react to that in their specs. In fact, Asus has a multitouch version of the T91, it was on display at CeBit this year, but has not yet released it.

If you can get it to work, the Crunchpad might be your most cost effective option, but again it's not expected to be released until November of this year, at least. Right now, I'd say be patient.

Xyst

Thank you for all the links. I think you might be right to wait for all the new Win7 devices -- the good news is that I'm currently stuck in Iraq and won't be making the actual purchase until April 2010.

(I'm just killing time over here figuring out how to tweak my HT when I get home...lol)

I'm certainly interested in he Crunchpad and Apple tablet devices since I don't want a keyboard, but my main concern will be the development of compatible apps to interface with my HTPC. As I understand it, the Crunchpad will use a proprietary (possibly linux) OS, right? Now, if I can get Win7 to run on it, or a MainLobby client of any sort, I'd be all over it!

Again though, thanks for the links!
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post #12 of 17 Old 08-10-2009, 05:50 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LuncHwagon View Post

I hate to answer a question with a question, buts its necessary.

1. How much configuration/programming experience do you have? Remote control of another machine can be done with lots of hardware combinations. VNC/RDP type control is one thing (probably the most basic), others can be setup to have "modules" on each machine that communicate with each other via serial or IP connections. (the latter is what the higher-end control systems are using)

2. I think the Cinemar setup can be used on various windows based machines. I think specifically they have optomized a Samsung Q1 to work with the software. This looks quite nice. Its also not cheap.

I have designed apps for my 2 viewsonic v210 airpanels. These work quite well and were at one time rebadged as a crestron panel. It natively runs winCE which is not easy to work with but it will do VNC/RDP with an XP machine and it works ok with button type interfaces, but not so much coverflow, animation type graphics. Its also not new...you can pick them up on ebay relatively cheap. they retailed for about 1200USD.

I would also check out a Motion computing tablet on ebay. It has more horsepwer and would likely do RDP much better. Those can be had inexpensively also.

I would seriously considered a tethered monitor. IMO, the jump between RDP, and serial/ip based communication is large on the learning curve. The tethered option is going to give you great graphics and responsive control in the location that you want.

1. While I do have the experience to install more complex solutions, if I had to, I'd really like to take advantage of emerging tech and software to keep this as simple as possible.

2. What's the estimated cost for the Cinemar/Samsung QP1 combo? I'll use that to ballpark the same combo with newer UMPC/tablets.

3. I really want this to be a wireless tablet-type solution. I don't really need the system to control my other equipment directly (that would be a bonus). I only really need it to browse and launch my media through the HTPC -- and surf the net, of course.

Thanks for the suggestions!
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post #13 of 17 Old 08-10-2009, 08:19 PM
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What I'd look at is a media center that has a web based control system, and a light tablet running a web browser. This way your OS independent to a large extent, and future upgrades should only apply to the htpc/seerver and not the tablet.

Looks like XBMC already has it, so chance are media portal will as well.
http://www.xbmc.org/wiki/index.php?t..._Web_Interface

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post #14 of 17 Old 08-11-2009, 06:35 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gooki View Post

What I'd look at is a media center that has a web based control system, and a light tablet running a web browser. This way your OS independent to a large extent, and future upgrades should only apply to the htpc/seerver and not the tablet.

Looks like XBMC already has it, so chance are media portal will as well.
http://www.xbmc.org/wiki/index.php?t..._Web_Interface

The only problem I have with a web-based solution is the lack of a really solid GUI and the likely absence of multi-touch functionality.

Mainlobby also has a nice web-based app that even works on an iPhone. However, the GUI is very limited and can't be custom skinned very easily.

Then again, maybe it's good enough for the media browsing I'm looking for.

Perhaps combine a simple web-based front-end with cubesys' new iPhone Remote project. If he can manage to port his powerful app to the new Apple tablet, we might have a real winner. (it's a full-control app for your entire HT).

I just posted in his thread asking if he's considered a MacOS port for that very reason... my fingers are now crossed.

If I can control every aspect of my home automation and A/V, as well as browse all of my media and surf the web, all in a single thin and light tablet, at a reasonable price, then I may be finished with my search.

At this point, I'm leaning toward this as my solution:
1. HTPC Runs 7MC, VLC, and AnydvdHD
2. Buy 1 Apple Tablet
3. Buy 1 GC Gateway w/ IR, IP, and RS232 interfaces.
4. Install cubsys' new Apple controller application on tablet and both family iPhones.
5. Install Cinemar software and/or use web-apps on each device.

The big problem with this solution would be cost...
- the tablet alone is rumored to be $800+tax.
- The GC Gateway is roughly $135.
- The software is... a lot.

Hmmm... back to my search.
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post #15 of 17 Old 08-11-2009, 11:07 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TheSkinsFan View Post

Thank you for all the links. I think you might be right to wait for all the new Win7 devices -- the good news is that I'm currently stuck in Iraq and won't be making the actual purchase until April 2010.

(I'm just killing time over here figuring out how to tweak my HT when I get home...lol)

I'm certainly interested in he Crunchpad and Apple tablet devices since I don't want a keyboard, but my main concern will be the development of compatible apps to interface with my HTPC. As I understand it, the Crunchpad will use a proprietary (possibly linux) OS, right? Now, if I can get Win7 to run on it, or a MainLobby client of any sort, I'd be all over it!

Again though, thanks for the links!

I agree that the crunchpad looks promising, but I doubt you'll be able to load any type of windows OS on the machine. My understanding is that the device is a browser interface only, so if you can do it in a web browser, you should be good to go. Technically speaking, there are APIs and scripts available to help send RS232 commands via web pages, but that would probably take some rather intricate design work.

Also, don't discount multitouch not being available for a web browsing interface. I believe that google has been working ongestures and multi-touch capabilities on their webpages, so it is certainly feasible and I'm sure there's a white paper out there somewhere.

All this is rather academic though.

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post #16 of 17 Old 08-11-2009, 11:26 AM
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I use Netremote on a Samsung Q1 UMPC running XP Tablet OS. The commands are sent to a PC running Girder via WiFi. Girder outputs keystrokes/remote IR commands through a USBUIRT; I control my component rack/device switching and 2 HTPC's with it.

It takes some time on the front end but works quite nicely.

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post #17 of 17 Old 08-11-2009, 05:31 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Willie View Post

I use Netremote on a Samsung Q1 UMPC running XP Tablet OS. The commands are sent to a PC running Girder via WiFi. Girder outputs keystrokes/remote IR commands through a USBUIRT; I control my component rack/device switching and 2 HTPC's with it.

It takes some time on the front end but works quite nicely.

Willie

What software are you using on the tablet to browse through your media on the device's screen itself, or are you only displaying the media metadata on the TV and using the tablet as a remote control?
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