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Testing the drivers.
Unlike many PC remote controls, ATI provides Remote Wonder II drivers for both Windows and Mac OS X platforms and, for the first time, we’ll be covering both. Starting off with the more popular Windows operating system, I downloaded and installed the latest package from ATI’s site, version 2.5. After plugging in the receiver’s USB cable the computer proceeded to initialize several devices – Windows complaining that the drivers had not passed certification – and then finally rebooted.
The Remote Wonder II’s configuration utility resides as a small icon in the system tray (located near the clock). Double-clicking on the icon loads the main options window, which features five tabs: “Program”, “Plug-Ins”, “Mouse”, “Options” and “AUX”.
Plug-in to settings.
Before describing the “Program” tab we’ll jump over to “Plug-Ins”, since this section deals with one of the driver’s most critical aspects: what software it works with. Of course, the remote always operates essential Windows functions such as mouse cursor, left and right mouse clicks, click-and-drag, system volume, basic transport keys for multimedia apps, plus keyboard commands such as cursor, enter and digits. However, some of the remote’s buttons – in fact about 8 of them – can only be used if the driver recognizes the currently running application.
The Remote Wonder II has been designed to primarily operate ATI’s Multimedia Center application, which includes TV, VCR, radio, DVD player, VCD player, CD player, program guide and a file player. However, this program does not come with the Remote Wonder – you need an ATI-based video product for it to even install. So, ignoring ATI’s proprietary programs for now, users will need to rely on Remote Wonder “plug-ins” for all third party applications. By default the drivers include plug-ins for Microsoft Powerpoint and Winamp, although ATI also advertises official plug-ins for DIVX Player and TheaterTek DVD Player. All plug-ins for the old Remote Wonder will also work. Several dozen different plug-ins can be found on the
’net for popular multimedia players and presentation programs.
Although prepared plug-ins sound convenient, they actually pose a serious obstacle as these plug-ins are mini-programs that must be generated using ATI’s software developer kit (SDK) and cannot be easily created or edited by users. Most folks may not be particularly eager to learn “C” just to change the function of a few remote buttons.
What can be easily customized by the user are those six brightly colored keys mentioned earlier, marked [A] through [F]. Found under the “Program” tab, each key can contain a different function for any software recognized by the drivers. Possible functions include launching a program or replicating a keyboard shortcut, up to four simultaneous keys at a time.
So why would you need to create custom keys to begin with? Well, most programs are designed to operate with a mouse: simple point-and-click interface. If you want to load up Internet Explorer’s history list, you go to the “View” menu and find “History”. But if you want to put that function on a dedicated remote button you’d need to assign the keystroke [CTRL] plus [H]. Many programs have almost every function available as a keyboard shortcut.
Assigning keystrokes can be done easily on the six user keys, but is ultimately impossible for any other key unless a plug-in has already been created or you’re up to making one yourself. Overall, the whole plug-in concept seems needlessly inconvenient.