Zalman TNN-300 Fanless PC Enclosure System

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iMON

iMON, the software for setting up and using the remote control, is maintained by SoundGraph, a company that, like Zalman, hails from Korea. The software is not unique to the TNN-300, and we have encountered it before included with other DIY-style HTPCs that we've seen.

At the heart of iMON is a configuration applet that creates mappings between keyboard combinations and buttons on the remote control. Several supporting programs designed to work with the remote interface are also included and can be configured via the control applet. The supporting programs include the application launcher and task switcher mentioned above. Also:

  • iMON Virtual Keyboard, for text input via remote control
  • iMON All-Time Control, to select a default program that is always controlled via remote, even when it is not the foreground window
  • iMON Monitor Resolution Changer

The applet itself is not remote friendly and needs to be set up with a conventional keyboard, mouse and monitor. However, once everything is up and running, the keyboard and mouse can be unplugged and the system should be able to stand alone using only the remote for input.

By default, iMON is configured for use with Internet Explorer, Windows Messenger, and Windows Media Player. Additional profiles for about forty common media-related programs are also included, and custom profiles can be made for programs (like Foobar2000 or Media Player Classic) that do not have pre-made profiles. There are also a host of Windows-related tasks that can be set up to use the remote control, though the number of tasks that can be controlled is limited by the number of buttons on the remote control.


All these programs come with pre-made profiles.

More complex keystroke patterns can be programmed via a Macro function that assigns a sequence of keystrokes to a single button on the remote. This could be useful for things like logging into an e-mail account at the touch of a button, or navigating to a specific file in a media player.

The last function of iMON is to control the list of applications that appears when the "Application Launcher" button is pressed. This allows the list to be kept to a manageable size that includes only the most commonly used programs. Just imagine trying to navigate the application launcher if every installed application was included!

MULTIMEDIAN

MultiMedian is a companion to iMON that is more or less a direct competitor to Windows Media Center Edition. It includes the same basic functionality:

  • Remote-controlled interface
  • Media playback for a wide range of media types
  • Limited database management
  • Large, TV-friendly, icons

It also inherits some of the fundamental flaws of Windows MCE:

  • Navigating a large media database eight large icons at a time with a remote control is not a pleasant or user-friendly experience
  • Getting media into the database in the first place can be difficult, and not all file containers are supported.

In addition, at the time of writing, there is no TV recording (or CD ripping) functionality included, although support is promised in a future version. Could MultiMedian be running into copyright issues here?

The basic idea behind MultiMedian seems to be to emulate the functionality of a multimedia AV receiver. When MultiMeidan is running, the numerical keypad at the top of the remote control functions as a source selector to switch between various sources. Depending on what you have hooked up to your system, you can select any of the following sources:

  • Music
  • Video
  • Photos
  • Optical Drive based-media (CDs/DVDs)
  • TV
  • Internet Radio
  • Digital Camcorder

The first three sources are all hard drive based, and must be added to the media database before they become accessible. Media is added to the database by selecting a "Scan Folder" where all media of that type resides. Multiple folders for a single media type cannot be selected, but once the Scan Folder is set the first time, adding media to the database is a simple matter of rescanning the folder for updated files.

Unfortunately, the reliance on scanning means that certain media containers cannot be played back in MultiMedian. Different formats of audio and video can be played by updating the codecs on the system, but only if these codecs are contained in one of the containers that MultiMedian understands.

Supported Media Containers
Media Type
Supported Containers
Video
WMV, AVI, ASF, MPG, MPEG, M1V, MP2, and DAT
Audio
MP3, WMA, OGG, and WAV
Image
BMP, GIF, JPG, TIFF, and PNG

Most of the notable omissions are audio formats, although there are missing containers for every media type:

  • M4A/M4P audio, the default container for iTunes
  • FLAC lossless audio (no lossless formats of any sort are supported, although some can be embedded in the WAV container)
  • Matroska (MKV) video, used to support chapters, menus, and subtitles in a single container
  • Ogg (OGM), an unofficial extension of Ogg Vorbis Audio
  • RAW image format, common in professional calibre digital cameras

Once the media is listed in the database, playing it back is a simple matter of selecting the appropriate file. The structure of the database appears to follow the directory structure in the scan directory, so it shouldn't be too hard to keep things organized.


Albums are organized alphabetically, and are navigated DVD-style with the remote.

As mentioned, navigating the database is a bit of a pain. An iPod-style selection wheel and the ability to sort songs by more than just Album would be helpful here. For large databases, the search function may come in handy, but even this is less than ideal, as it uses the tedious number pad to enter text. A wireless keyboard might come in handy here, but not many people want to deal with such a cumbersome device in the livingroom.


The search function requires text entry-by-numbers.

Perhaps the best way to use MultiMedian is to set up the share folder as a network folder (it will need to be mounted as a network drive before MultiMedian will see it). Once this is done, all media collection and preparation can be done on a different system without having to keep a keyboard and mouse at hand for the TNN-300 system. Updating the media is as simple as re-scanning the share folder, and there is no need to switch back and forth between input systems.

CONCLUSIONS

If you need or want a remote control for your computer, the iMon setup seems OK. It provides aspects of Windows Media Center Edition functionality without requiring the investment in another OS. (Of course, it is not compatible with WME, but that's another matter altogether.)

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