Zalman TNN-300 Fanless PC Enclosure System

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The interface for controlling the TNN-300 remotely consists OF...

  • A remote control
  • iMON software that lets Windows interpret the commands entered on the remote
  • MultiMedian software that provides a remote and TV-friendly way of finding and playing media

Is one remote enough to control a whole PC?

The remote control is divided into three main sections:

  • A numerical keypad that also facilitates text entry. They are also used to select the media source in MultiMedian.
  • System buttons, that control common tasks in Windows and emulate the functionality of a mouse.
  • Playback buttons that control media playback.

Good at text messaging? Then you'll be right at home entering text on this remote.

Not surprisingly, entering text on the remote control is a painful process. Obviously a full keyboard won't fit on the remote, so another way of entering text needed to be found. The method chosen should be familiar to anyone who has ever used a cell phone: Letters are entered by pressing a number one or more times until the desired letter is found, then moving onto the next letter. This method is nowhere near as convenient as a conventional keyboard, but it is probably still the best interface for entering text via remote control. It's easier than navigating an on-screen keyboard with arrows.

The keyboard software comes with a number of different "character sets" that can be selected to expand the amount of characters that can be entered on the number pad:

  • Lower case
  • Upper case
  • Numbers
  • Special characters
  • Words for Web surfing (e.g. "www", ".com", etc.)

This method of text entry is probably good enough for rare uses that only require short strings of text to be entered (like searching for a file name), but anything longer than a couple of words probably requires a keyboard. (Most users serious about using remote control with a computer will resort to a wireless keyboard.)

The middle section of the remote contains a "mouse" and buttons for common system functions.

So much for the keyboard. What about the mouse? Mouse functionality is provided by a joystick mounted in the very center of the remote. Anyone who has ever used this style of joystick on an old laptop or a game console knows that this style of navigation can be a bit imprecise, and this remote is no exception. In addition, the motion can get interrupted if the remote is moved while the joystick is in use and the IR connection between the remote and the receiver is disturbed.

As with the keyboard functionality, the mouse emulation on the remote is fine for occasional use but not good enough as a full replacement. Fortunately, the remote still has lots of functionality beyond simple emulation of a mouse and keyboard. Much of this functionality is unleashed through proper configuration of the iMon and MultiMedian software, but even without configuring them there are still a number of common tasks that can be performed by using the remote as a remote, not as a keyboard or mouse.

Thankfully, the joystick does not always have to be used as a mouse; it also doubles as a directional keypad similar to the navigation buttons on a DVD remote. And, iMon comes preconfigured with several programs that use this style of interface to do common tasks in Windows, such as launching applications or switching between tasks. Because these two tasks are so common and need to be easy to execute, they both get their own button. There is also a button to launch MultiMedian and a number of buttons that cover common system tasks, such as opening the start menu or the context menu or adjusting the volume.

Playback buttons are user-configurable

At the bottom of the remote are nine buttons that control media playback. They are preconfigured to work with Windows Media Player and MultiMedian, and can be configured to work with any media player that uses keyboard shortcuts.

In addition to the usual "play", "pause", etc., there is also a "full screen" button the sets playback to full screen mode. This is an essential HTPC function that is missing from many so-called "Media" keyboards, so we are happy to see it included here.

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