Have you ever needed to access your home PC or Mac when out and about? What about your large video and/or music collection? Wouldn’t it be great to stream that directly to your iPad in your hotel while on holiday?
For out-and-about access to your home desktop, and all its multimedia files music and games, AVStreamer HD could just be what you need. Lets look in detail at some of the many possibilities this app provides after the jump.
After downloading the app, a simple desktop support client is needed to act as a go-between for your home PC and your iPad. I downloaded the server version file for Windows which was 3.3MB (the server download for Mac is only 1.8MB). When you install, there is an extra 6MB download of supporting files.
Once the server software starts, you are ready to launch the App on the iPad. You are presented with a simple “HUB” setup screen, and you may already see your home computer linked in the background (blue bar, below). The HUB details are for quickly identifying your PC across the Internet, but if you’re just going to use the over your local Wi-Fi, you can skip this screen. It asks you for some basic information: Computer Name, Security Code and a HUB ID and password. Once you are done, or if you wish to skip this setup, simply tap on your machine name.
Once you select your machine, you will be able to control you home computer from your iPad, giving you full accessibility to all the files and programs on it. If you are connecting to a Windows client, you might notice the desktop client colour scheme changes to basic — this is, I guess, to reduce the bandwidth. After connecting to the remote machine successfully, a Hints screen appears explaining how to use each of the dual mouse control modes, and summarising the control buttons that are always available at the bottom of the screen.
It’s possible to use a local hotspot on your iPhone to create a local Wi-Fi bubble, and stream from a portable computer through the phone to your iPad; no Internet data is used in this configuration, but it allows roaming free with the iPad, with the added benefit of accessing your storage and other media on your laptop or netbook machine.
While you are connected to your remote machine, there are two main methods of controlling the mouse on the screen: touch mode and trackpad mode. Essentially, this determines whether the remote PC tracks your finger directly for mouse control, or if it uses the touchscreen of the iPad as a huge trackpad, off-setting the mouse movement and providing on-screen buttons to tap left and right click. In touch mode, a single touch is a click and a touch and hold is a right click. Two finger drag moves the screen in this mode, and operates the mouse-wheel function when using the trackpad mode. You can toggle which control method is best for you using the Change Mouse Mode icon at the base of the screen.
As well as redirecting the screen, all of the audio is redirected through to the iPad from the remote machine. One of the strangest things I encountered during testing of the app was the immediate redirection of audio through to the iPad when I connected. I was listening to music on my laptop whilst writing this article, and when I connected the audio “moved” from my laptop to my iPad instantaneously.
It’s Game On
On the developer’s web site there are some links to videos showing remote playing of games such as Diablo. My initial tests covered some older games — Unreal Tournament, Red Alert and a couple of racing games with limited success. Some games seemed to struggle with the 256-colour mode forced when connecting, and others suffered from a delayed response on the controls. These are early days still for this new app, so perhaps the gaming experience will improve — do comment below if you have had success with any games, and if you needed to change anything to get them working ok.
Even though I struggled with some more recent titles, what I have wanted to do for a very long time for nostalgia’s sake is play retro games. And you can, beautifully, with this application. Java and flash games from web pages just play seemlessly across the connection, including my old favourite, Chuckie Egg.
You can see the on-screen controls that can be configured and placed anywhere on the screen.
If it wasn’t enough to give you full-featured remote control on your home computer, and play your games wherever you are, the app goes just that bit further when it comes to streaming video and music. Pressing the Play button in the centre of the bottom control panel offers you a choice of all of the shared media files on your remote computer. You can also connect to its webcam and/or TV tuner if present. The possibilities of remote surveilance and perhaps even remote TV programming or watching is just sweet icing on the cake.
Whilst playing back a movie file, there is an instant bandwidth-adjust option to reduce video quality on the fly to get the best looking picture for the bandwidth available to you. The video player supports all of those file formats that you home computer can already play.
One of the interesting side-uses of the app could be to start your music playing on your home computer and stream this to your iPad over 3G or another local or remote Wi-Fi connection — its a decent alternative to iTunes match to gain access to your whole media collection wherever you are.
What’s Not to Like?
When there was a lot happening on the screen, sometimes the audio was a little choppy, even on a 54mps wireless home network. Also, the processor on my home PC gets a hammering when playing back media files. One other issue that I’m a little concerned about is the ability to connect into my home network — the server application uses uPnP to open up an appropriate port so that you can connect to your home computer whilst out and about. My concern is that this opens it up to the potential of hacking striaight through my firewall to my most sesitive machines. I’ve pssed these concerns onto the developer, and I’ll feedback what reassurance they give.
Setup was easy for this app — operation is slick and feature rich, and it truly is one of those apps that fully fulfils the “it just works” mantra. The customizable keyboard layouts, webcam and TV tuner access, and just the quickness of everything when it works makes this a very solid purchase with many uses and much potential. Already the developers have released a new version of the server software.Things can only get better from here.