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Archive: 4 May 2006

Presentation Remotes

This one will be of interest to the dozen or so of you who regularly give presentations that involve some sort of (Powerpoint, Keynote, S5, whatever) slide show.

Just before An Event Apart Philadelphia, I went out and bought a Keyspan Presentation Remote.  I picked this particular make and model because I’d used one at Web Essentials 05 and it’s programmable, which always hooks me.  It also has the ability to control the mouse pointer, change the audio volume, and more.  So I bought one.

Bad move.  As attendees of An Event Apart can tell you, we had problem after problem with the damn thing, both with the default settings and with the customized configuration I’d set up.  It turns out the remote has two “modes”, and the default mode can be only partly reprogrammed.  Sadly, it won’t stay in the alternate mode.  If you don’t interact with the remote for a minute or so, it goes back to default mode, which means it stops doing what it’s supposed to do (advance slides).  We ended up just not using it.

While I was at IceWeb, I borrowed Molly‘s (or maybe it was Andy‘s) Kensington Pocket Presenter to deliver my talk.  This little baby is simple as anything: largish back and forth keys that map to Page Up and Page Down, a red button for the laser pointer, and a “stop” button that blanks the screen in supporting applications.  That’s it.  And that’s what makes it great.  Even better, the USB receiver slides into a storage slot in the remote itself, and doing so turns the whole thing off, is pure genius.  It fits easily in the hand, both in terms of size and shape.  It’s the iPod of presentation controllers, designed to do one thing and do it very well.  It’s enough to make me reconsider my whole “one device to rule them all” stance.

I picked one up at the Apple Store the other night for not much more than it costs at your favorite online discount e-store, and I couldn’t be happier.  The one little quirk I noticed was that the first time I plugged one of these into my PowerBook (running Tiger), the system said I was plugging in a new keyboard.  I dismissed the dialog box, and it’s worked without a hiccup ever since.

So: Keyspan remote bad, Kensington remote good.  Of course, if you really need a presentation remote that can do a convincing impression of a slow-moving mouse driven by an Etch-A-Sketch interface, then you may disagree with me on this one.  Me, I’d rather just have a slide controller, and if I need to do something with the mouse, I’ll walk over to the computer and use the mouse.  Shocking!

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