Posted by: Twar on May 26, 2011
Google gave us a small peek into the future at its I/O event earlier this month, where they announced Android @ Home, their very own attempt at home automation.
When I first read about Android @ Home my heart almost skipped a beat. It’s the stuff geeks like me dream of, and with a company as big as Google behind the project the potential is staggering.
For now they only demonstrated a light bulb that you can dim/switch on/off with your android phone and a media hub which allows you to play music via your phone anywhere in the house, but before the end of the year the supported devices will begin to grow one by one, and with the whole android community being able to easily write apps for all our electronics in our houses, the future will be here before we know it!
But until then, we have to make do with our own little ways of home automation that works to a much lesser extent. Let’s face it; we want to be able to control everything with our phones, just because it’s cool. I want to be able to sit in my room and turn on the heater that’s within arms reach of me via my phone, just to see friends stare in awe at how awesome it is, and then I want to start playing music via my computer and start the kettle and dim the lights – all from my phone.
For now all that isn’t possible yet though, and we have to make do with what is available for now, and that is what this blog is actually about.
I live in a residence in Stellenbosch. As a student I have access to the universities internet, which is quite cheap, so I have no desire to pay for wifi in addition to my normal internet costs. I do however own a data-hungry Android phone which is eating through my more expensive Vodacom data bundles and airtime. The solution to this is to be able to use my cheap university internet through my phone, meaning I have to share my internet connection via wifi to be able to access it on my phone. Now the problem with this is that I don’t have a laptop, and PC’s don’t usually have wifi.
The solution is simple enough though. Buy a wifi-dongle. Now these aren’t very expensive and in the long run saves me a lot of data costs from Vodacom, so it’s a win-win situation in the end. The next problem is to share the internet connection via a wifi-dongle, something that’s actually designed to connect to a wifi-hotspot, not create one. Luckily the solution to this problem is also very simple on Windows 7.
Windows 7 has the capability to create a wifi-hotspot built into it, and hidden for some reason. There is a handy free application available online called Connectify that unlocks this ability and has the ability to create a hotspot via wifi on your laptop, or via a wifi-dongle. Simply install the application following on screen instructions and you’re ready to create your hotspot.
Download Connectify here: Download
Once the hotspot is created (hopefully with a password!), its simple and easy to connect to it via your phone, and voila! Internet on your phone via your PC!
This wifi-connection between your phone and PC also opens up some other interesting possibilities, like using your phone as a remote control for your PC. Now there are quite a few remote desktop apps available that gives you the ability to do a lot on your phone, but this signs you out of your computer and is not what I am interested in.
There are many apps that allow you to control some apps on your PC, like winamp, VLC, PowerPoint etc. on your phone. My favourite two are Multiremote and Playa Control for Winamp.
Multiremote I mainly use for the mouse (to start new videos etc. while I sit on my bed) or for the VLC controller. It unfortunately doesn’t have volume controls for VLC, but I can still use the mouse to adjust the volume. It also has some other remotes such as winamp and powerpoint, but the winamp remote is very basic and the other remotes I don’t really use. It also allows you to create a custom remote, but this basically just allows you to make a hotkey combination and bind it to a custom button. Either way I find the app useful for watching series and just the ability to control the mouse via my phone. The developer is still working on the app too, so it might be improved in the future.
Here is the market link, remember to download the server too: Multiremote
Playa Control for Winamp is my personal favourite app, since we always have parties in the hallway in res, with the music playing via winamp on my comp. This app allows me to play any song in my winamp playlist or media library while I’m sitting in the hallway enjoying the party! It also impresses everyone when the music magically skips to new songs and the volume adjusting as needed. The server is quite easy to set up as its simply a plug-in for winamp that you need to install.
Some screen shots:
Here is the market link, also remember the server plug-in: Playa Control for winamp
These apps are still a long way from what Android @ Home will bring us in the future, but for now they will have to do.