Pocket PC is an incredibly versatile and powerful PDA which
can be used for many different applications and uses. One
use for the iPAQ that most users tend to consider at one time
or another is as a remote control system. After all a PPC
comes with an IrDa port so why not try and make use of it.
One of the leading contenders in the battle
for the perfect remote control software is the UltraMote
system from CardonWare.
The Ultramote software can be used to control
any electronic device which uses an Infrared control system;
DVD Player, Amplifier, TV Remote, Garage Door, Video player
- the list is endless.
The PPC itself has not been designed with
such communication in mind and the range of the IrDa transmitter
is somewhat limited, thereby only allowing you to control
devices within a relatively short distance.
CardonWare have eliminated this problem
(for the iPAQ at least) by designing the Ultramote Extender
which fits into the CF port of the CF Expansion Sleeve.
The Expander is powered directly by the iPAQ itself
and uses it's own electronics and IrDa LED system to
greatly extend the range of the Ultramote system - as
can be seen in the table below.
The only worry here was whether the
electronics in the Extender caused the iPAQ's battery
life to reduce greatly. Under tests battery life did
decrease but it was found that it was negligible - 2
to 3% under normal usage conditions.
It should be noted that the Extender
should be inserted in the CF slot with the label towards
the thumb slot.
Native iPAQ IrDa
|SKY TV Remote
** - The ranges here may have been even greater
but it was physically impossible to measure greater distances
due to the location of the equipment within the living area.
It should also be noted that the cabinet housing most of the
home cinema equipment used for this review has smoked glass
doors - if these were not present the range of the native
iPAQ IrDa may have been greater.
When the Ultramote application is first
run you need to set up the criteria needed for operation.
Firstly you must define the location for the device.
Up to ten locations may be defined, these may be named
for rooms; sitting room, bedroom, or for physical locations;
Each location will have its own set
of devices contained within.
The locations are defined from the "Main/Location/New"
Once a location has been defined and
selected from the menu bar you may start to add devices
using the "Main/Device/Activity/New" Menu
After hitting OK you are taken to the
second configuration screen where you may select which
skin(s) you wish to use for the device. You may also
configure any functions you wish for the second extended
option screen - see later.
A selection of skins are provided with
the Ultramote software, with more being available on
the Ultramote web site. The site even contains template
files which allow you to design your own skins if you
are feeling creative.
This is such a custom
skin which has been designed to work with the UK
SKY satellite TV system.
Here you can see the red circle indicating
we are in 'learn' mode.
Learn mode is used to teach the Ultramote
system the IrDA commands used by the relevant remote
When this mode is entered any undefined
keys will appear with the red circle indicating they
have not yet been defined. To configure any unmapped
key you simply tap the key, wait for the beep and point
the remote control at the IrDa port and press the key
you wish to read on the remote. If the remote has been
'read' correctly you will hear two more beeps confirming
the code has been read and set.
If the learning fails you may get a
time-out message stating no signal has been received,
if this is the case you can use the "Learn/Options"
screen to modify the time out period.
This screen also allows you to configure
whether you are using the internal iPAQ IrDa system
or the External Ultramote Extender.
You may also turn on the "send.wav"
sample which will be played each time a command is sent
via IrDa. This sound sample can be changed by yourself
by copying another file over the top of it.
The file may be found in the "\program
Here you can see another custom
skin showing the options as set via the second configuration
It should be noted that you can configure
as many, or as few, keys* as you wish to define your
perfect Ultramote configuration.
Any keys which have already been configured
can be modified by going through the learn procedures
once more, you will be asked if you wish to overwrite
the current settings - all you have to
do is say yes.
* - or even hardware buttons - these
can be selected for programming too!
Further custom skins
showing that the Ultramote system can quite easily be
used for controlling a home cinema system.
It should be noted that Macros can be
constructed. A macro can be made up of a number of different
keys which have been previously learnt.
Select "Learn/Start Macro"
to activate the learning mode, then simply tap each
key (changing screens in between if you so wish) you
wish to record. You may have to use the "Delay"
option to include delays which may be required by some
devices in between each key. This can take some practice.
However once a macro has been created
it can be of great benefit as you can automate such
- Turn amplifier onto DVD mode
- Open DVD Player drawer
- Turn off SKY satellite system
that is preparing a home cinema system
to be ready for a DVD performance.
Pro's and Con's
Support & Operation:
Ultramote includes full operating instructions
within the application itself via the "Main/Instructions"
option and more can be found online at the Ultramote
The web site also contains a useful FAQ
page which advises useful information such as:
Q: Which Pocket
PCs does UltraMote support?
A: UltraMote now supports the H31/36/37/38xx iPAQs, the
HP Jornada 56x series, the Audiovox Maestro and the Toshiba
e570. Please see the download area of our website for specifics.
- Ultramote Extender.
- Ability to program and use macros.
- The Ultramote software works with: the
Compaq iPAQ H31xx/36xx/37xx/38xx (PPC 2000 & 2002),
HP Jornada 56x, Audiovox Maestro, and Toshiba E570 Pocket
- Can be used to replace many individual
remote controls with one Pocket PC.
- The Ultramote Extender only works with:
the Compaq iPAQ H31xx/36xx/37xx/38xx (PPC 2000 & 2002)
- Allow the user to select which file may
be used as the 'send.wav' file.
- Include a wider range of skins with the
- Allow device configurations (skins and
settings) to be exported in a single file so that they can
be swapped between users.
The UIltramote system works very well indeed
and serves to expand the capabilities of the Pocket PC even
more. Highly recommended for owners of HiFi or Home Cinema
systems. Just remember not to lose your Pocket PC.
The Custom Skins used in this review were very kindly designed
by Karen at Jumping
Cholla Enterprises Inc. My thanks to her for that welcome