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Hercules Tunes Explorer remote control for iTunes

WinAmp, RealPlayer, Windows Media Player too

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Review Not every living-room computer is a Windows XP Media Center Edition PC or a Mac capable of running Apple's Front Row software. Both systems can connect to a TV and provide a remote control to help you select content to play, but there are plenty of older machines out there that have been put to use as song storage systems. What can they use?

Hercules, the once well-known graphics card company and now Guillemot's gadgets division, has the answer: Tunes Explorer, a radio-frequency remote that's tied directly into a range of popular music playback apps. Nothing new there, you might say, but Tunes Explorer has something many other wireless remotes don't: a display.

hercules tunes explorer

The remote itself is an iPod-sized unit in matte white plastic with a four-line, monochrome backlit LCD of the kind that once featured on almost every compact, Flash-based MP3 player about three or four years back. Below it are a pair of volume controls and a five-way circular control designed to look like an iPod's clickwheel.

On the right-side of the unit is a BlackBerry-style scrollwheel, and a slider key to lock and unlock the unit's other buttons. There's a hatch on the back of the remote for a pair of AAA batteries - not included in the box, please note.

The remote talks to the host computer through a USB-attached rectangular, brick-like wireless transceiver. Hercules pitches the product as an iTunes accessory, but it will work with WinAmp, RealPlayer and Windows Media Player. Surprisingly, it also ships with Mac software, though on this platform Tunes Explorer only talks to iTunes.

I tried Tunes Explorer with my MacBook Pro. The software installs in the usual way, though it drops the control application into the Mac's /var folder, a product of the OS' Unix underlay. The utility is called up at start-up using Mac OS X 10.4's LaunchDaemons facility - or the StartupItems system under previous versions of the operating system.

The HTunesExplorerWireless app essentially communicates with iTunes the selections you make using the remote. After a restart, plugging in the USB dongle launches then hides iTunes. Pressing the Select button on the remote's five-way control to turn it on initiates the link with the dongle and in a few seconds you're ready to go.

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