I've been neglecting my Boxee box for sometime, mostly because I've just been too darn busy with other things in my life. Since simplifying my life over the past few months, I have a bit more time to sit back and watch some online content on my Boxee box.
I have a love-hate relationship with my Boxee. I love the user interface and I love the content I can get with it, but I absolutely hate the remote that comes with it. You're probably thinking I'm crazy complaining about a remote, but if you think about the device for a second, it's the only way to interact with the device itself. Sure I can use the myriad of iOS apps available to replace the stock remote, but there is something about the tactile feel of the remote that I really like. There's only two issues I have with it:
1) It needs to be a bit wider - I can't firmly hold the remote with my hands while using the keyboard on the back of it. The remote doesn't feel steady in my hands and I feel like I'm trying to type on a bar of soap every time I type with it.
2) It needs to have better usability - You can't type at a normal rate when using the number buttons at the top because you have to hold down the ALT key while making your presses. Dedicating your left hand to this (since the only ALT button is on the left of the keypad) is a major nuisance, since not only do you have to maintain your grip with your left hand already, but you're sharing grip with one of the rubber no-so-slip-resistant keys on the back, forcing your right hand to do all the typing, during which your left hand has to double the amount of grip normally required to hold it, because part of the grip on your right hand is wasted pressing keys that the left hand should be pressing as well, but it can't because you're holding down one stupid key for numbers. Not to mention that if you're typing in a mix of capital and lowercase letters, say for example in a password, you press it once to turn it one and again to turn it off. You have to toggle it - but the ALT key doesn't work the same way. That key you have to hold down to activate the number part of the keys in the top row. Huh? It makes entering in a secure password major suck.
I got fed up one day, enough to do a search for a OS X dashboard widget that would replace the functionality (or lack thereof) in the remote's keypad. Sure enough I found one that works perfectly called, simply enough, Boxee Remote. On the his blog Lot49.org, developer J. Celestino muses that the reason he developed this widget was because he wanted to turn up the volume while watching Revision3 shows and he couldn't find the remote for the Mac mini that was running his Boxee software. He decided that there must be an easier way and started to look online for applications that would replace the functionality of the remote altogether - to no avail. Distraught, he decided he would code a solution himself, thus creating Boxee Remote.
The controls are simple enough: pause/play, stop, skip forward/back, volume controls, menu navigation controls and an enter/confirm button. But where the widget really excels is in allowing you to use your Mac's keyboard to interact with Boxee. Using the server access in built-into the Boxee software (you have the firewall turned ON in your router, correct?), you can connect the widget to your box by entering in the IP address for it on your network. At first I was confused because this field says to enter in the hostname, which for my box is boxeebox.local. However, entering the hostname like that doesn't connect (at least it didn't for me). I saw on the developer's site that it's recommended to use the IP address for your box and after a few seconds I was connected.
It is now much easier to perform searches for content and to enter secure passwords on my device. There is also a nice hidden feature on the widget that will scroll the name of the content you're watching, if it's local media stored somewhere on your network (like your iTunes library).
Gone are the days of me futzing around with the kludgy keypad. I will say that the directional buttons on the top side of the remote are very well proportioned and are very much designed with good feel in my hand. The remote also sports a curved design that helps it to fit my grip nicely. I just hate that keypad!
If you find yourself vegging out in front of your Boxee box for hours at a time with your MacBook firmly planted on your lap during marathons of TWiT reruns, be sure to check out the Boxee Remote Dashboard widget for OS X.