I'll start by saying this: I'm changing my tune about remotes for controlling music libraries. After listening to several readers and doing some further research I am finally convinced that the iPod Touch is a very good solution. I was very skeptical at first because of previous experience with similar devices using similar applications. Now, I am highly recommending the iPod Touch as a remote control paired with the application Signal from Alloysoft. Now on to the good stuff, welcome to the third installment of "Laid-back Library Control."
First the iPod Touch. There is no need to cover all of its features as this has been done to death on about four billion websites. Lets discuss what an audiophile looking to control his/her library would want to know. The "Touch" is only 8mm thick and costs $299 8GB or $399 16GB. It is close to being too thin to handle easily like a traditional remote, but it can be positioned in your hand properly to avoid any problems. The multi-touch interface is very responsive and should not pose any problems with lag time. The display is 3.5 inches and the clarity is far better than other devices in this class. It supports 802.11 b/g wireless and the Safari web browser. The Touch's built-in 802.11 capability is far better than the previous remotes discussed in the first two installments because they only had the RF option. Assuming your 802.11 network is not in a bank vault your range will be much greater than the 150 RF range specified for the remotes. The battery life on the iPod Touch is listed as up to five hours. That's it for hardware.
To make the iPod Touch a remote control you'll need to install Signal on your Mac or PC. There is nothing to install / hack on the iPod Touch because Signal works with a web browser. Third party application support on the iPod is nonexistent as of December 2007. Apple plans to officially release the iPhone SDK in February 2008, with some rough versions apparently on the loose already. Signal is not the only application for this purpose, but it is fairly popular and appears to work well. I don't recommend apps that are on the bleeding edge because support and user forums can be lacking in an application's infancy.
Signal is billed as The Ultimate Media Player Remote by Alloysoft. This application works on the iPod Touch, obviously, as well as the iPhone or the Pocket PC OS. It costs $25-$30 direct from Alloysoft. Signal will control iTunes, Winamp or Windows media Player. The application performs the standard functions like playback, browsing and searching your library, and editing playlists. The interface of Signal was specifically designed for the Ipod Touch. This gets me a little closer to my preferred purpose built devices. Alloysoft mentions that Signal is perfect for people using the Airport Express. I have a feeling this text is either a little out of date or over simplified so as to not confuse laymen. Signal should work for many configurations that get your music to your stereo whether wireless, USB, or S/PDIF etc... The Signal software installs on your computer and leaves nothing to configure. Very simple. Users just point their iPhone web browser, most likely Safari, at the IP Address of their computer with the Signal port (3569) at the end of the URL and that's it. For those unfamiliar, the URL will likely look like this http://192.168.1.100:3569 . A very nice feature of this application is the search capability. If you have a huge library this needs no explanation. Signal is similar to other iPod Touch library control applications in that it displays the album cover art during playback. Pretty cool, but not a distinguishing feature. Sure Signal has a few little quirks that users aren't real fond of. One is listening to a whole album by adding each song individually to a list. Fortunately there are other ways to accomplish this that just requires doing something other than what you have always done. Change can be hard, but with Signal & iPod Touch it is worth it.
Signal requirements: iTunes on OS X (Leopard supported), or iTunes, Winamp, or Windows Media Player on a PC (Vista supported).