Apple offers a remote control for its Mac computers, as well as a remote control app, but neither one can control the volume outside of Apple’s own software. Meanwhile, some Windows Media Center computers come with remote controls too, but they are similarly limited to Microsoft’s software.
Since when did volume — something that we can detect in the free air around us — become so proprietary? Why should you surrender your right to use whatever software you want, just because you are seated on a couch? Finally, what is a clever person to do about all of this — how can they play everything (Rdio, Spotify, Bandcamp, or anything else), walk away, and still control the volume from across the room?
By “clever,” we mean the type of person who would, say, wire their laptop to their television to watch un-televised matches from the Australian Open, and then found himself sadly unable to control the volume, leading to the writing of this tutorial.
Of course this also applies to music fans who, for whatever reason, find occasion to plug their computers into a stereo system and then retreat across the room to a couch (it could happen — not everyone has Sonos or AirPlay). There are all kinds of reasons you might do this, and they are your own. What concerns us here is the technique.
You need a remote control for volume on your computer, and your computer fails to provide one. Don’t throw up your hands and walk into the ocean just yet, because we found a solution: BoteRock’s Volume Remote, from developer Andres Botero, and in its most expensive form, it costs under a dollar. It works on WiFi, so you don’t even need to point it at anything.
The free version of Volume Remote requires you to make the app connect to your computer each time you want to change the volume, which lets you get a sense of it (as we would recommend doing), but it’s also a bit annoying. If you’re really going to use this app a lot, a $1 purchase remedies that problem. It can make your iPhone act like a dedicated volume remote sitting right there on the couch, ready to control your computer. (Speaking of which, this would be a great use for an old iOS device.)
Here’s how to use Volume Remote to control the volume of whatever sound is coming out of your Mac or Windows computer (or try these lengthier instructions):
1. Install BoteRock Volume Remote on your iOS device. We recommend using the free version first, although in our experience, the upgrade (for quicker volume access) is well worth it.
2. The app won’t work until you install the free server software on your Mac or Windows computer. Note: While this installed perfectly on a standard home network, the server software does not like corporate intranets. Installing the server software is easy — just grab the Mac OS X version or the Windows version, and click “okay” to whatever protestations your computer makes about privacy, allowing incoming connections, and so on. Who cares… the NSA sees everything anyway.
3. Once the app is on your iOS device and the server is running on your Mac or Windows computer, click the little “i” icon in the Volume Remote iOS app and select your computer. By tweaking the settings in the Pro ($1) version, you can disable Auto Sleep and enable Auto Connect, so that your iPhone basically turns into a dedicated volume knob for that computer, but even if you don’t pay for it, this app is way better than nothing.
4. Enjoy not walking over to your computer every few minutes.