Configuring the Firefly...
After the Firefly’s drivers installed a single settings screen appeared asking whether I wanted to use Windows Media Center Edition or Beyond Media Basic as the primary media software. Afterwards, a quick 5-screen tutorial ran to explain many of the remote’s features, as well as providing useful descriptions of what each of the Firefly’s buttons would do.
Once the tutorial finished the first thing I wanted to check were the Firefly’s customization settings. Navigating to the first such category listed under Beyond Media Basic, “Firefly Settings”, I found options to enable or disable the on-screen display that appears whenever a remote button is pressed, as well as the capability to switch the receiver and remote between 16 different RF IDs (the default is to respond to all remote IDs). This makes it possible for multiple Firefly/PC pairings to operate, for instance if you have more than one HTPC or in close environments where your neighbors might also be using the same remote. Also on this screen is an option to automatically load the Firefly software whenever the PC starts up.
The next category, which relates more to Beyond Media Basic than the Firefly, is “Interface Settings”. Here you’ll be able to automatically start the selected media interface whenever the Firefly software loads, turn various main menu items on and off, change the skin color between red and blue, and customize command sounds.
Lack of withitness.
The third and final settings category, “Media Buttons”, allows you to customize what applications the Firefly key and lower five activity buttons launch, and is where I started to observe some issues. While most of the music and video applications installed on my computer were detected and available for selection, a number of them were not – and there is no obvious way to add undetected applications to the list. Looking through the manual it’s possible to add new programs to the Beyond Media Basic home menu, however these are not added to the list of activity key possibilities. Only program types matching the key’s label can be selected so you can’t, for example, assign an email application to the [Photo] button.
This leads into another issue – supported applications. When the Firefly was first launched, SnapStream promised that their list of over 80 supported applications would grow quickly. This hasn’t happened, and judging by the filedates on the profiles included with the most recent drivers, nary a single new application has been added to the supported list. Unfortunately, this leaves the Firefly with only partial functionality for newer versions of many officially supported applications.
For example, the current versions of Winamp, VLC Media Player, Windows Media Player and Internet Explorer were detected correctly, however Quicktime, PowerDVD and ACDSee only operated with the remote’s default profile, which is limited to little more than cursor movement and window maximizing.
This is a particular shame, since SnapStream smartly designed the Firefly to work with customizable and extensible profiles – editable XML documents that describe what program they work with and list all of the commands that the remote should perform when that application is running. While it’s possible for users to create and edit these files themselves, this is a potentially complex task that won’t be undertaken by the average consumer. Even browsing SnapStream’s support forum only finds a smattering of user submitted profiles.