Ten Foot Browser

What is it?

The Ten Foot Browser is a full screen web browser completely controllable using using the Windows Media Center remote control. The Ten Foot Browser is actually part of a suite of "Ten Foot Products" from CITA, specially written for use in the living room. The Ten Foot Products approach is "why get up off the sofa to access the internet? - just use a remote control instead of the keyboard and your television instead of a PC screen".

This review will just focus on the Ten Foot Browser but you may also be interested in the other applications from Ten Foot Products such as the Ten Foot Mail Reader and the Ten Foot BitTorrent client programs. Although designed for use by the Windows Media Center remote control the Ten Foot Browser is not an WMC plugin, it is a standalone application so can be accessed without starting WMC first.

The Ten Foot Browser takes over the whole screen, there are no "window decorations" such as the minimise/maximise/close window buttons or the resize window edges. Windows decorations are superfluous when using applications from a ten foot distance. The web page is the only thing displayed on the screen. If the text of the visited web page is too small then the Ten Foot Browser has an option for zooming in to enlarge the text, overriding any explicit font-size pixel settings.

Pressing the Record or Teletext button of the remote will bring up a large text popup menu. Use arrow buttons to select a row of the menu, the coloured teletext buttons (Red, Green, Yellow, Blue) match to the selected row option. From this popup menu all the standard browser actions such as "back", "enter URL", "add page to favourites" etc are accessible. This popup menu can also be shown and navigated using a keyboard or mouse.

To select links on a web page, press the Skip or Replay buttons of the remote to focus in turn on each of the link anchors, pressing Ok whilst focussed on the link activates the link.

For web pages that don't have anchor links but require mouse clicks (such as the Flash player) you can call up large on-screen "cross hairs" that can simulate mouse movement using the arrow keys of the remote. It's a little slow and cumbersome, you couldn't use it for playing Flash games but it does work.

Selecting the "play in fullscreen" option of Flash, requires you to press Escape to return to the webpage, when using the Ten Foot Browser you can return to the web page by pressing the Teletext, Green or Blue buttons.

The browser has special modes for entering URLs and form data entry. Text entry utilises multi-tap from the remote (e.g. press "2" twice to get "b" etc), although a wireless keyboard would come in handy here. There is also a rather nifty URL fragment completion feature that wraps the text you have entered with the enclosing "http://" and ".com, .net, etc" so you only have to enter the minimum of the URL. Once you have visited a page you can add the URL to the browser's built-in Favourites list.

Although the Ten Foot Browser is orientated for Windows Media Center remote controls that have the teletext buttons (Red, Green, Yellow, Blue), all the features are accessible using a Windows remote that does not have these buttons. Controlling the browser is also possible using the keyboard, so you should be able to configure any remote control to drive the Ten Foot Browser.

How to access internet content on your television?

The Ten Foot Product suite (including the Ten Foot Browser) and User Manual can downloaded from the CITA website.

To use the Ten Foot Browser with your television you will need to connect your PC to the television. The Ten Foot Browser requires Internet Explorer 7 (or 8) and the .NET framework version 2.0 (included in Windows Vista and Windows 7). You will also need a remote control, the best choice would be the Windows Media Center remote control with the teletext buttons, although these buttons are not strictly necessary.

Once installed, double click the "i (more)" or "Teletext" buttons on your Windows Media Center remote, the Ten Foot Launcher will display a list of applications to start. At anytime if you wish to return to WMC, just press the central WMC button on the remote as normal.

Selecting the Ten Foot Browser from the Launcher will show the browser's built-in Initial Page which checks your version is up-to-date and presents links to your Home Page and the Favourites Page.

The Home Page link will only appear if you have set a home page and it is strongly recommended that you do so because without it, the access to the Favourites Page requires a lot of Skip button presses through the Initial Page menu options before the focus rests on the Favourites link.

tv-true rating

The launcher mechanism for the Ten Foot Browser is a windowed application showing the list of available Ten Foot Products, this destroys the illusion of seamless transition from Windows Media Center. Apart from this very minor niggle, the Ten Foot Browser's usefulness for accessing the internet through the televsion should not be underestimated, 10/10.

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