View RSS Feed

The Ill-Tempered Audiophool

Remotes

Rating: 2 votes, 1.00 average.
I felt like starting a thread on remotes (rather than a blog topic) would be off-topic, but most folks here are presumably users of remote control devices, and probably have a lot of experience.

Edit: I did not see Chris's review of RedEye here until now.

I feel like my remote-control system is adequate, but sub-optimal. It is good enough for me, but the rest of the family doesn't really appreciate my approach very much: Incompetent, often incontinent, psychotic dwarves and obstreperous spouse.

So here is what I use:

1. Apple's built-in screen-sharing (VNC) display to a laptop or other computer.



2. Apple's own Remote.app on my ipad, as well as a VNC-type program for finer control (Splashtop.app is my current favorite). I also use this exclusively to control my ATV2 which I use as a "poor man's Sonos" (zone player) in my bedroom, without a tv.




3. A physical remote. This thing is the antithesis of those 500-button monsters. All buttons are programmed by learning from the individual dedicated remotes, and I can organize by functionality instead of individual components. For example, one function plays music, so the volume control turns up (and down) the volume on my pre-amp, whereas many of the other buttons map into those of the little physical Apple remote that you used to get for free. A second set of functions controls the TV and DVD player, and a third set controls my AVR and the ATV2 connected to it.

The main thing this lacks is the ability to construct macros.

3a. A note on Apple's physical remote: I just found out that the new aluminum Apple remote, which, unlike the older white one, has a play/pause button that enables you to put your computer to sleep. If you hold down the play/pause button for awhile, big white Z Z Z letters appear on the display and the computer goes to sleep. Pushing the play button launches iTunes, fwiw.




4. The L5 remote. This is an ipod/ipad app combined with a $40 IR transmitter you stick onto the ipod/ipad to turn it into a remote. The idea is quite clever, and it is great to be able to construct custom software remote control interfaces. The main problem with this is that nobody uses it. I guess the idea of just having some physical remote you can grab and use instantly is what people (in our family at least) really want.

.
On the left is a stock image of the L5 dongle attached to an iPod, and on the right are screen-shots of a remote interface I created with their software to control my "stereo", in which the power, mute, volume, tube and source buttons talk to my Nova, and the thing that looks like the (physical) Apple remote maps into the Apple remote functionality, and thus lets me control anything I can control with the physical remote on my Mac mini.


5. Today I decided to buy the $100 Logitech Harmony Link. It is after bed-time, so I will keep this brief, but set-up was trivial and it works absolutely flawlessly. The iPad interface is very TV-centric, but it does everything I need and accommodates all my non-canonical weird ways of doing things. I am fairly stunned by how good this thing is, especially given the whining in some of the Amazon reviews. I've never had a harmony remote, so maybe I am missing something better, but so what? This thing is my new favorite toy. The transmitter looks cool too, and is sitting next to my Logitech wireless keyboard with scroll-disk, another item I need to add to this list.

Update/reality check: I had to take this back. (See comments below). Briefly, the inability to add a few seconds pause after powering on my TV essentially destroyed the utility of this thing. There is no work-around. The Harmony physical remotes have the ability to let the user do this critical and essential adjustment, but they have to do it with the hardware remote, not the software. The other think is it just seemed to flake out frequently enough that it simply didn't perform reliably under standard family household combat conditions. I really wanted this thing to work.

6. Harmony 650
After the Harmony Link disappointment, I decided to try a physical Harmony remote. This was $50 at Costco with a 90 day return, so I impulse-bought it. So far, it seems entirely adequate, but it is hard to get too enthusiastic about this thing. Reviews indicate a problem with the battery compartment assembly, but so far I haven't run into any. Programming is very similar to the Link, but you also have the luxury of being able to insert a pause of arbitrary duration, using the remote itself. You are limited to five devices (mine are TV, AVR, AppleTV, Mac mini, DVD player) so I gave up controlling audio with this thing. Since I keep it separate, I guess that is ok, but I don't want to give the impression that I am happy with this thing as a remote solution. I don't see it as being vastly better than the $20 learning remote shown above, with the one exception that there is now a single button to push to turn on my TV, AVR, apple TV, and select all the correct inputs and outputs. My wife thinks it is a waste of $50.


7. Logitech DiNovo Wireless Keyboard with Scroll Disc
Sadly, this has been discontinued. It is the perfect keyboard for a mac mini media server, and the embedded scroll disc is a major highlight. It also happens to be the most comfortable keyboard I have ever owned. It comes with its own charger, too. You can still find it for inflated prices on Amazon. IIRC, it cost me about $130.



8. RedEye Remote
I've now added some detailed commentary on part II of this blog entry, regarding the RedEye, if anyone is interested:

Remotes, Part II: My RedEye Remote experiences - Blogs - Computer Audiophile

-- Bill

Updated 07-21-2012 at 06:54 PM by wgscott

Categories
Personal Blogs

Comments

  1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
    Hi wgscott - I really wish I could use one iPad app for everything including IR control and music selection. Programming the physical buttons on the iPad to do IR volume for my DAC or preamp would be ideal.



    I'm also interested in iRule -> http://www.iruleathome.com/
  2. dave_kiwi's Avatar
    Lets see:



    1. 2 x physical remotes - 1 x apple remote (for ATV2), 1 x B&W "Egg" for MM-1s

    2. Macbook Pro with "Screen Sharing" to talk to headless mac mini

    3. iPhone 4 - with Apple Remote App for ATV 2 when kids "lose" the apple remote in point 1. (amazing how often that happens)

    4. iPhone 4 - with Remoter VNC app for talking to mac mini when I can't be bothered to get the laptop out / walk to bedroom and pick it up.

    5. iPhone 4 - Rowmote Pro used to get a lot of use -- but latest version of Audirvana Plus has alleviated the need to use it.



    Kids certainly have no issues with the physical remotes -- wife, well she doesn't even like music. :-)
  3. BobH's Avatar
    for the Transporter and then the individual remotes that came with the boxes.



    I have a Logitech Harmony device in the living room, for the TV boxes, but I find that all it really does is reduce clutter - it doesn't actually make anything easier or quicker. In the listening room I have a small table at the side of my chair, big enough for a mug of coffee and the assorted remotes.



    When 'Siri' truly comes of age as a control interface, maybe we will be tempted by a voice activated 'one box does all', but I have a feeling that, for ease of use anyway, the individual remotes will always rule.
  4. joelha's Avatar
    I was looking at the same app and hardware just yesterday, Chris.



    If I knew it wouldn't be that much trouble to install (and that's a big open question) and that it works well of course, I would buy it for the same reasons as you.



    Joel
  5. darascal's Avatar
    Mostly, they're a source of frustration when I can't find them. They clutter things up, are usually unattractive & a collection of them is an eyesore.



    Neither of my amps have remotes & I prefer it that way. I've got legs. My Nova has a remote, but I don't use it - keep it powered up and rarely change sources.



    Obviously, for selecting music, gotta have it. Use my iPhone or laptop, which ever is handy. Laptop for selecting Airplay speakers or turning PM/Safari/Airfoil on/off & for MOG. (Oh, my kingdom for a MOG remote app!) Also, I keep the Mac remote on my coffee table - it's an easy way to quickly turn the music off when without screwing around with bringing up Remote or Screen sharing.



    Racal
  6. joelha's Avatar
    http://www.amazon.com/RedEye-RE0002-Universal-Remote-Control/dp/B004X5EP86/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1323166854&sr=8-1



    From the user comments, it looks like it's not always so easy to set up, but the majority of users otherwise seem to be very happy with it.



    Joel
  7. joelha's Avatar
    http://www.amazon.com/RedEye-RE0002-Universal-Remote-Control/dp/B004X5EP86/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1323168447&sr=8-1



    Many user comments indicate that it's tough to setup but most seem to be happy with it after that.



    Joel
  8. wgscott's Avatar
    I also came across the Logitech Harmony Link which looks good physically.



    However, it gets terrible reviews on Amazon.



    It seems like it is similar to my L5 remote, except instead of having a $40 dongle, it has a $100 stand-alone IR emitter that talks to your iOS device. If it also talked to my laptop, I think I would go for it. The emitter at least doesn't scream out "I am a heterosexual male" when placed in your living room. I also worry about the constraints imposed by the harmony interface.
  9. BobH's Avatar
    My 525 is also 'activity' based. On the upside, it has worked flawlessly for the two or so years I've had it. On the downside, it thinks I'm stupid!



    The activity approach it uses is fine until you need to go off and do something to one unit - my 525 then assumes an idiot is using it and offers to guide and help me. It does this every time. It's been doing it for two years. The thing is it has a button on it, marked 'devices', for the very purpose of adjusting a single unit and not, actually, undertaking an activity! Using said button results in the 525 entering idiot mode and offering to help me all over again!



    I have to say the Link looks interesting but I would need to be sure the interface is able to cope with the 'unexpected' a little better.
  10. dallasjustice's Avatar
    You can do want you want with Irule at home. It's like the poor man's Crestron. You only need a couple of pieces of Global Cache at the most to run everything either over IP or IP to IR.
  11. curmudgeon's Avatar
    The iRule thing looks really good to me, but no experience with it.



    Earlier this year, I rooted a Nook Color with a full Android OS and tried a number of Android apps with that, but nothing was sufficiently evolved for my likes. The size/form factor of the thing was almost perfect, though.



    I tried to wrest my son's iPod Touch from him, to no avail, as I thought that it would have promise, fitted with appropriate (to be discovered) apps. As he is a software engineering student in his junior year, I have been urging him to build some iOS and Android apps suited to our needs. Stayed tuned.



    So for now, as I am rarely very distant from my MacBook, I just rely on its native remote screen sharing to communicate with my iMac music client. And the NAD amp's remote, chairside in the listening area. Works for me, but my wife feels excluded (and never understood why I got rid of the hacked Nook Color, which she loved).



    On the other hand, I am going through a reacquaintance with my old vinyl, and find the exercise of jumping up and down to control that stuff not only necessary, but possibly physically advisable, given my seven decades of life.
  12. Brian A's Avatar
    My wife is really happy with a Logitech Harmony 670 remote she uses to control our TV system. Specifically, it controls a Samsung flat screen TV, a Comcast/Motorola cablebox, a Yamaha 5.1 receiver with iPod dock and a Sony Blu-ray disk player.



    I am surprised that the Harmony remotes were reviewed badly on Amazon as ours is 2 years old and going strong. We really like it.



    I “programmed” it using the provided Logitech software I installed on our main desktop computer. “Programming” means entering the model numbers of the devices you wish to control, and indicating some preferences (such as using the receiver volume control or the T.V.’s).



    On the remote, there are a few stock “activity” buttons such as “Watch a movie” or “Listen to Music”, but there is also a “next” button which allows for custom activities. I’ve got custom activities such as “Listen to a CD”, “Watch USB Slideshow”, “Listen to LR stereo” (Yup, I got my “good” system jumpered to this family room system via 100” foot RCA cables), “Watch Blu-ray” or “Listen/Watch iPod”. After the programming is done, the “program” is uploaded to the remote by plugging it into the computer via a USB cable.



    All these devices are hidden in a wooden-doored cabinet. I bought an $80 IR repeater system from Parts Express, which also works great. (http://www.parts-express.com/pe/showdetl.cfm?Partnumber=182-850)



    I am not “talking up” this system at all: we are not really into home theater, but felt like I should put in a good word for the Harmony remote. We're happy. Another good thing about them is that they are available from the big box stores, with good return policies if you don't like it.



    ... For my main audiophile system, it’s all manual except I use iTunes Remote to control iTunes from my iPod Touch.
  13. wgscott's Avatar
    The mediocre reviews were for the IR emitter thingie -- the Harmony Link.
  14. funkle's Avatar
    I have several remote IOS apps (Snatch, Rowmote, Remote Buddy Ajax) set up on my phone & iPad, but the Harmony is the one I use the most. The hard buttons are easier to deal with on the couch, don't need to wake up/unlock like with the iphone. I have the Harmony set up with Remote Buddy on my Mac Mini so I have a extensive control over many apps, and the ability to switch apps via applescript macros.



    I do like apple remote for iTunes - it is virtually impossible to control iTunes effectively with the harmony.



    I'm intrigued by the iRule thing.
  15. dynamis's Avatar
    I just got a Mac Mini & iPod Touch with the intention of setting up a remote controlled system that is truly headless since I don't own any Mac compatible peripherals. I will have access to my cousin's Mac peripherals this weekend for initial setup, which I hope can be done in such a way that I can control the system in the future from the iPod.



    My top priority is SQ with pretty good tubed audio gear. I would appreciate suggestions on which players, apps, etc. I might start with to put together a remote controlled music player. Initially, I will be using an external HDD & the original 2GB RAM in the Mini, but am open to hardware suggestions too.



    Since I've been away from the Mac for many years, any advice on unobvious steps or settings in the setup of the player and apps would also be helpful.
  16. wgscott's Avatar
    It would be good to start your own thread with this as the topic, because not many people will see it appended here. Also, most of what you ask is answered in the FAQ.
  17. Paul R's Avatar
    I'll watch this one with my eyes out on stalks. :)



    By far, our largest use of remote control is when we use the iPad (or iPhone) to browse the music and select what to play where. We use Squeezepad a lot, followed by Apple's remote.app. Squeezepad is the interface into music and internet radio stations. Remote.app is the interface into music and some stored iTunes video.



    The second largest use is the Apple IR control unit with the AppleTV2. This is how we browse Netflix, iTunes, and MLB! :) It gets a lot of use, with the display upon the large screen TV over the fireplace. We also use it to browse though iTunes videos we own. We don't play much of any music through this though. At least, not anymore.



    The third largest largest use is rather luddite like compared to the first, we use a NAD remote control for volume, input switching, power, and to control the Bluray player. Volume UP/DOWN is quick and easy, and most importantly, it is quick to mute music or pause videos.



    As a consequence, we always seem to have two or three remote controls laying around, plus an iPad or iPhone. I do with we could reduce all that to one device, but probably not going to happen real soon. iPads could do it all, but waiting 3 to five seconds for the beastie to wake up and connect before you can mute something is much too slow.



    -Paul
  18. bleedink's Avatar
    BTW your Harmony software has an option hidden in it to turn off the help feature (at least on the 650). It's buried in the many features but it is there. That thing used to drive me nuts as well. It is possible to turn it off where it will remain hidden unless you call it up. That said the only negative I've had so far with the Harmony is that once the rechargables lose a certain amount of juice the chances that it will suddenly exhibit very strange behavior become much more certain! If this happens to others try newer rechargeables and leave the unit off for up to 24 hrs. For whatever reason this seems to 'reset' the remote. That said despite several losing battles with the dog this thing is still going strong after a year and a half. I got one from URC (please do not support them!) that cost 3x as much and was dead in 2 months. Their customer service claimed the unit came to them with various things physically wrong with it that were not that way when I sent it. They then offered to 'fix' it for 75 dollars more. I told them kindly what they could do with their POS remote. But kindly! Twas the season! Beware of URC. They look great, sometimes garner good reviews, but customer service is not to be toyed with.
  19. blueixus's Avatar
    The remote issue is a major one....



    I don't like wireless, partly because it is unreliable and secondly because I would rather not have it zapping round the house.



    Personally I favour IR, old technology but well suited for the task. I have tried the logitech products but quickly realised I wasn't compatible with them, most of all i don't like the remote issuing all the commands as my daughter presses the button and then puts it down before it has walked through the macro to switch everything on or off.



    For the past 4/5 years I have used the products of Lintronic which is a small danish company.



    They make a box that was initially designed to mate with B&O products and make them compatible with other things. I have no B&O products but find their product simple superb. All the clever macros are stored in a small separate box and activated from one key on the remote.



    I actually use a B&O remote which is beautifully built, requires new batteries only every two years or so.



    Lintronic are incredibly responsive to customer service, and there stuff will do/control almost anything.....
  20. Claude's Avatar
    Thanks Bill

    Thats a way to start a thread!

    Claudius
  21. wgscott's Avatar
    Update/reality check: I am probably going to take this back. I'm afraid it falls short of the target. It is frustratingly close to being a great product. It could probably work fine with some better software.





    Close, but no cigar.



    I wrapped it up as a Christmas present and gave it to my wife (from the dog). So now that it has seen combat, I have a greater understanding of the many complaints you can see on the Amazon and Logitech websites.



    Although many of these complaints are clearly due to user error, there are some things that can't be made to go away:



    (1) The software currently supplies no way to introduce an extension of the period of time between, say, when it issues the TV on signal, and when it tells the TV to change input. So the first time we turn our TV on, the command will almost always fail. We can run a second command to trick the software, then run the first one again, with the TV remaining on, and everything works. But that is idiotic.



    (2) The software that displays TV channels is very sluggish to load and it misses out our most frequently watched PBS stations. There is no user-accessible way to amend the database. Even a placeholder button would be better than nothing.



    (3) The software appears to temporarily forget which device to map control buttons into on occasion, giving a degree of randomness that I suppose might spice up an otherwise dull night.



    Finally, reaching for your iPad and loading an app just to do a volume adjustment isn't practical, so you will wind up having a physical remote on hand anyway. However, if you change something with that remote (other than just the volume), the software will become confused. It has no way of detecting a changed state.
  22. wgscott's Avatar
    The thing I am about to return seems to be a dumbed-down version of iRule. Maybe I should try iRule instead.



    What would be great is if there was some way to incorporate at least a minimal physical remote along with the web-based interface...
  23. souptin's Avatar
    Good topic, I'm sure many of us share the urge to find the ultimate remote, as well as knowing perfectly well that we don't really need one.



    Leaving that aside, I've had a DiNovo Edge keyboard for several years, bought to partner a first generation G4 Mac Mini (OS 10.4) which has done great service as a HTPC. So I thought I'd add some comments:



    1. The Windows version of the keyboard works pretty well as is on a mac, without having to install drivers. The special function buttons along the top and the zoom buttons on the left don't work, but the volume slider and scroll disk do. This is a good thing because the Logitech driver software has a well deserved terrible reputation for instability. Apparently it has been improved but I tried and failed to locate a recent copy to test.



    2. The scroll disc does double duty as a small trackpad. Surprisingly functional given the small size but I find it a little oversensitive to taps.



    3. To bring the left hand side zoom buttons to life I used a program called ControllerMate - a bit techy to program, not free, but did the job nicely.

    http://www.orderedbytes.com/controllermate/



    4. To re-map keys (for example the @ key) I looked here:

    http://www.gyford.com/phil/writing/2005/11/20/using_a_british.php

    Also I ended up physically swapping the command and alt keys (you can prise them up with a small screwdriver).



    5. The volume slider is heat sensitive - if you use it, best keep it out of direct sunlight unless you enjoy random volume changes.



    To sum up - yes, it's a great keyboard in many ways, but, given the high secondhand price, if you're buying a new setup then Apple's wireless trackpad + keyboard + (possibly) one of the gizmos that join them together would be better.
  24. wgscott's Avatar
    I decided to give RedEye a try. It is sort of what I had wished that the Harmony Link would have been. I got it on Amazon.com for $167. This is $67 more than the Harmony Link (which I returned long ago now, because it would not permit me to put pauses of user-determined length between the commands like the rest of the Harmony family does, which ruined its functionality for me). So, a comparison to Harmony Link seems appropriate.

    1. Functionally speaking, the IR functionality of this and the Harmony Remote are very similar. The main difference is that the RedEye emitter is a little linux box running apache2, and interaction with the emitter over IP (from iOS, android and desktop browser) is via http. This has some advantages. One of these advantages is that you can make your own web page of commands, stick it on a server (local or otherwise) and immediately have access to it from any device that runs a web browser. The Redeye control software gives you the URLs explicitly, so you can embed them. Here is a screen-shot, below, of an example of a page I made to run my Peachtree Nova from my laptop or desktop or other browser. If I want to turn the volume down, turn the tube buffer off, or mute it, or turn the power to the unit off, I just click on the appropriate link. On an iOS device, you can save web pages as iOS applications, so I have in essence just created a very small lightweight Nova controller app for my iPad, iPod, etc. Of course I can do all this from Redeye's own software, but this is faster, fully customized to my needs, and loads much more quickly.


    2. The RedEye setup process really sucks. It made me appreciate all the more what Logitech has done. Of the 7 devices I loaded, I got a total of two working out of the box on the first try. With Logitech's setup software, which many people bitch about, everything worked, the first time.

    3. The controller software is a bit buggy, and even crashes sometimes. Now that I am making my own control pages, this isn't such a big problem...

    4. You can customize pause times, and the setup software inserts these between commands in activities automatically. All you have to do is set the time. This part is better than what logitech does.

    5. The command = URL property is actually quite powerful. Here is a screenshot of how I just turned the volume down on my Nova via a unix command in the Terminal. (Not that you would want to, but what it does show is that you can bind these commands to buttons easily in an Applescript or any application creator mechanism, so the possibilities are quite enormous and powerful).
    Updated 07-22-2012 at 08:58 PM by wgscott