by, 12-06-2011 at 12:32 AM (2274 Views)
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