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Toys

WSJ Reviews High End Universal Remotes 143

An anonymous reader writes "Walt Mossberg is at it again - this time comparing the Philips Pronto and the Harmony SST-768. These remotes have both been featured on Slashdot before."
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WSJ Reviews High End Universal Remotes

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  • by electro_mike ( 658829 ) on Wednesday April 09, 2003 @11:49AM (#5693760) Homepage
    Anyone willing to spend that amount of money on a remote should just go get a PPC or Palm and get a program like omniremote and they can program it to do their bidding just the same as the high end universal's
    • by bburdette ( 556965 ) on Wednesday April 09, 2003 @12:32PM (#5693940)
      Last time I tried this was with a palm III. It only worked when I was close enough to push the TV buttons myself. Kind of defeats the purpose! I think there are some palm models that have greater range, but most don't.
      • Well, there's a way to hack the Palm hardware [geocities.com] to at least triple the range, but of course it draws more battery power. Still, Palm III's and even Palm V's are dirt cheap these days; much cheaper than a high-end remote.
      • I have my palm Vx and it works for at LEAST 20 feet, The only thing is you have to have it pointed slightly below dthe device you are aiming at. Other then that it works great. Plus it is a great trick to play when there is a few people over and another person has the real remote and you change the buttons and everyone gets mad at them for doing it because it looks like you are playing a game or such on the palm :D
      • by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Wednesday April 09, 2003 @01:11PM (#5694234) Homepage Journal
        Pacific Neotek, maker(s) of the OmniRemote software, also sell two pieces of hardware designed to enhance the palm's IR. There is a serial dongle (for palms with the old connector) and there is a handspring module. The handspring module features 450kHz IR (for controlling new and expensive devices such as those from Bang & Olafsen) and X10 radio control. Both of these devices have much greater range than any built-in Palm IR.
      • Constantly Updated Technology means Better IR capabilities than your old Palm III

        I dont know about Palm, but the new Ipaq's have Consumer Grade IR and come with Nevo [mynevo.com] a Universal Remote Program.
      • My Clie works from across my room with no trouble, and I have a big living room. The remote software it comes with for free is better than any of the universal remotes that came with my components.
      • I tried with my palm V and was able to get a good ten feet but I had to aim at the TV's IR sensor like i was firing a rifle. Many of the new Sony Clie Palm Powered PDA's offer an enhanced IR just for controlling home electronics but it doesnt learn and I've seen no way to add profiles that SONY doesn't provide with the unit. They get a good range of about 15 feet or so.
    • no,the pronto is alot more pwoerful than omniremote and more to the point, it's designed to do the job and companies releave pronto ccf files on their websites.

      to be honest, I don;t like touchscreen remotes anyways, all hail the HTM mx500 hard button programmable remote. I have a drawerful of remotes in the cupboard now :)

      dave
    • Ye, that way when you leave the house with the PPC/Palm no one will have those neat functions and probably won't be able to find the old remotes.

      The Pronto is definitely the way to go. My daughter learned to use the Pronto back when she was 7 since the controls are so intuitive. TV - on. Entertainment center - on. Click the icon for Nickelodeon or Cartoon Network. Done. It's always home on the coffee table and I don't need to take it from a channel surfer to look up someone's address or a calendar ev
      • Ye, that way when you leave the house with the PPC/Palm no one will have those neat functions and probably won't be able to find the old remotes.

        I don't know about you, but I've got an old PDA. Certainly for the price of one of these high-end remotes you could buy a learning remote just for the purpose instead. The only issue I can think of is battery life.
        • There are other issues too. IR Range is poor with PDAs (not really intended to communicate with equipment 20+ metres away) but this can be fixed with extra hardware.

          Another issue is the availability of "hard buttons" (the physical ones v. touchscreen graphics). There are certain controls (channel, volume, cursor/menu selection) common to all devices and having them accessible via a hard button makes them more convenient (and spares touchscreen space for more specialised functions). PDAs invariably have ver
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 09, 2003 @11:57AM (#5693793)
    You don't need a high end universal remote unless you are obsessed with touchscreen remotes.

    Check out www.hifi-remote.com and the jp1 programming group on groups.yahoo.com for info on how to totally program radio shack and OneforAll remotes. Macros on devices buttons, new devices,... you name it.

    • by McSpew ( 316871 )

      You don't need a high end universal remote unless you are obsessed with touchscreen remotes.

      As somebody else already mentioned, Radio Shack has a $60 touchscreen universal remote [radioshack.com]. You don't need a high-end remote just to get touchscreen, either.

    • by crow ( 16139 ) on Wednesday April 09, 2003 @12:40PM (#5693973) Homepage Journal
      Absolutely!

      I bought a $29.95 remote at Radio shack, along with a DB25 connector, cut apart an old IDE cable and soldered it to the DB25, and now I can program every button to do exactly what I want it to. (I think that there are people who will sell pre-made cables for a reasonable fee if you ask nicely.) Like most universal remotes, it comes pre-programmed with device code for most common brands, but you can't program every key to do exactly what you want it to in each of the modes; that is, until you hook up the JP1 cable.

      Now when I copy shows from my ReplayTV to VHS (usually for a friend), the Replay Quick Skip button is active in VCR mode, so I can pause the VCR, skip the commercials, and unpause, all without changing modes on the remote.

      Oh, and I can download the settings from the remote and archive them in case it ever breaks.
      • I didn't even go that far. I only had one device the remote didn't work with, so I just learned the buttons involved. Nearly filled the memory but the DVD player works just fine now. All for $25.
    • Also go to http://www.remotecentral.com before you think about buying any new universal remote.

      The RadioShack Jp1 programmable remotes work great for most people. The more sophisticated or demanding users will want to look at some of those reviewed on RemoteCentral.com.
  • HP-48SX/GX (Score:3, Informative)

    by Webmoth ( 75878 ) on Wednesday April 09, 2003 @11:58AM (#5693797) Homepage
    As I recall, there used to be software available for the HP-48SX/GX calculators that allowed it to function as an IR remote control for your *whatever*.

    My desire to get this post in early does not allow me time to do a Google search, but I'm sure someone will. [google.com]
    • Re:HP-48SX/GX (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I believe this is the software you are referring to:

      http://bjorn.rhoads.nu/hp48/ [rhoads.nu]
    • Yeah there was. I have a HP 48GX and did use the IR remote control programs downloaded off somewhere way back when. It supported many many devices since you could teach the calculator new signals (since it has an IR receiver). However, the big problem was the IR light wasn't very strong and wouldn't work farther than 4-5 feet. I remember on the mailing list several people posted hacks on removing the IR transmitter diode with a much much brighter diode. But really, the calculator as a remote wasn't all
  • by WankersRevenge ( 452399 ) on Wednesday April 09, 2003 @12:02PM (#5693827)
    These remotes might be "all that", but nothing beats this one [theonion.com] in terms of features and ease of use.

    anyone else having problems connecting to Slashdot today?
    • Yes, this is offtopic. I've got Karma to burn.

      But I too have noticed /. has been especially slow here in various points during the day (mainly afternoon), though it has been an all-day occurrance many times over the past few weeks.

      Any insight would be appreciated, and a -1 Offtopic won't hurt my feelings.
      • Both today and yesterday, Slashdot has been very slow. It's had me fine-toothing the T1s, the firewall, the web cache and anything else to find the problem. After browsing other sites I'm convinved its just Slashdot. It almost seems like they've lost some of their http front-ends or something.
    • It's not a really good remote unless you can control it over the internet. Sitting across from the TV is hardly "remote" by any stretch of the imagination. What if you're at the South Pole, and you feel the need to change the channel?
  • Unfair comparison. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by juuri ( 7678 ) on Wednesday April 09, 2003 @12:06PM (#5693845) Homepage
    These remotes are targetted at different crowds. I used to use a pronto (until it broke from one too many falls and required $150 fee to fix). The pronto makes no excuses about being created for the high end tech/theater crowd. The remote is complex, can be tedious to setup but has some awesome high end features.

    Pronto's strength is in its ability to create complex macros. For example at my old apartment which had X-10 I had rwo of the following one button macros configured:

    [DVD] - Switched to TV to component input. Switched received to DVD audio. Switched TVs aspect ratio. Powered up and issued a play command to the DVD. Dimmed the lights to 50% through the pc-x10 receiver.
    [SLEEP] - Switched tv off. Changed cable to classical radio. Turned off lights. Turned volume on received all the way down the up two notches. Slept for 60 minutes, turned receiver off.

    Now, that, is an awesome remote.
    • The pronto's other big feature is its skinnability.

      I have to deal with a wife who is two thirds of a luddite and won't do something, no matter how much she might want to, if it involves pushing more than one button or learning more about a device than what color it is. Dealing with this level of pigheaded stupidity is a challenge that the pronto helps me overcome. I have the "home" screen set up with a photo I took of each device in our theatre...to turn on something and set it up exactly the way she exp
  • can i use it as a IR keyboard???
    • You sure can, if your IR keyboard transmits a flavor of IR that the Pronto can understand. Not all keyboards are going to be compatible.

      I used the Pronto learning feature to "learn" from my IR keyboard - at least a few keystrokes that I use to control a DVD playing program on a PC.
  • I would like to see a remote control that can turn down the volume of, pause, and ESPECIALLY rewind my boss. :-)
  • by rickthewizkid ( 536429 ) on Wednesday April 09, 2003 @12:13PM (#5693870)
    My remote control [radioshack.com] costs almost as much as my TV set [radioshack.com].

    Of course, I don't watch that much TV, so it may seem like a waste of money to me...

    Just my 13-inches-worth...
    RickTheWizKid
    • I just picked up the 8-1 touch screen remote [remotecentral.com] at Radio Shack 2 days ago. MSRP was originally 99.99 but they are currently on clearance for 29.99. It's definitely no pronto, but I have been very happy with it so far. It had built in codes for 4 of my 5 devices (DVD is an off brand) with full functionality that I've found so far. The remote is learning, so the DVD will be programmed as soon as I get the time. The only thing that I have a gripe about is that there is no "feel" of the buttons...but that is
  • by pcardoso ( 132954 ) on Wednesday April 09, 2003 @12:14PM (#5693877) Homepage
    "These remotes have both been featured on Slashdot before."

    But then, /. features a lot of stuff, several times, just in case someone misses it for the first time.

    I mean, like that evil bit RFC? :)

  • When the remote controls begin to cost more than any of the components they control are worth, there's something wrong.

    Of course, all my gear is left over from college. It's been tempting to go out and get a serious home A/V system, but living in apartments as I do I feel it's a waste on several levels: (1) I can't really *use* a high end system without being lynched by my neighbors, (2) it'd be out of date when I finally get a house and can use it, and (3) spending $5k on a decent A/V setup is $5k I don'

    • 1) you don't have to play it *loud* to appreciate a good audio system
      2) audio is surprisingly good for keeping in date, esp if you buy seperates, after all, a poweramp from 15 years ago can be just as useful and good as a modern power amp.
      3) you don't need to spend that kind of money to have a high end system. some amazingly good components go on ebay for small amounts of money.

      if you do some research you can get some really nice gear for little. most of the components I've bought have been at half price o
    • When the remote controls begin to cost more than any of the components they control are worth, there's something wrong.

      The remote control is only $400. It obviously isn't intended for people whose entire A/V system is $400

  • proud pronto owner (Score:5, Informative)

    by coaxial ( 28297 ) on Wednesday April 09, 2003 @12:29PM (#5693933) Homepage
    I own the first generation pronto (the midnight sea foam green one, not the new silver one with the color display). It is without a doubt my favorite piece of home electronics. It solves my problem of 5 different remotes beautifully. I put it into DVD mode and press a button marked "on" and my television turns on and selects svideo input, the dvd player turns on, the receiver turns on, and selects dvd mode. One button does it all. It truly is a sight to behold.

    It came with a real screen editor. I can draw buttons, assign single functions or macros to buttons, use timers. I was afraid that the editor wouldn't be up to par, but it was exactly what I wanted.

    Now there's alot of people saying "use a palmpilot" but they don't know what they're talking about. The palmpilot and the like's IR transmitter simply isn't powerful enough to work as remote control. Think about it. If it says it can send files from up to a meter away, what makes you think that it's going to be able to control your television at 4 meters?
    • Amen, brother.

      I've owned a TSU2000 (one step up from yours) for a few years, and I'll never go back. Ever.

      My Pronto controlls *everything* in my A/V setup (which is quite extensive), and it does so with tons and tons of macros.

      Programming a Pronto is no harder than creating a web page. It's not for everyone, but it just takes time and effort, which clearly this author didn't want to put into it.
    • "Now there's alot of people saying "use a palmpilot" but they don't know what they're talking about. The palmpilot and the like's IR transmitter simply isn't powerful enough to work as remote control. Think about it. If it says it can send files from up to a meter away, what makes you think that it's going to be able to control your television at 4 meters?"

      the new Ipaq's [hp.com] (not just the 5450 but some 3900 series, and i believe a 3800 series too) have consumer grade IR, and come with Nevo [mynevo.com] from universal elec
      • Nevo may be OK for providing the sort of functionality you might expect from a One-for-All but it falls well short of what a Pronto-class remote provides.

        With Pronto you have almost total freedom on how you arrange your buttons and what shapes you use (Nevo limits you to a 5x3 button layout - although I believe you can change the button styles). You can also edit the IR code directly to access features not found on the original remote (manufacturer service settings, discrete power codes being two examples).

    • by Anonymous Coward
      The Sony Clies are PalmOs-compatible, and have a beefed-up IR port (At least the one I have, the NX70V, does). I've successfully used mine to control a TV set/VCR from thirty feet away, with no problems at all.
    • Now there's alot of people saying "use a palmpilot" but they don't know what they're talking about. The palmpilot and the like's IR transmitter simply isn't powerful enough to work as remote control. Think about it. If it says it can send files from up to a meter away, what makes you think that it's going to be able to control your television at 4 meters?

      While this might have been true of some models, many of the Palm OS models are pushing 30 feet or more (see OmniRemote page [pacificneotek.com] for details). And, as menti

    • Crisp Solutions (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I went through the purchase of a remote last year, and finally ended up buying the remote that Crisp Solutions markets (UCommand 616)

      Initially it was a 'step down' from other devices since it only had a limited set of macro keys, but it was also cheaper. After having it and playing it, I discocered there was an undocumented method that lets you apply a macro to any of the buttons throught the remote. (Which Crisp confirmed was there and have updated their maketing info to include that you can.

      If you are
  • by Anonymous Coward
    i can appreciate the ability to have complex macros. but @ the same time. you really miss the ability to operate the remote by touch only [ i am sure that everyone can do this with their current remote already] even though the touch screen remotes are all backlit and can be operated in the dark they are far less natural and subesequently take more time. IMHO
    • Yeah, I have my remotes 'memorized'...if I forget to set the tv timer to shutoff....or if the volume is too loud for me to go to sleep to...I can grab my remote while half asleep, not having to turn on a light or put on glasses...and by feel, control the tv/stereo...etc. The back to snoozing....
    • you really miss the ability to operate the remote by touch only

      Not me. I still operate by touch and always will. I tried that old sucky Sony touchpad remote back in '97 or '98. What a piece of crap - you have to look down anytime you want to push a button to make sure you actually hit the right "button". I returned it and bought the remote I still use today. The one remote to rule all other remotes: a Marantz RC2000 MkII [smr-home-theatre.org], but I guess it's not considered a high end remote anymore... what ever, 5 years lat
    • I agree. So did Phillips, which is why the Pronto has a series of 7 totally programmable, macro-able, and hierarchical tactile buttons. I barely ever turn my touchscreen on, since i can mute, turn volume up and down (on the receiver) and change channels (on the TV) and play / pause (these buttons control the ld, vcr and dvd players, depending on what's turned on) with the hardware buttons. They're really nice rubber buttons, with the + buttons having a little convex groove and the - buttons having a conc
  • Ive been looking for a remote just like the high end pronto [envisiontek.com]

    Color
    Cheaper
    Programmable by that I mean I can move everything around to my liking, not just a learning remote.
    Easy for those in my household that arent to tech savvy to be able to use without being overwhelmed

    The last three being the most important. ya ya i know choose 2, but there are oodles of the choose 2 variety that just dont cut it

    Does anyone know of any roll yer own solutions?

    I have tried the sony [pricegrabber.com] and it worked but it was choose 2 (chea
    • I suggest a refurbished visor prism with the omniremote module from Pacific Neotek [pacificneotek.com] which is a learning remote and has complete programmability as far as button position. This is probably the best AND the cheapest way to get what you describe.
  • ok... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Lxy ( 80823 ) on Wednesday April 09, 2003 @12:36PM (#5693956) Journal
    If you're that lazy that it's cost effective to purchase such a remote, you really need to get outside. You can buy a pair of nice rollerbaldes or a small home gym for the price of that remote.

    Does anyone find it interesting that Philips' allegedly smart remote has South Park on the Weather Channel and The Man Show on CSPAN?
    • If you're that lazy that it's cost effective to purchase such a remote, you really need to get outside. You can buy a pair of nice rollerbaldes or a small home gym for the price of that remote.

      Remote controls are not just for lazy people. It's to control your equipment. Not sure if you've noticed, but most a/v equipment today have features that can only be controlled via remote control.

      The reason for a universal remote is to control numerous devices with one control. I only have a generic universal remote.

    • It will never cease to amaze me the amount of people who equate technology making tasks simpler with being lazy.

      Maybe I'm tired of having 6 remotes on my table, and when i want to watch tv(actually movies) i have to search for one to control the TV (on-off), one for the DVD(play, rewind, stop), and one to control the sound of my Theater, and I actually have the disposable income to justify spending $3-600 on a Remote control (although it is VERY hard to justify that $600)

      STOP thinking that just because I
    • If you're that lazy that it's cost effective to purchase such a remote, you really need to get outside. You can buy a pair of nice rollerbaldes or a small home gym for the price of that remote.

      Actually I have a high-end remote with IR-RF-IR precisely so I can exercise... downstairs in my dedicated exercise room (weights, bowflex, Gold's gym setup, elliptical, exerbike, aero-stuff) while watching and controlling the AV system upstairs in the living room, all with a single remote.

      If you don't need a decent

    • I've got 8 remotes sitting on my coffee table. If I can find a single replacement for all 8 remotes, it'll save me a hell of a lot of fumbling around in the dark wondering where that damned laser disc remote floated off to. On the down side, if I lose the single remote, I'm totally screwed. Too many decisions, to little time.
  • ...control your refridgerated microwave [slashdot.org]? That what I want to know.

    • I'm not sure if these would, but the higher model [philips.com] probably would be able to, as you're able to view networked cams, etc on them. Of course, I've been drooling over the damn things for a few months now, and the $1699 price tag means a lot of drool....especially since no one seems to want to buy drool.
  • JP1 (Score:4, Informative)

    by msheppard ( 150231 ) on Wednesday April 09, 2003 @12:56PM (#5694106) Homepage Journal
    Radio shack (et.al.) have many universal remotes with the JP1 interface [yahoo.com]. You have to build your own cable (any day I solder is a good day) and then you can program any key to send any IR signal. It's pretty slick once you get it working. You gotta be able to edit Excel spreadsheets of the command arrays &c.&c, but in the end you can make the remote do anything.

    M@
  • Hi have a Harmony remote and it is all that. I've had the cheapie universal remotes. I've had good, cheap universal remotes. The Harmony will make flipping the inputs around on your various components and turning them on/off for what you need to do a snap. They have an intuitive web interface that does just about anything you would want. You can always hand mangle the XML if the web interface can't do what you want. It has better range than a palm with omniremote(I've tried it). I find a complex home
  • I purchased a Zenith remote for about $100 Cdn, it features a large LCD screen (about half the top surface of the large remote), which is a multi-function touch screen.

    It can control anything I've thrown at it so far, including StarChoice (actually as a *C code - very tough to find!) and my two part technics dolby digital system - which had been a real PITA - it has a separate decoder from the tuner and you needed two remotes for it (the decoder part for changing inputs, the receiver part for volume, etc.)
  • I'm doing a Linux based Multimedia PC project in the near future, and could really use an RF remote since line-of-sight could be a problem. We'd also like to avoid requiring a keyboard in order to control most of the functions of the unit. I know X10 makes an RF remote that plugs into the serial port of the PC, but I'd like to find alternatives that are known to work with LIRC [lirc.org]. Any one have experience in this?

    Soko
  • What about my RF bose remote? Neither of the products (or any other remote AFAIK) support bose systems. I think the pronto mentioned rf functionality, but that is only with it's own base unit (for emulating rf with ir products). Does anyone know of a remote that is compatible with bose systems?
    • I heard this works well. [bluedo.com] It emulates Bose RF controls to be used with the IR remote of your choice.
    • What about my RF bose remote? Neither of the products (or any other remote AFAIK) support bose systems. I think the pronto mentioned rf functionality, but that is only with it's own base unit (for emulating rf with ir products). Does anyone know of a remote that is compatible with bose systems?

      The products don't support Bose with good reason [intellexual.net]. These remotes are meant for relatively high-end or better mid-level systems, which Bose isn't.

      • OT, or not, I wanted to read that site. It looked interesting. I started to read the 1st page that loaded, and as I am wont to do, right clicked an interesting link in an effort to "open in new window". Then a "that function disabled" window popped up. I tried again. Same shit. That site is more annoying than 1000 pop-up porno X-10's on steroids. So I posted the following in the feedback (which also could not be right clicked), closed the windows, and gave up. WTF is up with sites like this? WTF are
        • Not a friend of mine, just a good link I'd found before that actually detailed what's wrong Bose. I agree that right-click disabling is the most annoying thing ever (and useless -- View->Source in IE gets you the frameset source, which tells you the frame page [intellexual.net], where you can again View->Source and get the source). I'll paste the contents of the page as an AC below this thread, so you can read them.

  • iPod as a remote (Score:3, Interesting)

    by adzoox ( 615327 ) on Wednesday April 09, 2003 @01:41PM (#5694503) Journal
    I think one of the most innovative ideas for a universal remote was Griffin's demo of the PodMate Remote control.

    Basically it converted tones into infrared signals. Unfortunately Apple asked that they drop development.

    At MacWorld Expo January 2002, they used an iPod to control a Sony TV and Home Stereo system.

    Now, they have released the exact same addon for the iPaq.

    Does anyone know where or how to obtain a signal conversion from tone to IR?

    I know that this is the same way the Macintosh TV worked. One cound take the "IR eye" from that and plug it into ANY onboard Macintosh motherboard sound connection and then use a Sony remote control to turn the unit on and control the Apple CD player or Apple Video Player.

  • Backwards (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DumbSwede ( 521261 ) <slashdotbin@hotmail.com> on Wednesday April 09, 2003 @01:45PM (#5694551) Homepage Journal
    The idea of programming universal remotes has always seemed backwards to me. Why not have your TV/VCR/DVD/Stereo program your remote for you instead (one button triggers a training mode)? Granted companies would have to agree to some remote standard language, but with 2-way communication between remote and home appliance, there are probably lots of interactive features just waiting to be invented. It opens the field to including remote operation to devices not normally set to have remotes (since they wouldn't actually have to bundle a remote). A really robust standard would separate buying appliances and the remotes that control them.

    While we're at it, how about a capacitor or something to hold a remote's programming long enough to change the battery?

    How about having the TV warn me when my remote's batteries are getting low?

    Remote finder (this one has already been done), have the remote beep.

    Why do most Universal remotes only have 3-6 devices? Why not 10 or 20, say by hitting a number button after a device button? It's certainly not for lack of memory.

    Mostly I want my universal remote to always be able to get to the Menu/Programming/Timer operations. With a trainable remote this should be no problem. Why so many devices and universal remotes are incompatible at this level is beyond me.

    While these Uber remotes no doubt address these last 2 points, they seem vast overkill for something that should be simple and flexible, but instead is stupid and obtuse.


    • Why do most Universal remotes only have 3-6 devices? Why not 10 or 20, say by hitting a number button after a device button? It's certainly not for lack of memory.

      Except it is for lack of memory.
      • Lets see, the remote already holds hundreds if not thousands of button settings combinations in ROM. There must be RAM of some type to hold the 4 digit device numbers that index into the ROM table. Your telling me the RAM to hold 10 or 20, 4 digits numbers is a significant cost difference over what is used to hold 3 to 6 ?

        The RAM used is almost certainly vast overkill for holding these few numbers, and it is a design issue in having numbered/named device buttons directly. Which is odd, because a device

    • Re:Backwards (Score:3, Interesting)

      by billtom ( 126004 )

      You answered your own question. The reason your suggestion will never happen is because it would require consumer electronics companies to co-operate on a standard. And they really, really, REALLY hate doing that. Even when there is the potential to make lots of money they still won't (e.g. pick one re-writeable DVD standard).

      All home electronics equipment could easily be interoperable by now, there's no technical obstacle and the protocols are all there. But the CE companies simply refuse to work together
    • "Granted companies would have to agree to some remote standard language,..." As long as Microsoft assumes exclusive rights, there should be no problem.
  • BlueDo [bluedo.com] sells a whole gamut of high-end remotes, including the Pronto and Harmony lines. Better yet, they also carry packages that include the JP1 cable, including a package with the highly rated Home Theater Master MX500 lCD remote, a good learning remote to program it, and a JP1 cable.

    I'm still saving for this bundle which is one of the highest rated remotes on hifi-remotes.com.

    I am not connected in any way with BlueDo, just been impressed by good store reviews and the great customer service I've experi
  • by Denver_80203 ( 570689 ) on Wednesday April 09, 2003 @01:59PM (#5694666)
    My dog has eaten, batteries and all, 4 remote controls. I just bought a new Yamaha reciever and within 3 days it had been consumed. I've been finding little rubber numbers in the yard.
  • I have a universal remote control and it works great. But the pesky little menu options are not the universal remote and I have to switch back to the original remote for the product. I am not sure if the phillips and Harmany also have the same problem.
  • ... and for IR stuff it works as advertised. ProntoEdit is also super cool, and very very flexible (though somewhat buggy and crashprone as of 4-5 years ago or so)..

    I've since switched a bunch of my AV equipment around, and I'm too lazy to reprogram the Pronto, and I've migrated to OS X & Linux and I'm not too keen on caring about getting PE (windows-only) working.. Still, if you're looking to build a remote that can handle all your gear, with macros and 'easy-to-use' interfaces (and as many of them
  • Voice recognition (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Selanit ( 192811 ) on Wednesday April 09, 2003 @02:18PM (#5694801)
    Remote control of television/home theater setups would seem to be an area where one might profitably use voice recognition for control. Voice recognition works best when it uses a limited set of words; I suggest that a voice-recognition system for controlling a home theater system could be abstracted to a suitably limited set of commands.

    The actions required to control a home theater can be broken down into these categories: 1) selecting the source, 2) controlling playback, and 3) channel tuning and volume control. Thus, you'd have this command for selecting the source:

    SELECT {TV|DVD|VHS|SATELLITE|CABLE|RADIO|CD|TAPE}

    Which is fairly self-evident -- say select and then the name of the device you want to use. For playback:

    PLAY
    PAUSE
    STOP
    REWIND
    FAST FORWARD

    Those should be clear. Then for the last bit, you'd need:

    VOLUME {UP|DOWN|NUMBER}
    MUTE

    These last need commentary. Volume UP/DOWN will adjust the volume one notch up or down. NUMBER is a number between zero and ten, setting the volume at 0%, 10%, 20%, etc, zero being muted. MUTE is a toggle: when you say it, mutes the audio or returns it to the previous volume level, based on the current state of the volume. You could theoretically divide that into two commands MUTE and UNMUTE, but there's no real reason to do so. Then, for tuning control:

    CHANNEL {UP|DOWN|NUMBER}
    SURF {UP|DOWN|END}

    Channel UP/DOWN bumps it up or down one channel. NUMBER requires you to say the number of the channel, eg "CHANNEL three four" will switch the channel 34. It would be nice to add support for proper numerical recognition, eg thirty four instead of three-four, though that would obviously increase the number of number-phrases for the software to recognize by quite a few.

    The SURF command will switch up or down one channel every five seconds till you say "SURF END". This is to avoid having to say "CHANNEL UP" over and over and over.

    Controls of the tint, brightness, and so on of the monitor are best left to actual buttons on the TV. (Or perhaps a jog-dial + OSD, like on some computer monitors). Similarly I'd use a physical on/off button rather than POWER ON|OFF.

    That's a fairly limited vocabulary, meaning it could probably be implemented comparatively easily. It has some distinct advantages: no remotes to get lost, no batteries to replace, doesn't require line-of-sight to the equipment, can be operated by blind people without difficulty (yes, many of them like to listen to the TV even if they can't see it), and best of all it's an intuitive interface: we give verbal instructions all the time, and even people with zero technical knowledge can figure out how to SELECT DVD and PLAY. (Whereas my mother still cannot figure out how to play DVDs on our current four-remote system; selecting the DVD player as the source of the video seems to be beyond her, so she always gets my brother to do it.)

    On the other hand, it has some disadvantages. Mute people would be totally unable to use it. Different software would be required for different languages, and possibly for different dialects depending on how great the linguistic variation between the standard version and the dialect was. Lastly, you wouldn't be able to operate it quietly (if, for example, it was late at night and you didn't want to disturb anybody who was sleeping). Probably there are also some technical challenges of which I am unaware, too.

    Still . . . it'd be really neat. :-)
    • You mean like this one [smarthomeusa.com]?

      I got one for $25 late last year at the Brookstone outlet in North Conway, NH (all Brookstones have them I think, but for $100).

      I played with it for a few minutes -- voice training was quick and easy (I think it can recognize 3 or 4 people, assuming each trains it), supports macros and multiple devices (but alas, doesn't learn). Seems like a decent toy for average, mid-range stuff, but doesn't know how to talk to my ReplayTV (maybe not an issue soon, but it doesn't know TiVO-sp
    • This doesn't take into account the fact that most people (well.. .me) watches their dvd movies or listen to their music at full blast. Wouldn't the sound coming out of the av interfere??? The song "turn the volume up" by miss missy elliot comes to mind (it might be some other title... but pretty sure that phase comes up in that song 30 times or so)
  • I've used a Pronto as my main remote since about 1999 when I got the first model (TSU-1000).

    I've used it to control my blinds, my TV, my Pre-Amp, my CD PLayers, and my TiVos.

    My TSU-1000 bit the big one in the form of a cracked screen late last year when we were moving things around.

    Yes, it can be a pain to program. But, there are many sites like http://www.remotecentral.com that people 'open source' their configurations so to speak. So you can cut/paste everything that they've done into yours and have
  • What about Marantz (Score:2, Informative)

    by Pinteiro ( 555556 )
    Marantz has been manufacturing universal remote control for a decade, they have far more experience in this market. They are also pretty easy to set up and sturdy.
  • Activity-based is only going to work if your devices have different codes for on and off. Mine don't. I tried this approach with my Philips Pronto TSU-2000 and ended up getting annoyed with devices turning off when I selected an activity.

    I'm very happy with my remote. It's a bit lacking in hard-buttons - it looks like the TSU-3000 in the review would redress that without having too many hard buttons. I really don't see how the reviewer could go wrong training the unit from his existing remote controls.
  • This is my dream remote setup:

    All of my CDs are ripped and stored on my computer. (Like many other people out there.) I run Linux and have the xmms LIRC plugin and patch [lycos.nl] that allows you to type in a three digit number and load a CD. (eg. If I want to listen to Tom Petty's Greatest Hits, I punch in "630" on a remote and hit load on my IR remote. It's an awesome jukebox setup for common CDs that I have memorized, but there is no way I want to memorize 700+ of them.

    I want more! I would love to have a Palm Pi
  • He got frusterated after trying 9 of 20 possible codes for his PVR? Then he quit? What a great review. Oviously the reviewer is more interested in a flashy super easy to use interface than functions. The nice high end functions of the pronto wern't even outlined. Thats sad. How can this be a review when he hadn't taken the time to figure the remote out?
    • How can he say that the pronto sucks if he didn't take the time to get it working?
    • I would agree - this review was a rush-job and scarcely worth the paper it wasn't printed on :)

      Further work with the Pronto should have come up with its greater flexibility and the ability to directly edit IR codes (gaining access in some cases to functions not available on the original remote - like service codes and discrete power codes). Last but not least, he should have checked the online resources available - like the Files section at RemoteCentral [remotecentral.com].

  • I like the Harmony (Score:2, Informative)

    by larryj ( 84367 )
    I bought the Harmony SST-768 a few weeks ago. It takes some time to get everything set up, but since I got past that I'm really liking it.

    The wizards on their web page can be a bit of a pain. I started making more progress when I entered 'advanced' mode and started editing some of the XML directly.

    The cool thing about the remote is that it remembers the state of your components. "Watch TiVo" is my default activity. When I hit the power button on the remote, it turns on my TV and sets everything up to
  • People who don't understand why someone might need something more sophisticated often insult or damn with faint praise. How sad.

    Sometimes you need something more sophisticated than a pre-programmed remote and you just aren't going to get there without getting a learning unit.

    By the way I use an MX-500 from bluedo [bluedo.com]
    after using various small-scale universals and the neo-tech palm software (with the IR dongle). Some people like touch-screen remotes but many of us find them nearly unusable.
  • Can anyone let me know where to find a remote that is programmable (including multiple commands executed by pressing a single button), but is very simply laid out.

    My father-in-law is too old (or stubborn) to learn anything beyond a simple Channel up/down, volume up/down, and power. Fine for basic cable, but we also have a digital satellite. Here are the issues:

    - The power button turns on/off the satellite tuner, but not the TV (produces a loud static screen when he turns it off, doesn't turn the TV on w
    • You could try a look at the Weemote [remotecentral.com] and its "big" brother the Weemote Snr [remotecentral.com]. They do have that simple layout you were asking for...

      For the control issues, a Pronto may do the trick but you would need to use "discrete power codes" (separate IR codes for power-on and power-off rather than a toggle) - and whether these are available or not depends on the equipment you have (sometimes there are workarounds even when the codes aren't there - eg pressing Play will switch on many DVD players if they are off, so Play

  • The prono looks as if it can be a TV with it's colour LCD/etc. So now I can watch TV on my remote and use the TV as a remote I suppose, I wonder if the pronto can run Linux too! I have a funny story about one of the fancy remotes, I was staying at a guys house, and he had a remote like that, when you pressed "Watch TV" A screen would come from the ceiling and then the TV would start up (external projection). I then pointed it away from it, said turn off TV, it thought the TV was off, and then when he came b
  • by Wraithlyn ( 133796 ) on Wednesday April 09, 2003 @07:05PM (#5697621)
    I feel I am somewhat of an authority on this subject. Shortly after Christmas, I embarked on a crusade to find the perfect remote, that offered maximum flexibility and ease of use.

    Over the next 2 months, I purchased and returned remote after remote, always dissapointed (until the final one.. keep reading). Here are some opinions on the various types.

    Touchscreen models: Sexy, sleek, great cool factor. COMPLETELY AWKWARD TO USE once the "gee wow" factor wears off. You have to press the screen to activate it, then visually search for the button you want, then press the screen again. Zero tactile feedback. I want to be able to find the function I want without even looking at the thing.

    All button models: Great for basic use, but too hard to remember what you've set special functions to, and tedious to program (when the red light blinks twice, hold down X until the red light blinks rapidly. If the light is steady and unblinking, you must then proceed to alternately pressing Y and Z while standing on your head and pointing the remote at the constellation Orion.. etc) Aside: With JP1 programming, the Radio Shack /All in One models ARE an unbelievable value and immensely flexible. Worth checking out if you're on a tight budget.

    So... where does this leave us? I wanted a remote with the customizability, clarity, and easy programming of a screen model, with the tactile feedback of a buttoned model.

    Enter the Home Theatre Master MX-500 [remotecentral.com]. (Big picture)

    This is truly a dream remote. You have wonderful ergonomic design, thoughtfully placed controls, and the real show stopper: the LCD screen and side buttons. These side buttons are used to select options from the screen, in much the same way a bank machine works. You main menu consists of 10 devices (which you can rename of course), and each of these 10 devices has 2 LCD screens (20 functions) worth of programmable, custom named functions, in addition to all the regular buttons, all of which are fully programmable. And of course the LCD screen provides a full menu driven interface to the remote's features.

    Here is an extremely in-depth professional review [remotecentral.com].

    Here is a long list of user reviews [remotecentral.com]. (Average score is 4.82 / 5, from 113 reviews)

    The only remote that can top this is from the same company, the MX-700 [remotecentral.com]. This remote comes with a small, fully programmable buddy remote, can set full length macros on any key, and is computer programmable. It also costs $500 USD! (The MX-500 is ~MSRP $200, I got mine for $112 online)

    All my friends are jealous of this remote, I can fully operate it it absolute darkness with just one hand (either left or right), a complete stranger can figure out how to operate my entire entertainment system in 5 minutes flat, it has insane IR power.. I can bounce it from other rooms no problem, and I haven't even SEEN my other remotes since the day I got this. No other remote even comes close. If you're sick of remote clutter, you need to get one these babies. I cannot heap enough praise on this thing.
  • Some of the ideas being advanced here about remotes are ludicrous. I have tried all the remotes, everything. Here's what I learned:

    1) Any remote with a touch screen is useless because it means you have to take your eyes off of what you are doing (hopefully sipping wine or fondling something). The remote has to be organized from the outset to fit all the requirements of a home entertainment center (TV, Tivo, DVD, CD, MD/DVD-R, and amplifier). Forget the x-10 stuff for now (manual blinds and lights).

    2)

  • I was a doubter of these things because I have several devices to control from several different vendors and the remotes are all unique as are the names of the commands.

    I tried a button-based universal and found that I could not remember what particular key did exactly what for which device.

    So I figured I'd use an Amazon gift certificate I had to try a Pronto TSU3000. ($248)

    First look was a bit frustrating, but I figured out the trick.

    I took every one of my remotes and taught the pronto every single

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