My new remote control and the story behind it

February 10th, 2008

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Okay, here’s the story; A while back I used to live in a small apartment downtown. Back then I had the Universal Remote Control MX700; a PC programmable IR (infrared) remote. It worked great and had a editor which was extremely powerful. It had a LCD screen with buttons next to it where you could create your own buttons along with hard buttons. The program you use to edit the remote let you redefine every button, there were punch through buttons (like you can make it so that the volume buttons always control receiver no matter whether you’re watching TV, playing video games, etc), macros, push and hold macros, etc. The only problem I had with this remote was that you had to aim it. It doesn’t sound like a big problem (and it isn’t) but some macros can take a few seconds to execute.

Anyways, eventually I moved somewhere where I sat far from my stereo components. The signals had trouble getting to my components because there were obstacles blocking them.

Along the way I tried a Harmony remote (the 659). While it was a nice piece of hardware I wasn’t a fan of the software. It’s awesome if you just want to get setup and running quickly but I found it extremely limiting compared to the MX700′s editor. The 659 also had the problem of being an IR remote (like the MX700). Now Harmony remotes have this feature called ‘smart state’. Smart state remembers the state of your components; what’s on, what input you’re using, etc. It sounds like a good idea but if not all signals reach the components successfully it’s a real pain. There’s a help button that will fix this but I wasn’t crazy about having to use it. I returned the Harmony after a few days.

By now RF (radio frequency) remotes were more common. I tried Universal Remote’s RF20 Powerpack. The Powerpack is a remote and a RF receiver. It’s relatively cheap (I paid around 100 bucks US) because you can’t hook it up to your computer. While I did keep it I disliked that I couldn’t connect it to my computer. The fact that it does have RF makes it very useful if you have stuff that would normally block an IR signal.

Anyways eventually I got fed up with the MX700 and RF20 and started looking for a new remote. I’ve been eyeing the Universal Remote Control MX3000 for sometime so I finally bit the bullet and bought one. Here it is:

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Unlike my previous remotes this one has a touch screen. It runs Windows CE (just like Pocket PC) and uses Active Sync (or Windows Mobile Device Center if you’re using Vista) to connect to your computer. You program it using MX3000 editor.

I did consider the Harmony 1000 very briefly but it appears the programming software is more or less as limiting as the 659′s I tried a while back. I also don’t like Smart State.

You can customize everything on this device, the look, what the buttons look like and how big they are, how many buttons are on each screen. Along with this you can create macros that have up to 255 steps, press and hold macros, there’s support for variables (the irony of this is that I could give the MX3000 Smart State like functionality with this), and a few other goodies.

To be honest when I first got it I was a little overwhelmed. Programming my Mx700 was easy because the buttons are all set in place so you basically just fill in the blanks to program it. The MX3000 is so much more open ended. The buttons can be made from any image file you want. I was a little intimidated by the program at first so I actually didn’t touch the MX3000 much for a few days (I was also at CES so I didn’t have that much time to mess around). Eventually, I did mess around with the MX3000 and really, the editor is quite easy to use.

Along with the MX3000 I picked up 2 MRF-260 RF base stations. The MRF-260 has an antenna and 4 ports for IR blasters. You plug one end of the IR blasters into the MRF-260, the other end has an IR flasher you stick to your stereo components. RF signals can go through walls so you no longer need line of site to send signals. You also get a tremendous increase in range. Apparently you can go up to 100 meters away (real world range is probably less). You can set a unique ID to each MRF-260 and then program the MX3000 to you can send a RF signal to a specific port on each MRF-260. It’s really cool.

Some devices are sensitive to how strong or weak a IR signal is. You can adjust the signal strength to ports 1 and 2 and ports 3 and 4.

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So, everything’s great now right? Wrong, turns out my Westinghouse TV has the worst remote. First off, there are no discrete input remote signals. Most remotes have an on/off button and an input button. However, there are usually additional signals that will turn the TV on ONLY, if you send this signal it won’t turn it off. There’s also discrete off plus the ability to jump to a specific video input. The work around to this is to jump to a input that does a discrete input (in this case the SVideo input) and then telling the MX3000 to press input x number of times.

So all is well now right? Wrong! The Westinghouse is very inconsistant when it comes to receiving signals. Sometimes When you press SVideo it won’t respond and sometimes when you press input 3 times it will only respond 2 times. I tried varying the length of time between button presses but it doesn’t seem to help. Next time I’m buying a TV with discrete remote signals and or an IR blaster in port and or a RS232 port (you’ll need to purchase the MSC400 accessory from Universal remote to use RS232).

Anyways with the exception of the TV the remote works well. I wasn’t sure if I would like a touch screen remote but I got used to it quickly.

Entry Filed under: Home Theater

1 Comment Add your own

    waynester  |  February 23rd, 2008 at 6:05 pm

    wow , i’m sure i saw scotty using this to fix warp drives

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