Monday, January 12, 2015

Progress report...

Progress report...  Well, the BluMoo universal remote control was a complete bust for us.  It didn't support any of the AV gear we have – and everything we have is mainstream stuff, not some weird off-brand.  BluMoo has got a lot of work to go before it's actually ready for consumers.  The app that controls it looks like an early prototype, rather than a shipping product.  I'm going to call it promising, but far, far from finished.

I'm leaving in a couple days to spend a week with my mom and siblings, so I really wanted to have the AV system usable by normal humans.  Without a universal remote, one has to juggle four remotes and have a complete understanding of how everything is interconnected (and that's pretty complicated).  It challenges me, and I'm the geek who put it all together!

So I ran down to Best Buy in Salt Lake City yesterday, and picked up another universal remote: Logitech's Harmony Ultimate Home.  It's pricey, but quite polished.  The company has a web site with device compatibility, so you can check ahead of time whether your devices were supported (and all of ours were).

The installation could hardly have been simpler.  Less than 30 minutes after getting home from my run to Best Buy, I had all of our devices configured in the remote.  We had a much older version of Logitech's universal remote down in Jamul, and it's easy to see that they've come a long way since then.  In particular, I noticed that the remote's understanding of device state (especially power on/off) is much better than the older control was.  I've already got it set up to let us watch cable TV, listen to the radio, or watch a DVD/BluRay disk.  I've got a little tweaking to do on button assignments (for instance, when watching TV, I want to be able to adjust the picture), but generally it's up and running.

That trip took up much of my day yesterday, and fighting BluMoo and implementing the Harmony ate the rest...


  1. Harmony remotes are cool. You can tell it which component is responsible for volume, for example, and which components are on/off for watch movies/tv. Add pauses and sequences of commands. The only caveat is that it doesn't know the actual status of the component (on/off) etc. and some are toggles. so if you accidentally have a component on, the remote doesn't know and will turn it off instead of on. Depends. Also be sure and keep the remote pointed at the AV system until the sequence of commands is completed. Or again, something will get out of sync and you'll have to manually toggle something.

  2. What you're describing is exactly the way our old remote worked. This new one is a bit different, though - it actually remembers the state of each device's power (and some other settings, too). For instance, if you switch from watching cable TV to watching a DVD, it knows that it needs to leave the TV and amp/receiver on, and to turn on the DVD player. It still can't "see" the current state, so it depends on its memory. If you mess up the state somehow (say, by turning a device off manually), you can still fix it by using the remote's "fix it" mode to tell it which device is out of sync. It's all quite clever, and so far at least, perfect.

    Also, the model I bought includes a "hub", which basically is a stationary IR blaster. I have it sitting 15' in front of my equipment stand, and it has no problem reliably talking to all the gear. The actual remote talks to the hub by radio, and it doesn't matter what direction you point it. One thing I really like: you can walk in front of the hub while its working, and it doesn't matter - it's apparently beaming IR out in multiple directions, and depending on reflection for it to hit the gear. It works fine even if I stand right next to it, blocking its line of sight to the gear. Much nicer than our old remote...