I had been in pursuit of something like that for years. Tried many a option and spent many a dollar. Finally in recent years a solution that is flexible, reliable, and affordable has started to materialize.
I think the best option going at this time is something that uses a iPod/iPad or PC laptop as the remote, and the home wireless LAN (802.11) rather than IR (assuming you have one) as the communications medium. Home LANs have enough signal strength to control things inside the home, even from the outside. The icing on the cake is that it is RF (Radio Freq/wireless), meaning non-line of sight, unlike IR.
For software I ended up going with TouchControl because it works on both a PC platform so you can use a laptop as a remote as well as iPxd devices. It does require a PC in the house to be the server, but that PC can be used for other things too so I used my Media Server PC as the TouchControl server.
Then the other piece to the puzzle is the Global Cache iTach unit that converts the information to IR. They have one that is "wireless to IR" and another that is "wired Ethernet to IR". I have one of each since the number of things I control has grown to include PCs, TVs, amps, lights,etc.
While there is a learning curve to set it all up, their support is awesome. Then once you have that done, the system works flawlessly. Best solution I have been able to find. I highly recommend it.