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Replacing a Harmony 880 with an Android Tablet + TouchSquid PRO - Viable?

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 
I've owned a Logitech Harmony 880 now for the past 6 years and I've been really happy with the device. It has control profiles for all of my equipment and I spent the time to really setup the control macros to work around some of the quirks in HDMI handshaking times.

So why would I replace it?

Well, I'm actually considering gifting it to my brother-in-law who has a collection of over half a dozen different remotes on his coffee table. We did attempt to programme the learning remote that came with his new Marantz receiver, but it still doesn't offer the one-button convenience of activity macros that the Harmony does.

My question is, will the combination of an Android tablet (current front-runner is the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1) + the TouchSquid PRO app give me the same level of configuration and one-touch macro events that the Logitech Harmony 880 does?

I'd love to hear opinions from some actual users.

My Equipment:
  • Pioneer Kuro KRP-600M pdp
  • Onkyo TX-SR875 receiver
  • Roku XDS
  • Oppo BDP-93 Blu-ray player
  • Malata DVP-520 multi-region DVD
  • Pioneer CLD 2070 laserdisc
  • HTPC (not currently controlled via IR, nor really necessary)

All of the IR signals are relayed to a remote equipment rack via an IR repeater. The distance between the viewing/listening position and the IR receiver eye is about 10' (3m).

Assuming I make the switch to an Android tablet for remote control, I'd like to delve into possible media server controls or remote control of Spotify on the HTPC from the tablet.

Thoughts?
post #2 of 13
Hi King-
The Galaxy Tabs are great options and the built-in IR transmitter works very with the TouchSquid App. We have helped several customers upgrade from Harmony to TouchSquid and they have been very happy with the results. However, in looking at your equipment list, I would suggest that if you want to use a tablet that you should also consider going beyond IR control. Some of your equipment supports direct IP control over the network so you may be better off with the Android Tablet + iRule or an iPad with iRule or Roomie Remote. The direct IP control will give you greater control capability allowing you to control the system from anywhere in the house:

Pioneer Kuro KRP-600M pdp - YES, direct IP control
Onkyo TX-SR875 receiver - I dont think this has IP control
Roku XDS - Yes.
Oppo BDP-93 Blu-ray player - Yes
Malata DVP-520 multi-region DVD
Pioneer CLD 2070 laserdisc
HTPC (not currently controlled via IR, nor really necessary)

For the devices that do not have IP control you can add a Global Cache IP or WiFi to IR adapter. The tablet would communicate to that adapter and then that would route the IR signals to your equipment.

Of the solutions I offered I would suggest that TouchSquid and Roomie are the most similar to Harmony in terms of easy set-up and use. The TouchSquid does not have a lot of direct IP control capability yet but they are expected to expand upon that. Roomie has the most IP control capability out there but they are iOS only and have no plans to develop for Android. iRule is the only app between these that runs on both Android and iOS but the iRule Builder set-up application is more involved then the others. iRule gives you the most customization capability if you are patient and willing to invest some time in the setup.

I hope this helps.
Jim
post #3 of 13
Thread Starter 
Thank you for the reply remoteshoppe

I've not really considered going to direct IP control because even of the devices in my setup that support it I've never found a true need for it. I never get into the configuration settings for the Pioneer Kuro KRP-600M now that it has been calibrated, and the extent of signals sent to it consist of Power ON/OFF and changing between the various HDMI inputs. It is also the only device that is in the viewing room and receives it's IR control signals directly from the handheld remote. I also don't have as much of a need for detailed control configuration for the Oppo since I added a HTPC to the mix; it took over every media app and network media duty and the Oppo is only used for BD playback now.

I'm definitely sticking with the Android tablet side of things, so I suppose now it becomes more of a question between TouchSquid PRO and iRule. Investing time for configuration and customisation is certainly not an issue, so long as the end result ends up being as simplistic in actual USE as the Logitech Harmony one-button press magic that I currently enjoy.

So...

Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.2" + TouchSquid PRO
or
Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.2" + iRule

Does iRule allow mixed control set signals to be issued? As in, emitting IR controls for things like my Onkyo receiver and Pioneer Laserdisc but intelligently "knowing" that IP-controllable devices don't need IR and issue the commands over Wi-Fi to the network?

For some technical knowledge background, I've pulled over 3000 feet of CAT6 wired network in my house (over 60 Gigabit drops) and I am very familiar with building and configuring my own custom PCs. By trade I'm a software business analyst / technical manager.
post #4 of 13
In iRule you make a gateway for the device by assigning an IP address and port number. The gateway is either using direct IP to your device or IP to IR (or RS-232) through a networked IR emitter such as the Global Cache iTach. You then assign gateways to your devices. Then you assign commands from the devices to buttons in the "builder" software for the remote. If the device's gateway is configured to use IP then it will send IP, if it was configured as IR then it would send IR. You can even make two gateways for your device where it can send a mixture of IP and IR depending on the command.
post #5 of 13
If direct IP control to your devices that support it is not important then I'd say TouchSquid and iRule will be equally capable. I have always felt that the more you can customize and program a UI the easier the end result should be which is why I would lean to the iRule. However, the TouchSquid is the only app that will utilize the built in IR transmitter on the Galaxy tab.

I guess what I'm saying is that you would probably be pretty happy regardless of which one you choose.

Jim
post #6 of 13

Have you checked out other options like Smart IR Remote ? It might be worth having a look at it, and depending on your needs, it may be a better fit for you.

post #7 of 13
Thread Starter 
Smart IR Remote looks like it has a very nice interface, one of my main hesitation points with TouchSquid PRO is that the interface looks like somebody drew it with MS Paint back in 1995. No offense to the developers, but it doesn't look very nice at all and this is something that could be easily remedied by bringing in some outside designer assistance.

I do like the fact that Smart IR Remote would make use of the existing IR blaster of a Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1" tablet and I could use my existing IR receiver/repeater distribution system without having to buy a GlobalCache device OR having to run WiFi in my house all the time. The fact that is less than $10 for the app is also a big plus.

I think I'm going to give Smart IR Remote a try, and if I can't get that configuration to work I'll add a GlobalCache IP2IR device and see what iRule can do for me. Even if I go with iRule, I like the idea of keeping my existing IR distribution system in place to receive commands from my individual remotes (currently stored in the ottoman) in the case that my universal remote and/or tablet remote are unavailable or are not able to issue specific custom commands for some reason.
post #8 of 13
I have been using the touchsquid app on a samsung tab2 7 tablet since may. I have similar equipment that you have listed. I would check out the smart ir remote (I didn't as I don't recall seeing it at the time) based just on cost alone. But if the view displayed on the play store is an indication, even though it looks "better", I think that the touchsquid app offers more. First, you have access to the "universal type" remote as shown (of course, a different layout) but then then you have access to individual remotes for each of your equipments if need be. May be the smart ir remote offers this but its doesn't appear so. Also check out the amount of support for macros, it would appear that smart Ir remote just added those. Lastly, touchsquid support is pretty good with a pretty active forum / user group.
Edited by budwich - 10/29/13 at 9:44pm
post #9 of 13
Thread Starter 
I obtained a Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1" and purchased the Smart IR Remote app. I setup remotes for each of my devices and have started to configure the macro command task sets. My biggest issue is that the app crashes, a lot. After completing the initial remote setup for my Onkyo TX-SR875 receiver I've been unable to successfully enter into EDIT mode for that remote and instead get "Unfortunately, Smart IR Remote has stopped" messages every single time. The only way to "edit" this remote is to delete it and start over with a completely new instance, which is far from ideal when all I wanted to do was add a button to the existing remote configuration.

The crashing issue when editing a remote is a pretty big deal breaker for this app given that it is specifically advertised for the Galaxy Tab 2 platform.

My second issue is that the remote does not appear to be "stateful" - as in if I've used a macro command to "Watch Blu-ray" and certain devices are on and set to certain inputs, issuing a macro command to change over to "Watch Roku" will issue a power toggle command to the display and the receiver, turning them off when I actually need them to just stay on.

Any suggestions?
post #10 of 13
No sure about "statefullness" on any remote control that operates in the IR domain as it is usually only "one way" and thus "book-keeping" of states might be of limited use when the end unit can't confirm that it has achieved the state requested. To get around this, you likely have to be "smarter" in your programming techniques and program buttons appropriately.... at least that's what I basically do with touchsquid although it does have "state control" moving from activity to activity but again, they are not really "active" managed states so you kind of have to "plan" your activity appropriately.

As for the app hanging up, hopefully the design group is responsive and addresses any issues. Touchsquid has been around for a while and support has been quick to respond to most issues and at present I would say it is pretty stable. Go to the web site and forums and scan thru some of the posts and issues to confirm and get a feel for their stability.

I might try the smart IR remote app but I was actually waiting on some of your comments before spending (throwing) any money further in this area because touchsquid works fine for my "multitudes" of equipment.
post #11 of 13
Thread Starter 
Coming from a Logitech Harmony 880 I know that it was "stateful" for any activity that it started, even though there was no way for the remote handset to have a positive awareness of the powered states of any of the equipment. If I had two Activity macros setup on the Harmony as follows:

Watch Blu-ray
1. Onkyo TX-SR875 Receiver POWER TOGGLE/ON
2. Delay 3 seconds (this was necessary because the Onkyo needed to be the first HDMI device "up")
3. Set Onkyo TX-SR875 to input AUX1 (assigned HDMI 1)
4. Pioneer KRP-600M POWER TOGGLE/ON
5. Pioneer KRP-600M HDMI2 (Input 6)
6. Oppo BDP-93 POWER TOGGLE/ON


Watch Roku
1. Onkyo TX-SR875 Receiver POWER TOGGLE/ON
2. Delay 3 seconds (this was necessary because the Onkyo needed to be the first HDMI device "up")
3. Set Onkyo TX-SR875 to input AUX2 (assigned HDMI 2)
4. Pioneer KRP-600M POWER TOGGLE/ON
5. Pioneer KRP-600M HDMI1 (Input 5)
6. Roku "Select/OK" command (to wake the Roku from screensaver)

Now, if I were watching a Blu-ray and I toggled over to the My Activities menu on the remote and pressed the "Watch Roku" button, the remote knows (assumes) that the Onkyo receiver and Pioneer display are already powered, so it would not send the POWER TOGGLE/ON commands to those devices, and instead would only send the commands to swap to the other input selections.

For right now, I'm getting around the lack of statefullness with Smart IR Remote by only using the My Macro commands to initiate the first activity of a viewing session. If I want to swap to a different "activity" I have a custom remote panel setup that has simple power and input toggles for each device in a single view. This is ok for "me" but it would be unwieldy for anyone who was unfamiliar with my setup.

Am I to assume that if I were to move to something like iRule that devices that can communicate their status (like the Roku XDS or the Oppo BDP-93) would allow for a more stateful control setup?

Final question that is more general; I've been searching online to determine if the Onkyo TX-SR875 can be controlled via its RS-232 serial port, or if that is only for doing firmware upgrades? I haven't been able to find a definitive answer and it would be relevant for knowing if I needed and IP-to-RS232 interface to control it.
post #12 of 13
Thread Starter 
budwich, is there any way to replace the button graphics used by TouchSquip Pro? The functionality does seem to be a step up from Smart IR Remote, but I'm having trouble reconciling the interface presentation of TS; it looks like a high school HTML project from 1997. I am certainly not one to hold out on aesthetics, but TouchSquid is leaving the comfort zone. Can you post some pics of your control screens from TS?
post #13 of 13
I think the interface is made to look "basic", kind of like a "basic remote" to give the appears of "simple" but may be that is just how it is. I don't believe there any alternatives as there have been quite a few posts with people having issues with the labelling "technique" and restrictions associated there of. I haven't played with the options but there is a "harmony graphics" method that allows one to load some form of harmony "stuff" but I think that just channel icons.

Touchsquid has a form of "stating" in that you "book keep" what units are needed for a given activity. So if "watch tv" activity needs, a tv, sat box, and audio receiver, those devices are turned on. I am not sure whether it issues the commands to always cause those actions at the start of the activity but I actually think is does not.... that is it "knows" where it was coming from and assumes some form of "state" from that time. So if now you want to watch blu, it can be made to know that you need a player is involved so it would do that (ie. power it up). Where I have my problems, is if I leave an activity go from blu ray back to sat watching for any reason, then the player would get shut down (not required for sat watching) and thus I would have to "restart" the player if I went back from sat to player. As a result, as oppose to doing activities, I just use macro buttons to navigate from device to device. So in essence, I have a "watch media" activity that basically sets the layout of the remote up with "linking" to "favorite channels and such" since sat TV is the prevalent media source. I then have a "switcher activity" which basically sets up the remote for a few specialized sequences of switching (ie. macro button to watch PC videos -> switch tv to vga, switch audio receiver to input PC audio, similarly to play games either xbox or wii using macro button to switch tv to X input, switch receiver to Y input, etc).

So my setup would be more "traditional" with the touchsquid acting like a programmable remote BUT where by the "limited" labelling off buttons can be set up kind of "activity orientated" activities being "media watching / primary sat based" and "media switching / setup" whereby most buttons and such represent audio receiver based functions. Having said that, a fully activity based setup can be readily achieved again using the "limited labeling".

I have come from a touch screen sony remote (rm av3000) so I haven't found the labelling to be an issue since it was "limited" on sony anyways. What I wanted was the "limited editability" of the labels to improve along with improved screen lighting / display (plus other things like switch apps, etc) and so touchsquid does appear to achieve that in a "step"... :-) As people have pointed out, leaving hard buttons for "soft buttons" can be an issue. I use some URC remotes (350 and 500) in other areas and don't find much improvement / advantage / disadvantages in "fingering travels" overall between sony, urc, and touchsquid/tab2. My wife tends to use a dedicated remote for the main activity of sat watching although system "startup" is done thru the samsung tab2. She has an ipad but I haven't attempted to do anything with it because of the added need for the global cache etc.

You might want to try bounce questions on the touchsquid forum (off their web site) to get a better feel of things plus they are really responsive to questions in general so that will likely help.

Further if you want / need, you could PM me and we can go from there to emails to directed questions. We both will likely learn far more without causing a lot of undue forum "clutter".... maybe... :-)
Edited by budwich - 11/19/13 at 8:30am
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