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Discussion Starter · #1 ·

Here is my attempt to give back to this thread and possibly answer many questions before they are asked. I plan on expanding this in the next few days. Here is what I have now.

How to decide on a remote:
  • Number of devices
  • Budget
  • Batteries
  • Interface
    • Buttons
    • Touch Screen
  • Line-of-sight Issues
  • Programming
    • Built-in Database
    • Learning
    • PC Programming
      • Logitech Harmony Remotes
      • URC Remotes
      • JP1 Remotes
      • Other

How to control your devices:
  • IR Input
    • Receiver
    • Direct
  • RF Input
  • RS-232
  • WiFi
  • Others
    • PS3 Bluetooth
    • Windows Media Center

Programming:
  • Built-in Codes
  • Learning
  • PC Programming
  • RF Extender
  • Macros
  • Activities
  • Device Mode
  • Delays
    • Device
    • Key
    • Repeat

"Official" AVS Remote Threads:
 
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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Number of devices


The first thing you should do is determine how many devices you will need to control now and in the near future. Remotes generally can all handle a typical setup such as a TV, AV Receiver, Set Top Box, and Disc Player. In this case, using Logitech Harmony remotes as an example, if you add one more device then you would need to upgrade from the Harmony 300 (with a four device limit) to the Harmony 650 (with a five device limit) at a minimum. So plan out how many devices you think you will have during the life of your remote.


Budget

Before you ask “which remote” and list your requirements, make sure you post a budget. There might be a perfect remote out there for you , but if you think spending $50 on a remote is crazy then you will get a bunch of suggestions that would put you into sticker shock. You can get a cheap programmed remote for about $10 or a PC programmable remote for $1000.


Batteries


Another separator for remotes is if you want to use standard batteries, which can be alkaline or rechargeable, or have one that uses a rechargeable battery pack. With the battery pack you charge the remote by placing it on a custom cradle or connecting it with a charging cable. The remotes with an LCD screen are typically the ones with the rechargeable battery pack. The time between recharge is dependent on many factors, but at the least they will last a full day and be placed on the charger each night. In my experience I typically get about three days between needing recharged.


Interface

Buttons

Everyone is familiar with buttons on a remote. In addition to buttons, some remotes now include a display that contains what can be called soft buttons or soft keys. Depending on the remote, this display can be a touch screen in the case of a Harmony One/900 or have buttons along the side in the case of the Harmony 880/URC MX-880/980. Buttons allow you to use the remote by touch and not have to look away from the TV to turn the volume up or down.


Touch Screen


Touch Screen remote receive their input directly on the screen. This allows for all sorts of customization from button placement to icon styles. Touch Screen remotes do typically have hard buttons in addition to the screen. These buttons are typically for volume +/- and channel +/-. There are now solutions to allow touch screen enabled phones and music players such as the iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, and Android phones to act as your universal remote. Just be away that one of the drawbacks to using a touch screen remote is that you may have to look at the remote to perform the desired action instead of going by feel when using a hard button remote.


Line-of-Sight Issues


If you are planning on hiding your devices in a cabinet, in a closet, or even on another floor then you will need to be able to have to remote communicate without line-of-sight. There are a few methods to accomplish this with the most basic being an IR Extender.

IR Extender

An IR Extender uses an IR receiver that is typically on the end of a cable. The other end plugs into a distribution block where it emits IR. You have to route the IR receiver so that it has line-of-sight with the IR signal from your remote. The signal is received and passed through to the distribution block and then emitted via IR from the block. The emitted IR signal can be from an IR flasher built into the block itself, from stick-on emitters that are attached to the block with a cable in the same manner as the IR receiver, or sometimes directly from the block into a device such as an AVR. The IR signal is emitted through all ports of an IR Extender. If you have two identical devices then you will not be able to control them independently with an IR Extender.


The emitters have transparent double-sided tape that you place over the device’s IR receiver. (Tip: if the adhesive no longer sticks then you can use a dab of hot glue) The cables are usually 3.5mm male mono or stereo cables. These can be spliced with CAT5 cable if needed by cutting the cable and connecting each wire to a pair of cables on each end of the CAT5 extension.

RF Extender

An RF Extender requires the use of an RF remote. The RF remote is typically matched to the same brand of RF extender. If you get a Harmony RF remote then you need to use a Harmony RF extender. If you get a URC RF remote then you need to use one of their RF extenders. In the case of Harmony their RF remote options are the Harmony 890, 900, 1000, and 1100 with the 890 and 900 including the RF extender with the remote.


The RF Extender receives a signal from the RF remote. The RF Extender then emits the correct IR signal to the device. The emitters are similar to those used for the IR Extender (stick-on, flasher, direct IR input). With most RF Extenders you can specify which port to emit the IR signal. With multiple ports you can have multiple of the same device. The IR signal will be routed to that device and not the other devices. This allows you to control multiples of the same device with a single remote.

Extending IR Emitters and Receivers

You can extend the length of the IR emitter and receiver cables by using patch cables or splicing into another type of cable. The simplest way to extend the cable is to use a mono male/female with 3.5mm (1/8") connectors, or 2.5mm in the case of the Harmony 900. These cables can be purchased at most places like Radio Shack and Monoprice.


The custom method is to run a cable, such as CAT5, and splice it into an existing IR cable. You simply pick a color from the CAT5 cable and match it on both ends to the wires in the IR cable. Doing this is destructive to the IR cable since you are cutting it in half. A method that I recently used was to connect a female 3.5mm solder type connector to each end of a CAT5 cable. I then used a 3.5mm male/male mono cable to connect the extender to one end of the CAT5 cable's female connector. Then on the other end I simply connected the existing emitter to the other CAT5 cable's female connector. No IR cable was harmed in the process.


I actually took that method one step further since I had a spare Ethernet port located at the source and destination. For my CAT5 cable I used a spare network patch cable and cut it in half. I connected a 3.5mm female connector to the end of each patch cable, I think I used the blue and orange wires. I then simply plugged the patch cable into the existing pair of wall jacks to complete the circuit. If you don't have an existing unused Ethernet port you could still use the method to terminate your CAT5 cables. If you no longer need to route IR then that cable can be reused for your home network.

Programming

Built-in Database

The most basic form of a universal remote is one with a built-in database of codes. These are accessed by entering a setup mode and entering in a code that corresponds to your device. This is the most limited in that you are stuck with what in already entered into the database.

Learning

The learning feature allows you to transmit an IR signal from a remote and learn it into the universal remote. The learned signal is then assigned to a button. A lot universal remotes now include this feature.

PC Programming

This is what most users are seeking out and it give a lot of flexibility on the button layout and available codes. The remote will use specific software that is linked to a code database in order to program the remote.

Harmony remotes use an online database with practically any code that you would need. This allows you to program your remote without having to resort to learning codes and it also includes some codes not on the original OEM remote such as discrete codes for power on and off and direct input selection.

URC remotes use a local database that is periodically updated on a server. The software retrieves the updates and stores them on your computer. This allows you to program your remote without needing an internet connection, which is handy for custom installers. However, URC Professional remotes do not ship with the software and it is up to the authorized dealer to provide it to the end user or not.

JP1 remotes can be programmed using a special cable and software. The JP1 remotes are typically very cheap and are sold as only having a built-in database and possibly the learning feature. However, they can be programmed by utilizing a jumper that is located in the battery compartment. Connecting the jumper to a computer with the cable allows you to program the remote using the JP1 software and unlocks the more capability than the remote offers built-in.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
IR


IR is the most common way to communicate with your device using a universal remote. IR is also the basis for many of the other solutions such as RF and WiFi.


Line-of-Sight IR
Simply pointing the remote at the device and sending the IR signal. If the device can see the signal then it will issue the command.

Direct IR Input

Some devices have an IR input jack which is typically a 3.5mm mono female jack. To use this jack you would connect a 3.5mm male/male cable to an IR output jack on another device such as an IR emitter block or RF extender. You can usually find IR input jacks on A/V receivers which can also include an IR output jack as well. You can use this to transmit IR to a hidden device if you are feeding the IR for that device through the AVR.


RF


RF allows you to remove the line-of-sight requirement between the remote and the device. RF universal remotes transmit an RF signal that is picked up by an RF base. The RF base (referred to as an RF extender or RF/IR blaster) then sends the correct signal to the destination device. The signal can be sent using various methods depending on the RF extender’s capabilities, but it typically sends IR. The IR out can be routed through an IR flasher, IR stick-on emitters, mini-IR flashers/blasters, or even RS-232.



Note that a universal RF remote is not designed to learn or control other RF devices such as ceiling fans, garage door openers, gas logs, or any other device that has no IR input. In most cases you can assume that if you have an RF device then it either needs to be switched to an IR mode (such as a DirecTV DVR) or you will not be able to control it with anything except for the OEM remote. Think about this when buying that motorized projector screen and curtains!


RS-232


RS-232 allows for most functions to be sent directly into a device, typically an AVR, from a computer or RF/WiFi extender. I don’t have much experience with this so I’ll try to add to it later.


WiFi


Many newer devices are using WiFi to communicate with an extender. This is most common with the touch screen devices such as the iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch and Android phones. The remote sends a signal over WiFi to the WiFi base and it is converted to a code for the device, which is typically IR. There is potential for two-way feedback such that the connected device can transmit information back to the remote so you could see what volume setting you are on or what song is playing in the media player.

Others
Playstation 3

The PS3 has been a problem child for universal remotes. The PS3 doesn’t include an IR receiver and is expected to use the game controller or the PS3 Bluetooth remote. The first and cheapest solution was an IR to USB dongle that was based on the PS2 wireless controller. Next was an IR to Bluetooth converter that received an IR signal and transmitted to correct Bluetooth command. The IR to Bluetooth converters cost more, but also do more than the USB dongles. The IR to Bluetooth converters have direct access to all the commands and can power the PS3 on. The IR to USB dongle only has limited commands since it only emulates the game controller and utilizes additional commands from a pop-up menu (triangle button) and is unable to power the PS3 on.

Computers / Windows Media Center

To control a computer you will probably want to pick up a USB IR receiver. These range from less than $15 for just the USB receiver to $60 for the USB-UIRT. There are ways to control the PC with WiFi and iOS type devices, but in general most people will want the USB IR receiver. Using this receiver you can transmit IR to the PC and then it will receive the signal and perform the action. In the most common situation that is using the MCE (Media Center Edition) remote codes and controlling Media Center on the HTPC. This can be done out of the box and is plug and play. If programming a Harmony remote with a MCE IR receiver then consider following this guide .


Taking the PC control a step further is using a program such as EventGhost to receive the IR signal from the USB IR receiver and then performing an action. I will include more details and some basic templates for EventGhost in the future. Using EG will allow you to send any IR code and trigger pretty much any action on the PC. You are not limited to the MCE codes or Media Center control.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
 Built-in Codes


The most basic universal remote includes a built-in database of IR codes. These codes are assigned by entering a setup mode and entering in a code that corresponds to a device. There are also methods where you toggle through all the codes while hitting a button such as Power On until the device responds (by turning on in this case). When a remote only includes the built-in database you are left with whatever commands shipped with the remote. The exception to this is if the remote happens to be JP1 compatible.


Learning Codes


Some remotes add the ability to learn IR codes from other remotes. When learning these codes you point the OEM remote’s IR transmitter at the universal remotes IR receiver. Entering into a learning setup mode you will assign a key to receive the code and then press the key on the OEM remote. Now the OEM code has been learned into the universal remote. With PC programmable remotes there are various ways to add a learned code and the process is dependent on the remote’s brand.


PC Programming


PC programmable remotes after many benefits over remotes with only built-in databases. One of those benefits is access to a large database of IR codes. These code databases also have the benefit of being updateable and also include codes that may not be directly on the OEM remote. Some examples of additional codes would be discrete codes for power on and power off instead of power toggle and also direct input codes instead of an input button that scrolls down the input list. Being able to select HDMI2 directly is much easier to program for instead of hitting the Input button four times if on TV and one time if on HDMI1. Also, being able to send Power ON without needing to know if the device is on or off is a huge advantage over Power Toggle. If the device is already ON and you send Power ON then the command is ignored and the device stays on. If the device is ON and you send Power Toggle then it will shut off. This causes the device state to be unknown and makes macro programming very difficult.


Another benefit to PC programming is the ability to manipulate the location of the codes by selecting from a menu or even dragging and dropping. This allows you to easily assign codes to each key and to visualize its layout.


Finally, once you have everything configured the way you want it you can save the configuration. With a Harmony remote the configuration is saved in their database. With other remotes, such as URC, the configuration can be saved to a file. Saving to a file allows you to experiment with a copy knowing that you can always revert back to a know working configuration by using the original file.


RF Extender


RF universal remotes work by sending a trigger using RF to an RF extender. The RF extender translates that trigger to the correct IR command. In any case the RF extender needs to be paired with the RF remote. The process of pairing will depend on the brand of remote. There is usually a pairing function or a way to assign a channel to the remote and extender.


Once paired you can begin mapping the devices to the extender. As an example, the original Harmony RF Extenders that shipped with the Harmony 890 include four addressable IR out ports and the base itself is an IR flasher. In addition to IR from the RF extender, the RF remote itself includes the ability to transmit IR just like a regular remote. This allows for three methods of emitting IR to your devices:
  • IR from the remote
  • IR from one or all of the addressable emitter ports
  • IR from the RF extender’s flasher

When using the addressable emitter ports you can assign duplicate devices to separate ports and control them independently of each other. Since the emitters cover the IR receiver (you can further cover the receiver and emitter as needed with electrical tape or similar) you can eliminate bleed through of the IR signal. Doing this would allow you to control multiple identical TVs or cable boxes in a sports bar using a single remote. With an IR only remote the signal would likely be received by more than one TV.


Macros


Macros allow you to automate things that would require multiple button presses and even multiple remotes. A macro is a series of commands assigned to a single button. The most common use for a macro is to turn on and setup your devices in order to perform an activity such as watching TV. Using Watch TV as an example you may have three devices in the chain, a TV, a DVR, and an A/V receiver. In order to watch TV the three devices need to be powered on and the TV and AVR need to be set to the proper input to display the picture and sound. In this example that would be a minimum of five commands if everything is off. Without discrete commands you would need to know if the devices are on or off when sending a power toggle command and how to navigate to the correct input. With discrete commands you can fire off TV Power ON, DVR Power ON, AVR Power ON, TV HDMI1, and AVR HDMI1. You should be left with the TV displaying a picture from the DVR with sound playing through the AVR.


A note about macros on Harmony remotes. Logitech refers to macros as Sequences and are limited to five commands (with the exception of some workarounds). The Harmony 900 and 1100 do not have the ability to create Sequences, but they still use Activities.


Activities


Activities are macros that assign your devices to a certain state and leave the remote in a configuration that is best suited to function in that state. In the case of Watch TV the macro will execute to turn on all the devices and switch everything to the proper input. In addition to the macro, the remote’s keys will be configured to control the devices in the assigned state. For example the volume and mute buttons will control the AVR, the transport and channel buttons will control the DVR, and picture mode keys will control the TV. When you then select a Watch a Movie activity the DVR will optionally power off, the Blu-ray player will power on, the TV and AVR will switch inputs as needed, and the transport buttons will be assigned to the Blu-ray player instead of the DVR.


When ready to shut down the system there will be a single button assigned to All Off. It will then send power off to all the devices. In the case of remotes with state tracking it will only send power off to the devices that were turned on in the first place. Harmony remotes have the ability to do state tracking and other remotes can do the same using other methods, such as variables, that I will explain later.


Device Mode


In Device mode the intent is to select your TV for example and then all of the keys will be related to only your TV. This is where you would have your less used commands. If you are frequently needing to select a picture mode when watching a Blu-ray, then you should probably assign that key to the Watch a Movie activity. Harmony remotes typically have a separate button for Activities and Devices. Selecting Activities will list all the activities that you have created and selecting Devices will list all the components you have entered into the remote. Other remotes have similar abilities to separate activities and devices from each other. In general you shouldn’t need to enter device mode on a regular basis and the goal of programming the activities would be to remove the need for others to ever have to enter device mode. Again, if you are often entering device mode then that command should more than likely be assigned to an activity.


Delays


When creating a macro you may need to create a delay between commands. If your TV takes 8 seconds to power on before it is able to receive a command then you cannot send Power ON and then HDMI1 Input as the next command. In this case you would need to set a delay for eight seconds (8000 ms) after the power command is issued. Programming the delay varies depending on the remote. In the case of a Harmony remote you have to assign the Power Delay within the device. In URC software you simply add a delay command and assign a time.


When setting up delays in a macro for an Activity you may want to consider how they stack. If your TV takes 8 seconds and your AVR takes 5 seconds then you could add a three second delay after TV power, send AVR power, add a five second delay, then switch inputs on the TV and AVR. Doing that would shave off three seconds. With a Harmony remote you can assign the order in with the devices are powered on. You would need to ensure that the TV in this case was the first device in the activity.
Key Delay

Key Delay is when the device needs a certain period of time between each command it receives. This is typically very low and not all devices need any special consideration with key delays. If your device is having trouble receiving commands then you may need to increase the key delay.

Repeats

Repeats are used for commands such as Volume Up and Down. When you hold down the volume key you expect the device to keep changing the volume until you release the key. Repeats on a universal remote key may need to be tweaked to get the right feel for each device. If you hold the key and nothing happens then you need to change your repeat factor. For commands such as Power On or Play you don’t want them to repeat. These values will be different and in most cases the database already accounts for the repeats.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·

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This is a great thread, and it should be made into a "sticky".


You may want to consider including the following:


Supplement to Programming

Defining multiple commands

In some situations it may be convenient to have multiple commands assigned to a specific key, and with a variable delay between some of the commands. Pressing the assigned key will execute the defined commands. Some remotes provide this capability which is known as macros or sequences.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Quote:
Originally Posted by BPlayer
This is a great thread, and it should be made into a "sticky".


You may want to consider including the following:


Supplement to Programming

Defining multiple commands

In some situations it may be convenient to have multiple commands assigned to a specific key, and with a variable delay between some of the commands. Pressing the assigned key will execute the defined commands. Some remotes provide this capability which is known as macros or sequences.
I added the programming section today. I think I covered what you mentioned for me to add. I plan on adding a section that discusses punch-thru, variables, if/else, and lighting control.
 

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I am moving my equipment ( 3 pro audio amps, the crest pro 9200 series and a new Marantz av7005 to a closet in my theater room due to the fan noise.) Can someone tell me what I need to buy to be able to turn the volume up or down on the Marantz or operate the oppo from my seating area? I heard some type of IR remote but I dont know anything at all about it. Could you please list what I need and possably give me a link to the items that I need to buy? Thank you in advance. Oh and I want it to be cheap unless its just a little bit more money for a touch screen. Thanks
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·

Quote:
Originally Posted by kutlow /forum/post/20249745


I am moving my equipment ( 3 pro audio amps, the crest pro 9200 series and a new Marantz av7005 to a closet in my theater room due to the fan noise.) Can someone tell me what I need to buy to be able to turn the volume up or down on the Marantz or operate the oppo from my seating area? I heard some type of IR remote but I dont know anything at all about it. Could you please list what I need and possably give me a link to the items that I need to buy? Thank you in advance. Oh and I want it to be cheap unless its just a little bit more money for a touch screen. Thanks
http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showt...?t=1318737#los
 

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Hi


I am new to the forum and new in home automation. If you can guide me how to deal with this issue, they are very grateful.


As we know, contrloles remote or remotes that we use for our appliances (TVs, DVD, sound,....) emit a pattern that is read by the device. This code changes from team to team and brand to brand.


I need to know these codes, for different orders (turn on / off, volume up ...) No matter what the device or your brand.


I believe I have two choices: get a database with all codes or capture (read) codes issued by an infrared remote control.


Any advice?


Thanks
 

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It's too bad that URC has such a self serving policy on not releasing their software for programming as I feel it is a better system than using the Internet and someone elses server to store programming for my equipment as opposed to keeping it 'in house' (literally).



Their MX-900 has been my choice, other than the very annoying non feature of not having the keypad light automatically from a button push.



BTW, I don't need a remote to turn lights on or off, I'm not that lazy like most Americans seem to be now.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·

Quote:
Originally Posted by videobruce /forum/post/20484179


It's too bad that URC has such a self serving policy on not releasing their software for programming as I feel it is a better system than using the Internet and someone elses server to store programming for my equipment as opposed to keeping it 'in house' (literally).



Their MX-900 has been my choice, other than the very annoying non feature of not having the keypad light automatically from a button push.



BTW, I don't need a remote to turn lights on or off, I'm not that lazy like most Americans seem to be now.

URC does release their software for programming. The problem for the general consumer is that they only sell their remotes to authorized dealers. It is up to the dealers to provide the software to the end user or not. If URC actually marketed their professional line of remotes directly to consumers and didn't provide the software then you would have a valid argument. The way it is now it is the fault of the dealer or an end user selling their dealer programmed remote on eBay/Amazon/craigslist without the software.


What everyone wants is for URC to sell their high-end remotes right next to the Harmony remotes sitting on the shelf at the nearest store, programming software included.
 

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Quote:
If URC actually marketed their professional line of remotes directly to consumers and didn't provide the software then you would have a valid argument. The way it is now it is the fault of the dealer or an end user selling their dealer programmed remote on eBay/Amazon/craigslist without the software.

But, it is within URC's control to specify that dealers should make software available w/o a hassle even if a small service charge would be involved.


URS's big push now is remote lighting control.
 

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TV not accepting commands from remote control. Changed batteries twice, reset remote by removing batteries and pushing each button twice. Stand by light no longer alluminated on TV. Tv can be operated by buttons on side. This is Sony Bravia KDL-32L5000. Anyone have any suggestions? I am assuming I need the infrared controller replaced in TV. TV less than 2 years old.
 

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I am planning on investing on a universal remote to get rid of the remote clutter that I have. Currently I just have 4 devices my TV, Blu-ray player and Apple TV (running xbmc) and my CD changer. I will be adding at least two more devices in the near future a DVR/cable box and a/v receiver. I would like to get a good universal remote which I can program using the computer and would be compatible with my future devices. I was wondering what would be a good remote to get for something around $100.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
If you get a Harmony make sure that it can support at least six devices for your future needs. For less than $100 you can get the XSight from Amazon and you would be able to add an RF extender if needed. The Monster AVL300 is also a lot of bang for the buck and runs under $100.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by bryansj /forum/post/20663335


If you get a Harmony make sure that it can support at least six devices for your future needs. For less than $100 you can get the XSight from Amazon and you would be able to add an RF extender if needed. The Monster AVL300 is also a lot of bang for the buck and runs under $100.

Thank you for the suggestions. Reading the reviews about the remotes seems Monster AVL300 would be a good buy.
 
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