More universal remote (Harmony and Redeye) fun, commenting / logging in

Hey again folks. First, I fiddled with the configuration of the blog a little: it should be somewhat better for commenting now. I've disabled direct account registration, but ensured that both BrowserID/Persona and OpenID login now work, and also enabled comment posting without login so long as you fill in a recaptcha. And tested it all.

So you can login with BrowserID/Persona or OpenID and then post comments without solving a recaptcha, or just post with name/email/URL and solve a recaptcha.

Only little bugbear is that the Wordpress OpenID's behaviour on comment forms is just award-winningly stupid. Well, more 'so smart it's stupid'. If you want to post a comment and authenticate via OpenID, you have to put the OpenID URL in the URL box, and then a checkbox for 'Authenticate this comment with OpenID' will magically appear. Okay, that's super-clever, but also freaking impossible to discover, plugin author person. No-one is going to work that one out. Oh, well. I'll see if I can fiddle with the comment form HTML a bit to make it a bit more obvious. If you do use the OpenID or Persona route, no need to solve the recaptcha, just leave it blank.

Edit: so I decided to just have a 'login to post without recaptcha' link which directs you to the login page and then back to the post page. Seems like the cleanest option. I just tested it, it seems to work. Let me know if you have any trouble.

Moving on! I continue to fiddle around in search of the Ultimate Remote Control Setup here at AdamW Towers. I have the Redeye setup more or less working as well as it can, I think, and it's still just slightly too fragile to be really happy with. The apps seem to be just not quite reliable enough to really rely on. The iOS one is better than the Android one, but I've seen both fail to switch to the remote layout after activating an activity (they just sit at 'Activating...' forever), or fail to power off correctly. The iPod Touch seems to lose wireless connection every so often, too, though I don't think that's a Redeye problem.

I dunno, in the end it pretty much works, it's just...not quite awesome? Hard to pin down. Some of it is to do with the fact that a touchscreen isn't actually a great remote control interface. Someone mentioned this in a review of the Harmony device that's similar to the Redeye (the Harmony Link) - there's something about the tactile nature of a real buttoned remote control that's better. You can feel out which button is which without looking at the controller, which isn't really viable on a touch screen.

So I'm still playing with the Redeye to see if I can get used to it, or find some killer feature that makes it worth putting up with the fragility. But I also have a Plan B.

It's kind of stupid, but I only remembered the other day that a rather nifty thing existed: it's called an "IR repeater". I've no idea why I didn't think of this before, but oh well. An IR repeater is just a box that receives IR signals, with some IR zappers plugged into it: it 'repeats' any signal it receives over the zappers. So it finally occurred to this idiot monkey that to solve my initial problem - the 880 signals not always being reliably picked up - I don't actually need a fancy RF 890 or a Redeye, I just need a frickin' $10 IR repeater sitting in a prominent position on my console, with the zappers stuck to the hard-to-reach components.


So I ordered an IR repeater off eBay - for $10, why not. I rather suspect that when that shows up, I'm going to go back to the 880. Funnily, though, experimenting with the Redeye suggested a few improvements I can 'port back' to the 880. I dunno why I never set this up before, but both the Redeye and the Harmony are capable of macro commands. I used this to setup single-button links to the channels we most commonly watch on the Redeye, then realized that the Harmony can do this perfectly well too - in fact it's built-in functionality on the Harmony, it has a whole 'favorite channels' interface thing. So I set that up on the Harmony as well and it's great. The other problem we had with the 880 is that the '2' key has almost stopped working (either wear and tear or I just dropped it too often) - since our normal channels are all in the 2xx range, that's kind of a problem. But the 'favorite channels' thing neatly solves that.

I also realized I could make the situation where the Harmony doesn't quite activate an activity correctly a deal less painful - Harmonys have a 'Help' button which basically asks you what's wrong and then tries to fix it, but that whole sequence is a bit cumbersome. So I just added custom commands to each activity which set the correct state on all the components - so if I activate 'Watch TV' and the signal misses the AV receiver, I just hit the 'Fix receiver' custom command and it sets it again. Simples. Again, no idea why I didn't think of that sooner.

Oh, I also finally bought a Harmony PS3 adapter - this is a little IR-to-bluetooth converter box, basically, which allows the Harmony (and really any universal remote - the Redeye has codes for it too) to drive a PS3. It sets itself up as a Bluetooth controller so far as the PS3 is concerned, and receives IR commands from the remote. Simple, works, though I'm sure it doesn't need to cost $55. Oh, well. We use the PS3 as a Blu-Ray player, so this is pretty useful. It works fine with both the Redeye and the Harmony, but in yet another case of the Redeye being unnecessarily frustrating, the codes in Redeye's database for the PS3 are broken - it sends directional commands (up, down, left, right) twice, and can't power the system off correctly. Someone affiliated with Redeye figured out how to fix this a year ago, but somehow, they haven't updated the codes in their database - your only options are to download a backup file this guy made, which will give you a perfect PS3 config but wipe all your other configuration and make you do it again, or laboriously follow his instructions to fix the broken codes (record the correct Up/Down/Left/Right codes from a Harmony - and tough luck if you don't have one! - and copy/paste then adjust his custom script for shutdown). Yeesh. The thread is in the forums for any registered Redeye users reading this, topic "Status of Logitech Harmony PS3 Adapter", see the posts from cmaterick.

So, I'm kinda feeling like I wasted the cost of both the 890 and the Redeye, but at least all this fiddling around has resulted in me optimizing both the Redeye and 880 setups - they're both a lot better than what I had before, now, even if all the new hardware turns out not to have been entirely necessary...


bochecha wrote on 2013-02-15 03:45:
Reading these last 3 articles about your adventures with finding the perfect remote was a lot of fun. It's one more thing comforting me in my decision to not have a TV (and the related devices) at home: I don't need to waste time (and money) on remotes, gadgets and "optimizing my setup". :)
adamw wrote on 2013-02-15 04:02:
Heh :) Well you only really need to do this stuff if you want a setup with multiple devices and a receiver/speaker setup. And if you get a sufficiently advanced receiver you can actually run all the audio/video inputs through the receiver and do all your switching through the receiver - that saves the need to switch inputs on the TV. The Redeye is a pretty complicated beastie, but the Harmony really isn't, and a basic Harmony setup works pretty well for most cases. The only problems I really had with my initial 880 setup were the '2' button breaking, and my receiver being located such that you have to be careful where you point the remote. Most of the other stuff is just tweaking. Especially in Europe, you can still have a very simple setup if you just want a TV and you don't mind using the built-in speakers.