Tuesday, January 13, 2009

I Like To Push The Buttons

When I bought my Sony (the significance of that will become clear) home theater amp six or eight years ago, it came with this really fancy-schmancy remote control. It had a little LCD screen and actually received data from the amplifier. It could be programmed to control many different devices, although I only did that once (it was kind-of a pain). Then, three or four years ago, I suddenly lost track of it. When I finally decided to hunt it down, I found it entangled in the jaws (it had actually been chewing on it) of the recliner mechanism.

This was not the death of my nifty remote, oh no. I put fresh batteries in it and she seemed to be just fine except for some wonkiness with an up/down scroll/select button which was relatively easy to overcome. I was happy... until the next time I picked it up and it indicated the batteries needed to be replaced. I replaced them, got a couple of commands sent, and it told me my brand new batteries needed to be replaced. Meh.

My original remote has been declining ever since. About a year ago, I checked into getting a replacement. They are available on eBay for $30-$50 (or more) depending on how the auctions run. Things were still running okay so I tabled the idea.

Fast forward to my new Blu-Ray player that, in order to get Dolby Digital or DTS surround sound, has to be muted on the TV via the setup on the player. My new gadget also required me to extract three remotes - in addition to the DVR remote we use every day - just to watch a movie. Combine that with the amplifier remote's most recent malady of not being able to reliably alter the volume of the receiver and it was time to start trolling eBay.

As I was looking at exact-match replacements, I stumbled upon some even fancier Sony universal remotes. They come pre-set to operate Sony components, can be coded to run other brands of devices (like any universal remote), are fully programable (you can train every single button from a dedicated remote in a matter of a couple of minutes if necessary), and can even run macros (multi-step commands). All this for a similar price to the exact-match replacement. Let's see, full control of Sony devices and programmable remote consolidation... I'm sold.

At the end of last week, I purchased a Son RM-AV3000 Remote Commander from eBay for just over $30. It came in yesterday.

The remote is quite large. It's about the size of an oversized paperback. I spent a couple of hours with it last night then completely re-programmed the DVR controls this evening (I wanted to reprogram a single button but it wouldn't clear the learned command for some reason). It was a breeze to program. With visual feedback on the LCD, getting to and using the programming mode is a snap. Half the reason I spent so long with it last night was deciding on which button to place which command that had to be learned as well as relabeling some of the user command buttons and device labels. I even added a macro to set up for DVD play (turn on amp, turn on DVD, switch TV input, switch amp input), then one to switch back when you're done (amp & DVD off, TV back to original input). I can now hear my sister's voice inside my head saying, "Geek."

Even in this short time, I have decided that it will be great for watching movies and not having to juggle three remotes but for day-to-day use, the DVR remote is much easier to handle. Want to see what it looks like? (click for larger image)

Heh heh heh... shiny.

(Yeah, that fancy new phone takes great pics, don't it?)

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