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Hardware Support Discussions related to using various hardware setups with SageTV products. Anything relating to capture cards, remotes, infrared receivers/transmitters, system compatibility or other hardware related problems or suggestions should be posted here.

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  #1  
Old 04-26-2013, 09:24 AM
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bialio bialio is offline
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Alternative to Logitech Harmony?

Anyone have any experience with remotes that support the harmony type feature set (activity based) other than the harmony remotes?

All of my remotes are getting dingy - it's about time to replace them. Just wondering if there are any viable alternatives that don't cost an arm and a leg...
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Old 04-26-2013, 10:18 AM
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I love my URCs, they cost more than Harmonys, though "cost and arm and a leg" is somewhat subjective.

IMO it's well worth it since they're more versatile, powerful, and seem to be built way better.
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Old 04-26-2013, 11:09 AM
bmac.to bmac.to is offline
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I second that - for the durability alone. The Harmony remotes do not stand up to the stress my family seems to put on them. I have a URC remote still going that is 12 years old.

The "ergonomics" of programming them is not as nice as the Harmony but once you get the hang of it, it is actually very quick and powerful.
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Old 04-26-2013, 11:24 AM
dcardellini dcardellini is offline
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I started to look into URC remotes the other day based on the other active thread "Harmony...Discontinued."

My initial attempts to discover models, cost, where to buy, how to program were met with obstacles on every front.

How do you get your hands on an "approved" unit that has a warranty? How do you get your hands on the programming software?.....etc. etc.

(Likely, if you are in this forum, you would not be paying some distributor to come out to your house and do any of this.)

Any pointers would be appreciated (live in Houston area).

Last edited by dcardellini; 04-26-2013 at 11:28 AM.
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  #5  
Old 04-26-2013, 01:15 PM
valnar valnar is offline
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URC remotes are usually integrator only remotes, at least the good ones anyway. It sometimes takes a friend to get you the programming software.

Your research is correct. They are not retail remotes, which is why eBay is my usual source.
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Old 04-26-2013, 02:57 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bmac.to View Post
The "ergonomics" of programming them is not as nice as the Harmony but once you get the hang of it, it is actually very quick and powerful.
I actually find it much easier to program a URC. With a URC you just set it to do what you need it to do. With a Harmony you have to figure out how to trick the program into doing what you want.

But then again I have a programming background so my brain is wired to break rather abstract tasks ("Activities") down into their component steps ("Macros").

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Originally Posted by dcardellini View Post
My initial attempts to discover models, cost, where to buy, how to program were met with obstacles on every front.

How do you get your hands on an "approved" unit that has a warranty? How do you get your hands on the programming software?.....etc. etc.
This is where it pays to have a good relationship with a local shop. I bought my MX-880 and MRF-350 from a local shop, and since I had a good relationship with them, they gave me the software to program it. What I mean by "good relationship" is they know you enough to know that you can either handle it yourself of you'll be willing to pay them to help you, that you're not just going to go home, get lost and then expect free support.

FWIW, programming a URC isn't very hard, I wasn't trying to make it sound that way.
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Old 04-26-2013, 06:34 PM
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Fuzzy Fuzzy is offline
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I use an old HTM (pre-URC) MX-500. It is not really computer programmable, instead everything is learned from factory remotes - but it still functions perfectly (bought it 11-12 year ago). They can still be found on eBay routinely for rock bottom prices, and the layout, in my opinion, is great.

They are big, chew through batteries, but the feel perfect in the hand.
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Old 04-27-2013, 08:07 AM
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FWIW, the URC R40 is user programmable, all from the remote (same as the older R50) so no software needed.
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  #9  
Old 04-27-2013, 05:14 PM
wayner wayner is offline
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Originally Posted by stanger89 View Post
I actually find it much easier to program a URC. With a URC you just set it to do what you need it to do. With a Harmony you have to figure out how to trick the program into doing what you want.
That hasn't been the case for me. I am currently using about 7 Harmony remotes controlling dozens of devices, I have probably bought about 20 over the last 11 years (build quality isn't great, that is true) and I don't think I really have to trick the remote at all.
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Old 04-27-2013, 08:57 PM
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All I know is when I tried a harmony I found their programming software to be incredibly frustrating
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  #11  
Old 04-28-2013, 05:49 AM
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stuckless stuckless is offline
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All I know is when I tried a harmony I found their programming software to be incredibly frustrating
I agree. It was/is frustrating to me to have to boot into a windows VM just to program my remote, and software is hugely bloated (and loads on startup by default, despite the fact that you only use about one a year, if that).

But, all that being said, I own several Harmony remotes, and I really do like them. I hear comments about the build quality and "hard buttons", and I never really thought that either was an issue, especially the buttons. On the ones that I have the buttons feel somewhat rubberized. The buttons aren't soft, but despite that, I've never developed calluses on my thumb

In terms of programming though, there is where I found the remotes to shine. I recall getting my first HD100 and thinking that I'd have to manually train the remote... but sure enough, someone had already done it, and now it was it in the database... so hooking it up to my remote was a matter of seconds.

Another feature I love about the Harmony (at least the ones I have), are the backlit buttons, and the fact that the buttons become backlit, once you start to move the remote... If you watch tv in a dim room or dark room, the backlighting is great.

I'd love to see another community augmented remote come to market, at a reasonable price. I just can't justify spending $300+ on a remote
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  #12  
Old 04-28-2013, 09:55 AM
dcardellini dcardellini is offline
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After more investigating, really blown away by URC's policies. Have read through several threads on remotecentral.com.

On one hand, you can buy these units new for about 1/2 price on Amazon or eBay. Although "non-authorized" and thus, "non-warranted," one can easily justify buying a unit and taking a chance at that price point.

On the other hand, it is made extremely clear on the remotecentral threads that obtaining software for these unauthorized purchases is nothing less than "stealing." No gray area for me, personally, to justify in my mind.

Then I read the horror stories about buying (full MSRP) from an authorized dealer and getting the software....and then that dealer goes out of business. Trying to get updated software with factory patches etc. seems to be a nightmare for some of these folks. I like to think out 4-5 years on use and support for a product....and this does not feel right to me.

I'm sure that URC has a great product. Really would like an alternative with a vendor who has a different business model, though. Now if someone has a different spin on this, would like to hear it.
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  #13  
Old 04-28-2013, 01:32 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stuckless View Post
But, all that being said, I own several Harmony remotes, and I really do like them. I hear comments about the build quality and "hard buttons", and I never really thought that either was an issue, especially the buttons. On the ones that I have the buttons feel somewhat rubberized. The buttons aren't soft, but despite that, I've never developed calluses on my thumb
They (Harmony) just don't feel well built to me. The buttons feel "cheap", it's sort of hard to explain, it's not about being padded or not. I guess the way I'd describe it is the Harmony's I've tried the buttons feel like they use flimsy switches and that the buttons are not well attached to them. URC seems to be the other end of the spectrum with buttons that feel solid and have good positive tactile feedback.

Quote:
In terms of programming though, there is where I found the remotes to shine. I recall getting my first HD100 and thinking that I'd have to manually train the remote... but sure enough, someone had already done it, and now it was it in the database... so hooking it up to my remote was a matter of seconds.
Everything I've programmed has been in the URC database, I think even the Darbee Darblet was already in, though I might have had to learn that one.

Quote:
Another feature I love about the Harmony (at least the ones I have), are the backlit buttons, and the fact that the buttons become backlit, once you start to move the remote... If you watch tv in a dim room or dark room, the backlighting is great.
My MX880 can be configured so the backlight comes on when you pick the remote up

Quote:
I'd love to see another community augmented remote come to market, at a reasonable price. I just can't justify spending $300+ on a remote
I had a really hard time getting over that hurdle too, but when I look back, at what I've spent on everything else in my HT. My MX880+MRF350 was probably the second best value in my HT (second do the Darbee Darblet).

Not trying to knock anything but people will spend $200 on a BD player, $500+ on an AVR, $1000+ on a display, etc, but then balk at the price of a good control system despite the fact that it's the one thing in your system that you use intimately many times every day. And a good remote will outlast everything else in your system (save maybe a projection screen or anamorphic lens if you've got those).

Quote:
Originally Posted by dcardellini View Post
After more investigating, really blown away by URC's policies. Have read through several threads on remotecentral.com.

On one hand, you can buy these units new for about 1/2 price on Amazon or eBay. Although "non-authorized" and thus, "non-warranted," one can easily justify buying a unit and taking a chance at that price point.

On the other hand, it is made extremely clear on the remotecentral threads that obtaining software for these unauthorized purchases is nothing less than "stealing." No gray area for me, personally, to justify in my mind.
Well firstly (devil's advocate here) you have to remember that URC remotes made for the retail market, they're made for the custom installer market.

That said, I've read some stuff on RC and I think those folks need to get off their high horses. They come down really heavy handed on anyone who wants to do things themselves.

Like I said above, especially in these days of being able to get everything online, it really does pay to patronize and have a good relationship with your local shops. I don't think I've ever paid retail on a HT component at any of the local shops I've purchased things from. Even my AVM50V (though I waited for a "sale" to get that).

Quote:
Then I read the horror stories about buying (full MSRP) from an authorized dealer and getting the software....and then that dealer goes out of business. Trying to get updated software with factory patches etc. seems to be a nightmare for some of these folks. I like to think out 4-5 years on use and support for a product....and this does not feel right to me.
Dealers go out of business and sure it sucks. As far as paying full MSRP, it's obviously up to you, but if a store won't give you a discount of some sort, I wouldn't buy it there.

Quote:
I'm sure that URC has a great product. Really would like an alternative with a vendor who has a different business model, though. Now if someone has a different spin on this, would like to hear it.
It would be great if there was something like URC made for retail.
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  #14  
Old 04-29-2013, 03:45 PM
wayner wayner is offline
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All I know is when I tried a harmony I found their programming software to be incredibly frustrating
You don't really have to program with a Harmony. You tell it what components you have and what inputs you are using and you are good to go except in a very few instances. I have nine TV endpoints in my house, four of them with AVRs and all of them with sage extenders so these are not dead simple setups and I really must say that the remotes are fantastic for WAF and everyone including wife, nannies, babysitters, etc know how to use them pretty much instantly.
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Old 04-29-2013, 06:56 PM
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Yup, I get that, and that's really the root of my "problem" with Harmony. It's way too long ago to remember the specific thing I ran into, but there was something that I either didn't like, or didn't work with Harmony's automatically determined setup. If what Harmony determines for you works, it's great, but if not, or if you want to change it, it's quite an ordeal to get it to do what you want.
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Old 04-30-2013, 12:13 PM
MattHelm MattHelm is offline
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I've been playing with an Android table for a remote. Works OK for "network aware" devices (Samsung TV, Yamaha receiver, SageTV, PC), but the 10" tablet I'm using is a bit big to pass around like a remote. Anyone try a smaller Android device?
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Old 04-30-2013, 12:20 PM
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The simple truth is that an all touchscreen device sucks as a remote. You don't want to have to look at a remote to find the buttons, your fingers should find them automatically, especially if you use the Skip buttons a lot.

Someone needs to make a remote control with physical buttons that runs Android or one of the other OSes.
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Old 04-30-2013, 02:30 PM
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phelme phelme is offline
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The simple truth is that an all touchscreen device sucks as a remote. You don't want to have to look at a remote to find the buttons, your fingers should find them automatically, especially if you use the Skip buttons a lot.

Someone needs to make a remote control with physical buttons that runs Android or one of the other OSes.
yeah, dang it, we need Android on this:


(I think I still have a CL9 Core somewhere in the garage )

Frankly, I miss well thought out hardware buttons on phones too, but the 12 year olds that now run Tech think anything that isn't a touch screen isn't hip.
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Old 04-30-2013, 02:41 PM
MattHelm MattHelm is offline
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Maybe add dots of super glue to a super cheap tablet.

I do agree with the button issue. Plus I'd love a split screen on the larger tablet.
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Old 05-01-2013, 08:11 AM
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Yup, I get that, and that's really the root of my "problem" with Harmony. It's way too long ago to remember the specific thing I ran into, but there was something that I either didn't like, or didn't work with Harmony's automatically determined setup. If what Harmony determines for you works, it's great, but if not, or if you want to change it, it's quite an ordeal to get it to do what you want.
For me, it seems incapable of turning off my TV after I've been using my Roku. The only workaround that I've found is to switch inputs to my SageTV box, then hit the off button. I went around & around for over an hour trying to figure it out, adding delays, removing the Roku & re-adding it. It would have been so much simpler if there was an expert mode where you could start with the automatic setup, and then add IR codes by hand.

Drew
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