Mo and I just got back from a cruise to Jamaica. We took a week off work and just relaxed. This was our first cruise, and I think we've decided we aren't cruise people. We don't drink alcohol, we don't smoke, and this was pretty much Vegas on water. Also, considering that I'm diabetic, the offer of free food (read: gorging yourself) isn't that attractive to me either.
Anyway, we we got back and we still have a few days until we have to go back to work. My idea of vacation often involved getting our media center all together and organized. It relaxes me.
Logitech recently bought Harmony Remotes, and is introducing a new color stateful remote, the 880. The Logitech Harmony 880 isn't supposed to be released to the general retail channel until mid-June, but it is available via some kind of exclusive deal with BestBuy for the next few weeks. I picked up the last (only?) one at the local Beaverton BestBuy a few days ago.
I was previously using an All For One Kameleon 9660. It's a great remote, offers good flexibility between hard buttons and programmable macros. However, I have a pretty complex system and the biggest trouble I have when programming macros is the issue of state. It's tricky for a remote - at least a standard "classical" kind of remote - to keep track of which component is on, which is off, and what inputs they are currently set to. The Kameleon does offer an obscure programming model called JP1 that you can exploit, but I wanted a simpler system. I need the wife and neices and nephews need to be able to use the system without my help.
So, long story short, the Harmony series of remotes doesn't think about things in terms of Macros (series of commands strung together). Rather, it is stateful by default. It knows intrinsically what inputs are available on your components and dynamically creates the string of commands required to get your system into a specific states.
Here's the current system I've got:
The Harmony remote requires a USB cable and a login to harmonyremote.com. The client software does require a CD to install and sets up a mimetype/extension association. You go through a wizard and settings online. When you click "Update your Remote" the harmonyremote.com server queues your request and creates a "package" as a single file representing all the settings for your specific remote. This includes everything from the names you've associated with your devices and activities, as well as any graphics you may have associated with favorite channels. This file extension opens the client software which takes care of flashing the remote control.
All in all, I think this is the best remote you can buy for <$250. Note also that you can often search Froogle and print out offers for cheap Harmony 880s for as low as $160 and get Best Buy to lower their prices. The wife has always given it a thumbs up, even with the problems around inputs. I suspect when I get the input thing worked out this will be the ONLY remote I've ever owned that will allow the wife to switch from TV to DVD to VCR and back without my help.
Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. I am a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.