The number of doo-dads in our lounge room recently dropped from four to three when we finally got around to ditching the dust covered, hardly used VCR. I plonked it outside the front door with a note on it saying that it worked and was free to anyone that wanted it, went inside, came out 5 minutes later to find that it was history.
Our remote situation was therefore simplified for the one week between when I got rid of the VCR and when the Mediagate thingy turned up. I don't know how to describe it - it's just a 350GB hard drive that connects to the TV, and we plonk all our movies on it and play them from there instead of the original DVD's. What I am leading up to is that we went back to having four remote controls, which is three too many in anyone's language.
It just so happened that I had to visit an Office Works shop to pick up some stuff for the office, and as I was browsing through the shelves of things, I happened to find a Logitech Universal Remote. I have fiddled with these things before, and always rejected buying one because setting them up was too difficult. I liked the idea of this one because you connect it to your PC via a USB cable, and program it from a much simpler interface.
That's the theory at least.
It claimed to support 80,000 devices, but I wasn't sure if it would support our more ancient technology, so I went home, plugged our device model numbers into the Logitech website and found that it supported the lot.
So I went back to a different Office Works (the one that I had been in when I chanced upon it was suburbs away) and found that I had to search high and low before I eventually discovered one locked in a cupboard where no one would ever find it (and buy it). It only took me 10 minutes to find a staff member to unlock the cupboard to let me at it, and I then shelled over $77 for it.
I drove home feeling that I had probably dudded myself out of $77. Technology like this is notoriously unreliable and useless, and I've bought a few gadgets in the past that have been totally hopeless and have ended up in the bin after a few weeks.
So far, so good on the Logitech remote. Setting it up took longer than I thought, mainly because the software interface that you install on your PC is not as intuitive and straightforward as it should be. But I managed to figure it out after an hour or so, and managed to get most of the functions I wanted programmed into it. It works using the concept of "activities". Watching a movie from the PVR is an activity, so you tell it that you want to watch a movie, and it turns on the TV, sets it to the right channel, turns on the PVR and turns on the amp and sets it to the right input. You need to leave the remote pointing at all your devices for 10 or 15 seconds whilst it sends out all the right commands, and it gets it right most of the time. If it doesn't get it right, it's easy to tell it what needs to be done to get it right.
I've had to pull the old remotes out from time to time to carry out a function that the remote doesn't have, but on the whole, it's actually done what the marketing says it's supposed to do. I'm kind of impressed.