Harmony for Macintosh

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Date: Friday, August 22nd, 2003, 05:59
Category: Any Laptop Computer, Peripheral

It’s been a while since MacWorld and I am thrilled with the Harmony remotes I pre-ordered at a special show price. The Harmony remote is an activity based remote that is programmed and updated via the internet. READ MORE


It’s been a while since MacWorld and I am thrilled with the Harmony remotes I pre-ordered at a special show price. I have long been a fan of remotecentral.com and purchased a pair of Radio Shack 1994’s some years back to deal with the clutter and confusion of having five remotes to control a TV, DVD, VCR, Receiver and CD player. I read about Harmony at remotecentral.com and thought it was about time to update when I saw them at the show. The results are far better than I had imagined.
The Harmony remote is an activity based remote that is programmed and updated via the internet. Kudos to the folks at Harmony for providing Mac software and support. Initially, the software would not install on a TiBook and Quicksilver running 10.2.6, but an update became available in a few days. Next, the remote failed to properly upload the file created on the website via USB. Again this was corrected in about a week and I was in business. Aside from a few pages that would not load, the process went fairly smoothly and I was able to control a TV, DVD, VCR, Receiver and CD player with very little fuss. Pushing the Power button will turn on all devices associated with a favorite activity, in my case watching TV. Pressing the button again will allow you to change activities and watch a DVD, CD or listen to the radio. The correct devices are turned on or off and inputs are set for a particular activity. There is even a help button that will walk you through a series of steps to get all device in sync.
Moving to a DVD player and Plasma display, I had some problems with being able to control the radio and switch to component video, but with a few tweaks, all is working perfectly.
The website allows the remote to upload TV programming for up to two weeks. I opted for the less expensive SST-748 ($199 US) which has no numeric keypad. No problem for me, since all of my channels appear in an LCD display at the bottom of the remote. Scroll through the listings of available or favorite stations and press down on the scroll button to select. It is also possible to see a current listing for all your channels by clicking on a function button. I had only enough memory to upload 8 days of TV programming in addition to the remote functions. The more expensive SST-768 ($299 US) has twice the memory and should be able to hold the full two weeks. Both remotes allow you to “zap” the TV at any time to retrieve information about a show or product from the website when you connect your remote for updating.
The only ergonomic problem I experienced was with the small scroll wheel, which should be larger and has a tendency to move slightly when you press down to select, resulting in the wrong selection from the list. The LED illumination is a bit uneven and an electroluminescent display would be a better solution along with illuminated buttons.
I can’t overemphasize how well this remote works for non-technical users who have to negotiate a home theater system. It passed the spouse test with flying colors. Obviously, such a scheme is completely tied to the harmony.com website and their support for continuing functionality. They do offer a test drive, that let’s you set up an account and try your hand at the web based programming. Harmony provides a truly elegant solution to controlling a combination of devices with a single IR remote for control.
(I use a Marantz RC5000 remote now for my home theater, but after reading this I need to consider options like the Harmony remote! –Emory)

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