end-all be-all remote control

In: hardware|howto|hurdles|recommendation|review|software

25 Oct 2012

My ancient harmony remote finally died.  I loved it for it’s ease of setup, ease of use, and because it remembered the state of all of my devices.  I procrastinated about looking into a new remote control solution because I now have devices controlled by IR, and by IP.  Even worse, some of the IP controlled devices are actually programs running on a computer.

So what’s a guy to do?  I scoured the interwebs for the current contenders for the “best bang for the buck.”  What I found are some very promising contenders, a real winner, and even some open source goodness!

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Redeye:

I’ve known about Redeye since its inception.  It now has the capability to control IP devices such as Roku and even Plex Media Server.  At $200 for a new unit it’s a little pricey for some, but it’s available used for about $99.

pro:  controls EVERYTHING that a normal user would encounter

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con: cost. not open source

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Dijit

I found out about this when I discovered Griffin’s Beacon.  Dijit is a FREE app that controls IP devices from any phone, and can also control IR devices when used on a phone with an IR emitter or when paired with a Griffin Beacon.

pro:  FREE. many devices are IP controlled.

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con: getting IR capability

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Openremote

You read that right.  There’s an open remote control community out there.  Their official website is a little sparse on details, but their download page on Sourceforge is very informative.  Basically, anything that can be controlled in any way can be controlled by their control software which is written in Java.  Get yourself any smartphone, tablet, or web browser for an interface.  Get yourself an IP controlled IR or RS-232 box and you’re all set.  They even have nice setup wizards and professional support ($).

pro: OPEN SOURCE!! works with everything.  professional support.  Works with Raspberry Pi as the server !!

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con:  not as polished as some other options… unless you put in a lot of personal time and effort.

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Now for the supporting hardware.

The IR and RS-232 controlled devices in our homes require the use of additional hardware.  Here are the top options that I encountered.

Redeye

All Redeye options require their bundled hardware.  See above.

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Griffin Beacon

I just found out about this.  It’s a battery powered Bluetooth device that spits out IR codes.  It comes with Dijit for your smartphone or tablet.  The beauty is that Dijit also controls IP devices.

pro:  It’s easy to pick it up and move it to a new room.  Cheapest of all options at about $30.

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con:  eats through batteries and eats through your phones batteries quicker because of Bluetooth.  Bluetooth connections can be a pain.  Different units for iphone and android?!?!

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Globalcache

This company makes the cheapest, and what seems to be the most used / best supported hardware out there.  They have an IP controlled box with IR, digital inputs, and RS-232 for about $130.  Originally that’s all they had.  All work had to be done by hand.  Now they have many free support programs to assist in design and implementation.  This includes the all-important Philips Pronto ccf to globalcache IR code converter.  With the converter and the RemoteCentral code database you should have all the codes you’ll need.

They now also make cheaper boxes that only do one thing, either IR, RS-232, contact closures, etc.  These are about $100 and offer some capabilities not found on their gc-100 like WIFI and Power Over Ethernet.

pro:  widely supported by most remote control software companies including a few that I left out of this review.

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con:  cost.  DIY trouble and hassle.

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IRTrans

Similar to Globalcache, but more expensive.  They also seem to be centered in Europe.  I don’t see a need to go into further detail.

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Personally, as much as I love open source, I’m going to try Dijit first, then Redeye.  Meanwhile I may or may not toy with Openremote.  So far I’ve talked about these in the context of controlling everything.  If our needs are only for a single or distributed music system then you might be able to stick with a UPNP setup.  Just keep in mind that UPNP has no way of controlling the volume on your amp or preamp.

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For everyone who has wished to have an amazing stereo, music piped through your house, or even just the coolest remote control on the block, this site is for you.

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