Archives For Remotes

Unveiled along with the Premiere, the TiVo Slide Bluetooth QWERTY remote ($90) is finally ready for its close up and now shipping. Of course, the primary selling point and key differentiator is the well concealed QWERTY keyboard to facilitate text entry as Search and other broadband apps become regular elements of our daily television viewing experiences. It’s a whole lot more elegant and effective than my keyboard hack.

I found the slide mechanism smooth and snappy, with the individual keys having good tactile feel and clickability. My only real complaint with the form is related to TiVo’s shortening of the traditional peanut — resulting in some button size and spacing compromises. Probably not a deal breaker for most, but it could take some getting used to.

Another potential issue for a subset of owners is the limited USB port count (2) found on Series3, TiVoHD, and Premiere hardware. Because Bluetooth isn’t directly integrated into these TiVo models, a small USB BT dongle comes bundled with the TiVo Slide. So if you connect both a SDV Tuning Adapter and wireless adapter via USB, as we do with our bedroom TiVo, you’ll need to pick up a powered USB hub for Slide usage.

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When it was revealed that the new TiVo Premiere can be controlled via USB keyboard, wireless or otherwise, I began my hunt for a compact and inexpensive accessory… as TiVo doesn’t provide a mechanism for transferring Season Passes between units and their own upcoming Bluetooth QWERTY remote has been met with mixed reviews and an unknown launch date. Not to mention, text entry is still a mostly infrequent task. (Until support is integrated into the third party TiVo apps.)

I landed on the Lenovo Mini Wireless Keyboard, as it met both requirements. It’s a compact but somewhat ergonomic thumbboard that regularly shows up on Slickdeals for $36, shipped free. The mini USB receiver can be tucked away in the battery compartment when not in use, which is why I couldn’t immediately locate it when the Lenovo arrived.

lenovo-wireless-keyboard5In testing, the 2.4GHz RF worked fine around the living room as I typed show titles into the TiVo and experimented with a just-passing-through Acer Aspire. The trackball is another story. It’s unusable on the TiVo (keyboard control only, not mouse), but on the PC where I could test it, the roller seemed a bit too loose. Granted, I didn’t attempt to adjust its sensitivity in Windows. But I’m still not sure I’d recommend this for daily control of an HTPC. Regardless, as an infrequent TiVo text entry device that you stash in the remote drawer, the Lenovo Mini gets the job done.

Windows Media Center is a 10-foot interface for a PC that lets you control your music, movies, photos, and other media from the comfort of your couch — provided your PC is plugged into your TV and you have a Media Center remote control. But here’s a little secret: Windows 7 Home Premium and Ultimate both come with Windows Media Center functionality baked in, whether you plug in a remote, TV tuner, or HDTV or not. And if you don’t feel like investing in extra hardware to take full advantage of Windows Media Center, you can just use your Windows Mobile phone or PDA like a remote control.

xda-developers forum member oishiiunko whipped up an application for Windows Mobile 6.0 and up that lets you navigate menus, control media playback, and control the volume using your phone. The app is called Windows Media Center Mobile Remote Control, and what it lacks in creative naming is makes up for in simple functionality. You can play and pause media, hit the next or previous buttons, and there’s a position seek feature as well.

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Perhaps I missed it launch week. Or perhaps it’s an even newer arrival. Regardless, I discovered and unboxed the new TiVo Glo Remote, Premiere Edition, at the Best Buy Friday night… as they conducted some light iPad remodeling.

It appears that the jump in physical quality from standard “peanut” to Glo is much less dramatic in the Series 4 line than what we saw with the Series2 and TiVo HD. Partially due to what I suspect is a cost cutting, profit boosting measure of sharing (lesser) parts. The Glo does provide learning capabilities and backlit keys (get it, Glo?) over the stock Premiere remote, along with a slightly different paint job (along the bezel). But it doesn’t feel quite as solid as the original Glo, one of my all time favorite remotes. Several of which we have sprinkled about our home. Perhaps adding to the slightly different feeling is a reduction in weight. Whereas the original Glo housed 4 AAA batteries, the Premiere Glo is powered by just a pair of AAs.

The new Glo remote comes bundled with the Premiere XL or can be purchased separately for $50 at Best Buy or But I’ll be hanging onto my originals for the time being.

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Feeling a bit down that your brand spankin’ new TiVo Premiere ($300) doesn’t ship with the Bluetooth qwerty remote? (Of unknown price and delivery date.) Well, it appears that version 14 of the TiVo OS, as found on the Premiere, has all sorts of juicy keyboard hooks built right in.

First, IR-over-IP keyboard mapping has been discovered by TiVo Community Forum member William McBrine. Building upon earlier forum work that led to iPhone telnet control, and followed by more polished TiVo network remote controls. No need to wait for a dedicated QWERTY remote, when there’s (now) bound to be updated iPhone and Android apps with similar functionality at a lower cost in the near future.

Just as interesting, it appears any ‘ole USB keyboard can be connected to the TiVo Premiere. Making short work of Season Passes and Wish Lists. In fact, I imagine most standard IR or RF HID-compliant wireless keyboards also would do the trick. As I demonstrate above using the compact and svelte Microsoft Arc Keyboard ($70).

Although I’m still tracking down backspace and space bar mappings, here are some of the keyboard shortcuts McBrine has uncovered thus far:

Cursor keys = arrows
Enter = Select
Esc = Clear
F1 = TiVo
F2 = LiveTV
F3 = Guide
F5 = Thumbs Up
F6 = Thumbs Down
F7 = Channel Up
F8 = Channel Down
F9 = Record (?)
F10 = Info

Is a Harmony remote without a display really a Harmony? We’re about to find out. Like others in Logtech’s lineup, the new Harmony 300 can be programmed to control multiple devices, via a USB connection and their cloud-based device database of a bazillion components (some recorded better than others). However, unlike prior Harmonys, the 300 seems more ‘universal remote’ than macro-based event control… Given the missing LCD and 4 component limitation. Which is probably OK as they’re clearly shooting for the mass market with a $50 price point. (And battery life should be very good.) However, if you’re on a tight budget yet want a “real” Harmony remote experience (with color LCD), I’d spring for the 650 which recently launched at $100. Give it just a few more weeks and I bet we’ll see it on Amazon or Dell for $80.

The iTunes App Store is filled with applications that let you control desktop media players from your phone. There are remotes for iTunes, Boxee, VLC, and other apps. And then there’s RemoteX — a single application that functions as a remote for all of those apps, plus 9 more.

RemoteX is compatible with Windows XP, Vista, or Windows 7, and requires you to download a small server utility on your PC. Then you fire up the RemoteX app on your iPhone or iPod touch, connect to your desktop (which should automatically show up in the list of servers), and choose the media player you want to handle. The remote control functions change for each app. For instance, the VLC controller has FullScreen and DVD butons, while the Winamp controller has an Equalizer and Playlist button.

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As the bastard child of EchoStar, Sling Media no longer enjoys the same sort of blog love seen in years past. So while many learned that the 3G iPhone Slingbox client ($30) was finally approved over the weekend, you may have missed a few other nuggets of Sling goodness…

Bell TV is the first licensee, beyond the obvious DISH Network, to implement Sling Guide services. Re-branded as the more clear “Remote PVR” for Canada, Bell customers now receive:

  • Personalized and integrated view of everything there is to schedule or record in a simple visual interface on a PC, Mac or compatible smartphone.
  • Ability to search, browse and schedule new programming from anywhere you have an Internet connection.
  • One click recording.
  • Full control of the DVR and television using a computer or mobile phone.

But customers worldwide can appreciate Sling’s continued its march into the browser. Not only have they started to de-emphasize (hide) computer SlingPlayer software in favor of their evolving web player(s), they’ve unveiled a web-based remote control learning widget. (PC-only, for now.) Anyone who’s struggled with IR control of their STB will appreciate this tool to customize/create a virtual remote control by mapping IR signals from unsupported hardware:

Welcome to the Slingbox Remote Control Manager. We’ll help you set up your remote control, change it, or create a new custom one.

Back when I was employed by Sling, staying current with remotes was one of the causes I championed. And why not? The hardware supported it. I’m only bummed it’s taken Sling this long to get to a beta release.