Logitech Harmony Companion All in One Remote Control

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Last year, after we moved, I grew tired of having to hunt for all of the various remotes every time we wanted to watch one of the two main TVs in our home. Our toddler had a habit of tossing the remotes under the couch, beds or various nooks and crannies. Finally, I decided to consolidate by researching the current Logitech universal remote systems.

After some basic research I determined that the Logitech Harmony Companion would be a good fit for our needs. I would have preferred to get a Logitech universal remote with an embedded touch screen but those were well outside of our price range. The retail price of about $140 is still a bit pricy but the features made it appealing to me.

It’s capable of controlling up to eight entertainment devices; the TV with the most devices in our home has no more than five connected (including the soundbar). The system is composed of a hub (controller) and a Logitech remote. It also provides a remote IR blaster and a mobile app. The app is required to configure and update the system so you need to have a compatible phone to manage it. The mobile app also functions as a universal remote, which can be handy when our toddler has managed to hide the Logitech remote as well (or on very lazy days when you’re tired of getting up for the hundredth time and the remote itself is way, way over there on the kitchen counter).

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First Impression: Amazon Fire TV Stick

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My wife and I decided to pre-order an Amazon Fire TV Stick for her parents, which we gave to them for Christmas. While visiting with them I had the opportunity to setup the device and use it for an extended period. Overall, I’m impressed. The cost is relatively low, performance and stability seemed good (at least during the time I was using it) and the interface was easy to use.

We were both impressed enough that we decided to order one for ourselves, though they’re currently on back-order so it may not be until the end of January before ours ships to us. I was able to pre-order the Stick for my in-laws for $19, but it regularly retails for only $39.

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Macs Unable to Connect to Wi-Fi After Changing Network Mode (Cisco Wireless Router)

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One day, while modifying the wireless settings for our Cisco wireless router, I discovered a rather stupid problem. It surfaced when I changed the Network Mode for the 5 GHz network from Mixed to Wireless-N Only. This seemed to make sense since we don’t have any devices using Wireless-A. This is in reference to 802.11a in case anyone was wondering if I had actually meant 802.11ac, which my current router does not support.

And that’s the moment when I was disconnected from Wi-Fi and unable to reconnect. Two different Macs (one MacBook Pro and one MacBook Air) were unable to connect. Once again, I resorted to searching and found the solution. It seems, that for whatever unknown reason, when Wireless-A is disabled on my router then all Macs will decide that they require a different feature enabled in order to connect. In this case WMM (Wi-Fi Multimedia).

The reason for this seems more absurd considering that the support doc implies that it must be enabled in the first place but, before changing the Network Mode, those devices connected just fine with it disabled.

Enabling this capability on my router solved the problem. I’m not sure why. It doesn’t seem to be a feature that should be required simply to connect to a wireless router but there’s no question that enabling it resolved the problem. More details are available via the linked support page included below:

Wi-Fi: Unable to connect to an 802.11n Wi-Fi network

Airplay Wireless Headphones (Apple TV & Jailbroken iPod Touch 4th Gen)

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I’ve had a wireless headphone set for a couple of years, which I use to listen to TV late at night in our bedroom. The set has worked great but we recently rearranged some areas of our house and though I like the headset the charging base took up a lot of space on the mantel and its cables added to some additional clutter.

Rather than put the wireless set back in place I decided to go a different route and instead use a relatively-unused iPod touch as an Airplay speaker for the Apple TV in the bedroom.

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Handbrake Crashes When Converting XVID Encoded AVI

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I had some video files sitting around that I wanted to convert to a format that I could use with the Apple TV (Second Generation). I tried dumping them into Handbrake on the Mac, which usually does an excellent job of converting, but it crashed every time.

I tried the same in the Windows version but it also crashed

As far as I could tell these files were encoded with XVID. I’m not 100% certain but that appeared to be the issue.

To get around this problem I ended up using ffmpegx. In my case, it worked perfectly. I used it to convert the XVID encoded avi files to H.264. I was then able to watch them via the Apple TV.

Acoustic Research ARi3G Remote and Apple TV (2nd Gen)

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The Short Version: I don’t think the ARi3G remote is worth buying, not even as a backup remote. You’re better off paying more for an original Apple TV remote, which you’ll be more satisfied with.

We’ve been having issues with the range of the Apple TV remote when used with the X10 IR repeater in the bedroom. It seems to work fine in the living room but in the bedroom the remote range is probably about half of what it should be. I think the main cause of this problem is actually the IR repeater. However, the other remotes that we use do work better than the Apple TV remote.

I decided to purchase an Acoustic Research ARi3G remote, which is made to work with an Apple TV. My assumption was that it would have better range since it uses two AAA batteries, instead of the watch battery the factory remote uses. It only cost about $10.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to be any better. The range is exactly the same. In addition, the main “play” button doesn’t seem to function consistently, which makes it a pain to use when fast-forwarding. The motion-activated back-light is too sensitive. Any movement on my bed would trigger it on even though it was sitting on a separate nightstand. Granted, it only cost $10 but it wasn’t worth purchasing.

The New Multi-Media Server (G5)

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After my wife got a laptop for her birthday the G5 sat around unused for quite some time. After we bought the Apple TV I decided to set it up as a media server. In this case, I’ve started converting DVDs to an Apple TV 2 compatible format and dumping them into the iTunes library of the G5, which I’ve setup again. So far I’ve only converted around 20 DVDs, but that number is slowly increasing.

On several occasions we’ve streamed these movies to the Apple TV, which has worked great. At the moment, I’m focusing on converting the movies that we like to watch from time to time.

It’s been a long time since I posted something in the “Multi-Media Server (MMS)” category.