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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Saving TVs from Angry Toddlers (Vizomax TV Screens)

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Last summer I purchased the largest TV we’ve had in our house; a 55-inch LCD. In addition, it also supported 4K HDR. Over the course of a few weeks we eventually picked up a couple of 4K movies including Planet Earth 2 and I already had some games that could take advantage of the TV’s high quality. I splurged on this TV and spent $600. Granted, one could easily spend much more but for us it was a stretch.

We were able to enjoy the TV for several months, until one day in late November or early December. On this day our toddler became angry about something that was probably very insignificant in the grand scheme of things (at the time he was almost two and a half so, as with most toddlers his age, anything could upset him). I don’t recall what it was though he probably wanted to go outside to the playground. If that was the case then I wouldn’t have let him because it was dark outside or because we were preparing to eat. He didn’t mind using the word “no” but he did not like to have it said to him.

I turned around and went back to the kitchen where I was preparing some food and putting up dishes. I just happen to be looking his way when I saw him angrily pickup a Christmas decoration from our coffee table. It was a wooden, triangular Christmas tree-shaped piece. He threw it at the TV. Hard.

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TaoTronics Bluetooth Transmitter

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Several months ago I decided to purchase a set of Bluetooth headphones so I could, on occasion, watch TV in the bedroom late at night without disturbing my wife. At one time I had a wireless headphones set that worked well for this purpose but they were simply very bulky (both the charging unit and the headphones themselves). I attempted to use a jail-broken iPod as well but I wasn’t satisfied with that either.


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The TV itself doesn’t support Bluetooth so I decided to purchasing a Bluetooth audio transmitter. In this case, one manufactured by TaoTronics, which is small and reliable. Overall the device is very good but there is a slight delay in the audio that is noticeable relative to the action on TV, especially with dialog, though I grew accustomed to it rather quickly.

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Philips Sound Bar (CSS2123)

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In additional to a new Blu-ray player, last weekend I also purchased a Philips Sound Bar (CSS2123) for our living room HDTV. The speakers included with the 32″ HDTV are OK. They’re not the worst. The ones in my smaller HDTVs are so bad they must be connected to external speakers to be tolerable.

Still, we like to watch movies in the living room. I didn’t want to deal with full-surround sound. That would require a heavier investment of money and space. Instead, I decided to add a relatively inexpensive sound bar.

Audiophiles may not care for this set but we both have enjoyed it. Music, movies, and television sound really good though movies that I have ripped from DVD to an Apple TV format do not (This was done using Handbrake. I’m not sure why – the quality may have not been good before but it’s only become apparent with the use of better speakers – my next test is to rip to a slightly different format or to try movies purchased through iTunes).

The set cost $99 at Wal-Mart. It includes the sound bar itself, a wired sub-woofer, and a remote. During the first movie that we watched I had to turn the sub-woofer down. It was actually much deeper than I was expecting and I didn’t want to annoy any of our neighbors.

I haven’t experienced any major problems though when I tried to use a coaxial digital connection only the sound effects from the Apple TV came through. None of the audio for Netflix, or from our Tivo, worked. I suspect this has more to do with the different audio formats (stereo versus true surround) and for now I only have it connected to the TV via the headphone jack, which is split out to RCA adapters that go into the sound bar inputs (stereo only).

Updated 05/22/2013: So far so good. We haven’t had any problems with the sound bar.

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Philips 32″ LCD TV (32PFL5322D/37) Won’t Power On, Red LED Flashes 6 Times

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Warning: Based on information provided in several posts, and from talking to friends, it is very possible that you could severely electrocute yourself if you don’t know what you’re doing or if you touch the wrong part of the electronics. If you’re not sure it’s safe to do this then simply don’t. When I replaced the board I was very careful not to touch any components, including the underside of the board I was replacing. Of course, the unit must be unplugged before proceeding and it may be a good idea to let it sit for a couple of days before opening it.

A couple of weeks ago we experienced a power surge from a nearby lightning strike that damaged one HVAC unit along with a few electronics. One of the items that was damaged was our older 32″ Philips LCD TV. This was largely my fault. I used to have a surge protector on that TV but the last one quit working and I forgot to replace it.

When we tried to turn the TV back on it wouldn’t work and I noticed that a red LED, near the power LED, flashed 6 times, stopped, and then flashed the same sequence.

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Philips DVD Player Changes TV Source Whenever Using the DVD Remote (Workaround)

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Note: Most of this information is probably only applicable to households with a Philips TV and DVD player.

Tonight I ran into an unexpected problem. While trying to watch a DVD in our bedroom the TV input was changed from HDMI2 (where the living room sources are connected) to HDMI1 (where nothing is connected). It happened any time I tried to pause or play the movie. In fact, it seemed to happen every time I pressed any button on the remote.

I quickly eliminated the possibility of the DVD remote sending signals to the TV by preventing the IR from reaching the TV. The problem still occurred.

After a moment I remembered another problem we previously encountered in which the DVD player was turning the TV back on a moment after the TV was turned off. I neglect to post about the issue but long story short the EasyLink capability built into both Philips devices caused the TV to turn back on if the DVD player was still on (or was in the process of shutting down). The solution was to turn the DVD player off before powering off the TV (since then I’ve also shut off the available EasyLink options in the DVD player).

Tonight’s problem seems to be related. I disabled the DVD players EasyLink functions. However, even though the TV appears to have EasyLink support the setup menu does not include any options to disable it.

I noticed that when the TV source is changed by the DVD player it always reverts to HDMI1. Before I purchased the matrix switch we only used the DVD player in the bedroom, where it was connected on HDMI1. At that point I realized the DVD player’s behavior hadn’t actually changed. We hadn’t noticed it before because it was already on HDMI1 and tonight was the first time we had tried to play a DVD since adding the switch.

It’s not a true fix, but the workaround was simply to move the incoming living room HDMI connection from HDMI2 over to HDMI1 on the bedroom TV. Now the DVD player appears to operate as expected without changing the TV source.

 

Cables Unlimited 900MHz Wireless Stereo Headphones (SPK-9100)

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I have a tendency to stay up a bit later than my wife. I also have a tendency to watch sci-fi shows such as Dr. Who on Netflix. My wife didn’t have a problem with me watching such shows late at night, in the bedroom. However, I could tell the noise was bothering her. For some reason many of the shows I watch tend to have quieter dialog and blaring, dramatic music. This included Stargate Universe, before it was cancelled.

A while back I reviewed several wireless headphones on Amazon.com. I wasn’t looking for anything with crystal-clear sound, just something that would sound good and operate on 900 MHz (or above 2.4 GHz) so it wouldn’t interfere with (or pickup interference from) our 2.4 GHz wireless router.

I ended up placing a Cables Unlimited 900MHz Wireless Stereo Headphones (SPK-9100) set into my wishlist. The following Christmas my wife gave it to me!

It’s been a good investment. Every now and then I’ll stay up an hour or two later and watch sci-fi shows that I haven’t seen or wanted to re-watch. The sound is good and the headphones recharge on the wireless base. Whenever I want to watch something I just plug the 3.5mm jack into the television. So far, I have no complaints.

As with most devices in the bedroom I covered the LEDs with some black electrical tape, though I left a slight gap at the top so I could see if the headphones were charging when set back on the base (most of the time I set them on the base but I only charge them after every two or three uses). I don’t actually know how long they’ll last on a full charge because I haven’t drained them completely, yet.

Updated 06/30/2011: As of today this pair of headphones is still working as well as when I got them. I don’t know if the battery life has shortened. On average, I only use the headphones a few nights in a row before I recharge them.

Updated 08/18/2011: It still works just as well.