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Archive for May, 2011

Humax and Harmony Remotes

May 24th, 2011 4 comments

The remote controls that come with the Humax boxes are nothing exciting. True, the recent ones for the PVRs are quite useful with the ability to control other boxes with the device specific buttons at the very top. True, they are far better than remotes that come with other PVRs and TVs. But they could be a lot better.

In this post, I will explore the Harmony 300 and 700 remote controls from Logitech… and show you how to set them up for your PVR/TV system.

Harmony have been replacing their low-end remotes (the 515, 525, 555, etc) with remotes with the similar style and shape as the Harmony One. The Harmony 300 is the lowest of the low range and only has one ‘activity’, but controls 4 devices. (The Harmony 300i is a gloss-black version of the matt black 300.)

The Logitech’s Harmony remote is designed to work on an ‘activity’ basis; the remote control sends individual commands to the system components on the user’s behalf to configure them for the activity that the user selects.

Your standard Universal remote (including Humax own – supplied with the HDR-FOX T2 and FOXSAT-HDR) controls one device at a time. With each device you wish to control, you need to press the device specific switch button. You need to remember what device you have switched the remote to, before you use it or press the specific device button to make sure you are controlling right one. This can be confusing for kids and annoying for older users.

Harmony 300
The new, but most basic, Harmony remote is the 300. It only has one ‘activity’, which is the ‘Watch TV’ one, and you control the 4 devices by pressing the corresponding control buttons. So you pay for what you get, and at £15, but I suppose it can compete with the other universal remotes out there on the market. It can control 4 devices, and with Harmony’s extensive database, it can potentially support any device you might have.

The ‘Watch TV’ activity seems to be all decisive on this basic remote with little room for configuration. You can certainly get it to choose the correct TV input for the STB you wish to use that to watch TV, but the TV set has to support direct input selection. I initially set up the remote for my Sony TV which did not have the direct input selection, but choosing the next model that did, fixed this for me. The remote seems to have asso auto setup the volume control, deciding that since I did not have an amplifier or AV receiver, that the volume was via the TV. I assume that if I had one of my 4 devices as an amp, then it would use that.

In the main this basic model seem to work well, although the kid did give up after a while since the ‘Watch TV’ activity did not work 100% of the time, and there is no ‘Help’ button to rectify the problem when it does go wrong like the other Harmonies. I also found that although most of the buttons feel like the more expensive ones, the OK and directional controls are different and work less well – they being separate button instead of a 4-way or 5-way rocker type of button. That said, this 300 does have two extra buttons that the 700 does not, the List and Live button in the centre.

Harmony 700
I had a Harmony 525 previously, and this lasted me at least 5 years. But like any other well used and abused device, it started giving up the ghost. The buttons got less responsive – some did not work! – and then the display died! It was then time I got it replaced – and another Harmony it had to be. I had been following the Harmony One for a long time, but gave up the idea of getting this for two reasons: 1, it was very expensive; and 2, it did not have the coloured buttons – necessary to use with Humax PVRs.

So when the new range came into existence, I followed these, and things were looking up when they came out with the same shaped as the Harmony One and they had coloured buttons (in the middle too!) Although, still quite expensive, I could think of it as an investment… But looking closely at the specifications, I was disappointed to see these new models could only control a few – max of 8 – devices! My 525 could control 15!

Well, I was put off by this, until I read that if you were to upgrade from another Harmony, the 700 could actually take across ALL the devices from your old remote. So I jumped and bought the 700 to replace my dead 525.

When I got it and started to set it up, I found this was partially true. It does take all the devices across, but it depends on how much memory you are/were using to whether the remote will let you use them or the others!

With regards to using the remote – and just like any other Harmony remote, it is very fiddly to set up. But once you’ve gained the patience, and have the time to suss out how it works and behave, it is a marvel to use.

There have been a few subtle changes and improvements to these Harmony remotes which improves their use and set up. The 700 is also far superior to my 525, with the weight and buttons being made better for action and wear. This remote comes with re-chargeable batteries (AA) and was an adaptor and USB cable for charging. All the buttons are perfectly laid out and feels balanced for single hand usage.

Buy Harmony remotes from Amazon.co.uk:

£15 for a Harmony 300, £25 for a Harmony 300i, £43 for a Harmony 600, and £64 for a Harmony 650.

Categories: Media Devices Tags: , , , ,

GParted Live CD

May 21st, 2011 No comments

Sorry about not posting for a while. I’ve been meaning to make this post for a while now for completeness of the instructions on how to partition a drive for a HDR-FOX T2 or format a USB drive to use with the FOXSAT-HDR. Well here it is – the final part.

The two posts: here and here, talk about using Ubuntu and Slax. The former standing at 700MB, and 200MB or abouts, but the GParted Live CD is only 150MB in size. You can download it from GParted Live CD SourceForge site.

The GParted Live CD is the smallest to download and allows you to boot up your PC and run GParted to format your drive in the EXT3 filesystem that the Humax PVRs can understand. The small size of the Live CD image means that it is faster to download and run, but it less friendlier than the Ubuntu and Slax equivalent.

Although it is unfriendlier to use and looks slightly different, you would boot the Live CD and use GParted in exactly the same way as I’ve instructed in the respective posts.

GParted Live CD

Apart from the small download size, the GParted Live CD also has the correct version of the command-line parted which is used to format an Advanced Format hard disk drive to have the 4K blocks aligned – either optimally, or minimally, so that they work without performance issue with Linux.