Continuing my thread about the absurdly complex state of home theater technology... So I buy this fancy Marantz receiver that comes with its own universal remote that theoretically should allow us to consolidate the five remotes we currently have (for the LCD screen, the DVD player, the cable box, etc) into one single remote. The remote itself is a classic case of feature bloat -- you can do just about anything with it, except the things you actually need to do. They have a whole system for programming macros, where you can string together a series of commands that can be triggered by a single button push, for instance. But they seem to have paid almost no attention to the admittedly very rare activity of TURNING THE VOLUME UP AND DOWN. I've spent about three hours investigating this, and as far as I can tell, it's almost impossible to set the remote up so that hitting the volume button reliably alters the volume on the Marantz box. If I've switched over into TV mode, for instance, to change the channel or turn the LCD on, the remote tries to turn up the volume on the LCD screen's speakers, which I don't use at all. Have these people ever watched someone actually USE a home theater system? Do they not realize that 99% have one central unit -- usually the amp/receiver -- that controls volume? And that people find it incredibly annoying when they go to turn the volume down and realize that they're talking to a completely different piece of technology?
I did ultimately figure out a way around the problem. Once you've entered in the various components of your system to the Marantz remote, you can then re-program by hand specific functions for each component. I did this for the TV setting for instance: I set it to turn on the LCD screen, but then every other button basically controls the cable box. To do this, however, you have to sit there pointing the cable box remote at the Marantz remote so it can learn the commands one by one, which of course is time-consuming and annoying. But if I want to map the receiver volume up/down commands onto the TV setting on the remote (so that changing the volume is always directed towards the receiver) I can't do it, because I can't point the Marantz remote at itself. So the only solution I have come up with is to teach another universal remote the codes for volume up/down and then point that remote at the Marantz remote, in order to teach it something that it knows already! But I have thus far refused to do this, because I'm just so incredibly irritated at the stupidity of these interfaces.
Because of all that irritation, I ordered a Logitech Harmony universal remote (the 680) I think -- mostly because I saw that Chris Anderson was using it. It sounded cool -- you plug it into your computer for the setup process, and the software walks you through all your media consumption habits and equipment, and configures the remote for you. So I get it from Amazon yesterday, and start going through the installation process. Early into it, the software tells me I need a firmware upgrade for the remote, which I download and install. And then, halfway through the installation, the remote appears to crash, and it's now completely unresponsive.
Let me just repeat this for the six of you who are still reading: I buy a new remote control to simplify my media experiences, and it crashes during a firmware upgrade! And then stops working altogether! I suppose that's one way of simplifying your media experience -- use a remote that literally does nothing. At this point, I think it's preferable to the alternative.