Universal Remotes for Geeks
I remember back in the mid-nineties when I woke up one morning to find the proprietary remote for my Sony VCR in a half-full glass of water (it actually survived the dunking). I bought a cheap universal remote, but I got very, very lucky.
You see the remote I bought was a particular remote by the Òne For All`remote company -- A Cinema 6). It was a great remote with a comprehensive set of device codes, but it have other layers. At the beginning, I used advanced codes (from the great hifi remote website and a now-obsolete Yahoo group, remember those?) to customize the layout... later on I built a cable that allowed direct programming of the remote using freeware. Not bad for a remote that cost about $15 (in 1995 or so).
That`s the thing that bugs me about the so-called high end remotes like the Harmony. They cost a ton, and in the case of the harmony its over-rated.
So eventually I replaced my cinema remote with a UHF model that included a UHF transceiver that allowed me to send video to my bedroom and change the channels upstairs using the UHF remote. I always liked the idea of a remote that didn't rely on line-of-sight. I bought two of these UHF remotes on ebay, and they were $10 each. Including the transceiver (these were obsolete models when I bought them).
The funny thing is that Logitech has a UHF model, and it costs $400. Even the cheapest Harmony remote are around $40.
Many of the older-model Radio Shack universals are actually designed by the One-For-All company and they too are excellent remotes. I have two Radio Shack model 15-133 remotes (these need a JP 1.3 cable rather than the old style my other remotes use) in use and I think they are great, plus I upgraded the old "Cinema" style UHF remote to a more contemporary model, the 9810, which is features on the wikipedia page for JP1.
The JP1 software allows complete control over the remote, and allows virtually any kind of customization you can imagine--macros, key priority, etc. Personally, I keep things simple, but it's important that all discrete functions work so that I don't need an original remote. the JP1 software allows you to save the profiles and effectively back up the remotes, though the OFA remotes do not lose their settings when the battery goes dead.
Interesting trivia here is that Nicola Salmoria was one of the guys who worked on the freeware extenders for JP1 and he the driving force behind the M.A.M.E. arcade emulation project as well.http://www.hifi-remote.com/ofa/http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/JP1_remote