home automation

5-in-1 remote white

X10 universal remote. Click to enlarge.

TiVo "Peanut" remote

TiVo “Peanut” remote. Click to enlarge.

A couple of days ago, I duplicated the TiVo remote on a Logitech Harmony programmable remote (see Cloning the TiVo “Peanut” remote).

Yesterday, it occurred to me that there might be a TiVo remote code for my cheap X10 Universal 5-in-1 Learning Remote. Somewhat to my surprise, there was. TiVo has been around quite awhile, after all.

This is great because the Harmony clones can’t control X10 automation in the den. (They can do so in the theater room due to the presence of an IR543 X10 Infrared Controller, but that’s another post.)

The 5-in-1 universal already controls the TV, Roku, VCR/DVD player, as well as X10 automation (details in the post, The poor man’s Harmony remote). With TiVo replacing cable TV, I can reduce down to just one remote for me in the den.

I did a Mode Reset on the cable (CBL) button. Then I input the TiVo code (0912). Next, I tested each button with the TiVo to see what they would do.

For the record, here is what I found:

The following universal remote buttons were already correct for the TiVo: Channel Up/Down, Volume Up/Down, Mute, Last/Enter, 0-9, directional arrows & Select(OK), and transport (Rewind / FF / Play / Pause / Rec).

The universal’s Menu button was the TiVo (menus) button, and its Exit button was the Clear button. These are close enough in meaning to leave them be.

The universal’s A-B button was TiVo’s Guide (mnemonic: “Guide me from point A to point B”).
The A button was Info. Will repurpose as described below.
B was a duplicate TiVo button. Will repurpose.
C was Live TV, which is a good mnemonic (“See TV”) so I let it be.
D button was the 8-second replay button. Mnemonic: “Do over”.
ENT was a duplicate of Last/Enter. Repurpose.
STOP did nothing. Give it a purpose.

So, using one of my Harmony clones, here is what I taught the learning universal’s buttons:

A became the Zoom button. Why? Zoom changes the Aspect ratio, so a good mnemonic.
B became the Back button, another good mnemonic.

ENT became the Skip-Forward-30-seconds / “-” button for the TiVo. No mnemonic; the logic here is positional: since “-” is the delimiter for digital channels (e.g., 35-2), its location near the 0-9 keys makes it a convenient assignment.

STOP became Info. No obvious mnemonic, nor positional logic, except that if you accidentally push it, you can push it again to get rid of it. It does nothing when you are in the middle of manipulating TiVo menu screens. Good reasons. I suppose a lame mnemonic could be “Stop for Info”.

The Peanut buttons I had no room for: the thumbs-up/down, and the A,B,C,D buttons. Letter buttons are used to change options, sort, and filter. None of them are necessary for typical use.

So now, unless I want to use the left-out buttons, I don’t need a Harmony clone in the den.

If you’ve gotten this far, you see the lengths I will go to have a tabletop uncluttered by remotes.

Gaye still has her Peanut, which includes TV Power and TV Input Select buttons, making it a 2-in-1 remote. She won’t need to use my complex and quirky remote, but I’ll be glad to.

(PS, I just assigned the two buttons of the remote for the RadioShack A/B antenna switch to the A and A-B buttons on the universal, unused under the SAT mode button, which I use to select controls for the DVD side of the VCR/DVD player. Now this remote is a 7-in-1! I documented it all in the universal’s manual, just in case my memory should slip. 😉 )

(PPS, We don’t use the VCR/DVD player much these days, but I still like to have it available.)

Bulb in net-wrapped plastic globe under ceiling fan in Tiki room

New remote-controlled multi-mode bulb in net-wrapped globe under ceiling fan in our Tiki room.

Yesterday, I replaced the failing, years-old LED bulb in our Tiki room ceiling fan with this $17 product in the TTM Amazon Store: LJY E27 10W RGB LED Light Color Changing Lamp Bulb AC 85-265V with Remote Control.

With the netting and translucent globe I added, it looks like a Japanese glass fishing float, a popular Tiki decor item. The included remote still works even with the globe covering the bulb.

LED Color Changing Bulb w/ Remote Control

LED Color Changing Bulb w/Remote Control: $17

Our Tiki lounge

Our Tiki lounge

The IR remote selects on/off, color, and brightness. There are also 4 cycling modes, from a fast strobe to a languid pulse.

I was able to teach the commands to my Logitech Harmony remote in the adjacent theater room. Now I can change both the mood and the music from the comfort of my Laz-E-Boy.

Should you wish to do likewise, add a Home Automation/Light Controller device to your Harmony, mfr: Magic Lighting, model: E27. You will get the main buttons of the credit card-sized remote on your Harmony as custom additional (soft) buttons.

I found that I still had to teach each command (the IR codes in the Harmony database didn’t match my hardware), add a few more soft buttons, and delete several. But now I can control this light, our other X10 lights and devices, and home theater components all with the Harmony remote!

Read about Tulsa’s Tiki past on these TTM pages: Tulsa Tiki.

Visit Tiki Central to correspond with Tiki-minded people around the world.

2014-10-04 07.53.08

After the change. We are the blue curve.

Yesterday I looked at the Wifi Analyzer app on my smartphone at home, and found that there was a pileup on channel 1 in the crowded 2.4 GHz band. I had switched us to channel 1 a few years ago, because it was then uncluttered.

No longer.

One of our nextdoor neighbors was now on channel 1 with us. Maybe he got a new router. I’ll have to ask him next time I see him at the mailbox.

Another neighbor has the middle channel 6.

There are 13 wifi channels used on the 2.4 GHz band in the US. Channel 11 is the highest I could select on my old warhorse Linksys WRT54G router (802.11g protocol). That allows for signal spread up to channel 13 on the high side. Here are their frequencies:

1:     2.412 GHz
2:     2.417 GHz
3:     2.422 GHz
4:     2.427 GHz
5:     2.432 GHz
6:     2.437 GHz
7:     2.442 GHz
8:     2.447 GHz
9:     2.452 GHz
10:   2.457 GHz
11:   2.462 GHz
12:   2.467 GHz
13:   2.472 GHz

After I made the change, 2 out of 3 of our Roku boxes seemed to have trouble adapting to these new channel. I did a factory reset to get another one of them working. The other one didn’t like the channel even after a reset.

It occurred to me that our X10 video sender might be interfering. It also operates on the 2.4 GHz band, with 4 channel choices:

A: 2.411 GHz
B: 2.434 GHz
C: 2.453 GHz
D: 2.473 GHz

(Note that X10 channel A and Wifi channel 1 are almost the same, as are D and 13.)

I had set X10 on Channel D years before by trial and error. I hadn’t understood why D worked better at the time, but that frequency was as far away from the lower channels where our router was operating as it could get. It was jamming the high end of the band which we now occupied.

So I had to switch the X10 sender to a lower channel. Since our channel 6 neighbors’ router is physically much closer to the X10 sender, I elected to go with X10 channel A, to the possible detriment of our channel 1 neighbor.

The 2.4 GHz band is cluttered, Bluetooth, wireless phones use it, too. Microwave ovens really fritz it up.

A better solution than playing “2.4 keep away”  is to get a newer router that uses the 5 GHz band (802.11n or 802.11ac).These routers should improve the performance of Plex as well. Or get a video sender/receiver on the 5.8 GHz band.

The best solution for streaming home media is Ethernet wiring (which I plan to do), but phones and tablets still need wireless.

I may get a newer router operating in the higher band (which can I see from another app is entirely unoccupied in our immediate neighborhood), then switch the X10 sender to whatever frequency is least used by the neighbors. I will also have the sender on only when we are actually using it.

The third Roku (model LT) was able to establish a link to the router with the X10 sender off. (Later note: I now have a Roku 3 using Powerline in the theater room rather than wire for Ethernet.)

By the way, X10 manufactures both the video sender/receiver and home automation items, but the two product lines have no technical relationship to each other. The X10 automation control protocol is sent over house wiring, and its associated wireless protocol operates on 310 MHz, far away from wifi frequencies.

5-in-1 remote white

5-in-1 X10 remote

Logitech Harmony remotes are a bit pricey, though worth it if your system has more than 2 or 3 devices. Ours does double duty: in our complex home theater environment, and in the bedroom (see the just-previous post for details).

But a universal learning remote like this $10 one can do the job quite well if you don’t have a separate sound system. The major caveat is that you will probably need to program some of the buttons in a non-intuitive, spouse-unfriendly way.

My wife uses a standard cable remote for TV/cable in the den (yes, we still have cable, to date).  I prefer to have all devices and controls on this single remote.

My X10 Universal 5-in-1 Learning Remote controls the den TV, cable box, DVD/VCR combo, Roku box, plus all X10 devices in the house. (X10 commands are sent via RF, all others by IR.)

I had to teach it some of the cable buttons, like Page Up, Page Down, Guide, Info, A, Last, DVR List, Live, and the 7-seconds-back button. My choice of buttons to repurpose is basically arbitrary (though I made up a few mnemonics to help me).

(2/26/2015 update: we have cut the cord, so the cable buttons now control a TiVo. Details in the post, Teaching TiVo to the X10 universal remote.)

The VCR/DVD player had to be handled as 2 separate devices (I use the SAT button to select the DVD side). The Eject function, I taught to the B button, and a couple of other functions had to be learned on the C and D buttons. When we use the player (infrequently in these days of streaming media), I usually need a refresher from my notes.

When you select X10 (home automation), all buttons are fixed and cannot learn other functions.

I even found a way to include the Roku controls, making it a 6-in-1:

When TV is selected, most of the buttons are needed for the TV, except ENT, A,B,C,D and the transport buttons (REW, PLAY, PAUSE, etc.)

However, if you turn the remote to the right by 45 degress, the A-B-C-D buttons can form a set of screen navigation arrows for Roku. ENT becomes the OK/Enter button, and REW, FF, PLAY, PAUSE can become the Roku version of themselves. Since there is no way to record with the Roku, the REC button can be the Home button. Use the Learn button to make it so.

Beats reaching for another remote.

Turn off the decorative lights on the patio before going to bed? Turn on a bedroom light? No problem, the remote can do it with X10 automation.

I can remember which buttons are repurposed from frequent use, and I did document the changes, but it would be cruel and unusual to ask a normal person to use the remote this way.

So it’s best for the poor (or at least budget-minded) man with a good memory.

My wifi-only Android 2.3.5 smartphone.

I thought it might be helpful to show you the home theater/automation apps I use. You may find only a few of relevance to your setup, but let’s just go down the list:

Roku Highlights – Shortcut to a updatable Word doc on my Google Drive. Reminds us whether our favorite or new shows are on Netflix, Amazon, Hulu Plus, or Plex.

TitanTV – Free. Displays a channel guide for the Tulsa broadcast stations we watch, my wife’s preferred digital cable channels, or the analog cable channels, The latter is particularly useful, since the only on-screen analog channel guide is the super-slow-scrolling, half-screen Channel 3.

(Cable company) Connect – Channel guide, remote DVR programming. Also administer phone service, if you have it with them, pay your bill, get support, etc.

Romoku, Roku – Two free apps to control our Roku boxes. I prefer the unofficial Romoku, but both have their pluses.

Yatse, XBMC Remote – One paid, one free app to control the Raspberry Pi running RaspBMC. I prefer Yatse, but it can be a bit confusing until you get used to it.

Plex Remote – Select a particular Plex Media Server and client (Roku box or PleXBMC) to control. Free, optional, since other controls (e.g. Roku or XBMC Remote) work as well.

My Media Center – Local broadcast TV channel changer, channel guide, and remote DVR programming for a Windows Media Center computer. $5, but worth it.

Remote Ripple – Android app version of TightVNC, lets me completely control our computers via remote view of the screen, and virtual mouse. Works surprisingly well and has been very useful.

X10 Commander – Control lights, fans, coffee maker from anywhere in the world, if you want to brew coffee remotely.

RPiController – Check the status of my Raspberry Pi, or reboot it. Comes in handy if there is no other way to get through to it.

RasPi Check – Shows vital stats of the Pi, such as CPU, GPU temperature, overclocking parameters, free memory, disk usage, etc.

JuiceSSH – Terminal client, lets me log into the Pi and monitor its processes, download files directly from the web, become superuser, etc.

Hybrid Stopwatch – Once the coffee maker is turned on with X10 Commander, start a timer to be alerted when it is ready to serve.