Harmony

All posts tagged Harmony

Robin Trower "In City Dreams" on Chromecast LP cover art slideshow

Chromecast LP cover art slideshow. In person, color is saturated and sharpness is outstanding.

I discovered a way to do something I have wanted to do since the 1970s. (No, I didn’t get rich selling bongs.)

Like most music fans of the era, I would put an LP on the turntable, then sit and stare at the album cover and read the liner notes while listening.

I had always wanted to display an array of LP art on the wall, but never found a way that was satisfactory.

One thing I really missed when CDs came in was the large-scale cover art.

Recently, I moved my old 1977 turntable and 1984 cassette deck into the theater room. They are now integrated into our system using my Logitech Harmony remote. When I select Phono or Tape, among all the many other “Activities”, the receiver is set to the correct input.

Of course, I still have to get up to change the records or tapes. Maybe I will have a robot to do that, and serve cocktails as well in a decade or so. (Other things that may happen in the future: The lighter side of transhumanism)

I currently participate in a Facebook group that discusses “analog music of all types and the equipment we play it on. Cassette, reel-to-reel, 8-track and of course, vinyl.”

Just a few days ago, I mentioned there that you could use a Chromecast device to show photos and art from Google while listening to your analog recordings.

But then I thought of using Chromecast to display custom LP cover photos. Turned out to be easy.


If you use any Google online apps such as Gmail, Google Drive, YouTube, etc., you already have access to your own Google Photos account. You can upload an unlimited number of photos to it without using any of your Google Drive storage allotment, and create photo albums for free, as long as you select High Resolution in Settings rather than Original resolution. The High setting is more than adequate for this purpose.

I found a site called AlbumArtExchange.com with a vast catalog of easily searchable LP cover art. I downloaded a few favorites into a folder on my PC, then used Google Photos to upload them. Then I created a photo album there called “LP Covers” and added the images to it.

Now using the free Android Google Cast app on my smartphone, under Devices, I selected Edit Backdrop. I turned off every source of photos and art except Google Photos.

Under Google Photos on the app, my new LP Covers photo album appeared. I checked its box.

Voila, when I turned on the TV and selected the Chromecast device input, there was a great-looking slideshow with my art! Note that it creates an attractive backdrop for the art as well.

Aside from finding lots more LP covers to upload, I did a few more things:

While looking at my LP Covers album on the Google Photos browser page, I clicked More Options, selected Sharing Options, and turned off sharing. This is because of the terms of use for the images on AlbumArtExchange.com.

Used the app to control the speed of the display (sped it up). Note that your photos are downloaded from the internet, so it will use some bandwidth. We have the next-to-bottom tier of service with Cox. But even with all our TV/movie streaming, we have rarely used more than half our 250 GB allocation in a month. I looked at the past several days of usage to see if there was an increase. Couldn’t tell any difference. Just an FYI.

Started a free account with AlbumArtExchange.com. The advantage is not having to complete Captcha boxes so often.

Again, make sure you have selected High Resolution rather than Original in Settings, so you don’t use up any of your free space with Google.

I also added “soft” buttons on my Harmony remote’s Chromecast Activity so I can switch between turntable, cassette, FM tuner and Chromecast sound without disrupting the ongoing slideshow.

If you don’t have a fancy remote like this, just select Chromecast on your TV, and operate your old-school equipment separately.

I love the result. I’ve been adding lots more images to the show. Mostly I have covers from my old favorite LPs, but some are for CDs, and a few albums that I have only on mp3. Another benefit is the stream of reminders about music I really like. I used to sit in front of my album collection and mull over which one I wanted to hear next.

As you can see above, this beats any possible previous idea I might have had for displaying cover art. It even shows the time, temperature and a current conditions icon for Tulsa!

Hope you enjoy it, too.

We have another two over-the-air stations to watch in Tulsa.

Bounce_us

Bounce is at 2.2, and features original programming as well as series and movies geared toward African Americans ages 25-54. The selection of movies is quite good, e.g., today: “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome”, “Deja Vu”, “Demolition Man” and “Bowfinger”. It replaces the Living Well Network.

lafftvicon

Laff is at 2.3. Unsurprisingly, their bag is comedy with a mix of movies and sitcoms. It’s targeted at ages 18-49. Some of the current series are “Empty Nest” with Richard Mulligan, “Ellen” and “Spin City”. Laff’s program guide data has not yet shown up on TiVo or Windows Media Center. (Later note: it was out there by 6/15/2015).

I created the above Laff icon for our Logitech Harmony 650 remote. The Bounce icon was available at http://www.iconharmony.com/icons/home

Here are the icons I created for the Harmony 690. You’re welcome.
bouncetvicon

lafftvicon

The TiVo "Peanut" remote, flanked by Logitech Harmony 890 clones

The TiVo “Peanut” remote, flanked by Logitech Harmony 890 clones

My wife’s satisfaction with the new TiVo Roamio OTA tuner/DVR allowed us to cut the cord earlier this month. The peanut-shaped TiVo remote played a key role. The “Peanut” fits the hand and is easy to use.

The lone downside is that only one Peanut is included. While I consider the den TiVo to be her fiefdom, I also need a remote in my self-appointed role of “TV butler”: assisting with any difficulties, pointing out new features, and skipping the commercials in “General Hospital” while she is cooking.

I could have simply bought an extra Peanut, or used the free TiVo smartphone app. (Personally, I like a physical remote, but it’s always nice to have the app on your phone, even if you have to wake it up.) However, I went a third way.

I have extolled the virtues of Logitech Harmony remotes previously. I have used an 890 in the theater room for several years. The 890 is an older model that handles up to 16 devices and 15 activities.

When the TiVo Roamio OTA arrived, I still had room on my trusty 890 for both TiVo and the den TV as Devices. Since I already had Roku and an A/B switch as Devices for the theater room Activities, I could add them all to a new Activity I called “Den”.

Adding TiVo as a Device assigned the standard functions (Rewind / FF / Pause / etc.) to the 890’s standard buttons in a very natural way. I assigned the special TiVo buttons (Live TV / TiVo / Zoom / Back / A,B,C,D) to “soft” buttons on the 890 (buttons labeled by the blue screen; photo at top).

I then had a complete working Peanut clone! But I didn’t stop there. On a second screen, I added soft buttons for an antenna A/B switch and the den TV. On the third screen, I added Roku controls. One Harmony can do it all.  Well, I still keep the X10 learning remote handy for turning on/off lights, and as an alternate TV and Roku remote. (See the next post, Teaching TiVo to the X10 universal remote, for an update.)

By the way, when you pair the Peanut with the TiVo Roamio, it uses RF (radio frequency) to control without the need to point; otherwise it emits IR (infrared light). The Harmony 890 is able to do both IR and RF, but I use it strictly in IR mode. The TiVo Roamio recognizes both.

When Logitech was threatening to sell off their remote line in 2013, I got worried that the new owner might force new users to either smartphone-only control, or a more expensive option (ultimately, they didn’t sell). So I picked up a used 890 on eBay with no battery or back cover, and put it aside as a backup.

So, rather than schlep the Harmony wonder remote back and forth between the den and theater room, I ordered a battery and back cover for the backup 890. Then I attached it to my PC and cloned my clone.

Now I keep one in the den, and one in the theater room’s charger base. When the den 890 batteries run down, I swap them. Everybody’s happy.

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.

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Neighbor cat napping in my Laz-E-Boy. Click pic to flip.

The following is a cautionary tale about how far some home theater enthusiasts may go to get things just right. It’s also to document a solution for myself and anyone else. It won’t be to everyone’s interest.

You don’t need to be into this kind of thing to have a good home theater setup. A Roku box can deliver paid services like Netflix as well as free content like Crackle, YouTube, and your own content on the Plex Channel. Many of the cord-cutting tips here require more awareness and will than technical knowledge to execute.

Some of us can’t leave well enough alone. Others, like Albert (above), are content to simply enjoy home theater with friends and family.


You won’t believe what I had to do to get a Context menu button for my Raspberry Pi media computer onto my Logitech Harmony 890 remote.

To navigate optimally through the media menus in RaspBMC (the Pi operating system I use), a Context button is desirable. This is especially true if you use PleXBMC, a beta software add-on that lets the Pi become a Plex client.

To control the Pi without keyboard and mouse, I originally bought a $5 IR dongle with remote. I plugged the dongle into the Pi, which it recognized. I added a Chinavasion CVSB-983 “device” to the Harmony remote which allowed me to map the basic play/pause/navigate-type functions.  That way, I could use the Harmony instead of the cheapo remote.
The Android XBMC remote app does have a “Context”-type button (like a right-click on Windows). It works fine on RaspBMC and PleXBMC. But I usually use the Harmony remote rather than the smartphone app.
(*Later note: XBMC has been renamed “Kodi”, and OSMC has superseded Raspbmc; in my new comment below, I added a new, much simpler way to add the Context button under OSMC.)
So after considerable googling (especially here and here), I plugged the dongle into my Windows PC (which it recognized), aimed the cheapo at it, and used free software ShowKey to find out what code was being sent when I pressed a useless yellow button.
ShowKey translated it as Ctrl-Alt-4, and gave the XML code, which could be modified for the Pi:
<four mod=”ctrl,alt”>Notification(Key, four, 3)</four>
2014-09-29 22.53.18

And there it is.

This button was simulating a Ctrl-Alt-4 on a keyboard, which my Windows computer was configured to interpret as some kind of notification. I changed the code snippet in my Notepad to this:
<four mod=”ctrl,alt”>ContextMenu</four>
Now FTPing into the Pi with WinSCP/Notepad++, I copied the keyboard.xml file from deep in the OS (/opt/xbmc-bcm/xbmc-bin/share/xbmc/system/keymaps) to a userdata area (/home/pi/.xbmc/userdata/keymaps), so that the new copy would supersede the original. Then in the Global/Keyboard area of the .xml file, I pasted in the above code (make sure the double quotes are non-italicized), so that a push of the yellow button would be interpreted by the Pi as a command to pop up a context menu . After the Pi was rebooted, the cheap remote had a working yellow Context button.
Once I added a soft button to the Harmony to send the yellow key IR codes, I had a context key on the Harmony!
Sometimes the little things are the most satisfying.