The PC Remote by Concept UK
is a nifty infrared gadget that will learn almost any command from any IR device.
First a little background: I’ve always had the dream of controlling my VCR and
DSS satellite system via my computer. I hated manually setting up my VCR to tape shows. I
would constantly screw things up and put the wrong channel in to tape or not set the times
right… I wanted something where I didn’t need to actually do the manual programming.
A year ago or so I found one piece of the puzzle in a Windows based program called Electronic TV Host. This program is an
electronic TV guide that shows you all the TV shows and movies for the week. You can then
mark the show for recording or viewing. This program also has great search capabilities.
The next piece of the puzzle that I found was the PC Remote module from Concept UK.
This is a small (2″ x 3″ x 1″) plastic box with 3 leds and a long parallel
cable/connector. The PC Remote is powered by a 9v battery. You plug one end into a free
parallel port on your PC, and then set the PC Remote in view of your infrared controlled
devices. This module also comes with a CDrom that has the controlling software on it.
The software only takes about about 1meg of hard disk space.
Remote module and Powermid IR repeater.
The software is simple to use and doesn’t require much time to setup. It’s just a
matter of teaching the PC Remote all the commands of your actual physical handheld remote
controls. To do this, you start up the pcremote.exe, switch it to learn mode. You
point one of your physical remotes at the PC Remote module, click the key on the pcremote
program that you want to learn and then press the physical button on the actual remote.
When the command has been successfully learned, the pcremote program’s fake led
turns from yellow to red. You also have the ability to rename keys, and even create
additional remotes. To create a whole new remote, you just copy the pcremote program
to a different name. Each remote can have up to 30 defined command keys.
|The remote learning process is pretty easy. The only hard part is
positioning the physical remote and the PC Remote module so that the PC Remote will learn
the commands. It just takes a short amount of practice. Sometimes you have to even touch
leds of the two devices together to get the PC Remote to learn the commands.The PC
Remote is supposed to have a range of about 20-30ft. I found that the PC Remote would not
work past 15 or 16ft in my house. To remedy this, I purchased a seperate product called
Powermid. This is a set of 2 pyramid shaped devices. One is a receiver and one is a
transmitter. The receiver takes an infrared signal and transmits it via RF to the other
powermid device. This made it very convenient to control my VCR and DSS in my living room
from my computer room down the hall. With the powermid, you can transmit signals up to 100
ft away and thru walls/floors.
Once I had learned all my physical remote controls commands with the pcremote software,
change the channel from another room… but the novelty of this wore out in about
5mins. 🙂 What makes PC Remote great is that it can also be run from a
command line. This allows you to setup timed events via any scheduling software that
allows you to run a program. Programs such as the Task Scheduler that comes with
Win95 Plus Pack for example. The are many other shareware and freeware scheduling
programs available as well.
There are lots of interesting things that you can do with this capability. You can
create an event to turn on your stereo at 6am, turn on the CD player, select track 2 of a
CD and play it. Or, you could even do some very powerful things with X10 devices.
My main interest though was in programming my VCR and DSS to automatically tape TV
shows. I had almost all the pieces (the PC Remote module, and ETV), but needed a special
piece of software to interface them together. I wanted to be able to mark a show in the
ETV software as a show to record and have the PC Remote automatically turn on my VCR, turn
on my DSS and tape that show when it was time to tape it. And then when the show was
finished, turn off the DSS and VCR and wait for the next show to tape. To do this, I
wrote a small program in Visual Basic. This program parsed through a file that ETV
automatically writes whenever you mark a show to watch or record. So far my program
works pretty well. I’m having a bit of trouble with taping shows that start one one
day and end on another. For example, a movie that starts at 11pm and finishes at 1am
the next morning. As soon as I solve that program (I think I’m close…), it will be
PC Remote has been alot of fun to play with and experiment with. It is easy to
setup, and compact in size. Anyone with a desire to control IR devices with their PC
should check out this nifty little gadget.
Price: £39 (approximately $ US dollars)
Easy to use
Great to experiment with
Might need an IR repeater like Powermid to use with it
Needs at least a Pentium 100 machine