Saturday, November 13, 2010

This is how you dilute a good brand

Try to lose this one

Image by pvera via Flickr


Ages ago I had so much crap connected to my TV that it was an ordeal to find the right remotes and click on the right buttons in the right order just to say, watch TV or play Xbox 360. I picked up a Logitech Harmony 510 (middle remote in picture) for about $80, and after maybe 10-15 minutes of setup I was able to switch between modes with just one button. One button would switch the TV Input, turn on the right device, etc. The only device that never played along with this was the AppleTV, everything else I tried worked beautifully.

That remote was great because it was simple. The device was simple, setup was fantastic, you simply specified the model number of your TV and whatever else you have and it did the rest. If it couldn’t do it automatically, it walked you through every possible option. 

The Harmony lived a long and illustrious life, but its USB port died, and there is no way to program one of these except through the USB port. Alex Esoterica pointed out that the Logitech Harmony 300 was on sale for $20, but no screen. I passed.

Weeks later and simply couldn’t stand anymore not being able to use my PVR (I am using PJs monster remote, left remote in the picture), so I bit the bullet and picked up a Logitech Harmony 300. For $10 more than when Alex warned me about it, dammit.

And it gets worse.

Setup: there’s no CD. There is no download installer. You go to a website, which prompts you to install something. That is, if you have the right browser. It took me three tries.

Then it got past worse: they use a content delivery network for the installer, and the routing was dying somewhere along the way. I had the crazy idea of connecting to the corporate VPN and seeing if they resolved to a different IP in the CDN, and to my delight, it did. Hardcoded that IP into my hosts file and the installer finished.

Once I did that, it sort of worked like the 510 desktop setup app. But I don’t see how many people will realize why the installer can’t finish (there’s no feedback that it can’t connect to the server) so most people will either return it to the store or try to contact support, which will probably waste their time for half an hour before telling them to return it to the store.

As for value for my $30, it is obviously made of cheaper plastic, and it doesn’t have a display. At least it has IR transceivers on both ends, which is very nice. And full programmable control for four devices is even nicer.