Tuesday, November 28, 2006

I spit on you & your lemur. Stop it.

Very heartening to be able to name a post after an (admittedly) late period Idlewild album. (Actually, screw that. It used to be "The Remote Part", but I've since changed the title, after something I saw at Sub Pop. Much better.)

Much more heartening than my recent rate of posting. It's not so much that I haven't been up to much (cue parenthetical link-dump, for recent activities and japes), just that I haven't found the time during daylight hours to write it all up. In fact, the only decent chunk of out-of-school writing I have assembled of late is a long-ass mecha-gig review for Sugarzine.

But behind all this high-brow consumption has been a weekend spent communing with a sleek, expensive phallic symbol. No, not those ones. I am a recent purchaser of a Logitech Harmony 550 Universal Remote. Now, if you're responding with the same baffled "wha?" that Mrs. Cutesome evidenced when I brought it home, you might want to toddle off and wait for me to get out from under my dayjobpile and (yay!) freelancepile and hit the mid-level slope eateries.

But I must say, universal remotes are very cool. Even if one has only 4-5 devices, it's nice to be able to chuck all of the non-essential remotes into a draw for later use, and replace them with a slim, space-age object that glows blue in the dark. And there's something very appealing about taking an empty vessel, and filling it with commands, rather like I imagine (utterly stupidly) being a father might be.

The 550 is the second cheapest remote on offer, and also the slimmest. Fans of NY1's instant votes will notice that it only offers two spare buttons, marked A and B, and no C, although you can do what I did and assign another button to be C. It seems to have a decent range, and has that motion sensor thing that causes it to light up when you pick it up, although such a feature is available, with varying degrees of efficacy, on several other, cheaper remotes.

But the programming is quite a pain the ar*e. This cannot be denied, especially when my weekend doom-laying slowed to a trickle as a result of repeated engagements with the device. The most glaring issue is that the remote came with software two versions old. It could be that good old J&R was sat on an old one, but I think caution, and a prominent notice to download the latest software, would be key.

The software does crash abruptly occasionally, but so frequently as to ruin your day, and the latest version is a little cumbersome, but pretty clear. I'd say this it concentrates on taking the casual user through the process at great length rather than providing a fast and simple way to change the settings on your remote. But getting the balance of simplicity and intuitiveness (horrible word, I know) is a tough call, and Logitech is inching towards it.

But the necessary modifications are many, and time-consuming. You need to tweak what the different buttons do by hand, and walk your way through the different settings options every time. When it does work, though it's majestic, a feeling of omnipotence that every, um, less than omnipotent man craves.

Final note, there's some guy, or maybe more than one, going around the message boards claiming that it meets "the wife test", as if women, particularly spouses, lack the faculties to operate things with lots of buttons. Don't be fooled. They just don't care. It's like cats and tin openers - there are soooo many better things to do than learn how. A cellphone? Not so disinterested.

Picture up top taken, with much respect, from Atomische's flickr stream. It's of the lighting of the Grand Army Plaza Holiday display yesterday.


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