How To: Logitech Harmony Remote and the Panasonic PT-AE4000

It's been a while since I've made the time to write; I'll start with an easy one here, a sort of how-to for myself in case I need to do this again, and maybe it'll help others, too.  I've got a bunch of other stuff to write about: we've had a full summer of solar electricity, I made a decision about my cell phone technology, and I'm about to start a new job.  It's been a busy summer.

For our home theater setup, we're lucky enough to have a really cool projector (the Panasonic PT-AE4000, an amazingly crisp, bright projector) and we use a Logitech Harmony 1000 as the remote control for all of our devices.  The Harmony is nice in that you can program it to do "tasks", like "Watch Tivo".  Set up that task, and it knows that it needs to turn on the receiver, projector, and the Tivo, and set the receiver to show the Tivo's signal.  Then the remote configures its screen to show buttons specifically for use with Tivo, and cleverly figures out which controls are really meant for Tivo and which are meant for the receiver (e.g., volume up/down is really meant for the receiver; the "OK" button is really best used for Tivo's "Select" UI feature).

But a nagging problem we've had with the remote and the projector is that to turn off the projector, you have to press the power button twice; that's because turning off the projector is a big deal, putting it into a warm-down cycle to prevent the really hot bulb from burning.  It takes a full minute or so for that cycle to stop, so you gotta be sure turning off the projector is what you really wanted.

The problem: the Harmony just didn't know it had to send the "Power" signal twice, even though Harmony claimed it knew all about the projector.  Every time we turned off the system, we'd either have to dig out the projector remote just to press "Power" once more, or we'd have to go through a cumbersome set of steps on the Harmony to get to the projector menu and press "Power" there.  It sucked.

Well, somebody documented the series of steps for taking care of this; now, it's back to one-button operation.

One last problem: you have to update the remote after you've gone through the steps above, and that means connecting your Harmony to your computer with a USB cable.  I did that with our Harmony and a Mac, but they just didn't seem to communicate.  That was frustrating, until I found this web page showing how to deal with the problem.  It's not the friendliest or most intuitive way of fixing the problem, but it seemed to work.

If I were to do it over, I would not buy this particular model of Harmony remote.  The soft buttons are a nice idea, but they're slow to react so you can't zip along through your device's user interface quickly if you know what you want (like for example, paging through a list of channels or saved programs).  And the connector software has always seemed flaky and irritating to me.  I really wish they would fix that.

So do others, judging by some of the commentary on Logitech's forums.  Good for Logitech that they support the forum.

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