Jerry Bennett is one of the best comic illustrators in Oklahoma and one of the most popular convention guests at conventions across the country. Jerry and I catch up and spend time talking about comic fandom, Batman, Star Trek, and how Oklahoma makes it easy to enjoy it all. During the discussion, I struggled to remember the name of a comic expert from Oklahoma, who ended up being E. Nelson Bridwell. Be sure to catch up with Jerry at the following sites:
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Etsy, and TeePublic
Like a lot of people, I’m in remote control overload. One remote for the TV, one for the audio, one for the BluRay player, one for the streaming box, and yet another for an HDMI switch to tie it all together. And not only is this setup convoluted, but it’s not even that unusual. Everything comes with a remote these days, and too often you only need one or two buttons on each for your daily life.
Lots of solutions have been posed for this problem, but so far, I’ve not been satisfied with any of them. Cheap Universal Remotes tend to not support peripherals like switches, and they can’t be truly programmed– they only choose from existing sets of codes. Smartphone remote apps are cumbersome, have no physical buttons, and expect you to dedicate your phone to TV use while you watch. And programmable Harmony remotes might be the ideal solution, but there’s no way I’m paying $300 for a remote control.
All I need is a set of buttons to which I can map the InfraRed pulses of my choice. Why can’t someone make this, and make it cheaply?
Well, someone has. A Kickstarter project has resulted in a new remote control concept called Sideclick. Rather than be an over-engineered monstrosity, Sideclick is genius in its simplicity. Sideclick takes the remote for your streaming device of choice and wraps it in a new shell with buttons that can be programmed for your TV controls, or whatever else you’d like.
Now, that last part is worth saying again. You can program the remote with whatever signals you want. So, if you want it to emit the “Power On” signal for your TV, but use the “Volume Up/Down” signals from your amp, and still use the “Channel Up/Down” signals from your tuner box, you can do that. You’re not picking from a list of pre-programmed settings, you point your old remote at the Sideclick, give it the learn command (three buttons) and Sideclick learns and mimics whatever commands you want, from as many remotes as you want.
And on top of all that, there are three additional buttons for you to program in whatever you’d like. Setup is a breeze– I opened the box, assembled my Sideclick, and had all eight buttons programmed within ten minutes. And although it looks kind of bulky, the end result is no bigger or heavier than a cased iPhone.
When you’re done, you have the buttons you’ll need most often all in one remote, and without even needing to switch between “modes”, and it’ll all be next to your streaming media player remote, which is probably the device you use most often anyway. Sideclick offers different shells for AppleTV, Roku, Nexus, and FireTV.
Are there missed opportunities? Perhaps one. It’s a shame that a remote that offers this level of customization doesn’t offer the ability to program in Macros, as in, setting a button to emit a series of different signals. Perhaps that was a bit much to ask, but that’s literally the only thing missing.
Verdict: I’d strongly recommend Sideclick remotes.
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This is going to be one of those stories about life in the 21st century. Or more to the point, how in a world that offers seemingly unlimited technology, sometimes we can’t even get the basics right.
Like many cord-cutters, I use an over-the-air antenna to get local HD channels. Since the digital tuner in my TV doesn’t seem to work, I’ve opted to use an external tuner. I’ve been using a $30 box by a company called HomeWorx. Well, this weekend, the box croaked after about a year of use. Since I was never especially crazy about how it worked (it has a really funky layout and it’s just one more remote to lose), I decided to explore some other options.
So, I need something to feed an antenna signal into my TV. What are my options?
I could buy a new TV with a functional digital tuner. Ehh… not really wanting to spend that kind of money right now.
I could get a Tivo Premiere. Ages ago, when I had cable, I had Tivo as well, and loved it. Now they have a special box just for cord-cutters. Of course, you have to buy their service to use the box, which is $20 a month. Sorry, Tivo, but the whole point of cutting the cord is to get rid of monthly fees.
I could use the Xbox One OTA adapter, essentially turning an Xbox One into a digital tuner. Problem is, I don’t have an Xbox One, and really have no interest in the console. I don’t want to invest in a console if I’m not going to be interested in the games, I made that mistake with the PS3.
Hey wait, I could use the tuner for the PS3! Oh wait, no I can’t, because I’m neither European nor Japanese. It seems Sony was “strongly discouraged” from releasing the PS3 TV tuner in America. Probably got a nice bribe from the cable companies.
Okay, well, how about the Xbox 360? I have one of those. Is there a tuner for that? Kind of. If I have a computer running Windows Media Center, I could install a TV card in there and stream my TV signal over the network from the PC to the 360 to the TV. If that isn’t the most over-engineered and convoluted solution possible, I don’t know what is.
Hey, I’ve been flirting with the idea of using an AVR. Can you get one of those with a tuner? Apparently not, for reasons I cannot fathom. You can get receivers that include support for HD radio, satellite radio, Bluetooth, Wifi, any streaming service you can name, and even some that still think mp3 capability is some awesome thing worth bragging about… but they don’t offer a TV tuner.
So, in the end after weighing half a dozen equally terrible options, I opted to just buy a new HomeWorx tuner. Yes, the interface is clunky, and yes, I only expect it to last another year. However, $30 is about the right price for a disposable device, and for the task I give it, it seems absurd to spend more than that.
It’s funny how a world of options can sometimes mean absolutely zero real choices.
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In the Bossig household, there is no “summer slump” in between TV seasons. Summer is the time when we start catching up on shows we’ve missed or re-watching old favorites. Why suffer through endless reality shows when you can watch a quality show, uninterrupted, at your own pace? Time it right, and you can watch the whole series between June and August.
Here’s what’s on tap for us this summer:
Personally, I’m a big fan of buying my favorite shows outright, but Netflix and Hulu are fantastic alternatives too. Summer’s just getting started, so if you’re frustrated at cable TV’s offerings… Seek out something better!