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When I have more time, I'll discuss Windows Media Center (I own the HP z545 Digital Entertainment Center and x5400 Media Center Extender), with which I have a love-hate relationship.  But no matter what type of home entertainment center you have, you should strongly consider buying a Harmony Universal Remote from Logitech (I have the 680).  If you don't know about these things, they are learning remotes, but the way you set them up is to connect them to your PC via a USB cable, and then connect to a mother ship Web site which has IR codes for virtually all VCRs, TVs, DVD players, PVRs, media PCs, cable/satellite set tops, tape decks, receivers, CD players, tuners, etc. ever made.  You just tell a browser-based Wizard what makes and models you own and how you have them connected and it will set up just about everything for you, including programming and labeling of configurable "soft buttons" at the top of the unit.  Yes, you will want to tweak the default set up a little and yes, you can teach it IR codes the old-fashioned way if you have to.

But when you're done with set up, ONE button for TV, Music, or DVD/VCR operations will turn EVERYTHING on and switch the inputs on everything and ONE button will turn everything off.  And guess what the latter button is labeled? just says "Off."  This remote is 100% spouse-proof and 100% baby-sitter friendly.  It's tactile (no screen based pronto-type stuff here) and it's back-lit and it's WAY smaller (and shaped like the TiVo "peanut" remote) than my two-handed Marantz RC 2000 Mk II was.  Get one!

Posted on Monday, February 14, 2005 10:03 PM | Back to top

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