back to article How many remote controls do you really need? Answer: about a bowl-ful

My television wants me dead. It’s doing this by playing dead itself. Only one of us will get out of this alive. The remote control isn’t working, you see. And now the TV set is having a private little chuckle at my expense behind its resolutely blank screen as I grope blindly behind the fascia edges hoping to locate an elusive …

  1. ShadowSystems Silver badge

    You have my sympathies...

    So many remotes to try & control so many devices, none of them talk to any of the others, "universal" remotes that only speak some obscure Aztek pictoglyph language, jabbing at the buttons trying to get any of them to work only to turn it over to check the batteries to find that someone removed them & lost the battery cover, then give up in disgust & decide to go read a book only to be unable to turn on the lights because some dingleberry "upgraded" you to IOT controlled abominations that only work via a proprietory app that won't work on your phone because it only recognizes a single brand, model, & specific serial number as a valid device...

    *Hands you a pint*

    Drink up, it'll help get through trying to find where the spectacles went we had just a moment ago...

    *Wanders off trying to find the glasses perched helpfully atop my head*

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: You have my sympathies...

      I have noticed that dysfunctional remote controls will do that to your puntuation, then you feel dizzy when you pause to draw a much needed breath while the offending remotes(all of them) lie implacably waiting for you next ineffectual tirade.

      Laibach looks as though he would have been popular in the 1930s, also why is he wearing the same headgear as the man who used to deliver our coal in the 50s?

    2. CuChulainn Silver badge

      Re: You have my sympathies...

      Last year I invested in a Logitech Harmony remote control.

      I was prompted to do so because I had remotes for Sky, two soundbars, the TV, two Amazon Fire Sticks, and an air conditioner. They kept getting misplaced simply due to how much space they need if you keep them to hand.

      Once you know how to set it up, Harmony does work rather well - for me, anyway - at controlling everything else.

      1. MiguelC Silver badge

        Re: You have my sympathies...

        problem with Harmony controls is that their "action" based, so if you want to watch a movie, the TV and amp must be off first, because the program starts by turning them on, if any of them were on they are now off...

        I still prefer One4All remotes, for my use case they the ones that have the most preconfigured devices - the only exception is the STB because it talks with the remote by RF instead of IR...

        1. CuChulainn Silver badge

          Re: You have my sympathies...

          I don't think that's correct.

          You can program complete package of actions ('activities') - for example, to turn off/on the TV and to put Sky into-out of standby with one press (and the 'activities' can be more complex if necessary).

          But you can select individual 'devices' and control them alone, and independently of everything else.

          Typically, I use the 'activity' mentioned to turn my system on or off. But while I am using it, I switch between Sky, Soundbar, and TV and control those 'devices' for whatever reason I might have. It's all through a touchscreen and very quick once you train your fingers.

          If I want to use my Firestick, I select that 'device' on the controller, then press the 'home' button, and the Firestick starts up and the TV switches automatically to that HDMI input. When I'm done, I select the Sky 'device' and press 'home', and the TV reverts to Sky on that HDMI input.

          1. Persona Silver badge

            Re: You have my sympathies...

            But you can select individual 'devices' and control them alone, and independently of everything else

            You can, but it's quite hard as everyone using the setup needs to know all the steps. The nice thing about the Harmony was that the "action" would encompass all of those steps. Unfortunately there are plenty of devices that don't play by the rules and rely on a signal to toggle them between their on or off state or select inputs by stepping through a list. Actions work much better with a nice clean interface of one signal for on and another for off and one signal for each input. Without that the Harmony needs to remember the state of everything, which it does or at least tries to. If fails when people walk in front of TV blocking the signal or the operator touches the button then stuffs the remote under a cushion while it is still sending commands to all of the devices. So it gets out of sync and a painful "help" dialog is needed to restore order. The Harmony always worked for me but my wife had problems every time and wanted rid of it. Now we have a pile of remotes and she often forgets which to use.

            1. Danny 14

              Re: You have my sympathies...

              harmony owner here too. works very well.

            2. Nick Ryan Silver badge

              Re: You have my sympathies...

              Yep... the change from TV remotes that had separate ON and OFF buttons to ones that had a single ON/OFF toggle button has been the bane of my life for far too long.

              Plasma displays used to always have discrete ON and OFF remotes, when LEDs started to come along the manufacturers decided to cheap out and just use a power toggle. Which is fine when the device is behaving itself and will respond to the toggle instantly, crap where the device is slow to respond to either and therefore has a high chance of just toggling back again... or, the absolute balls, where there are multiple devices and the toggle completely unamusingly turns some off and some on and when pressed again toggles them all...

      2. HandleAlreadyTaken

        Re: You have my sympathies...

        Well, then you will be glad to know Logitech has discontinued the Harmony remote controls; so don't throw away the old remotes. If your Harmony breaks, you may not find another one (or be able to program it, if Harmony also closes their programming support. They say they won't, but who trusts what a company says anymore?)

        I'm in the same boat; I have one of Logitech's ancient Harmony models, which has been doing stalwart work, but is starting to get long in the tooth. I looked for alternatives, but I couldn't really find a good one. I don't understand why this niche in the market isn't filled by somebody.

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

          1. HandleAlreadyTaken

            Re: You have my sympathies...

            >Have you seen the NEEO?

            Not yet, but thanks for the tip! The NEEO looks good at first glance, and it's cheap enough that I can try it without major regrets.

        2. Martin

          Re: You have my sympathies...

          If your Harmony breaks, you may not find another one (or be able to program it, if Harmony also closes their programming support. They say they won't, but who trusts what a company says anymore?)

          I'm not optimistic myself. But I would observe that Logitech discontinued the Squeezebox system in 2012, and yet still works. The server software is now open sourced, and it's up to version 8.1.1 (it was version 6 something, I think, when it was discontinued).

          So I'm sort of hoping that they open source the Harmony software and the huge database of remote controls, and some enthusiasts will keep it running for a few years yet.

          Because the Logitech Harmony, when it is set up properly, is truly amazing. Certainly better than six remote controls.

      3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: You have my sympathies...

        "They kept getting misplaced simply due to how much space they need if you keep them to hand."

        O got a solid wood chopping board and nailed the bastards down. None of them work now, and even if they did, there's no access to the backs to replace batteries. But they look nice all in a neat row.

      4. Schultz

        Not my sympathies...

        I am a big fan of electronic devices that come with a switch. You can still find them sometimes. Next step is to loose the remote and not to worry about it anymore. Some devices end up loosing their 'extended' functionality but that is a bonus for most devices.

        Oh, and if you actually find that remote again, the batter compartment probably broke when it got wedged behind the cupboard, so you'll have some nice colored insulating tape holding the batteries in -- makes the remote stand out from the crowd and covers up that useless bottom row of buttons.

        1. Intractable Potsherd

          Re: Not my sympathies...

          @Schultz - "... nice colored insulating tape... makes the remote stand out from the crowd..."

          I have labelled our very few* remotes with different colours of reflective tape. This has the advantage that once child-induced Brownian motion has taken place, there is a chance of finding the matte-black thingy in the crevices of the matte-black furniture by shining a torch around.

          *TV (which doesn't work now anyway - I think the IR receiver has given up), DVD player, Fire stick, and Android STB for Eurosport that needs so many updates I never get to see what I want anyway.

          1. Intractable Potsherd

            Re: Not my sympathies...

            Oh, I forgot to mention the Freesat box!

          2. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

            Re: Not my sympathies...

            Label them! My TV remote is visually identical to the separate Freeview remote. Except that one has labels that I put onto hilt-end and on prow saying "TV". Now I pick the right one up two times out of three.

            1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

              Re: Not my sympathies...

              "one has labels that I put onto hilt-end and on prow saying "TV". Now I pick the right one up two times out of three."

              Clearly, two labels are not enough. Three are required.

        2. ThatOne Silver badge

          Re: Not my sympathies...

          > I am a big fan of electronic devices that come with a switch.

          Old school. I prefer that too, but it clearly got utterly out of fashion: My 20-years-old DVD player can be fully operated without the remote, it has all the required buttons on the facade; My 10-years-old Blue-ray player has only a power button. For everything else, including opening the tray, you need the remote... Same thing with my TV, it has only a power button.

          Having a heap of different remotes on your coffee table is nowadays unavoidable, I've solved the problem by having a special small "remotes table" near the couch, allowing me to keep the coffee table free of clutter. Also, having a designated place for them avoids misplacing them (to a degree).

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: Not my sympathies...

            "For everything else, including opening the tray, you need the remote"

            Manufactures have jumped on the minimalist design philosophy, so beloved of Jonny Ive and Apple, with gay abandon because it save money on the BOM. Saving a few cents or even whole dollars per unit on millions of units is worth it.

      5. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: You have my sympathies...

        Well, that was just far too useful, and combined with the positively *crap* technology it was based on it was only inevitable that Logitech discontinued it. I also disliked the mandatory need to tie things to actions. OK< I don't mind the macro ability but the way this was implemented was just dire - a shining example of what happens when idiots try to make things "user friendly" and thus needlessly complicated something that would have been simple if they left it as a list of instructions, like a programming language. Maybe an easier version, but at least comprehensible without the need for a frankly embarrassing amount of hallucinants.

        I think it may be time to either come up with a new universal thing you can build yourself (maybe an Aurduino project?), or that someone independent sets up a new standard that can then be implemented in a universal remote (after a while), be used for IoT based interactive devices etc etc. The weird thing is that I have the distinct impression that the latter was once developed already, I think to make washing machines part of the revolution.

        It's the proprietary part that is the barrier here. And the fact that my cheapo Chinesium remote controlled LED light seems to share the same IR signals with my LG 43" monitor as well as the screen's IKEA sourced backlight. Aaargh!

    3. Red Ted

      Re: You have my sympathies...

      Then there is the "Brownian motion" of the remotes when they are in the same place as children.

      I've even found one in the bread bin once!

      1. Rich 11 Silver badge

        Re: You have my sympathies...

        That's not a very sanitary place for storing a child. Won't anyone think of the crumpets?!

        1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge

          Re: You have my sympathies...

          Having a nice bit of crumpet usually leads to kids.

      2. Stoneshop Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: You have my sympathies...

        Then there is the "Brownian motion" of the remotes

        Very few of them can deal with being dunked in a fresh[0] cuppa.

        [0] or a stale one, showing that the thermal component of the fluid has very little influence.

  2. macjules

    My television wants me dead, or just gibbering in a 'special' ward.

    Worse. My Sony Bravia wants me to spontaneously combust from a combination of sheer frustration and unvented anger. Switch it on and you expect (maybe) to see a picture of perhaps something or even just anything but no, not with a new Sony Bravia. There is a 'warm up' period of anything between 30 seconds and a minute while the TV boots up its Android OS and then prepares to offer you TV, Netflix, Google TV etc. ad nauseam. Shortly thereafter you can select a channel to watch and shortly after that the TV now informs you that you connected to the internet. Weirdly enough it does not matter if you are connected via ethernet or via wifi: it still takes the same amount of time to tell you that you are connected.

    I am pretty sure that this is revenge for the unforeseen 'accident' where one of the dogs left a strategically-placed protest mess near the TV as we had been out during their feeding time. We returned to find TV and surrounding area speckled with dog turd since in the meantime the bloody robot vacuum cleaner had been out to do its job.

    1. Andy Non

      Re: My television wants me dead, or just gibbering in a 'special' ward.

      I can relate. I too own a Sony Bravia "smart" TV. Unfortunately it is as smart as a sack of rocks. It would only record one program at a time to an attached USB drive. It was very iffy at recording anyway, sometimes skipping the program entirely then showing it would record it a negative amount of time later. On one occasion all on its own it decided it wanted to record a ten hour long program in the year 2173. Most annoying of all, the integrated TV guide (called something like MyGuide ?) would only work if I disabled the feature to record programs. I gave up on the "smarts" and bought a Humax box, using the Sony Bravia as a dumb screen now.

      Unfortunately, the TV on/off button on the Humax remote has now stopped working so I bought a so-called replacement remote. Except it doesn't have a button to turn the TV on/off, so now we've got an extra remote but still need the Sony one just to turn the TV on and off. Sigh.

    2. Sam not the Viking Silver badge

      Re: My television wants me dead, or just gibbering in a 'special' ward.

      We have two Sony TVs and a Sony DVD player (I know, I know). All bought at the same time, admittedly some time ago. The three remote-controls are similar but incompatible with each other except on inconsistent, random-selection process. Their button-layout is similar but the buttons have different functions.

      I daren't buy new sets as old dogs & new tricks etc. and anyway, these devices work.

      When we visit our son, who has lived abroad for the past 10 years, they have the scenario described by Dabsy. I'm not completely incompetent but we have never managed to switch on their TV. We have to wait for their 4-year old to return from nursery.

    3. ibmalone

      Re: My television wants me dead, or just gibbering in a 'special' ward.

      Before ~2000-2005: Turn on TV, brief pause while the flyback gathers its strength and then the crisp Pfff and gentle crackle of a single electrical raindrop landing as the CRT kicks into life and any fluff within 10 metres gently adheres to the screen. If you're fancy then from the late 90s onwards replace this with plasma screen contemplating whether or not it's going to start this time.

      ~ 2007- 2012: Turn on TV, wait while digital signal is acquired. Find multiplexes need rescanned.

      ~ 2012 to present. Turn on TV, wait while it boots its OS, connects to the internet and uploads your recent viewing history to Google. Discover iplayer no longer supported by this device.

      Short period, ~ 2005 - 2007. Press power button, LCD comes to life, TV is being watched.

    4. Jay 2

      Re: My television wants me dead, or just gibbering in a 'special' ward.

      One of my biggest problems with my Sony Bravia is that it obviously hasn't got enough grunt to run Android as the general input lag is horrendous and pretty much makes doing anything a complete exercise in frustration.

      But that's nothing compared to a recent problem. I have Sony TV using ARC to talk to Sony Amp (sorry long term historical fanboi) and Sky box attached to the amp. I'd noticed that every now and again the sound field on the amp would keep switching from Neural X/Dolby/whatever to stereo which was really annoying as I had to change it back. Then the other week I got Sky Q and then even going into the Sky menu would change the sound.

      Turns out that the the signal was going from Sky to the amp and then to the TV, which in its infinite wisdom was then making some strange decision to tell the amp to change the sound field (and not even to something useful). In the end the fix was to update the firmware on the TV (it had been a while since I checked) which gave me a completely new and more slow/useless front end, but crucially there was a setting to force the TV's sound field which then translated to something more suitable on the amp. Job done.

      1. Tim99 Silver badge

        Re: My television wants me dead, or just gibbering in a 'special' ward.

        I feel your pain. I have just bought a LEOWE TV, the sound is awful - I’m wrestling with an HDMI ARC to analogue audio converter to get sound into a pair of (expensive) 20+ year old B&O active speakers. Apple TV is on another HDMI port. Nothing worked; but after resetting the TV back to factory settings, the sound now works, but the picture breaks up if I use the TV remote to change the volume of a movie from the Apple. So far the only fix is to turn the TV on with its own remote, then put that out of reach, so I only use the Apple remote, which is set to control the TV sound volume; but at least the sound is listenable now…

        1. batfink Silver badge

          Re: My television wants me dead, or just gibbering in a 'special' ward.

          Don't bother wrestling with the HDMI-analogue converter. Just buy yourself a decent second-hand home theatre amp and let it sort it out.

          Of course then you'll need a remote for the amp... -> Harmony.

      2. HandleAlreadyTaken

        Re: My television wants me dead, or just gibbering in a 'special' ward.

        >In the end the fix was to update the firmware on the TV (it had been a while since I checked) which gave me a completely new and more slow/useless front end

        But didn't the new firmware also bring ads to your home screen? I think the inconvenience of a slow front end pales against the satisfaction of being marketed to every moment of your life, don't you?

    5. mark4155

      Re: My television wants me dead, or just gibbering in a 'special' ward.

      I'm truly sorry I downvoted you. The only reason is I was reading your comment whilst wolfing down a bacon bap for my Saturday morning breakfast.

      I have put the uneaten bap in the fridge, hopefully the sickly feeling in my stomach will pass as the day progresses.

      Talking of remotes. Mum used to work for "Radio Rentals" in the 60's/70's. As such we used to get to rent the new models and swap every 6 months. A nice man called "Barry" from the firm used to come round on a very regular basis to check on mum's valves. For some reason dad wasn't keen on him.

      One of the latest models housed in a mock mahogany cabinet installed by "Barry" had a remote control. Remote as in we still had to get out of the armchair open the cabinet doors and hit the power button. Wait for "Barry's" valves to get excited and adjust the volume.

      The remote was simple, very simple. No batteries needed or compartments to go astray. Just a big "click" button that emitted a ... well clicking metal sound. Click once for BBC1 click again BBC2 thrice Granada TV.

      So simple, so easy. Mum left Radio Rentals shortly after and "Barry" stopped coming round to check her valves...

      Toodle Pip.

    6. veti Silver badge

      Re: My television wants me dead, or just gibbering in a 'special' ward.

      One thing I have been very careful of with my TV is never, ever to let it connect to the Internet. There are plenty of other devices to do that, I don't want the bloody TV bricking itself with a security update - or, worse, ransomware.

  3. b0llchit Silver badge

    Mother knows best

    My mother used to say in the shop "Do you have something with one button? Just one on/off switch?"

    Many, many moons ago I did not understand the sentiment and was almost embarrassed. Now, I am proud of her asking and sticking to the simple truth.

    And now, today, does this technology of buttons, devices and impossible combinations actually make us happy? I guess that a simple working on/off switch would be a significant improvement.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Mother knows best

      My grandparents had a TV with a remote control that had two buttons. One was for power, and the other was to cycle through the 3 or 4 channels!

      Actually, our smart TV does literally does have only one button! Quick press to bring up menu. More quick presses to scroll through menu items, long press to select.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Mother knows best

        "Actually, our smart TV does literally does have only one button!"

        Apple make TVs?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Mother knows best

          Actually it's a Toshiba. Now I'm going to check the back of it to see if it uses phillips screws and not "special" screws or glue holding it together.

          No rounded corners though, so not too much of Apple's influence

        2. veti Silver badge

          Re: Mother knows best

          I can't be the only person who's noticed: the iPad is functionally a portable TV.

          (Though come to think of it, my iPad actually has at least four buttons, not counting the screen.)

          1. Tim99 Silver badge

            Re: Mother knows best

            You can buy a SiliconDust HDHomeRun and turn it into a real Portable TV with Channels. If you have a spare computer (a RaspberryPi will do), and pay an annual subscription it can run as a powerful DVR that works on most clients. With the included Comskip software recordings can be watched without commercials - Most of our TV watching now happens free of adverts. Thier support is pretty good too... No business relationship... Just a satisfied customer... YMMV...

    2. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: Mother knows best

      Samsung do a nice sideline in remote controls now, because when you buy a TV you get this useless pile of shite on the right instead of the remote control on the left which almost everyone wants and ends up buying separately.

      I stress I don't buy Samsung as it's verboten under our roof, but my father-in-law got one and just couldn't use it.

      1. MiguelC Silver badge

        Re: Mother knows best

        I have a Samsung TV and it came with the left-side remote (for what I've seen so far, the one on the right comes sometimes as an extra remote - not saying it doesn't happen, but never seen a TV which came only with the simple one)

        But Samsung also have an Android app that works pretty well with all their "smart" stuff. And from that you can control all devices connected though HDMI-CEC (typically soundbar, STB, HT amp), so you could even use an old phone as your main remote control

        1. batfink Silver badge

          Re: Mother knows best

          ...for some values of various devices' CEC implementation.

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Mother knows best

        "the remote control on the left which almost everyone wants"

        I note that like every other TV remote, even that has no brightness or contrast controls. Many's the time I've wished for a simple brightness control on a TV remote. It's all well and good setting it up perfectly for evening viewing and then watching something during the day that has nighttime scenes. So called "adaptive" settings never seem to get it right either.

      3. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: Mother knows best

        We got both. The funny little voicey one lives in a dark drawer.

      4. Tessier-Ashpool

        Re: Mother knows best

        I have a metal Samsung remote that is excellent. Quite minimalist and very tactile. It also controls my Apple TV box attached to the TV, so it’s the only remote in the living room. I can’t fault it, really.

        The TV, on the other hand, is not so great. QLED 4K resolution is crisper than my eyes will ever need. But it’s kind of washed out, and I never get to see the inky blackness of my previous screen, a Pioneer Kuro. Also, I *never* want to see an advert icon on my TV’s menu, but there’s no way to turn this off.

        1. Tim99 Silver badge

          Re: Mother knows best

          I wonder where Samsung got the idea? :-)

      5. KittenHuffer Silver badge

        Re: Mother knows best

        I believe (feel free to correct me) that the one on the left is IR, but the one on the right is RF or Bluetooth (or something that is not IR).

        We bought a Samsung 'The Frame', and the remote with all the buttons worked very intermittently. This was reported to Samsung, and they sent a replacement ..... which was just as intermittent. Then I found that by moving the sound bar so that the lower edge of the screen could be seen the IR remote would suddenly start working fine.

        Anyway the 'simplified' remote has never failed to work, and since we had to buy a Humax cos the Samsung DVR capability sucks the lack of buttons on the remote hasn't been much of an issue.

      6. Dan 55 Silver badge

        Re: Mother knows best

        Now I'm wondering if place he bought it from was bringing in a little extra cash removing the normal remote from the box and selling it separate.

    3. CuChulainn Silver badge

      Re: Mother knows best

      You can get something very close to that. It's the SeKi remote control.

      I got one for my elderly dad, who still hasn't realised that pressing every button on the remote in a random order doesn't achieve what you expect it to - especially if you do it when you pick it up.

      The SeKi has six buttons, which you program yourself. It copies the signal from the native remote and stores them for itself. I just programmed them all for 'TURN TV OFF', so it didn't matter what he pressed.

      1. whileI'mhere

        Re: Mother knows best

        "I just programmed them all for 'TURN TV OFF', so it didn't matter what he pressed."

        Hmm. So how did he turn it on? Another of those remotes, with all the buttons programmed to turn it on? And another for volume up and another for volume down? And a fifth for channel cycling? Each remote carefully labelled as to its function.

        I think that's a system that might just work. ;-)

        1. CuChulainn Silver badge

          Re: Mother knows best


    4. druck Silver badge

      Re: Mother knows best

      Our old 2009 Samsung TV came with a very large standard remote with lots of buttons, and a pebble remote which was just on/off volume up/down channel up/down.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I've only got two - stuck together back-to-back with velcro and sitting on the arm of the chair.

    1. Martin

      Which is genius - it is also much less likely to get stuck down the back of the sofa.

      Have an upvote and one of these --------->

  5. DJV Silver badge

    I'm extremely glad to say that...

    ...I have a remote for my ancient (well, bought more than 10 years ago) non-smart TV. I also have a remote for the DVD player that's attached to it. And my audio system is a proper hi-fi (separates) bought in the early 1980s, long before all this remote control malarky took hold.

    The only other thing in the house that's got a remote that ever gets used is my toy dalek!

  6. Nick London

    TV So old Philips no longer make the reomote.

    Philips no longer make the remote for our TV which works OK it isn't smart but VMs set top box serves watch again and streaming services. Can switch on and change volume from Virgin Remote but it some times changes channel spontaneously.

    Tried a China made one from e-bay but so flimsy it disintegrated before arrival - got my money back.

    Will try from Amazon maybe better luck next times.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

  7. Richard Gray 1

    Give me buttons ON THE TV!

    It wouldn't be so bad it you could actually do something like walk up to the TV, press a simple on off button, press a channel (or AV selector) and possibly even a volume control... without having to have the contortionist skills of a snake and the ability to sense which button is which of a super hero stopping an explosive with the time at 1 second to Kaboom!

    but no.. any buttons that may exist must be so minute that you need a sodding microscope to see them, and text to indicate what they are for... don't be ridiculous, there's no pint in that because they will be so far around the back that any attempt to see them will involve removing said TV and turning it to the wall.

    And if you do turn it off and then back on again.. it will then reset not to the source you had previously but whichever sodding device it happened to see first.

    Back in the day there was proper voice controlled TV....

    "OY you {child closest to TV} turn the sound up" or "OY you {child closest to TV} turn it to BBC1"..

    ( I was that child)..

    1. Joe W Silver badge

      Re: Give me buttons ON THE TV!

      There are no f****n buttons any more, just those "capacitive" "soft" buttons - whatever that means. If they had a little dimple, or a raised oblong indicating where that "button" was located it would help. A lot.

      So, my next project: build a "remote control translator" out of an IR diode and an arduino (or whatever, an ESP, don't know what's in my parts bin). Then I can actually control everything from my amplifier's remote, which (despite being > 2 decades old) might have a sufficient number of buttons for that. Thoug to be honest, I use my amp and CD player etc. by pushing real, physical buttons on the devices.

      On a second thought: let's not do this. It's a silly place.

      1. elkster88

        Re: Give me buttons ON THE TV!

        > my next project: build a "remote control translator" out of an IR diode and an arduino


        I did exactly this. I have a Yamaha soundbar attached to the Samsung TV with optical cable. No integration of control codes over HDMI (CEC?). Lived with two remotes for some time until I hit upon the idea of using one of the unused A B C D buttons on the Samsung remote to operate the soundbar power, and translating the Samsung Volume + and - codes into codes the Yammy soundbar would understand. Arduino, IR photodiode sensor, IR emitter diode + a couple of resistors. Put it all in an old video camera battery charger enclosure so it actually looks like something a toddler didn't make.

        It took a couple of weeks of fiddling with hardware & code but it's been working flawlessly now for years. Sure, I probably could have bought a universal remote but I learned a lot and that's worth something to me.

      2. Stoneshop Silver badge

        Re: Give me buttons ON THE TV!

        Thoug to be honest, I use my amp and CD player etc. by pushing real, physical buttons on the devices.

        Record player: one physical switch (33-0-45), and the armlift lever. Cassette deck: physical buttons. Tape deck: physical buttons, though there's a nicely chunky connector for a wired remote control on the rear. Which would mean it can't go walkies, and it'd be easily identifiable as belonging to the tape deck. Tuner: physical buttons. Preamp: physical buttons, although I'm considering fitting a motor-driven volume control pot (it's home built). Main amp: just a single power button. TVs: still have their matching remotes, of which only the power, volume and source select buttons get any use as each are driven by a RasPi or a laptop. Those RasPis have a nicely minimal remote, 8 buttons and a four-way selector ring.

        Lighting is controlled by switches on the wall, as are the ceiling fans. Heating is via a timer thermostat wired to the boiler.

        It works

    2. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

      Re: Give me buttons ON THE TV!

      I have a Sharp TV which has no obvious buttons, but has something that resembles a small mushroom on the back. I had to download the manual before I realised that it was actually a joystick to drive the menu system, with a press action for enter. Talk about reducing the controls!

  8. Calum Morrison

    You wanted to switch the TV on with the power button on the remote control? Are you quite mad!? Every TV manufacturer knows that you switch the TV on by pressing channel button up or down. Or volume up or down. The on/off button is purely for switching it off. Well, into standby.

    I've never worked out the logic in that arrangement, but it seems very common

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      "Every TV manufacturer knows that you switch the TV on by pressing channel button up or down. Or volume up or down."

      Oh wow! So it does. My getting on a bit non-smart LG does that. I never even thought of trying that. Why would would I when it has an on/off button? FWIW, it only works with the channel up/down buttons, not the volume buttons.

      On the other hand, it has some extra buttons on the bottom of the remote which control my LG BluRay player too. And once it's been on for about 10 minutes, the CEC stuff comes to life and recognise the RasPi with KODI/LibreElec and I can use the TV remote for that too. On the other hand, we don't actually have an aerial and rarely watch BluRays or DVDs and the KODI remote on my phone or tablet is better for that. Everything else we get via VirginMedia, including Netflix (and the free Amazon prime trial) and the VM remote can turn the TV on and off and control the volume too. The TV remote is only needed if I need to manually switch sources, which I can actually do from on e of the 5 actual physical buttons on the top of the TV. (Easily accessible since we didn't hang it 6' up a wall because we hate sore necks!)

      1. mark4155

        "Every TV manufacturer knows that you switch the TV on by pressing channel button up or down. Or volume up or down."

        Yes indeedy every TV manufacturer knows.... why didn't they pass this on to me? Just tried it on my Samsung remote, technology, ain't it great?

    2. Andy A Bronze badge

      "Every TV manufacturer knows that you switch the TV on by pressing channel button up or down. Or volume up or down."

      This used to work on my previous TV, which boasted a heavy CRT to ensure it was theft-proof.

      Unfortunately that part of the spec was garbled when it was downloaded by the Chinese producer of its replacement.

  9. Pen-y-gors

    Power buttons

    I grope blindly behind the fascia edges hoping to locate an elusive power button

    ...Every time you try and operate these weird black controls that are labelled in black on a black background, a little black light lights up in black to let you know you’ve done it

    RIP Douglas. He didn't mention the 'hidden away round the corner bit'

    1. Stoneshop Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Power buttons

      The machine was rather difficult to operate. For years radios had been operated by means of pressing buttons and turning dials; then as the technology became more sophisticated the controls were made touch-sensitive – you merely had to brush the panels with your fingers; now all you had to do was wave your hand in the general direction of the components and hope. It saved a lot of muscular expenditure of course, but meant that you had to sit infuriatingly still if you wanted to keep listening to the same programme.

      1. molletts

        Touch sensitivity

        I feel your pain... My monitors at work have silly touch-sensitive pseudo-buttons on the bottom of their fascia. Every time I reach underneath the monitor for a pen or a piece of scrap paper or whatever, it switches to another input, opens the menu, brings up a grid overlay or simply turns off. Then I have to squint at the tiny black-on-black embossed text and fumble around under the monitor to get it back to normal.

        <mode mood="grumpy" age="old" gender="male">WHY?! Just give me damn push-button switches that I have to PRESS when I want them to do something and which give me some tactile feedback each time I do press them.</mode>

  10. Gene Cash Silver badge

    Got rid of the TV several years ago

    I got tired of all that BS, plus "programs" that were 35 minutes of show and 25 minutes of ads. Tell me, why am I paying for ads, again?

    Now I youtube-dl everything I find interesting and eventually watch the stack of files when I get time, with a video application that actually features working pause and forward/reverse buttons.

    My stupid 4K monitor has gotten in on the bullshit by mounting the controls on the back, but it does do a cool trick of popping up a representation of the controls on the front when you touch them, so you can blindly reach back and actually do something useful and directed. I'm sure the engineer got fired for doing something so innovative and nice.

    For the guy with a "TV so old Philips no longer make the remote" how about a Sears-badged Sony Trinitron from 1986 that only finally failed in 2018? It had a row of buttons on the original remote that nothing else ever heard of.

    1. CountCadaver

      Re: Got rid of the TV several years ago

      ditto my 1440p iiyama, lovely screen, but has a stupid joystick control on the back with a ludricrously short time out, which can't be altered. Just give me 4 ot 5 buttons on the back and allow me to change the timeout

    2. Tim99 Silver badge

      Re: Got rid of the TV several years ago

      I bought a SiliconDust HDHomeRun Connect TV head and record shows onto a computer - It supports the "comskip” video commercial detector. Our SOP is to record a few programs, let comskip run for each recording, then play them back later. Most 60 min programs (after the ads are removed) now run for 45mins.

    3. Will Godfrey Silver badge

      Re: Got rid of the TV several years ago

      Another TV escapee here - from quite a few years back

      Everything in my place has real buttons, switches, knobs and sliders that follow the UNIX principle: Do one thing, and do it well.

      1. ThatOne Silver badge

        Re: Got rid of the TV several years ago

        How can you live without a dishwasher remote???!

        (Unless of course you control it from Internet, in case you want to wash the dishes while overseas.)

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I have the opposite problem....

    We recently bought our first Smart TV that has a remote. I found a remote control app which I downloaded onto my phone and my wife's phone. We also have a Nintendo Wii U which also has a TV remote app built in.

    So despite having "four" remotes for one TV, I can guarantee that at least once a day, my Missus will go "Where's the remote? What you done with it?" while the TV remote is right next to her on the sofa.

  12. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    My Xiaomi Redmi Note 8 have a built-in IR eye and an IR app which you can program to work with your telly/hifi/aircon as long as it is on a list of recognized devices.

    Helps a lot to cut out controls.

    Used it only a couple of times to play merry hell with the boardroom aircon, people was not amused at getting hot, then cold, then hot during a long and boring self-important presentation...

    1. Headley_Grange Silver badge

      Have you ever tried using it to turn the telly off in the pub?

      1. Dr_N Silver badge

        They are also brilliant for hotel TVs that you can't switch to other inputs with the in-room entertainment system remote.

      2. Stoneshop Silver badge


        Size of a matchbox, couple of IR LEDs, Atmel ATTiny, a battery and a light sprinkling of resistors and transistors. So far it hasn't been seen failing to work on any TV, and it often takes a while before the remote to switch it on again surfaces.

      3. Alumoi Silver badge

        Raises hand!

        Also, it's a blast to play with almost any kind of remote controlled equipment in the office.

  13. chivo243 Silver badge

    Remote controls in a bowl: and these are just those for the living room

    Ouch! I think there are support groups for people like you... Hi my name is Dabsy, and I horde remotes. One step for each remote!

    I gnash my teeth at only three remotes, that live nicely in a row on the TV stand. TV, Receiver, and Apple TV. There are no remotes in any other part of the house either!

  14. Kubla Cant Silver badge

    CD Drawer

    What was ever the point about a CD drawer operated from the remote control? I've lost count of the number of CDs I've ruined by trying to throw them across the room into the drawer. And even people who are deft enough to be able to do this will have to get up and take the old disk out.

    And while I'm ranting, what are "special characters"? They may be special to you mate, but they're just non-alphanumerics to me. My special characters, for which I have an undying regard, are "s", "p", "e", "c", "i", "a" and "l".

  15. juice Silver badge

    Nowt wrong with a bit of Laibach

    Their cover of The Final Countdown is a thing of strange beauty. Especially if you first encounter it in a gothically-vamped-up function room in a pub in York, which you get to by passing by the skeleton sat at the bar #trufax

    Remote control-wise, I've long been fairly happy with my Logitech Harmony 650 remote. Y'know, the hardware that they've just discontinued.

    Admittedly, I think I bought it about 15 years ago, and they're theoretically keeping the software side of things running, but still.

    The only real problems have been that it's a faff reprogramming it, since you have to have an account on Logitech's system (which entailed remembered what email and password I'd been using 15 years ago), and the top-right programmable button needs to be well and truly mashed, even after several cycles of dismantling the remote to clean the contacts with nail polish remover.

    At some point, I'll have to dig out a USB 2.0 cable and plug it into a laptop so I can remap "power-on" to a different button, but see the point about the reprogramming faff... ;)

    It's a bit of a shame that mobile phone manufacturers decided to drop I/R ports from their phones - I think the last handset I had which could be used as a remote was the LG G4. Oh, the fun we had in pubs, once we'd spotted who the television manufacturer was...

    1. CountCadaver

      Re: Nowt wrong with a bit of Laibach

      I just use firefox lockwise, not perfect but works well enough, just wish it had the option to securely transfer a password to another lockwise account - i.e. create a list of contacts by mutual "click here to confirm" type prompts, then "Send username and password to xxxxx"

    2. skeptical i
      Thumb Up

      Re: Nowt wrong with a bit of Laibach

      The "Who Killed the Kennedys" remix of Laibach's cover of "Sympathy for the Devil" gets my vote. (Sorry, no real video here, just the album cover.)

    3. Shooter
      Thumb Up

      LG G4

      Kept mine specifically for use as a media player/remote control.

      Currently, all my TVs, set top boxes, etc., are older than the G4, so I haven't had any issues with programming codes not being up to date.

      And when I'm working around the house, I can use it to listen to music without being too concerned about damaging an expensive phone.

  16. Giles C Silver badge

    I’ve got 5 remotes within reach of me.

    1 tv, 1 Blu-ray (although they can control each other’s devices as they are both panasonic), humax box, speakers and Apple TV.

    Now if you turn on the Apple box the tv will start (but probably not change to the correct source)

    The tv and blu ray will control each other to a point

    The humax well it works reliably when there isn’t a y in the day of the week.

    Although the silliest remote I remember seeing had separate buttons to turn it on and off - why.

    But they do have a habit of disappearing especially the Apple TV as it so small it slips between cushions…

  17. Dr_N Silver badge

    Only Need One

    I highly recommend a Tado° for your A/C Mr Dabbs. That remote can then be binned.

    And a Xiaomi mobile for everything else.

    1. John Sturdy

      Re: Only Need One

      I would find a TV-be-gone enough for me:

    2. Alistair Dabbs Silver badge

      Re: Only Need One

      Tado and Xiaomi ... these are all for smart home systems. They won't work here. My home is thick as pigshit.

      1. Dr_N Silver badge

        Re: Only Need One


        The Xiaomi phone can be as smart or thick as you like. Once the remote app is configured, for all you swinger-bowl remotes, it doesn't even need to be connected to t'internet.

        Just make sure you get one with an IR port. (I think only the RedMi 6 didn't have one.)

        1. Anomalous Cowturd
          Thumb Up

          Re: Only Need One

          It's still on the Redmi Note 9 Pro. And a headphone socket.

          Great (cheap) phone.

      2. Will Godfrey Silver badge

        Re: Only Need One

        Smart homes are for stupid people.

  18. CuChulainn Silver badge

    "but remote controls are certainly not as asymmetric as they used to be."

    Mine are, which is part of the problem.

    Sky Q, for example, has a remote unit that is specifically designed to be able to slide off even a perfectly flat surface unless you place it face down. And it is also specifically designed to have buttons that are so sensitive that placing it face down is likely to trigger at least one of them.

    1. X5-332960073452

      And the idiocy of where the numeric buttons are, you can't use it one handed*

      * I know, I know.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

  19. MJI Silver badge

    At one stage I was up to 8

    TV DVD PS3 AMP MD a few PVRs, a Scart switcher

    Now down to 2

    TV & PVR

    Amp - started setting amp off, batteries out

    MD - on top of MD player

    DVD - batteries flat put it somewhere

    PVRs - 1 killed by shit firmware, 1 free PVR killed by server shutting

    Scart Switcher - when you realise that remaining Scart devices are < number of Scarts on TV, courtesy of crap PVRs

    Rule of PVRs


    1. Andy A Bronze badge

      Re: At one stage I was up to 8

      My Humax PVR has been pretty much bricked by a firmware update, delivered over-the-air without my consent.

      They have reorganised the main screen so as to hide the feature most people use (in favour of space to Sell Things). I can cope with that, but my 94-year old aunt had great trouble, and needed more than one visit to provide training.

      The real problem is that the thing is written in Bad Java, so now ANY button press needs a minimum of 15 seconds to be reflected in any change to the display.

      1. MJI Silver badge

        Re: At one stage I was up to 8

        Oh dear does this mean we are now down to no decent PVRs?

        Mine is a quite old HDR Freesat PVR

  20. Franco Silver badge

    I moved house a while back (don't try this during lockdown, it's not fun) and as a result ended up having to buy some new pieces of furniture, which included a new TV unit as in my flat it was in a corner and it's now against a wall. The new unit came with an LED light package which clips on to the glass shelves at either end so you can make them look like one big light bar. So now even my TV unit has a remote! And not only that, the remote for my YouView box turns it on and changes the lighting sequence on it, often at the expense of changing the channel like it was supposed to.

  21. Uncle Slacky

    Missed opportunity...

    ...for this song:

  22. Fading

    Another Harmony owner here.

    Whilst it takes a bit of effort to get the activities right I do like the harmony remote control. Still have the problem of my Echo spot trying to take control of the Marantz amp whenever Alexa feels like it but that can be solved with a few buttons and a stern "alexa go home" command.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Another Harmony owner here.

      A few buttons? What's wrong with a big hammer?

  23. batfink Silver badge

    Just get a Harmony remote

    Harmony remotes - path to domestic bliss.

    The setup is simple. You go into the software, tell it what devices you have, it downloads all the commands from its database onto your remote. No pointing remotes at each other.

    Then you tell it what bits you want on for what activity. For example, if I want to watch a DVD, I want the dvd as a player, the amp for the noise, and the tv as the monitor. Tell it what inputs stuff needs to be on. It downloads that, then you just point it at the stack of gear, press the "DVD" button and all the right things come on, with the sound controlled by the volume buttons, play/FF/etc control the DVD, and so on.

    Mrs Fink swears that this is the single best tech purchase I've ever been allowed to make. I've got it set up with numpty names like "Watch TV" "Listen to Radio" "Watch a DVD" etc. I even have a button which starts up the firestick, tv, and amp, so she can get to her online exercise classes with a single button-press. She loves it, and therefore I am a happy Fink.

    Yes sometimes it's slightly trickier if your remote has some weird button (eg Pansonic's "Opt+" - wtf?) which you need to assign to a button or bit of screen or summat. It's not hard. On the other hand, you can add extra commands to do fine-tuning stuff like getting the DVD player to open the tray as part of the start-up process (still makes me smile every time), set tv stations etc.


    1. £££

    2. Logitech are about to stop making them. I'm hoping they'll just migrate the functionality onto an app instead. Or indeed keep making them.

    1. Warm Braw Silver badge

      Re: Just get a Harmony remote

      I was a mostly-satisfied customer for many years, though it can take some time to set up optimally.

      Now that most stuff works with CEC - at least up to a point - I found that increasingly the TV remote was good enough and doesn't need any programming. Though that may change if TV manufacturers continue to sell off the buttons to brands (not sure I need a dedicated "Rakuten TV" button, tbh) rather than assigning them to useful functions.

      The big puzzle is why remote controls still use infrared. I'd have thought app-based bluetooth remote control was the way forward. Though I suppose the hardware is rather more expensive if you have to provide a standalone control in the box.

      1. bartsmit

        Re: Just get a Harmony remote

        Harmony hub works great with Home Assistant which means that it will keep working when Logitech inevitably retire the cloud service.

  24. TheProf


    My bugbear is companies that use the same codes. Philips codes for example are used on my Marantz CD player and Arcam amplifier. The CD player has an adjustable volume control and the amplifier's remote will activate it. So if I want the music a little louder or quieter using either remote gives me a double strength change.

    For a universal remote I bought one of those new-fangled internet connected IR blasters. For only £10 and a little time and effort I can now turn on my bedside DAB radio from anywhere in the world.

    1. Warm Braw Silver badge

      Re: Duplicates

      Philips codes for example are used on my Marantz CD player

      Philips owned Marantz at one point, but in any case the RC-5 protocol used by Philips only allowed for 32 different categories of controller (TV, DVD, CD, etc). NEC's protocol includes a manufacturer ID to get round this.

      And, incidentally, Arcam is now ultimately owned by Samsung.

      I think the XP people call it "technical debt".

  25. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge


    We keep our living-room remote control handsets in a bowl.

    As I read that sentence, the thought that came to my mind was, Swingers

  26. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

    my gf has a "sound bar" that absoluelty cant be operated without the flimsy remote.

    I'd warn you about the brand but i forget it ...

    1. Headley_Grange Silver badge

      @Prst. V.Jeltz; I can't make my mind up about your comment, so I'm going to go to the pub, have some beer and read it again when I come back to see if there really is a hidden meaning or if it's just me.

  27. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge


    Solution - bin all of that stuff and replace with laptop kept behind the tv

  28. Emir Al Weeq

    Old tech still going

    I've still got a ~20 year-old Phillips Pronto 2000 (the monochrome one) universal remote going strong. The original rechargeable battery lasts almost a week and my children have yet to destroy it.

    I rely on it so much that I can tolerate the only downside: I have to keep my last Windows machine (XP) firewalled to maintain the configs.

    For those that don't know, the Pronto looks like an overweight smartphone whose relatively low-res screen can be configured to show whatever button design you want (it's all greyscale bitmaps). These can be configured by learning from remotes, RC-5 or raw hex or to provide macros based on other buttons.

    1. dajames Silver badge

      Re: Old tech still going

      I've still got a ~20 year-old Phillips Pronto 2000 (the monochrome one) universal remote going strong.

      I bought one of those about 20 years ago ... nice piece of kit. I spent ages programming it in clever ways before I realized that the rather low-contrast LCD display was just hard enough to read in typical living-room light conditions that I really couldn't (this was before I got reading glasses). It still works, as far as I know, but has never been used in anger.

      I suspect the hurdle of persuading SWMBO to use it without her throwing it across the room is one at which I would never have succeeded anyway.

  29. AOD

    Device databases are your friend

    Despite the fact that they've recently announced their withdrawal from the remote control market, the Logitech Harmony units are very useful.

    The touchscreen model 1100 can drive an IR blaster/extender that sits in your equipment cabinet and setup is made vastly easier by the software asking intelligent questions about:

    What devices you have

    What order do they need to be powered on/off in?

    What is used to control the volume/channel etc for a given scenario?

    It then builds "activities" for you based on those and off you go. You can still try and learn commands from the old remotes if you *really* need to but the device database makes that redundant in most cases. Oh and it gets the concept of discrete codes as well.

    I'm on my second (the first was killed by being dropped by a sproglet one too many times) and it's happily driving a dumb panel (Pioneer Kuro) along with various AV receiver, Apple TV, Blu ray, Sky boxes (to name a few).

    It passes the wife test as well.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Device databases are your friend

      Despite the fact that they've recently announced their withdrawal from the remote control market, the Logitech Harmony units are very useful.

      You've got it wrong: It's precisely because they are useful they got retired.

      To be replaced by some ad-spewing, "usage data"-gobbling solution which you'll need to buy again every year or two. Because we can.

  30. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    Ah, the bliss of remotes

    At least, the bliss of not having too many of them.

    I have two sets. Set 1 is TV and DVD player. Set 2 is Orange Box and VHS.

    My CD player and amplifier are too old for remotes. You get off your ass and go press those buttons or turn that knob. Works every time.

  31. grizewald

    I have one remote for everything

    A Logitech Harmony Hub. It integrates with my Home Assistant automation system and can control every device in my living room, either from the single remote control, by voice commands or from my Home Assistant dashboard.

    This is all very nice, but the best part is that the remote control isn't what actually sends the IR commands - it's the hub that does that, meaning that you don't even have to point the remote at the device you want to control! The rechargeable remote always has power as it sits in a charging cradle while not in use and talks to the hub component with Bluetooth. The hub in turn connects to my network with WiFi.

    While I don't trust Logitech as far as I could throw them, and they've already tried once to bork all third party access to the hub, the sheer convenience of the solution really is hard to beat.

    1. Martin

      Re: I have one remote for everything

      And they've discontinued it...ain't life grand?

  32. Timbo Bronze badge

    Bang & Olufsen fixed this years ago...

    I used to work in hi-fi retail and apart from all the UK and Far Eastern mainstream kit, we also sold a LOT of B&O.

    B&O used a 7-pin DIN connection between their receivers, turntables cassette decks and eventually CD players. And the B&O remote controls would:

    a) Allow you to press one button, lets say Preset 1 of the radio, which would power up the receiver and it would start playing at the preset "switch on volume".

    If you then fancied listening to a CD, (and the disc was already inside) just pressing "CD" on the remote would switch inputs and play the CD. If you then wanted to record the CD, (and a blank tape was inside the cassette deck) you just hit the "Record" switch.

    Once you were done, and you wanted to listen to an LP, (and a record was on the deck) pressing "Phono" would start the turntable, stop the CD player and stop the cassette deck. Pressing the "power" switch would then switch EVERYTHING off with just one button !

    And if you had a B&O system compatible with the B&O Master Control Link system, you could do this from another room !!

    Some other manufacturers did something similar, BUT it was only on a simple mini or rack system and was not fully implemented across their entire range of products (whereas the B&O Remote protocols was).

    it does seem rather strange that in the computer world, once PC's became dominant, you could pretty mix and match components from multiple vendors (HDDs, CDROMs, keyboards, mouses, VGA cards, monitors, ISA or EISA soundcards and/or memory cards, etc etc) and yet for audio and AV systems, this is virtually impossible, which has lead to the situation the OP mentions - a plethora of remote control devices. You'd have thought a common standard would have been adopted years ago... :-(

    And there's also the inevitable problem of a remote working, just as it's batteries then drop below the working voltage threshold and you cannot then turn the device off by remote and then you can't find any spare batteries !!

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Bang & Olufsen fixed this years ago...

      Revox did something similar.

  33. Klimt's Beast Would

    It's a whole lot of nuts (but not much fruit)

    It turns out that 'industry standard' HDMI CEC is more of a set of guidelines than a hard set of specifications which is why different brands don't behave well together. F**ers.

    How did I discover this? A half a decade old Samsung TV + a not fancy Sony soundbar.

    Getting the Samsung universal remote to work (TV settings) was only half the struggle but still easier than Marx.

    Once you use a DVD player, unplug and replug a RaspberryPi, use the TV as a second monitor (and general messing about), at some point the TV magically forgets the soundbar and goes skipping off through a field full of dasies.

    This 'Standard says NO' has driven lots of others to go up the wall and give up. But I have a stupid stubborn streak and didn't, spending quite a long time going through all the combinations & reading internet posts to find a solution.

    If you unplug the TV & soundbar power cables, wait ten minutes or so and plug it all back in and on it may work again; If not, unplug TV & soundbar power and the HDMI-ARC cables. Wait, plug in the TV power and turn it on. Connect the soundbar's HDMI-ARC cable to the TV's ARC socket. Only then plug in the soundbar power and turn it on. Go to soundbar settings on the Sony remote and make sure it is HDMI /CTRL is set to on and also /TVSTB. Exit.

    Go to Samsung TV settings and find 'universal remote setup' and set up 'sound theatre' to go through the IR on/off tests until it works, et voila! Even then I still need the Sony remote to control sound functions.*

    The first time I worked this out, I did not write it down. Cue a few months later and the same situation with even more swearing and learning the same thing again but writing it down. AAAARRRRRRGGGHHHH!

    The kicker? The 75% won't touch the remotes. She tells me what she wants. I'm the remote control.

    * There is one gremlin as every now and then the TV forgets which HDMI channel it's on and the 'source' button on the TVSTB remote doesn't work so you have to use the Samsung remote. Once that's done everything's find and dandy again.

  34. Irony Deficient Silver badge

    I draw a line at labelling them, though.

    The picture of your remote controls in a bowl shows that they’re already labelled by manufacturer — there appears to be no more than one remote control per manufacturer.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

  35. Jean Le PHARMACIEN

    Old mobile phone...

    We use an retired mobile phone...

    Yatse andoid app controls Kodi on "TV" (= thin client running LibreELEC to old Eizo monitor).

    No BluRay as all DVD stuff is ripped onto our TVHeadend server in the basement (as is music)

    Live TV via TVH to the Kodi player.

    Yatse allows creating "custom commands" so we have one to "turn off" "TV" (DPMS command)

    Mobile also connects to landline phone via wifi+VoiceBridge app+device (simplified PSTN to ethernet adapter)

    My wife's not that IT literate but copes with it all admirably (even worked out that Yatse app controls similar system in bedroom so can start that up remotely from living room before heading upstairs)

  36. Gomez Adams

    A decent universal remote is the one true way

    Download the config from the internet for the devices you have and away you go.

    I was so pleased with my Harmony that I got a second one as back up. :)

  37. Lucy in the Sky (with Diamonds)

    Wireless Mouse is the way forward...

    Back in the ‘80s I used remote controls to start and stop VHS videos from bed, in the ‘90s there was satellite TV that was uncontrollable without a remote, but about 20 years ago computer video and audio files came out for everything and since then I use a mouse as a remote control*.

    It has two buttons, but I only ever need one to play music or video. The ultimate universal control. In the main living areas of the house there is a PC with six replicated monitors, then a PC in every bedroom with its own display, all running media from a central storage server.

    The remotes are purely used for turning the power on or off on the displays, mainly because there are so many of them, and the power buttons are all over the place. So yes, the best universal remote is a wireless mouse.

    *Twice a year I use a remote to set daylight saving time changes on the VHS to DVD burners…

  38. Jon 37


    HDMI CEC is the way to go. Once set up, you only need your TV remote, you can take the batteries out of the other remotes and put them in a drawer out of the way.

    Notes:. HDMI CEC is less likely to work on older products, especially if you are mixing manufacturers.

    1. Gomez Adams

      Re: HDMI CEC

      CEC tends to cause more problems than it solves. I use a CEC killer HDMI adapter for all devices except my Chromecast dongle.

    2. batfink Silver badge

      Re: HDMI CEC

      Even on fairly new devices, CEC is hit-and-miss. I currently have an LG TV and a Sony HT amp, both pretty new, and they don't play well together at all. Clearly they have different ideas about what CEC should look like.

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    As a technology tart

    Why hasnt Alistair followed my example?

    My 'home cloud' re-purposes, upcycles or gererally abuses an old XP PC, aquired for nothing and now featuring many terabytes of storagem in twin disk backup form running Linux.

    On it is a ripped copy of every CD I own, and every video I own as well as edited adless off-air recordings. And a library of e-books

    Tvheadend and a DVB dongle make it capable of recording and watching live TV and off air radio

    Passthrough and some security mean its globally accessible on the Internet.

    A custom built media interface makes any computer or smart phone a client for it, while smart TVS can access its content via miniDLNA.Or if the browser can cope the web server.

    The audio hifi has only one remote - a smart phone running a web browser into a Raspberry Pi that will access the same server and play muisc or listen to internet radio.

    I am not going to bother with a TV in the bedroom - and old TV repurposed as an HMDMI screen to some form of browsery computer...copled to some refurbished speakers..and a studo quality amplifier..controlled by an air mouse...once I get those javascript tone controls coded up.

    Come on guys, we are supposed to be computer professionals

  40. Stork Silver badge

    This is why I think of reviving my B&O stereo

    One, very distinct, remote for the music side of things. Or you go and make grease marks on the nice shiny surface as you have to put in the CD anyway.

    Beocenter 9300, takes up a lot of space.

  41. Muscleguy Silver badge

    Hoots mon

    For Scottish political reasons (not wishing to pay to be lied to) I have not had a TV for over 2 years now. Ever since I packed up the one I bought the Mrs so should could game properly into the car and waved her off (relief for both of us).

    I don’t miss it. I know have a Netflix subscription but hardly have time to watch it. Real life is more interesting.

    I might get a TV post Independence but one reason I don’t miss it is even with all you can eat cable TV I would be unable to find anything to watch I hadn’t seen too many times before (cursed with an excellent memory). This memory gives me pause.

    Besides the TV cabinet now hosts fish tanks instead. Nowhere to put a telly.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Hoots mon

      I might get a TV post Independence

      So you can be lied to by different people?

  42. Allan George Dyer Silver badge

    Remote Overload

    My household has reached remote overload, defined as the point at which any new remote control introduced has one or more code clashes with existing remotes. For example, pressing "Volume +" on the TV remote changes to input 4 of the HDMI switch. This is convenient, because some unidentified button changes to input 1 of the HDMI switch when the TV is off, but you can switch back without scrambling for the other remote.

    As an additional complication, some of the devices appear to be suffering frequency drift, so the mappings may be different tomorrow.

  43. Unicornpiss

    One reason I cling to my ancient Samsung phone.. the IR emitter. I have a few remote apps and they work marvelously for controlling all the electronics in my home when I've misplaced or just can't be bothered to find the remote. Also good for switching channels/muting/turning on captions on TVs at bars, etc. And handy for my bedroom aircon. The remote for that died a couple of years ago.

    Maybe not a killer app as far as phones go, but a very useful one for me. Enough that I'm looking to replace my phone with one from TCL, which is one of the few remaining phones with this capability.

  44. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Voice controlled remote control

    When I was 7 years old this was my start in the technical world because when the TV stopped working I had to fix it - it was easy, just turn it on, pull the back cover off and replace the cold valve. Service and maintenance was so much easier those days as well as everyone had voice controlled remote controls, "Kiddy, turn the top knob over to the next number"

  45. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

    Which one ...

    ... was the remote that switched the traffic lights green?

    1. CuChulainn Silver badge

      Re: Which one ...

      You jest, but some traffic lights did once have such a feature (more or less).

      When I was younger, one of the grey roadside boxes near a set of traffic lights had one of those big rubber pushbuttons on the side, and it triggered the lights when you pushed it. Obviously, we never did every time we went past it. No sirree, bob.

      I think it was an engineer's test button, but they eventually removed it. I don't know why.

      I'll grant you that as remotes go, it was on the large side - about 6 feet high - and being fixed to a concrete plinth made it somewhat non-portable. But it was still a remote control for the traffic lights.

  46. Adrian 4 Silver badge


    You can be sure that if two manufacturers used the same remote control, it would mean they'd both respond to the wrong buttons on the other's remote.

  47. Bogbody

    The joys of Bluetooth as well

    Never mind your puny IR remotes -- I raise you Bluetooth.

    I have recently invested in a new Bluetooth intercom for use on my motorbike * .

    While setting it up and testing various pairing options (phone, gps and a couple of other bits) a voice was heard from downstairs, SWMBO called "have you switched the telly on" (in very stern Matron tones - aka "you are in trouble" ..... oh ..... )

    Turns out that our new Humax 4K STB has always discoverable BT set as un-changable default. **

    So when ever I tried to pair the GPS it tries to connect to the Humax turning it and the tv on.

    I even managed to change channels. I was impressed SWMBO less so during one of her favourite progs :-)

    * bike to bike comms is incredibly useful especialy on long trips.

    ** this Humax STB has a bluetooth capable remote control to handle voice commands.

    1. Martin

      Re: The joys of Bluetooth as well

      Look, far be it from me to criticise the way you watch TV, but on a motorbike? Really?

  48. gerdesj Silver badge

    "Try another one," suggests Mme D, gesturing towards the bowl.

    I hope you have a safe word established before you do that sort of thing.

  49. Jon_x

    I have no TV in my living-room = just a projector linked to a tower. And tower linked to a sound system. Bliss.......

  50. Andy A Bronze badge

    We could have had a solution years ago.

    In Ye Olden Days, laptops came with an infrared port, which unfortunately was restricted to slow file transfers between similarly equipped devices.

    If someone had produced a bit of software which emulated these multiple remotes, virtually all of us would have been happy to use our laptops to control all this stuff, and would have complained bitterly when the IR stuff disappeared from the newer models.

    It could have been done. At one time I was issued with a company handheld (Windows Mobile!) with such software included. On entering the pub I could turn the TV sound down and crank the air filter up to max.

    Unfortunately the implementation of the call logging software was dire. Four passwords needed before you could access a ticket - Unlock device, Connect over GPRS, Connect VPN, Login to call logging system (the screen saver chopped your connection whenever it kicked in).

    The GPRS modem gave my personal laptop mobile connectivity for some months before someone noticed how much it was costing.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: We could have had a solution years ago.

      We had, before the days of laptops. Quite a few personal organisers had IR built-in and could be used (by means of some software) as remotes. Of course, that was too useful so companies started changing their IR codes for more complex ones..

  51. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This is also the crime inflicted on the elderly

    When my father aged beyond the point where he could be cared for at home he had to go into a home.

    When I discovered what they had done to the TV remote I was wondering if it was him who had lost his sanity of the unbelievable turd of an idiot who came up with this UI. What you want as remote for people with diminishing cognitive functions is buttons that directly do something, not a maze they have to navigate to get to the TV option which then auto-resets itself after a timeout so they have to navigate that maze again. Honestly, whichever vile f*ckwit invented that ought to receive percussive education with a 2 by 4 after daily waterboarding.

    That said, when he was still at home I already discovered that it was impossible to buy a TV without this built-in crap that turns into a maze for the uninitiated. All these people want is programs on channel 1 to whatever, not buttons with "source" and "web" and "apps" and God knows what other BS, but I dare you to find a large screen TV (less need for glasses to read subtitles) without all this or even with a lock or edit function to avoid making pressing the wrong button into confusion until someone is around to extricate them from that shite.

    I hope that the people who ignore the need of an ever larger part of the aging population will soon find themselves in a home. I would like to personally design their "experience" to the point where their ability to find what they need will be but a distant dream - and changes every day anew.

  52. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I loved my Sony Clie for this

    I had a Sony NX70 Clie as PDA before the days of smartphones, and one of its functions was pretending to be an IR remote.

    As I had a child which was not very healthy (thankfully that improved over time), I spent considerable times in A&E waiting rooms, and the ability to change the channel was absolutely golden. Frankly, that was for me the ideal remote. No need for special gadgetry, almost a bit primitive but it worked, and it worked well.

  53. Potemkine! Silver badge

    Do you remember the time when we were actually walking to activate a device?

    What a bunch of lazy bastards have we become...

  54. Blackjack Silver badge

    Let's see, the Wiimote, the TV remote, the DVD player remote and 3 remotes of broken things that I have keep just in case.

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