Monday, November 7, 2011

SURC Seems Remotely Familiar

Like most, I have an extensive collection of remote controls scattered about the house associated with various electronic devices, some of which are no longer in service. My wife often complains that you need three remotes just to watch television in the family room. We have an EPSON 6100 home theater projector, Denon media center and FIOS cable box, each with its own special remote. Of course, there is also a remote for the DVD unit and another for the CD player.

The large remote that came with our cable box is capable of being programmed to control some of these other devices. I have, more than once, attempted to look up the right range of codes in the manual which are based on manufacturer and device type. Once you have your candidates, you punch up the necessary sequence of buttons so the remote will "learn" and begin to control that device. The problem is the remote has a limited number of physical buttons and these do not always correspond directly to the original remote controls. Moreover, the programming is complicated and does not always work. The booklet with codes is static and will go out of date as you acquire newer devices, each with their own remote.

Wouldn't it be nice if there was a smart device that already knew how to control all these various  electronic appliances? What if your iPhone could magically morph into a universal remote that configured virtually instantly and could display all the controls from the different remotes on one screen.

Well, much to my surprise, there is an app for that. I discovered SURC from Mashed Pixel Inc. SURC is a special case for an iPhone. When coupled with their app, it enables the iPhone to control all the components of your home entertainment system.

As soon as it arrived I slipped my iPhone 4s into the SURC case and downloaded the app from the Apple App Store. I probably should have read the instructions or watched the demonstration video but part of my personal evaluation of any product is always how easy it is to get going.

In this case, it turned out to be very simple to get started. You build the remote control screen by first defining the room or location in the house. In my case, it was the Family Room. Then, you add devices, one by one, using a drop down menu. The library is extensive and complete. All of my devices were easily located and added as separate tabs at the top. All of the approporate buttons for each device appear and work!

But it gets better. You can now construct a super remote by selecting buttons from each of the individual remotes and arranging them on the Room Remote tab. You can choose the most frequently used functions and place them together at the top while other buttons can be positioned lower down on the page.

Now we can turn on the cable box, power up and raise the volume on the media center and fire up the projector all from one simple screen on the iPhone. Other controls, should we need them, are also available.

SURC fits any iPhone including my brand new iPhone 4s. As an extra added bonus, when in the SURC case, your iPhone can be charged using any micro usb cable.

Captain Joe

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