Sunday, November 14, 2010

Control4 stinks

Back when my last company sold I was crazy busy flying all over the world and my wife decided to remodel the family room. I knew I wanted a better TV/sound setup so I upgraded from a 32" TV to a 55" but to get the speakers installed and the whole thing cabled with the components hidden I went with the recommendation of her interior decorator to use a local company, Sounds Good Corporation. They did a first class installation job but they made a critical mistake. They recommended a Control4 Home Automation system to control everything. It could handle the hidden components via RF and remote IR as well as handle MP3s etc. The system worked and worked well for a few years but it had one fatal flaw -- you cant manage it yourself.

Recently I finally broke down and bought an AppleTV (more on that an a different post) but when I went to connect it to the system I couldn't since end users are not allowed/able to change settings on it. I called Sounds Good and they said I need an annual contract ($150) and that covers one service call and each service call after that is $50. Thats nuts. My request was to change the input on the TV from input 5 to input 7 and they wanted $150. Mysteriously, right after I got their pricing on this and told them there was no way I was going to pay them $150/year, my system stopped working completely. Thats odd given the 2 years it worked fine up to that point. The timing is suspicious. Either way I was done with them.

Putting something in your home you can't update/manage yourself is a mistake for most people, and especially bad for me. Shame on me for letting it happen but my eyes were not on the ball at that point in my life. Sounds Good also made a terrible customer service mistake for wanting to charge for minor updates (that they can do remotely) as i'll never work with them again. They picked a product not necessarily because it was the best but because it guaranteed revenue in the future. A year ago I wanted an update for the system and they wanted $250 for a software update to it just so the software knew what an iPod was (that price excluded the dock). Thats just nuts.

So I did some research and found a Logitech Harmony 900 with the PS3 adapter that looked like it would do the job:

I ordered it from Amazon and it arrived for last weekend. It took me 3 hours to rip the garbage Control4 system out of my setup and install the remote and get it working with everything and tie wrap up all the cables nice and clean again. Since my devices are inside a cabinet and behind the TV and generally in odd places I got the Logitech Precision IR cables to go with it. Logitech's documentation generally stinks for figuring out how to control multiple devices with RF and how to reach them. The precision IR cables weren't even mentioned anywhere, I heard about them on the forums.

Anyway, now everything is hidden and I can control all the devices I controlled before plus my new AppleTV. The PS3 control is actually better since now I can control power too which I couldn't before. The Wii is the only unmanageable device but since its not my DVD player or multimedia player its not a big deal.

Good riddance to Control4. I'd never recommend that product and you should think twice about working with a company that recommends it.

Fall and leaves

Wow, my last post was August. Where did the time go?

Anyway, yet another weekend of leaves. I have my house and several barns. The one barn is 200' long, and the gutters are 30' up. Needless to say cleaning them is a pain. My mother-in-law gave me one of these last year and I finally had a chance to try it:

I have to admit, I didnt expect much out of it and mileage does vary, but it works. It saved me a ton of ladder moving today and I got the house and one barn done, one left to go (the big one).

I wouldnt advise running it when the horses are nearby though -- it does make a racket.

The big thing to remember is to go slowly and back up and go forward for the tough stuff. Lots of big oak trees near us so there's a ton of stuff in the gutters. It held up and ran for several hours and I ran out of time before it did.

If you have a lot of gutters or are just a gadget freak, give it a shot.