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$20 Universal Remote?
By SGHT Staff
February 4, 2002 — Too many home theater enthusiasts have an arsenal of remote controls. The arsenal—not the remotes themselves—can be the cause of everything from minor annoyances to full-scale domestic battles.

Is there a solution? You bet. There are several, in fact: The unified, fully integrated system with touchscreen controller is one, as is a programmable universal remote. Some hackers are fond of modifying the Palm Pilot and other handheld personal digital assistants—there are numerous Websites devoted to just such pursuits. To varying degrees, all of these solutions are time- and cost-intensive.

One of the cleverest solutions costs only twenty dollars. It's CardonWare's UltraMote universal remote software for iPAQ Pocket PCs. The software, which made its debut at the recent Consumer Electronics Show, lets you program your iPAQ (through its IR port) with all the functions of your audio and video remote controls. You can design the "look and feel" of the control applications, including adding your own symbols, or you can use one of several provided templates. The iPAQ can be programmed directly without being yoked to a desktop PC. CardonWare claims that UltraMote supports "most brands of televisions, VCRs, DVDs, stereo receivers, and home automation systems."

You can also set up multiple "screens" for different users; up to 10 device screens can be programmed for each of up to 10 different locations and/or users, and each controlled device can have two screens if desired. "UltraMote uses iPAQ's hardware buttons for dedicated functions, allowing easy navigation through device screens and quick access to commonly used commands, such as "mute" and volume control, regardless of which device screen is displayed," states the company's new product press release.

"Many households today have a confusing and redundant array of look-alike remote controls," said CardonWare founder and president Jim Kearns. "UltraMote ends remote clutter by combining the functions of these remotes onto a single device with rich graphics and a high level of programmability. And users get even more utility from their Pocket PCs."

The first edition of UltraMote software supports the H3600, H3700, and H3800 series of Compaq's popular iPAQ Pocket PCs. There are more than one million iPAQs in use, according to CardonWare—which explains why UltraMote was designed for them first. In the coming months, it will be made available for other Pocket PCs using the Intel StrongArm processor. CardonWare offers a free 14-day trial of the software to insure compatibility with your A/V equipment. UltraMote is available at the CardonWare Website.

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