7. Advanced Options
Programming stage number seven is a snap compared to the rest: just pick the backlight’s auto-off time, which can range from 0 to 90 seconds in 10 second increments. What could be quicker?
Well, having all of the remote’s setup options available in the software would be a plus. The other screen and backlight options described earlier are completely omitted from the software and accordingly not saved with a configuration file. This includes beep tones, backlight brightness and the main LCD timeout, which must always be accessed directly on the remote by holding the [Watch] and [Enter] keys for a few seconds. The same menu is also used to display the remote’s firmware and software versions, free memory, battery power level and low battery warning threshold.
A second, different setup menu can found by pressing [Listen] and [Enter] – this is the stand-alone editing feature, which is far from capable of programming an entire remote from scratch, and is instead provided as a sort of emergency on-the-spot quick-fix type affair. Four options are provided: “Text”, “Learn”, “Erase” and “Factory”.
Editing text is done the same way as it was on the MX-500 – select the button to change, use the arrow keys to pick a character, and then enter characters using the numerical keypad in a fashion similar to text entry on a cell phone. The learning option can be used to fix a bad command on-site, or use erase to delete learned commands on a button or for an entire device. Finally, the factory default option will completely wipe out the remote’s programming as well as all user-configured options.
Located under the software’s Communications menu is a “Remote Control Setup” option which can be used to disable any stand-alone editing on the remote, although the settings menu will still be available.
The MX-900 connects to a computer as an industry standard “USB Human Interface Device” and does not require any dedicated system driver. It also (thankfully) doesn’t piggyback onto the Microsoft ActiveSync system as the MX-950 and MX-3000 did – doing so is the primary reason why those two remotes still do not work properly under Windows Vista (although as of the time of this writing compatibility is still promised).
Befitting the USB interface, file transfers to and from the remote are very fast and complete in just a few seconds – although considering that there are no graphics or sounds to pad the file size this should not be a surprise. Still, it’s a breath of fresh air compared to the multi-minute downloads required by other serial-based MX remotes, and to top it off there’s no fighting with USB-to-serial adaptors or dealing with those ActiveSync quirks.
8. Control what you can’t see.
The MX-900 can be paired up with a wide range of optional RF basestations, otherwise known as wireless extenders. These essentially take RF signals sent from the remote control and rebroadcast them as infrared through wired emitters. Although the MX-900 cannot be used to directly operate any RF-only equipment such as some satellite receivers and audio systems, if any infrared-based equipment is stored behind wooden doors, off to the side, or even in a different room, then one of these units will be a necessary expense for complete and convenient control.