The MX-950 does not require a dedicated driver for its USB connection; instead the Windows CE-based remote piggybacks onto the Microsoft ActiveSync system. So, if you have a Microsoft-based PDA you're already set to go, otherwise the latest version of ActiveSync will need to be installed. After an initial connection to your PC, ActiveSync has you register a guest account for the remote (subsequent connections should not require this step).
The MX-950 does not make use of ActiveSync's automated synchronization routine, so after connecting you'll need to manually load MX-950 Editor and transfer your desired configuration. As befitting USB, transfers are exceptionally fast and only take a few seconds - such a breath of fresh air compared to the plodding, multi-minute downloads required by the older serial-based MX remotes. And no fighting with USB-to-serial adaptors! Uploading from the remote is also possible, and completes nearly as quickly.
And now for the pièce de résistance - everyone's favorite fluffy blanket! I began testing the Aurora with great expectations, knowing how strong Universal Remote's earlier products have scored. At the first level, one layer of polyester obstruction, the MX-950's powerful dual emitters blasted through without so much as a hiccup. Level two also proved little challenge, with almost full off-angle operation still possible.
Coming up to level three, the MX-950 again delivered stellar control with surprising off-angle ability. Reaching level four... and everything ground to a complete halt. Despite its excellent performance at level three, I was unable to get even the barest smidgeon of a command through four layers, leaving the MX-950 with a finally tally of 3.0. Since the earlier MX-500 and MX-700 models each scored 4.5, this was an unexpected result.
Still, during normal operation the MX-950 provided true non-directional control. Indeed, even with the remote aimed out a door it would still reliably operate devices 180 degrees away. That, combined with the above-average off-angle performance at level 3, leads me to conclude that the MX-950's emitters have been optimized for wider dispersion, rather than blinding strength. So, although the final tally tops off at a moderate 3.0, it's a 3.0 with an asterisk!
Operation & theory...
As the MX-950 features an architecture as flexible as most touchscreens, and with 16 megabytes of memory there are numerous ways to program it. I prefer a more device-based system, but others may want to go with an activity-oriented arrangement, something that would meld well with the remote's [Listen] and [Watch] theme.
Since activities are usually device-independent, one method of dealing with the storage of commands is by having the first page of each main menu display activity names, such as "Play Movie" or "Watch TV", and then creating additional hidden pages for the devices and their functions. Then, under each new activity, point all needed buttons to those hidden devices. Record a few macros with discrete codes or variables and presto - a true activity-based remote that offers you, the programmer, full control but keeps everything else straightforward for the end user.
Either way, device or activity, MX-950 Editor's electronic programming guide will help steer you in the right direction (the only paper documentation included is a booklet on how to operate the completed remote, not how to program it).