Posted by Daniel Tonks on July 23, 2000 at 1:00 AM
What good is a universal remote that isnít?
One of the best moves that Philips ever made was to create a single standard CCF file format which both Pronto and RC5000 users could share. Files saved by a Pronto user in Mongolia can be opened by an RC5000 owner in Iceland. Indeed, the Prontoís IR hex code format has practically been established as a universal standard. So, what happens when competitiveness between two sister companies forces the creation of exclusive features? Compatibility issues, as we are now seeing.
With the release of the new RC5000 Setup package, a new problem is presented which has been touched on in the past. As you may know, the Philips Pronto has its own set of proprietary features Ė namely timers and custom beeps. When the first ProntoEdit version to support those features was released, files created in it could not be loaded by the then-current RC5000 Setup package. This posed a problem for RC5000 users, but fortunately ProntoEdit was smart enough to natively support the RC5000. The tables have now been turned, but the solution isnít so easy. If a file incorporating any of the new features is saved in RC5000 Setup v2.0, it cannot be loaded by ProntoEdit v1.05. But itís unlikely that Pronto users would want to switch to RC5000 Setup, since their remotes donít support the new set of features.
I seriously doubt that Philips will be sitting on their laurels while Marantz has their own special set of features. Although Philips already have their own exclusives, I fully expect that in the coming months the announcement for a new 2mb Pronto will go hand-in-hand with new proprietary features. Which means at that point the Prontoís files wonít be readable by the RC5000 Setup version released today.
A possible solution.
In the past, compatibility has been maintained by merely dropping out unsupported features when a CCF file is loaded. But the recurring problem is that the software canít seem to drop features it knows nothing about Ė thus users get a "non-valid CCF" error message. What I would suggest is a standard table at the beginning of a CCF which indexes all of the features included in that particular file. The software should be rewritten so that it is smart enough to recognize unsupported features and merely drop out all references to them automatically. This would be similar to web browsers, which ignore any HTML codes they donít understand.
With that said, I personally donít see the point in having unique features for one remote and not the other. As more advanced color versions are released and the exclusive feature list grows, I fear that the whole CCF format may become split into several rogue variants Ė which wouldnít benefit anyone. What good is a universal file format that isnít universal? The light at the end of this speculative tunnel is that all Pronto and RC5000 variants are currently being developed by a single team. Weíll have to trust that they too feel that the CCF format is an important asset and that compatibility between remotes should be maintained at all costs.
Only time will tell.
- Daniel Tonks (Remote Central)
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