Originally created 09/08/02

Nevo might mean never needing useless universal remotes

Every once in awhile I receive products that amaze me, basically because they're beyond my ability to comprehend what makes them tick.

For example, the folks at Universal Electronics recently sent me a remote that is designed to use the infra-red capabilities of a handheld computer to control just about everything in your house.

Known as Nevo ($650 installed on an HP iPaq H3900), the product is designed to run on any Pocket PC running Windows CE 3.0 or better, but at the moment only comes preinstalled on the iPaq. Unfortunately what they failed to tell me was that the preproduction version they sent me was installed on an older iPaq, which really wasn't designed to handle the software.

Being a true geek, I tossed aside the instructions (bad move!) and proceeded to play with it, soon becoming a master at turning things on and off, including a TV set that usually balks at the idea of working with a universal remote control. I was in heaven!

I was amazed at how easy it was to program the software to operate my home theater system, televisions and satellite receiver. Most of the manufacturers' specifications were built into the software, so all I had to do was select what types of products I was using, find the manufacturers and select configurations that would work with my devices.

But then it happened. The battery in the iPaq needed to be recharged. This of course is a simple process, but in the world of geek toys it can often lead to an Excedrin headache.

Nevo was gone! Vanished! Not there!

The gurus in technical support at Universal tried to walk me through the process of restoring Nevo, but to no avail. Life as I knew it was over! The software had to be reinstalled, but this time they threw in a handy little utility that would restore Nevo if the problem should reoccur.

This, I'm told, won't be a problem when units - using the iPaq H3900 - hit store shelves. Apparently the problem was due to an incompatibility between the older iPaq and the chip embedded in the unit that runs Nevo.

In view of this, would I recommend it? Definitely, as long as the bugs are exterminated in the "real" units. The device, when coupled with the iPaq, offers features found on remotes costing $1,000 or more, plus you get one of the top selling Pocket PCs. Among Nevo's features are:

- The ability to control an unlimited number of home entertainments and home automation devices - including X-10 switches.

- An intuitive touchscreen GUI.

- Support for multiple users and multiple rooms using "Wheel" based navigation.

- Users can set up activity based macros for one-touch access in switching from one activity to another.

- A quick device setup wizard for one-click access to channels.

- Web support through www.mynevo.com, allowing users to upgrade software, and download new device codes.

(Mike Berman can be contacted at mberman(at)jocgeek.com)