Sunday 12 December 2010

Supporting the Harmony 300 on Linux

Today, I bought a Logitech Harmony 300 universal remote. At about 60$ CAD, it's really a bargain, and despite it's limited feature set compared to other Harmony remotes (I also have the Harmony 670, which has selectable "tasks"), it fits the use I want to make of it.

I had to use Windows. There is just no way this could be done under Linux, due to a variety of factors including lack of support in my favorite project, Concordance, and Logitech's choice to use a SilverLight application to handle configuration and authentication.

I'm pretty sad of the choices made by Logitech on this. Where all they had been doing to support a Linux community around their devices was to keep an old website working (and to this day, it's still working and fine for a large majority of the Harmony devices, usable with Concordance to configure remotes such as the 525, the 700, the 900, etc.), they chose to support this model with the new website which doesn't appear to expose the same level of control, and definitely complicates use in Linux. I don't think keeping the same old methods would have really meant such an investment to them, and I doubt exposing the possibility of downloading the same old EzHex files for programming would have been a cause for concern for intellectual property rights re. other manufacturers and systems designs.

Lack of understanding and basic support of Linux users by large corporations such as Logitech remains, I think, one of the key reasons why Linux has yet to reach and "stick" to a majority of everyday users. I believe that omitting to give alternative options to users who choose to work with a different operating system is not only causing harm to the Linux community, but also causing Logitech (just as an example, other companies are in the same boat) to lose potential customers. After all, wouldn't it be normal for the standard target users for home automation and function aggregation devices to be pretty close to the same group of "early adopters" as currently targetted by the Linux ecosystem?

Please, Logitech, get your act together. I've contacted you on this subject again. I'm sure others have as well. I think we understand you might not want to bother, but at least give us enough information so that we could still send you money through buying your hardware, but do our own support if you don't want to take care of it. The Concordance community will be happy, and I'm certain other groups of users of your hardware will, too. I doubt this always means going as far as sharing system schematics, full hardware specs or whatnot. It just means letting us know what we need to know to use the devices to their full potential.

Logitech and others currently have a great opportunity in doing a stellar job at fostering communities of users based around their products, which would not only serve as to possibly have more users, but also as a great example on how a company can succeed by leveraging not just the buying power of users, but also their willingness to support each other directly. Am I dreaming or at the very least, this could me relatively fewer expenses on support, with very little effort in sharing some information?

As for current solutions to accessing the website, Moonlight could have been a possibility, but under Ubuntu Natty I didn't even have that choice. I think the website bailed out just because I run Firefox 4.