Universal Remote and More
I've owned a Marantz RC5000i universal remote for about four years now. I originally purchased it to control my PHAST distributed audio system. However, I rarely used the remote in this way, since we have PHAST control panels in most of the rooms in the house. I've been meaning to use the remote in a different capacity, but never really found the time to reprogram it. I'm happy to say that I've successfully reprogrammed it to control some of the components I repurposed from my home theater upgrades.
Since I upgraded my receiver, I moved the old Sony ES receiver into my computer room, which also doubles as a TV and console gaming room. We already had a nice Broyhill armoire in the room, so I placed the receiver, DVD, cable box and (ancient) hi-fi VCR in the cabinet below the TV. I used a Xantech IR blink emitter/receiver set to control the components without having to open up the cabinet doors, giving it a very clean appearance. I also picked up a set of Polk Audio home theater speakers and subwoofer at Fry's, completing the setup. Because I didn't want to have 5 remotes laying around at all times, I decided to use the RC5000i to control all of the components.
The RC5000i has a reputation for being cumbersome to program and complex to use. Admittedly, the capabilities of the remote can be overwhelming. But, I found that reading through the manual thoroughly (imagine that!) helped a great deal, and explained the basics of programming the device quite well. There are essentially two steps to programming the remote: 1.) teaching the remote the IR codes for all of your devices and 2.) using the RCEdit software to customize the interface. Once I came to that realization, it was a snap to get all my devices programmed and set up to my liking. Even my wife, who is absolutely terrified of remotes, was able to use the remote without any instruction.
While I have the basic functionality complete, I'd like refine the interface further. There are some great ideas over at Remote Central, with templates, graphics and macros available for anyone to download. Check it out if you're interested.