Older blog entries for kgb (starting at number 374)

How To Program a Philips Pronto Using USB on Mac OS X

This article explains how I got my Philips Pronto Universal Remote editing working under Mac OSX using a USB-to-RS232 Adapter.

Philips Pronto Remote Control

How To Program a Philips Pronto Using USB on Mac OS X   pronto photoNo universal remotes made today are as versatile as the original Philips Pronto line. My two TS-1000’s are still going strong, although they are wearing out. These remotes have been discontinued for a few years now, and earlier this year Philips Home Entertainment division was sold off so there’s little hope they’ll make a come back. We’re still waiting for someone to produce a reliable touch-screen remote with programable button designs and IR commands. The closest match on the consumer market today I can find is the L5 Remote, which adds an IR dongle to an iPad or iPhone, however its macro ability is limited and it freezes frequently if you press buttons too quickly (due to a hardware limitation of the dongle and iOS interface). I have the L5 and I’ll post an article when I get it working satisfactorily.

Connecting a Philips Pronto to a computer requires rs-232 serial communications, using a special cable that converts the minimal 4 pins of a 9-pin connector to a male 4 “ring” 1/4″ phone plug. This cable comes with the Pronto, so if you don’t have one you’ll either need to make one or find one on the Internet.

USB to RS232 Adapters

RS-232 and USB are both serial interfaces using different hardware technologies and speeds. Conversion between the two requires more electronics than wiring for different pinouts. There are several “rs232 to usb” adapters on the market, ranging between $15 and $30. They are based on either the Prolific PL-2303 chipset, FTDI chipset, or custom chipsets, and the reality is that most of these work better on Windows and Linux than on the Mac. The reasons for this are that the Linux kernel has always had good drivers for the popular serial technologies, and manufacturers usually focus on writing Windows drivers, so the Macs are a bit of a half-hearted effort. It also doesn’t help the situation that the switch from Snow Leopard to Lion or Mountain Lion was also a major change from 32-bit drivers to 64-bit.

I own all three of the most popular USB rs232 adapters:

For Linux the PL2303 Chipset is probably the best choice. For Windows all three are suppose to work but your milage will vary depending on the OS version and the device you are connecting. However for the Mac OS X, despite the fact the PL2303 chipset has an OpenSource driver for the Mac to play with, the only one I recommend and could get working with the Pronto Remote was the Keyspan USA-19HS: