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
No 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:
- Plugable USB to RS-232 DB9 Serial Adapter (Prolific PL2303 Chipset, has an OpenSource Mac driver)
- Belkin USB SERIAL PORT ADAPTER F5U409 (MCT/Philips P87C52X2BA Chipset)
- Keyspan by Tripp Lite USA-19HS Hi-Speed USB Serial Adapter (Custom TI Chipset)
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:
The Keyspan USA-19HS adapter is also hackable and programable, although I did not need to do anything special like that to get it working.
ProntoEdit and Tonto
ProntoEdit is the computer application provided by Philips that allows you to download, edit, and upload the detailed configurations for the Pronto Remote. There are versions called “ProntoEdit” and “ProntoEdit Professional”, which are tied to specific devices and which version of the software you need will depend on the remote you have. ProntoEdit only runs on Windows (and likely only older version of Windows). The only way to use this software on a Mac or Linux is in a Virtual Machine and is beyond the scope of this article. If you are looking for this software it’s getting hard to find because Philips closed down the web site, so your best course is to start HERE. The manual for using this software (and it applies to Tonto as well) can be found HERE.
This article is going to use Tonto as the editor.
Tonto is an OpenSource project to replace ProntoEdit and the software works enough like ProntoEdit that if you are familiar with one you can use the other. The Tonto project itself is no longer active and replaced on SourceForge by another project with the same name, but the software can be found HERE. The important thing to know here is that this application only works in “32-bit” mode.
Snow Leopard, Lion, and Mountain Lion. Although the Keyspan USB adapter will work on all MAC OS X releases, because it’s a 32-bit only application I have not been able to get the Tonto software working on Lion or Mountain Lion. It’s working only on Snow Leopard. It’s a Java application, so you might get it working on the later OS releases if you limit your system to “Java J2SE 5.0 32-bit”, or just running Snow Leopard in a VM, but I did not spend a lot of time trying those out. For the purposes of this article I’m going to focus directly on Snow Leopard.
Steps For Getting Tonto Working With Philips Pronto On Mac Snow Leopard
This section describes the steps I took to get the Keyspan USB Serial adapter, Mac OSX Snow Leopard, and the Philips Pronto Remote all working together.
- REMOVE CONFLICTING DRIVERS
If you’ve ever tried any serial adapters on your system, make sure you have no conflicting USB RS-232 Serial Drivers installed. Using a Terminal Window, type the following:
ls | grep -e KeyspanUSA -e Prolific -e BelkinF5U -e 2303 -e USBSerial
This should produce a list of possible kext directories for serial USB adapters. You need to be careful about this step because if you have used other specialized USB devices with this computer those drivers may also appear in this list and removing them may cause that device to no longer work when you plug it in. I highly recommend that you perform a “cp -r ” command and copy any directory listed to another safe location in case you have to put it back later.
For each of the drivers you plan to remove, perform the following steps (in all cases replace the string “drivername” with the name of the kext driver listed from the above ls command):
cp -r drivername ~/Downloads/USBdrivers/drivername
rm -r drivername
Reboot your computer.
- INSTALL THE DRIVER
Making sure first that the Keyspan adapter is NOT PLUGGED IN, install the “Driver for USA-19HS (Mac OS X 10.6.x to 10.8.x)” from the Tripp Lite website. Then as a precaution, perform the following actions using the Terminal program:
You may or may not get an error on the “kextload” command, depending on whether the driver was already loaded or not. After this reboot your computer.
- CONFIGURE THE DRIVER
Plug in the Keystone RS232 adapter into a USB port. If the system prompts you to go into System Network preferences, do so. If it doesn’t, then go to System Preferences and select Networking. If there is already a “Keyspan USA-19H” service listed then highlight it and click “Advanced…”. If there isn’t one, click the “+” sign in the lower left corner, select the “Keyspan USA-19H” interface, click “Create”, then click “Advanced…” Once in the “Advanced…” settings, set the Vendor to “Null Modem” and click “OK”, then “Apply”. If you see more than one Keystone network device make this change for all of them. You can now exit preferences. Lastly, verify that the OS has actual serial devices by running the Terminal program and performing an “ls /dev/*erial*” command. You should see pairs of “KeySerial” device files, one called “cu” and another called “tty”.
Note that the Network Preferences “Connect” button will never produce a successful test, but it will make the LED on the adapter flash while it’s being attempted.