I guess the strange part of my system is that the Denon receiver in the living room feeds two systems (it routes HDMI back into my office), as well. This makes it possible to use the Mac Mini in both rooms and every component in my main entertainment system in my living room and office.
I started looking into a way to easily control XBMC (software for watching movies, listening to music, and a lot more) from my living room via a remote app. I already have a few ways to take over the computer with the iPad and apps that make the iPad into a mac keyboard (Rowmote Pro). These are both great approaches, but I wanted something more embedded into the overall system. In other words, I wanted something with "activities"/macros that could make it easy to hit one button and have my TV turn on and go to the correct input, then my receiver turns on and goes to the correct input, and finally the XBMC remote pops up on the screen.
When I started looking into this, I ran across a site called EverythingiCafe that had a great description of how they use their Mac Mini and an introduction to Roomie Remote.
I looked into Roomie a little more and found that it might fit my needs for XBMC in my living room and a lot more. However, I will probably have to build my system around it over the next few months since it starts getting costly with each add on. The current pricing for what I have already purchased:
1. Roomie Remote app -$9.99 - This allows you to control two devices in one room.
2. Home Theater Pack - $19.99 - This expands to unlimited devices in unlimited rooms.
So, I am already in for $30 and I will have to change settings on my mini to get it to work the way I want. When my mini's screensaver comes on, or my mini goes to sleep, the app will no longer control XBMC. I have to use the Rowmote Pro app to move the curser around to wake up the mini so I can control it with Roomie again. Not ideal.
That being said, I discovered other uses for the app that I had not anticipated when I initially started researching. Right now, my Denon receiver, Roku, and Directv Genie can all be controlled via the Roomie app via IP control. This means they are all connected to my network and available for the Roomie to control (Not all internet devices work this way. For example, I can't control my AppleTVs this way).
One issue I have had with sharing Directv from my living room into my office is that I am using my Denon receiver's second HDMI output for the office setup. For some reason, my receiver has an issue using both HDMI outputs at the same time, so I have to go into the Denon's webpage and change the output to HDMI 2 manually. I also have to manually route audio to my TV rather than my amp via the Denon web control. With Roomie, I have set up an "activity" to make these changes automatically when I want to watch Directv. I also set up my main system to put these settings back when I want to use HDMI 1 and the amp/speakers in my living room via Roomie.
Now that I can use Roku and Directv in my office using Roomie, I am starting to think I want to use some of their other features to get everything working perfectly. The downside is that this starts to get expensive very quickly. Here is the breakdown of what I need to have everything working in my Office and living room (I would also like to add some of this to my bedroom, but that will be a while down the road):
-Roomie Remote Agent - $19.99 - This will make it possible to control the Mac Mini and bring it out of sleep/screensaver mode and launch applications. It says it will also control the mouse on the Mac.
-Agent Management Pack - 9..99 - I think I will also need this to make Roomie Remote Agent work. It is not really clear on their website, but their in app purchase makes it sound like this is a required add on, too. I will have to research it a bit more.
-Global Cache IP2IR - $91 - This is a box that plugs into a router via ethernet and has IR blasters that will control IR only devices (AppleTV, Samsung TV, etc.. in my setup) .
Roomie Service Subscription - $16.99 per year - this gives you access to IR codes that you will need to control those IR devices. This is the one thing about the service that worries me a bit. What happens if they go out of business? I am stuck with trying to find another app that will do this or I could be dead in the water. Vanishing tech is an issue with all small tech services like this, but I will probably risk it.
So, if you are keeping up, adding everything above will have me all set for my office and living room. However, the add-ons start getting pretty expensive. I would also need to spend another $91 for another blaster if I wanted the same setup in the bedroom. However, I rarely use that system, so I am not sure I will ever add it. Also, the Roomie can handle some security cameras and home automation devices, so you can even expand on what I mentioned above.
Also, I should mention that this system is not just plug and play. You may need to configure routers, figure out how to add the "webserver" to XBMC, figure out what add ons you need, etc.. They do have a forum, but it isn't very busy, so that could be an issue for some. Also, some of the responses were too "tech speak" for me.
I won't be getting rid of my Harmony Remote even if I buy everything on the list, but the Roomie will be a nice supplement to that remote. Also, if you have more than one iOS device and a Dropbox account, you can setup one device, upload the settings to Dropbox, and download those settings to a separate iOS device which I found very useful. I will probably add the "Roomie Remote Agent" in the next month or so and then decide if I really want to add the IR blasters since that is when the yearly charge and additional hardware are needed. I will report back as I add new features.