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Buying a Universal Remote for your Home Theater

Logitech Harmony 650 remote
Logitech Harmony 650 remote

One of the challenges of constructing a home theater is controlling everything that’s in that home theater. Enter the Logitech Harmony 650 remote:

Logitech Harmony 650 remote
Logitech Harmony 650 remote


I bought this quite a while ago, but there should be newer models of the same remote, and the concept is still the same, which is being able to control everything in your home theater. In a typical home theater, you’ll need to control:

  • projector or tv
  • receiver or sound bar
  • blu ray player
  • lights

These can all be controlled by the Harmony or some other universal remote, if you so desire.  The screen makes it really easy to navigate those items, which is one of the downfalls of a lot of other universal remotes.  One other thing that it does that a lot of universal remotes don’t is store its settings through power cycles.

I would recommend a universal remote if:

  • you don’t like lots of remotes around
  • you don’t mind not having access to some fringe functions

I would not recommend it if:

  • you have a lot of equipment from specialized brands
  • you value speed over organization

A universal remote is almost always slower than a regular remote.  For my home theater, I use the universal remote for the lights but still use the other remotes most of the time.  The normal light remotes didn’t store the presets I wanted correctly but the Harmony did.

Hopefully this rundown helps.

Turning on the Blinders, Tommy Pinball Machine


A lot of people don’t know this, but there’s a way you can turn on the blinders to be on for the entire game.  I made a short video to show this below:

It comes in really handy when playing against your friends, kind of a nice changeup from the usual playing.

Nebraska Cornhusker Canvas

Nebraska Football National Championship Canvas
Nebraska Football Canvas Featuring the 5 National Championships and the two legendary coaches, Osborne and Devaney

I thought I would post up a pretty awesome Nebraska Cornhusker Canvas I picked up a couple years ago.

Nebraska Football National Championship Canvas
Nebraska Football Canvas Featuring the 5 National Championships and the two legendary coaches, Osborne and Devaney

It’s still available through here:


It’s one of my favorite things in my basement, I’ve attached a picture to this article.  The dimensions are 6.5 feet by 4 feet.

Even if you don’t like the Cornhuskers, I’m sure there are similar things for every sports team.  It’s a nice alternative to posters and other cheaper items, it really brings an air of classiness to the basement.

Pinball 2000


Pinball 2000 was a technology developed by Williams pinball in the late 1990’s when the pinball industry was facing major contraction due to the amount of arcades that were gradually disappearing due to the rise of home consoles.  Two games were developed from this technology before Williams closed their pinball division, Revenge from Mars and Star Wars Episode One.

Revenge from Mars, the first Pinball 2000

Revenge from Mars was the first game developed on the pinball 2000 platform, released in January of 1999.  It took the pinball industry by storm, the biggest innovation in pinball since it went to digital scoring in the late 70’s.  Instead of shooting at the usual targets, video targets were now ‘displayed’ on the playfield.  This led to some very cool effects, as instead of just hitting the lit arrow and getting a flash and sound effect, the target would now explode or do some other cool animation.  New players in particular were really impressed with the new gameplay, while more traditional players weren’t as enthused by the new changes, feeling it wasn’t ‘real’ pinball.  Operators really liked it though because the games brought in more money that the previous games Williams had released, plus had a lot of things that made operating easier like swappable playfields and in depth diagnostics.

The general consensus on RFM (acronym for Revenge from Mars) is that it was a great initial game for the Pinball 2000 platform but as good of a game as some of Williams earlier efforts (at least in the eyes of pinball fans).  New players really liked the video integration though.  If you check out the game at the Internation pinball database here:


You’ll see a lot more pictures and information about the game, including a bunch of user reviews.

Star Wars Episode One, the second Pinball 2000 game

The second game developed for the Pinball 2000 platform was Star Wars Episode One.  It came out in June of 1999, hoping to ride the wave of Star Wars Mania that was sweeping the nation at that time.  Unfortunately, the movie didn’t quite meet expectations and neither did the game, as a result.  Williams was hoping that after they sold more than 6800 Revenge from Mars, they could sell even more Star Wars.  The combination though of the movie not being great plus a price increase caused a lot of people to cancel their orders, leading to a production that was significantly less than Revenge from Mars.

Star Wars was made to cater more to the beginner crowd, which led to a lot of veteran players being disappointed with the game.  In fact, if you read the reviews at http://www.ipdb.org you’ll see that the reviews are mainly negative on the game compared to Revenge from Mars.  I personally find the game decently fun but it does seem like you shoot up the middle a lot.  I like the neon light saber on the right side, I think that was a really nice touch on the game.

Pinball 2000 now

After Williams closed the pinball division in late 1999, no new Pinball 2000 games were ever released.  One of the biggest disappointments people had about that was that the third game, Wizard Blocks, was never released.  There are pictures and video of the game circulating around the web, this video on youtube shows Wizard Blocks:

It was supposed to be the first game that really took the technology to the next level, so it’s unfortunate that it never made it to production.

One of the biggest issues that Pinball 2000 owners had was that if the computer in the game went bad, there were no longer replacements because it was PC based rather than the normal custom board.  This was solved for a while when a product called Nucore came out, it allowed owners with broken computer boards to get their games back up and running.  Production of Nucore was suspend though and has not resumed as far as I know.

Buying a Pinball 2000 machine

If you’re going to buy a Pinball 2000 machine, the biggest thing to watch out for is to make sure that the game works (basically that the computer is good) and that the monitor is good.  There are replacements for the monitor now that are LCD based, but the computer can be harder to find or repair.  The prices aren’t too bad for the games, traditional collectors haven’t really gone of them.  Star Wars Episode One swappable playfields are even available occasionally so you can have two games (if you swap them) and only need one cabinet.


Hopefully this has been helpful for those of you looking for Pinball 2000 information.  If you have any questions, please email or check out some of the links I gave in the article.  Tilt! the battle to save pinball is also a good documentary if you really want the whole story.  I bought the film and really enjoyed it.

Pinball Buying Checklist

World Cup Soccer and Iron Man pinball machines
World Cup Soccer and Iron Man pinball machines

I was thinking about this as I was driving home today, what I would need if I was new to the hobby and wanted to buy a pinball machine.  So I thought a pinball buying checklist would be a good thing to type up for those new players to the hobby.  Here’s the list:

  • Make sure the game powers on.  If the guy has it in his garage not plugged in and says trust me it works, don’t believe it, try it yourself.
  • If it powers on, there are various states of working.  If it lights up but none of the displays work, this generally means there is an electronic problem.  If it starts up but won’t play a game, there are probably missing balls, a switch issue, or electronic board issue.
  • If it powers on and plays, the next step is to start making sure things on the playfield work.  This may be difficult if you’re not familiar with the game, but things to verify are usually:
    • do the flippers work and have enough power for the all of the shots?
    • do all the lights appear to work?
    • do all the displays appear to work?
    • do all the main features appear to work?
    • are there any major broken things?
  • Next it’s time to look at the cosmetics of the machine.  Look at the cabinet first.  Are there any major scratches or dings?  Is there any water damage or fading?  One of the most common things people miss is that a lot of cabinets are heavily faded, especially in the red color.  You can check for fading by having a picture of a perfect machine on your phone when you examine the new game.
  • Next move onto the playfield.  If the game is from the early 80’s, there’s a good chance there may be significant paint loss on the playfield.  90’s games and later usually don’t have playfield wear except for heavily used outholes.
  • If you’ve made it this far, you’ve got a pretty good idea of how functional the game is.  This means that it’s time to figure out how much the game is worth.  This is kind of a grey area, but the first place to start is probably the pinball price guide.  If you don’t have one of those, then the archived ads on http://www.pinside.com can be of pretty good use.  You’ll need to kind of classify each game into it’s own category.  I usually classify games into these:
    • non-working projects.  These games don’t work at all, and usually worth like 50% of what an average game would be worth.
    • partially working games.  These games work partially, but have weak flippers or things not working to some degree.  These games are usually worth like 75% of what an average game would be worth
    • fully working game, very dirty.  These games are usually worth like 90% of what an average game would be worth.
    • fully working and clean game.  These games are your average priced games.
    • fully restored.  These games may have new cabinet art, new playfields, etc.  These games can vary anywhere from 110% to 150% of the value of an average game.

Hopefully this pinball buying checklist is helpful for new pinball buyers.  Please contact me if you have any questions.