Category Archives: How-to

Parsing IR Remote Control Signals In Windows Using EventGhost

Now that we’ve learned the secret to getting WinLIRC to run correctly, it’s time to decode those signals into commands that Windows can use. To do this, we’re going to use a powerhouse automation tool that is unique to Windows called EventGhost.

EventGhost is a plugin-extensible application that takes input from any myriad of devices or programs and, through the use of a simple IF/THEN programming setup (think IFTTT), calls the desired response within Windows, a particular application, or even connected devices.

Getting the VCR remote set up in EventGhost was more of a headache than I anticipated, and required a lot of scanning fora and a little noodling to get working correctly. However, once I found the proper combination of versions, plugins, and conditions, it’s working like a champ!

First, you have to download and install EventGhost. At the time of this writing, the newest version (0.4.1.r1700, released 4 Mar 2015) seems to be the culprit behind my inability to get the plugins working, so make sure you go with (as of right now) v0.4.1.r1694, released 27 Jan 2015. If there is development between now and the time you’re working on this, just bear this tip in mind if the latest version does not seem to be working.

When you first run EventGhost, there will be quite a bit of detritus that you won’t likely need already programmed as examples. Disable or delete everything in the Configuration Tree except “Volume Control”

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The default configuration tree.

To enable remote control commands, you must activate the MCE Remote plugin. To add the plugin, choose “Add Plugin…” from the “Configuration” menu.

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Select “Microsoft MCE Remote” from the list.

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Do not install the version marked for Vista/Win7 as it is rather finicky and difficult to work with, requiring the installation of an alternate MCE IR service that is buggier than that scene in Temple of Doom.

Pictured: Attempting to work with AlternateMceIrService in Windows 7 (CREDIT: LucasFilm)

The settings for this plugin will allow you to set a custom button release timeout, which will be handy if your system is registering multiple button presses from your remote. I have mine set to 0.75 seconds, which seems to be just enough time. Play around with this setting to find something that works for you.

Screen Shot 2015-04-19 at 9.59.36 AMAdditionally, the settings dialog will prompt you to disable HID service for the remote. You do not need to do this except under special circumstances. The HID service in Windows 7 works fine.

Test to make sure that the correct button presses are being registered in the left sidebar. If they are, congratulations! Your remote is now working in Windows and you can customise buttons to your heart’s content!

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How To Setup IR Remote Control Access In Windows With WinLIRC

WinLIRC, unlike its Linux-based sibling, is a finicky priss to get working. I tried to follow the setup guide on their website, but it was getting late and I could no longer make heads or tails of what they were trying to convey. Starting fresh this morning, I took to futzing around with the settings until I had it working correctly.

Installing WinLIRC is as simple as downloading the zip file from SourceForge and extracting it to any location on your computer. For simplicity, I stuck the application folder in C:\

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“Program Files”? Shit just gets lost in there!

When you first run WinLIRC, you will get this error message off the bat:

CREDIT: WinLIRC
CREDIT: WinLIRC

Okay, I haven’t even defined a configuration, so obviously nothing’s going to work! Thanks, WinLIRC! Click “OK” and you’ll be taken to the main Setup window.

10 In the top section, choose the Input Plugin that is compatible with your remote. Since I’m using the SIIG Vista MCE Remote, I’m going to choose one of the MCEVista* plugins, and since my copy of Windows is 64-bit, I need the MCEVIsta64.dll plugin to drive my remote.

Screen Shot 2015-04-12 at 12.22.00 PM In the next section, you have to specify the configuration for the remote itself. Some fine folks have done a great job of writing a configuration file for almost every remote you might run across, so going to pop over to their website and grab /remotes/mceusb/lirc.conf.mceusb (right-click->”Save link as…”), saving it into the WinLIRC folder.

Screen Shot 2015-04-12 at 12.29.50 PMClick “OK” at the bottom, and you will likely get this message:

CREDIT: WinLIRC
CREDIT: WinLIRC

GOTO 10

CREDIT: WinLIRC
CREDIT: WinLIRC

tumblr_lcttnsi9AX1qb5bn1Screen Shot 2015-04-12 at 12.43.25 PM

GOTO 10

CREDIT: WinLIRC
CREDIT: WinLIRC

Rage_table_flipSo, how do you get it to work? The trick is that you can’t simply right-click->”Run as administrator”. Oh, no! You have to edit the properties so that it runs at elevated privileges all the time!

No, not here. One more step....
No, not here. One more step….

In the Properties dialog, click the “Compatibility” tab, and, at the bottom, don’t simply check “Run this program as administrator”. Click the button underneath that says “Change settings for all users”. THEN check “Run this program as administrator”!

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Okay, NOW you can check the box.

Try running WinLIRC again and you should see the system tray icon come up and you should no longer get the dreaded “Error Window of Doom”.

Now that you have WinLIRC properly configured and receiving signals from your remote, you’re going to need some way to parse those signals into useful commands….

How To Punch A Hole Through Windows Firewall

Windows 7 does a pretty decent job of sealing itself off from the wild and the wooly of the Interweb with its built-in firewall, but sometimes you have an application running that needs to interact with the outside world: a game or an FTP server, perhaps. In order for these applications to work correctly, you’re going to need to punch a hole in your firewall by adding an exception to Windows Firewall.

First, open Windows Firewall settings from the System and Security settings in the Control Panel.

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In the left sidebar, click “Allow a program of feature through Windows Firewall”

Choose the program from the list and check the box to the left to allow an exception. Check the boxes to the right to specify which networks the exception is allowed on.

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If your application does not appear on the list, click the “Allow another program…” button in the lower left, and either highlight the program from the list or browse for the executable file, then click the “Add” button. (NOTE: for FileZilla Server, make sure that “FileZilla server.exe” is given the exception NOT “FileZilla server interface.exe”)

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How To Setup a Windows FTP Server With FileZilla

FileZilla is the de facto Windows FTP server solution. It is an open-source, free application distributed under the GNU public licence.

Installation is fairly straightforward, simply download and run the installer binary. Be careful, though, because Sourceforge sneaks some “sponsored software” into the installer, and you may end up with a little bloatware that you didn’t want or need. The default settings are fine, but you may want to change the default port if you’re going to be opening this sucker to the entire Interweb. Today, though, we’re staying behind the safety of our hardware firewall, so we can only access files if we’re connected to the same wifi.

Setup is a little convoluted, but can be made simple by following these easy steps:

One the server daemon is running and you are in the main window, click the “Users” button Screen Shot 2015-04-09 at 7.26.04 PM to add users to the server.

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In the Users window, click the “Add” button on the right side, type in a username and click “OK”. The user you just specified will be enabled automatically. You can assign a password for this user by checking the box next to “Password” and typing one in.

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Clicking the “Shared Folders” branch (on the left side), you can add directories and assign permissions. I only assign write, delete, and append permissions to my admin account while I give other users the ability to read files on the server. Each directory will require an alias, so give it something easy to remember when you open it in your FTP client.

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For more information on setting up FileZilla Server, including how to punch a hole through the Windows Firewall, consult the FileZilla Wiki.

How To Watch Netflix and Hulu in Linux

Linux is great for many applications, but the plugins that drive streaming services like Netflix and Hulu are closed-source and the developers have little to no interest in supporting a “fringe” operating system. Thankfully, the fine folks at Google saw the wisdom in giving back to the community that helped build them by building Netflix and Hulu support into the Google Chrome browser.

Install Google Chrome by downloading the appropriate package from the Chrome website and you’re ready to go!

How To Setup a Generic Joystick or Gamepad In Ubuntu Linux

If you’re going to play games using RetroArch, you’re going to need a proper controller. There are a variety of wired, “classic-style” controllers out there that can offer you a variety of retro experiences, but they all need a driver to work. Fortunately, the Ubuntu repositories have you covered!

First, install the Joystick input driver package:

sudo apt-get install joystick

Next, install the Joystick Configuration package:

sudo apt-get install jstest-gtk

Now you can use jstest-gtk to configure your settings and calibrate the controller. Everything else is ready to go!

How To Install RetroArch And Libretro In Ubuntu Linux

RetroArch may be the single greatest contribution to classic gaming emulation since the dawn of Nesticle: a multi-console emulator frontend spanning the history of videogames from the Atari 2600 through Playstation eras. Libretro is the companion to RetroArch that contains all the emulator cores.

Installing RetroArch and Libretro in Windows or OSX is a fairly simple process of downloading the RA binary and the Libretro cores, but in Linux, it takes a little more effort.

First, add the Hunter Kaller repository to Ubuntu and update:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:hunter-kaller/ppa
sudo apt-get update

Install RetroArch and Libretro with a couple of terminal commands:

sudo apt-get install retroarch
sudo apt-get install libretro*

When you run RetroArch, the Libretro cores will be located in /usr/lib/libretro/

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How To Install The nMedia PRO-LCD USB Module In Ubuntu Linux

CREDIT: nMedia
CREDIT: nMedia

To maintain a level of authenticity, the VCR required an external display like the one originally installed to show status, function, channel number, etc. I opted to replace the original 7-segment display module with a USB-powered LCD to put a modern spin on the old look. There aren’t many display modules available, so I did a little research to make sure that the nMedia PRO-LCD would be compatible with Linux drivers. Fortunately, it is, but it took much cursing and gnashing of teeth to get it working.

First, make sure that the USB cord and power supply are plugged in.

CREDIT: nMedia
CREDIT: nMedia
cable3 USB
CREDIT: nMedia
image004
CREDIT: nMedia

Power-on the computer, and the display should show a test pattern with the words “MCE Indicator TM for Media Center” dancing around. Now, it’s time to install drivers!

From the terminal, execute the following:

sudo apt-get install LCDproc

Once LCDproc is installed, configure the daemon by editing /etc/LCDd.conf in Nano or another text editor. Change the following settings to the appropriate values:

Driver=lis

Foreground=no

AutoRotate=no

ServerScreen=no

Backlight=open

Heartbeat=open

Reboot, and your LCD is ready for input! Or is it output?

How To Setup IR Remote Control Access In Ubuntu Linux

What HTPC setup would be complete without a remote control to command your rig from across the room? For the VCR, I chose the SIIG Vista MCE Remote for its compatibility and range of functions. It also happened to be reasonably-priced at Micro Center when I bought it.

To get started, plug in your IR receiver USB dongle and install LIRC from the terminal:

sudo apt-get install lirc

During installation, you will be presented with a dialog asking you to select the specific remote control you have.

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For the SIIG Vista MCE remote, choose “Windows Media Center Transceivers/Remotes (all)”

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Then, choose your brand of IR blaster (if applicable). In this example, I do not have one installed, so I chose “None”.

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Allow the installation to finish, then install LIRC X Utilities from the terminal with the following command:

sudo apt-get install lirc-x

Test your remote’s communication with the irw terminal command.

Point the remote at the receiver and press a few buttons, you should get some coded output on the screen. If so, congratulations! Press C to quit IRW.

If there is no output, verify that the dongle is working (there’s usually a red light that accompanies keypresses) and that the correct remote was selected in setup. You may need to reboot for the computer to recognise the new hardware.

For more on remote control setup, click here.

How To Make Applications Run Automatically On Startup In Ubuntu Linux

Sometimes it’s just handy to have a particular application run automatically on boot, especially if your system is not going to have a keyboard or traditional input device attached. In Ubuntu, this is done quite simply by copying the application’s *.desktop file to a dedicated autostart folder.

The *.desktop files for your applications should be located in the /usr/share/applications folder in the file system.

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Copy the file for the application you wish to autostart, and paste in /home/.config/autostart (make sure that you are showing hidden files).

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If the folder does not already exist, you will have to create it.

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Paste the *.desktop file, reboot, and your application will start automatically.

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