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 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 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 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.

Screen Shot 2015-04-09 at 7.26.04 PM

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 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 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:\

Screen Shot 2015-04-12 at 12.17.00 PM
“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….

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 Use A Remote Control With Kodi In Windows

Kodi, as we’ve discussed before, is the most powerful all-in-one home theatre solution for the 21st century that combines a comprehensive metadata-driven viewing experience for all your local media as well as the ability to extend functionality through the use of plugins for many kinds of streaming media. The one problem with this setup is that Kodi does not recognize Windows Media Remote commands out of the box and will require a separate process to parse those commands into something useable.

If you have EventGhost properly setup to receive and interpret IR commands from your remote control, there is a stock plugin available for EG that will translate those keypresses into Kodi commands, allowing you to easily program a remote control with Kodi.

Highlight “Autostart” in the EventGhost Configuration Tree. Right-click and choose “Add Plugin…” From the plugin menu, scroll down to “XBMC2” in the “Program Control” folder, highlight, and click “OK”.

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Unless your Kodi/XBMC settings are different from the defaults, go ahead and click OK on the next screen as well. EventGhost will prompt you to add actions, but you don’t need to. All of your macros and actions have now been added to the “XBMC2” folder in the Configuration Tree.

The next part is somewhat tedious, but only required once. Press each button on the remote to register the event in EG. Then, drag each button press event to the corresponding macro in the XBMC2/Buttons folder.

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Once your buttons are programmed, you are ready to use your remote with Kodi!

How To Autorun Programs On Windows Startup

Windows 7 brought some badly-needed security features to Microsoft’s flagship operating system, but with this new power came one minor setback: the ability to autorun programs with elevated privileges on startup. Instead of adjusting our overall security settings to not bother us requesting elevated privileges (a bad idea), we’re going to use the Task Scheduler tool to automate these tasks.

Locate the Task Scheduler by typing its name in the search box on the Start Menu. In the “Action” menu, click “Create Task…” (NOT “Create Basic Task…”)

In the “Create Task” window, give the task a name. For example, let’s use EventGhost. Make sure to select “Run only when user is logged on” and “Run with highest privileges” and to choose your correct version of Windows from the “Configure for” dropdown.

Screen Shot 2015-04-15 at 8.10.53 PMIn the “Triggers” tab, click the “New…” button. Chose to begin the task “At log on” and select for “Any user”. Make sure no other options are checked besides “Enabled” and click OK.

Screen Shot 2015-04-15 at 8.13.18 PMIn the “Actions” tab, click “New…” and make sure that “Start a program” is selected from the dropdown menu. Browse for your application executable (EventGhost.exe), add any arguments (if applicable), then click “OK”.

Screen Shot 2015-04-15 at 8.19.48 PMIn the “Conditions” tab, nothing should be checked (unless you have a very specific case). Finally, in the “Settings” tab, check the options as they are in the screenshot below and click “OK”.

Screen Shot 2015-04-15 at 8.24.01 PMYour application should now execute automatically when you reboot!

How To Disable Windows Media Center

Since the VCR project is centered around Kodi/XBMC, I have no need for Microsoft’s default media suite. To wit, I would prefer not to have it pop up if I accidentally bump the big green button on my remote control (and, consequently, be able to use said button for a different function), so I need to disable Windows Media Center.

Disabling Windows components has gotten much easier since Windows XP. Microsoft has built in a dialog that allows certain “required” components such as Internet Explorer to be removed from the OS (or, at least, hidden from view and disabled). To reach this menu, click on the “Programs” link in the Control Panel, then click the “Turn Windows features on or off” link.

Allow the list to populate, then uncheck the box next to “Media Features”. This will remove Windows Media Center, Windows Media Player, and Windows DVD Maker. Uncheck any other boxes you might want to rid yourself while you’re there. Click the “OK” button and Windows will remove the deselected components.