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damgar 10-27-2012 01:46 AM

Remote control for Slackware
Realizing that trying to stream via an xbox to my living room TV was always going to take a lot of extra steps, I decided to just move my "server" into the living room since it's main use has always been storing and serving my media collection anyway. I now have the bugs worked out as far as getting the display correct and fonts correct for the tv and the viewing distance, but right now I am having to use a wireless mouse, for everything. Since the main function in this room will be something like a home theater pc I was thinking having a remote control might be nice. Something programmable might be splendid and indeed I might wind up doing something like xbmc. Is there anyone out there in Slackervill that has experience with this and might recommend a personal favorite?

STDOUBT 10-27-2012 06:22 AM

I have only tried one remote for my newly "built" HTPC, and it seems my "ipazzport air mouse" is doing a fine job. I haven't tried the "IR learning" though (and it's not featured on every model), as my media PC has no IR port. It has a nice backlit keyboard, and seems pretty sturdy. The first youtube video after a google search for "ipazzport air mouse" convinced me to try it out. I'm actually using mythbuntu and a TV tuner card for this puppy. If I considered my HTPC to be a "real computer" it'd be running Slackware. But I don't. It's just a toy. :-)

Woodsman 10-27-2012 11:16 AM

Yes, I have done this. Been a while since I did all of the configuring. I will warn that working with LIRC is a user hostile activity that will test the limits of your sanity. :)

The basic approach:

* Find gobs and gobs of patience.

* Select an infra red receiver and controller that is Linux compatible. Don't even think about proceeding past this point. Some capture cards come with a controller and receiver. I use the Hauppauge HVR-1600 MCE-Kit TV in my HTPC. Newer models exist but I have not kept pace with what is now available.

* Find gobs and gobs of more patience.

* Install lirc.

* Find a decent lirc startup script. I have one at my web site:

* Test lirc with the irw command.

* Find a punching bag. Saves the family and pets.

* Create a master lirc config file.

* Create custom lirc config files for different apps. Various lirc config files can be sourced into one another, thereby avoiding one large file.

* xbmc does not need a separate lirc config file as xbmc supports lirc by itself. Other apps need a config file. I recommend first starting with something smaller, such as xine. Just get one app working to better grasp what is involved.

* Any buttons mapped in the master config file have precedence over buttons mapped in individual lirc config files for apps. The more apps you want to support the more you have to plan ahead. My basic approach on the HTPC is I avoid the mess by not running more than one app at any one time.

* Not all apps support a remote control, thereby still requiring the mouse and keyboard. For example, a web browser. Maintenance requires the mouse and keyboard. Even for apps that support a remote, using a keyboard is just saner --- try typing any text with a remote control.

* Some apps that support a remote control do not provide full support. Expect some obvious features to not work the way you expect.

* Use a desktop or window manager that you can configure in kiosk mode. All that means is being able to lock the desktop so nobody can purposely or inadvertently modify the desktop. The idea is to make those changes in administrative mode only. Locking the desktop allows treating the system as an appliance and not a never-ending project. I built my system with Slackware 12.2 and KDE 3.5.10. KDE3 has good lock down features, but other desktops do too. Because I treat the system as an appliance, other than security updates there is no compulsion on my part to be continually tweaking. Everything works the way I want or expect and I just leave the thing alone. As an appliance there is no motivation to always be tweaking. :)

* I use an older version of xbmc. xbmc is designed by geeks for geeks. In other words, expect a significant learning curve and to read gobs of documentation.

* If you really want a theater experience, then you need a sound system. The speakers in a typical TV are barely adequate. I took the easy route and bought computer speakers. Yes, the HTPC snobs and purists will howl at such a choice, but for $30, I have two speakers and a subwoofer that immensely improve the movie experience.

* I do not use MythTV. So don't ask me related questions. :)

I have a journal about building my HTPC:

Building an HTPC

The link is a journal and not an explicit how-to, but you will be able pull lots of information. Contact me through my web site. One of these days I might write an actual how-to.

Make sure to find gobs and gobs of patience. :)

kite 10-27-2012 11:23 AM

If you install XBMC, and if you happen to have wifi network in your home networking, and if you happen to have an iphone or a Android phone, you could install a phone app to control XBMC remotely via wifi.

damgar 10-27-2012 12:41 PM

Thanks Woodsman! I LOL'd and then realized I was alone and felt stupid.... :D The basic idea is this:

I have a huge media collection and an extra i7 powered machine laying around. I have always served music throughout the house to the other computers, and recently was using an xbox to play movies from the server. Of course that is a MS product and while it's a neat feature it required transcoding lots of videos. With the new machine having a BD drive and TB's of storage I figured rather than ripping then transcoding these movies into an xbox friendly format just to have diminished picture quality, I would move the "old server" which used to sit headless under the desk into the living room, connect it with HDMI to the TV and go from there. After figuring out the broad strokes of HDMI audio and font adjusting to make the TV display acceptable I figured if it's really going to be convenient I need a remote. Something with programmable keys so that I can bring up VLC, or a shortcut to the /MOVIES directory in konqueror, etc. I'm really flying by the seat of my pants here because I don't really have a flow for how this should work. I've even considered trying to get the remote for the Wii working as a kind of pointing device because it's generally got the right size and feel. I'm not so concerned about actual TV playback because I currently have cable and am actually thinking of just dropping that service down to the basic package for news and then using the $75 difference to upgrade my bandwidth and purchase a netflix account. I know a lot of people have gone before and failed, but between my cable company raising prices ($30 in 18 months!!) and the fact that I rarely actually watch tv it seems like beyond the usual way to stave off boredom tinkering with Slackware I might actually save money if I can make it work.

Woodsman 10-27-2012 01:22 PM

I'm not much of a TV watcher either. I do watch old movies and I record a couple a week. I don't have cable or satellite. Only over-the-air. As I live in a rural area, that means occasionally no signals and hence, failed recordings that I had scheduled. Fortunately, the basic channels I receive play the same movies several times per month or the year. With basic cable or satellite service a loss of signal should be a rare event.

For the DVDs I own, I copy them to my HTPC hard drive as ISO images. xbmc, xine, whatever, just about all apps in a Linux based machine recognize ISO images.

xbmc probably is one of the better apps to view DVDs, ISO images, all other video formats too. I have xine and kaffiene installed but seldom use them except for testing. The challenge with apps like xine or VLC is what is commonly known as the WAF (wife acceptance factor). Unless your partner or kids are geeks, xbmc probably provides the best overall presentation of media.

A primary feature you want with any app to watch DVDs/image is navigating the menus. I don't use VLC, but xine and kaffiene are not good for that. xbmc is real good about menu navigation.

I use an older version of xbmc because all I want is a media player with a modicum of features. To me the newer versions of xbmc are bloated, filled with features I don't want, designed with a presumption that I am connected 24/7, that I want to share everything I do, etc. Short of being a crack C programmer, there is no way to disable that bloat. So I stick with the older version.

I use amarok 1.4 as my music player. xbmc can play music too, but tends to be a CPU hog, although libvdpau helps a lot. I do have a separate lirc configuration for amarok. However, amarok is missing a few dcop commands that would make life much easier.

Although there are various options for viewing online media, I'm quite simplistic in my needs. I use the web browser and the wireless mouse. I can start or close the browser with the remote control but I never found anything useful about controlling with a remote. Using the mouse with the browser is hardly a PITA. That is, once the video starts there is little to do but watch.

Newer versions of xbmc has many plugins for that kind of thing. But I watch very little video online so that is not important to me. Plus, my ISP has rather low bandwidth caps and a few videos would exceed that cap in only a few hours.

I don't want to discourage you about proceeding. :) I only wanted to emphasize that my HTPC project pushed my sanity to new limits. As you noted, you feel all alone. There is a ton of information available but nobody seems to present the information as a normal couch potato. The authors presume everybody is born a geek. With that said, despite the trauma, my system works more than well enough for me. So take your time. I redesigned things many times after getting the basics running. Don't be afraid to change and tinker.

damgar 10-27-2012 02:14 PM

Well I got XBMC built and installed and it is REALLY slick. I read that there is a new distro that is basically just XBMC, which if I hadn't just given my kids a new machine I would probably use, but I'm really enjoying having a full Slackware on the TV while sitting on the couch.

At present I'm trying to get the iOS app working, but it keeps saying it can't see the xbmc instance. I'm not sure how to get around that just yet. If anyone has any help for that my googling is failing me at the moment.

@Woodsman, yes, I understand the partner factor, and it has frequently been the killer bug in a lot of my projects! Being divorced for a year or so one positive feature is that I don't have to worry about what my wife thinks about my projects anymore! My boys are going to think it's the coolest thing ever, but they generally either watch a few cartoons when they are here or they are already used to streaming from the media server via the Wii+HomeBrew Channel.

If I can get this iOS remote thing going this may be quite nice!

damgar 10-27-2012 03:36 PM


Originally Posted by kite (Post 4816253)
If you install XBMC, and if you happen to have wifi network in your home networking, and if you happen to have an iphone or a Android phone, you could install a phone app to control XBMC remotely via wifi.

Thank you! I screwed up passing the WEBSERVER=yes parameter to the slackbuild which of course is necessary to have the app work. There are also a number of source links that are broken for the optional dependencies for xbmc at SBo. The iOS remote is friggin sweet! xbmc really is just phenomenal slick, and that remote app just makes it seemless. I AM THRILLED! Thank you so much for responding!

@Woodsman, I'm about to start reading your HTPC journal. I would like to thank you for all the great documentation you have done. They have been a great help over the last few years.

For now I am considering this solved since that app is better than anything I could have imagined (AND FREE AS IN BEER!) and I think a wireless mouse and keyboard should do well handling the rest of the apps!

D1ver 10-27-2012 03:55 PM

Interesting.. I've got a brand new Slackware server next to my TV that is being used to serve media directly up to my playstation. I hadn't really thought much about making the leap to HTPC.. Which capture card are you using?

damgar 10-27-2012 04:33 PM

I'm not using a capture card since I have the TimeWarner's crappy DVR connected. I am using my NVIDIA 650 card right now, but am just about to bring the intended target out in just a minute which just has an NVIDIA GT220 card. Both have HDMI out. Woodsman's post and blog mention a Haupage tuner/capture card.

kite 10-28-2012 09:40 PM

Glad to know you guys are also running xbmc with slackware.

My current XBMC setup:

Antec Fusion Slim Media Case 350(with LCD display and small IR remote control)
Gigabyte H55M-UD2H motherboard
Intel i3 CPU+GPU (first generation)
Pioneer DVD rom
Western Digital 1TB Green hard disk

The GPU handls any HD movies flawlessly with vaapi enabled. I have lot of HD movies, music, cartons iso images for kids locally. It is also very convenient to watch online movie streams such as youtube, youku, qiyu.

I also installed mldonkey and transmission for p2p downloading, they could be controlled via web interface remotely. The problem is that the i3 cpu is a little overkill for just p2p downloading over night. I hope that there is any cheap 5W arm based small pc (with sata interface) for this task to save power consumption. Will slackware run on this $70 Mele A1000? I think it could be also used as a home wifi router.

The IR remote control works out of box because the kernel support it via input event rather than the previous LIRC system. A IR is remote is very useful when your iPhone/android phone is not at home :).

I am planning to upgrade the system to slackware 14.0 from 13.37. Maybe I should just use slaxbmc to ease the job?

KDHofAvalon 10-28-2012 10:43 PM

I just bought a cheap Windows media centre remote for the IR receiver and used my Harmony remote to actually control XBMC. It works great, far better than any actual media centre remote will. I'd definitely recommend picking up even one of the cheaper models if you don't already have one.

escaflown 10-28-2012 10:46 PM

I use one of the OrientEX Mini 2.4GHz Wireless Keyboard as remote control for my xbmc in slackware:
It's been very reliable so far and discrete in the living room.

damgar 10-29-2012 10:09 AM

Until there is a decent netflix player for linux I don't think I could do anything less powerful since I just keep a saved state XP (I tried chromeOS, but that was a non starter) virtualbox vm and if I want to watch netflix I just bring that up. I considered continuing to use the xbox360 for netflix, but it's just kind of a pain to use multiple devices for media. Although a small arm box has been on my mind since I first played with an apple TV which I really like, except that media is all it can do. I like the idea of a Harmony. Are there downloadable configurations for something like a slack+xbmc setup?

Woodsman 10-29-2012 11:38 AM

If you are inclined toward activisim, just order DVDs from Netflix and every couple of months include a letter with a returned DVD that you would prefer to stream but they don't support Linux based systems.

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