Home > hackintosh, macintosh, software > HThackintosh Remote Part 1

HThackintosh Remote Part 1

Keysonic_540_RFAfter building my Home Theatre hackintosh I used a keysonic RF keyboard/trackpad (above) for control, with the intention of adding a smaller remote control at a later date. Apart from size the keyboard is a pretty perfect method of control, equally suited to media centre duties, web browsing and general computer use. It is a bit bulky for just watching media, so the search began for the perfect remote.

The best sources of information for Macintosh remotes are the forums and wiki at plexapp.com. After a few hours reading there I came up with a short list of three options:

  1. A Logitech Harmony remote coupled with an IR receiver, plus software
  2. An Xbox DVD remote and receiver, plus software
  3. An IR receiver board from a Macbook Pro with either of the above remotes

I wasn’t sure going into this what software and setup would be needed. The best sounding option was the first, as a programable remote could also operate all my other AV components. There’s also the ability to program macro’s to perform a series of actions across all components, for instance going from everything in standby to ready to watch a movie.

Logitech_Harmony_525Logitech have a range of Harmony remotes to suit most budgets with many available pre-used from Ebay for even less. I decided to try this method first, so quickly picked up a used Logitech Harmony 525 from eBay for £25. To this I added a Manta TR1 IR receiver from Twisted Melon at around £20. This combination is necessary for a hackintosh without a built in IR receiver, if you have an Apple Macintosh with built in IR receiver you save some money here.

mantaTR1Hardware in place, the software setup gets a bit more complicated. Mira (also from Twisted Melon) allows greater control of a Mac using the Apple six button remote bundled with IR equipped Macs. I believe it also works with harmony remotes, but I’m not sure how many buttons are supported beyond the basic six. I went with Remote Buddy from iospirit as this allows a multi remote mode, in effect simulating multiple apple remotes to allow more button support on the Logitech Harmony. Remote Buddy handles the IR to Plex (my media centre software) interface, and Plex has native support for Harmony remotes built in.


The last requirement was Logitech’s Harmony setup software for Mac, currently at version 7.5.0. This is a comprehensive app allowing setup and customisation of every aspect of the Harmony remotes. At this point I had the remote semi-working, some buttons didn’t do what I expected and some didn’t work at all. Editing the Plex harmony.xml file got the remote working more as I wanted, but button presses were very sluggish. The harmony support guide at the Plex site has details of how to edit the harmony software to improve this. It still wasn’t perfect though, and by this point I had taken the following steps:

  1. Buy A Logitech harmony remote
  2. Buy a Manta TR1 IR receiver
  3. Setup Remote Buddy (not bought yet as it offers a 30 day trial)
  4. Setup the Harmony remote using Logitech’s free software, configuring devices, key response and macro’s.
  5. Edit the harmony.xml file for operation as I wanted

That’s quite a lot of work, and after all this I had a universal remote controlling my Yamaha AV receiver, Samsung LCD TV, Plex media centre, and Phillips DVR. There were a few problems. As mentioned, the Plex control was still sluggish, there were several components to keep track of when updating software, and on top of this I found a Universal remote to involve more button presses than I was happy with.

The idea of an all-in-one remote is a good one, but having to press buttons to switch between different devices you want to control is something I find a pain and Mrs Basshead just hates. On the Harmony to switch from controlling the AV receiver for volume to Plex for pausing a movie requires pressing the devices button, then a soft button at the side of the LCD, then pressing pause. Two dedicated remotes means one button press.

There’s no denying that a universal remote offers a lot of power, but the amount of setup and research involved is pretty daunting, on top of the cost. I had already spent £45 and would have to add £20 for the additional software. I wanted something simpler by this point, so part two will look at the second choice, adapting an Xbox DVD remote to work with Plex on a hackintosh.

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  1. June 28, 2009 at 12:56 pm
  2. September 10, 2009 at 9:17 am

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