Home > hackintosh, macintosh, media, open source, software > HThackintosh Remote Part 2

HThackintosh Remote Part 2

Xbox_remoteIn part 1 I looked at using a Logitech Harmony, Manta TR1 IR receiver and software to control my HTPC, which also happens to be a hackintosh. The conclusion was that this method has some drawbacks, with cost and amount of setup required being the main ones. Trying to use a remote on a hackintosh makes the endeavour even harder as many genuine Macs have a built in IR receiver eliminating one of the steps I had to take.

The second approach listed previously is to adapt an Xbox DVD remote for use with Plex. I have several of these remotes in use with my XBMC Xbox’s which are gradually being retired as I go HD. Plex is a development of the XBMC software so already has good support for the Xbox remote, so I went into the second trial hopeful.

The best place to start is the Plex Wiki page ‘Getting a Xbox Remote working‘. This has everything you need to complete the task so I will expand on the steps provided there.

1. Connect the Xbox IR receiver to your Macintosh/Hackintosh

Xbox peripherals attached to the console using a proprietary USB connector. To plug one of these into any computer using standard USB sockets requires an adapter. These adapters are still available from a few sources (eBay may be the best) but are becoming harder to find. I chose to make by own by taking a socket from a retired Xbox, which has four so won’t miss one. There’s a guide to doing this at osxbmc.mindfeeder.net which shows the steps involved, which are easy to follow if a bit blurred. Here’s a photo of my modified socket with IR receiver.


2. Install a Driver to allow the Mac to see the IR receiver as a HID device

The Xbox HID driver for Mac OS x is a great bit of open source freeware that installs a kernel extension and Systems Preferences controls. When used with the Xbox Remote/IR receiver there are no option to configure so it’s a very easy setup.

Xbox_HID_Driver3. Install Gamepad Companion to convert HID events to key presses

At this stage the DVD remote/IR receiver is connected to the Mac and configured as a HID device. System Profiler show it as a USB composite device, but Plex is still not receiving commands from the remote. The final piece of software is Gamepad Companion, which maps the HID button presses to keys that can control Plex. This $15 application with a 45 day trial also installs as a System Preferences pane, allowing each button on the remote to map to a key. Each key on the remote can be selected by pressing it, then enter the keyboard key to map it to. I found setup to be straightforward and fast.


4. Edit the keyboard.xml file if you want to change key mapping

This is an optional step if you are unhappy with the controls. Remember that any changes made to this file (found at Applications>Plex>Contents>Resources>Plex>Keymaps) will be replaced when updating Plex to a new version, so make a backup of the file after changes.

I’ll jump straight to the conclusion here and say I found this method of remote control to work very well, and it’s the setup I settled on. There’s still a bit of configuration involved but I found it a lot easier to understand than the Harmony remote method in Part 1. The most important factor to me though was the responsiveness of the Xbox remote. It may look a bit dated but Plex responds instantly, unlike the lag with the Harmony remote (even after tweaking). There’s some soldering involved unless you can find an Xbox to USB adapter, but it’s fairly simple. Cost wise I have Xbox remotes already, alternatively they are cheap on eBay. Finally the software cost is low, with Gamepad Companion being the only required purchase at $15.

The third method listed in the opening article was to use a Macbook Pro IR board as the receiver. The benefit of this would be the Mac using its built in IR drivers, but I’m not 100% sure what other software would be involved to use this with the Xbox or Harmony remotes. The Macbook Pro IR board is around £30 in the UK, so since I already have a perfectly working system I’ve decided to put the third method on hold.

  1. Adam
    March 5, 2010 at 12:14 am

    I am in the EXACT same situation. What should I search for on eBay for one of those convertors for the Xbox remote? Considering the remote is $10 on ebay, this sounds like a good idea.

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