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Make Any Remote Better than Harmony - Intro

ImageMake any remote "smarter" than anything store-bought - use your favorite remote to control your PVR software plus the rest of your A/V gear too!  This article shows how to use 1 remote to control all A/V devices seamlessly from the MythTV menu.


Article by: Matthew Bodkin, CommandIR Engineer & Support 2004-2008

Published: July 5th, 2008 on 




In this guide we built smarts into new MythTV menu items that replace 'task' buttons on smart remotes
This CommandIR application is by far the most popular trade-show demo I've had the privilege of showing.  The setup outlined here is pretty easy (albeit a bit tedious, see the note about LIRC Config at the end) and I thought that given the current economic situation it might be a good time to put out this article on "making your own" smart remote. 

Besides, it's a better solution than even the high-end remotes with CommandIR - controlling all devices in parallel from an on-screen menu - instead of holding up a remote, having line-of-sight to all devices, and waiting for it to finish controlling everything in serial sequence...

Though of course I recommend CommandIR for this application and the sample configuration is CommandIR specific, this guide can be easily applied to any LIRC compatible hardware. 

I assume some basic Linux/unix familiarity (editing files, setting permissions) and a basic LIRC setup. Have a quick look at our lircd.conf and .lircrc guides to get up to speed with LIRC then let's get started!


How it Works

  • Your PC receives remote-control commands
  • PC operates normally (commands are forwarded to software programs) until a 'task' is selected
  • In each 'task' mode, commands are translated and the corresponding device command is 'blasted' to the device from the PC
  • Task-switching scripts send the commands to that your TV to a specific input (eg. game device on Aux3) and how to bring focus back to your PC menu

User Interface

  • MythTV Menus
  • Any 1 remote
  • Absolutely no knowledge of how the system works or is setup

Sample Usage - What happens in the Background

  • Press "power" - all devices turn on; TV input gets reset to PC
  • Move MythTV menu cursor up/down to select a MythTV section, or a new 'Task'
  • Select 'Watch VHS Video' - TV switches to VCR input, sends 'play' to VCR, holds MythTV from responding keys
  • Press "pause" - we detect it and send the VCR's "pause" command to it
  • Press "stop" - we detect it again and send the VCR's "stop" command to it
  • Press "exit/back" - PC stops translating buttons to VCR and switches TV input back to PC, allows MythTV to respond to the remote again

Ready? Continue to HOWTO: Make any Remote better than Harmony
Last Updated: Saturday, 05 July 2008

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