Archive for the ‘Microsoft Hacks’ Category

The first thing an Infra-Red (IR) remote control needs is an IR receiver.  I needed to buy one of these for my project to use the Apple remote on my PC, so I needed to find a receiver that didn’t come with a remote.  You can find several out remote/receiver packages out there, but I didn’t want to spend the extra money on a remote I wouldn’t use (you can see how much extra it is in the bottom list).  

I did some shopping around and figured out that stand alone receiver are hard to find and often too expensive.    Below is a list of many of the standalone IR receivers and their price for purchase on the web. Also listed is their IR frequency ranges (what frequencies of infra-red signal they will pick up).

  • USB-IRT – $50.00 – 36-40kHz (usb connection)
  • HomElectronic’s TIRA 2.1 – $51.11 – 36-40kHz (usb)
  • HomElectronic’s IRA-3 – $43.81 -36-40kHz (RJ45 or Serial DB9)
  • IRMAN – 21.68Pounds – not in stock, delivery not available US
  • PCIR – 24.68Pounds – (serial connection)
  • IRTrans – 99.00Euros (usb connection)
  • TwistedMelon Manta IR1 – $19.99 – 31-60kHz (usb connection)

For Price comparison here is a list of a bunch of remotes for windows (mostly ugly things) that come with receivers (these vary widely due to differing abilities):

  • The Keyspan Remote – This is a very nice looking remote, similar to the Apple remote – $46.24
  • ATI Remote Wonder – Radio Frequency(RF), Vista Not Supported – $49.99
  • Firefly PCRemote – RF, $49.99
  • Firefly Mini – IR – $29.99
  • StreamZap – RF – $39.95
  • SoundBlaster XFI Remote – $29.99
  • Logitech Universal Harmony 659 – 89.99
  • Harmony 550 – 89.99
  • Univeral Learning Remote – IR and RF – $79.99
  • Windows Media Center IR Remote – $39.99
  • Microsoft A90-00007 – $38.99
  • Microsoft Remote Control A9N-00009 – $51.99

Some of the standalone receivers are more expensive than ones that come with a remote! While you shouldn’t worry about the freqency too much (all of them cover the Apple Remote and most common IR remotes) you may notice a huge difference in prices, availability, and suitability.  But one of them stands out – the Manta IR1 receiver.  

The reason for this is that the Manta is put out by a company called TwistedMelon for the purpose of allowing Mac users with older Macs (or Mac towers) with no built-in IR receiver to be able to use Frontrow and control their mac from the couch. Their main product seems to be their software product, Mira, an interface that allows the Apple remote to control the older macs.  The Manta receiver is therefore not only the cheapest standalone receiver I could find on the net, it’s also the best looking, the easiest to use (some of the othe receivers aren’t even usb), and has the widest receiving frequency.  It will work with pretty much any remote control out there (and it works very nicely with my Media Center Remote).  

You might also notice that buying an apple remote plus a manta receiver is still an economical option compared to many remote/receiver packages.


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I like the Apple remote control, you know, the one that comes with the new iMacs. It is sleek, small, has a magnet in it to stick it to the iMac or wall, and is, most of all, simple. It has only six buttons and still manages to be perfectly usable (for the mac, see the bottom). But I don’t have a mac. I have a PC running Vista and I like Vista. But the remote controls that one can buy for windows are huge ugly things filled with way too many buttons for my tastes.  I have a Media Center remote that came packaged with my wife’s Lenovo tower and it has a ton of buttons I never use.  So I set out to get the Apple remote to work on my PC.

The first thing you need is the Apple IR Remote Controller. A standalone apple remote from Amazon.com is $19.00  and $29.99 on the Apple Store (why would anyone buy from the Apple store?).  You could also get this cool remote for Macs that looks exactly like the Apple one (a little thicker) but is also a card reader for even cheaper at $14.99.

Then you’ll need an IR reciever.  IR recievers are nicely built into iMacs and macBooks, but most PC’s don’t come with one (neither do Mac towers).   Since you want to use the Apple remote, you’ll want to buy a standalone reciever, one that comes without the remote control.  Whatever one you choose it will need to detect the Apple Remote’s very common frequency of 38kHz.

See my post on IR Recievers for information on pricing and the best place to get an IR-receiver (pay attention to frequencies listed).

Depending on what software you want to use to program the Apple remote,  and if you’re using Vista, you may reconsider the Manta.  Read more below, look at the programs available to see if they recognize any of the receivers more easily than the Manta, and read the comment about XP drivers, and give it some thought.  However, I still think the cheapest reciever and the easiest to use software (IR Server Suite) is the best option.

Now that you have both a remote and a receiver, you’ll want to get them working on your PC. If you’re have an old Mac without an IR receiver, you just plug it in and install Twisted Melon’s Mira Software for exactly that purpose.  With a PC, things are a little bit more complicated.

Vista will  recognize the Manta receiver as an a Microsoft eHome Infrared Transceiver and will automatically install the drivers for it.  For windows XP, you’ll need to download the driver update from Microsoft to recognize the Manta (and most IR recievers).  This makes it instantly useable with any windows MCE remote control (the most common kind). I have one of these also (it came free with my Wife’s Lenovo) and it works fine.  However, the driver will not recognize the signals coming out of the apple remote.

Here’s where things get more complicated.  Depending on what operating system you have you will have several options, but regardless of what you do you will need a software controller to learn and recognize the apple remote signals.  Below is a list of many of them out there:

  • Promixis Girder 5 – 49.99 (free trial), bad reviews
  • IRCommand2 – 9.95 (free trial)
  • ByRemote HIP – Freeware
  • EventGhost – open-source
  • Medi-Texxx VICE – 20.00 (free trial) not supported
  • PC Remote Control
  • IRAssistant – Freeware
  • LIRC – only for Linux, WinLIRC for Windows 95/98
  • IR Server Suite – Freeware – strongly recommended

I’ll rule out the ones that cost money right away (except for Girder) since its the best.  That leaves HIP, EventGhost, PCRemote, IRAssitant, and IR server suite.  PCRemote will not work for this due to the reasons below and I tried the methods below to struggle with HIP, EventGhost, and IRAssitant and found them more work than necessary (plus none of them would work for me because I have Vista 64bit).  So I thought I was up against a brick wall until I found this thread, which says that there is an easier and better way, and that is to use IR Server Suite.

Download IR Server Suite, install it, open the translator and begin using the programs section to program the Apple Remote. You just click a remote button, then tell the software what to do with it.  You can do almost anything in your computer.  So, for any version of windows, there you have it:  the Apple Remote on a PC.

Now, for the harsh truth: The apple remote has only six buttons on it, and you’ll only be able to program those six individually.  You can control your computer in many ways, but you’ll never have as much control as a Media Center Remote can give you, and you’ll never have full control over Windows Media Center.  The Apple remote is made to work with FrontRow, which is programmed to handle buttons differently depending on context, but Media Center is not.  You’ll have to decide if six buttons is really worth it for you.

Addendum: If you really want to use one of other remote programs out there, you could buy a different receiver (one that works with the software suite of your choice), but if you want the cheapest receiver (Manta) and still want those other programs, here are some steps you can follow depending on which OS you’re using. This site also has some good information to follow, and this blog has even better information.

If you’re using XP 32bit

You can use Girder, HIP, or EventGhost.  But these will not recognize the remote with the default driver, so you can use a replacement driver (which seems to not work very well) or you can follow the much simpler methods here to continue using the default driver (both the replacement driver and this method disable the default driver’s automatic input handling feature, which is necessary to use these programs).

Editing the Registry to Disable eHome tranceiver automatic handling (this is easily undoable, see bottom):

  1. Once the driver is auto-installed for your receiver.
  2. Hit windows key + r, type in “regedit.exe” and hit enter.
  3. Navigate to this key: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Servic es\HidIr\Remotes\745a17a0-74d3-11d0-b6fe-00a0c90f57da
  4. Delete the keys from “CodeSetNum0” to “CodeSetNum3”.
  5. To undo this at any time:
    1. Hit windows key + r, type in “devmgmt.msc” hit enter.
    2. Expand Human Interface Devices
    3. R-Click on the Microsoft eHome Infred Transceiver
    4. Select Uninstall. Hit Ok.
    5. Click on the action menu at the top.
    6. Select Scan for hardware changes.  Wait, the installing driver dialogue will pop up and those registry keys will be readded.

Once you’ve done that, Girder, HIP, and EventGhost should recognize input signals in XP 32bit using the eHome driver setting or eHome replacement driver setting (even though you don’t have the replacement driver).  I can’t verify that they will as I’ve never tried it.

You’re using Vista 32bit

The method described above will not work for Windows Vista, those programs will not recognize the original driver.  But you can still use the replacement driver written for vista found here. Read more about that on this forum.

Vista 64-bit

You’re apparently out of luck, the only way to use an ehome transceiver like the Manta with a foreign remote is with IR Server Suite (see above).


Windows 7 64bit & Apple Remote V2

Erik Andersson reported to me that he got the apple remote version 2 working in Windows 7 64bit.  You can read about how to do that on IRSS Forum here.  Thanks Erik!


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