[mythtv-users] Inexpensive universal remote and IR receiver

Rod Smith mythtv at rodsbooks.com
Sat Feb 3 15:23:45 UTC 2007

On Saturday 03 February 2007 02:09, Daniel Agar wrote:
> I'm looking for suggestions for an inexpensive universal remote and IR
> receiver that I could easily find in Canada.

For inexpensive universal remotes, it's hard to beat units made by UEI. These 
are sold mainly by Radio Shack as their house-brand units and under the One 
For All brand, but some are available under other names, too. (Cable 
companies often deliver UEI remotes with their set-top boxes, for instance.) 
I don't know for sure, but I imagine they'd be easy to find in Canada. These 
remotes are inexpensive (most are under US$20), but "out of the box" they 
aren't as flexible as other universal remotes -- they come preprogrammed to 
handle a finite number of devices and no more, although some models 
can "learn" a limited number of additional functions. The real value-boosting 
thing about them is that they CAN be reprogrammed, but doing so requires 
using some (admittedly rather klunky) software created by users. Check here 
for more information:


Depending on the model you get, you may need to add a "JP1 connector," which 
is a 6-pin header, and possibly add an EEPROM chip, to unlock the remote's 
full potential. Some models ship with these already present, though, and some 
people sell pre-modified remotes. You'll also need a cable that connects to a 
computer's parallel or USB port.

Once you've got all this stuff, you can reprogram the remote to function with 
just about anything, including adding macros, cross-device key moves (to have 
a key operate one device even when the remote as a whole is set to another 
device), and so on. Your remote is also then "future-proofed" -- you can 
program it to control devices you buy after you buy the remote, even if that 
device uses new codes that weren't originally included in the remote. Of 
course, you also get these advantages with the pricier (US$50-$200) 
programmable remotes -- but those ARE pricier remotes, and you said you 
wanted inexpensive.

In theory, with most non-keyboard IR receivers, you can use a universal remote 
set to just about anything, so long as it sends unique codes for each key. 
You'd program LIRC to recognize each of the remote's keypresses and translate 
them into appropriate keyboard kepresses. Thus, you might not need to muck 
with JP1 to get MythTV to work with a remote. I've heard that some IR 
receivers only respond to a limited set of codes, though, so this might not 
always be true. The approach I used was to employ an infrared keyboard, which 
requires reprogramming the remote.

I'm using a One For All URC-6131 with my AV equipment. For the MythTV box, I'm 
using an infrared wireless keyboard sold under the Lite-On brand. It uses a 
protocol identified as "Airboard," but I don't know much about it beyond 
that. I used the JP1 tools to reprogram my URC-6131 to send appropriate 
keyboard codes when I press particular remote buttons. I also had to make a 
few (about three or four, IIRC) changes to the MythTV keyboard mappings to 
eliminate the need to press multiple keys for some functions. The trouble 
with this approach is that, although wireless keyboards are common, most of 
them are RF devices, not IR devices. Most AV remotes are IR devices. I found 
my keyboard on eBay. Searching the Web, they seem to go for about US$50 new, 
but on eBay, they go for half or less of that.

I figured that I'd want to have a wireless keyboard for a MythTV box to enable 
me to actually type stuff, when necessary, without getting up. Making that 
keyboard an IR model and reprogramming the JP1 remote I already had enabled 
me to simplify my configuration by eliminating the need for a separate IR 
receiver for the remote.

Rod Smith

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