MCE Remote FAQ

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The original contents of this FAQ were extracted from the lengthy posting on The Green Button forum (the whole thread there) - my thanks to all of the contributors (particularly burningzeroad for his hard work and pallissmn for his excellent introduction). Unfortunately the forum thread referenced has disappeared from the internet.

NOTE: The original information from earlier than 2008 is no longer relevant. It has been moved to MCE_Remote_Bruno and the new content here was largely added by nosignal on 10/10/2009.

What is this all about?

Microsoft OEM a remote control to compliment their XP Media Centre Edition (MCE) which is attractively priced and designed and includes a USB-based IR Receiver. Both the remote and the operating system can be purchased separately and the remote will work to some degree with standard XP (service pack 2 is recommended). The remote allows you to control the PC (which is cool) and you can even teach it the TV on/off and volume up and down buttons so you can perform those functions from the MCE remote.

Some of the buttons send normal keystrokes like <Enter> and <Up> and <Down> which work in any application.

Some models are also supplied with two IR "Blasters". These are designed to allow the PC to send commands to other devices (such as a TV) by simulating a remote control and sending the infrared signals that it (the TV) understands. So if you have a cable, freeview or other kind of set-top box (STB), you can get the PC to change the channel of the other STB (provided it is on the Microsoft list). You program the computer to record a program, and the PC will make sure that the STB is tuned to the right channel). If it's not on the Microsoft list, MCE has the facility to set up manually from a normal STB remote by capturing and storing the IR Commands.


Details about the MCE Remote Drivers

MCE remotes can send signals to the computer in two quite different ways. The first is by acting as a HID Device (Human interface Device) - in this way, some of the buttons are interpreted as normal keystrokes so they work in any application, but the full range of buttons can be interpreted by querying the HID driver (e.g. by using the HID Plugin in EventGhost). The second way is by acting as a MCE Device - in this way, none of the buttons are interpreted as normal keystrokes and the full range of buttons can be interpreted by querying the MCE driver (e.g. by using the MCE Plugin in EventGhost).

By default, both drivers are installed and active, which can cause some confusion - the most common problem is that buttons like <Enter> trigger two responses - once from the HID simulated keyboard, and once from something like EventGhost accessing the MCE Driver.

Drivers for Windows XP

A reasonable number of models of MCE Remotes do not come with drivers for Windows XP (e.g. the Philips SRM5100), and if you talk to the manufacturer's technical support, they will tell you that you need to use Windows Vista, or Windows XP MCE (Media Center Edition). This is not the case - they can be used easily and happily in Windows XP. For more information, see MCE Remote Drivers for Windows XP.

Basic Setup

At its simplest, you can use a MCE Remote by simply:

  • Installing the drivers as the manufacturer intended.
  • Adding the MCE Plugin in EventGhost, and tick the Disable HID... box. Reboot for it to take effect.

Using this technique, the HID simulated keystrokes are disabled, which typically makes things a lot easier as it stops double-ups etc. You can still have the keystrokes simulated by using EventGhost, and in fact the default example setup has a set of "Keyboard" macros under the "Context" folder - you may need to create new events for each Macro that match your remote signals, but that is easy.

Troubleshooting

If you have problem with your USB IR dongle not being detected correctly after reboot:

  • It seems to be a motherboard problem. Probably the motherboard is not supplying power to the USB ports soon enough / well enough for it to be initialized properly.
  • Changing motherboard fixes it.
  • Using a PCI USB card fixes it.
  • Maybe a powered USB hub would fix it? Less likely. More expensive.


Most people will not need to read beyond this point

As I understand it, this should be all 90% of people need to do if you are using EventGhost. In the past, EventGhost was not able to "Disable HID" itself, and other software was not able to either. Therefore, there are a lot of discussions on forums about disabling HID in other ways. As there are still cases where these other techniques are necessary (e.g. certain versions of Windows, extra tools and functions), the following options are still of value to some people:

  • MCE Remote - Alternate Driver - Option 1
By Bruno Fleurette. MCE_Remote_Bruno. This was the first set, made by Bruno Fleurette. However, Bruno discontinued development of them, and 'and-81' continued development of them (see below). IT IS RECOMMENDED THAT THE NEWER and-81 VERSION BE USED rather than Bruno's.
  • MCE Remote - Alternate Driver - Option 2
By and-81. MCE Replacement Driver. MediaPortal developer 'and-81' continued development of Bruno's drivers. While they are recommended over Bruno's version, they are now largely obsolete (and-81 himself has said this), though they do have uses in some situations.