RaspBMC: Ebay USB IR remote

December 8, 2012


One of the beauties of RaspBMC is the variety of control methods available to the user.  My first box is connected to an HDMI-capable television and uses CEC to pass control codes from the TV to the Raspi, which is all very neat and convenient.  I also use Yatse XBMC remote on my Android phone because there are lots of benefits to being able to browse titles, select and queue content to watch (it can also be a little more responsive than the TV remote).  I also like the feature where you can browse on your phone and send youtube content to the TV, etc.

But the second box is connected via composite video and so gaining control codes from the remote is not an option.  Until very recently this unit did not have network connectivity either, so control via a phone app wasn’t possible either.  Indeed even though it now does have wifi, phone control as the sole option isn’t exactly the golden solution.  Sure, browsing the library via the phone is much nicer than the blocky, hard to read, low resolution of the TV but for every day tasks like pausing, volume control, etc having to unlock your phone is not super convenient.

So I thought that I’d have a go ordering a really cheap, generic USB IR remote off ebay ($4 delivered) and simply see what happens.  Again this is one of those areas where I have not read any forums posts about whether or not this works but it’s not a high-stakes gamble.

And the answer is that yes it does work.  You’ll need to reboot to get it to recognise, it won’t just hot-plug the same way that connecting a mouse to your PC would.  Many of the common keys are already functional straight away (eg play, pause, arrows, page up/down) and the mouse feature also works.  There are plenty of buttons however that are not assigned, but that should be fairly trivial to work out using a similar approach to detecting CEC commands via SSH and then creating an appropriate entry in /home/pi/.xbmc/userdata/keymaps/remote.xml.

RaspBMC: USB Wifi with RTL8188CUS

December 7, 2012


I recently built up my second RaspBMC box and due to its location this one really has a need for wireless network connectivity.  Taking a quick look on ebay this is actually a very cheap thing to achieve – indeed, a tiny USB wifi adapter at $4 (including postage) is cheaper than buying a network cable.

The one draw-back is that I have read many forums posts about people having issues with certain chipsets not being supported by RaspBMC out of the box.  In particular was Realtek’s RTL8188CUS, which seems to be by far the most popular (if not completely ubiquitous) chip in these cheap usb wifi sticks.  Most of the posts seemed to me to be a number of months old and in that time the RaspBMC project has come a long a lot in terms of updates.  So, although I have not read anything to say that this problem has gone away, I thought I would commit the measly funds required to buy one regardless and see what would happen.

And so the point of this post… I have tried it with RC4 and the RTL8188CUS chipset works totally fine without the need to install any additional drivers.  The Network Manager add-on was required, however, to get everything configured and connected.  And it’s worth noting that if initial wired network connectivity is a problem there are some pre-built images available which come with this add-on already installed.

Hopefully this post will let others know that it appears that bog-standard ebay adapters are now fine after all and the search for less widely available chipsets is no longer required.