I finally settled on a remote control solution for my Home Theater Personal Computer (HTPC): The SnapStream Firefly PC Remote, $49.99 USD with free shipping from Amazon. Here's how to set things up in OpenSUSE 10.2.

What's great about the Firefly is that it works on RF, not InfraRed, meaning this thing can work through walls and your PC/receiver does not need to be near your TV or even in the same room. This was ideal for me, because I'm using my Suse/Myth box with audio/video cables running to my TV in a different room about 30 feet away.

Setting Up Firefly In Windows

Out of the box, the thing works beautifully in Windows. Just follow the "quick start" sheet:

  • Put batteries in remote
  • Put CD in disk drive
  • Install software
  • Plug RF Receiver into a spare USB port
  • Follow on-screen instructions by pressing some of the remote's buttons

The Firefly remote comes with trial versions of their HTPC software for Windows called "Beyond Media Basic", however I wasn't too interested in that (particularly since trying out a video file ended up hanging it when I had switched video output to my TV). I was more interested in getting this remote working in OpenSUSE 10.2.

Setting Up Firefly In OpenSUSE 10.2

Linux has a pretty mature package for remote controlling the PC called LIRC that has become a catch-all software package for not just infra-red devices, but RF remote devices like the Firefly.

Setting it up was pretty easy. You will need to be root for most of these steps:

  • Put batteries in remote
  • Plug RF Receiver into a spare USB port
  • Using Yast > Software > Software Management, make sure the following packages are installed: lirc, lirc-kmp-default. The lirc-kmp-default package is absolutely required because it contains the ATI USB driver (lirc_atiusb) which is what we will use to work with the Firefly remote.
  • Add the following two lines to /etc/modprobe.local.conf:
    alias char-major-61 lirc_atiusb
    alias lirc_dev lirc_atiusb
  • Next, you need to create an /etc/lircd.conf file. This file is the one I used (copied from other Linux sites).
  • Open Yast > System > System Services (Runlevel). Select "lirc" in the list of services and click the "Enable" button. Now we have set up LIRC software/service to run upon boot-up.

Once you've done this, it means your driver has been installed and your system has been setup to run the LIRC service. You can try out the command-line tool "irw" if you want to verify that. Type "irw" in the command-line, then press some buttons on the remote - you should see a notification in the console window whenever a button has been pressed. You can use <ctrl>+c to stop irw.

Now the last step is to set up a configuration file that maps buttons on the remote to functions in each application that you want to configure for LIRC. This includes most of the media players that ship with default distributions. If you're not sure what to do (like I was), you can start with this file and put it in your home directory, saved as .lircrc. This rc file is how I set up to use the xine video player. Note that if you have multiple users, you might want to save this file as /etc/lircrc instead. Also, I should add that tweaking the lircrc file is pretty straightforward, even for a Linux newbie.

If you're looking for key-mapping for MythTV you can start here, but be fore-warned that some of the key-mappings are spelled incorrectly. When I get a chance, I'll post my full lircrc file with Myth mappings.

§336 · March 2, 2007 · Linux, Software, Technology · · [Print]

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