How to use an Apple (Mac) Remote with Plex running on Windows through Bootcamp

Plex

I recently acquired a new A/V receiver as I have been watching quite a few films lately. So I hooked the bad boy up and sat down to watch something or other only to find that OSX EL Capitan on a Mac Mini (mid 2011) would not work correctly (and it wouldn’t work when I rolled the Mini back to fresh install of Yosemite either). Basically the screen was flickering black every 5 seconds or so. I tried a different HDMI cable with no joy but connecting the Mini back to the TV directly fixed the issue… however there was little point in that as I wasn’t getting the surround sound that I bought the damn A/V receiver for.

After lots of searching I found that the 2012 mini had an issue with HDMI handshaking and CEC which resulted in this very same problem. Whilst Apple had released a firmware update to fix this in the 2012 models the problem was never corrected in the mid 2011 models. My only solution to fix this was to either buy a new Mini, or install Windows through Bootcamp and turn the Mini into a Windows box. I ended up being fine with the latter solution, as it would soon come to my attention that Apple do not allow Atmos Bitstream audio to be passed through the OSX operating system anyway, meaning that new movies with Atmos audio wouldn’t have worked whilst running under El Capitan… you can thank the late Steve Jobs for the “My way, or the high way” Apple method of thinking.

So I install Windows 7, it all works fine after taking about 6 hours to get setup in the way I want, and then I go to use Plex. Of course I am sat there clicking the remote and nothing is happening despite a) Bootcamp installing the remote IR drivers, and b) Plex natively support Mac remotes (but no go on Windows).

Just before I continue, I did submit a feature request to Plex to support for the Apple remote on Windows, since in my mind it should be fairly trivial. However, it would seem that not many people want to see the same thing as the post got no replies at all… which actually makes me wonder why I am even bothering to post this guide if nobody actually needs it :/

Whatever though, I needed it, so it might help someone.

Now, there is a forum post where people have done this for Kodi, and that is where I got my initial information to make this work. My method changes the key mapping to work with Plex Home Theatre and Plex Media Player, and also supports button presses from the Apple MC377 remote.

First things first, you are going to have to go and download EventGhost which has flavours for both X32/X64 versions of Windows. EventGhost is a nifty little program that takes the input from almost any peripheral you can think of and then executes actions on those inputs that you assign. So, I dunno, you can make the button press of a remote send an [Escape] key command to the operating system. You see where this is going?

I’m going to do the next part as a step by step how-to, follow along carefully now!

  1. After you have EventGhost installed, you need to change the way the Mac IR receiver is ‘seen’ by Windows. At the moment anything you do will be intercepted and the remote will only be able to control iTunes which is no good. You will actually have to go and change the drivers in Windows (you can easily change them back). Open up Control Panel, and go to System-> Device Manager. From there, expand the “Human Interface Devices” box, and right click on the Apple IR Receiver. Go to Properties->Driver->Update Driver. From here, choose “Browse…”, then “Let me choose…” Now, choose USB Input Device. You may, or may not have to restart Windows (I didn’t).
  2. You now need to open up EventGhost, fire that bad boy up!
  3. Now the general idea is that you need to capture each button press and assign it to the action, but Chewie’s got your back and I have Pastebinned the XML file which you can open in EventGhost to have this all done for you. So copy and paste that Pastebin into a new Notepad file, and save that file as PlexRemote.xml. Then open it in EventGhost.
  4. EventGhost will now look something like the image below…

    Click for Full View

    Credit to jhsrennie on the Kodi forum for the image

  5. With EventGhost open, go ahead and launch Plex Home Theatre or Plex Media Center. If you are using the same model remote as my good self then the remote should be working straight away and you can use Plex with your remote to your heart’s content.

“But Chewie” I hear your cry, “I don’t have the same model remote, what the hell is this?”.

Well my friend, in that case you will need to capture your remote buttons and assign them to each of the events.

  1. First of all, make sure that each ‘Folder’ in EventGhost is expanded.
  2. Find each instance of HID.1234546 . 123456 denotes the input from the remote. You will need to change these for your remote.
  3. Click the button on the remote that you want to assign, this will now be saved to the last input in EventGhost and appear in the left panel.
  4. You should then be able to ‘Configure’ the HID.123456 ID by right clicking on it which will then allow you to select the last remote input pressed.
  5. Go through each of the actions and assign your button, making sure that straight after you press the button on the remote you configure the HID element.
  6. There is one thing that is confusing. Both quick presses and long presses appear to have the same HID ID, but they are different by a single number, e.g…

    Thanks to perezbalen on the Kodi forum

    Thanks to perezbalen on the Kodi forum

  7. So if you find yourself assigning an input only to test it and have Plex jump up or down (or left or right) twice then it is because you have used the “Long Press” HID.

So yeah, there you go, it is pretty straight forward once you get the hang of it. There is a command which I have muted to launch Plex using the remote as it doesn’t work correctly with Plex Media Player due to the weird way it is doing full screen. You’ll be able to unmute this and test yourself by disabling the red X on the specific event HID.

If this helps you out, and you’d like to see Plex enable native Apple remote support on Windows then please comment on the Plex Feature Request and let me know how you got on in the comments.

Update:

I have updated the original EventGhost script so that the menu button on the remote now launches Plex.

I also recently bought a Harmony 950 remote from Amazon (which is awesome btw). I then taught it the commands from the Apple remote and it now works flawlessly with EventGhost, so if you are looking to get your Harmony Remote working with Windows and Plex, then the above is a solution for you as long as you have an IR receiver/port on your computer.

 

Get free Wifi access in Thai (Suvarnabhumi) international airport

I’m sat in Suvarnabhumi airport in Thailand waiting for a delayed flight (don’t you just love air travel?) and I needed to get my internet fix. I tried a few access points before giving up and opting for the paid Wifi service which is available throughout the airport.

As i was signing up i noticed that the connection left the confines of the internal LAN and connected out to the internet for the whole verified by visa thing. Before completing the payment I open up another tab and sure enough I had free access to any website I wanted.

So if you are ever at Suvarnabhumi and want free wifi, connect to the WLANNET SSID, go through the signup process, and when you hit the screen below (before entering your credit card details) just open a new tab and browse away. The session only lasts about 10 mins, but all you have to do is open another tab and go through the process again 🙂

Get to this point and then you have free wifi

I would imagine that this method works in a few other places too 😉

Abusing the new Facebook profile layout

My love for blogging has pretty much all but disappeared hence the very limited updates on this blog, it just seems that each time I want to sit down and write something I have 10 other things that are more important. Anyway Esrun said I should blog about this, so here goes.

Recently Facebook gave users the option to switch to a new profile layout, at the time of writing this is entirely opt in so not everyone will see it. You need to visit a friends page who has switched to the new profile and then click the button and confirm that you also want to switch to the new profile. The jury is still out on whether this new profile is better than the old one, but it does have one major flaw at that is as follows.

At the top of each person’s profile are 5 pictures, there is no direct way to chose which pictures you want or the order that they appear in, basically Facebook thought it would be a great idea to just have the last 5 recently tagged photos of you appear in this line up. Aside from the fact that you may be smashed at a party and someone tags an unflattering photo of you, causing it to be right there at the top of the page, it is also open to some creative abuse.

As I said, it takes the last 5 tagged photo, so i decided to create a new album with some alphabet letters and then send some messages to my friends. You must remember to tag the last letter first, and then work backwards.

Here my good friend Mikey is reminded of what I think of him

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So there is a message I came up with really quick, I am sure there are much more funny and creative ways of doing this but it seems a really stupid idea by the developers to just let the last 5 tagged photos appear at the top of the page. Of course the user has the choice to change the images, but its a long process where you click an [x] and FB cycles through your last tagged images. Here is what I would like to see to make the top 5 images better…

  1. Allow a privacy setting which stops third party tagged photos appear in the top 5
  2. Allow me to select which images i want in the top 5 from my albums
  3. Allow me to rearrange the order of the images

Maybe they will make some changes, but i doubt it, in the mean time, go have some fun, and post any good ones you make in the comments below 😉

SE Reputation Management For Direct Response Cost Savings

People talk about search engine reputation management (SERM) like it only serves to hide nasty blog articles dated from 2 years before you settled the class action. I’ve noticed this for a while – but never seen it blogged – that savvy companies could use similar SERP-domination techniques for direct response. Specifically, they could save money on coupons.

Let’s imagine how SERM can save you money.

Suppose you’re Mac Cosmetics. Suppose further that your checkout process prompts people for a coupon.

Guess what 90% of people do?

They google ‘Mac cosmetics coupon’ . Or ‘promo code for Mac Makeup’ or whatever combination of (i) “money off” terminology your checkout asks for and (ii) your brand and variations on it.

What happens next?

They find an affiliate coupon publisher site. They click the link to ‘reveal the coupon code’.

And then?

If you’re lucky, all that’s going to cost you is the discount plus the commission
for the affiliate that contributed NOTHING to generating the sale…

Or perhaps you don’t give affiliate coupons, so it just costs you for the discount.

But that’s unlikely. Because clever affiliates can use the ‘click to reveal discount’ call to action combined with a “site is loading” page after that. The click-to-reveal button cookies your visitor and the ‘loading page’ isn’t there to ask for patience but really to just reveal the non-affiliate coupon. Depending on your tracking, that cookie may mean paying the affiliate even if the coupon isn’t part of the affiliate channel.

If you’re unlucky, what that is going to cost you is the entire sale. The visitor just browsed your site for 5 minutes to find the product, add to cart, go through 90% of your checkout… It’s not a sure thing they’ll do it over for a 10% discount or free shipping.

So what is this notorious “that” in the phrase, “that is going to cost you”?

“That” is a failure to use reputation management to rank your own site and pages for “Brand + coupon” queries.