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HOW-TO: Use a Harmony Remote to Seamlessly Use XBMC, Hulu Desktop, and Netflix

I did a lot of research and tinkering to find a way to control a htpc and switch between different media applications only using the remote and trying to make it as user friendly as possible. I needed this to pass the wife acceptance test – W.A.T. for short.

Below is a video of the solution I came up with. For the most part, a very seamless integration of XBMC, Hulu Desktop, and Netflix using the Windows Media Center plugin. I also threw Boxee on there after this video was shot.

I only have a dual core Athlon II X2 2.65 ghz so one of the challenges was making sure only one application was running at a time because having two of them running at once really taxed the cpu.

========================================================

Requirements:

1) Software
– XBMC (http://xbmc.org/)
– Hulu Desktop
– Windows Media Center with Netflix Plugin
– WinHotKey (http://directedge.us/content/winhotkey)
– AutoHotKey (http://www.autohotkey.com)

2) Harmony Remote Control

3) A RC6 capable receiver

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Steps:

1) Harmony Remote Setup – Im not going to go through the whole setup process for the Harmony Remote. Go here to read full instructions: http://forum.xbmc.org/showthread.php?t=77519. One caveat, I had to also add a device called “Microsoft Windows Media Center” as a device to get the htpc to turn off and on. I am also posting my button mapping for the Harmony remote. I have found these to be a good mix to allow use in all three major applications. These keys are optimized for XBMC, so some of the special ones only pertain to XBMC. Lastly, make sure to change the power settings on your htpc to sleep when the power button is pushed.

 

2) Create a bat file to launch directly to the Netflix plugin in Windows Media center. Open up Notepad in Windows and type:

Start windowsmediacenterapp:{e6f46126-f8a9-4a97-9159-b70b07890112}\{982ea9d3-915c-4713-a3c8-99a4688b7c59}?EntryPointParameters=

Save the file as netflix.bat (or whatever you want). Just make sure it is saved as a .bat file.

3) Create the AutoHotKey scripts. AutoHotKey is a neat little utility that allows you to write custom scripts that do things when executed. I only scratched the surface on what it can do. The idea is to have a script executed that will launch a certain application, maximize the windows of that application, and kill any of the other major applications in the background. For example, when I execute the Netflix script, it will first check to see if NetFlix is already running and if so, focus on it and maximize the window. Otherwise, it will launch the bat file above in step 2 and then look for XBMC and Hulu and see if they are running. If they are, they kill them in the background. The same thing is done for XBMC except it looks to kill Netflix (Windows Media Center) and Hulu. Please note, all examples below also include Boxee in the kill process. All scripts are written in Note Pad and saved as a .ahk file.

Script for XBMC:

IfWinExist XBMC
{
WinActivate}
else
{
Run C:\Program Files (x86)\XBMC\XBMC.exe
WinWait XBMC
WinActivate}IfWinExist, Hulu Desktop
WinClose ;

IfWinExist, Windows Media Center
WinClose ;

IfWinExist, BOXEE
WinClose ;

Script for Netflix:

IfWinExist Windows Media Center
{
WinActivate
WinMaximize ;
}
else
{
Run C:\Users\Jason\Desktop\netflix app.bat
WinWait Windows Media Center
WinActivate
WinMaximize ;
}IfWinExist, XBMC
WinClose ;IfWinExist, Hulu Desktop
WinClose ;IfWinExist, BOXEE
WinClose ;

Script for Hulu:

IfWinExist Hulu Desktop
{
WinActivate
WinMaximize ;
}
else
{
Run C:\Users\htpc\AppData\Local\HuluDesktop\HuluDesktop.exe
WinWait Hulu Desktop
WinActivate
WinMaximize ;
}IfWinExist, XBMC
WinClose ;IfWinExist, Windows Media Center
WinClose ;IfWinExist, BOXEE
WinClose ;

Note: Make sure that .ahk files are associated with AutoHotKey. I had issues downloading and installing AutoHotKey so let me know if you need help here.

4) Set Windows to auto start your preferred application. For me that application is XBMC. Go to Start > All Programs > Right click on the Startup folder and select “Explore for all users”. This will open a Windows Explorer box of the Startup folder. Copy one of your AutoHotKey scripts to this folder. This way when Windows starts, the script to launch, say XBMC, is triggered.

5) Setup WinHotKey to map a specific keyboard key to launching your scripts. For me I used F8-F11. Make sure you uncheck “When I press these keys:” so that ONLY the F keys are needed to be pushed in order to trigger the launch command. Im not sure if the Harmony remote can do custom key presses like windows key + F10 which is why I have this unchecked. In the dropdown for “I want WinHotKey to:” choose ‘Open a Document’. Make sure that whatever keys you select here to launch your scripts is mapped to the same custom keys on your Harmony Remote.

Source: avsforum.com

2 Comments

  1. himem says:

    XBMC remote for android is so great 😛

  2. Andrés says:

    this is great and will be doing it in the near future. im using the iphone app hipporemote and then either the xbmc or boxee app to control the application but this seems like a good option as well. what remote are you using? have your tried using the iphone/itouch to do any of this. I just want to know if its worth the cost. but great job and thanks for the tutorial

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