Andre's Blog

Personal blog of Andre Perusse

Intel NUC HTPC, XBMC, and Harmony Ultimate Remote Control

I recently upgraded my home theatre PC (HTPC) to an Intel NUC with a built-in infrared receiver. My previous HTPC had an outboard IR receiver that I bought as part of a Windows Media Center remote control kit, and after a fashion it worked very well with XBMC. I say "after a fashion" because XBMC has matured over the years and its remote-control integration has evolved along with it. In the early years, I even had installed a program called Event Ghost that would interpret IR signals and issue XBMC commands. When it came time to use the Intel NUC with a remote control, I was no longer sure how I had gotten it to work so well with the previous machine.

Thankfully, for the most part the Intel NUC's IR receiver works very well with my Logitech Harmony remote. However, one command no longer functioned - the context menu when I clicked the "Info" button. This had worked without issue on the previous HTPC, and I don't recall having performed any special configuration to enable it. To resolve the problem, I resorted to several different methods.

First, I had set up the HTPC remote control on my Harmony as a "Media Center Special Edition". The "Special Edition" version of the Harmony device profile enables some very important functions that the regular Media Center device profile does not. Chief among these are the ability to send Windows-N and Alt-N keystrokes, which in my case I used to send a Windows-4 keystroke to load XBMC (XBMC was the forth icon in my Windows Task Bar) and an Alt-F4 keystroke to quit XBMC. This made it very easy to restart XBMC without requiring me to haul out my wireless keyboard. And these commands still worked with the Intel NUC, just the "Info" button no longer functioned.

I tried restoring to the general Media Center device profile, but this didn't work either. Back to the Special Edition profile, and I attempted to enhance XBMC's built-in remote control support with an enhanced keyboard map file that I found here. Still no luck. For whatever reason, I couldn't get the remote's "Info" IR signal to launch any action. In the end, I remapped the Info button to issue an Alt-N keystroke instead, and I modified the keyboard map file to look for this signal and interpret it as an XBMC Context Menu command. This worked great, so I took the opportunity to map some more buttons, and create a few Harmony "soft" buttons that I didn't have with my previous HTPC build:

	  <one mod="alt">Info</one>
	  <two mod="alt">ShowSubtitles</two>
	  <three mod="alt">NextSubtitle</three>
	  <four mod="alt">OSD</four>
	  <five mod="alt">ContextMenu</five>
	  <six mod="alt">audionextlanguage</six>

It was a round-about way to get things working (and likely not the most efficient) but the Harmony configuration is now very powerful. I expect the only reason I'll need to use the wireless keyboard any more is to install Windows Updates once a month.

Comments (4) -

  • Brian

    2/24/2014 6:05:23 PM |

    What a great article!  I am having the same problem with my NUC.  Did you ever find a way to get the "Menu" button to work correctly?

  • Andre Perusse

    2/24/2014 11:11:21 PM |

    I'm glad you liked the article. I ended up wiring the Menu button to Alt-5, which you can see from the keymap snippet above is mapped to XBMC's ContextMenu command.

  • Moritz

    7/1/2014 7:10:02 PM |

    Great information with the MCE special edition. But I can't find it in the Hoarmony setup. What was it exactly you searched for at myharmony? What manufacturer and what device/modell? Thanks.

  • Andre Perusse

    7/2/2014 1:42:59 AM |

    The manufacturer I entered was Microsoft, and for the model I entered Windows Media Center SE 2.