Do I Need a Remote? - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 76 Old 02-09-2013, 01:06 PM - Thread Starter
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Running Windows 8
Built a new rig and have it hooked to my TV. I am not sure it's a true "HTPC" as I don't watch cable or OTA on it, just Netflix and Blu Rays ((and browse and game).
I am running the trial of Total Media Theater 6 for watching Blu Rays and have to go between the keyboard and mouse for controls.

Am I supposed to be using a remote?
If so, how would it interface with the PC?

Do these remotes work with TotalMedia Theater or do I have to use MCE?

Does a universal remote like the Harmony (to control TV, Receiver, DVR) wotk with a PC?

TIA
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post #2 of 76 Old 02-09-2013, 02:05 PM
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YES, get a remote if you plan to watch from your easy chair.  YES, Harmony are good but you'll also need an IR receiver.  You can buy a HP MCE IR receiver on eBay for around $12, you can buy a Newegg Rosewill MCE kit for around $12-16 on-sale, and once you have the receiver connected to USB the OS will find/install the drivers.  From inside the TMT or such you'll tell it you have a remote.  Persoanlly I L O V E my Harmony i300 I got for $16 as a refurb from the egg, actually bought 2 - HTPC and bedroom and L O V E how simple they are!

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post #3 of 76 Old 02-11-2013, 07:12 AM - Thread Starter
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Thanks, I'll check that remote out.
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post #4 of 76 Old 02-11-2013, 05:51 PM
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I only have Win7 for my third HTPC, but I have never seen a reason at all for a remote. Just get a decent mouse that has some range and then you'll only have to remember two buttons, there will be no issue of backlighting on the buttons, etc. If I was going to go back to a remote I'd probably get a DVR. Not needing a remote is one of the main advantages of an HTPC.

I still have a couple of the original Gyration mice, which are perfect for HTPC use.
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post #5 of 76 Old 02-11-2013, 06:10 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Karyk View Post

I only have Win7 for my third HTPC, but I have never seen a reason at all for a remote. Just get a decent mouse that has some range and then you'll only have to remember two buttons, there will be no issue of backlighting on the buttons, etc. If I was going to go back to a remote I'd probably get a DVR. Not needing a remote is one of the main advantages of an HTPC.

I still have a couple of the original Gyration mice, which are perfect for HTPC use.

Really?

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post #6 of 76 Old 02-11-2013, 06:48 PM
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Originally Posted by Sammy2 View Post

Really?

Sounds like some low WAF going on with that approach. That wouldn't fly around here.

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post #7 of 76 Old 02-11-2013, 07:05 PM
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The whole idea of using a remote is that you need a remote for your TV, AV Receiver etc... Why would you have a separate control for your htpc? Seems ridiculous to me. I started with just a keyboard/mouse also but got tired of having to pull out separate devices.
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post #8 of 76 Old 02-11-2013, 07:48 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by macks View Post

The whole idea of using a remote is that you need a remote for your TV, AV Receiver etc... Why would you have a separate control for your htpc? Seems ridiculous to me. I started with just a keyboard/mouse also but got tired of having to pull out separate devices.

I use a remote only to turn the TV and receiver on and off. Everything else is done with a mouse.
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post #9 of 76 Old 02-11-2013, 08:17 PM
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Really?

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post #10 of 76 Old 02-12-2013, 06:39 AM
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Yes, really.

There is one thing where maybe a remote might be handy (I don't know). Bluray won't recognize mouse commands for the beginning of a movie, where you get the "play, scenes, setup, etc." options. Some programs have a work around for that, but otherwise you have to use a keyboard if you don't have a remote. That's only an issue though between the trailers and the beginning of a movie.

I just have never understood why people would want to connect a remote to a PC. Would you do that on your desktop? With the exception of the issue in the prior paragraph, it's entirely unnecessary, and makes controlling your PC harder, not easier. Remotes are very dated technology--the IR receivers for them should come bundled with Pong. wink.gif
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post #11 of 76 Old 02-12-2013, 06:42 AM
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Originally Posted by bryansj View Post

Sounds like some low WAF going on with that approach. That wouldn't fly around here.

Your wife can't figure out how to use a mouse on a computer? I think you have the WAF backwards. With a mouse they don't have to learn what button is necessary to push to perform task X.
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post #12 of 76 Old 02-12-2013, 06:46 AM
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It is so much easier to control everything with a universal remote. I am really trying to get my head around using a mouse in a HT environment when I can thumb through my collection, adjust the volume, change the channel, search the guide and pretty much everything I can think of with the one device in my hand.. my Harmony 900.

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post #13 of 76 Old 02-12-2013, 06:54 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Karyk View Post

Your wife can't figure out how to use a mouse on a computer? I think you have the WAF backwards. With a mouse they don't have to learn what button is necessary to push to perform task X.

What software are you using on your HTPC? If you exclusively use a proper HTPC frontend like WMC, XBMC, Plex, etc., then it is much easier to use a remote. All of those programs are designed with basic up, down, left, right, enter, back navigation. Hell, mouse support is even disabled in the current version of Plex Home Theater.

If you really like using your mouse, then that's your business, but I wouldn't recommend it for the typical HTPC user. There's simple no reason the fine control of a mouse should be required to navigate a TV guide, DVR, movie library, etc. And obviously you won't be able to control your AVR and TV with a mouse, which just makes using a mouse all the more clunkier.

Back to the OP, I strongly recommend a universal remote like the Harmony or URC. You will need to get a USB IR receiver as well. The HP ones work very well.
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post #14 of 76 Old 02-12-2013, 06:55 AM
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Either approach ultimately works, but a unified remote is so much easier IMO. I tried a gyration for about 5 minutes then put it back on ebay. Not for me.

In my system, the user has no idea a PC is running the show. Everything (except occasional web browsing) is done with a remote. The experience is no different than using a cable DVR.

At times, 3 or 4 people will be controlling my system simultaneously. How do you manage that situation? Do you have multiple sets of keyboards and mice (or keyboard/mouse apps)? And if you use a mouse exclusively, isn't entering text for searches, for example, very tedious? And how do you manage volume control. Do you really change the PC output volume in windows rather than change the level on your TV or receiver? Don't you lose a lot of fidelity with that approach? Isn't juggling mice and remotes inconvenient? Do your guests know how to run your system without any instruction?

Lastly, just the experience of running WMC with only a mouse is very slow and inefficient. On a remote, to skip or pause, for example, you simply press those buttons (whose locations you know by feel). With a mouse, you have to point at the bottom of the screen to get the on-screen controls to show, then point at the appropriate button then click. That's a lot of steps. That usually takes me 1 or 2 seconds. The remote approach takes only a fraction of a second. A full commercial skip takes me less than one second thanks to a 2-step macro that does 6 30-second skips. How do you manage that with a mouse? And besides the extra steps and effort involved, using a mouse demands your attention every time you perform any action. I can press skip on my remote without taking any attention off the program. With a mouse I have to stop watching the program and look at the on-screen controls.

And that's just the tip of the iceberg. How do you enter channel numbers, and how do you scroll the guide a screen at a time or 12 hours at a time? There are so many things that are so effortless with a remote. I would go crazy if a mouse were my only interface, especially one I have to wave in the air like a Wii-mote.

I'd also like to put in a plug for Ortek/Adesso IR dongles. While the HP ones work great, Ortek is even better because it also has mouse control, if you decide you like that approach better. Avoid the super cheap no-name Chinese ones though. They use an unusual protocol that you may have to learn, and many won't wake your PC and are missing some important commands.
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post #15 of 76 Old 02-12-2013, 07:00 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Karyk View Post

Your wife can't figure out how to use a mouse on a computer? I think you have the WAF backwards. With a mouse they don't have to learn what button is necessary to push to perform task X.

What kind of remote have you used? I don't think there is much of a learning curve to know that the remote button that says Play will cause the show to Play.

Hitting the Watch TV button on the remote and have it turn on the TV, AVR, switch inputs, and start WMC to LiveTV with the transport controls mapped to WMC and volume to the AVR has proven to be pretty easy for both my wife and children.

Grabbing the TV remote and hitting Power and HDM1, then the AVR remote hitting Power and HDMI1, then the mouse to click on the WMC icon and then LiveTV, then the AVR remote for volume while still using the mouse... Then moving the mouse to the upper left of the screen, clicking the Green button icon, then clicking Guide compared to pushing the remote button that says Guide...

I'm just not seeing how I have this backwards or your remote is a bunch of unlabeled buttons.

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post #16 of 76 Old 02-12-2013, 07:04 AM
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Originally Posted by mdavej View Post

Do your guests know how to run your system without any instruction?

To me this is the golden standard for ease of use. If I had a guest at my house, and they wanted to watch a movie, they simple press "watch a movie" on my Harmony. My Plex library comes up, and everything is completely intuitive: up, down left, right, pause, play, etc. Unless they know what Plex is, they probably have no idea they're even controlling a computer (which to me is a good thing).

I would feel ridiculous handing a guest a remote control and a mouse and expecting them to figure it out. Even if they could, it's just very awkward and clunky.
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post #17 of 76 Old 02-12-2013, 07:21 AM
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Karyk,

I am with you 100%. I use my receiver remote as a universal to control everything aside from the HTPC. On the HTPC I am runnng XBMC and use a small Logitech wireless keyboard and mouse (RF) http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16826104683 and http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16823126278 ($60 for the pair).

I have used several remotes with computers in the past, including the Android remote ap for XBMC, and while they've all accomplished the task, they are not nearly as efficient as a keyboard and mouse. I don't worry about back lighting for three reasons: I don't look at a keyboard to type; the pause/play button, arrow keys and backspace button are easy to locate by feel no matter how the keyboard is oriented; and if I do have to look at the keyboard, the projector puts plenty of light into the room.

I primarily remote in to the HTPC to transfer files and perform updates, but I also do occasionally like to manage files or browse the web from the HTPC. This would not be possible or anywhere near efficient with a remote.

I completely understand not wanting to have a keyboard on your coffee table, but it honestly isn't that large or intrusive. If you have a keyboard and mouse that would work for this already, please test it before buying a remote and going through the set up process.
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post #18 of 76 Old 02-12-2013, 07:27 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lockdown571 View Post

To me this is the golden standard for ease of use. If I had a guest at my house, and they wanted to watch a movie, they simple press "watch a movie" on my Harmony. My Plex library comes up, and everything is completely intuitive: up, down left, right, pause, play, etc. Unless they know what Plex is, they probably have no idea they're even controlling a computer (which to me is a good thing).

I would feel ridiculous handing a guest a remote control and a mouse and expecting them to figure it out. Even if they could, it's just very awkward and clunky.

I do not know a single person who would be unable to get a movie playing with a mouse and keyboard in XBMC (I haven't tried Plex yet, but it looks even more intuitive).
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post #19 of 76 Old 02-12-2013, 07:32 AM
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Originally Posted by aclos3 View Post

I do not know a single person who would be unable to get a movie playing with a mouse and keyboard in XBMC (I haven't tried Plex yet, but it looks even more intuitive).

But even if they can, why would you want to do things this way? If it's a regular mouse, then you need a flat surface. Even if you have a coffee table, it's awkward for a home theater. You could use a gyration mouse, but there is no way you can tell me navigating XBMC with a gyration mouse is as easy or fast as using a simple remote.
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post #20 of 76 Old 02-12-2013, 07:34 AM
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Nobody said to manage the HTPC with the remote or to not even have a mouse and keyboard. However, for daily use of the "configured" system would be hard to beat a universal remote.

I just remote desktop connect from my laptop into my HTPC to do any updates/management. Rarely do I ever break out the mouse (I have an Airmouse) and even more rare is the keyboard (wireless RF logitech).

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post #21 of 76 Old 02-12-2013, 07:51 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sammy2 View Post

It is so much easier to control everything with a universal remote. I am really trying to get my head around using a mouse in a HT environment when I can thumb through my collection, adjust the volume, change the channel, search the guide and pretty much everything I can think of with the one device in my hand.. my Harmony 900.
';

You can do that all with a mouse, and even better, all one button on one mouse.

BTW, I'm not sure what this change the channel thing is you're talking about. I was doing that yesterday just to see if all may channels were working, but other than that, I'm not sure what the purpose of that would be. wink.gif
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post #22 of 76 Old 02-12-2013, 07:54 AM
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Originally Posted by lockdown571 View Post

What software are you using on your HTPC? If you exclusively use a proper HTPC frontend like WMC, XBMC, Plex, etc., then it is much easier to use a remote. All of those programs are designed with basic up, down, left, right, enter, back navigation. Hell, mouse support is even disabled in the current version of Plex Home Theater.

I just use WMC and PowerDVD. One advantage of WMC in Win7 is they improved the functionality of WMC with a mouse over the Vista version. If I recall correctly, you couldn't jump to any point in a program with the Vista version.

Try doing that with a remote. It's very useful, for say jumping to the only part of SNL that is funny--the news.

BTW, I never have to switch inputs on the receiver or TV. The remote is only used to turn the TV and receiver on.
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post #23 of 76 Old 02-12-2013, 07:57 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lockdown571 View Post

But even if they can, why would you want to do things this way? If it's a regular mouse, then you need a flat surface. Even if you have a coffee table, it's awkward for a home theater. You could use a gyration mouse, but there is no way you can tell me navigating XBMC with a gyration mouse is as easy or fast as using a simple remote.

Most couches have some sort of arms, and we're not talking about a mouse that uses a ball, so they will work fine on the couch arm.
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post #24 of 76 Old 02-12-2013, 08:02 AM
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Originally Posted by Karyk View Post

Most couches have some sort of arms, and we're not talking about a mouse that uses a ball, so they will work fine on the couch arm.

Most couches I know of are either cloth or leather, and the arm is round rather than flat. And what if you're sitting on the center of the couch? What if you're on the left side of the couch and you're right handed?

That's great that a mouse works well for you, I'm just saying this isn't a great solution for most people. There's a good reason why the remote hasn't changed all that much in the past several decades.
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post #25 of 76 Old 02-12-2013, 08:09 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Karyk View Post

';

You can do that all with a mouse, and even better, all one button on one mouse.

BTW, I'm not sure what this change the channel thing is you're talking about. I was doing that yesterday just to see if all may channels were working, but other than that, I'm not sure what the purpose of that would be. wink.gif

I guess if you only watch one channel then a mouse would work pretty well.

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post #26 of 76 Old 02-12-2013, 08:26 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lockdown571 View Post

But even if they can, why would you want to do things this way? If it's a regular mouse, then you need a flat surface. Even if you have a coffee table, it's awkward for a home theater. You could use a gyration mouse, but there is no way you can tell me navigating XBMC with a gyration mouse is as easy or fast as using a simple remote.

What type of regular mouse are you talking about? I'm talking about optical mice and every mouse I have works on my thigh, on the couch cushion, armrest, or the surface of the coffee table (with the exception of a glass coffee table). I haven't used a gyro mouse in many years and I imagine that it would be very frustrating to use in XBMC. However, regular mice are very efficient, even in programs that seem designed for remotes. I'm sure there are more mice friendly skins out there, but I haven't felt the need to go searching.

I think our disagreement comes from the way we use our HTPCs. I use it as a computer that is attached to my theater and I don't want this interaction to be hamstrung in any way. I don't have a problem seeing the Windows desktop at boot up or switching between WMC for live TV, XBMC for stored videos or a web browser for streaming videos (Netflix, Youtube, streamed documentaries from websites, etc.). Having this interaction be similar to that of a Blu-ray player or receiver is not what everyone wants.

That said, ease of use and the UI experience is still important to me, which is why I like XBMC. Guests can use XBMC with a mouse and keyboard just fine and I don't see how a remote would make the experience go any faster or be easier for a person to understand. I will grant you this -- it would be nice to have volume control on the same device as pause, play, select, etc. If this is a deal breaker for anyone, they should go the remote route.

For some people, a better choice may be to forgo the additional cost, setup routine and reduced functionality that comes with using a remote to interact with the HTPC.

So, I ask the original poster this. How do you want to go forward using your HTPC? If you still plan to game, browse the web, etc., just keep using a mouse and keyboard. If you want it too be completely self contained within a Media program, and be like any other device in your rack, start looking at remotes.
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post #27 of 76 Old 02-12-2013, 08:27 AM
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Originally Posted by bryansj View Post

I guess if you only watch one channel then a mouse would work pretty well.

Actually, zooming through the WMC guide with a mouse is a pretty smooth and fast experience.

EDIT: It seems like everyone with a remote setup is very defensive. Are you trying to justify your purchase or the time it took to get it configured properly? The way the original poster uses his HTPC might suggest that a remote is not worth it for him and we're trying to provide some counter points to the "get a remote now," camp.
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post #28 of 76 Old 02-12-2013, 08:40 AM
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I call "UNCLE!"
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post #29 of 76 Old 02-12-2013, 08:46 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aclos3 View Post

What type of regular mouse are you talking about? I'm talking about optical mice and every mouse I have works on my thigh, on the couch cushion, armrest, or the surface of the coffee table (with the exception of a glass coffee table). I haven't used a gyro mouse in many years and I imagine that it would be very frustrating to use in XBMC. However, regular mice are very efficient, even in programs that seem designed for remotes. I'm sure there are more mice friendly skins out there, but I haven't felt the need to go searching.

I think our disagreement comes from the way we use our HTPCs. I use it as a computer that is attached to my theater and I don't want this interaction to be hamstrung in any way. I don't have a problem seeing the Windows desktop at boot up or switching between WMC for live TV, XBMC for stored videos or a web browser for streaming videos (Netflix, Youtube, streamed documentaries from websites, etc.). Having this interaction be similar to that of a Blu-ray player or receiver is not what everyone wants.

That said, ease of use and the UI experience is still important to me, which is why I like XBMC. Guests can use XBMC with a mouse and keyboard just fine and I don't see how a remote would make the experience go any faster or be easier for a person to understand. I will grant you this -- it would be nice to have volume control on the same device as pause, play, select, etc. If this is a deal breaker for anyone, they should go the remote route.

For some people, a better choice may be to forgo the additional cost, setup routine and reduced functionality that comes with using a remote to interact with the HTPC.

So, I ask the original poster this. How do you want to go forward using your HTPC? If you still plan to game, browse the web, etc., just keep using a mouse and keyboard. If you want it too be completely self contained within a Media program, and be like any other device in your rack, start looking at remotes.

Nobody said they didn't use a mouse and keyboard. They said using a remote in the HT environment is superior. Most people here use their HTPC as a STB type device for control as such and not as a PC.

BTW, The OP is clearly asking about remotes and if they work with PC's and what type of remote to get.

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post #30 of 76 Old 02-12-2013, 08:52 AM
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Originally Posted by oldsmoboat View Post

Running Windows 8
Built a new rig and have it hooked to my TV. I am not sure it's a true "HTPC" as I don't watch cable or OTA on it, just Netflix and Blu Rays ((and browse and game).
I am running the trial of Total Media Theater 6 for watching Blu Rays and have to go between the keyboard and mouse for controls.

Am I supposed to be using a remote?
If so, how would it interface with the PC?

Do these remotes work with TotalMedia Theater or do I have to use MCE?

Does a universal remote like the Harmony (to control TV, Receiver, DVR) wotk with a PC?

TIA

With passkey lite you can watch blu-rays on xbmc. All free, btw. You can also setup advanced launcher to launch your games from within the interface. The metadata and fanart can be pretty cool for some games.

That being said TMT should work fine for you but it might be worth saving some money and trying the passkey lite method.
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