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

post #1 of 27
Thread Starter 
HOW TO: Using a Harmony Remote to control XBMC, Hulu Desktop and Netflix (Windows Media Center)

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

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

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:

Quote:


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:

Quote:


IfWinExist Windows Media Center
{
WinActivate
WinMaximize ;
}
else
{
Run C:\\Users\\Jason\\Desktop\
etflix app.bat
WinWait Windows Media Center
WinActivate
WinMaximize ;
}

IfWinExist, XBMC
WinClose ;

IfWinExist, Hulu Desktop
WinClose ;

IfWinExist, BOXEE
WinClose ;

Script for Hulu:

Quote:


IfWinExist Hulu Desktop
{
WinActivate
WinMaximize ;
}
else
{
Run C:\\Users\\htpc\\AppData\\Local\\HuluDesktop\\HuluDesktop.ex e
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.

post #2 of 27
Thanks. I'm going to try it but using the color buttons on a MCE remote to switch between XBMC and Netflix. I don't have a Harmony but may go that route later.
I'm only using Win Media Center so I can get to Netflix. XBMC is my main front end.

Patrick
post #3 of 27
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by plew View Post

Thanks. I'm going to try it but using the color buttons on a MCE remote to switch between XBMC and Netflix. I don't have a Harmony but may go that route later.
I'm only using Win Media Center so I can get to Netflix. XBMC is my main front end.

Patrick

Cool, wasnt sure you could reprogram the keys on a MCE remote. If you can, those colored buttons will be perfect. Red = Netflix, Green - Hulu
post #4 of 27
See this thread.

forum.xbmc.org/showthread.php?t=78179


Looks doable. I'll let you know.
post #5 of 27
Outstanding !!

I've been waiting on working plugins for Hulu and Netflix on XBMC to complete my HTPC but this pretty much eliminates any need for those plugins. Thanks again !!
post #6 of 27
Shaxs, Great write up. It went very smoothly. Only change was where my executables were. I got my MCE remote working with large green button for XBMC, red button for Netflix, and green button for Hulu. Hulu is new for me. Everything is working seamlessly. Thanks again. Patrick
post #7 of 27
Great resource thanks!
post #8 of 27
Thread Starter 
Im glad ya'll are finding it useful! I needed a good solution that my wife could use and this seems to work great.
post #9 of 27
Thanks shaxs this has been really useful. I was using hulu integration before, it would open/close media center/hulu perfectly but it would not focus media center. So when I would close hulu and it would automatically open media center I could see MCE but could also see the taskbar so it wasnt focused.

This has fixed it and I have removed hulu integration. One problem I am having is I have noticed more crashes in hulu. It would happen before when you open hulu sometimes it would crash. I am having this problem but it is more frequent and I am wondering if the batch file is doing it.
post #10 of 27
Thread Starter 
Very odd. Im not having any Hulu crashes on two machines. The batch file should only be used for Windows Media Center.
post #11 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by shaxs View Post

Very odd. Im not having any Hulu crashes on two machines. The batch file should only be used for Windows Media Center.

I guess I miss spoke. I meant the autohotkey scripted. I will keep testing it but just seemed like weird timing that it was crashing more frequently all of a sudden.
post #12 of 27
Thread Starter 
Is it crashing on startup? Closing? Or randomly?
post #13 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by shaxs View Post

Is it crashing on startup? Closing? Or randomly?

I have my machine to goto WMC automatically but when I hit the hulu button as it is loading hulu it is crashing and then if I hit enter it closes.
post #14 of 27
UPDATE: Working great. I have figured out the crashing, so videos that autoplay are sometimes buggy. I noticed it later on that it would keep crashing until I was able to pick some other video.

Thread deserves a bump.
post #15 of 27
Thread Starter 
Glad you got it figured out!
post #16 of 27
I know this is an old topic but I have a question regarding Boxee Launching
I created an autohotkey script that launches Boxee but will not kill the other applications running, whether it be XBMC, Hulu or Neflix.
Here is the script:
Quote:


IfWinExist Boxee
{
WinActivate

}
else
{
Run C:\\Program Files (x86)\\Boxee\\Boxee.exe
WinWait Boxee
WinActivate

}

IfWinExist, Hulu Desktop
WinClose ;

IfWinExist, Windows Media Center
WinClose ;

IfWinExist, XBMC
WinClose ;

Am I missing something?? Im not really a programmer so it is very possible
post #17 of 27
Thread Starter 
Humm...

Try this:

IfWinExist Boxee
{
WinActivate

}
else
{
Run C:\\Program Files (x86)\\Boxee\\Boxee.exe
WinWait Boxee
WinActivate
WinMaximize ;
}

IfWinExist, Hulu Desktop
WinClose ;

IfWinExist, Windows Media Center
WinClose ;

IfWinExist, XBMC
WinClose ;
post #18 of 27
Ok i'll try that when I get home, Thanks for the quick reply!

Do you think it is just getting hung up at the boxee launch command and doesn't go any further hence not killing the background apps?
post #19 of 27
Thread Starter 
That is my guess. I do have a Boxee script I wrote too. I formatted my computer but it is on my HTPC machines. Let me see if I can find those.
post #20 of 27
Ok I got the script working.... I just had to cap 'BOXEE'
Thanks for your help
post #21 of 27
FYI that you could use the XBMC, Hulu Desktop and Boxee plugs for WMC found here: http://teknowebworks.com/

Seamless really with WMC and your remote will work with them all with no further programming or macros. I simply had my MX-700 "learn" all the buttons on my WMC remote and it's good to go.
post #22 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by bonscott87 View Post
FYI that you could use the XBMC, Hulu Desktop and Boxee plugs for WMC found here: http://teknowebworks.com/

Seamless really with WMC and your remote will work with them all with no further programming or macros. I simply had my MX-700 "learn" all the buttons on my WMC remote and it's good to go.
They do work as advertised, but whenever I would go back to WMC, the Windows taskbar would be in focus instead of Media Center and I'd have to click a mouse button or alt-tab or something. I had better luck with the Hulu, Boxee, Zinc Launcher plugins at The Green Button (sadly, no XBMC plugin yet):

http://thegreenbutton.com/forums/t/87094.aspx
post #23 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by bobonov View Post
They do work as advertised, but whenever I would go back to WMC, the Windows taskbar would be in focus instead of Media Center and I'd have to click a mouse button or alt-tab or something.
Strange. Never had that happen to me once in over a year of having this HTPC. Weird.
post #24 of 27
First, thanks for the information. Just an FYI that you might be able to clean up the number of applications your running by simply creating one autohotkey script which is run at startup. Contained within the script you'd use hotkey labels for each sub-script.

For example, the following code would active whenever you press the windows+z button:

#x::
IfWinExist XBMC
{
WinActivate
}
else
{
Run C:\\Program Files\\XBMC\\XBMC.exe
WinWait XBMC
WinActivate
}
IfWinExist, Hulu Desktop
WinClose ;
IfWinExist, Windows Media Center
WinClose ;
return

You could add to this hotkeys for boxee and netflix. Using this approach, you could do away with the winhotkey program and you'd simply be left with one autohotkey script that launches at startup, waits for the keyboard commands (send from your Harmony) and launches.
post #25 of 27
I know this is a really old thread, and I haven't been able to take the time to look through every comment to see if this has been mentioned, but i've made 2 modifications to the Netflix script that do the following:

1) Removes requirement for separate .bat file.
2) Removes the IfWinExist, Else for Windows Media Center thus allowing a jump straight to the Netflix panel even if you're already in media center.

Quote:


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

IfWinExist, XBMC
WinClose ;

IfWinExist, Hulu Desktop
WinClose ;

IfWinExist, BOXEE
WinClose ;
post #26 of 27
Looking forward to trying this. Thanks for the post.
post #27 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by bonscott87 View Post

Strange. Never had that happen to me once in over a year of having this HTPC. Weird.

I have that, it gives focus to the taskbar at the bottom....I have my Harmony set up with "mouseleft" and "mouseright" keys, so it just takes a quick click of "mouseleft" to get focus back on WMC, but it is annoying.
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