Using the Hama MCE remote on Linux with MPlayer

This blog post describes how to control your MPlayer media playback using the Hama MCE remote control on Linux. The instructions and software were tested on Ubuntu Jaunty, but they should work on any Linux 2.6 system which has sysfs mounted and which has USB HID support compiled to the kernel (can be checked with ls -l /sys/bus/usb/drivers/usbhid).

The instructions are for the model Hama MCE Remote 52451, also known as VRC-1100, but similar instructions might work with other remotes as well.

If you want to use the Hama MCE with XBMC, see these instructions.

The Hama MCE dongle, when connected to the USB port of a Linux machine, registers itself as two USB HID devices: a keyboard and a mouse. Most of its buttons generate regular keyboard events, for example, the numeric keys correspond to numpad keys, and its Enter key corresponds to the Enter key. You can use its mouse controls to move the mouse or click (the left and right buttons). On Ubuntu Jaunty, even the volume buttons work (they adjust the master volume).

However, if you don't want to use your Hama MCE remote as a regular keyboard or mouse, but you'd like to control MPlayer (and possibly some few other applications you specify) with it, then you need special software. LIRC, the de facto standard remote control driver and server does support USB HID devices in general, but the Hama MCE sends some quite unusual events which LIRC seems to be impossible to make recognize. (For example, the hashmark button sends Shift, 3 and 5, and some other buttons send Shift or Control too, and LIRC doesn't seem to be able to track the Shift and Control state, which would be needed to distinguish some buttons from each other.)

So I've implemented my own lircd, hama_mce_lircd.py, which can read button presses and other events from the Hama MCE remote, and it can broadcast them to applications via the socket /dev/lircd, using the traditional lircd protocol. The link above contains installation, usage and configuration instructions for controlling MPlayer with Hama MCE, using hama_mce_lircd.py.

Each button works and can be bound to any MPlayer input.conf command, with the following limitations (of the dongle hardware):

  • the ok and enter buttons are the same;
  • the play and pause buttons are the same;
  • the right click and the info buttons are the same;
  • most buttons don't repeat when held down for a long time.

An alternative and more generic Python Linux event reading and mangling library with Hama MCE support is available at http://github.com/rmt/pyinputevent/.

Here is how to use hama_mce_lircd.py with MPlayer:

$ wget -O /tmp/lircrc.hama \
$ wget -O /tmp/hama_mce_lircd.py \
$ sudo killall lircd
$ sudo mkdir -p /var/run/lirc
$ sudo python /tmp/hama_mce_lircd.py /var/run/lirc/lircd
(connect the USB dongle, wait 3 seconds, and watch the script detect it)
(keep it running, open another terminal window)
$ mplayer -lircconf /tmp/lircrc.hama ${VIDEO_FILENAME}

The most important Hama MCE remote keys supported by lircrc.hama: Pause, Stop, Volume Up, Volume Down, Channel Plus (to speed up playback), Channel Minus (to slow down playback), Info (for showing/hiding OSD with the time indicator) the big round button (for seeking), the up and down arrows (for adjusting the subtitle delay).

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