Monday, April 12, 2010

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Autostarting HTPC

As mentioned I've got a dummy user set up on my HTPC box (tvuser) that needs to autologin when the machine boots up. Reading this gave me an overview of what needed to be done. I edited my /etc/inittab to change
c1:12345:respawn:/sbin/agetty 38400 tty1 linux
c1:12345:respawn:/sbin/agetty 38400 -l /sbin/ -n
tty1 linux
where /sbin/ looks like
#! /bin/bash
exec login -f tvuser
Note that the inittab entry should all be on one line (I had to put a line break in there for formatting), and the autologin script has root permissions, so only the bootup sequence (or me as root) can execute it. I previously was using fluxbox as my window manager since that's what I use on my laptop, however it was time to get XBMC going.
 emerge -vDp xbmc
did the trick. I then altered tvuser's .xinitrc to contain the line
exec xbmc
To make sure that X is started when tvuser (auto)logins, I set the following in tvuser's .bashrc
if [ "`tty`" = "/dev/tty1" ] ; then
The conditional helps because when I was debugging some config by sshing into the HTPC as the tvuser user, X kept trying to start. The conditional has X only start of the tty value is /dev/tty1 which only happens as boot time.

The remote works so far with XBMC, however I haven't tried anything too exotic.

The boot process is a bit slow for my liking. I've got some other boxes that could do with a boot boost, so I'll probably take the time now to research how to reduce the bootup time of my Gentoo boxes.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Writing config for LIRC

In my previous post, I got LIRC working with Gentoo. However the LIRC config comes in essentially two halves. The first is the mapping of the remote's IR frequency/signal to "buttons". So when I press play, the computer realises that I mean play. However how does the application know I mean play? That's where the second config comes in. It maps the buttons provided by LIRC (eg: Play) to application commands (eg: play <filename>). However there were two things I found while doing this that I thought were interesting.

Firstly, you have to put in the exact ASCII code into your app config that is emitted by your remote. Which is OK (and obvious), but occasionally you have pairs like Replay/Skip. Plus is VolUp Volup? Since I have a terrible memory I created a button diagram [PDF] that lays out the buttons and their ASCII codes. I created it using a photo of the remote that I took (I'm no photographer but it's usable), and GIMP/Inkscape. I prefer working with Vector graphics.

The second is that I found the LIRC config format to be very verbose and repetitive. With a large amount of config I could see it being difficult to understand what's going on. So I created my own (non sanctioned) meta syntax and a Perl script to turn that meta syntax into the proper LIRC config syntax. For example, take VolUp for mplayer
remote = mceusb
prog = mplayer
button = VolUp
config = volume 1
repeat = 1
The first three lines are going to be same for all the mplayer configs. It's the button, config and repeat options that are the interesting items for the VolUp command. In my meta syntax
# The meta syntax is <, configvalue>*<; repeatvalue>*
# That is the button name with config values separated by , and
# repeat values separated by ; The script will read everything
# between the separators and assign it to the appropriate
# key/value pair (eg config)
# Meta tags are fields that apply to the entire output
# (LIRC config) and currently stand as
# @prog - The program you are writing the config for
# @remote - The remote name
# The input may also contain comments (lines starting with the #
# symbol) to comment out buttons that may not be applicable to a
# program.
For the above example in the metasyntax I wrote
VolUp, volume 1; 1
Much more understandable (once you know what the separators mean of course). Coupled with the meta tags and the script, I generated an entire config for mplayer.

One could quite easily put different programs configs expressed in the LIRC meta syntax into different files which could then be run through the script and cat'd together into ~/.lirc which is where programs like mplayer and gxine, etc look for remote control configs.

All the files linked are licensed are essentially free. So do use them, play around with them if they will help you.