Archive for May, 2009

Microsoft Remote Keyboard, LIRC, and MythTV

Sunday, May 31st, 2009

As I mentioned in the last post, I picked up a Microsoft Remote Keyboard at the Rochester Hamfest. It’s a neat little device — it was designed by Microsoft for their Media Center computers, so it has all of the buttons for a regular remote control, as well as a keyboard and a pointing device similar to a Trackpoint. Essentially, it replaces a keyboard, a mouse, and a remote with a single unit.

Since I already have a Microsoft remote control on my MythTV box, and the Remote Keyboard uses the same infrared receiver, I assumed that adding the keyboard would just be a matter of aiming it at the receiver. Oh, boy, was I wrong.

After Googling around for a while, though, I finally managed to find some useful information on Ubuntu Forums. Specifically, this walkthrough by North_Pole. I’m reproducing the information here, in case the forum post gets deleted at some point. The only additional information that I will provide is that it also works with Ubuntu 8.10 (which is what I am using), as well as 9.04.

—begin clip—

Re: Microsoft Remote keyboard (lirc_mod_mce) in 8.10

YEEES! Finally I’ve made it all work. Here’s an HOW-TO for Ubuntu Jaunty Jackalope 9.04:

1. Install some required modules with

$ sudo apt-get install lirc lirc-modules-source module-assistant

2. and then run the following command

$ sudo dpkg-reconfigure lirc-modules-source

3. Open the the hardware.conf file with this command

$ sudo gedit /etc/lirc/hardware.conf

4. Change two of the lines so they look like this:



Save and exit.

5. Run the following commands

$ sudo m-a update,prepare

$ sudo m-a clean lirc

$ sudo m-a a-i -f lirc    (if this one fails, choose "skip and continue with the next operation")

$ sudo depmod -a

6. Download and unpack the attached files “lircd.conf” and “lircrc”. Put them in /etc/lirc. (Note from matt: these are the standard LIRC MCE remote files, available from or

7. Now download the lirc_mod_mce v.0.1.5 file from…kage_id=203215, but be sure to download version 0.1.5 and NOT the v0.2.0. The later one has the famous “keypress repeats forever”-bug and should be avoided. Unpack the archive on e.g. your desktop.

8. Replace the “lirc_dev.h” file with the one located in “/usr/src/%YOUR_LIRC_VERSION%/drivers/lirc_dev”

9. In the file named “lirc_mod_mce.c”, you have to change one of the lines:

input_dev-> = &dev->dev;


input_dev->dev.parent = &dev->dev;

Save and exit.

10. Now, execute

$ sudo make

11. Create a new directory in “/lib/modules/%YOUR_CURRENT_KERNEL%” and name it “misc”.

12. Some extra files have been created in the “lirc_mod_mce” directory.
One of them is “lirc_mod_mce.ko”. Copy it to the new directory you just created.

13. Run

sudo depmod -a

modprobe lirc_mod_mce

14. At last we have to blacklist the “lirc_mceusb2” module. Otherwise it will
interfere with the “lirc_mod_mce” one and make all of our work useless. Execute:

$ sudo gedit /etc/modprobe.d/blacklist.conf

and add the line

blacklist lirc_mceusb2
on an own row e.g. in the bottom of the file. Save and close.

15. Reboot

16. And VOILA! Your MCE Keyboard should be working!

—end clipping—

Gee, I can’t believe that people think Linux isn’t ready for typical users. This all seems so simple, right?


Sunday, May 31st, 2009

I spent yesterday morning at the Rochester Hamfest. Despite the name, it is not a display of porcine delicacies — rather, it’s Ham as in “Ham Radio”, the brotherhood of cloistered electronics nerds and survivalists who talk to strangers on the shortwave. This was actually the 75th anniversary of the Hamfest, so people have been getting together annually in Rochester since before WWII.

It originally started as a gathering of radio enthusiasts, but over time it has become more of a general electronics event. And, most importantly for me, it’s spawned a giant flea market. Picture something like the Walden Ave Super Flea, but all electronics gear — everything from automobile light bars to pay phones to oscilloscopes to old computer equipment and racks. It’s like heaven for geeks. Nerdvana, if you will.

I’ve been going almost every year for the last fifteen years or so — which I just realized, with great shame, is half my life — and once again I met up with Chris and Phil to hunt for new toys. I got a couple of goodies this year, like a Microsoft Remote Keyboard for the MythTV box ($5) and a few HP keyboards with smartcard readers built into them (3/$10). Chris had the find of the day — a 100Mb Dell managed switch, with Gb uplinks, for five dollars. Sweet.

Unfortunately, eBay and the Internet in general have really taken a bite out of the flea market. There just aren’t as many vendors, and honestly, it’s tough to get as excited now that I can buy obscure, random electronics online any time I want, rather than tramping around a parking lot once a year. But it’s still exciting to find a gem in a pile of obsolete junk.


Friday, May 29th, 2009

Now that the National Lacrosse League winter season is complete, it’s time for the yearly spring ritual — wondering which teams are going to relocate, and which ones are going to fold, before next season starts.

So far, it looks like San Jose and Portland are definitely moving. The Stealth are going from San Jose to Stockton, CA, while Portland is likely moving to Everett, WA. Both teams will be playing in much smaller arenas, on the order of ten thousand seats, rather than the fifteen to twenty thousand of their current locations.

The New York Titans, the East Division champions and one of the most exciting teams in the sport to watch, couldn’t sell more than five thousand tickets to any of their games and are probably either moving to Newark, Orlando, or folding completely.

Being a fan of a niche sport is really rough sometimes. You never know if the league is even coming back the next year. Hell, if I wanted to watch underattended games in a sport with no TV contract, I might as well be a hockey fan.

How RAFfish

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

High ranking members of the Royal Air Force are in a bit of trouble.

Apparently, many of them submitted to recorded interviews as a part of their security clearance process. These interviews covered a variety of salacious topics — extra-marital affairs, visits to prostitutes, drug abuse, that sort of thing. Then the RAF lost the drives containing the interview audio.


It’s good to see that a major government, with all the resources it wants, can’t manage to safeguard something this simple and this sensitive. Potential blackmailers have got to be licking their chops.


Thursday, May 28th, 2009

There are two Masonic Lodges for sale in the Buffalo area right now, one on Ridge Road in Lackawanna and one on Delaware Road in Kenmore. How awesome would one of those be for the official SAPS clubhouse?

Buddha Phone

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009

Finally, a phone for the Buddhist on the go. A dedicated button on this model, the Odin 99, causes a customizable, animated altar to appear so that you can meditate wherever you are.

I wonder how long it’ll be before someone comes up with a votive candle rack for the Catholic customer?

Post-War Plymouth

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009

Well, you asked for them…OK, no, you didn’t…but here they are, anyway: pics of the latest pile of oxidized Detroit Pig Iron to follow me home on a trailer.  Enjoy!

Why do I love orphan cars so much?

(By the way, no engine pics yet…sorry ’bout that.  Will post some when I get around to lifting the hood.  I tried last night, but it came down on my hand.  It still smarts)

Middle-Aged Cross-Country Mountain Bike Enthusiast (MACXMoBE)

Tuesday, May 26th, 2009

Coming soon to a gamestation near you!

I stumbled upon this blog: and it had a very amusing open letter that I just had to share.

It rings so very true to those of us in the S.A.P.S. circle with the exception of being “middle age”, not there yet boys.

After today’s cancellation due to weather I think this is my favorite level of the game:

Arrange a Group Ride With Other MACXMoBE Players: Quite possibly the most difficult boss level of all, you’re put in charge of finding a day and time when you and all your middle-aged friends — each of which also has a job and family — can ride together for two hours. Good luck!

Ride on.

Latino on the Bench

Tuesday, May 26th, 2009

“I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life,” said Judge Sotomayor

From the NY Times.

Apparently, “richness of experience” > “judicial temperment”

At least Obama has now guaranteed his place in the history books as the first president to appoint a “Latino” woman to the Supreme Court.  I’m sure he’s very proud.   I wonder if they’re going to paint her seat bright blue and put some rediculously tiny gold-plated wheels on it?


Tuesday, May 26th, 2009

So, apparently the EPA (under substantial pressure from the corn lobby, no doubt) is beginning a comment phase on the feasibility of increasing the amount of ethanol in gasoline blends from ten to fifteen percent.

In the meantime, an increasing number of people are having problems, failures, leaks, and fires caused by too much ethanol in the fuel already.

This ought to be an exciting disaster to watch. Will the government finally stop propping up the midwest? Or will all of our fuel pumps fail instead?