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Improved XBMC remote control

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Like many others, I have set up a home cinema configuration that uses a NAS for storage and XBMC as a front-end. I am quite partial to XBMC. If you are not using XBMC, you might like to give it a try!

XBMC is running on all kinds of hardware, from PC’s to rooted Ipads and Iphones to the 35 dollar Raspberry PI. I’m running it on a Mac mini. This work quite OK but, as always, there are few loose ends.


One of them is that XBMC is not always very intuitive to control using the Apple Remote. In particular, the on screen display (OSD) functionality can only be reached by keeping the center button pressed for several seconds. We use OSD quite a lot, for example to download subtitles.

Usability validation of our prototypes is a significant part of my day job, and we consider hiding important functionality (though difficult to find nested menu’s, button combinations, etc) a big faux-pas. At home the guideline is the even stricter WAF, the wife acceptance factor.

The current set up of the remote fails both work and home criteria. The reason that the XBMC guys chose to assign the buttons like this is, well, basically because the original Apple Remote has one button too little. Apple probably realized this and wisely add another button for the new Apple Remote.

oldandnewremote Improved XBMC remote control image

Old and new apple remote

However, XBMC is by default backwards compatible with the old remote. I guess it is too late to make a long story short, but I’ve modified the keymap a little such that it makes better use of the new remote:

Download the file, unpack it in the “keymaps” folder in the userdata folder:

Operative system userdata folder paths
iOS /private/var/mobile/Library/Preferences/XBMC/userdata/
Mac OS X /Users/<your_user_name>/Library/Application Support/XBMC/userdata/

The center button now directly opens the OSD during movies and TV.

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