Infrared remote control: WinLIRC + WinLIRC Helper, a working combination

IR_TSOP1738Although the serial port in desktop PCs is on its way to die out, we still have a good chance to find one in our computer. If it doesn’t have a connector on the back panel, it’s still worth to have a look at the motherboard and look for the COM header:

COM_port

If we are lucky, we can proceed and build a simple IR reciever for the serial port based on the TSOP1738 IC (source: http://www.lirc.org/receivers.html):

schematics

Here is mine, built on a breadboard, the cable is a refurbished one of an old mouse:

IR_TSOP1738

Software

First of all, don’t forget to enable the COM port in your BIOS. Then,

  1. Install WinLIRC
  2. Install WinLIRC Helper

Run WinLIRC as an Administrator! When you run WinLIRC for the first time, you get an error message, this is normal:

WinLIRC1

Just press OK, and set it up properly:

WinLIRC2

Select SerialDevice.dll as an Input Plugin, the settings in Plugin Setup you can leave on default in most cases.

WinLIRC3

Try to download a configuration file for your remote from here:  http://winlirc.sourceforge.net/remotes/. If you cannot find your specific model here, it’s still likely that you can use a similar one from the same manufacturer, or you can create your own config by pressing Create Config. To be honest, this didn’t work out for me, I kept getting the error messages “Something went wrong”, finally I just stuck with a config file from the website.

When you are done with the configuration, press OK and in the main window select your remote.

WinLIRC5

When WinLIRC is running, you can see its icon on the tray, which is grey by default, red when something is wrong, and green when it’s receiving a signal.

WinLIRC4

Now we have to set up WinLIRC Helper to translate the IR commands to keypresses. Run WinLIRC Helper and Remote Control >> Add new action. Set it up using the hotkeys of your favorite media player.

WinLIRCHelper

You’re done. Test your remote control and check for the events in the log panel.

USB IR receiver

If you lack the serial port, you can build an IR receiver for USB as well. In this case the circuit will be a little more complicated incorporating a microcontroller, here is one example based on an ATTiny2313.

Troubleshooting

After you press Reconfigure in the main window of WinLIRC, you can run the helper programs which come with WinLIRC: the RawCodes.exe, RawMessages.exe and IRGraph.exe. RawMessages will show you the pulses it senses numerically, IRGraph will plot it for you, and RawCode uses the config file to decode it to a command and display it in a console. Here is a sample output of IRGraph:

WinLIRC6

All the above was done on a computer running Windows 7 Professional N 64 bit edition.

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