control mediacenter from the couch
September 20, 2009 1:44 PM   Subscribe

[Mediacenter filter] Room is 6 meters wide. At the left side, there is the couch (viewing/listening point). In the middle the tv/amplifier (and a series of other devices). On the other end - right - soon a computer with its own monitor. The will: output the computer (video & audio) to the tv and the amplifier. What i want to do is basically be able to use the computer in its corner with its own monitor, but also output audio e video so to be able to use the mediacenter from the couch, watching on the tv screen and listening through the amplifier. My question (more inside) is about how to wirelessly (with remote) control the computer from the couch.

To give a bit more info and feedback, the motherboard is a Gigabyte GA-MA78GM-UD2H with an HDMI and a composit audio out.
I am thinking of getting a second graphic card in there (suggestions welcome in the 50$-100$ range) in order to be able to both work on the computer/screen and have somebody else use the mediacenter.
The system will run XBMC (still have to decide if from win or linux mainly cause i havent installed linux on this system yet after hearing about issues with the ati cards - i always had nvidia before).

What i want to understand is how realistic is to use the whole system from the couch: will a wireless keyboard/mouse reach 6m far? and if i want to use a (couple of) wireless joypads to play snes emulation? and even more... I manage all my devices through a logitech remote (wonderful, wonderful thing)... will i be able to use it to navigate through the xbmc interface?
and will i have to point it all towards the computer or is there a 4meters long wireless receiver dongle that i can put around the tv area? and will i have to have one for each device (keyboard/mouse, joypads, remote)?

Does anybody face the same issue?

thanks all for your replies!
posted by madeinitaly to Computers & Internet (10 answers total)
If you get a Bluetooth-based keyboard you should be ok. I've had a go on this upcoming effort from Microsoft and it's a wonderful - if pricey - piece of kit. Microsoft's (and many other manufacturer's, I'm not on commission, honest) wireless mice use 2.4GHz wireless technology, which is said to work up to 30ft away. You won't need it to be in the line of sight or anything.

Not sure about gamepads, but there's sure to be something out there that works with the 2.4GHz tech. It looks like there's a wireless USB version of the 360 pad which will do the job.

I've always had problems getting Logitech remotes to work with PCs: the problem is that most Logitech remotes are infra-red, so unless you have an infra-red received on your PC they won't work. Dedicated Windows Media Centre remotes seem to work quite well, and they don't cost too much. But if you've got a mouse and keyboard they'll do the job.

One more recommendation: I love the Gyration Media Centre remote. It essentially adds pseudo-Wii functionality to your PC, allowing you to move the cursor - and play games - by moving your arm around. Worth considering.
posted by hnnrs at 2:07 PM on September 20, 2009

In addition: all of the above work via USB, so you'll probably have to invest in a USB hub to get a few extra ports.
posted by hnnrs at 2:08 PM on September 20, 2009

When we set up a Mythbuntu box, Bluetooth was pretty handy. Didn't have a keyboard, but plenty of spare Wiimotes to control playback. I've seen reports of people hacking Linux to make the wireless xbox 360 controllers work, but you'll need the USB reciever. Some people report xbox 360 wireless controllers are super noisy and interfere with wifi; it's been reported to be fixed on the 360, but who knows about Linux.

As far as OS goes, I don't think you'll be able to get Windows to work like you want, with simultaneous sessions from one computer. I know you can do this in Linux, with some work; the main reason Windows doesn't, I believe, is licensing.

Also beware that USB has cable length limits. You won't be able to run 4 meters worth of USB 2.0; anything beyond 1m has too much latency and will be dropped. Bluetooth should be able to reach your PC provided they're power Class 1 or 2 on both ends.
posted by pwnguin at 3:07 PM on September 20, 2009

I'm not sure if this is germane, but I control my computer from the couch with my iPod Touch & the AirMouse application. Works via the WiFi network & a helper app installed on the computer. Similarly, I use the remote app to control iTunes.
posted by obloquy at 5:27 PM on September 20, 2009

Also beware that USB has cable length limits. You won't be able to run 4 meters worth of USB 2.0; anything beyond 1m has too much latency and will be dropped.

But you don't need USB 2.0 for input devices.

I have a 40-foot USB cable (not to mention a similar-length VGA cable) connecting a keyboard and mouse and TV to a faraway PC. It's worked great for years and years, even though I only meant it as a temporary hack until I did something fancier and more-wireless-er.
posted by rokusan at 6:21 PM on September 20, 2009

I'm assuming you have a Logitech Harmony remote- You probably want a USB IR dongle so you can control your media playback/navigation. I have the Microsoft eHome one, and it works great.

Also, for wireless, I would recommend something RF and not Bluetooth. It's much cheaper, has better range and IMHO performs much better.

You might also consider using the Xbox 360 controller with the chatpad as a wireless keyboard and the analog stick as a mouse, depending on your mousing/typing needs.
posted by wongcorgi at 8:45 PM on September 20, 2009

You won't be able to run 4 meters worth of USB 2.0; anything beyond 1m has too much latency and will be dropped

I'm not sure where you came up with that figure, the max length for USB 2.0 is 5 meters. faq
posted by wongcorgi at 9:01 PM on September 20, 2009

Again, the length "limit" for USB 2.0 doesn't really apply to keyboards and mice. That's important for things like disk drives, but mice and keyboards can get by on weakened signals just fine.
posted by rokusan at 7:50 AM on September 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

I believe I was going by Wikipedia, or some crappy source found via Google, but obviously primary sources like win. Perhaps USB has a fallback mode to 1.0, or keyboards and mice don't bother with 2.0? Anyways,
posted by pwnguin at 7:42 PM on September 21, 2009

Response by poster: thank you all...

more interested about the USB ir dongle... will that be one dongle to rule them all? mouse, keyboard, wireless joypads, webcam and headsets to skype ?
posted by madeinitaly at 11:00 PM on September 21, 2009

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