On Apples Remote, Infrared and Your Mac

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Following the update to Front Row recently made available by Apple, Ive received a lot of email regarding using the Apple Remote to control Front Row. Apple, being as stubborn as they are, have yet to provide a solution to using the Apple Remote with any recent Mac. Even if it only served to control just iTunes, Im sure Apple would sell tones of these thing.

The appeal of the Apple Remote is simple to understand:

  1. Its was designed to be beautiful and Mac-like.
  2. It was designed to be small, but with very tactile and well laid out buttons.
  3. It was designed to be simple. You already have 500+ button combinations with your keyboard and mouse. Why does your remote need another 40?

So the question still remains: How can I use the Apple Remote to control my Mac?

On Bluetooth

Many of you are probably thinking: Why not just use you cell phone and bluetooth? My reason is simple: Your cell phone is not a remote. Your cell phone is a cell phone. I find the solution of using your cell to control a Mac interesting, but still a bit quirky. Even once its been setup, its not always as simple as point and push. Still, if your interested, there are solution to use Romeo or Sailling Clicker to control Front Row.

The Holy Grail

The Holy Grail: the perfect solution that may seem possible but is often elusive. In this case its clear what the Holy Grail would be. You buy the iPod Universal Dock and Apple Remote and can easily control iTunes, Front Row, Keynote, or whatever other application is in the forefront. Thats just not going to happen folks. Apple is as of yet unwilling to allow this and I havent been able to figure how to use the Dock as an infrared receiver.

Keyspan Remote

The Keyspan Digital Media Remote is probably a good solution for most readers. MacInTouch readers report that Front Row works with the Keyspan Remote, so long as you run the Keyspan application and configure the needed keystrokes.

The Keyspan Remote for iTunes is a powerful infrared remote that allows you to control iTunes and other multimedia applications on your Mac or PC. According to Keyspan, it would be easy to map keyboard commands to the remote:

The remote controls your multimedia applications by sending them the same keystrokes that you do when you control the application from a keyboard. For example, pressing the spacebar on the keyboard causes iTunes to play a track. The remote sends the same key to iTunes when you press the play button on the remote allowing you to control iTunes from across the room.

The Keyspan Digital Media Remote receiver reportedly works with other remotes like Apples but you have to figure out the infrared signals of the remote first, and then convert them for use by Keyspan. Dan Eble reports on macosxhints.com:

To that end, I have created a web page with a script that converts remote control configurations from Linux Infrared Remote Control [LIRC] format to Keyspan DMR format. The script is still young, but I have had some success with configurations for Sony and Pioneer remotes, as well as JVC devices other than VCRs.

Configurations in the Keyspan format to use the Apple Remote with the Keyspan receiver will come in a weeks time, unless someone can submit them to me earlier.

IRTrans and iRed

IR Trans USB

IR Trans (as in an IR transceiver) can send and receive infrared signals. It connects over USB, and has full driver support. IR Trans transforms your Mac into a programmable remote control. It is capable of learning the codes of almost any remote control. It can then send those codes from your Mac or receive them and pass them to your Mac.

The IR Trans is $99 US, currently priced as a special for Mac users. It is certainly not cheap, but I was impressed with the hardware and its capabilities. It may not have the aesthetics of the Apple Remote, but I was able to hide the transceiver and USB cable under my desk. Even with the IR Trans located there, I was able to send and receiver signals from a tested distance of 22 feet. Now the hardware alone would be useless to a Mac user, but the IR Trans comes with a registered license to use iRed.


iRed is an amazingly versatile application, powered by the IR Trans and ApplScript. With iRed you can control your Macs audio and video applications with any infrared remote control, or use your Mac to control any infrared device like a TV, VCR, or light-switch.

iRed makes it very easy to learn your remote controls signals. When your IR Trans receives those signals it passes them to iRed which can then control applications on your Mac using AppleScript. You can even do the reverse an have Applescript control iRed, and then have IR Trans send out signals. The built in AppleScript support makes the possibilities endless. Here are some of the things Ive been able to do this week.

  • Use my Apple Remote to control Front Row and Keynote if either is in the forefront, or control iTunes if not.
  • Have the menu button on the Apple Remote not only launch Front Row but also dim the lights to the leaving room too (we already had an infrared light-switch). This is incredibly cool to experience.
  • Use my satellite remote to control iTunes, including rating songs, changing playlists, switching visualizations, or shuffling songs.
  • Have iCal wake me up at 9 am by telling iRed to sends out the remote signals to turn on my TV, and then change the channel to CNN. I received this product on Tuesday and have been.
  • Have iCal remind me that Survivor is on by telling iRed to sends out the remote signals to change the channel to CBS at 8 pm.

iRed does have somewhat of a steep learning curve if you really want to do some complicated things, but after about an hour I understood iReds workflow. iRed also includes ready-made AppleScript which make it incredibly easily to control your applications with your remote. With iTunes I only had to open the included iTunes example, click the function I wanted to edit (like next track), click Learn IR Code, and then hit the corresponding button on my remote.

When I first visited iReds website I was surprised to see that there was already support for Front Row, as there was an included Virtual Remote Control that had the layout of the Apple Remote. I was able to quickly teach iRed the codes of my Apple Remote, and I was then finally able to control Front Row with my Apple Remote. I was able to launch Front Row, browse menus, change volume, and other such thing. The only limitation was rewinding/fastforward or very quickly scrolling, which are done by holding down the respective button. This is somewhat disappointing, but I dont really do those things anyway, and its more of an AppleScript limit than one of iRed.

With some further tweaking I was able to not only control Front Row, but also iTunes when Front Row was not active. For those who understand AppleScript, here is an example of AppleScripts I created, which iRed runs when the centre button it pressed:

tell application "System Events"
if Front Row is frontmost application then
key code 49 spacebar
tell application iTunes
end tell
end if
2605 end try
end tell

While the current version comes of iRed comes with a Virtual Remote Control, Ive created my own custom one for use with the Apple Remote (or any remote, but youll have to teach iRed the infrared codes). It launches and controls Front Row, and is also able to control iTunes when your using any application other than Front Row.

Download the Apple Remote VRC for iRed.

An Early Review

I received my IR Trans on Tuesday and have been having a lot of fun with it and iRed. While I dont have time to do a full review this week, expect one in the future. Still, I can recommend the IR Trans and iRed combo if you want to control your Mac with your remotes. Its been an honest joy to use Front Row this week, especially when controlled with my Apple Remote from across the room. Although together the combo is priced at $99 US, power users can certainly get much use from its versatility. I give both the IR Trans and the iRed four out of five stars.

IR Trans   ★★★★

$99 US, plus shipping
pros: very long range, strong infrared transceiver, excellent driver support cons: price

iRed   ★★★★

included with the required IR Trans, ask for IR Trans for Mac
pros: versatile with good support for AppleScrpit, includes example controls, easy to learn remote signals
cons: learning curve may fustrate some users (see online documentation)

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36 responses to “On Apples Remote, Infrared and Your Mac”   RSS

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  1. 1Jules
    Great Job Andrew you did it again 🙂
    Always great articles on your blog.Thanks,J.
  2. 2Frankie
    I just stick with my Sony ericsson W800 built-in desktop remote control is just fine and works flawless with Front Row!!you may consider Salling clicker, which supports over 100 devices, including the ol but good sony ericsson T68i as a bluetooth remote. By the way, my Powerbook didnt came with bluetooth support from factory, I stick a USB Bluetooth dongle adapter (an MSI – generic chinese) they are very very cheap in this days and you can control your apple with a bluetooth equiped phone, send SMS from the Apple, and many more options.
  3. 3Craig P
    I brought Salling Clicker for my Nokia 7610. Controls everything on my Imac G5 including Front RowThanks again Andrew
  4. 4David
    Is there any way to use my eyetv remote to control front row? i would prefer this to purchasing more hardware and/or software.
  5. 5Britops
    G5 Powermac & OSX10.4.4 is now running front row succesfully with a Keyspan remote. Thanks to this site.
  6. 6Anirog
    I use Griffins Airclick with a modified version of the Airclick software, available here:http://www.ascm41.dsl.pipex.com/AirClick_Modified.zip
  7. 7JasonD
    Anirog,Does the airclick launch and close front row?
  8. 8jk
    Was this quick scrolling thing in frontrow ever resolved? If I use itunes via frontrow I sure need that to navigate through my 250+ albums.
  9. 9Jay Tyler
    I have an Apple Remote + a Keyspan remote with receiver. Does anybody know how I can use the Apple Remote with the Keyspan receiver – nagating the need to use Keyspans remote? I think all I need is a REM file and was sure I had seen this somewhere but cant find it now? Any help very welcome!
  10. 10Daryl
    Has there been any progress on using the Universal iPod dock to actually send signals to the mac? or, did you abandon that for the moment. I already have a dock and a remote (woo christmas) and if i could get front row on my mac (mini) working through that combination, it would be the greatest thing in the world.
  11. 11AndyR

    Apple Remote + Keyspan receiver

    People may find this helpful. I have finally got the Apple remote to work with the Keyspan DMR!

    I works like a treat with FrontRow on my iBook – although I prefer Media Central (works with that too)

    You can download the REM, and a small MAP file from www.arahaman.com

  12. 12Jay
    Has anyone tried using ATIs Remote Wonder? Uses RF instead of iR. You still have to configure the keystrokes but Ive found it useful.
  13. 13Rick Jones
    I noticed that the last checkbox on the Security Preference Pane is Disable remote control infrared receiver This computer will work with any available remote. Any ideas on this subject? And also, those Keyspan DMR files Will they work with the Express Remote receiver?
  14. 14Edward
    i have just set up an awesome system using this site as the main backbone. thnak you andrew escobar ur a legend, please keep it coming!I have a powerbook 12inch with a sterio, airport extreme and express and a nokia 6230i. I can now control my entire laptop using my nokia phone from about 15m away completely wirefree and play any songs through my sterio wirelessly too all controlled through my phone. its incredible and so easy to set up once u know how! If u would like info on setting this up then feel free to post and ill give u a step by step guide.
  15. 15TheOtherRob
    According to MacNN, Keyspan have just updated the software for their remotes to support Intel Macs and Front Row.http://www.macnn.com/articles/06/02/01/keyspan.software.updates/
  16. 16Jay Tyler
    Is anybody else having trouble getting the REM file at arahaman.com to work? Help!
  17. 17John
    Andrew,Hey I just installed Front Row on my 12-inch Powerbook
    G4, running OS X 10.4.4 and all the latest updates
    installed . Most of the Front Row features works great
    on my Powerbook. Thank you so much for putting out an
    Front Row Enabler! Ive got the following issues
    regarding the Front Row and was hoping you might be
    able to help me.

    • I cant play DVDs using Front Row
    • Playing trailers in Front Row always lead to a
      message saying the server is not responding but once I
      press the space-bar (play shortcut), it plays all
    • My mp3 files are not not copied to the iTunes
      Library when I import them (but I can still access and
      see everything) and when I look for my music in Front
      Row, it says I dont have any music in my Library.

    Also would this allow the Apple Remote to work with
    the Front Row on my 12-inch PowerbookG4 (along with
    Apple Universal Dock)? I dont have the Apple Remote
    yet, and I hope you can test this out for me.

    Go to Security in System Preferences and uncheck
    disable remote control infrared receiver.
    Using the Universal Dock (with no iPod docked) as an
    USB infrared receiver, pair with the Apple Remote
    (hold Menu and Next/Fast-forward buttons
    simultaneously on the remote for 5 seconds). Maybe
    this will work? If not, what about having an iPod
    docked and doing the same thing?

    Hope itll work and cant wait to read your reply.

  18. 18Jeremy
    I am having the same problem with the Apple IR Remote and my Keyspan reciever. I too downloaded the files from www.arahaman.com. The .map and .rem files seem to have loaded ok once i placed them in the keyspan preferences folder. My probelm is that the button presses dont seem to be recognized by the software. Though the led on the front of the reciever does light up to confirm it is recieving a signal from the remote. Any help would be greatly appreciated.
  19. 19ax
    @Johnit doesnt work! 🙁
  20. 20Pat
    I too have the same issues. Using both of the .map & .rem files, if you look at the Keyspan Remote application when you press one of the buttons on the apple remote you see unrecognized data displayed. 🙁
  21. 21Sean
    Has anyone been able to figure out the Keyspan+Apple Remote solution yet? Im dying to get this working.
  22. 22Marc
    Same here Sean – anybody managed to get a .rem working? Im still trying. Well done Andrew! runs like a dream on the Quad here-tnx !
  23. 23Wasim Yaqoob
    I dont have a clue which one to use. Why didnt Apple just make the Apple Remote through Bluetooth?
  24. 24Martin
    Any chance you could get this Apple Remote running with the older IR ports on the likes of the Titanium powerbooks?
  25. 25yoyo
    Hello, im looking for a hint to use a tv remote with my universal ipod dock. Have you got any idea ? Thanks for any answer
  26. 26k8_fan
    I just set up a Intel Mini for a client with a programmable remote control (the Universal Remote MX-800). Ive got the Apple Remote codes in it, but what I really need is to be able to open iTunes or DVD Player directly via a series of IR commands. Is there any hope that someone could make a virtual IR keyboard to work with the IR port? Is the IR service flexible enough? Ideally, I would have codes for every key on a standard Mac keyboard, as well as codes for those same keys with the standard modifier keys. Either that, or a mapper application that would allow me to record IR pulses from some random remote and map them to keystroke combinations. Anyone find this an interesting project?
  27. 27k8_fan
    Martin: Sadly, no. IRDa ports use a different frequency than consumer electronics IR ports. Some IR sending ports, like on Palm devices, were flexible enough to send both. But for reception, they usually design for a much more limited bandwidth.
  28. 28Anders
    What modulation frequency is the remote actually using? 36khz or something else?Thanks,
  29. 29Jack
    Configurations in the Keyspan format to use the Apple Remote with the Keyspan receiver will come in a weeks time, unless someone can submit them to me earlier. Any update on this? The ones that are posted on www.arahaman.com seem not to be working for most people.
  30. 30Vin
    I have a Sony USB IR receiver from a Media Center PC. System profiler sees the device and the receivers light lights up from the Apple Remote, but nothing happens. Is there some sort of drivers i could possibly use to make this thing work?
  31. 31Robert of Cardiff
    I find the Air Click USB woks perfectly with the updated software from Griffins websiteopens and closes Front RowWorks from as far as 50 feet away through wallsalways a jaw dropper when I demo it on my G4 powerbook :o)
  32. 32Sysman_mk
    I had the same problems with the files from arahaman.com. so decided to create some new ones.These work with the Apple Remote (model number A1156)
  33. 33Rick
    Thanks for the info on the IRed and ITrans. This is exactly what I am looking for. It i nice to see that there are others like me who what our macs to just do everythng for us.
  34. 34Steve R
    I have discovered some variables concerning the Apple Remote to work with KeySpan IR receivers. After using the RMD napsyeK Terminal Utility (available at http://www.xyster.net/junk/index.php) to map the Apple Remote IR codes I discovered something very interesting. I was able to sucessfully map the IR codes and create a REM file for the Apple Remote using a Keyspan IR receiver (P/N: UIA-11) connected to a PowerMac G4. After some fiddling with the MAP file I downloaded from ahahaman.com listed above I was able to get the Apple Remote to work flawlessly with Front Frow.
    Here comes the clincher. I also have a G4 iBook that has a newer Keyspan IR receiver (P/N: UIA-11F). When I copied the MAP and REM files over to the iBook and used the DMR editor I received a mapper diagnostics message indicating that the Apple Remotes IR signals as unrecognized data. After reading that some people have had sucess getting 1 out of 3 different combinations of Apple Remotes and Keyspan IR receivers to work with the same REM and MAP files posted on this blog I have come to the conclusion that there may be 2 variables.
    1) Difference in frequency used on Apple Remotes designated by Model no.
    2) Differences in Keyspan IR receiver model numbers.
    Both of these theories will be tested in the next couple of days because I have to get my Apple Remote replaced by Apple since the volume down button has a malfunction, and I will remap the new remote using both versions of the Keyspan IR receiver.
    One other thing I discovered was that both REM files listed above by two Arahaman and SYSMAN_MK had double entries for each of the remotes commands, I compared this to the REM files for the Keyspan Remotes and
    JVC remotes that are included with the Keyspan DMR and discovered they only had one entry per command. After doing the same to the commands I had mapped using the RMD napsyeK Terminal Utility, the Keyspan IR remote recognized the Apple Remotes IR signals. Will keep you posted on what I find out in the next couple of days when I map the new remote on the two different Keyspan IR receivers.
  35. 35MauiMacMan
    Thanks for the info on the IRed and ITrans. This is a little off base and a challenge to you geniues. I have a Goldstar Air Conditioner that has IR control from a remote or a switch matrix on the front panel. I am going on vacation and need the AC to stay on during the day, and turn off at night, repeatedly for the duration of my travels.The issue is that with an old fashioned AC unit, you could set the temperature and then by using a plug-in timer to connect the AC to the wall power, the timer would switch the power on and off. With the new IR controlled units, all the power does is turn on the IR receiver. You still have to push the buttons on the AC or the remote. Will the IRed and ITrans combo work to learn and throw the proper IR codes to control the AC unit and can my old Mac IIci be used as the brains behind the operation, given that is has only serial – not usb or firewire connectivity??Please email any tips or other devices that may work to learn and send IR under compter control. Thanks folks!
  36. 36Andre
    I have a macbook pro I dont have the Disable remote control infrared receiver option in my security pane i have been through multiple re-installations and i get nothing. Any recommendations?