by Kevin O’Brien
Laptops are very versatile devices, being able to fill the task of almost anything you can throw at them. With the ever increasing amounts of laptop users with HDTV’s in their home and apartments, laptops can fill yet another purpose. They work great as a home entertainment center! They are much smaller than a full desktop computer, most are quieter (well maybe not your gaming laptop), and they are very easy to move around after watching a movie. The only problem that will come up is how to control your computer from across the room. Wireless keyboards are nice, but often quite large. Wireless mice work great, but have limited features with few buttons. This is where the Xbox game controllers come in.
The Xbox and Xbox 360 controllers work great as entertainment system remotes. They are very easy to hold and have many buttons to map to various functions. You can map your analog stick to function as your mouse, link keys with functions such as fast forward, rewind, pause, play, stop, exit, etc , and it is very comfortable to hold in its small size. A great perk with the analog stick taking control of your mouse functions is you do not need a surface under it to track movement like a mouse would. This combined with the ease of customizing it make it one of the ultimate entertainment system controllers.
I have 3 different controllers to use with my media system. I am using a modified Xbox wired controller, a modified Logitech wireless Xbox controller, and a stock wired usb Xbox 360 controller. The 2 modified controllers just have a plain USB connector soldered into the cable. If you aren’t up to the task of soldering, adapters are available online. The Xbox 360 controllers are USB already (wireless one through a Microsoft receiver), making them Plug-n-Play out of the box.
Three basic pieces of software are needed for your machine to function as a decent media box to play movies. You need the drivers for the controller, a profiler to map the keys, and a media playing application. I used the following:
For the Xbox 1 Controllers (Wired or Wireless):
For the Xbox 360 Controllers (Wired or Wireless):
Since both profilers work in very similar ways, and the ControlMK software is free, I will walk you through setting up that. Both work off of assigning buttons to key presses from your keyboard or mouse. After you install the drivers, you will want to plug in your controller, and then open up the ControlMK program. You then select from the dropdown lists the active controller, which there should be only one. Then next to the profiles dropdown box, click the arrow and select add. Give your profile a name, and then start assigning key functions. Shown below is the configuration I used, which I felt gave good control over opening up files, and watching movies. The triggers were used to fast forward and rewind, selection buttons as your basic mouse clicks, left analog stick for mouse, and some volume controls thrown in. To setup each button press, double click the box on the left side.
You will notice that some of the keys have “Alt;” or “Ctrl;” listed to the right. Those were for upper key functions inside Media player classic for fast forward/rewind, and other controls. After you are done setting up your controller buttons, remember to click save, as closing right away will result in lost settings. Since this program only works when it is running, you may want to select the “open minimized” feature, so that it stays down in your taskbar after it is started.
Now go ahead and play around with your new controller abilities! You may want to tweak the settings depending on your own preferences, or link buttons to other controls for added features.