HTPC Application Launcher

HTPC Launcher

LAUNCH YOUR FAVORITE HTPC APPLICATIONS WITH YOUR REMOTE

A neat, informative program that does the following:-

  • Allows the user to switch between popular HTPC applications such as MediaPortal, XBMC, Windows Media Center and many others, all from the comfort of your chair; with your remote control.
  • Displays the screen refresh rate.
  • Provides a summary of hard disk usage. Space remaining for recorded TV and the proportions of used space for movies, TV series and recorded programs.
  • Hides all desktop icons and restores them when the program is quit.
  • Configurable to run any application you choose.
  • Can be made to start when Windows boots.
  • Program window can be positioned by the remote, so it doesn’t spoil your desktop wallpaper.
  • MediaPortal SQL database repair with one remote key press.
Written and compiled with Autoit. Tested on Windows 7. Used 24/7.
Author: Tim Wolverson

INTRODUCTION

If, like me, you’re a HTPC enthusiast, the chances are that you will have tried a multitude of media center software in the pursuit of perfection. You will like some features in one product more than another. Your favorite product may lack a certain feature that you really can’t live without. So maybe now, you’re using at least two popular pieces of software to satiate your HTPC needs.

I am.

I use MediaPortal and XBMC. And I switch between the two of them often. Why?

MediaPortal is very good at delivering Live TV, scheduling and making recordings, indexing them, managing them. And most importantly, watching them.

Yes, XBMC can do this too if you use the relevant plugins, but I found it difficult to use and unintuitive. No good for the wife then.

XBMC has a great feature that MediaPortal does not; the ability to adjust audio/video sync. Something that is very important to me when watching encoded material. The slightest deviation in lip sync can annoy me and make something great, totally unwatchable.

Plus, XBMC starts up much quicker than MediPortal. And I like the wide ranging add-ons available for it.

So I use both.

And I wrote this simple, informative HTPC Launcher so that I wouldn’t have to get out of my chair and launch either product by resorting to the mouse every time I wanted to switch. A couple of remote control key presses and it’s done.

GETTING STARTED

Download the compressed file from my Google docs folder here: HTPC Launcher

In the Google docs screen, go to File > Download  to get the rar file.

Uncompress the file and copy the program folder to your Program files directory or a folder of your choice.

Enter the program folder and right click the exe file. Select Create Shortcut and opt to have it on your desktop. If the shortcut is created inside your folder, drag the shortcut out of the folder onto your desktop.

Now you can start the HTPC Launcher by double clicking on your new desktop shortcut.

It is recommended to have this program start on its own, each time Windows boots. To do this open up the Startup folder and place a copy of your shortcut inside it. Go to Start > All Programs, and right click on the Startup folder to open it.

CONFIGURATION

This program can be configured with the config.txt file, situated in the program folder. Double click this file to open it in notepad. You will be presented with the default configuration.

It’s relatively straight forward to understand. The items in square brackets are variable names used by the program and should not be altered.

key=”what ever appears here” is assigned to that variable. So your configuration details go between the relevant quotation marks.

When you have completed your alterations, make sure that you save your changes in notepad.

### CONFIGURATION FILE FOR HTPC PROGRAM SELECTOR ###
####################################################
#HARD DISK DETAILS
##################
[HD1]
key="C:"
[HD2]
key="E:"
[HD3]
key="D:"
[HD4]
key=""

#MEDIA LOCATIONS | PATHS - MEDIA
################################
[RecTV]
key="C:\Users\Public\Recorded TV"
[Movies]
key="E:\Videos\Films"
[TVShows]
key="E:\Videos\TV Series"

#PROGRAMS - CONFIGURATION
#########################
[Program1]
key="C:\Program Files (x86)\Team MediaPortal\MediaPortal\MediaPortal.exe"
[Image1]
key="Mediaportalogo.gif"
[Description1]
key="MediaPortal"
##
[Program2]
key="C:\Windows\ehome\ehshell.exe"
[Image2]
key="WMClogo.gif"
[Description2]
key="Windows Media Center"
##
[Program3]
key="C:\Program Files (x86)\XBMC\XBMC.exe"

[Image3]
key="XBMClogo.gif"
[Description3]
key="XBMC"

SECTION: Hard Disk Details

Here, you can specify how many hard disk drives you have in your PC that contain your media (up to a maximum of 4).

In the above example, there are three drives labelled C: / D: / E:

The option for a fourth drive letter has been left blank “”

If you only have one hard drive then enter that under [HD1]. It should look something like this:

[HD1]
key="C:"
[HD2]
key=""
[HD3]
key=""
[HD4]
key=""

SECTION:  Media Locations

Copy and paste your media locations in this section. These paths are used to calculate disk usage.
The easiest way is to do this is to navigate to one of your folders in Windows and right click the address in the folder window.

Select Copy address as text from the context menu. Then go to your configuration file and locate the correct key= . Delete any information between the quotation marks and with the cursor inbetween both quotes, press Ctrl + V on the keyboard to paste the exact address into the file.

[TVShows]
key="E:\Videos\TV Series"

SECTION: Configuring Programs

A total of three programs can be configured for launch.

[Program1] contains the full path and executable for the software chosen.

[Image1]  is the full name of the logo you want displayed in the HTPC Launcher window. Download whatever you need and save it in the program folder.

[Description1] is the button name.

The following configuration leaves the central button blank:

#PROGRAMS - CONFIGURATION
#########################
 
[Program1]
key="C:\Program Files (x86)\Team MediaPortal\MediaPortal\MediaPortal.exe"

[Image1]
key="Mediaportalogo.gif"
 
[Description1]
key="MediaPortal"
 
##

[Program2]
key=""
 
[Image2]
key=""
 
[Description2]
key="---"
 
##
 
[Program3]
key="C:\Program Files (x86)\XBMC\XBMC.exe"

[Image3]
key="XBMClogo.gif"
 
[Description3]
key="XBMC"

HOW TO USE HTPC LAUNCHER

For best results, make this the platform from which you launch your HTPC software, especially after a fresh boot of Windows. Enabling software to start automatically when Windows starts could steal the focus away from this application and prevent it from working.

  • To select an application to launch, use the remote’s navigation and select buttons.
  • Exit your media center software in the usual way to return control to this window.
  • The remote’s number buttons will place the HTPC Launcher window in different positions around the desktop. 1 will place it top left, 2 top middle, 3 top right, 4 left, 6 right, 7 bottom left, 8 bottom middle and 9 bottom right.
  • Pressing 5 will run the batch script, located in the program folder. It is currently configured to issue a command to repair MediaPortal’s SQL database.
About these ads

5 thoughts on “HTPC Application Launcher”

  1. This is very cool! Ideally if this could be launched by pressing the GUIDE button on your remote (or the green media center button) that would be fantastic. If the app is built to only run once and if the exe is launched again to set focus to the currently running window… then any time you hit the guide/green button the app would appear and you could use it as normal. Good stuff so far!

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s