TiVo, Wii and Xbox 360 controllers: 8 clever tricks

Zip through your TiVo menus at warp speed, drive non-gaming devices with your Wii controller, and more

Use Your Nintendo Wii Remote Without the Wii

Nintendo's Wii Remote contains some fairly sophisticated hardware, sporting accelerometers that sense motion on several axes. It would be a shame to waste that just on games. Even better, each Wii Remote packs an infrared camera for even more uses away from the TV; these sensors see IR light and can interface with a PC in complicated ways. Following are one simple function and one more-advanced use for the device.

PC control: The Wii Remote can work as a general PC input device. On your PC, download the free GlovePIE utility and install the software. Open the Bluetooth control panel, click Add, and hold the 1 and 2 buttons down on the Wii Remote. Keeping the buttons pressed, follow the on-screen commands to search for a new device. Select the Wii Remote, and don't use a passkey. Release the 1 and 2 buttons only after completing the connection.

In GlovePIE, you use scripts, which translate controller movements into PC commands. Click iFile, Open, pick a script, and click Run. You can get many specialized scripts online.

If you'd like to write a script yourself, select the GUI tab, click Choose Manually, and pick a function that you want the Wii Remote to activate. Click Detect Input, and press a button on the connected Wii Remote. Alternatively you can click Edit Manually, select Wiimote from the Input Device drop-down menu, and pick a Wii Remote function from the ‘Part of device, or a numeric value, or expression' drop-down menu.

Create a cheap interactive electronic whiteboard: You can assemble a computer-interface whiteboard using your PC, a projector, and a homemade light-pen input device (a ballpoint-pen case quickly hacked with an IR LED and a battery). Johnny Chung Lee explains the process he developed for both the whiteboard and the light pen.

Basically, you build the light pen, turn on Bluetooth as described above, and connect the Wii Remote to your PC. Next you install Lee's free utility and position the Wii Remote to point at your PC's screen projected on a wall or a projector screen. The Wii Remote can then follow how you write with the LED pen on the projection. The pen also lets you manipulate the PC interface on the "whiteboard."

Drive Your PC With an Xbox 360 Controller

Many PC games originated on the Xbox 360; their controls are often designed for a gamepad, not a keyboard. By using your Xbox 360 controller with your computer, you can have fun the way the game designers intended.

If you have an Xbox 360 wired controller, just plug it into the PC. Follow any prompts to install software if needed.

The wireless version of the controller takes another step: You need to set up a USB wireless adapter to receive commands from the controller. The USB dongle is sold separately for US$20, and in a $60 bundle with a new PC-branded Xbox 360 controller. One wireless adapter can support up to four controllers; to sync, just hold down both the connection button on the wireless adapter and on your controller for a moment.

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Zack Stern

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