Roughly translated… IBM Thinkpad Linux Media Centre – while not a product IBM ships (or is likely to ship), is something I’ve been thinking about for a while and just started toying with recently. I have an old Aiwa stereo at home that keeps asking me for retirement so this idea has been seeded by my need for something a little better. As the other eightbar bloggers know, I’m completely in love with Linux and the media player I use, in spite of much teasing about its capability and a longstanding comparison with iTunes.

Proof of concept time then… before shelling out a whole lotta wonga on HTPC cases, wireless keyboards, IR receivers, new speakers and all that other good stuff, I thought I would try hacking around with what I have. So far this consists of an IBM Thinkpad T41p and my current stereo remote control using the IRDA port of the laptop. To illustrate the point of how old the stereo is, take a look at the remote I’ve hooked up to the laptop: Old Aiwa Remote Control

Unlike many home-brew media projects, I’m not bothered about PVR as I have a commercial one of these I’m already happy with so I just want something I can hook up to the TV to play music and do some simple web browsing, e-mail and maybe a few office type applications. Thinkpads seem to fit the bill perfectly, especially for a proof of concept. There are, of course, a few other factors involved in the design of this idea, needless to say it has to have quite a good wife acceptance factor so must be good on the budget front and easy to use, has to have a remote control, must be connected to the internet, and of course it absolutely has to run Linux otherwise the world might implode.

Stage 1 seems to be complete now. Conveniently enough, I just happen to have a laptop running Linux already and pretty much configured the way I want. Add to this a bit of fiddling around to get the IRDA port working as an IR receiver for remote controls and a few simple config files and I have a daemon that is listening for IR signals from the port. After that, it was a fairly simple job to hook up a client to execute commands on my system when a button is pressed on the remote, and once I was that far I was laughing all the way to hooking it up to my media player.

8 thoughts on “IBM TP LMC

  1. Cool project! I’ve just done something similar but opted for the bluetooth route as my phone and computer have the appropriate hardware. The project is called bemused ( although I used a Java port as my phone isn’t based on the symbian OS (at It plugs into amarok out of the box if you install kde bluetooth. Now I can be anywhere in the house and change the song 🙂

  2. Interesting… so you’ve not installed any kind of media centre software? Just a simple MP3 / video player? Keep meaning to build myself a Linux-based PVR and entertainment box.

  3. Ah yes, I had considered using a phone with either bluetooth or perhaps wifi but neither option suit me (or my phone) very well though.

    All I have used is Linux, LIRC and Amarok on a thinkpad, nothing else aside from the remote control are required. This is all very well for a proof of concept, but IRDA ports are short range so my remote only works from 3-4 feet away from the laptop so stage 2 will be using a proper IR receiver instead.

    If you think about it, and what I really like about this idea, is that a Thinkpad is perfect for media centre use, even more so if it had a long range IR receiver built in. There is an s-video port to connect to the TV as well as a seperate screen for those times when someone else is watching TV while you’re playing music, they certainly have enough power these days, small, quiet, and if you need more storage that can be hooked up to your network too.

    If/when I build a system to put this into production use at home I will need to think about how I can control it when my wife is watching another TV channel, make sure the graphics card has TV out, build a quiet PC, attach to the network, and make sure it’s not too big and ugly for living room usage. Actually, why would I do that again, maybe I’ll stick with a thinkpad! Who knows?

  4. Pingback: eightbar » Blog Archive » Ricetta: Media PC alla Linux

  5. Hi Graham, I did exactly the same project a while ago with an IBM Thinkpad X24 (subnotebook) running on a xubuntu with a fluxbox, autologin and autostarting amarok (fetching mp3’s/ogg through a wireless network from my nas – my wife doesn’t like cat5 cables in the livingroom). The only thing still missing is a working remote control (currently a logitech Harmony 885). I will return and put a comment as soon as I got it (the remote) to work.
    Sorry for my broken english

    Best regard from Germany

  6. I have the remote control working well. I have set up 2 of these now (one for a friend), and while it’s nothing particularly new, it’s still quite interesting and there aren’t that many of them out there yet!

  7. I found your blog on google and read a few of your other posts. I just added you to my Google News Reader. Keep up the good work. Look forward to reading more from you in the future.

Comments are closed.