Media Center TVs and Navigating Using the Keyboard

December 12, 2009

I don’t know if I can recall exactly when I started using my TV as a media center, but it has been long enough that I feel out of place if I can’t Google something from my recliner. I find that I watch much less television this way and only end up watching what I want to.

My media center is pretty basic, just an older P4 with a Gig of Memory and a 256mb Nvidia Video card. It is nothing special, but it gets the job done, however running off of svideo does have its drawbacks.

Rather than run down a stripped down media center only system, which I am not knocking, because they have their place, I currently run Ubuntu on it. I love having the full power of Linux at my fingertips, even when I am watching TV and Ubuntu works pretty well for me. It is amazing how often the ability to ssh into a machine while sitting on the couch comes in handy.

Getting Away From the Mouse Pad…

Perhaps one of the most useful tools I have found, was one that I kind of stumbled upon by accident. I have never hooked up a mouse to any of my media centers, instead relying on the keyboard to get around. This works great for pretty much everything except web browsing and especially bad for watching online videos.

At some point, however, I noticed that I could use my keyboard’s number-pad was acting as a mouse. This made it so much easier browse online and now that Hulu is around, I don’t know that I could have lived without a mouse. However, I still find it is better to do pretty much everything else with the keyboard.

This feature is called Mouse Keys and is included in Gnome. To activate mouse keys:

  1. Goto System->Preferences->Keyboard
  2. By selecting the “Mouse Keys” Tab, you can enable or disable mouse keys, as well as adjusting the speed, acceleration, and delay.
  3. You can also using turn mouse keys on and off by pressing: Alt+Shift+Number Lock

Controlling the Mouse with Your Keyboard

Once mouse keys is enabled, you can control the mouse using your number pad.

  • To move the mouse up press 8.
  • To move the mouse down press 2.
  • To move the mouse right press 6.
  • To move the mouse left press 4.
  • To move diagonally, use the 1, 3, 7, or 9 key.
  • To Click, press the five key.
  • To Set 5 to Right Click, press “-” on the number pad.
  • To Set 5 to Middle Click, press “*” on the number pad.
  • To Set Left Click, press the “/” on the number pad.
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