Have you ever been away from home and suddenly realized you forgot to record your favorite program? Now Windows 7 Media Center, users can schedule recordings remotely from their phones or mobile devices with Remote Potato.
How it Works
Remote Potato installs server software on the host computer running Windows 7 Media Center. Once the software is installed, we’ll need to do some port forwarding on the router and setup an optional dynamic DNS address. When setup is completed, we will access the application through a web based interface. Silverlight is required for Streaming recorded TV, but scheduling recordings can be done through an HTML interface.
Installing Remote Potato
Download and install Remote Potato on the Media Center PC. (See download link below) If you plan to stream any Recorded TV, you’ll also want to install the streaming pack located on the same page. It isn’t required to stream all shows, only shows that require the AC3 audio codec.
Click Yes to allow Remote Potato to add rules to the Windows Firewall for remote access. You’ll likely need to accept a few UAC prompts.
When notified that the rules were added, click OK.
Remote Potato will then prompt you to allow administrator privileges to reserve a URL for it’s web server. Click Yes.
Remote Potato server will start. Click on the configuration button at the right to to reveal the settings tabs.
One the General tab, you’ll have the option to run Remote Potato on startup and minimized in the System Tray. If you’re running Media Center on a dedicated HTPC, you’ll probably want to enable both startup options.
Forwarding Ports on Your Router
You’ll need to forward a couple ports on your router. By default, these will be ports 9080 and 9081. In this example we’re using a Linksys WRT54GL router, however, the steps for port forwarding will vary from router to router.
On the Linksys configuration page, click on the Applications & Gaming Tab, and then the Port Range Forward tab.
Under Application, type in a name of your choosing. In both the Start and End boxes, type the port number 9080. Enter the local IP address of your Media Center computer in the IP address column. Click the check box under Enable. Repeat the process on the next line, but this time use port 9081.
When finished, click the Save Settings button.
Note: It’s highly recommended that you configure the home computer running Media Center & Remote Potato with a static IP address.
Find your IP Address
You’ll need to find the IP address assigned to your router from your ISP. There are many ways to do this but a quick and easy way is to visit a site like checkip.dyndns.org (link available below) The current external IP address of your router will be displayed in the browser.
This is an optional step, but it’s highly recommended. Many routers, such as the Linksys WRT54GL we are using, support Dynamic DNS (DDNS). What Dynamic DNS allows you to do is affiliate your home router’s external IP address to a domain name. Every time your home router is assigned a a new IP address by your ISP, the domain name is updated to point to your new IP address.
Remote Potato’s user interface is accessed over the Internet is by connecting to your router’s IP address followed by a colon and the port number. (Ex: XXX.XXX.XXX.XXX:9080) Instead of constantly having to look up and remember an IP address, you can use DDNS along with a 3rd party provider like DynDNS.com, to sign up for a free domain name and configure it to be updated each time your router is assigned a new IP address.
Go to the DynDNS.com website (See link at the end of the article) and sign up for a free Domain name. You’ll need to register and confirm by email.
Once you’ve signed in and selected your domain name click Activate Services.
You’ll get a confirmation message that your domain name has been activated.
On the Linksys WRT54GL click on the Setup tab an then DDNS. Select DynDNS.org, or TZO.com if you prefer to use their service, from the drop down list.
With DynDNS, you’ll need to fill in your username and password you signed up with at the DynDNS website and the hostname you chose.
Note: You can connect over your local network with the IP Address of the computer running Remote Potato followed by a colon and the port number. Ex: 192.168.1.2:9080
Logging in Remote Potato and Recording a Show
Once you connect, you’ll see the start page. To view the TV listings, click on TV Guide.
You’ll then see your guide listings.
There are a few ways to navigate the listings. At the top left, you can click on any of the preset time buttons to jump to the listings at that time of the day. Click on the arrows to the right and left of the day and date at the top center to proceed to the previous or next day. Or, jump to a specific day with the date and date buttons at the top right.
To setup a recording, click on a program.
You can choose to record the individual show or the entire series by clicking on Record Show or Record Series.
Remote Potato on Mobile Devices
Perhaps the coolest feature of Remote Potato is the ability to schedule recording from your phone or mobile device. Note: For any devices or computers without Silverlight, you will be prompted to view the HTML page.
Select Browse Listings.
Select your program to record.
In the Program Details, select Record Show to record the single episode or Record Series to record all instances of the series.
You will then see a red dot on the program listing to indicate that the show is scheduled for recording.
Streaming Recorded TV
Click on Recorded TV from the home screen to access your previously recorded TV programs. Click on the selection you wish to stream.
Click on Play.
If you receive this error message, you’ll need to install the streaming pack for Remote Potato. This is found on the same download page as installation files. (See link below)
The Begin from slider allows you to start playback from the start (by default) or a different time of the program by moving the slider.
The Quality (bitrate) setting allows you to choose the quality of the playback. We found the video quality on the Normal setting to be pretty lousy, and Low was just pointless. High was the best overall viewing experience as it provided smooth quality video playback. We experienced significant stuttering during playback using the Ultra High setting.
Click Start when you are ready to begin.
When playback begins you’ll see a slider at the top right.
Move the slider left or right to increase or decrease the size of the video. There’s also a button to switch to full screen.
Media Center users who travel frequently or are always on the go will likely find Remote Potato to be a blessing. Since being released earlier this year, updates for Remote Potato have come fast and furious. The latest beta release includes support for streaming music and photos. If you like those nice network TV logos, check out our article on adding TV channel logos to Windows Media Center.
Downloads and Links
Andrew is a media center geek with some serious Windows skills. He's never far from a WiFi connection or a great cup of coffee.
- Published 05/5/10