April 29, 2009, 10:37 AM — You're probably familiar with the ability to skip ads on your TiVo--we'll fill you in on five more shortcuts. Also, your Wii Remote can control more than just the Wii itself. And why use a mouse to play games on your PC when you could be using your Xbox 360 controller instead? We'll show you how.
For more, see the other stories in our "57 Amazing Things You Didn't Know Your Tech Could Do!" package, including our full list of tips and tricks.
Navigate Your TiVo With 5 Quick Tricks
Your TiVo hardware is full of shortcuts--the 30-second commercial skip that everyone knows is just the beginning. (But be sure to enable that time-saver on your box.) Remember that changes you make through the remote should not affect your warranty, but they may vanish after a restart or after your DVR gets a software upgrade.
You probably know to push the TiVo button to vault to the home screen. The next button you press, however, will lead to other destinations.
Push the TiVo button again to jump to Now Playing. Press the 2 to see the recording To Do List. Push the 8 to see TiVo's Suggestions.
You can flip through TiVo menu lists one page at a time with the Channel Up/Down button. Toggle between the beginning and the end of most lists with the Advance button (the one with an arrow pointing to a vertical line).
When surfing live TV, press Enter to go to the previously viewed channel. And to delete a recording from Now Playing instantly, use Clear.
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 File, 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.