Make LIRC work in Ubuntu 18.04, so that you can use your infrared remote in Kodi


If you are a Kodi user and have recently tried to upgrade your system to Ubuntu 18.04, and then tried to install and use LIRC to make your infrared remote control work the way it should, you may have discovered that it doesn’t work. For one thing, you don’t get the configuration menu during the install process, so you can’t select your make and model of remote. Even the old standby of using sudo dpkg-reconfigure lirc to bring up the configuration menu doesn’t work anymore.

Chances are you searched the web for an answer, but perhaps you never found anything that would make your remote work as smoothly as it used to in past versions of Ubuntu. Even if you got the remote to work in Kodi, you probably got double button presses or a lack of response to button presses on some buttons at random times, and maybe certain buttons would not work at all. We have heard of Kodi users giving up and going back to Ubuntu 16.04 because of this issue!

It turns out that the issue may not be with Ubuntu OR Kodi.  It appears the problem is that the Ubuntu 18.04 repositories contain a newer version of LIRC, that just doesn’t work properly.  We found that going back to an old version, specifically LIRC 0.9.0, is the answer – install that, and you do get a version of LIRC that works in Ubuntu 18.04 and that makes your remote work smooth as silk in Kodi.  Well, at least it did for ours, which is a standard Windows MCE compatible remote similar to the one pictured above.

So how do you do that?  Well, as the title of this blog implies, we are two “sort of” tech guys, and one thing we are not is Linux experts.  So, we took an approach that is relatively easy and that works, even if it may not be the “most correct” way to do it.  Here’s the procedure we used:

First, remove any existing installs of ir-keytable and/or lirc – from Linux command line do:

sudo apt purge ir-keytable lirc

Also, if you have added any other software in an attempt to get the remote to work, you probably should remove that as well.

Next, we’re going to temporarily edit /etc/apt/sources.list – we will use nano, but feel free to use vi or vim if that’s your thing:

sudo nano /etc/apt/sources.list

Add this line at the bottom of the /etc/apt/sources.list file:

deb xenial universe

Use Ctrl-X to exit nano; be sure to save the file (unless you made a mistake, then just exit without saving and start over).

Then, from the Linux command line:

sudo apt update
sudo apt install lirc/xenial

You should see it install lirc and a few dependencies.  Somewhere in the process you should see “Setting up lirc (0.9.0-0ubuntu6) …” and also you should get the configuration screen, from which you can pick the type of infrared remote you use (such as “Windows Media Center Transceivers/Remotes (all)”, which is down near the bottom of the list).

lirc configuration screenClick on the image to enlarge

After that is finished, do this so Ubuntu won’t try to upgrade lirc to the newer bad version:

sudo apt-mark hold lirc

Now that lirc is installed, you need to go back and remove the line you just added to /etc/apt/sources.list:

sudo nano /etc/apt/sources.list

Scroll down to the bottom of the file and put the cursor at the start of this line and press Ctrl-K to delete it:

deb xenial universe

As before use Ctrl-X to exit nano, and be sure to save the file.

Now from the command line you should immediately do this so that your system doesn’t inadvertently try to get any other packages from the xenial universe repository:

sudo apt update

And that’s it!  What we have done here is to temporarily enable the Ubuntu 16.04 (xenial) universe repository, where a copy of lirc 0.9.0 is available, and then we installed it using the apt command.

We do realize that there may be alternative way to do this, such as downloading the lirc package from the xenial repository (the amd64 version is here) and then installing it using dpkg, but we’d be a little concerned that doing it that way either might not bring in the necessary dependencies, or might not show the configuration menu.  But, feel free to try doing it that way if you’re much more conversant with Linux than we are.

We hope this helps others who have struggled to get their infrared remote working with Kodi in Ubuntu 18.04!

4 thoughts on “Make LIRC work in Ubuntu 18.04, so that you can use your infrared remote in Kodi

  1. mike stikkelorum

    time to leave a message!

    can’t thank you enough, this issue has plagued me for months, fiddling with Lirc and ir-keytable, creating custom buttons for my harmony-one, drove me crazy…

    Life sucks without a proper working remote 😛

    i salute you



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