Hack and / - Wiimote Control

Why let your Wii have all the fun? Find out how to connect your Wiimote to your computer and use it as a mouse or an input device for any number of popular gaming emulators.

If you think about it, there are almost as many ways to interface with your computer as there are Debian-based distributions—and that's a lot. Besides the trusty keyboard and optical mouse, there are trackpoint mice, touchpads, touchscreens, twiddlers, joysticks, presentation remotes and even devices that measure your brain waves. Although I mostly stick with my tried-and-true keyboard and trackpoint mouse (fingers on home row, thank you), when I started hearing about all the interesting things people were doing with the Wiimote (the main controller from the Nintendo Wii), I knew I had to give it a try.

Now traditionally, connecting a brand-new device to a Linux machine was an investment in Internet research, kernel module hacking, prayer and obscure programming skills I haven't used since college. I figured the mere fact that this was a Bluetooth device meant I was going to have to spend some quality time with hcidump. To my surprise, all the hard work already had been done for me, and I could connect and use a Wiimote on my laptop with only a few basic steps.

Configure udev

First, your kernel needs the uinput module available and loaded. This module is available in modern kernels, and my Ubuntu Gutsy install already had it. If you want to be able to connect to the Wiimote as a regular user, however, you need to add a new udev rule to extend permissions to the uinput device. I created a file called /etc/udev/rules.d/95-uinput.rules that contained the following:

KERNEL=="uinput", GROUP="plugdev"

Then, I made sure my user was a member of the plugdev group. If your system doesn't have a plugdev group, you could choose or create another group to use for this device. Next, run /etc/init.d/udev reload to make sure your changes are seen. Finally, I ran modprobe uinput to make sure the module was loaded, and I also added uinput to /etc/modules to make sure it was loaded at boot.

Install wminput

The next step is to install the wminput software. For me, this was simple, as wminput is packaged for my distribution; otherwise, you can download the source from the official site (www.cwiid.org). Then, make sure the Bluetooth device in your computer is enabled. For my laptop, I had to flip a switch on the side, but if you have an external USB Bluetooth adapter, for instance, now is a good time to plug it in. Finally, run wminput in a console and follow the directions:

greenfly@minimus:~$ wminput
Put Wiimote in discoverable mode now (press 1+2)...

When you press buttons 1 and 2 on your Wiimote, it goes into discoverable mode, and the blue LEDs along the bottom start blinking. Sometimes you might not start discoverable mode fast enough, or wminput won't detect it, but as long as the LEDs on the Wiimote are blinking, it is still in that mode. So if wminput times out, just run the program again.

If you continually can't connect, you probably should double-check that your Bluetooth device is working. To do this, press buttons 1 and 2 on the Wiimote and then use hcitool to scan for the Wiimote. A successful scan will look like the following:

greenfly@minimus:~$ hcitool scan
Scanning ...
           00:1B:7A:3E:8C:54    Nintendo RVL-CNT-01

After wminput connects, you also can look in /var/log/dmesg for confirmation that the Wiimote is connected:

[ 1226.247203] usb 3-2: new full speed USB device using 
 ↪uhci_hcd and address 13
[ 1226.288768] usb 3-2: configuration #1 chosen 
 ↪from 1 choice
[ 1227.922403] input: Nintendo Wiimote as 

Use the Wiimote as a Mouse

Once the Wiimote is connected, the default bindings use it as a mouse. The accelerometers in the Wiimote are used to move the mouse pointer, so if you point the Wiimote down or up, the mouse will move down or up, respectively, and if you roll the Wiimote to the left or right, the mouse will move left or right, respectively. If you look at /etc/cwiid/wminput/buttons, you can see the default mappings:

Wiimote.A               = BTN_LEFT
Wiimote.B               = BTN_RIGHT
Wiimote.Up              = KEY_UP
Wiimote.Down    = KEY_DOWN
Wiimote.Left    = KEY_LEFT
Wiimote.Right   = KEY_RIGHT
Wiimote.Minus   = KEY_BACK
Wiimote.Plus    = KEY_FORWARD
Wiimote.Home    = KEY_HOME
Wiimote.1               = KEY_PROG1
Wiimote.2               = KEY_PROG2

By default, wminput reads the configuration listed in /etc/cwiid/wminput/default to get its mappings. In this file you will see:


include buttons

Plugin.acc.X    = REL_X
Plugin.acc.Y    = REL_Y

Essentially, this file includes the buttons file for keybindings, and it also enables the use of the accelerometers for X and Y movements. The great thing about wminput is that all these mappings are completely configurable. If you look in /etc/cwiid/wminput, you should see a number of other example mappings you can use as inspiration. You also can store custom mappings in your home directory under ~/.cwiid/wminput. The button mappings use standard names for keys and mouse buttons that can be found in /usr/include/linux/input.h, but most of the names are pretty straightforward.


Kyle Rankin is Chief Security Officer at Purism, a company focused on computers that respect your privacy, security, and freedom. He is the author of many books including Linux Hardening in Hostile Networks, DevOps Troubleshooting and The Official Ubuntu


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Thad Boyd's picture

Okay, so you've got a script for fceu, one for snes9x, etc. That's cool, but it seems that you have to restart wminput manually every time you want to switch config files, which really inhibits its usefulness as a remote control for an HTPC. I'd like to be able to use my remote to select an NES game in my MythGame list, then turn it sideways and use it as an NES controller -- without resorting to hacks like, say, setting the Up arrow key to work as Left on the NES D-Pad, or setting up a shell script that restarts wminput with a different config file and then launches the program (but requires me to re-pair).

Doesn't look like there are any plugins as yet to let the program reload the config file when a certain program is launched, but please correct me if I'm wrong.

Key Combo?

Rob's picture

is it possible to use key combinations for this? CTRL+ALT+LEFT ARROW

And what about Slackware?

Dr Who's picture

Did anyone think of trying this on Slackware? Either 11.0 or 12.1 or Current.

Re:Did anyone think of trying this on Slackware? Either 11.0 or

Dr Who's picture

Well it works after remembering to reset the BT dongle. Slackware is stil the best OS for the enterprise.

Ubuntu Intrepid

Anonymous's picture

Works great on Ubuntu Hardy, but has anyone got it to work on Ubuntu Intrepid?

something to do with uinput version...?

Gens Control

schwieb's picture

I don't even have a Wii and I had to buy one of these controllers! They are totally awesome!

Though this may be sacrilegious, in addition to the NES emulators I use mine with the Sega emulator Gens. Here is my configuration!

# Wiimote Gens
Wiimote.A = KEY_F5
Wiimote.B = KEY_F5
Wiimote.Up = KEY_LEFT
Wiimote.Down = KEY_RIGHT
Wiimote.Left = KEY_DOWN
Wiimote.Right = KEY_UP
Wiimote.Minus = KEY_TAB
Wiimote.Plus = KEY_ESC
Wiimote.Home = KEY_ENTER
Wiimote.1 = KEY_A
Wiimote.2 = KEY_S

Thanks for the article.