For about a year, I’ve been thinking I ought to get XBMC, now renamed KODI, to run. That got “kicked up a notch” when my Roku Stick died. I’ve tried it maybe 3 times before? All sort of half hearted. It’s a bit of a PITA to get it to “go”.
A few months back my Roku Stick in the bedroom died and the desire to “make Kodi go” got kicked up a notch or two.
A couple of days ago, having spent a few months back on “Browser TV”, I was getting a little chaffed at the limited choices. Especially lacking is live TV and movies. Even old TV Series.
The Rocky Road Approach
So I once again started whacking on Kodi. It is provided as a “built in” in the packages for Debian / Devuan and several other Linux releases. You would expect it to just be “apt-get install kodi” and be done. But it isn’t. You do the install, and launch it, and it runs, and it does NOTHING USEFUL AT ALL.
That’s the place I reached several times before and in my first tries here again. On the RockPro64. On the Odroid N2. Even on the Raspberry Pi M3. Installs fine, then nothing.
You see, in my opinion, Kodi is NOT a program. It’s a “kit of parts” that has “some assembly required”. An erector set with a box of spares “over there somewhere”. And no real instructions on how to make it into something that works.
There’s a zoo of “Add-ons”. Some are bits of program (that it turns out are essential to making it “go”) and others are places to get ‘media’ you can play (i.e. shows). But until you find that out, and THEN install just the right ones, you wander in the desert of nothing to see…
There’s several “How to install Kodi” pages. I tried several and in general still not nowhere. There’s been a couple of releases and some of the pages with How To are matched to older releases…
The Easy Way That Worked
In the end, what got it to work for me was pretty simple. I installed a ‘package’ that was already significantly along the way to ‘configured’ via installing “LibreElec” on the Raspberry Pi M3. “LibreElec” is a cut down version of Linux with just the bare bones needed to run Kodi, and nothing else. It autoboots directly into Kodi on power up too.
The key bit is that someone took the time to actually install enough “Add-ons” that it works. You still need to pick and install a bunch of “video add-ons”, what amounts to Channel Apps, but at least the place to pick them from is already in place in the LibreElect downloaded image.
The Long Haul Through Admin By Click
Now part of the pain of this all, for me, is that I’m very very good with “edit this config file and put this in it”. I’m not real good with “click a picture that doesn’t tell you what it is or does and click the thing in it that’s the right one”. When there’s no directions explaining what any of these things are, why I care, and what they do.
In Kodi, just about everything is a picture. And you “click and hope”. What will make this write-up less than great is that I don’t know exactly what all I clicked to get it all to go, so this is scattered stream of consciousness…
At the top of the main startup page is a ‘gear’ you click. In there ‘somewhere’ under system stuff is a toggle to set “use alien sources” or some such so you can use ‘illegal’ “add-ons” that let you get to the stuff from people who don’t want you to get it… Oh, and many “add-ons” have geo-locking so you need a VPN to, for example, watch the Canadian TV stations… or some of the British.
This link talks about that part some:
I tried that (even with not knowing if it was legal or not or even safe) on a couple of Linux versions without success. Other required (but not identified…) “add-ons” needed… So, OK, in LibreElect those add-ons are present and from their list of other “video add-ons” you can also get some shows.
There’s also an unclear distinction between a “video add-on” and a “repository”. Still working on that one.
Then after the system thing is toggled, you go to the “Add-ons” menu item at the top level. NOTE: You find the same names and pictures repeated at several points in the hierarchy and they may do the same, or different, things… Sigh.
So at the top level ‘add-ons’ you can select some “program” and “video” add-ons from the LibreElec set / archive / repository / whatever it is. I just added a whole bunch of stuff on the belief that it would not hurt to have it and not having some of it clearly makes things not work. Must have added a few dozen ‘video add-ons’.
Then tried again to play something. First thing that worked was playing an MP4 from my hard disk. Oh boy, some success… Took a while to realize that at the top level, some of the pictures swap to an icon of a disk when you click or maybe mouse over them. Those only read local source material. YOU might be thinking “Music” would point you at Spotify or an AM Radio web page, but no… it points you at your disk.
In order to get Music (or video or TV or movies – and no, I’m not sure what makes video different from movie different from TV…) you need the right “Add-on” installed. Oh, and Intalling an Add-On may not work if IT depends on a “program Add-on” that you have not already installed. (That bit me a few times in the direct Linux attempts. LibreElect seems to automatically select from the LibreElect Program Add-on (or maybe repository?) most of those needed bits.
OK, got a LOAD of the Video Add-Ons installed. Now how in the heck do I play something?
After fooling around a bit, found a list of “Video” add-ons to play under top level “add-ons”. But only 1/2 dozen to a dozen max. Still, I WAS able to run things from them.
The First Taste Of Success
That was when, last night, I had my first “not from my disk” success! On Crackle I found under their Sci-Fi listing, The Blob. A 1958 “B Movie” sci-fi “horror” flick staring Steve McQueen as a teenager. I’d first seen it at about 5 years old and had my first real nightmare (and my last one of any significance). Watching it now, it’s just funny cheesy. It’s obviously what looks like strawberry jello being shoved through models… So I had a great time watching it, and then sleeping soundly ;-)
But I still only saw the first 1/2 dozen or so of the “video add-ons” I’d added. Where were the rest? Well, tonight I found them. Under top level Video, pick “add-ons”…
Now you might think going “add-ons” then “video” would be the same as going “video” then “add-ons”. It isn’t. The second one gave me my whole list of added channels (“video add-ons” – I think, I’m still not sure when they become a library or a repository…) So I was able to try some more of my random shots.
Pathe was there as was a couple of other British archives. Watched Princess Ann on her trike. Queen Elizabeth as a young women with her corgies. And more. Found “news” on a couple of others. Live “Newsmax” as well as CNN, NBC, etc. etc. I’ve got a lot to wade through now.
I think there is some way to index and make a personal database of prefered finds, but don’t know how to do that yet. It is hidden among the 10,000 wondrous things you can do with Kodi!!!!” if only you knew how or could sort them from the dregs…
I suppose a web search for “Kodi Users Manual” might be helpful…
I also had the pleasure of watching WNBC? in NYC where they had Tremors as a series ;-) I also found The Carol Burnett Show (somewhere…) and a large library of movies without commercials in them.
So now, after “only” a year or two of quasi-half trying, I’ve reached a usable Kodi experience and can say I’m “almost happy” with it. I’ll be happy once I actually know how to set it up reliably and repeatedly, and know how to reliably select a viewing material source and index / bookmark it.
But I’m more than covered for “good enough” TV / Movie / Video source material already, and I can reliably choose and and play selections. That’s BIG progress.
Notes on Performance
I’m just astounded that my Raspberry Pi M3 runs full 780p (that’s my TV limit) Just Fine. On the other TV at 1080p it also looked fine. A finger on the heat sink (small aluminum ones not the ‘good one’) said it wasn’t even getting all that hot.
It is amazing what happens when folks actually USE the GPU in these things. A Lot of fast Linux ports don’t bother. They just leave video on the main CPU, sucking power and making heat and giving jittery video. There’s a reason vendors brag on their GPU size and speed. WHEN you use it, you get a WHOLE LOT MORE computes without a lot more heat.
So I’ve now dedicated one of my Pi boards in a plastic (open top) case using the built in WiFi (and on my dedicated TV / Guest WiFi channel) as my new TV Box.
I’ll be oh so slowly upping my skill with using, configuring and actually understanding KODI from this point on forward.
I did have 2 instances of about 1 second each of “a few scattered pixels” going a bit strange on one of the misc. Video sources I was using. Xumo or some such. On Pathe, and the movies from Crackle, it was perfect. On WNBC in prime time was the only time I experienced any ‘buffering circle spin’ delays. This leads me to think it isn’t KODI having a problem, but the provider / source. (I’ve had a lot worse from Netflix in prior years when I had it…) Plus, I heard on the news that a fiber cut had NY and other New England areas having big issues with internet outage, so it could be involved too.
So it turns out that a Raspberry Pi Model 3 is quite enough, thank you very much. Nice.
Mine has a Logitech Dongle / keyboard added to it when in use, and that’s it. HDMI, power in, and the KB / Mouse and I’m done. WooT! When not watching TV, but using a computer, I can either just swap the uSD card and boot the Pi for low weight stuff, or move the dongle and HDMI cable to the RockPro64 next to it and boot that. Easy.
So color me happy at last ;-)