Of Kodi, Pi, And The Blob

Background

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.

https://libreelec.tv/downloads_new

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:

https://mytruemedia.com/best-kodi-addons/limitless-live-tv-channels/

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

Moving On…

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 ;-)

Subscribe to feed

About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
This entry was posted in Movies & Media, Tech Bits. Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Of Kodi, Pi, And The Blob

  1. E.M.Smith says:

    Found an interesting link to an intro manual.

    https://beebom.com/use-kodi-guide/

    Found out a repository is basically like an App Store while “add-ons” are the App equivalent.

    https://beebom.com/best-kodi-repository/

    What are Kodi Repositories?
    To be more precise, you should look at Kodi repositories as stores aka containers where add-ons exist. Those add-ons, which are essentially apps for Kodi, are the actual source of streaming TV shows, movies, music, and more.

    Also reviews some free VPN providers.
    https://beebom.com/best-free-kodi-vpn/

  2. Pinroot says:

    It’s been a while since I messed with Kodi (four or five years at least). As I recall, I did like you and tried to install it on an existing Linux installation on my Pi, but never could get it going to my satisfaction. I eventually installed XBian (https://kodi.wiki/view/XBian), based on Debian. It’s similar to LibreELEC, a linux distro optimized to run Kodi with a minimal footprint.

    The menu system takes a lot of getting used to. Over time I eventually figured out where every thing was and got fairly comfortable with it. One thing I remember is that the ‘theme’ can be changed. The ‘theme’ is basically the interface for using the system. Every single ‘theme’/interface is completely different and sometimes in a very big way. Menus are different, which makes finding things difficult. There were times I wasn’t sure if I could ever change the ‘theme’ back to one I could use, because the option to do so was somewhere else (and maybe even called something different) in the new theme I had selected. Eventually, I stopped messing with them, and kept the original one, which overall, worked pretty well.

    I’m not sure what channel apps you’re using. I remember several that I used that got shut down (piracy concerns, i think). There’s one that should be available called “Cinema”. I know it’s available for Android and can be side loaded onto an Amazon Fire, so there should be a Kodi port. You can find a lot of movies and tv there. I never had much luck with live tv, but I’m sure there are better options available these days. Overall, it’s a pretty decent media center where you can stream your own content, or find other stuff online.

  3. E.M.Smith says:

    @Pinroot:

    Thanks for the “experience by proxy”. I was looking at skins & builds and they looked like a risk of being suddenly lost…

    It also seems that Youtube has a snout in many of the “add ons”. Those that source from Eewtube, or use it for searching, use an API, application programming interface. This, now, as of not too long ogo, changed from a maker paid set of “keys” to needing individual “user keys”. So on sampling, about 25% to 30% of add-ons I installed fail on “no youtube API key configured.” But I can configure them IF I set up a Eewtube account and log in…. so I can be better tracked and sold? No thanks.

    Oddly, this will push me more toward VPN and less “legally compliant” add-ons. Just to get what is publicly available. Go figure…
    https://rapidapi.com/blog/how-to-get-youtube-api-key/

    Currently, YouTube Data API can be used for various purposes including searching content, testing authorized and unauthorized requests, as well as other simple tasks such as managing your playlist, uploading videos and updating channel setting.

    Although YouTube provides this service, it doesn’t do it without control. It offers every user a unique access key known as the API Key to help them connect to the site’s interface.

    However, generating the API Key involves a few procedures.

    So I guess on my ToDo list is to identify Eewtube dependent channels (add-ons) and remove them. There’s plenty of other content.

  4. E.M.Smith says:

    Another example of how the interface and lack of “discoverability” bites is setting a VPN.

    https://www.addictivetips.com/media-streaming/kodi/install-vpn-libreelec/

    First you must know about and install an “add-on” for configuring VPNs…

    Using a VPN on LibreELEC is as necessary as it is on any other platform. Unfortunately, the operating system has very limited capabilities in terms of running external software, making this a complicated task. Thanks to a great little Kodi add-on, you can setup a VPN connection right from within Kodi, eliminating the need for external VPN client software. And with all good VPN suppliers using a standard protocol, this method works with all of them.

    We’ll present the VPN Manager add-on and show you how to install it. And after installation, we’ll also show you how to configure it and, even more importantly, how to use it.

    Seems to be a theme. To do sonething and configure it, first you need to find, install, and configure the add-on to do and configure the thing…

  5. Pinroot says:

    Oh yeah, skins. Why are there so many different names for essentially the same thing? You’re better off sticking with the default, especially since you have to ‘start over’ learning your way around if you install a different skin.

    There are a lot of ‘unofficial’ add-ons for it. I can’t remember how to find them, but do not ask about them on the official Kodi forum, it will get you banned. “The watching or listening of illegal or pirated content which would otherwise need to be paid for is not endorsed or approved by Team Kodi.” You can probably search for ‘unofficial Kodi add-ons’ or something similar to find them.

    Looking through the official add-ons, I can’t find one for Bitchute, Rumble or LBRY. There is one for Infowars tho, lol. I think when I get home tonight I’m going to install it (on a laptop, unfortunately) so that I can play around with it again.

  6. Pinroot says:

    Well, I installed Kodi on a laptop and got it up and running. Turns out that they’ve changed the default skin since the last time I used it. I was totally confused, so II managed to figure out how to change it. I found the old one that I was used to (Confluence) and once that was up and running, I felt a little more at home. I installed a few add-ons, and can only get one of them to work (Vimeo). Most of the others just tell me to check the log. So I need to look into where the logs are stored :)
    I should at least be able to look at my own stuff (I’ve got an older Pi set up as a media server running minidlna, so Kodi should see that). To be honest, I had more fun just tinkering with it and figuring it out than I did using it as a media player, so I’ve got a new version to tinker with.

  7. D. J. Hawkins says:

    OK, I get the desire to make the thing work, but at some point, wouldn’t you have been better off buying a new Roku Stick?

  8. E.M.Smith says:

    @D.J.Hawkins:

    Short form: Probably yes.

    Longer Form:

    Well…. it depends….

    I had 2 “Roku Sticks” die at about the same total life span of around 3 years. I can go on paying that small sum forever… or…

    I now have the skill to make a “roku Stick like appliance” for about the same price, but based on hardware that has run without interruption (i.e. failure) for a decade+… so in the very long term, that’s better, yes?

    Essentially it comes down to “Net Present Value” of the labor to learn how to never need to buy a Roku Stick again (and any increased choices from more, um, ‘clandestine’ add-ons) vs the cost of labor NOW vs Roku Stick NOW.

    In other words: What is your future labor worth to you today, eh?

    So I figure ‘break even’ is about 2 years out. ROKU Sticks die at about 3. More or less a wash over-all… BUT, in year 4+…

  9. Pinroot says:

    @D.J. I’m with our host on short form for sure lol

    Long form is slightly different. When I grew up, there were a lot of companies that made kits of all types, such as stereo equipment, tv’s, radios (shortwave type stuff), electronic test equipment, and lots of other things. I remember a company called PAIA that sold synthesizer kits. It was cheaper than off the shelf, and usually good quality. And if you were the DIY type, it was right up your alley. Building my own media player is right up that alley. I can customize it any way I like. Kodi has plugins that let you watch live tv and some sketchy ones that let you watch sketchy content. With some work, you can turn it into a PVR. There really are a lot of possibilities when you get down to it, for a pretty modest investment (money-wise, anyway; time-wise, well you’ll have to make that call for yourself).

    I’ve got a Roku in the man cave, and a Fire in the living room. My biggest complaint with the Roku is that I have a large collection of an old show (MST3K). They are all in .avi format. The Roku, last I checked, plays two video file formats: .mp4 and whatever Windows format is (it will play .mkv but i think that’s similar to .mp4). It won’t play .avi, so I can’t watch those old shows (they will play on the Fire in the living room tho). Kodi will play a variety of audio and video file formats, so there’s that too.

    tl;dr – I like to tinker :)

    @EM – I’d never done a cost/benefit analysis, but that’s nice to know, thanks.

  10. E.M.Smith says:

    I’m liking the results of using the KODI even if I’m still not that fond of the user interface and set up process.

    The Bad:

    It looks like YouTube regularly mutates some interface such that every few months all the things that depend on it for search (menu) or content, suddenly break until the next update. The same thing seems to have taken out youtube-dl on the regular Linux. So, OK, I get to wait an unknown period of time for someone somewhere to make an update. Whatever, I’ll just move on to other media. Which I did.

    The Good:

    I’m really like Crackle. (A Sony property). We also have it on the ROKU, but there it is loaded up with commercials. “Somehow” the R.Pi version has no commercials. Not sure why.

    Could be my PiHole. Could be Kodi. Whatever..

    But every night or 3, I get to watch a full length movie without interruptions. I really like the reminder of what movie theatre immersion is like, sans interruptions.

    Tonight I watched the SciFi movie “Censor”. I was surprised when it came up in Russian. But the subtitles were good. My 1/2 century ago one Russian class was not enough to even get 1/2 the conversation, but I got enough words to know the subtitle translation was good. Those words I picked out were exact matches.

    The acting was stellar. None of this Tom Cruz as unreal idealism crap or ‘famous for being famous with big chest’ stuff. It was engaging and with realistic characters (with a very Russian Men’s Men aspect and a Natasha feel to the lady lead). They have kept their culture clean of the P.C. Crap.

    The basic story line is set in a future where Virtual Reality games are so good, people lose themselves into it; then carry that experience back to the Real World and commit real mayhem. So a “Censor” department is set up. They enter V.R. games to police the level of anti-social behaviours and violence. BUT, as they must be the best at the games to catch the folks going too far to win, some of them start to get too addicted themselves and go a bit around the bend.

    The transitions from VR Fantasy to reality and back are escalated in a very effective way to where, at the end, you begin to be unsure where one begins and the other ends, or not. There are also several very creative plot twists. A stalled romance with a less than good idea how to rescue it. Several historic vignettes along with a background oligarch story. Enough to be refreshing in the plot lines.

    I’ll not spoil the ending… but do sit through the credits. The LAST twist in a twist is scattered in the credits and essentially completes the story line.

    Do be warned, there is a LOT of gore and blood. Also some light nudity. So NSFW nor kids, IMHO. But it is the first time in a long time that a New Movie actually sucked me into it. Surprised me in some way, and was not bland and rehashed nor stuffed with SJW BS. It has a bit of a High Tech Mad Max feel to parts of it.

    I’m impressed with what the Russian movie industry can do.

    Also, as a linguistic sidebar: I don’t know if it is “just me” or if Russian has changed or if it is just a dialect issue; but the Russian they were speaking seemed more smooth and flowing, more like other European languages, and with less guttural and fricative sounds. Maybe it is the effect of film and modern slang, or maybe it is a real shift. from the recorded sounds of a 1960s era Russian, but it just sounded smoother and more flowing to me. (Then again, slow paced pattern sentences taped for a class are not always the same as full connected speech…) Or maybe modern Russian has just polished up a bit. In any case, I liked the sound of it a lot more than the older Russian.

    I suggest watching the movie if you like Tech Sci Fi and don’t mind a lot of VR Gore, stabbings and shootings. And subtitles.

  11. E.M.Smith says:

    @Taz: Yeah. The well known MicroSnot strategy of “Embrace, Extend, Extinguish”.

    You claim to Embrace the competitive item, then you “extend” it in incompatible ways so as to confuse and confound the marketplace, then you extinguish the competitive way via various sub-strategies (from buyouts to market dominance to just killing the market with confusion to…)

    Why I hate Microsoft, reason 2,334,801…

    But there’s always BSD to fall back on if Linux dies in the “embrace” of Micro$oft…

Anything to say?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.