Geek Freely: htpc

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    Showing posts with label htpc.

    Showing posts with label htpc.

    The Hardware

    After approximately 10 years of using XBMC, the old name for Kodi, I have tried a variety of hardware end-points.

    Always searching for the best bang for my buck. My conclusion is the Chromebox, I have a single

    and I am considering replacing my Pi’s with two more Chromeboxes. Raspberry Pi’s are nice and all, but they just don’t have the grunt, you are constantly modifying settings and over-clocking. The Asus Chromebox is a no hassle Kodi player.

    It’s silent, powerful, and it comes at the great price ~$160.

    Now I know a lot of people will be saying the Pi is cheaper, but let’s be honest – you need to spend at least $95. For that you get, the

    (~$45),

    (~$10),

    (~$10),

    (~$15) – and that doesn’t even include cables or a power supply, because you may have it lying around.

    The only question about the Chromebox is to consider which version. Some will , and some will give you , and of course some will give you both.  I have a basic , but am tempted by the

    for the AC network adapter.  provided some insightful comments on the Chromebox support of 4k and Wireless AC. AC network support can be gained in the cheaper Asus box with the , and there appears to be no difference in 4k support between models, however I had previously read the i5 would be required for 4k.

    Update: Some other readers noticed hardware omissions, I’d love to hear feedback on other hardware users have had success with, but a comparison always helps.  Here are a few I would love some more performance comparisons on:

    The Software

    There are a bunch of approaches, with the only real restriction being the hardware your running it on. I have tried the following:

    If you have ever read any of my , it will be no surprise that OpenELEC is the clear winner for me.

    The Remote

    For me this was a simple decision, nothing fancy here – I have tried a variety of solutions.

    At this time I am using the USB receiver from a

    and USB IR receiver I purchased for my initial XBMC HTPC, I have programmed my to send MCE commands – and that’s it. You could also use and have IR commands converted to keyboard commands – which gives you a lot of flexibility (I used to have a remote button programmed to send “w”, to update watched status quickly.)

    Update: One attentive reader, , noted the omission of . Utilizing the CEC adapter leverages your current TV remote to take care of the basic HTPC functionality. I personally find I want a few more buttons, but if you need the basics this is certainly worth investigating.

    The Installation and Configuration

    So you have your hardware and software, all you need to do now is install the software and you are ready to enjoy your music and home movies!

    I created a

    some time ago based on several different sources, but  has an

    that is a much better resource than my dated post.

    provides a simple installation script for running, after you have prepared the hardware, and the guide also recommends settings and covers some known issues.

    The Extras

    Personally, since I run three of these boxes in my house I like to have a synchronized library, providing watched/un-watched/resume status throughout the house. . Kodi is certainly moving towards a shared library implementation using UPNP – but I’m not sure it is quite there yet.

    First off I want to say, this was the best use of $179 in a while..just buy it:

    This box blows away my old Zotac ION – and it’s fanless.  It kills on performance compared to the Raspberry Pi and Zotac ION, and it’s small and portable, it’s fanless, it boots very quick! I love it.

    Disclaimer: All the information in this guide is completely taken from the following link:

    But I have formatted it in the appropriate manner for myself to reference in future.

    Follow this guide if you want to replace Chrome OS with OpenELEC and have it boot in automatically, I do not do the backup like the wiki, I create a backup USB after the fact on a Windows box, but you can do it from any OS it appears.  I have tested this backup and it works, so this is my preferred and quicker method.

    has updated the wiki to provide an  You must still complete steps 1.1 and 1.2.

    1 Device Preparation

    Putting the ChromeBox in developer mode will allow you to access the underlying Linux operating system features necessary for installing XBMC.

    WARNING: This will erase all user data on the device.

    With the device powered off:

    Disabling the firmware write protect will allow us to set the firmware boot flags to shorten the developer boot screen timeout (from 30s to ~1s), and optionally boot directly to the legacy BIOS (and into Ubuntu or OpenELEC). This is not absolutely necessary, but highly convenient and carries little to no risk.

    With the device powered off and unplugged:

    It is necessary to update the legacy BIOS to enable booting from USB/SD media, or if replacing ChromeOS with Ubuntu/OpenELEC, as the stock legacy BIOS is completely broken. If you dual booting and using either the ChrUbuntu or ChrOpenELEC scripts to install, then this step is included as part of those scripts and does not need to be done manually.

    To update the legacy BIOS:

    This updated legacy BIOS has a ~1.5s wait on the ‘Press ECS to show boot menu’ screen.

    Setting the following boot flags will allow you to boot either to a backup copy of ChromeOS on USB/SD (using CTRL-U) or to the legacy BIOS (using CTRL-L) and into Ubuntu or OpenELEC.

    Important: These boot flags must be set before installing either Ubuntu or OpenELEC.

    To set the boot flags, perform the following steps:

    With the firmware write-protect disabled, we can shorten the default developer-mode boot wait time (from 30s to ~1s) and set the ChromeBox to default to booting the legacy BIOS (and into Ubuntu or OpenELEC) instead of requiring CTRL-D or CTRL-L to be pressed each time.

    Follow this guide:

    I corrupted my backup from the wiki, so this was my only option – but it is tested and works.

    2 Installing OpenELEC

    In order to install OpenELEC, you’ll need to download a custom build tailored to the ChromeBox. This build differs from the regular OpenELEC Generic x86_64 build in that it uses a slightly older version of the syslinux bootloader (5.10, vs 6.02), as the version included with OpenELEC does not work properly on the ChromeBox at this time. This custom build also includes a fix for some MCE IR remotes, which fail to work when connected to USB 3.0 ports (fix has been submitted as a patch and hopefully will be included in future Linux and OpenELEC releases).

    Download the custom build of OpenELEC from

    Once downloaded, unzip/extract the files.

    If you have set the firmware boot flags as above, OpenELEC should boot right up in about 15 seconds. Otherwise, you will need to hit CTRL-L to boot the legacy BIOS.

    That’s it, you can update to the latest official OpenELEC build. Afterwards, updates should be automatic.

    Update:  Please check the following location for a list of known issues an their available workarounds:

    So I have about 3 machines in my house that function as HTPCs.  One of those systems I use with full blown blown Ubuntu and XBMC install from repo.  The other systems I use , I have this installed on an old NVIDIA ION system and a Rasberry Pi.

    I have also advised two systems, which I setup, to use Openelec.  which has a great price on it, I can only assume due to the fact that they are coming out with a new version…which !

    Some of the main benefits about openelec.

    The main reason I am not using this on my main media center is due to the lack of support installing .  This main system is used to serve my streaming music to web and mobile apps, therefore, until I have played about with installing Subsonic on NAS4Free or Openelec, I will stick with an Ubuntu system in my household.

    Some other options:

    So I have FreeNAS running samba shares on my network, for the most part I really don’t need to access the data on my actually Linux boxes – only my HTPC.

    But I decided I wanted to create mount point on the media folder of my Ubuntu install.

    So here is what I had to do in fstab (/etc/fstab)

    //freenas_server/sharename /media/localsharedirectory cifs credentials=/home/macleod/smb.credentials,uid=mountuser,gid=mountgroup,iocharset=utf8,codepage=cp437,auto 0 0

    My credentials are stored in smb.credentials, like so:

    username=myuname

    password=mypwd

    And I got most of the information from here:

    Obviously replace mountgroup, mountuser with your ubuntu username and group (group is probably the same as name).  Also replace the appropriate shares and credentials – hopefully you get the picture.

    UPDATE:

    I edited the fstab entry so I now define the iocharset and codepage, this is so foreign characters are displayed correctly in the filesystem, and applications.  I noticed the issue due to having display issues in iSub and Subsonic.

    UPDATE2:

    The DOS Charset should be CP437 – CP850 is missing a few which I needed for foreign language music artists.

    The Rii mini.  I just bought this tiny little keyboard to control my bedroom XBMC HTPC, I am thinking about buying another for the living room – it’s perfect.  It’s back-lit, wireless, rechargeable (lithium-ion).  What more could you ask?  Seriously, what else do you need?

    Comment please!

    So I signed up to be notified about the

    beta, but I never received an email – today I went to check the site out for an update… the beta has been out since the 7th.  I have downloaded the deb on my Ubuntu machine and installed it:

    sudo dpkg -i “downloaded file name without quotes”

    Probably have dependency issues…

    sudo apt-get -f install

    Worth checking on a few updates…

    sudo apt-get update

    sudo apt-get upgrade

    Well, obviously I haven’t had a chance to check it out, but we will see – I am very interested in the social aspects of the application, but I am loving

    with

    right now!

    Update:

    So I played about with boxee for a short period, the beta is a much needed improvement, but I am not sure if I will switch to it from xbmc!

    Well I upgraded to XBMC 9.11 alpha 2.

    So far I haven’t seen any significant reasons to push this update, in fact I see issues to stay where you are.

    1. Lirc is a nightmare to get configured for remotes – and I lost all my settings!

    2. There seems to be some visual defects in the video playback – which I haven’t had the chance to look into.

    Anyway, I like to try the latest in case there is something I don’t want to miss. I decided to ge rid of XBMC Live on my ION HD HTPC, since it had changed to read only, so no settings were saved.

    I read somewhere that someone else had this issue – it was caused from changing from VGA to HDMI – physical outputs, not settings – weird huh?!

    I did an overall clean house on both my HTPCs, installed the latest Ubuntu and reinstalled XBMC.

    Apart from the remote and video issues I am really happy – nice spring clean – or should I say fall.

    I urge you to check out XBMC if you are looking for a home media playback device.

    It’s cheap and will play anything you throw at it.

    Plus with the scraping tools it is a good way to keep all media organized… And I stream mine from FreeNAS – more on that later though.

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