There was a time when having a “media center” involved building an HTPC, which was a difficult project to undertake, wrought with frustrations and hardware/software incompatibilities. OTA HDTV came along and many felt left behind just when they had gotten things working. Some experimented with Popcorn while others played with NZBs/NNTP/Usenet downloads. After all these years, one media interface has emerged dominant: XBMC / Boxi / Kodi.
To get up and running with Kodi, you can (1) buy a preconfigured box, (2) install Kodi on an existing device you already own, or (3) buy a new device and install Kodi and configure it yourself.
(1) A lot of people these days are selling “TV boxes” or “set-top boxes” online with the promise of free television. Some may even charge a subscription. However, it is exceptionally easy to buy just the box yourself and set it up in less than 30 minutes with exactly the content you want to watch, saving either the “subscription fee” or anywhere between $20-100 off a new device, or simply get a faster, newer, better device for the same money you’d be paying someone else for an older, slower but configured box. If you insist, we could recommend someone to buy from, but you should at least try installing on a device you already own.
(3) Searching on Amazon.com for “Android TV Box” in Electronics results in a few devices around US $30, mostly Leelbox. On the Canadian Amazon site the same Leelbox devices are around CDN $60. I can’t figure out AliBaba or even the price of this Nakin unit. New devices appear all the time – read the reviews and get the best bang for your buck. Just skip the first few items in the listing if you see the note “sponsored listing” underneath as they are at the top not due to quality or desirability but simply because they paid to be there.
Here’s what Eleazar from TV Addons recommends:
“If you have no budget, the NVIDIA Shield TV (.ca) is definitely the top choice. The second best choice would be the Xiaomi Mi Box (.ca), which sells for a mere $69 at Wal-Mart, and the third choice would be the Amazon Fire TV (.ca). Kodi can be installed to the first two in a few clicks through the Google Play Store, while it would need to be sideloaded to the Amazon Fire TV due to the lack of Android app store support.”
(2) Before purchasing those devices, you might even try to set up an older laptop or even smartphone to control your TV. If your TV can be connected to your network, you may be able to connect your laptop or smartphone via the network. Alternatively, you might be able to connect either your laptop or smartphone using an HDMI connector (or, for older laptops and TVs, a VGA connector) and if that’s the case, you don’t need to buy a new device. Most Android smartphone can project to video equipment (TV or monitor) through an MHL cable such as Aibocn via the TV or monitor’s HDMI.
Whichever device you are setting up for TV watching, you need to download and install KODI (the first link below, in Sources) if it’s not there already. It can be installed under Windows, iOS, Mac OS X, Android and Linux. This is a program that allows you to display your media on a big screen, but it works equally well with smaller screens. It originally was developed for Microsoft XBox (hence the acronym XBMC, XBox Media Center) and then ported to many other operating systems. The current incarnation is named Kodi, but since it is open source, it may morph in the future into a different beast, with a different name.
Installing Kodi, the main program, is trivial. On a laptop or desktop, you download the install file from the link below, in sources, and double click it. On an Android device you install it from Google Play. Amazon has recently removed it from their store, and if Google Play does the same, you could “sideload” it from the link below. Once installed, you can add your own files to your media library – be they pictures, music or videos – or you can extend its functionality with “addons”. These are little programs that may collect freely available content and display it in Kodi, making it (this content) available within a few clicks, and without all the mouse-work and ads that may sometimes go with watching it.
Personally, I have already set up a number of boxes. I want pretty much the same things on each of my boxes but do now want to spend the time for each one, so I simply back up the configuration I like, then restore it as necessary. My first such configuration can be downloaded below. I have newer ones but those are not available here, as they may contain private info.
To backup your configuration or restore a pre-existing one you need to install the Backup addon:
system->add-ons->install from repository->kodi add-on repository->program add-ons->backup->install (wait for add-on enabled message).
On any new install, you may restore a previously saved configuration, or use this addon to save your configuration when done, so that you can duplicate it on other devices you have, if you so wish.
What I first did on my box was set up the weather using Yahoo! Weather, which is the easiest. However, it displays the temperature in Fahrenheit and I can’t stand it. You might want to try a different service if that’s the case, such as the Chinese one.
You could optionally, in Appearance, get the weather info shown on the main screen as well as displayed in the screensaver. You can even change the skin, although that is something you might want to do later.
Next, I added a few Pictures addons, as follows:
- 500px (nice photos)
- Cyanide & Happiness (famous comics)
- flickr (photos by topics)
- Moebooru (anime)
- The Big Picture (photo journalism)
- XKCD (geeky comics)
I don’t watch them so often, but it’s nice to have.
I also added a number of radio stations as music addons:
- Apple iTunes Podcasts (many features, iTunes not required)
- Calm Radio (quite a few options)
- Icecast (huge OSS directory)
- JamBMC (if I need inspiration for music to use legally and cheaply in other creations)
- Loyal Books (audio books read by community)
- Nectarine Demoscene (old skule electronica, Amiga style)
- NPR (culture, separately)
- Shoutcast2 (whatever’s left since WinAmp’s days)
- SomaFM (the only one I really need, actually – I recommend Groove Salad; I even donated to these guys as they are commercial-free)
I don’t use SoundCloud much, but you could use it as a plugin if you do, and there is even a TuneIn Radio plugin, although I haven’t used it.
Again, you don’t need to do this, but I did it anyway.
Everybody wants Exodus, which gives access to many streams which may be illegal, but I first set up whatever interested me and was actually legal.
We should all try to expand our media sources to things that may not agree with our views. I might not agree with Fox News but I try to watch it occasionally. If you watch Fox News, you might want to try Greenpeace videos or Khan Academy for “scientific indoctrination”. Or Euronews, who pioneered the “no comment” news, where you get to make up your own mind, without anybody telling you what to think.
Most of these may be installed from the main repo (repository), but far more is available.
Exodus is probably the king of plugins, with more users than all the others. To get it, you first need to enable the Fusion repository.
System->File Manager –> Add Source –> click on “none” –>type http://fusion.tvaddons.ag –> name it fusion –>click OK
Now, every time you need something from Fusion you just find it under “Install from zip file”.
You may now proceed with installing “Addon Installer”:
Home Screen –> SYSTEM –> Add-Ons –> Install from zip file –> fusion –> start-here –> plugin.program.addoninstaller-#.#.#.zip and wait for Add-on enabled notification
Occasionally, it is not possible to install this way. If that happens, browse with a browser to the clickable address above, download the zip file, make note of the folder you download it to, then install it with Install from zip file.
Once the addon installer is installed, just go to
Addon Installer –> featured Add-Ons –> Exodus –> Install Exodus –> Install
..and voila! You have Exodus!
It is also possible to install Exodus without the addon installer:
System –> Add-ons –> Install from Zip –> Fusion –> xbmc-repos –> English –> repository.Exodus enabled
Get Add-ons –> Exodus repo –> Video Add-ons –> Exodus –> Install
Other similar add-ons are: Phoenix (well curated content), MusicBox (get account at Vk.com), SALTS (get your trakt.tv account),
It is also possible to watch torrent-like streams with Kodi, such as SOPcast or Allstream, using the no-longer-maintained Plex / Plexus / PLEXBMC, which you can install from the XBMC-hub. Before Plexus you might want to install p2p-streams (link below).
People maintain many playlists which you can access via a number of add-ons to keep track of rapidly changing content and sources. Navi-X allows the creation of such lists. If you’re looking for adult add-ons, the most mentioned is WhiteCream, from the AdultXBMC repo.
Once you have a configuration you are happy with, make sure you back it up and save it both locally and online.
LE: Free Netflix Downloader is an application developed by DVDVideoSoft, which allows people to download Netflix videos to their computers through an easy-to-use interface.