I’ve often thought about setting up a Home Media Centre, but always thought it would be time consuming and expensive. However – thinking that using existing kit and components would be an interesting challenge, as well as the green thing to do, and – did I mention – I’m retired now, I have the time to give the project.
Having all the main components at hand I decided to put together a Media Centre under Linux Mint using Kodi.
As the Kodi “about” page explains:
“Kodi™ (formerly known as XBMC™) is an award-winning free and open source software media center for playing videos, music, pictures, games, and more. Kodi runs on Linux, OS X, Windows, iOS, and Android”.
My old Laptop, a Dell Studio 1735 which I had converted to a Linux Mint machine well over a year ago, is showing signs of deterioration, mainly the screen hinges are starting to fall apart. So I decided this was the PC that would host Kodi.
We have a Sony Music Centre, a Sony CMTCP555 Micro HiFi which has a power output of 75 watts per side and it sounds great despite not being cutting edge technology.
We have a Technika TV which will take input from a variety of sources.
Another purchase which I wanted to include was x2 individually switched mains plug strips, to give full power consumption control over each component.
The only other component I brought to the project was an external 80Gb USB disk I made up from an old hard disk with a corrupted boot sector and a USB “caddy” to enable me to attach to other pieces of kit to upload media files onto it.
The brief was to connect all of these components to work together, whilst still enabling them to be used independently without moving any cables.
The TV has truly terrible sound so it was already connected to the stereo. The TV and the stereo could still be operated independently in the pre Kodi configuration, so that had to be retained.
So I linked it all up and started to bring it all together.
Initially I downloaded the precursor to Kodi; XBMC (X-Box Media Centre) which despite the name works on multiple platforms and OS. My research was on which Media Centre software to use, and XBMC got some excellent write-ups so I decided to go with it, not knowing that Kodi was the newest iteration.
This was a partial disaster as it crashed all over the place, and whenever I tried to do any configuration of the interface or change from the standard settings, the crashes became worse, until I almost wanted to give up the project.
Finally I realised from Wikipedia’s XBMC page that I needed to upgrade. Kodi is very easy to work with once you realise that the “Settings” sub-menu off the “System” menu is where everything can be configured, and whilst you can go to each media type in turn and set stuff up there, it’s simpler to go from the System menu.
The first change from my planned setup was to substitute an HDMI cable for the VGA cable from Laptop to TV, finding the right settings to send audio down the HDMI cable was a challenge, but using the Laptop’s audio out to the stereo meant having to disconnect the TV’s audio out, and swapping these cables each time was against the brief.
There’s a lot to learn in Kodi, but the basics are pretty simple, and you can have a well functioning system pretty quickly.
Tweaks to the configuration and “look and feel” can be done as and when you feel like it, but there are hundreds of add-ons you can add, and it’s worth googling: “20 best Add-ons for Kodi” to get started – you can make the process easier by first installing the “Addon Installer for Kodi“.
This whole process took about 3 days to get completely working, and tweaks happen every other day for a few weeks, but I’m pretty happy with the system now, and am enjoying the service!