Archive for the ‘XBMC’ Tag

How to Install XBMC UK TV Add-ons including FilmOn – Part 3   10 comments

This post will be updated as soon as possible. In particular the links for the Filmon add-on no longer work.

Note that XBMC is now called Kodi.

This is Part 3 of a series of posts on installing UK TV add-ons. If you are new to XBMC add-ons you are advised to practise:

Part 1 – installation from a repository (31 January post)
Part 2 – installation of iPlayer from a zip file (11 February post)

This post explains how to install the Filmon add-on which, like the iPlayer add-on, is a third party add-on. However, it is installed using a repository and so you first have to install the repository with a zip file.

We’ll use Kinkin’s repository. Once that ‘repo’ is installed, you use it to install Filmon.

Download the Repository Add-on

If you are running XBMC on a desktop or laptop then download the repository add-on to the hard drive, such as drive C in Windows. If XBMC is on a set-top box, download to your PC and copy the add-on file from your PC onto a USB pen drive. Some set-top boxes use a SD card for storage and so you may have to download or copy the file to an SD card. Note that if you run XBMC on a Raspberry Pi, do not attempt to copy the zip file to the Pi’s SD card. Use a USB drive for the Pi.

Click the link below to download the zip file for the repository add-on.

http://kinkin-xbmc-repository.googlecode.com/svn/trunk/zips/repository.Kinkin/repository.Kinkin-1.2.zip

Alternatively, you may prefer first to visit the XBMChub web page and download from there, by clicking the Direct Download green circular button with a white triangular arrow.

Do not open the zip file.

Install the Repository Zip

The process is identical to the installation of the iPlayer zip in the previous post.

Insert the USB pen drive or SD card into the XBMC device if you are installing the repository add-on on another PC or a set-top box.

Start from the XBMC System menu. The click sequence is:

System → 1. Settings→ 2. Add-ons→ 3. Install from zip file→ 4. the drive→ 5. the repository zip file

If using a mouse, point the mouse at the System menu on the XBMC main menu. Then carefully move the mouse down and to the left to point at the Settings menu.

1. click Settings.

The Change Your Settings box opens.

2. click Add-ons.

When you click Add-ons, the Add-ons menu should open.

3. click Install from zip file.

The Install from zip file box opens, showing the drives. The screen shot below shows the file box for OpenElec on a Raspberry Pi. There is just one drive, the USB pen drive, called USB_DISK in the list shown.

In this Example there's just One Drive - Called USB_DISK

In this Example there’s just One Drive – Called USB_DISK

 

Locate the correct drive from the list in the ‘Install from zip file’ box on the right of the Add-ons menu.

It may not be obvious which of the drives holds the zip file. If your XBMC is installed on a Windows PC then you probably saved the zip file on drive C.

In this example there is only one drive, the USB drive. It is labelled USB_DISK. In your case the USB drive could be labelled with the drive capacity in GB, followed by ‘USB Drive’. Example:  ‘3.8 GB USB Drive’ for a 4GB drive.

4. click the correct drive.

The contents of that drive is displayed.

The iPlayer Zip File is Selected – the Only File on this Drive

The repository.Kinkin Zip File is Highlighted

 

If the Kinkin zip is not visible, check that you selected the correct drive. If you did then presumably the zip is in a folder on that drive. Select from the list the folder in which you saved the zip. If you need to go up a level in the list, click the up arrow at the top of the list.

5. click the zip file – in this example repository.Kinkin-1.2.zip

A message should appear at the bottom-right of the screen, saying ‘Kinkins REPO enabled’. You have installed the Kinkin’s repository.

Enable the F.T.V Add-on

Kinkin calls the Filmon add-on F.T.V

The click sequence for enabling F.T.V is similar to the sequence use to enable the South Park add-on in Part 1.

Videos → 1. Add-ons→ 2. Get More→ 3. F.T.V→ 4. Install

Point at Videos and move the mouse down to point at Add-ons.

1. click Add-ons.

The Video – Add-ons menu opens.

2.  click Get More.

The Add-ons – Video Add-ons menu  should open.

The Add-ons – Video Add-ons List with F.T.V. Highlighted

The Add-ons – Video Add-ons List with F.T.V Highlighted

 

Scroll down to the  F.T.V add-on.

3.  click the F.T.V add-on.

An Add-on Information box is shown with Install highlighted.

4.  click Install to enable the F.T.V add-on.

When you click Install the add-on is downloaded and enabled.

Wait for the enabled message to appear alongside F.T.V in the list.

Filmon is now enabled.

Check that F.T.V is now listed under your enabled add-ons.

From the Videos main menu, click Add-ons. F.T.V should now be listed.

You can now try Filmon.

Click  F.T.V and, if you get an error about script failed then click F.T.V again.

From the Videos – F.T.V menu, click UK Live TV and then click the channel to play.

The next post will explain the main features of Filmon.

 


 

How to Install XBMC UK TV Add-ons including BBC iPlayer – Part 2   Leave a comment

This post will be updated as soon as possible. In particular the links for the iPlayer add-on download are no longer needed.

As a temporary measure a few notes have been added to help with the installation.

A new iPlayer add-on was released Sept 2015. It is available from the official XBMC repository, now called Kodi. Most of the original instructions on this page assume that you are downloading the add-on file. However, you are advised to enable iPlayer from the Kodi repository – much better than downloading and installing from the web.

January 2016

*****

XBMC-Kodi comes with an official repository of add-ons, called the XBMC.org add-ons repository (and now called the Kodi Add-on Repository). If you read the previous post, XBMC-Kodi TV Add-ons – Part 1, you will know that the XBMC repository was used to enable an add-on. A repository helps with the installation process because you do not have to locate and download the add-on file yourself.

XBMC Add-ons Repository

XBMC Add-ons Repository

 

A repository is like an app store. To install a computer application (a program) from scratch you either have the file on a disk or, more common now, you download from the internet. The download may be via a website. On a tablet or smartphone you are more likely to download from an app store.

The XBMC-Kodi repository does the first part of the installation for you. It locates the add-on file. All you have to do is click install and the add-on is downloaded and enabled. The installation is then complete.

However, some add-ons are provided by a third party and so may not be included in a repository. Then you have to locate the program file yourself and do the first part of the installation manually.

*****

Note: although some add-ons have to be downloaded, as of September 2015, iPlayer does not. Therefore, skip the remainder of these download instructions and enable iPlayer using the Kodi repository.

You should be able to follow the instructions in the previous post: XBMC-Kodi TV Add-ons – Part 1, to enable iPlayer. You should look for the iPlayer WWW in the Video Add-ons. However, you may prefer the instructions in the link below :
https://seo-michael.co.uk/how-to-manually-install-bbc-iplayer-for-xbmc-kodi/

Once you have enabled iPlayer, scroll down to the end of this post to the heading Using iPlayer for Live BBC TV for some instructions on how to use the iPlayer add-on.

*****

The iPlayer add-on is provided by a third party. T0 install it you must first download the file.

The BBC iPlayer Add-on

BBC iPlayer is useable only within the UK or, more precisely, only if you have a UK IP address. If you are outside the UK you can use a proxy.

The iPlayer add-on provides access to the BBC TV and radio streams, both live and catch-up. It is really two add-ons. After you enable the add-on, you’ll find the TV add-on under Videos and the radio add-on under Music on the main menu.

For an overview of the iPlayer installation, including the download of the add-on zip file, see:

http://squirrelhosting.co.uk/hosting-blog/hosting-blog-info.php?id=10

You may be able to follow the instructions in the above link but you will possibly find the instructions below easier.

Download the BBC iPlayer Add-on

The current  iPlayer add-on file is iPlayer-v2.5.4.zip. Enabling the add-on, once you’ve downloaded it, is similar to enabling any other video add-on.

The add-on  is called a plug-in on the download website.

If you are running XBMC on a desktop or laptop then download the plug-in to the hard drive, such as drive C in Windows. If XBMC is on a set-top box such as the Raspberry Pi, download to your PC and copy the plug-in file from your PC onto a USB pen drive. The file size is 2MB. Some set-top boxes use a SD card for storage and so you may have to download or copy the file to a SD card. Note that if you run XBMC on a Raspberry Pi, do not attempt to copy the plug-in file to the Pi’s SD card. Use a USB drive for the Pi.

1.  plug the USB drive into your PC if you wish to download to the USB drive.
2.  go to http://code.google.com/p/xbmc-iplayerv2/downloads/list

Download the most recent plug-in

Download the Most Recent Plug-in at the Top of the List

3.  click the down arrow at the top of the list – labelled something like iPlayer-v2.5.4.zip
4.  save the zip file to the hard drive, the USB drive or the SD card.

If the zip file downloaded to your downloads folder, copy it to the USB drive or SD card if necessary.

Do not open the zip file.

Install the iPlayer Zip

Insert the USB pen drive or SD card into the XBMC device if you are installing the add-on on another PC or a set-top box.

Start from the XBMC System menu. The click sequence is:

System → 1. Settings→ 2. Add-ons→ 3. Install from zip file→ 4. the USB drive→ 5. the iPlayer zip file

Steps 1. and 2. are the same steps you may have used to change add-on settings, in the Part 1 post.

When you click 2. Add-ons, the Add-ons menu opens.

The Add-ons Menu with Install from Zip File Selected

The Add-ons Menu with Install from Zip File Highlighted

3.  click Install from zip file.

The ‘Install from zip file’ box opens with a list of the drives.

The

A File System Box Opens on the Right with a List of Drives

 

You select the USB drive from the list in the ‘Install from zip file’ box on the right of the Add-ons menu. It may not be obvious which of the drives holds the zip file. If your XBMC is installed on a Windows PC then you probably saved the zip file on drive C.

The USB drive may show as the drive capacity in GB, followed by ‘USB Drive’. Example:  ‘3.8 GB USB Drive’ for a 4GB drive.

In the example shown in the above screen shot, the zip is on a USB pen drive. the Windows drive letter of the drive is G. Drive F is a USB drive but the drive labelled ‘USB Disk’ is the USB G drive. The G:\ label at the top-right confirms that the selected USB Disk is drive G.

4.  click  the correct drive – in this example USB DISK.

The contents of drive G is displayed.

The Install From Zip File

The iPlayer Zip File is Selected – the Only File on this Drive

 

If the iPlayer zip is not visible, check that you selected the correct drive. If you did then presumably the zip is in a folder on that drive. Select from the list the folder in which you saved the zip. If you need to go up a level in the list, click the blue up arrow at the top of the list.

5.  click  the zip file – in this example iPlayer-v2.5.4.zip

A message should appear at the bottom-right of the screen, saying ‘iPlayer enabled’.

The Message at the Bottom, Right Hand Shows that iPlayer is Enabled

The Message at the Bottom-Right Shows that iPlayer is Enabled

 

You have completed the installation of iPlayer. If you installed on a set-top box then you may wish to ‘power off’ the box before removing the USB drive.

Using iPlayer for Live BBC TV

In this example you will watch BBC One.

The click sequence to use the iPlayer for live TV:

Videos → 1. Add-ons→ 2. iPlayer→ 3. Watch Live→ 4. BBC One

When you click 2. iPlayer in the sequence for the first time you see a message about its use in the UK.

iPlayer Welcome Message for First Time Use

iPlayer Welcome Message for First Time Use

 

Click OK. The iPlayer menu provides a choice of live TV or catch up.

The iPlayer TV Menu

The iPlayer TV Menu with Watch Live Highlighted for Live TV

3.  click Watch Live.

The iPlayer Live TV Menu - Click BBC One

The iPlayer Live TV Menu – Click BBC One

 

The BBC channels are listed. There are no HD channels shown. That is because the video quality of the stream is determined by the ‘Video Stream to Use’ setting in the XBMC iPlayer Video Settings box. The stream settings range from 0.48Mbps to 2.8Mbps. Provided the BBC provides a HD stream for your chosen channel and if you specify the HD setting, 2.8Mbps, you should receive the HD internet stream. If you experience buffering you should use a lower setting – or select Auto.

4.  click  BBC One.

You will see a pop up message (unless you have switched these messages off in XBMC). It says:

“iPlayer – 80% Playing” and there is a button to cancel. XBMC is connecting to the video stream. Do not click Cancel, even if you wish to cancel. After a few seconds, maybe up to 10secs, the channel should play. If it takes more than 30secs then the stream will almost certainly not play but do not click Cancel. If you click Cancel you may crash the XBMC program. It is better to wait until the process times out. Throughout this attempt to connect there is a Working message at the bottom-right corner of the screen.

If the connection to the video stream fails, the Working message should eventually stop after about 3 minutes and you will see another message saying “Playback failed – One or more items failed to play”. Click the OK button and try to connect again. If the attempt to connect continues for much longer than 3 minutes then try to cancel. If your box crashes you will need to switch off he power and switch back on.

An iPlayer Playing Message is Shown - Do Not Click Cancel

An iPlayer Playing Message is Shown – Do Not Click Cancel

 

90% of the time these live streams start with no problem. The BBC2 stream is the worst offender. If a stream does fail then you are returned to the Videos – iPlayer menu. Try to start the stream again.

A High Definition Screen Using iPlayer's 2.8Mbps HD Live Stream

A High Definition Screen Using iPlayer’s 2.8Mbps HD Live Stream

Using iPlayer for  BBC Catch Up TV

The process is similar to live TV but the video quality of a catch up stream is generally better.

The click sequence to use the iPlayer for catch up TV:

Videos → 1. Add-ons→ 2. iPlayer→ 3. BBC One→ 4. continue . . .

After clicking 2. iPlayer you see the Videos – iPlayer menu. Apart from the Watch Live item, all the other items are for catch up. For example, click BBC One for all the BBC One catch up. I normally prefer to look under the Categories item at the top of the menu.

Once you select the programme the stream will play – similar to a live stream but generally more reliable. Of course, you can pause and fast forward the stream. Depending on your software and hardware combination the fast forward may fail at anything above 2× speed. Under the Windows OS, fast forward works well. A nice feature of iPlayer catch up is that you can stop the stream and pick up where you left off days later.

Under the iPlayer Add-on Settings menu you can switch on/off the BBC subtitles for catch up.

The next post will continue with how to install a Filmon add-on. Filmon is normally installed by first installing a repository add-on. For that reason the installation of iPlayer was covered first. To install a repository you first have to download and install the repository zip file (similar to installing the iPlayer zip). Once installed, the repository add-on is used to enable the Filmon add-on.

 


 

How to Install XBMC-Kodi TV Add-ons – Part 1: Enable   Leave a comment

The previous post explained how to install the OpenElec XBMC-Kodi on a Raspberry Pi. This post explains the simplest way to enable plug-ins in XBMC. Plug-ins are also called add-ons.

Note: you do not have to have Kodi running on the Raspberry Pi. You could be using an Android device or a Windows PC.

The next posts will focus on the most popular XBMC plug-ins for UK TV. These are:

  • the iPlayer plug-ins such as BBC iPlayer
  • TVCatchup
  • Filmon

Filmon UK TV List

    TVCatchup Programme Guide

Filmon UK TV channels and TVCatchup Program Guide

There are two stages to setting up a plug-in, first installing and then enabling.

XBMC-Kodi comes with a number of video plug-ins already installed but not enabled and so you can practise with one of those. Perhaps the most useful pre-installed video plug-in is YouTube, if you are interested in watching YouTube on your TV. Another pre-installed plug-in is South Park, which provides access to 17 seasons of broadcasts – about 200 episodes. There are a few news channels, such as Al Jazeera.

After practising in Part 1, Part 2 will explain how to do a full UK TV add-on installation, starting with BBC iPlayer. The iPlayer plug-in provides live TV and catch-up TV in high definition.

These instructions apply to any XBMC version, including Windows, Linux and Android. Use a recently updated version of XBMC if possible. If you use a Raspberry Pi then you most likely have the OpenElec or the RaspbMC version of XBMC-Kodi.

If you are running XBMC on the same PC used to read these instructions, you will want to switch between these instructions and the XBMC screen. From XBMC running in Windows you use Alt + Tab (while holding down the Alt key, press and release the Tab key). That gets you back to the Windows screen and leaves XBMC running. Then, to return to XBMC, use Alt + Tab again, or click the XBMC icon on the task bar.

Enable an Add-on

As an example of how to enable an add-on, we shall use the South Park Episodes video add-on. The same method applies to the YouTube add-on. There are a lot of pre-installed add-ons, most of which I’d never use. One reason for choosing South Park is that you can practise changing an add-on’s settings (using the Settings box). The South Park settings include a language option which could be set to English. You could try to change the default language from English to German. The BBC iPlayer settings box has many settings and so it is worth taking a little time to practise. iPlayer includes settings to change the video stream quality (four settings from low to high definition), to add a proxy server and to switch subtitles on/off.

Before looking at the detail, including the screen shots below, the list 1 to 4 summarises the mouse clicks.

You start from the Videos menu on the main menu BUT do not click Videos. Point the mouse at Videos and the Add-ons sub-menu appears below it (item 1 in the list). Click on each item starting with item 1. Add-ons, as follows:

Videos → 1. Add-ons→ 2. Get More→ 3. SouthPark.de→ 4. Install

If you are using a remote control and not a mouse, use the left-right and up-down navigation buttons and press OK (Enter) to select a menu item.

Using a mouse:

Point at (do not click) Videos on the main XBMC menu – Videos is then highlighted.

You can see the Files and Add-ons menus underneath the main menu.

Carefully move the mouse down to point at Add-ons – Add-ons is then highlighted.

XBMC Showing the Videos - Add-ons Menu

XBMC Showing the Video Add-ons Menu Highlighted

1.  click Add-ons.

The Videos – Add-ons menu is shown.

The Video - Add-ons Menu

The Videos – Add-ons Menu Shows Three Enabled Video Add-ons

2.  click Get More.

It is possible that the Add-ons – Get Add-ons menu will display, shown below, especially if this is the first time you have enabled an add-on. If it does not display you’ll get the Add-ons – Video Add-ons menu instead.

XBMC Add-ons Repository

The Add-ons – Get Add-ons Menu with the XBMC Add-ons Highlighted

 

If the screen above does show, click XBMC.org Add-ons. You will then get the Add-ons – XBMC.org Add-ons menu. Then click Video Add-ons. That’s the end of the small detour.

If the above screen did not show, continue from here.

The Add-ons – Video Add-ons menu is then shown. It is a long list of all the pre-installed video add-ons.

The Videos Add-ons List Showing South Park

The Video Add-ons List Showing South Park

The image above shows the South Park add-on highlighted on the list of available add-ons.

Scroll down to South Park – note that in these screen shots it is called SouthPark.de

3.  click South Park

An Add-on Information box is shown with Install highlighted.

The Add-on Information Box for South Park

The Add-on Information Box for South Park

 

The Add-on Information box contains all the settings for the add-on.  When you  click Install the information box will close. The most recent add-on script will be downloaded and so you need an internet connection.

Then a % download counter will appear next to South Park in the Add-ons list. You may also see a ‘working’ message at the bottom of the screen.

4.  click Install to enable South Park.

The Download Starts - if You Blink You May Miss It

When You Click Install the Download Starts

 

Wait for the enabled message alongside South Park on the left side of the screen.

South Park is Now Enabled

South Park is Now Enabled

 

If you prefer you can enable the YouTube add-on the same way.

Navigation in XBMC

Before using the South Park add-on to view an episode, a few notes on using XBMC-Kodi.

The bottom right hand of the screen shows two icons:

The left pointing arrow is the back button. The house symbol is the home button.

To get back to the main menu now, click the home button.

In XBMC, a right-click on an empty part of the screen acts as the back button. If you need to go back a stage, do a right-click or click the back button.

If you use a remote try the back button on that. It may be a left pointing arrow. It may be labelled Return. The backspace on a keyboard also works.

Some XBMC menus appear in a box with a cross × at the top right-hand corner. Click × to close the box.

To close XBMC you can use the standby icon at the bottom of the home screen, left side. The options depend on your version of XBMC. You can Power Off and Reboot. There may be an Exit option – useful if you are running XBMC under a Windows or Apple Mac operating system. Use Exit to close the XBMC application without shutting down the PC.

If XBMC is running under Windows, use Alt + Tab (while holding down the Alt key, press and release the Tab key). That gets you back to the Windows screen and leaves XBMC running.

View a Video

To  play a video add-on you start from the Videos menu on the main menu – similar to when you enabled an add-on.

If you enabled South Park then, to play the Hobbit episode,  the click sequence is:

Videos → 1. Add-ons→ 2. South Park→ 3. Season 17→ 4. Hobbit

Detailed instructions:

Point at the Videos menu item – do not click.

1.  click Add-ons.

Notice that South Park is now listed.

South Park is Now Listed in Videos - Add-ons

South Park is Now Listed in Videos – Add-ons

2.  click South Park

The Settings box may be displayed – click OK

3.  scroll down to Season 17 and click.

The episodes for Season 17 are listed.

The  Videos - SouthPark.de List

The Videos – South Park List

4.  click the last episode to play The Hobbit.

The episode should play. Watch out for messages at the bottom right of screen. You may see a message about geo-blocking. Depending on which country you are in the stream could be blocked and fail to play. If after a few attempts the stream refuses to play then try changing the default country from US. See the next section: Settings Menu.

To stop the stream using a mouse:

1.  move the mouse.
2.  the player buttons appear at the bottom of the screen.
3.  click the stop button.

The video will stop and you are returned to the previous screen, the list of episodes.

The Settings Menu

This is a good point to practise the XBMC Settings menu. You can use Settings to change the properties of the UK TV video streams, in particular, the quality of the stream in iPlayer and TVCatchup and to switch on and off subtitles in iPlayer catch up.

The default language for the current  South Park add-on is  English and the country is US. Use the add-ons Settings menu to switch to another language, such as  German. Remember – this is just an exercise to get used to Kodi.

If you enabled YouTube instead of South Park, follow the same instructions but practise by changing the video quality setting in YouTube.

Each add-on has a settings menu, also called Add-on Information. The settings are accessed through the System menu on the XBMC main menu.

Start from the System menu. The click sequence is:

System → 1. Settings→ 2. Add-ons→ 3. Enabled Add-ons→ 4. Video Add-ons→ 5. South Park /YouTube→ 6. Configure

Before continuing with the click sequence, if you think that’s a lot of clicks in the sequence then you are right. There is an alternative way to reach the Add-on Information that avoids the six clicks of the System menu route.  However, if you are new to XBMC-Kodi you are recommended to follow the six-click sequence just to get practice with the system menu.

There is a note about the shortcut alternative at the end of this post.

The screens below show the six-click detail.

Go to the main menu. The easiest way is to click the  Home icon.

1.  point at the System menu and then click the Settings menu.

1 settings

The System Settings Menu Highlighted

 

When you click Settings the Change Your Settings box opens. You will change an add-on setting.

2. change settings

The Change Your Settings Box with Add-ons Highlighted

2.  click Add-ons to change an add-on’s settings.

The Add-ons menu opens.

3. add-ons

The Add-ons Menu with Enabled Add-ons Highlighted

3.  click Enabled Add-ons.

The Add-ons – Enabled Add-ons menu opens.

4. add-ons enabled

The Enabled Add-ons Menu with Video Add-ons Highlighted

 

South Park and YouTube are video add-ons.

4. click Video Add-ons.

The Add-ons – Video Add-ons menu opens.

4

The Video Add-ons Menu with South Park Highlighted

5. click SouthPark or YouTube (whichever you enabled).

The South Park Add-ons Information box opens.

123,

The South Park Information Box with Configure Highlighted

6. click Configure.

The South Park Settings box opens.

add-on_configure_box_southpark_language

The Add-ons Information Box with the Language Set to ‘en’ for English

 

Click the up or down arrow alongside en to change to de.

7.  click OK to save the setting.

8.  close the Add-on Information box.

Well done if you got through all that.

Now click the Home button to return to the main menu. Play a South Park episode and check that the language did change. You may wish to leave South Park playing for a while and we’ll take a look at that shortcut to an add-ons Settings box. If you wish to, stop the video but leave the Videos – South Park list of episodes on the screen.

Shortcut to a Video Add-on Settings Box

A shortcut is preferable if you are already playing a video, example South Park, and want to change a setting. It may be possible to do this while the video is still playing but in this example stop the play and return to the Videos – South Park list.

Once you are back on  the Videos – South Park list, right-click  on any of the episodes. If you are using a remote control then you’ll need one with a built in mouse pad for a right-click. An options menu  pops up. Click the Add-on settings option. The settings menu is shown and you have bypassed the six clicks from the Settings menu click sequence.

The next posts will show how to install the BBC iPlayer and Filmon add-ons.

 


 

 

XBMC Internet TV Set-Top Box on the Raspberry Pi Computer   Leave a comment

Raspberry Pi Set-Top Box

Raspberry Pi TV Set-Top Box

 

With an internet TV set-top box you can watch internet TV on your TV. All set-top boxes, such as your Freeview box or your Sky box, are basically computers.  When you mention that a matchbox sized, inexpensive computer, designed for the classroom, is a perfect internet set-top box, there is general disbelief. The box, a Raspberry Pi, runs the XBMC media centre program, which just happens to be the world’s most popular open-source media centre.

The Pi converts your TV or monitor into a smart TV. It doesn’t just work, it works well. Installing XBMC  is easy, the simplest method takes about 15 to 30 minutes.

Two years ago it was impossible to imagine that the Pi would sell over two million and that one of its biggest successes is as a Smart TV box.  The XBMC Raspbery Pi is popular in the UK and the US for streaming catch up TV, from the BBC, ITV etc, and streaming UK live TV using, for example, TVCatchup and FilmOn.

If you have watched TV on your desktop or your laptop and can copy a computer file from a hard drive to a USB thumb drive, if you can plug in an SD card and can use a mouse and a keyboard, then this tutorial is for you.

It is aimed at those who cannot view UK satellite or terrestrial TV. Maybe you live in the UK and are surrounded by hills or high trees or live outside the UK and internet TV is your only option. It could be that you just want to set up a TV in a bedroom, have high speed broadband and do not wish to run co-axial cable from a rooftop aerial. Maybe you have a spare HD monitor but no TV tuner. In these situations internet TV is an obvious answer.

If you have a desktop or laptop PC then you could use that as a set-top box – but do you really want your laptop permanently next to your TV. If you have a spare laptop or desktop with a HDMI output for your TV – then fine. You can set up XBMC on that instead. You can control the laptop with a PC remote control – better than a mouse when watching TV.

First let’s take at look at how it  works and then how to install XBMC on a Raspberry Pi.

How it Works

XBMC is a media centre –  a computer program that you use to organise and play audio and video from your own collection and from the internet. In the case of internet TV the video and audio are not part of your own collection – they are either live or catch up TV streams from the internet.

Small XBMC Set-Top Box and Sony TV

Raspberry Pi Running XBMC

 

In the arrangement in the photo the Raspberry Pi is connected directly to a nearby internet router with a short length of Ethernet (cat5) cable – with the yellow plug. A flat HDMI cable can just be seen leading from the back of the Pi to the TV. The power cable is on the right. The Pi can be hidden away behind the TV if you prefer.

You may need to use a long cat5 cable for setting up. You can add a WiFi dongle to the Pi later if you wish.

The Raspberry Pi used to have a reputation for difficulty: the preserve of programmers and experienced computer users. The so-called ‘geeks’ who think nothing of upgrading their PCs, changing the operating system, overclocking the CPU.

All that has changed. The main skills needed to install XBMC are the ability to insert an SD card into the Pi and to use a mouse. The setting up is similar to connecting up the components of a new desktop PC – the tower, the keyboard, the mouse and the monitor. The main differences with the Pi are that you don’t have to re-arrange the furniture to make room for it – and the operating system is not on a hard drive inside the tower, it is installed on the SD card.

What You Need

For routine use of the Pi for watching TV you will almost certainly want a remote control. To install XBMC a mouse is fine.

You may already have some of the items listed below, for example a USB mouse. If you eventually decide to use a mouse rather than a remote for everyday use, clearly a wireless mouse is more convenient.

  • Raspberry Pi model B computer
  • Raspberry Pi case
  • Ethernet (cat5) cable
  • HDMI cable
  • SD memory card (8GB preferred) with the NOOBS Installation Program
  • Micro USB power adapter (power supply)
  • A mouse or keyboard or a compatible remote control

It is possible that your wireless mouse may not work with your Pi. The ones I’ve tried have all worked.

You may already have a short length of Ethernet cable. You were almost certainly supplied with one along with your broadband router.

The Price

This depends on what you have already. Typically, you can get the Pi and the few extras to get you started for about £45.

Update 2016

The starter kit below is probably no longer available. There is, in any case, a new version of the Pi, the Pi 2 model B. The spec:

  • Raspberry Pi 2 Model B
  • 6x More Powerful Than Previous Models
  • 1GB RAM – Double The Memory Capacity
  • Quad Core Processor
  • ARM710 900MHz
  • 4xUSB

Price at Amazon: £29.40 inc VAT Free Post in UK

Raspberry Pi 2 Model B from Amazon

Both the older Pi Model B and the Pi 2 Model B have 4 USB ports and so you can use a USB flash drive for extra storage, a USB WiFi adapter and a USB wireless adapter for a mouse or remote control. You can still buy an old Pi Model B for £21.58 from CPC.

Note: check that the case you buy is suitable for the Pi model.

Both the Pi Model B and the new Pi 2 B use a micro SD card. If you buy a micro card for an older Pi you need to use an adapter.

A basic starter kit (the older Pi B computer, the case, the SD memory card with NOOBS and the 5V power supply) is currently (2014) available on offer from Amazon UK for £42.15 – a good price. The SD card is 4GB only. See:

Raspberry Pi Starter Kit from Amazon

Amazon Reviews

It is worth visiting the above link just to see the customer reviews, even if your do not buy from Amazon.

Example:”It was very easy for my son (10) to set up. I was pleasantly surprised as neither he nor I have any great experience with computers, and I thought this might be beyond us. It wasn’t.”

The SD card in the Amazon starter kit is 4GB and I recommend an 8GB SD card. You may prefer to buy from one of the main suppliers of the Raspberry Pi – CPC Farnell 8GB NOOBS SD Card.

CPC stock a power supply with a European plug.

If you are concerned about the appearance  and the colour of the case then buy it separately and not part of a kit.

Click here for the black case from CPC.

The current best buy from CPC for the Pi computer and 8GB NOOBS SD card combined is here.

The current total price for these items bought separately from CPC (including an 8GB SD card) is similar to the Amazon offer price. From CPC I recommend:

Total £41.92 inc VAT.

Note: the power adapter above for the older Pi Model b is about 1A. The new quad core Pi 2 Model b needs a 2A power supply, example this universal supply UK, Euro, US, Aus from Amazon:

Universal power adapter 2A

Don’t forget any of the other items you may need.

Install OpenElec XBMC

There is a choice of operating systems on the NOOBS SD card. This installation of the XBMC system will use the OpenElec flavour of XBMC.

For initial setting up it may be easier to move a TV or monitor close to your internet router. Otherwise you will need a long Ethernet cable.

Plug the mouse or the mouse dongle into one of the two USB ports. I suggest the bottom one. If you have a keyboard or remote control plug it or its dongle into the other USB.

The installation takes about 15 minutes. You are recommended to install the OpenElec system unless you prefer RaspbMC.

Connect an HDMI cable from the Pi to the TV.

Plug in the Ethernet (cat5) cable from a LAN socket on your router.

Insert the Noobs SD card. The card fits in upside down.

Switch on your TV and select the correct HDMI input.

Plug the power cable into the Pi and switch on the power.

After about 5 seconds you should see a screen the option  menu (shown below). The menu could be a little different. There may be no check boxes. You select from the menu by clicking a check box or you click on the item. Raspbian and Pidora are selected in the image below. Ignore that. You should select  OpenElec only – the third item in the list. Either click the check box alongside OpenElec or select OpenElec and then click Install. Alternatively, just double-click OpenElec.

Select OpenElec by Clicking the Check Box

Select OpenElec by Clicking the Check Box

 

  • Select OpenElec only from the menu (click the check box or  select)
  • Uncheck any other check boxes
  • Click OK (press OK on a remote)

There is a warning – this will install etc . . .  check that you are installing OpenElec

  • Click OK/Yes to proceed

Messages

–        OpenElec is installing

–        Writing image to SD card

–        Resizing

And finally a message – image applied successfully

  • Click OK

OpenElec will continue to boot up. You have successfully installed XBMC.

Then you see OpenElec in big letters, followed by a blank screen followed by XBMC and then the installation is complete.

The XBMC Screen

XBMC Screen Showing the System Menu

XBMC Screen Showing the System Menu

 

The next post will guide you through installing a plugin.

XBMC – Your “One Stop Shop” for UK Internet TV   3 comments

Main XBMC Screen with Videos Selected

Main XBMC Screen with Videos Selected

 

The screen image above shows an example XBMC set-up, with three sources of UK TV and YouTube installed under Videos. To view TV or watch YouTube you click one of the four icons.

Of course, XBMC is not a shop – it does not sell anything. It is a free computer program. It is Media Centre software – something which, until a year ago, I could happily live without. I had a vague idea of media centres and realised there must be more to it than just playing the occasional video on your PC.

Now I realise that a media centre is a collection of tools for managing your music and videos over your domestic local area network – your LAN. Fine if you have one of those and really want to access your videos from several laptops, desktops, tablets and your TV. Not me! At least, I didn’t think so. But something happened. The imminent loss of UK satellite TV in Europe.

It turns out that, along with streaming your in-house video collection to every conceivable  device, including your TV, a media centre can also stream live TV. Let’s be clear at this point. Sure, you can stream TV across your LAN to different screens – but a media centre can also manage the streaming (sort of downloading) of live and catch up TV from the internet.

True – you can already stream all the internet TV you could want on your  laptop – via websites such as iPlayer and FilmOn. But XBMC brings this all together under one roof, into a consistent user experience. I prefer to have XBMC running on the laptop with all my internet TV controlled by XBMC.  I don’t want to go to the iPlayer website to watch BBC and then to another site just to change channel. More important, though, you don’t actually need the laptop. Replace it with a small computer, a set-top box, and run XBMC on that instead and watch on the TV. Throw away the mouse and control the set-top box with a PC remote control.

Small XBMC Set-Top Box and Sony TV

Small XBMC Set-Top Box and Sony TV

TVCatchup

TVCatchup is a UK based internet TV provider of the UK’s Public Service Broadcast channels, including BBC and ITV.  You can watch TVCatchup on XBMC using the TVCatchup XBMC add-on.

If, because of the loss of UK TV, all your TV is via the internet, one thing you may miss is an electronic programme guide (EPG). A guide is to tell you what’s on and, of course, to switch channels. I presume that the EPG on a Sky satellite TV box will still work to show what is on. The only free internet TV EPG for the UK, that I know of, is part of the TVCatchup service.  The EPG is displayed when you select the TVCatchup icon from the main screen. Here’s a screenshot from XBMC of  the EPG:

TVCatchup Programme Guide

TVCatchup Programme Guide

 

The orange lines on the EPG (the vertical orange time-line and the horizontal orange lines) show the current programmes. On the image, ITV’s  “60 Minute Makeover” is selected. The programme starts when you press OK on the remote or click with a mouse. On the particular Sony TV shown in the photo,  the TV’s own remote can be used to control that small set-top box, called a Raspberry Pi.

My experience is that XBMC, even on a small set-top box, provides good quality video, that compares very favourably with anything I’ve seen. Screenshots taken when a channel is playing give an idea of video quality. These two shots are from XBMC streaming iPlayer live TV at high definition.

snooker2 snooker1

FilmOn

FilmOn is maybe the best known provider of free IPTV streams, including all the main UK TV channels. Selecting and switching channels on TVCatchup is easy with a remote or mouse. FilmOn can be a problem if you are running the FilmOn app on an Android IPTV box.

With XBMC, the ‘navigation’ required to switch channels in FilmOn is straightforward. FilmOn under XBMC is easier to control with a remote than the FilmOn Android app on an Android box.

FilmOn's UK Live TV Menu List

FilmOn’s XBMC UK Live TV Menu List

 

If you use FilmOn most of the time, you can leave a small XBMC box permanently switched on and showing the menu above. Of course, the menu does not have to be visible on the TV screen all the time. To change channels simply use the remote to return to the menu and then move through the list to select and OK the channel. In the screenshot, BBC2 is currently  selected.

It’s not so easy with the FilmOn app on an Android box. The app’s menu system is designed for a touch screen – not a remote. See below.

The FilmOn Android App Separates the Menu on the Left from the Video on the Right

The FilmOn Android App Separates the Menu on the Left from the Video on the Right

 

You need a mouse to move between the left and right sides of the menu screen, shown above. To change channels you click on the menu on the left. Then you use a mouse or remote to make the channel selection. If you do not subscribe to FilmOn’s HD video, the channel plays for about 30 seconds and then pauses. You are then given the option to continue watching in a low definition. If you opt to continue you can then maximise the video to full screen.  That process is repeated every time you change channel – very fiddly. Much easier on XBMC.

Remote Control for XBMC

You can use a PC remote control – preferably one which includes a mouse pad. You can use the Android App called Yatse on your phone or tablet. An ideal touch screen remote if you wish to use your phone or tablet for that purpose.

The Switch to the Astra 2E Satellite

The long-overdue switchover to the new satellite is now unlikely before Christmas. The indications are that satellite has still not started the move to its operational position. It is believed that the testing finished over a week ago, since when the satellite has simply been parked up at its test position.

It now seems unlikely that there will be time to move to  the operational position (maybe 15 days), check it out there and to begin full, commercial operations before the Christmas holidays. It seems likely that there will now be no switchover of the UK channels until the New Year.

A follow up to this post will cover how to install XBMC on a set-top box.