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OpenELEC / Kodi for Raspberry Pi

March 9, 2016

OpenELEC / Kodi main screen

OpenELEC / Kodi main screen

Kodi is an award-winning software media player and entertainment hub with versions that run on different platforms including the Raspberry Pi. Previously named XBMC, the XMBC Foundation renamed the media player to Kodi in 2014.

Kodi does not include any media itself, but rather serves as a hub to many sources of media including music, videos, TV shows, podcasts and pictures.  Media can be placed on the local SD card, a USB memory stick, or accessed across a network through WiFi or LAN to network storage, Cloud storage or from internet sources including both free and paid services.

This how-to article will show how to install OpenELEC / Kodi along with an introduction to get streaming music working.

Let’s get started

1. Download OpenELEC image from here:  http://openelec.tv/get-openelec . Scroll down the page to the Raspberry Pi Builds. Click on the [Stable] OpenELEC disk image for either the Pi first or second generation as appropriate for your board.

2. Install the downloaded disk image to an SD card – see our article on how to install an OS image onto an SD card.

3. Connect to internet via Ethernet or WiFi if you plan to stream media. Ethernet is preferred if available as it is faster and less likely than WiFi to drop frames when streaming video.

4. Make sure to power on TV or monitor and with the correct video input/source selected before you power up the Pi.

5. Insert the SD and power up the Pi to boot.  Follow the instructions for the 1st-time boot (take defaults – they can be changed later if needed).

OpenELEC / Kodi

So is this openELEC or Kodi? Actually, it is both. OpenELEC is a Linux distribution designed specifically to support Kodi. Kodi is the software application that provides a media player service and acts as an entertainment hub for digital media. OpenELEC is an OS with “just enough operating system” to support Kodi. The focus with this combination is to keep the OS clean and simple with great support for Kodi the media player.

Kodi supports most audio, image and video formats and excels at managing streaming sources. It also supports playlists, podcasts, and slideshows as well as many third-party plugins. We have preinstalled openELEC / Kodi and it is ready to connect to streaming sources across the internet. It can also manage your media sources on local or network storage.

Main Menu

Kodi is controlled via mouse/keyboard or via a handheld remote control. All menu options except Programs display sub menus below the main menu.

The menus below will refer to “Add-ons”. Add-ons are 3rd party packages that add features, functions and media sources to Kodi. These Add-ons, and their media content, are hosted online at many websites. Some may require a subscription fee or user account to gain access.

Main Menu (Home)

Pictures

  • Picture Add-ons – online website sources for pictures
  • Pictures – view your pictures
  • Add pictures – add pictures from network and storage sources (including USB memory sticks)

Videos

  • Files – your videos and TV shows added from network and storage sources.
  • Playlists – create playlists
  • Video add-ons – online video sources

Music

  • Music – your music
  • Music add-ons – online music sources
  • Add music – network and storage sources for you music

Programs

  • OpenELEC Configuration – settings
  • Get More – online sources for various programs, apps and utilities

System – Kodi configuration settings

 

Network Connection

It is possible to operate Kodi using only local storage (i.e. USB memory stick). However, by connecting to a network or internet, Kodi opens up to endless media sources. A LAN ethernet connection is best, as it is usually much faster than WiFi.

If using WiFi, however, following are steps to connect.

  1. Go to the Home main menu
  2. Hover over System (don’t select / click)
  3. Select the openELEC sub-menu
  4. Select Connections on left
  5. OpenELEC network connections

    OpenELEC network connections

  6. Select your WiFi device on right
  7. Select Connect on the pop-up window
  8. Enter your WiFi password (case sensitive), then select Done
  9. Enter wireless password

    Enter wireless password

  10. If a successful connection is made, the “State:” on the right side will change from “idle” to “ready” for the device on the Connections page.

Streaming Example

OpenELEC / Kodi have many options, configurable choices, features and functions. If this is your first look at OpenELEC / Kodi, it is easy to feel overwhelmed. To help you get started, we offer the following detailed example to get started streaming music. Once you are successful with this example, navigation for the other media menu choices is similar.

In the example below, we will select Icecast music Add-on as it has a large selection of streaming music available.
Note: during the initial load of some Add-ons and their media contents, the screen may not change for a while and seems as if it is not doing anything. However, for some of the larger media packages, it can take a while to load and update, particularly if connected via WiFi. Give it time – you can see the green Activity LED blinking on the Raspberry Pi.

Music Add-on example:

  1. Select the Music menu
  2. Select Music add-ons
  3. At next screen, Select Get more . . .
  4. Music add-on

    Music add-on

  5. Move pointer over each Music add-on to view details
  6. List of music add-ons

    List of music add-ons

  7. Select desired add-on. A good one to start is Icecast.
  8. Select Install to install the selected add-on
  9. Install icecast add-on

    Install icecast add-on

  10. Add-on will download. When complete, it will show “Enabled” to the right of the add-on name.
  11. Icecast installed and enabled

    Icecast installed and enabled

  12. To open the add-on, return to the Music menu and select your add-on – in this example Icecast.
  13. Icecast

    Icecast

  14. When the add-on is opened, it will show “working” in lower right corner. This can take a while depending upon the add-on. Also, note that add-ons vary in appearance, function and what they offer.
  15. For the Icecast add-on, the next page will offer a “List all stations” option. Select this to browse the many available stations.
  16. List all stations

    List all stations

  17. It is a matter of trying ones of interest to determine which you like. Many of these choices offer multiple stations (streams). Open each to explore choices.Image below shows the individual stations (streams).
  18. Streams

    Streams

  19. Favorites can be saved so you don’t have to navigate through 1,000s of stations! Right click/select the stream, then Add to favourites. Once saved, favorites are accessed from the Star icon on the Home screen in lower left corner.
  20. Individual streams

    Individual streams

  21. Select the play icon in lower left corner to open the Now Playing window.
  22. The Now Playing window – available in window or full screen mode.
  23. Play icon

    Play icon

    Now playing window

    Now playing window

— End of streaming music example. —

 

Network, Cloud and Local Storage

In addition to streaming internet media, network, cloud and local storage are also possible.

  1. Select one of the main menu media choices on the Home page.
  2. For Pictures, select Add pictures . . ., then Browse to see share choices.
  3. For Videos, select Files, then Add videos . . ., and then Browse.

There are many options, choices and details well beyond the scope of this guide. See http://kodi.wiki/ for documentation for setting up syncing, sharing and local storage.

Notes:

  • As you navigate sub-menu choices, Kodi “remembers” your last nested-level sub-menu and returns you to that screen upon return. To navigate to a higher-level sub-menu, select the back arrow in lower right corner for each level to go back.
  • When selecting a music stream, the number to the right indicates the streaming speed in Kbps – the higher the speed, the better the quality. However, if streaming issues are experienced when using WiFi, try a lower streaming speed if available. A LAN ethernet connection is best if available.
  • Each of the main menu option (except System) behaves similarly to the Music example above. Once you are familiar with the basic navigation from this example, you can do the same for the other media sources.
  • There are thousands of free media sources, but some do require a subscription fee and/or user account.
  • OpenELEC and Kodi are highly customizable – explore!
  • Not all 3rd party Add-ons listed in the Add-on menus work. This is not a defect of OpenELEC / Kodi, but rather the website that hosts the Add-on. Try different sources to find those you like that are reliable – then save as favorite.

This quick start guide is intended to help get you started, but is not a comprehensive openELEC / Kodi user guide. See the Kodi Wiki for complete documentation at http://kodi.wiki/. Also, details of openELEC are available at http://wiki.openelec.tv/

ENJOY!

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