How to Install XBMC Linux in 15 Minutes with OpenELEC

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Oct 18th, 2012
How to Install XBMC Linux in 15 Minutes with OpenELEC

XBMC has been the favorite home theater PC software of advanced users for years, but thanks to the latest distribution OpenELEC 3.0, it is easier than ever to install XBMC on Linux.

The benefit of using Linux instead of Windows 7 is that you will get a fast booting computer that is instantly ready to be used as a media center.

OpenELEC is the latest attempt to create a small Linux distribution to turn your computer into a complete media center. Since the version 1.0 and 2.0 releases, OpenELEC has been constantly improving and now the 3.0 version brings many new exciting features, including a PVR support and much more powerful GPU acceleration on AMD and Nvidia GPUs.

In fact, as OpenELEC advertises, I was able to install the complete operating system and media center in less than 15 minutes. Let’s have a look at the steps I did to install and customize the OpenELEC.

1. Download OpenELEC

First, you’ll need to download OpenELEC from their website. There are quite a few different builds available depending on your computer setup, so choose the one that best matches with your processor (Generic, Fusion, Intel). Usually the Generic build is the best choice.

2. Make a Bootable USB Stick

Second, you’ll need to have a USB stick available. Label the USB stick drive as OPENELEC, otherwise the installation will not work.

The downloaded file is compressed with bz2 and tar compression, so you’ll need to use a compression software such as 7zip to uncompress the file. If you are using Windows, just run the application file (create_installstick) and choose the drive letter where your USB stick is located and the software will make a bootable USB stick for you.

3. Install OpenELEC to your HTPC

Third, insert the USB stick into your home theater PC and boot the computer with the USB stick. After the installer has been loaded, just select the quick installation option and when the installation is finished, reboot the computer.

That’s it, your XBMC media center is ready to use in 15 minutes.

4. Format and mount media hard drive (optional)

If you are using an additional media hard drive, you will need to format and mount it before it is available in the OpenELEC.

First, you will need to open a SSH connection to the OpenELEC using an application such as Putty.

Thanks to OpenELEC forum, here are the steps how to format and mount a media hard drive:

  • Type “parted -l” to check which label your second hard drive has. E.g. in my case the 2TB hard drive was /dev/sda.
  • Create a new GPT partition structure on /dev/sda by typing “parted -a optimal /dev/sda mklabel gpt”.
  • Add an ext4 partition from 1MB to -1MB from the end of the drive by typing “parted -a optimal /dev/sda mkpart — primary ext4 1 -1″.
  • Add the ext4 filesystem and label the drive as NEWDRIVE (or any drive name that you wish to use) by typing “mkfs.ext4 -L NEWDRIVE /dev/sda1″.
  • Run a filesystem check, which will automount the new partition by typing “fsck.ext4 /dev/sda1″.

Now you can reboot your OpenELEC HTPC and the new drive will mount automatically. Your second hard drive can be found from the folder /var/media/NEWDRIVE.

Next, let’s continue to customize the media center.

5. Customize basic XBMC settings

The default Confluence skin is quite nice to begin with, but if you want to have a truly beatiful media center, you should install the Aeon Nox skin. The Aeon Nox comes with the XBMC by default, so all you need to do is to go to System > Appearance > Skin > Get More… and then install the Aeon Nox skin.
The Aeon skin does not support mouse, so you should disable the mouse (System > System > Input devices > Enable mouse) to avoid any annoying error messages.

If you are using optical output or HDMI for sound (analog is selected by default), you can change the audio output within the same menu (System > System > Audio output).

Last but not least, you should change the settings for the weather channel (System > Weather > General > Settings).

6. Transfer media files to XBMC with Filezilla

If you are not using an external network attached hard drive, you will need to copy your media files to the HTPC using a FTP software such as Filezilla.

Before connecting to your home theater PC, you’ll need to know its IP address. You can find this out by selecting System > Hardware > Network and use the IP address (e.g. 192.168.1.40). Secondly, you will need to know the username and password to connect to the OpenELEC. The default username is root and the password is openelec.

Now, you are ready to transfer the media files to your computer.

7. Setup Network Attached Storage

If you are using a network attached storage, it is even easier to get all the media files visible in the OpenELEC.

Just follow these steps to add your NAS as source:

  • Go to Video menu
  • Select “Add Source” and select Browse
  • Choose “Add Network Location…”
  • Set the “Protocol” as Windows Network (SMB)
  • Set the NAS server’s IP address as the “Server Name” e.g. 192.168.1.39
  • Set the “Shared folder” on your NAS e.g. Video
  • Type the “Username” and “Password” for the folder on your NAS
  • Click OK two times

You can learn more about NAS servers from my complete guide to install a network attached storage.

8. Enable Tvheadend TV server

If you want to watch and record live TV, you should enable Tvheadend back-end server. All you need to do is to get a USB TV tuner and follow this guide to install Tvheadend add-on.

9. Enable Blu-ray playback capability with MakeMKV

You can watch Blu-ray disc movies by enabling makemkv and Blu-ray add-ons. First, go to Add-ons menu > Get Add-ons > OpenELEC Mediacenter OS Add-ons > Program Add-ons > makemkv > Install.

Secondly, you will need to download the Blu-ray plugin here and install it (Add-ons > Install from zip file > location of the zip file). After completing the installation, you can go to Videos menu > Video Add-ons > Bluray Player with MakeMKV.

Now, press Play disc and wait a while for Blu-ray to be prepared. After a minute or so, your movie starts to play.

10. Install Opera web browser

Did you know that you can also browse Internet by using an unofficial Opera web browser add-on?

Just download the latest version of the Opera web browser add-on and install it on the OpenElec (go to System > Add-ons > Install from the zip > and locate the web.browser.opera-x.x.xx.zip file.

After installing the add-on, remember to reboot the computer before completing the installation steps in the Programs menu.

11. Add favorites as menu items

To make your media center more user friendly, you can easily add your favorite plugins to the main menu. To add a favorite, press “C” key and select Add to favourites. Then, go to System > Skin > Customizers > Main menu item customizer (backgrounds,widgets) and browse to “Custom1″.

Choose type as “Favourite” and select the favourite you want to add to the main menu. Next, change the label and choose background to customize the appearance. Lastly, click “Disable” to enable the main menu item.

12. Install your favorite add-ons

As the last step, get more online video and music content by installing these top 10 favorite XBMC add-ons.

What’s Next?

Did you get excited about the OpenELEC, but don’t have a HTPC yet? Choosing the right hardware can be tricky, but this guide will make it easy to choose the optimal components for XBMC.

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