How To – Extending XBMC Above And Beyond

In a previous post, I revisited using Ubuntu 12.04 and Linux in general as an HTPC.  While there were some advanced steps I took, I asked myself, can this be easier?  Can all of what I want fall under a unified interface?  Having toyed with the OUYA console a fair bit, I remembered Advanced Launcher, which is coincidently, also available for XBMC.  What this turned into, was a simple way to launch any web link to a video stream or Linux program.  This enabled me to use XBMC entirely as an HTPC solution without a need to escape XBMC itself.  Read on for me!

Getting Started

First, you will want install XBMC on top of an existing distro, such as Ubuntu.  The reason for this is so you can always drop out of XBMC if you need to install programs or do other tasks.  Yes, yes, overhead overhead, but it is very little for a modern system to have over something like GeexBox.  Once XMBC is installed, add it to your autostart session programs.  Below is an example for Ubuntu:


Well hello again Unity…


All you need is a simple “xbmc” in the command section when adding, and your set!

Adding some basic Channels to XBMC is very simple.  Simple visit any  section, such as video and choose add-ons.  There are many to choose from, and you’ll want to take the time to add these as well as any media sources:


Main Menu > Video > Add Ons


Setting Up Your Custom Launchers

Setting up your custom launchers is quite easy, and I made a video tutorial above in case you need a helping hand.  The basics are:

  1. Install the “Advanced Launcher” addon from XBMC under Home > Programs > Get More.  If it does not exist there, you will have to add the zip file manually, described here on XBMC’s website.
  2. Once installed, the program should should up under Home > Programs.  Open the program

To add a new launcher, right click “Default” and choose “Add New Launcher”


Home > Programs > Advanced Launcher, Right Click Default

On the next screen, choose “Standalone launcher”

xbmc_launch_step1Now, choose “Root filesystem” and navigate to “/usr/bin/firefox”


In this next step, you can past arguments to the program, the most simple for Firefox being a web page.  On the next screen choose what you want your launcher to be titled.xbox_launc_step3

This next part is important.  Scroll down and select “Linux


Next, right click your launcher again and choose “edit launcher” and choose “Change Thumbnail Image”.  Choose a local image, preferably a PNG image with a translucent background.


That’s it!  Alternatively, you can also right click your launcher and choose to “Add to Favourites” which will make it quickly accessible from your preferred skins favourites area.    Each time you launch a program it should load the program, and when you exit, return to full screen XMBC.  The only caveat here is Firefox.  If you wish Firefox to launch full screen, mimicking an “app”, take a gander at the following add-ons:

  1. Full Fullscreen (adds a few options for beginners to always launch Firefox in full screen).  Note: be sure to only check the appropriate options if you wish to keep your tabs and minimize, maximise and close buttons.
  2. Big Buttons.  This add on is great for an HTPC interface, allowing you see everything on the toolbar in case you need to go back, and refresh etc.
  3. No Squint.  This add-on is perfect for quick on the fly page zooms, and page fitting.  The great part about this add-on is that you can set global defaults for specific areas and also exceptions for sites that render in a way you prefer.
  4. Rights to Close.  One of the available add ons I consider absolutely necessary for full screen Firefox use.  If you go sans tool bars on Firefox, you will want this to right click and close the tab, or Firefox entirely.

Final Thoughts

XBMC, on its own, is amazing.  Distros such as GeexBox and Mythbuntu make quick work of the base install to bring it even higher,  However, if you want all the DRM goodies, you’ll want to invest in setting up Advanced Launcher.  Again, if questions, please contact me, or for personal support, see the Linux Support tab at the top of the site.



About professorkaos64

Posted on 20131226, in How-To and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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