Riff Raff Makes

Making an HTPC for streaming and netflix from a USFF business box

I've had this little HP elitedesk knocking about for a while, I bought one on the cheap, missing power supply, yanked the 4670s for my main machine and threw in a G3220 I had lying around, beside 8GB ram - this things always been destined for going under the TV, it's just the right size for it looks pretty smart there.

Setting up

There's not much in the way of setup with this, I have a fresh install of Windows 10 and to continue my little network naming scheme this one's called Radiation King, it's a thing. This hardware's more than enough for HD video, local streaming and browsing too, I've put a g3220 and 8GB Ram and for now it's got a 500gb mechanical harddrive, though it'll likely get replaced with a small SSD if it looks permanent.

Adding Kodi

The Windows Store App for Kodi is fully fledged and will pretend to be something like an OS once running, getting it set up is reasonably simple, skin it for the pretties then get in to the setup for your files.

I have a 2TB Drive hooked up to my router as a a file share, being that it's mainly my girlfriends media library it's shockingly well organised, as a result this was easy for me. To add a network location is as simple as following the menu steps and it'll let you know if you're successful, by doing separate folder additions for Movies, TV and music you'll get a decent experience allowing it to pull info from web sources about the media, getting the full Art and plot stuff to go with the videos in the menus.

For on demand streaming

No matter how you feel about streaming this way - now the primary reason people are buying android based Kodi boxes, often with outdated installs and underpowered processors, it's a simple enough process I had one that was decent enough until I tried to make it dual boot Linux and bricked it.

I used Specto for that end of it, the install is relatively simple, though not as easy as swapping to a new skin as it's not a supported add on.

Start by going to the Settings>System Settings>Unkown Sources - Turn this to enabled, in order to install add ons from unknown sources. This will allow you to install from outside the supported apps on Kodi, which you should check out, there's a surprising mix of content available via these apps.

Now you'll need to add a file source (settings>file manager>add source) this is necessary in order to install the add on from the unsupported repository. In the file source box you'll need to hit to enter the file path then enter http://kodi.filmkodi.com call that source Specto or Skippy, just something to let you know what it's there for.

Now head over to add ons, select install from zip file, select specto>repository.filmkodi.com>repository.filmkodi.com-x-x-x.zip (for that one, choose the latest version, which was at the bottom for me.

Once you see the addon enabled notification you'll need to add MRKnow by selecting install from repository and choosing filmkodi.com repository and choosing MRKNOW once you get the add on enabled notification for that you'll be able to use it via the add ons menu.

Head over to the settings menu and choose your skin settings, find a skin you like before customising it further, to save repeated efforts, I went with one called amber, though I'd like to find out how to roll my own.

In skin settings you can enable and disable different shortcuts, I removed the likes of the TV tuner and added one to go to directly to specto, so I have TV Shows, Movies, Videos (just a file view of your local library), Specto, Settings, Quit

Doing this just cleans it up a bit and means you're not navigating more menu items than you need to

Using it

I'm using a little combined remote/mousepad/keyboard it's a cheap but worthwhile addition to any HTPC - this is the one I use - US UK Arrow button navigation in the menus works very well and the interface is pretty snappy on this machine, though the specs aren't anything to rave about, I'm sure you could replace it with an old laptop and hang it behind your TV or something like that and not see any lesser performance.

The local streaming of media is really snappy even though this is temporarily running through a really cheap 10/100 switch to get to the TV area. It was relatively decent on wifi but can suffer from drops using any media player when you're running some of the older 2.4ghz speeds. Specto is much the same as other streamer plugins, it takes a few seconds to aggregate a bunch of links from the usual suspects (that list's just the same as the one you'll see on any hooky streaming site) then it'll start playing, so far it hasn't got anything wrong for me.

It's a proficient music player too if you've got decent speakers hooked up to your machine, so it's not a bad way of getting at your local library as well. While I have spotify on this machine anyway, there's an add on for that too, so that's handy - I'll need to do some digging about emulators though, I'd rather keep my separate ones than bother with using it purely as a launcher for games stored online since I'm fond of PS1 and PS2 games as well as older stuff, granted nothing will touch the halcyon days of wee me and my megadrive.