Amazon Fire TV, Kodi and TVHeadend

I realised recently that, like most people, I am watching more and more content on demand and that it’s actually a pain to do with Windows 10 and a HTPC.  There are apps for Netflix and various UK providers but there isn’t one for Amazon Video or Sky Go.  Controlling them typically requires a keyboard and mouse and use of various browsers too.  Also, for whatever reason the user experience just isn’t as good either.

I’ve been using Kodi on a Windows machine with Mediaportal’s TV server and it does work, Kodi also works in a lot of places though including the Amazon Fire TV…  I bought one last week and I’ve been damn impressed with it, I thought today I’d try setting up Kodi for live TV and it turned out to be a lot easier than last time.  Installing to the Fire was a breeze, I simply installed it to my phone and used Apps2Fire to install it to the Fire TV over the network after enabling remote debugging in the Fire’s Developer menu.  Amazon have got much kudos from me for making sideloading so easy!

A few years back I tried to use tvheadend on my Linux server, I’ve had a HDHomeRun for years too so connecting a tuner isn’t an issue as it’s network based, but either the software has got tighter or I’ve learned more as it was a breeze today.

I installed tvheadend to my server using this guide and the HomeRun tuners were automatically detected.  I had to change the tuner type to DVB-T as it defaults to cable, under Networks I added my local transmitter then under services clicked “map all” and that was that.  It started to scan for the EPG in the background and found it pretty quick too.

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A few changes I’ve made are to point my recorded TV and timeshift folders to larger drives, and I enabled timeshifting as it isn’t by default.  This setting is under Configuration –> Recording.

After that I enabled the TV headend DVR plugin in Kodi and pointed it towards my server and job done!  I’ve a Blackmagic DVB-T2 card to install at some point which will give me a few extra tuners and access to HD channels.  It means running a coax cable though and I can’t be arsed with that at the minute.

One content provider I mentioned above was Sky Go, there is allegedly a way of getting it working on the Fire but I’ve not managed it yet.  For now I’ll just plug my laptop into my AV receiver and have done with it.  I don’t use it often anyhow.

I can now access TV from any device connected to the network so plenty of scope to expand in the future, my upload rate is shocking though so unfortunately I likely wont be able to watch TV remotely.  All in all a fun bit of learning and it frees up the motherboard from my HTPC too.  I’ve a few ideas for a winter project for that but for now it’s on the shelf waiting to be used again.

Kodi PVR, Initial Thoughts and Tweaks

I’ve been using Kodi as my PVR for a week now and I’ve discovered a few quirks, solutions and tweaks that have make a big difference to the whole user experience.  Overall I’m increasingly impressed with how Kodi has developed both at it’s core and the addons.  Since my last post Kodi 16 has also released so I’ve upgraded to the RTW version.

Kodi 16 running the Rapier skin.
Kodi 16 running the Rapier skin.

Skin

I spent a while trying out pretty much all the skins Kodi offered through the UI and ended up using Rapier.  It’s pretty minimal but very well laid out, customisable and easy to navigate.  Some of the others we’re nice but this one just felt right.  Hardly a scientific comment but look and feel are important and this one fits the bill.

Timeshift Issues

I kept hitting an issue where the PVR addon would disconnect when I tried to timeshift, I use this feature a lot so it was something I needed to fix.  I’ve only one hard drive in the machine and despite being an SSHD I thought it may be the disk causing the problem.  I’ve heard my colleagues at work talk about RAM disks and as I’m only ever using a couple of GB of the 8GB of RAM my HTPC has it seemed worth a try.  I did a quick search for software and found SoftPerfect’s RAM Disk, installed it, created a 3GB RAM disk and moved the timeshift folder in TV Server Configuration to it and the problems disappeared.  It’s made a massive difference!

Remote Control

I’ve a Media Center IR receiver hooked up to my PC which was great for Media Center but the Guide, Info and similar buttons were WMC specific.  Thankfully this was trivial to fix thanks to the MCRemote addon!  Installation was easy via the addon repository but configuration took me a while, mostly as I didn’t RTFM…

First off, as it edits the registry you’ll need to run Kodi as admin though you’ll only need to do this when updating the settings.  You’ll find it installed in Kodi under programs, open it then select “Apply current settings” and it’ll keymap the guide, DVR, info and other buttons to work in Kodi.  Reboot Windows and you’re good to go.

The only thing not mapped is starting Kodi using the green button, easily done though.  Find the shortcut to Kodi in the start menu, right click and bring up properties.  Under shortcut add a random combination you don’t use anywhere else then open Kodi as an admin.  Run the MCERemote addin, select “Configure MCERemote settings” then find the entry for the green button and voila!

 

That’s it for now, I’ll let my changes bed in and keep track of any other tweaks and will post anything cool as I find it.