A few tips and tricks to better scraping games in Rom Collection Browser:
As of this writing, the thegamesdb.net usually glitches and causes an error during scraping. If this happens, change scrapers for the next run; the GiantBomb scraper still seems to be working.
Not every rom file will find the right game. If this happens, choose a unique title that isn’t in your collection, then edit the *.nfo file manually. Even if the file scrapes correctly, you can make changes to the *.nfo file to tweak your library listings. For example, renaming “Zelda II: The Adventure of Link” to “The Legend of Zelda II: The Adventure of Link” or “Super Castlevania IV” to “Castlevania IV: Super Castlevania” to keep sequels with their respective franchises.
Use the Local Artwork scraper to fill in missing or incorrect artwork manually. Make sure the image(s) are in the correct folder(s) and named EXACTLY the same as the rom file that they belong to (excluding the extension, of course). Also, use Local Artwork to add videos to your library listings. I prefer to locate recordings of the games’ original television advertisements, reveling in the nostalgia and casually examining how sensibilities have evolved over time. Arcade games naturally get their attract mode videos.
As we’ve seen from previous numbers, Kodi is a pretty powerful application that can be extended to power your entire media experience from local downloaded and physical media to a nearly infinite number of media streams, but we have not covered exactly how to run games from Kodi. For this, we’ll obviously need some games installed on our system, and we’ll need to download an add-on called Rom Collection Browser (if you followed my recommendation to use the Aeon series of skins, you will have RCB already installed on your system).
Rom Collection Browser is available through the stock Kodi repository under the programs menu and is installed like any other add-on.
Before we begin the setup, we must ensure that our files are sorted correctly on the computer. For emulators, each set of roms needs to be in its own folder, sorted by system (all NES roms need to be in an exclusive folder, all SNES roms need to be in an exclusive folder, etc.). For Windows games, make a new folder and place a shortcut to each game’s executable file within.
On first run, Rom Collection Browser will prompt you to create a configuration file, click OK and it will bring up the initial configuration file for a new rom collection. First, RCB will ask you to choose a location for the game information and artwork. Since this is a first run, you will most likely need to download all the pertinent artwork and information, so choose the online option.
Next, you’ll need to choose a platform for your game collection. If you are adding roms for an emulator, choose the appropriate system for the emulation. If you are adding PC games installed locally, choose the appropriate option (Windows/OSX/Linux).
Once you’ve set your platform, RCB will prompt you to browse to the emulator executable (unless you are adding Windows games, in which case, RCB will skip to the next section). Once you have selected the executable, you will be prompted to enter the particular emulator’s command-line parameters, if applicable. Most emulators worth their salt offer a CLI parameter set to add a measure of granular control over each game as it is executed, because who wants to dick around with settings on a game-by-game basis every time you want to play something different? RetroArch, by far, is the best of the bunch in this respect, and I highly recommend it for all your emulation needs.
RCB will now ask you to browse to the folder containing the roms you are adding. On the next screen, you will type in the file mask for the particular set of roms you are adding (for Windows games, the file mask is *.lnk).
Next, you’ll select a path to the artwork folder. I prefer to use the same folder that contains the roms. RCB will create folders for the basic types of artwork (boxfront, boxback, screenshot, fanart), so you needn’t specify a location for each…yet.
Finally, RCB will ask if you would like to add another rom collection. I recommend only adding one collection at a time as it tends to be easier to watch for mistakes, but you may prefer to do all your scraping at once, and that’s your mistake to make. If you choose to add another collection, you’ll be redirected to the platform choice dialog and start the process over again. If you choose not to, you will be directed to the scraping dialog.
In the scraping dialog, you will be presented with several options. First, choose the particular system that you will be scraping information for. Next, choose the level of interactivity you wish to utilize. For large collections, I recommend starting with the fully-automated (“Automatic: Accurate”) option to do the heaviest lifting without needing to constantly monitor the progress. Once the majority of games have been successfully scraped, use the “Interactive: Select Matches” option to import the titles that may have oddly formatted or incorrect file names. On first fun, I recommend using the default trio of scrapers. Later edits may require changing scrapers, but these three should take care of the bulk. RCB will now query the specified scrapers for information and artwork regarding each game you’re importing (much like Kodi does for your video or music library). Once finished, you will be presented with a list of games ready to play. Simply select them from the list, hit “OK” on your remote, and get to playing!
So, I walk the line on this one. While I generally condone piracy less and less–especially when there is a “legitimate” alternative (Netflix, Hulu) available–I recognize that it’s the “career pirates” that really cause a problem in the system. That being said, I’m a long-time fan of XBMC and Kodi (as one can tell by reading my blog), so I’m inclined to agree with the Team on here. Kodi is very powerful software, and like any open-source project, can be exploited for nefarious purposes against those who likely don’t know better.
I appreciate the Team’s response here, slathered in the libertarian ethos that defines the Hacker Ethic. The message is clear: Kodi does not enable media piracy any more than an iPhone enables terrorism. It is merely a platform that can be infinitely expanded upon for reasons both legitimate and illicit. I, personally, would love to see an official Netflix, Hulu, or Crackle plugin, but that will never happen if the powers-that-be see Kodi as a gateway to piracy.
I write my how-to articles on Kodi both for personal reference and as a resource to those who may be reluctant to dive head-first into such a project without someone to hold their hand. Project Magnavox is a labour of love, but it’s also a prototype determine the best way to build a robust all-in-one entertainment solution for the average consumer. The more I can help the average consumer cut the cord, the more I feel like I can help effect fundamental change in the way media is distributed and consumed–dragging the consumer away from the “cable monster” and into the wild blue yonder of Freedom. The pirates that seek only to make a quick buck by shilling these half-assed “Kodi boxes” are only biting the hand that feeds them as consumers looking for a cheap alternative to Big Cable get burned and the name Kodi leaves a sour taste in their collective mouths.
I’m not an official developer for Kodi, but I feel like I am part of the team. I don’t actively participate in the fora, but I try my best to parse the mountain of information therein and present it in a format that is less intimidating to the average idiot. I have loved Kodi since I started using it sometime around 2006 (when it was still called “Xbox Media Center”), and I will fight to defend its good name to the bitter end!
Over the past few years it’s become clear that many users have been watching pirated content using unofficial and unsupported add-ons that frequently break, and they are installing add-on repositories whose trustworthiness is questionable, leaving themselves open to numerous security exploits.
I’ve had a love affair with Google Play [Music] since its inception–having the ability to store 20,000 (now 50k) tracks in the cloud for free was a helluva draw that nailed the lid on the coffin of my plans to buy an iPod classic to keep my MP3 files. I’ve not needed to solicit the services of a streaming radio app since I was a beta tester in 2011. My massive music library is always available wherever I have data service and I don’t have to pay a subscription to listen to music that I already own!
I’m always looking for new and interesting add-ons for my Kodi installation–part of my quest to make a truly universal, completely customizable, open-source media center–and I’ve run across a nice solution for (in my opinion) the only worthwhile streaming service. Granted, my music library is already connected to the VCR via NAS, but I like the option to have my playlists available on all my machines for the sake of continuity.
I’ve been playing with the Yatse Android app for a little while now, and it blows away the stock Kodi/XBMC remote control app! With the free version, you get a much slicker interface and a lot of great bells and whistles as it provides a more robust second screen experience.
With the paid version, you can download media to your device (great for trips) and even stream media on your home network (great if you want to watch something besides Korean melodrama on Hulu)!
If you don’t want to spring for a Microsoft IR remote or just don’t have the room to install one, definitely give the Yatse remote app a shot, and even if you do have the IR commander set up (like me), it’s still a great value for all the extra features!
NOTE: This article generally applies to Windows machines; however, Linux machines have been addressed in the comments.
Netflix and Hulu are two of the most popular streaming services on the market today, offering thousands of titles on demand and leading the cord-cutting charge against cable’s content monopoly. Unfortunately, neither service has offered official, dedicated plugins for one of the most popular home theatre software applications available. While plugins like NetfliXBMC and Bluecop’s Hulu plugin exist, they tend to be sketchy in quality and often broken. In this number, I’m going to explain how to add Netflix and Hulu to Kodi using a web browser.
To me, the best HTPC Netflix or Hulu experience (outside a dedicated app such as the ones for Xbox 360) comes from the services’ own websites. The only drawback to this is having to hang onto a wireless keyboard and trackpad combination, but it’s a small nuisance that can eventually be rectified with some clever hackery (more on that in a later article).
To launch the respective website from Kodi, we’re going to use Firefox with the Advanced Launcher plugin. Firefox supports command-line controls, so it will be perfect for our needs. Inside Advanced Launcher, right-click or press C on the keyboard to call up the context menu. Click “Manage Sources” to bring up the source manager screen. Select “Add Source” and “Browse” when the source window appears. Select the root folder for your hard drive, then click “OK”. Press backspace to return to Advanced Launcher.
Back in Advanced Launcher, create a new category and call it “Firefox Links”. Inside the new category, choose “Standalone Launcher” and browse to the Firefox executable located on your hard drive. In the next window, you will need to enter the following command-line arguments to load Netflix automatically when Firefox runs:
-fullscreen -new-window http://www.netflix.com
Press Return and then you will be prompted to name your launcher. “Netflix” seems like a reasonable choice (unless, of course, you are launching Hulu or another service). Press Return again and you will be prompted to select the platform that your application runs on.
On the following screens, you will be prompted to browse for a path where thumbnails and fanart is stored. This is unimportant, so you can browse to an empty folder or a placeholder if you wish. In the Aeon MQ5 skin, you will be able to select custom artwork for these menu items later.
After selecting the artwork locations, the launcher is officially completed. I’ve taken it a step further and added a custom macro in EventGhost that disables closes Firefox with a particular keypress on the remote or the Escape key on the keyboard, seamlessly returning to Kodi.
Pro Tip: If you add your launchers to you “Favourites” list, you will be able to add custom menu options for them on the Aeon MQ5 home screen. Under the “Settings” menu, choose “Customise Main Menu” and add them to any open slots!
The application that we’ll be using to set up LCD output is LCD Smartie, an open-source, extensible application that utilises a series of plugins to parse and translate information for the liquid crystal display. Before we install LCD Smartie, though, we have to download the Windows driver for the display.
Download the nMedia PRO-LCD driver from the nMedia website at http://www.nmediapc.com/LCD/download.htm, unzip it and double-click the installer to run. Reboot the computer and we can move onto the next step.
Download the latest version of LCD Smartie from their Sourceforge page. Unzip the file to a convenient location on your hard drive (I chose C:\lcdsmartie). Like EventGhost, LCD Smartie does not “install” to the hard drive–it simply sits in a folder and runs (the way applications should properly run).
While you’re on the download page for LCD Smartie, grab the L.I.S. VFD display driver, as we’re going to need it for this particular display. Unzip it and copy the lisvfd.dll file to the “displays” folder within the LCD Smartie folder.
Now, we can run LCD Smartie for the first time. Make sure you right-click and select “Run as administrator” because LCD Smartie needs the elevated permissions to interact with the display. When the application opens, you will see a small window open that’s emulating the default LCD output. In the bottom left corner of this window, click “Setup”.
In the Setup window, select “2×20” from the “LCD size” drop-down menu under the “Screen” tab beneath “Display Settings”. Then click the “Plugin” tab. In the “Display Plugin” drop-down menu, select “lisvfd.dll” from the choices. In the “Startup Parameters” field below, type in the appropriate COM port and baud rate for your LCD.
To determine the COM port for the LCD, click “Devices and Printers” in the Start Menu. Under the “Unspecified” heading, look for “FT232R USB UART”. Right-click this device and select “Properties”.
In the “Properties” window, click the “Hardware” tab. Note the USB Serial Port listed in the menu. Go back to LCD Smartie’s setup window and plug this COM port into the Device Parameters field. Leave the baud rate at the default 38400. Click the “Apply” and your LCD should reflect what is being shown in the emulator window.
Close LCD Smartie for now. We need another plugin to display the information from Kodi that we want: XBMC4LCDSmartie. Download it from its Codeplex site and unzip the file. Copy XBMC4LCDSmartie.dll and Newtonsoft.Json.dll to the LCD Smartie “plugins” folder. In the LCD Smartie folder, use Windows Notepad to open the “LCDSmartie.exe.config” file and add the following code just below <configuration>:
<add key="XBMC4LCDSmartie.Host" value="localhost"/>
<add key="XBMC4LCDSmartie.Port" value="9090"/>
<add key="XBMC4LCDSmartie.RefreshInt" value="300"/>
<add key="XBMC4LCDSmartie.XBMCTestMode" value="TCP"/>
Save the changes and close the file. Open config.ini in Notepad and verify the following settings:
Then, under [General Settings], verify that LCDType=7
Save any changes and close Notepad. Now, open Kodi and navigate to Settings>Network>General and change the Device Name to “XBMC”. Scroll down to “Webserver” and make sure that “Allow control of Kodi via HTTP” is enabled. The port should be 80, username should be XBMC, and password should be blank. Leave web interface at default. Scroll down to “Remote Control” and enable the switch to “Allow programs on this system to control Kodi”.
Open the setup window in LCD Smartie once again, and type the following into lines 1 and 2 of the “Screens settings” section:
Line 1: $dll(XBMC4LCDSmartie.dll,3,System.CurrentWindow,1)
Line 2: $dll(XBMC4LCDSmartie.dll,3,System.CurrentControl,1)
Make sure that “Don’t scroll this line” is checked for both lines. Check the box next to “Enabled” as well and disable all the other screens by selecting them in the “Screen” counter and unchecking “Enabled” on them one-by-one. This will serve as our test bed. Click the “Apply” button and, if Kodi is running, the LCD should display the current screen and menu selection. Navigate through some menu items and verify that everything works correctly.
Alternatively, you may get an error message that says something to the effect of “MSVCR71.dll is missing”. To fix this, we need to grab the 32-bit version of the Microsoft.net 1.1 patch to fill in some missing libraries. Close LCD Smartie, download and run the installer from the link above, follow the installer’s instructions, and re-open LCD Smartie. Everything should work fine now.
This is the most basic setup for Kodi-specific output. The XBMC4LCDSmartie documentation has a wealth of information on programming specific screens and output on which I will elaborate later. For now, though, congratulations! You have a working LCD powered by output from Kodi!
Adventitious Geekery and other distractions created or curated by Matthew "Atari" Eargle