UPDATE: 2016-01-05 Advanced Launcher has been discontinued by its author and all links to its repository have been deleted. I am investigating alternatives and will post again once I have an answer. Until then, please check the comments section for further information.
Advanced Launcher is an add-on for Kodi that is used to launch external applications such as Firefox or Steam in any operating system. Launcher parameters are customisable so a particular instance can launch a specific website, game, or media file. In short, if it can be defined in a command-line interface, it can be done through Advanced Launcher.
Unfortunately, such awesome power is not available to Kodi users by default. To install Advanced Launcher, you will have to add the Angelscry repository to Kodi’s source list. To access the source list, navigate to the “Files Manager” under the “System” menu.
Choose “Add Source” and type http://www.gwenael.org/Repository as the path. Name the source “Angelscry Repository” and click “OK”.
From the Settings>Add-ons Menu, choose “Install from zip file”. When the browser appears, select “Angelscry Repository” from the list and wait for it to connect to the server.
Select “repository.angelscry.xbmc-plugins” from the list and choose the latest version of the repository to install. Back out to the Add-ons menu and now choose “Get Add-ons”. Select the newly-available Angelscry Repository, then “Program Add-ons”, and finally “Advanced Launcher”. The add-on will now be available from the “Programs” menu on the home screen.
Creating a standalone launcher (for a single executable like Firefox) is a simple process of browsing to the executable for the application (or just entering the command in Linux), defining the command-line parameters, and providing a (optional) thumbnail. The add-on walks you through the process and you will be able to set these launchers as favourites or (in the case of the Aeon MQ5 skin) home menu items.
Assuming you have installed your graphics card drivers correctly, you will still want to quickly verify your HDMI audio out is working before any further mucking about in the operating system environment. In Ubuntu 14.04, this is done quite simply from the menu bar.
Click the sound icon in the upper-right corner, then in the context menu that appears, click on “Sound Settings”
In the Sound Settings dialog box, verify that your sound card is activated and click the “Test Sound” button.
Click the test button for each channel and verify the output.
Other derivatives of Ubuntu (particularly the lightweight Lubuntu) do not have the robust GUI that Ubuntu features. In these cases, a little terminal jiggery-pokery will be necessary.
Verify the HDMI audio output with this terminal command:
If you need a simple backup scheduler, give Code 42’s CrashPlan a try. CrashPlan is available for Windows, Linux, and OSX and allows file backups to local, networked, and off-site locations with a simple, easy-to-use setup.
Download and install CrashPlan Free to each computer you want to backup and one the machine you will use as a backup server. You can have any number of machines connected to your “cloud” with the only limitation being the available space on the server. I have it backing up my Macbook Pro and VCR to an external hard drive connected to the VCR. These backups are also mirrored in an encrypted folder on a computer at my office across town.
Cloud backup storage is also available from CrashPlan for a nominal fee, but with off-site storage being as easy as connecting your work computer, I don’t see much need for it.
When I began planning for the VCR project, I made a trip to my long-time, brick-and-mortar computer parts purveyor Micro Center to shop for components. The motherboard is obviously one of the most important components you can purchase, since it will determine all the other parts you can install. My biggest determining factor, though, is price.
At roughly $60, the MSI H81ME33 Intel mobo is a fantastic bargain that offers support for the latest Intel Core processors, USB 3.0, 4K UHD video as well as some niceties like a metric fucktonne of USB ports, a simple BIOS screen with mouse support, a one-click overclock function, and a simple BIOS updater all in a space-saving mATX form factor.
The mobo is finicky with Linux, requiring a little jiggery-pokery and breath-holding while it pre-boots, but it works like a champ with Windows. My only real hitch is that it doesn’t enjoy USB peripherals like DVD-ROM drives and some wireless keyboards, but it usually yields to its human overlord after a nominal delay.
Support for MSI motherboards is self-directed, so you’re going to need to have some decent Google ninja skills if you run into a problem. The nice thing, though, is that the website is easy enough to navigate and the basic support documents are quickly located.
There are proprietary drivers available for all the on-board components, and MSI provides a few utilities that one can customise their system with, though I prefer not to use them.
The motherboard that I picked up for the VCR project provides out-of-the-box full-resolution HDMI video under Linux, but requires an additional proprietary Intel graphics driver to process audio through the HDMI port. Thankfully, this is not a terribly difficult process thanks to the fine folks at Intel providing an easy graphical installer package.
When I first started unlocking new features in Kodi, I noticed that all the artwork was making my library directories a bit unruly, so to help clean things up, I decided to move all the video files into their own folders. Unfortunately, I have quite a lot of video files. Fortunately, I uncovered a little bit of code to manage this task for me. Drop these two lines into a shell script and execute the script in your favorite flavor of Linux to create a subdirectory based on the name of each file in a given folder, then move that file into its respective directory.
I ran across a special on Boing Boing for a bundle of Mac software that I couldn’t resist (Paragon NTFS For Mac alone was worth the discounted price), and made an impulse buy. I’ll write more about each application later as I play with them, but I wanted to give special recognition to this Synergy app from the mind of one Nick Bolton.
I have been working on Project Magnavox for almost 2 years now (It’s an ever-evolving project, as you dear readers have no doubt figured out), but I have always had to juggle between my laptop or tablet and the wireless keyboard that I have attached to the VCR. With Synergy, I am able to interact with the VCR using only the keyboard and trackpad on the laptop! Think of it as a sort of KVM switch, but instead of flipping a physical switch, you simply drag the mouse to the screen you need to interact with and you’re ready to go. Seamless.
Installation is a snap. Once you sign up and pay for an account, simply download the application to each computer you wish to connect. Enter your credentials on each computer, decide on a “host” machine (whose keyboard and mouse you will be using), and position the clients relative to the host’s monitor position. For example, my laptop is the host machine, and I simply drag the mouse off the top of the screen for it to appear on the TV connected to Project Magnavox. The best part is that I can sit comfortably at the table across the room, work on Project Magnavox, and need not worry about staying within range of my el cheapo wireless keyboard.
Synergy is software for sharing one keyboard and mouse between multiple computers.