Friday, March 18, 2016

Kodi in Raspbian

Raspbian seemed to be the obvious choice for Raspberry Pi 2 Model B operating system. It's customized for running on the Raspberry Pi, contains all the proprietary GPU stuff, is basically Debian, and receives regular updates. Its packages are compiled for earlier versions of the Raspberry Pi and don't take full advantage of ARMv8, but according to most benchmarks that's not a big deal. I installed Raspbian Jessie.

Kodi (formerly known as XBMC) is available as a package in Raspbian and easy to install. However, my first impressions after running it from the X desktop weren't very good. The menus would sometimes get messed up, with the mouse leaving trails. Quitting would often leave me with a black screen. Sometimes it would be possible to switch into a text virtual terminal and back into X, but other times that would be impossible and a reboot would be necessary.

I mostly used the Pi as a low power always on PC. Now I'm giving Kodi another try, for using the Pi as a media player. This time I'm auto-starting it at boot time, without running X. Using the graphical Raspberry Pi configuration utility, I set it to boot to text mode and not auto-login the pi user. Automatic startup of Kodi can be enabled by editing /etc/default/kodi. The kodi user that it defaults to using is created when Kodi is installed.

Unfortunately, this runs into a big problem: after rebooting Kodi ran but couldn't be controlled by the keyboard or mouse. It's a simple problem and there's a simple solution. The kodi user doesn't have access to input devices, and needs to be added to the input group via "sudo addgroup kodi input". However, that's very inconvenient to accomplish once Kodi is starting automatically and you can't control it, so make sure you do it before rebooting.

The other big problem was that most HD videos didn't play. There was no error message, though ENOSPC errors could be seen in the log. I guessed this was due to insufficient memory allocated to the GPU. The default is 64 MB, and Kodi recommends 128 MB for the Raspberry Pi 1 and 256 MB for the Raspberry Pi 2. After adding gpu_mem=256 to /boot/config.txt that was fixed.

Kodi now seems to work fine in Raspbian, with no need to install a Kodi centric distribution.

Update: Another problem was the lack of a shutdown option in the Kodi power button dialog. I fixed that by changing PolicyKit settings using instructions from this page:

cat <<EOF | sudo tee /etc/polkit-1/localauthority/50-local.d/custom-actions.pkla
[Actions for kodi user]

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