Kodi-fying an old computer

(Here’s another Linux entry that I’m posting to remind me of what I’ve done to solve a problem. If you’re a regular reader of my sermon blog, this entry might not make sense to you.)

A friend came over to my home and saw my living room Linux computer set up to play media: movies, music, pictures, that kind of thing. He asked how it was done, and I mentioned the program KODI as the media server I was using. He was impressed, and asked if I could convert an old computer (or three) that he had to do the same thing.

“Of course!” I replied, with a far too inflated view of my own competence.

So, a few days ago, he dropped off the two computers he could find. Once was an eMachine AMD 2650e, with 1GB of RAM running Windows XP. The other was a Dell tower, with 512MB of RAM running Windows 7. (Don’t ask me how.)

I tackled the eMachine first. Getting the latest version of Lubuntu Long Term Support version was a matter of using the alternate install iso, burned to a USB. Nothing out of the ordinary to set it up: I installed the bare minimum I could, added just the packages I wanted to install a **very** minimal desktop (jwm, if anyone’s curious), and rebooted.

The challenge came in when my friend wanted his NTFS external USB 3.0 drive to be recognized. It’s got a lot of his media on it, and he wanted it available for his Kodi use. But it was NOT as easy as just plugging in the drive. (And here’s where I’m posting stuff for my own remembrance, and you, good reader, will probably have your eyes roll back in your head. Sorry.)

After MUCH experimentation, I had to add an entry into /etc/fstab that read:

UUID=<his identifier> /home/hismountpoint ntfs-3g nofail,x-systemd.automount,x-systemd.device-timeout=1 0 0

And that made the drive viewable by Kodi after I got it to start. (I also did an autologin for Kodi, but I won’t post that info here: it’s available by Google search. Just remember that now that Ubuntu is using systemd, I had to created a kodi.service which launched an xinit session. I warned you that your eyes would roll back, didn’t I?)

All is hunky-dory, right? Well, the eMachine was a 64bit computer… and the Dell was a 32bit computer that wouldn’t boot correctly from the USB stick, no matter what I tried. I had to old-school burn a DVD with a 32bit alternate install iso, and once that booted, I chose the expert install option, to replicate the same packages I selected for the first machine.

But the Dell would NOT recognize this drive upon boot, even when I copied the /etc/fstab word-for-word from the eMachine. It kept hanging: my guess is, it didn’t like the USB 3.0. SO… I created this kludgy workaround in the .xinitrc file:

dbus-launch Thunar
xmessage -center -geometry 300x120+0+0 "Attach external drive now"
sleep 30
pulseaudio &
killall Thunar
kodi &
exec jwm

And THAT allowed me to boot up, and step by step plug in the external USB drive so that Kodi could recognize it and use it.


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