Drawing on a Linux Desktop with an Android Tablet and a “User Friendly” XBMC for Android! – XDA Developer TV
Android gaining X11 support is one of the stories from this weekend on XDA-Developers. You can also make your voice heard and vote on the next XDA cases. However, other big stories occurred this weekend. XDA News Specialist Jordan covers some of the highlights, including the first “user-friendly” version of XBMC for Android.
In learning news, Jordan talks about free Android tutorials. Also, be sure to check out Jordan on last Friday’s XDA Developer TV video. Finally, check out our article showcasing our highlights from this year’s International CES. Pull up a chair and check out this video.
First “User-Friendly” Build of XBMC for Android Emerges
By now, we’re all familiar with XBMC. The megascale, multiplatform media player has become nearly ubiquitous in HTPC circles, far outgrowing its original home on its vestigial namesake, the original Microsoft Xbox. In fact, we’ve featured quite a few stories that talk about how to integrate XBMC Controller into your HTPC workflow, as well as the release and update of XBMC for Android, a third-party port feared specifically for everyone’s favorite mobile OS.
Just a few hours ago, a heavily updated and stable build was released. As with the previously featured nightly builds, these are brought to us courtesy of the rest of the XBMCANDROID Team by XDA Senior Member kemonine96.
So what sets this build apart from the previously covered nightlies? Quite a bit, actually. The first difference that users will notice is that the current stable build is much more user-friendly than previous offerings. However, the user interface isn’t all that was changed. Since the primary use of XBMC for many users is to watch various types of streaming web content, several add-ons were bundled with the app. Furthermore, users with dedicated setups can now use XBMC as their exclusive launcher.
While bundled plugins and an improved UI are important, perhaps the biggest new feature is the addition of external player support. Given that the app itself currently lacks hardware accelerated video playback, support for external players was vital in order to ensure that users could play back high bitrate content without dropped frames or other forms of heartache. In the words of kemonine96 himself:
This release is basically the first end user friendly version of XBMC for Android that should work great on pretty much any Android powered device. Since XBMC still doesn’t support hardware accelerated video decoding on most devices, support for an external video player is included in this release, that way you’ll still be able to enjoy a flawless XBMC experience since the external video player itself does support hardware accelerated video decoding.
You’ll also find that a bunch of customizations have been made in order to make the whole XBMC experience more enjoyable for the end user, including shortcuts, the ability to use XBMC as a Launcher (and launch Android Apps & Settings from within XBMC), along with many of the most popular XBMC addons bundled directly into the release.
One important distinction with this new release that the developers are trying to make is that XBMC is not simply a “media player,” but rather a “media platform.”
Hopefully this will change the public perception of XBMC just being a media player, and most people will realize that it’s much more: a media platform that interfaces with online streaming video content, bringing online streaming technology directly to your favourite devices in an easy to navigate system with endless possibilities.
Those wishing to learn more can have their information fill in the application thread. Here, you can find more information on the supported third-party players, as well as bundled plugins and release notes.
XBMC for Android Beta 3 APK Released
Android received some pretty exciting media player news when it was announced that XBMC had made it to the platform. Initially, there were quite a few issues with the nightlies coming out. However, it has been a few months, and the developers have made some great strides.
There are still some issues to work out, but Beta 3 has been released, and it brings a lot to the table. XDA Senior Member kemonine96 updated the XBMC thread to reflect the changes, and there have been a lot of them.
- 1Channel — Developer PM’d me and the choppyness is fixed in latest version (url in add-ons links below)
- Anarcintosh’s Icefilms
- BBC iPlayer 2
- FTP Sources
- Samba Sources
- Shared Library: http://forum.xda-developers.com/show…5&postcount=57
- TED Talks plugin works great.
- The Trailers plugin
- Bluecop’s Amazon (crashes trying to unload librtmp.so — symbol not found)
- Bluecop’s Hulu
- MLBMC: Major League Baseball Media Center
- Trakt.tv stable. The version on github works on Windows, can anyone validate the version from git works on Android?
- WebDav HTTPS
Additionally, there are a myriad of bug fixes, stability improvements, minor tweaks, and other general fixes. There are still many issues, but they’re being tackled as quickly as possible. The worst problems include laggy or non-functioning 720p and 1080p video, high battery drain, high resource usage, touch screen sensitivity issues, and screen flickering.
As before, there are two builds to choose from: NEON and Non-NEON builds. Non-NEON build are for Tegra 2 devices and other chipsets lacking support for the ARM NEON instruction set only, while the NEON builds have a much long compatibility list. There is extensive work being done on both variants. If you’ve been using an older version of XBMC, this is an excellent opportunity to update it and run a better version.
For the full details, check out the original thread.
XBMC for Android Nightlies Available for Your Mobile-Viewing Pleasure
For those unfamiliar with XBMC, it has become the defacto standard for Home Theater PC’s (HTPC). Given Android’s Linux roots, the desire has always been there to utilize an Android device as a HTPC, so the recent news from the XBMC developer team took the Android world by storm. Much rejoicing and excitement met the announcement, and XDA Senior Member kemonine96 was no exception. Once the XBMC team opened up their source for all, he jumped in and began working on building XBMC for Android nightlies as the XBMC team pushes their changes. He has this to say about his nightly builds:
What Is Special About These Builds?
I have re-built the CrystaX NDK that is required for XBMC from sources and made some compiler flag changes in order to improve NEON device support and to support the Tegra2 or other non-NEON devices. These are unsupported changes, particularly the Tegra2 and any other device without NEON. The official XBMC stance is NO device lacking NEON will receive support.
As can be seen, he has done some amazing work to get many non-NEON devices supported when XBMC has said they will not. Of course these nightlies do not come without their own set of known issues, among them:
- My screen starts flickering / freaking out: Kill the app, clear the app cache, restart devices, try again. Continue until the problem goes away.
- I cannot play SD / 720p / 1080p content without stutters / dropped frames / audio sync issues / etc: Tough luck. Right now hardware decode support isn’t complete, if your CPU can’t process the video in software, you’re stuck for the time being. The XBMC devs are working on hardware decode support and it will be done in due time. Do not ask for a deadline, there isn’t one right now.
- Battery life: Expect a pretty bad battery drain. This has been confirmed by a few others as well as the devices I tested. Given the project is targeting set-top boxes and similar equipment I would not expect this to be addressed until other, larger items are taken care of. Please do not complain to the official team about this item, complain here.
- Resource utilization is high: This is known. Not going to change for awhile, do not complain to the official team, complain here.
- Audio does not work: The XBMC audio levels and Android audio levels are not the same, you will need to adjust the volume in Android up to a higher level before launching XBMC most likely.
- DVD Navigation may or may not work properly: This is known and being worked on by the main XBMC team.
- Time Zone Changes: Time zone change isn’t working yet
- Distorted Audio: There are reports of audio distortion on a number of devices. From the reports it sounds like the 2012-08-02 build was working. It looks like some Audio Engine changes were rebased out of the primary branch into a separate branch. I will be looking into this further.
- /data is inaccessible: This partition is not accessible from XBMC.
- Tegra3 / Odroid-X / Other Quad Cores Under Utilized: Devices with more than 2 cores will only see CPU usage on 2 cores and the rest will show NaN or 0%. This is known.
For more information on the builds, and to try your hand at seeing what all of the excitement is about, visit the thread here.
Jelly Bean on G1, XBMC for Android, Raspberry Pi ICS! – XDA Developer TV
Our friend Jordan loves rehashing the news so much that he did it twice for us today. After some technical annoyances and a snazzy haircut, Jordan finally gets a video to complete successfully. Today, Jordan gives a quick update of the awesome news that appeared on the XDA Portal like how CyanogenMod 10 was unofficially ported to the HTC G1.
Jordan mentions the HTC source petition and the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 rooting guide articles. Finally, Jordan mentions the Raspberry Pi’s upcoming update to Ice Cream Sandwich and XBMC ported to Android. What are you waiting for? Hit play!
XBMC Ported to Android, Nightlies Released
The last release of a popular, open source media application ported to Android was a pretty big deal, so it wasn’t hard to guess that the next one would be too. For those who don’t know, XBMC is an open source, multi-platform media player. With a strong and loyal following, the media player could be a smash hit on Android once a stable version is released.
Of course, this is quite a long way off. For now, XDA Forum Member kemonine96 is releasing nightlies of XBMC. Given the loyal following of the media player, this is still pretty exciting news. The nightlies have been broken up into two different builds—one with support for ARM NEON and one for devices without those extensions. Make sure to download the appropriate builds for your device.
As they are nightlies, that means there are some issues. One of the biggest is a black screen issue where the application starts but doesn’t show up on screen. Thankfully, the issue has been narrowed down to only a few devices. Additionally, the APK huge, but that’s because XBMC packs a lot of awesome. Many users are reporting that it works pretty well, while some others are still reporting issues. These are nightlies builds, so one should expect nothing less at this stage in development. On a positive note, there are a number of add-ons available for the builds, and it’s always good to see add-on support so early in development.
For more info, check out the XBMC Nightlies thread.
Pro Tip Number 1: Android XBMC Remote Control – XDA TV
In the first in a series of XDA Pro Tips, XDA Elite Recognized Developer AdamOutler shows us how to repurpose an Android device as a remote control for your TV with XBMC. He demonstrates sending a YouTube video from the YouTube application on an Android phone to a TV. He then talks about the hardware required to run this setup and what it takes to set up a full-fledged media center with Android integration.
XBMC Remote App Modified For GTab
If you own a Viewsonic GTab and have Xbox Media Center, XDA forum member WickedStyx has modified the official Android XBMC remote app so that it scales properly on the GTab!
The XBMC remote app is a remote client for Android that lets you connect over WiFi or 3G so that you can control your XBMC from anywhere in the house.
In essence the mod turns your GTab into a huge 10″ remote control!
Features include the status bar which is displayed when using the remote control so that you can use the soft back, menu and home buttons and playback controls on ‘Now Playing’ view scales to screen width.
For more information and to download the apk, take a look at the modification thread.
A Look Back at the Ouya: A Tale of Failure
The NVIDIA SHIELD console, Razer Forge TV, and Nexus Player, all running on the Android TV platform, represent the latest efforts by Google and its OEM partners to morph Android into a competent and complete living room entertainment experience. Android TV can be seen as Google’s first serious attempt at incorporating console-quality gaming into the idea of a living room device. Other companies, however, explored their own ideas as to how to produce a gaming console powered by Android. The most notable and most infamous of these devices is known as the Ouya.
The Ouya. A product that, when mentioned today, often leads to either quieted laughter or angry thoughts of failed potential and promise. A product that did ten things wrong for every one thing it did right. A product with failed leadership, lead by clueless executives and an even worse marketing team. A product that game developers ended up ignoring, and consumers mostly rejected. A product that lead to this hilarious unboxing .gif:
But it was also a product that lead to some really neat, albeit niche, use cases, and a product that became important to the idea that Android has no bounds and can run on anything. With the recent news that CEO Julie Uhrman is looking to put the company up for sale after failing to restructure its debt, it’s time to take a look back at the history of the Ouya, as well as list some of the more useful and interesting ways to tinker with, exploit, and use the hardware to its greatest potential.
I: History of the Ouya
The announcement and pre-release era of the Ouya wasn’t seen as a joke, as it garnered a lot of consumer and market interest. It was announced on July 3rd, 2012, and a Kickstarter campaign launched on July 10th. The date is notable, as Google had just gotten done revealing the Nexus 7 2012 tablet at Google I/O the week prior, and the Ouya shared very similar specs with Google’s latest, creating a lot of buzz within the Android community. Furthermore, the company advertised that the Ouya was going to be “hacker friendly” by being easy to root (and not voiding any warranties in the process), as well as employing a design that made the hardware itself easy to open and tinker around with. The gaming community was also intrigued by the promises of the device to bridge mobile and console-style gaming, as game developers were starting to shift away from the high costs and burden of making console games in favor of mobile, leaving anything other than the most casual gamer frustrated with the quality of newer titles.
The marketing thus far had worked wonders, as the Ouya became a record-breaking project on Kickstarter, raising nearly $8,600,000 dollars when it ended on August 9th, and holding the record for the best first day performance of any Kickstarter project. Indie game developers and major publishers alike flocked to make announcements of their games being made available on the platform. In October, announcements of the physical hardware being produced, as well as the SDK being released, had consumers and project backers hopeful that a release wasn’t too far off. This is the point in time when things started to turn sour for the company.
While developer units started starting shipping on December 28th, units to Kickstarter backers did not start shipping until the end of March 2013. Reports had started to flood the internet of shipping errors and delays on these units, with some users stating that they had not received their devices until after it went on-sale to the general public, a full 3 months later. These pre-release Kickstarter units received by the tech press were not reviewed well, either. Problems with the wireless controller design, including buttons that got stuck underneath the aluminum plating and input lag that made playing games impossible, were reported by just about everybody. The TV interface was slow, confusing, and ugly, and serious concerns about the viability of the platform were starting to become apparent.
After a delay to re-work the controller, the Ouya was released to the general public on June 25th, 2013, costing $99. Availability had continued to be limited, with not much in the way of actual product able to be shipped out to retailers. Early adopters had quickly figured out that this device could have used more time in the oven. The controller, while improved physically from the Kickstarter units, still exhibited a tremendous amount of input lag and connection problems to the device. The WiFi connection was so terrible that a user’s wireless router needed to be placed in the same room. The UI was hideous and slow, with some poor decisions being made in regards to organization of both the store and the user’s installed applications. Many users returned their devices, and the early woes of the launch caused some of the launch partners to scale back or cancel their plans for Ouya support. Many of these issues needed to be resolved by hardware revisions, as the aluminum plating of both the device and controller interfered with wireless signals, and while the software had gotten better with numerous system updates, the UI remains confusing and unorganized to this day.
Months after launch, consumer and developer complaints alike continued. The propriety Ouya store remained barren, outside of a handful of key game releases from the likes of Sega and Square Enix. The hit indie game Towerfall was first released on Ouya as a 6-month exclusive, but was later re-worked and ported to the more popular game consoles. The store had become littered with low-quality games, and the platform had stopped attracting high-quality developers, mostly due to lack of consumer interest. Developers also scoffed at ridiculous policies, such as the requirement to release a “free-to-play’ component to each and every game found on the store, a policy that was later reversed with little to no impact. An ill-thought marketing scheme entitled the “Free the Games Fund”, where the company would match the Kickstarter funds for any Ouya exclusive title being developed, was abused by scammers and further damaged the integrity of the company and its relationship to consumers.
Furthermore, some users had felt that the company was backtracking on the “truly open” philosophy that was detailed on the company’s Kickstarter page. Root access on later software revisions became hit-and-miss, as OS updates which ran automatically acted to strip root away, requiring exploits in order to restore it. While SU access is available out-of-the-box on early units, doing anything useful with it requires workarounds to install SuperSU and busybox. Side-loading .apk packages, while the ability is there, is cumbersome and time-consuming, and there is no guarantee of app compatibility. ADB and fastboot access is granted natively, however the bootloader remains locked. And since there is little consumer or developer interest in the device, the Android community at large is vastly uninterested in finding new exploits.
By the time the device was released and major bugs worked out, the internals were completely obsolete. The entire company structure from top to bottom was seen as incompetent at best, and consumer trust nosedived. In the end, the company decided to allow the Ouya experience be embedded onto other Android devices, such as the Mad Catz M.O.J.O console, and into televisions sold in the East. And now, we’re left with news stories regarding the financial collapse of the company. Claiming that the Ouya was a disastrous failure is not a far-reaching or untrue statement to make.
II. Get the Most Out of your Ouya
While the device can no longer be recommended for purchase (if it can even be found for sale, as it has been removed from most retailer shelves), there are some neat things you can still do if you happen to own one.
Notes/Warnings: Some of these use cases require the use of root access and a custom recovery. Most of the root and recovery installation guides and software out there are out-of-date and were written for earlier versions of the firmware. If your console has not been updated in a while, turning it on with an active internet connection might trigger the automatic download and installation of the recent firmware images, which can remove previous root access and/or make it impossible to regain root in the future. The legality of software emulators and ROM images for classic console games varies by country, so please consult your local laws before obtaining such software. You assume all responsibility of your device moving forward.
Natively, while the Ouya platform itself offers very little compelling games, the store does contain some useful stuff. Emulators for classic consoles are plentiful, and most run fairly well on the platform. You’ll find both free and paid emulators, including Super GNES, FPse, NES.emu, Mupen64, MAME4droid, and reicast, among others. The app Nostalgia serves as a unification hub that merges all of your emulators together into a single app. While the paltry built-in storage won’t hold much in the way of ROM images, external USB storage is supported by most, and some will even access them over cloud storage accounts such as Dropbox. It is also recommended to use a USB controller to get around the input lag issue if you own the first revision of the device. Also found on the store are media applications such as XBMC, Plex, VLC, TwitchTV, Vimeo, TuneIn Radio, and Pandora. FilePwn is great if you need a basic file manager app.
You can also natively side-load, install, and execute .apk files to your Ouya with varied results. Going to Make->Upload allows you to remotely upload an .apk file from your computer’s web browser, but I’ve yet to get this feature to work reliably. You can also transfer via ADB command, or load the .apk file onto a USB storage device and install from there. A helpful trick is to install the Dropbox app via this method and use the cloud storage platform to transfer .apk files with little hassle.
On the more advanced side, there does seem to be a bit of developer activity on-going in the form of custom recoveries, mods, and ports of popular Android ROMs. Our XDA sub-forums for the Ouya, while not listed on the forum’s main page, contain some recent activity, and can be found by visiting these direct links:
A couple of good threads to get you started:
Included in the Development sub-forum are a myriad of different hacks and ROM ports in varying states of completion. Most recent of these is a work-in-progress ROM port by XDA Senior Member werty100 of the popular OmniROM, based on Android 5.1.1. You can follow the progress of this port here: [5.1.1][LMY47X] OmniRom UNOFFICIAL
There is also a great community to follow all things Ouya at the Unofficial Ouya Forums
You can also visit the official Ouya site
Are you an Ouya owner, or do you develop for the Ouya platform? Do you know of any other cool tweaks, hacks, or mods that aren’t listed here? Is your console currently being used, or is it collecting dust at the bottom of a closet? Please let us know in the comments below!
Yatse Removed from Google Play Store
A remote controller for XBMC/Kodi – Yatse – has been removed from Google Play Store. As usual, Google did this without any prior notice. You can read about the developer’s reaction, feelings and the exact reason of removal in this Google+ post.
Remotely Control Kodi With Kore
Kodi (formerly known as XBMC) is a free and open-source player for multiple platforms. You can control it easily by using your smartphone thanks to Kore, a tool developed by XDA Forum Member Syncd. Get it now and change your phone into a remote device.
Shattered Screen? Turn Your Broken Device into a Complete Media Center!
A cracked screen usually means you’ll have to spend a hefty amount to make your device usable again. For older devices, it might actually be easier to buy a new one. If this situation sounds familiar, or if you simply have an old device with a shattered screen laying around, XDA Forum Member mailme45 has written a guide that may help you make that device useful once again.
The tutorial walks you through turning your phone into a fully fledged media center (running a fork of XBMC/Kodi). Assuming your device supports MHL, you’ll only need a few things to get started:
- A USB OTG cable along with a mouse so you can control the phone until it’s fully set up.
- An MHL adapter that allows you to display your phone’s screen on your TV or monitor.
- A way to control the device remotely once it’s ready. In this case, a Wi-Fi connection and Yatse, a free remote app for XBMC/Kodi.
This probably won’t cost you more than $10 to $40, depending on where you buy the accessories from. You could even do without the USB OTG cable if you’re rooted, in which case you’d be able to use ADB instead.
Alright, folks — you’ve seen the requirements, so if you have a device with a shattered screen laying around, a USB OTG cable and MHL adapter, make sure to head over to the Shattered Scren Media Center tutorial thread to give a new life to your phone, and turn it into a complete media center.
Device Review: Mad Catz M.O.J.O.
Recently, Google has been acquiring various companies to possibly expand the reach of the Android platform beyond just mobile devices and tablets. With the announcement of Android Wear, Google is creating a standard for wearables like smartwatches. And perhaps with less fanfare, Google is expanding into set-top gaming Android with their purchase of Green Throttle Games. However, don’t think that Google is blazing the trail in these areas! They are just widening the road. Smartwatches like the Samsung Galaxy Gear and the Omate Truesmart were among the pioneers in that arena. Similarly, the OUYA and Nvidia Shield wielded their machetes to slice a path through the Android Gaming forest.
While the OUYA is an Android Gaming device mostly in spirit due to it having its own customized overlay and its own proprietary store, the Nvidia Shield was perhaps the device with the biggest impact in creating this market. But now, there is another device available for you to choose from: the Mad Catz M.O.J.O. It comes in at $199 and gives you access to the Google Play Store. Recently, it was announced that OUYA would make its “experience” available on other hardware, and the M.O.J.O. was announced to be one of the first supported devices.
I was lucky enough to get my hands on one to test it out, as was XDA Developer TV Producer Jordan. To see my thoughts on the device keep reading, and check out the video below to see Jordan’s take.