Saturday, October 10, 2015

My media center using Amazon Fire TV

I've had an Amazon Fire TV for about a year now. Recently I did a full factory reset, in large part because I needed to upgrade several of my apps anyway. Seemed like a good time to document what I'm using, both for my own use the next time I need to do this, and in case anyone else is doing something similar.

Back to Factory Defaults

The factory reset is easily accessible from the Fire TV Settings, under System. Be careful! There's one "are you sure" dialog, and then it happens...no additional prompts! So be sure you're ready to reset.

It's best to use the original Fire TV remote when you're going through the setup. I don't use it normally (see below about the Harmony remote) but I needed the original to get through the initial setup steps, before activating the other remote. You also should remove any USB devices...my FLIRC kept the remote from working properly during the initial setup, and other devices may do the same.

The actual setup steps are nothing more than connecting to your network (if necessary...mine needed no configuration) and entering your Amazon.com account info. Then you'll see a intro video (feel free to skip through that) and get back to the home screen with nothing but the default content installed. At this point, accessing Amazon Music and Video works, and very little else.

Preparing to Add Apps

In the Settings, under System:

  • You may need to update the time zone. Mine defaulted to Pacific time, so I had to change it to Eastern.
  • Under Developer Options, enable both "ADB Debugging" and "Apps from Unknown Sources". These will be needed to load up non-Amazon-store apps, like Kodi.
On your PC/Mac/Linux box, install ADBFire. It's the simplest way I've found to work with sideloading apps that aren't on the Amazon app store, and it's especially useful with Kodi. Once you've installed it, open it up and set up the connection to your Fire TV. If you run into any issues, go to Help->Help in ADBFire and select Connection Tips for help. Once you're connected, installing apps is as simple as clicking "Install APK" and selecting the APK file for the app.

Apps

Firestarter

Firestarter is an app launcher, an extremely useful thing to have since Amazon's default home screen won't let you directly launch non-Amazon-store apps. Once you've downloaded the APK, install it via ADBFire. You'll need to launch it once by going to Settings->Applications->Manage Installed Applications, selecting Firestarter from the list, then select Launch Application. Now you'll see the Firestarter screen whenever the Fire TV starts up or you press the home button, and it lists all installed apps (not just the Amazon-approved ones). There's plenty of other things Firestarter can do, such as launching apps automatically on restart, but I only use it as a launcher.

Kodi

I use Kodi as my front-end for watching over-the-air TV, my local video files, and music. Download the Android ARM version and install it with ADBFire. Kodi can do a ton of things and I won't list it all here, as there's plenty of info out on the Interwebs for that. I mostly use it for connecting to my MythTV system (which I use to record over-the-air TV), as described on the Kodi wiki.

Streaming Media

Just about everyone uses some kind of streaming service these days, and I use more than most since I'm not a cable TV subscriber. My current list, and where to get each:

  • YouTube (web videos): Amazon App Store
  • Crunchyroll (anime streaming): Search for Crunchyroll on Google Play. Note that you'll need APK Downloader, which is also available on Google Play, installed in your browser in order to download the Crunchyroll APK.
  • Sling TV (ESPN, TNT, TBS, etc live TV streams): Sling website
  • Netflix (streaming video): Amazon App Store
There are others, of course, this is just the list that I use most.

Extras

You can get by fine with just the original Fire TV remote, augmented with either a USB keyboard or something like the Amazon Fire TV Remote App (available on the Amazon App Store) to make keyboard entry easier. I like a bit more flexibility, though, so I added a couple of extras.

Harmony Hub and Remote

Logitech's Harmony remotes are excellent universal remotes. I have the Harmony Companion model, so I can use either the remote or an app on my Android tablet (which has a keyboard function). It controls my TV, sound system, DVD/Blue-Ray player, and the Fire TV. It does take a bit of initial setup, but it was pretty straightforward and didn't take too long. I especially like the one-button selection of configurations, so I can easily switch from the Fire TV to the DVD player to my PC as input sources, without having to modify the TV and sound inputs every time.

FLIRC

I use a FLIRC dongle to add a bit more flexibility to the Harmony remote configuration. You can do a lot of things with the Harmony setup alone, but the FLIRC adds a ton of additional options, especially when it comes to controlling Kodi.

No comments:

Post a Comment