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OpenELEC fork LibreELEC 7.0.0 arrives with Kodi 16.1

Apr 26, 2016 — by Eric Brown 9,502 views

The new LibreELEC fork of the media player focused OpenELEC Linux distribution is available in a final version 7.0.0 built around the new Kodi 16.1 release.

The fork of the Kodi-centric OpenELEC Linux mini-distribution has been building in recent months, and culminated in the Mar. 20 announcement of a new LibreELEC project. Since then the project team has grown from 25 to 40 people, backed up by what appears to be the bulk of the OpenELEC developer community. Its v7.0.0 release is built around the newly finalized Jarvis 16.1 version of the Kodi media center application, formerly known as XBMC. The new project bills itself as a JeOS (Just enough OS) for Kodi.

LibreELEC 7.0.0 has been upgraded with new Verisign SSL certificate changes that had impacted Pandora add-on users. Other improvements include a fix for a bluez crash, a firmware update for Intel Skylake (6th Gen Core) users, and a fix for an Amlogic CEC issue on the WeTek Play/Core.


Recent LibreELEC 7.0 beta additions have included updates to Docker, Chromium, Tvheadend 4.2, and other Kodi add-ons. There is also a new “pi tools” bundle that contains RPi.GPIO, gpiozero, and picamera. The announcement notes that some 65 percent of its users run the distribution on the Raspberry Pi.

Kodi 16.1 screenshots
(click images to enlarge)

Like the OpenELEC 7.0 Beta 2 released on April 7, LibreELEC 7.0 showcases the updated Kodi 16.1. The 16.1 release primarily addresses a variety of bugs in areas ranging from DirectX to EventServer security.

LibreELEC also features the more substantial improvements in the Feb. 21 release of Kodi 16.0, including event logging and better stretching of 4:3 content to 16:9. Kodi 16.0 also provided a new long press menu for contextual information, music library improvements, and an enhanced add-on manager function, among other improvements.

LibreELEC 7.0.0 is available for free download in the following builds. One Raspberry Pi build is available for the single-core models, including the Zero, and the other covers the quad-core Raspberry Pi 2 and Raspberry Pi 3. There’s also a build for devices running the NXP i.MX6 processors, and others for the WeTek Core and WeTek Play media player devices. A generic x86 build is also available.

LibreELEC fork due to “creative differences”

The OpenELEC project has not publicly commented on the fork, but the LibreELEC team has twice explained why the project split up. The first time around, the team pointed to a new About page manifesto calling for more open source, inclusive governance, more transparency about upcoming release schedules, and the maintenance of both stable and bleeding edge releases. The statement also emphasizes the need for a purely non-profit focus, minimal advertising, and better defined sponsorship agreements. The group also said it planned to eventually register as a non-profit charity or foundation.

The manifesto proclaimed that “no project task should ever depend on the skills or efforts of a single person.” This statement was further elaborated in a Mar. 24 explanation of the split-up where the project said the split came down to “creative differences.”

The explanation used the analogy of a rock band in which the drummer started the band, but then refused to share leadership of the band with others. The so-called drummer “started to turn up late for concerts, and when on-stage he kept playing experimental jazz drum solos when the rest of the band simply wanted to rock together.” There was also mention of “rehab,” although it’s unclear whether this was real or metaphorical.

Much of the disagreement appears to hinge upon OpenELEC’s partnership with WeTek. Last July, WeTek and OpenELEC announced a WeTek OpenELEC version of its WeTek Media Player that swaps out the usual Android build for OpenELEC.

WeTek OpenELEC media player, front and back
(click images to enlarge)

A Reddit thread about the fork included comments stating the disagreement was based in part on the extent of advertising, sponsors, partnership with hardware vendors and the pace of releases. Another comment from WeAreRobot said: “OpenELEC the software is still rock solid, but OpenELEC the project has taken a big step backwards ever since they partnered with WeTek. There’s very little communication regarding the software, and what is there is buried behind ads for terrible quality products.”

The first stable version of OpenELEC (Open Embedded Linux Entertainment Center) arrived in 2011. The minimalist, homegrown distribution was designed to make XBMC (now Kodi) easier to install and use. It became increasingly popular on ARM-based SBCs and media players, many of which offered the distro as an alternative to Android.

Further information

LibreELEC 7.0.0 is available now for free download. More information may be found in the LibreELEC 7.0.0 announcement.

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One response to “OpenELEC fork LibreELEC 7.0.0 arrives with Kodi 16.1”

  1. Fred Dibnah says:

    Just to be clear, there is no suggestion that the “drummer” has a substance abuse issue.

    He simply has control, trust and focus issues – nothing can happen unless he agrees to it, and his preferred way of dealing with issues is to ignore them and enter radio silence. Ultimately this made him unfit to lead a band, or be a team leader. The last two major OpenELEC releases have been utter cluster fcks because of the drummers antics, and after many months of trying (and failing) to address these deep seated character flaws, the entire band/team quit.

    In addition, WeTek are not (and never have been) part of the problem – at least not directly. They too have been unimpressed by the direction pursued by the drummer and OpenELEC – with whom they have a business relationship – and are more than happy to work with LibreELEC (a feeling that is reciprocated). They too attempted to resolve matters with the drummer on several occasions, only for the drummer to cancel a final crisis meeting organised by WeTek giving only 5 minutes notice and an excuse only slightly less feeble than “the dog ate my homework”. At that point everyone knew it was time to abandon ship.

    As for the release schedule, the fact OpenELEC (a supposedly “bleeding edge” OS) is yet to release a stable build of Kodi 16.x at the time of writing (13 May) just goes to show that the drummer hasn’t learned a thing, and continues to live in his own personal bubble. It’s likely Kodi 16 will be EOL before OpenELEC release a Kodi 16 build, and I’m really not exaggerating.

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