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OpenELEC lightweight Linux adds Kodi 14 support

Dec 30, 2014 — by Eric Brown 5,495 views

Version 5.0 of the RPi-compatible, Kodi/XBMC-oriented OpenELEC Linux distro for media players upgrades to Kodi 14, adds i.MX6 support, and drops AppleTV.

OpenELEC (Open Embedded Linux Entertainment Center) is a minimal, fast-booting Linux distribution popular on the Raspberry Pi that’s designed to showcase the open source Kodi (previously XBMC) media center software. The distribution debuted in 2011 on an Intel Atom-based Xtreamer Ultra mini-PC, and supports many x86 devices. It is now increasingly found on ARM-based SBCs like the Pi or media players such as SolidRun’s CuBoxTV.

Kodi interface on an HDTV, with CuBoxTV at lower right
(click image to enlarge)

OpenELEC 5.0 moves from XBMC 13 (Gotham) to Kodi 14 (Helix), representing new functionality as well as the new Kodi brand name. This requires some name changing in code for many applications running on OpenELEC and Kodi, says the open source project. OpenELEC also moves up to Linux kernel 3.17 and switches from OpenSSL to LibreSSL which offers “better licensing” as well as better protection against Heartbleed, according to the project. LibreSSL also lets you simplify OpenELEC by optionally removing support for cryptographic libraries like GnuTLS.

As before, a full install of OpenELEC requires only 90MB to 125MB, as well as “minimal hardware requirements,” says the project. Other features include 5-20 second boot times and built-in SAMBA file sharing. Thanks to widespread support for graphics cards and decoders, the distro can ensure HD video delivery even on low-powered processors by offloading video content to GPUs, says the project.


Out with AppleTV, in with i.MX6, CuBox

With OpenELEC 5.0, the project is discontinuing its support for AppleTV. This was due to both Kodi and the Linux 3.17 kernel dropping acceleration support for the media player’s CrystalHD driver, which has not been well maintained. AppleTV’s small (256MB) RAM allotment had also caused problems for later XBMC builds, says the project.

CuBuxTV running its default OpenELEC/Kodi OS and UI
(click images to enlarge)

On the plus side, however, OpenELEC now offers full support for Freescale’s Cortex-A9-based i.MX6 system-on-chip, enabling a growing number of i.MX6-based SBCs and media players to use the distro. In fact, the project is joining with its partner SolidRun to offer OpenELEC users a 10 percent discount on the CuBox-i2ex and CuBox-i4pro , two media players that are slightly lesser powered than the newer, top-of-the-line CuboxTV. The discounted boxes also come with a larger 8GB microSD card (up from 4GB) that comes preinstalled with OpenELEC 5.0 instead of Android. “We don’t earn a single cent with those special offers,” adds the project.

OpenELEC 5.0 should also run fine on SolidRun’s similarly equipped, i.MX6 based HummingBoard hacker SBCs. In addition, the Raspberry Pi continues to be supported, along with Pi-based systems such as the Five Ninjas Slice mini-PC, which won its Kickstarter funding and will ship a bit late, starting in January.

Slice internals (left) and the Raspberry Pi Compute Module
(click images to enlarge)

Other devices that should run OpenELEC 5.0 without incident include the x86 boxes from Zotac and Gigabyte, as well as the Intel NUC mini-PCs. In addition, “For users with higher-performance requirements, our Generic build continues to support the majority of current-generation ITX and mini-ITX motherboards that use Intel Celeron/Core CPUs and GPU hardware from Intel, AMD and nVidia,” says the project.

Further information

OpenELEC 5.0 is available now for free download. More information may be found at the OpenELEC project.

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