HOW-TO:HOW-TO:Autostart Kodi for Linux

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Any or all or a combination of these methods can be used to configure a Debian-based X Window System to boot directly to Kodi. This should work on any Linux using the X Window System, but these instructions are particular to Debian derivatives, such as Ubuntu. A server edition is best for running only Kodi, but this page assumes booting into a desktop OS, not a server distro. However, the instructions here can be used for a server distro with even less configuration than for a desktop. Experiment inside VirtualBox before you apply any of these to your system and make a backup.

1 Installing the X11 Window System

Even if you are using something like Kodi Standalone Service, you still need use a WM or a DE that installs the x-window-manager software package.

To ensure you have this installed use the which command.

which x-window-manager

If there is no such package, you can use apt to search your Linux distributions repository.

apt-cache search x-window-manager

This will general a list of packages containing x-window-manager, which cannot be installed alone. If you are not using a DE, you need to use a WM. And, you can also use a compositing WM like Compiz, for fast 3D effects.

Compiz - ArchWiki

A note on using Kodi Standalone Service, this package runs Kodi as a systemd service and disables the login for user kodi and will not work when autologin is enabled. In fact, it will break the login process if you autologin user kodi and run Kodi Standalone Service at the same time. This package is installed automatically with the standard Kodi package when you install Kodi on Raspbian, but must be configured manually for all other Linux distributions. You can run the which command to find this package as well.

which kodi-standalone

Be advised, Kodi Standalone Service still launches the Kodi GUI and still requires a WM even though it is running as a systemd service. When you install a WM such as xfwm4 (the WM for XFCE4), the CLI will tell you if it provides the x-window-manager package.

Setting up xfwm4 (4.12.4-1) ...
update-alternatives: using /usr/bin/xfwm4 to provide /usr/bin/x-window-manager (x-window-manager) in auto mode

If you do not see this message at the end of the installation, the WM you selected does not provide this software package and may not actually be a complete WM itself but only part of a package containing a WM.

For a great example on exactly how you would do this with xfwm4, see this ArchWiki entry.

XFWM - ArchWiki

Most systems utilize the client version of the X11 software an Xsession requires.

For more X11 features and functionality, you may optionally upgrade to the server software packages for the X Window System.

apt install xauth xorg xinit xserver-xorg-core xserver-xorg xserver-common

The Ubuntu wiki is usually a good source of information.

CustomXSession - Ubuntu Wiki

Custom user sessions can be created with the X11 Window System to run scripts, autostart apps, and launch a WM or DE.

LightDM is used for autologin.

2 Customize LightDM to autologin

You can utilize the ability to customize LightDM data manager by changing the builtin custom configuration file 50-myconfig.conf using nano or another text editor. If you have no DE or WM you can install lightdm, but should make sure to do a bit of research before you do. Most versions of Linux use LightDM, but many server versions do not. For Ubuntu Server with no DE, for example, installing lightdm is okay and necessary. Changing the behavior of LightDM is done using a custom 50-myconfig.conf configuration file.

To see if you have lightdm use which.

which lightdm

If not, install it with apt.

apt install lightdm

Configure LightDM for autologin to boot directly to Kodi.

nano /etc/lightdm/lightdm.conf

Uncomment the following line.

#autologin-user=

And add the user you want to autologin. The user is named kodi in this example.

autologin-user=kodi

And then you can create /etc/lightdm/lightdm.conf.d/50-myconfig.conf, but ensure the settings in /etc/lightdm/lightdm.conf agree.

Create a custom configuration file called 50-myconfig.conf using nano or other CLI text editor.

mkdir /etc/lightdm/lightdm.conf.d/
nano /etc/lightdm/lightdm.conf.d/50-myconfig.conf

Inside this new file add the following text.

[SeatDefaults]
autologin-user=kodi

CTRL +O +Enter +X to save and exit from nano.

3 Configure Kodi to autostart

Configure Kodi to autostart.

mkdir -p ~/.config/autostart
ln -s /usr/bin/kodi ~/.config/autostart

This method of autostart requires a desktop environment or DE. This is done a bit differently by each DE. Some helpful links can easily be found in today's Web search using any search engine.

Autostart Apps in XFCE

And this link shows how to autostart an app in LXDE on Raspbian.

Auto running programs LXDE - Raspberry Pi Projects

The Raspberry Pi is a bit more of a tweak, but these are excellent links that will tell you how. The first link is the most helpful to making sure Kodi autostarts in Pi, and utilizes a crontab. There are many settings on the Pi that control boot, and the first link gives the best most trouble-free way to boot directly to Kodi.

LAMP stack on Raspberry Pi with Kodi running at startup

In the above link, the author describes using Crontab (short for "Cron table") to boot directly to Kodi.

apt install cron
crontab -e

Cron will ask you to choose a text editor from available options. I choose option 2 for nano.

In the new Crontab, enter the following text.

@reboot kodi --standalone

You could also consider using Crontab to run a script, much like described on this page in the section entitled "Run kodi in a window manager" if you scroll down the page.

Kodi - Run kodi in a window manager

Instead your Crontab could look like this.

@reboot startx

And create an ~/.xinitrc file.

nano ~/.xinitrc

The ~/.xinitrc file should look like this.

#!/bin/bash
kodi --standalone #(this is proper syntax for most Kodi installs)
#kodi-standalone #(this is the syntax that works on Raspbian, not other Pi operating systems)
sudo chvt 2 
sleep 1
sudo chvt 1

Raspbian has a repository package for everything, so kodi-standalone can be run as a package rather than a command argument.

Make sure to make ~/.xinitrc executable by running.

chmod +x ~/.xinitrc

To ensure no password is required by sudo for any user logging in when this script runs, you must edit /etc/sudoers or run the visudo command if it is installed to edit /etc/sudoers.

You can install visudo from your Linux distributions default repository.

apt install sudo

To use visudo simply run the command in the terminal.

visudo

For any non-root users, create an entry in /etc/sudoers with nano.

nano /etc/sudoers

Create an entry on any line that is comfortable to you like shown here.

kodi ALL=NOPASSWD: /usr/bin/chvt
# pi ALL=NOPASSWD: /usr/bin/chvt #(if you do not add user kodi)

The above example is for users pi and kodi.

If you decide not use a Cron table, you can always remove it again.

crontab -r

This is a quick reference for Crontab.

Crontab Quick Reference

These linked pages facilitate more tweaks and settings relevant to other uses of the X Window System on Pi.

Enable X Window System on PiScreen

Other things to tweak on Raspbian.

Raspbian splash screen guide - Clean up the boot process

Under voltage warning and disabling splash screen on Raspbian

Remove boot messages all text in Raspbian - Raspberry Pi Stack Exchange

And, if you would rather, it is easier to follow the process provided by this link to modify the Raspbian image before installing it onto the microSD card.

Modifying Raspbian with qemu-user-static

The above link describes removing the DE from a Raspbian image, though Raspbian Lite is a much better starting point for using Qemu for this purpose.

You can also use the X11 Window System to autostart Kodi by placing a startup script in the /etc/X11/Xsession.d/ directory.

Running applications automatically when X starts

nano /etc/X11/Xsession.d/startup-local

Insert this text into the new file. Use CTRL + O + Enter + X to save the file.

#!/bin/sh
/usr/bin/kodi 

If you have a WM, such as Blackbox you can add it here as well.

#!/bin/sh
blackbox &
/usr/bin/kodi 

Set permissions to make it executable. Use the ampersand to run an application in the background, such as a WM you only need to for the purpose of launching Kodi but not if you don't want to use the WM itself. Kodi will not launch without a DE or WM, but placing the ampersand "&" at the end of the command makes it run in the background where it can do its job out of sight. Also, make sure to start a WM or DE before running an application in the foreground. This is not necessary for apps running in the background.

chmod 755 /etc/X11/Xsession.d/startup-local

If Kodi is not installed at the standard path, find it using the which command.

which kodi

This feature is available on X Window System operating systems most Linux distributions use the X Window System.

4 Create custom Xsession script

To create a custom Xsession script with a text editor we start with an xinitrc script. For more detail on how to create and use xinit, there is a great guide available here.

Guide to X11 - Starting Sessions - WikiBooks

nano ~/.xinitrc

To run Kodi full-screen make sure the text reads:

#!/usr/bin/env bash
exec gnome-session
/usr/bin/kodi -fs 

Replace the gnome-session with the DE or WM command you are using. See the last section for examples.

To make ~/.xinitrc executable use.

chmod +x ~/.xinitrc

Use sudo and the ~/.xinitrc file to configure ~/.xsession.

sudo -H -u kodi bash -c "ln -s ~/.xinitrc /home/kodi/.xsession"

Make sure the path goes to user's home directory. In this example, the user is kodi.

You need to use sudo to run this command. If you do not have sudo, install it.

apt install sudo

If you create a symbolic link and want to remove it, simply remove the existing .xsession file you created.

rm /home/kodi/.xsession

On some systems using a DE such as Gnome, not all systems using Gnome, it may be necessary for .xsession to be .xsessionrc. Though this is more likely the case for organization network computers than a personal one, where configurations may vary on a diversity of machines. Most of the time, it will be .xsession rather than .xsessionrc that you want to create.

You can also create the .xsession script directly in the home directory, rather than link it from ~/.xinitrc. This is necessary if you create multiple custom Xsession scripts for multiple users, and you do not in that case link ~/.xinitrc to .xsession.

To enable multiple displays edit the .bashrc file.

nano ~/.bashrc

Add the following text.

if [[ ! $DISPLAY && $XDG_VTNR -le 3 ]]; then
  exec startx
fi

For two monitors add the following as shown.

if [[ ! $DISPLAY && $XDG_VTNR -le 2 ]]; then
  exec startx
fi

For a single monitor use:

if [[ ! $DISPLAY && $XDG_VTNR -eq 1 ]]; then
  exec startx
fi

If you wish to remain logged in after quitting X, remove the exec from the above. Other configurations can be applied, but are irrelevant to autostarting Kodi.

Xinit Autostart X at login

If you are using LightDM and you just want to create a new login entry for user kodi, you must create a new file.

nano /usr/share/xsessions/custom.desktop

And insert the following text.

[Desktop Entry]
Name=Xsession
Exec=/etc/X11/Xsession

This will create a new login option for the custom Xsession. Only this one entry is necessary for LightDM and X11 to find the ~/.xsession script in each user's home directory.

You can use any window manager or desktop enviroment with a custom Xsession script as long as it is installed.

You do this by creating ~/.xinitrc script that contains the command to start the WM or DE.

For instance, if you are using FluxBox.

#!/usr/bin/env bash
exec fluxbox &
/usr/bin/kodi -fs

The -fs option is full-screen.

To run Gnome in the background, but launch Kodi in the foreground.

#!/usr/bin/env bash
exec gnome-session &
/usr/bin/kodi -fs

Use the ~/.xinitrc file to configure ~/.xsession to create a custom login for any user, not just Kodi.

sudo -H -u [username] bash -c "ln -s ~/.xinitrc ~/.xsession"

You must reconfigure Xserver for any user that is not a privileged user to be able to start a custom Xsession.

dpkg-reconfigure xserver-xorg-legacy 
dpkg-reconfigure xserver-xorg

When you reconfigure X11 with these commands, choose to allow non-root users (anybody) to start an Xsession. You should see your changes take effect after rebooting.