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Amazon FireTV & XBMC - The Best of Both Worlds

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In this article I will cover how to take full advantage of your new Amazon FireTV, by side-loading and configuring apps to increase the overall user experience.


NOTE: Rooting or making unauthorized changes to your FireTV can void your warranty, I am in no way responsible for anything that may cause your device to be unusable or voids your warranty. Proceed at your own risk!
 

Quick look at FireTV specifications and capabilities

The Amazon FireTV is a great piece of hardware:

  • Qualcomm Quad Core Krait 300, up to 1.7 GHz, 2MB L2 Cache (APQ8064)
  • Adreno 320 GPU, 400 MHz
  • 2GB of RAM
  • 8GB of internal storage
  • 802.11 b/g/n; 2x2 MIMO (2.4 GHz & 5.0 Ghz dual band), Bluetooth 4.0
The device is capable of delivering a true HD viewing experience in 720p or 1080p and supports an extensive list of audio and video formats while focusing on web streaming. Amazon has integrated a number of features never before seen in a single set-top-box system, integrating voice search via the included remote within the FireOS (3rd party apps not supported).

Overall the hardware is highly capable and able to deliver a very good home entertainment experience.



UPDATE: The newest version of Kodi (XBMC) can now be installed directly from the Amazon app store, no need to sideload. Information on Kodi is still accurate.


What is covered in this how-to
 
  1. How to Sideload applications from Windows
  2. How to Install, Configure and Launch XBMC
  3. How to Configure Surround Sound Audio for 3rd party apps
 

How to Sideload applications from Windows


This process has been made very simple thanks to the work of some members over at XDA Developers. There you can find the Windows based Amazon FireTV Utility App, simply download the .zip file and extracted it to "C:\AFTV". You may need to have administrative rights on the system to extract to this folder. Once you have this utility and directory in place it is time to download any applications that you want to load onto the device. These files will need to be in the .apk (Android application package) format for proper installation. These files can be found in a number of places on the internet, I will provide a few examples here but you will need to do your research to find the proper file. I highly suggest that you try to get your apk files directly from the source if possible to avoid loading any malicious software on your device.

APK file sources: APPSAPK.COM, ANDROIDFREEWARE.ORG, ANDROIDAPK.COM, and for those of you wishing to install XBMC (now Kodi) or Plex. Once downloaded make sure to place the APK files inside the AFTV folder you created at C:\AFTV (Note: ensure your apk file names do not have any spaces)

Just as a note there are other options for sideloading applications onto your device, I will be covering the Windows based utility as I have found it to be the easiest method for successful application loading. You are more than welcome to try a great utility called adbFire as well, it allows you to transfer files to specific directories on your FireTV as well as adding and removing applications to the device. You can also set up the Android SDK development environment on your system and use a direct adb connection to the device to issue adb commands via the command line. This is beyond the scope of this article and will not be covered in any further detail here.

Before we can start using the app installer utility we need to firs make some configuration changes to the FireTV, first is enabling ADB debugging on the device.
  1. From the main (Launcher) screen of Amazon Fire TV, select Settings
  2. Select SystemDeveloper Options
  3. Select ADB Debugging
Next you will need to find the current IP address assigned to your FireTV.
  1. From the main screen of Amazon Fire TV, select Settings.
  2. Select SystemAboutNetwork. Make note of the IP address listed on this screen.
These steps can also be found on the Amazon developers website here.

Now that you have your APK files and the Windows utility it is time to get started. Go to the c:\AFTV folder and launch Amazon FireTV Utility App.exe, accept any user permissions you may be presented with and you will see the following screen.
AmazonFireTVUtility.pngAs you can see the utility was created with a number of specific XBMC related commands made easily available. I will address these later in this how-to.

To sideload an application simply click the "Select" button to the right of the APK to Sideload input box. Browse the APK files and select the one you wish to install then click on the large "Side Load" button. That's it the utility takes care of the rest for you. Once completed you can access the new app on your FireTV via Apps in the main menu.

That's it, pretty easy with this utility. For those of you looking to Sideload XBMC and have it working properly on the FireTV please see below for more detailed instructions.

XBMC (Kodi) on Amazon FireTV
XBMC has become a hugely popular home media center application for any OS and Android is no exception. Using the above mentioned Amazon FireTV App Installer utility you can not only sideload XBMC but you can also perform some advanced configuration actions as well. The utility gives users the ability to change the splash screen, update keymapping, backup and restore user data. The other notable option however is to install the AutoPilot or Liama applications, which allow you to launch XBMC either from boot or using a sacrificial application that can be placed in the Home tab of the main menu for easy access.

I will cover the procedures to load XBMC, install the Liama application and use it to launch XBMC via a sacrificial app link on your main menu home screen.

The first step is to download your preferred version of XBMC, place it inside the C:\AFTV folder, download Llama and extract the zip file into the C:\AFTV folder as well. Use the utility to install both XBMC and Llama, confirm they are listed in your applications list before proceeding. XBMC will need to be launched at least once before proceeding to allow for the creations of the required folders and files.

The following steps are taken from the XBMC wiki and can be found HERE.

Launch XBMC from an Existing App on the FTV Home Screen

There is a alternative way to invoke XBMC from the FireTV Home Screen using Llama. This method uses a “sacrificial” app that you have installed from Amazon that you will use to access XBMC. The app can be anything you have installed but don’t need to use; however, some apps behave better than others (some apps will enter a loop when exiting XBMC). One app that has been tested and works well for this purpose is “Classic TV”.
 

The advantage of this method is that using the sacrificial app you have Home Screen Access to XBMC and you can exit XBMC to the FTV Home Screen just as you would any other FTV app.
 

Prerequisites


  1. Llama side loaded on your FTV
  2. The app called “Classic TV” from the Amazon app store
  3. One Llama Event (described below)
 

Procedures


  1. Install / side-load Llama
  2. Install “Classic TV” app from Amazon app store
  3. Launch Llama (From FireTV - Settings > Applications > Llama > Launch Application)
  4. Go to EVENTS on top menu and click '+' to add a NEW EVENT
  5. In your NEW EVENT select ADD CONDITION then, from the Menu select 'Active Application' and select 'Choose App’. Scroll through the list of apps until you find “Classic TV” and select this app. Doing this should return you to the Events Menu.
  6. Next, select ADD ACTION and select 'Run Application' from the Menu list. From here, select whatever the name of your XBMC build is. That should create your event. At this point you can also name your event to distinguish it from others.
Now when you start the “Classic TV” app from the Home Screen, it should automatically open XBMC.

In this configuration you can use all of the native features of your FireTV as well as the added capabilities of XBMC without having to root your device or chance any warranty issues. Please keep in mind that Amazon will not support any sideloaded applications if you experience any issues it is suggested that you visit the application specific website, forum or wiki for assistance.

Now that you have XBMC loaded and running you may notice that you are not getting true surround sound from your XBMC media app on the FireTV. The following procedures will step you though configuring XBMC to output true surround sound for a richer user experience.

(Menus used in this section may have changed depending on your version of FireOS)
Step 1 - Configure your FireTv for surround sound (Settings > Display and Sounds > Audio > Dolby Digital Output (select the correct option for your setup)
Step 2 - Configure XBMC for Surround Sound > Launch XBMC then use the following menus and settings ensure the Settings level is set to Advanced or Expert (System > system >  Audio Output) Change the number of channels to equal the number of speakers in your setup, Enable Passthough, Enable Dolby Digital or DTS depending on your receiver.

That's it you should now be hearing beautiful surround sound from your system.

Also of note, users that prefer the Plex media application (Highly recommended), you will want to use XBMC as an external player to get surround sound output. I will briefly cover the steps for that here as well, if you need more assistance with setting up Plex you can refer to their website or forums for assistance.

Note: You will lose the ability to track your watched status within the Plex application when performing these steps.

Launch Plex then use the following menus and settings (Options > Settings > Device media profile > Check any media your receiver can support > Click Media Profile > External Player > Click Yes)  When you launch a video from within Plex you will be asked what player to use, select XBMC and your videos will play and you should have full surround sound.

This is a lengthy how-to article I know but I have tried to combine information and personal experiences to make this as easy as possible and hopefully a useful one stop shop for setting up an Amazon FireTV to function flawlessly with XBMC.  The hardware makes for a very nice and responsive home media system.
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by:Tony Hungate
Thank you for the acceptance and review.  I have looked over your requested changes and I believe that I have met them all.  The section that you were concerned with about Launching XBMC has a disclaimer stating that I took the materiel directly form the xbmc wiki and provided a link to the original content.  

About the use of the creative commons license, did you want me to include that in the article to meet the distribution under the same license requirement?  I wasn't really sure on that?

Thanks again.
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Justin Cener,

I am sorry but I cannot read your comments as they are displayed in a language other than English.  If you have questions or concerns regarding the article please submit them in English and I will be more than happy to address them.

Thank you for your interest,

Tony Hungate
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