There’s a saying in open source software that I think a lot of people don’t fully appreciate. It’s a simple saying that only grows profound upon reflection. It is the first and best sign that open source software is different than any other kind of software, possibly different than any other kind of major project since Adam Smith wrote The Wealth of Nations.

That saying, of course, is “Code Welcome.” When you are angry that your favorite software doesn’t have a feature… “Code Welcome.”  When you’ve identified something that needs fixing… “Code Welcome.”  When you and your friends decide to completely alter the entire program, “Code Welcome.”

Sometimes, the frustration is a little too real!

Sadly, an awful lot of people don’t understand the sentiment behind the phrase. Perhaps that’s natural.  We have spent our entire lives living under one set of rules. We buy something, and we expect our money to be part of a bargain with the seller that the product will work the way we want. If it doesn’t work the way we want it to, we ask for our money back or complain in open forums so that other people know not to spend money on that product.

With the advent of the internet and advertising, things have slightly changed. Thanks to advertising, the most important thing is our eyeballs rather than our wallets. But the underlying facts remain the same. We give our eyeballs in exchange for a product that works.

Sometimes paying with eyeballs is awesome.

With open source software, this age old exchange is very different. Users can still donate to the non-profit and can elect to buy cool merchandise if they like, but the only acceptable influence upon the open source project is the decisions and actions of the members and developers of that non-profit and the guiding principles of the project’s community.

So if money and advertising eyeballs can’t affect an open source software’s program, and if the software organization was like any previous software org, users would be totally out of luck.

Fortunately, open source software is different. Because while users can’t tell the org what to do, they CAN roll up their sleeves and do it themselves.

Think of the equivalents in real life. What if you saw a poorly designed highway, and rather than complaining about it, you could read a book and at nearly zero cost just fix it yourself? How amazing would that be? Or if you decided, “You know what, my town needs a pool,” but rather than having to raise funds, get permits, and find ground to build that pool, you just built it yourself totally for free? With open source, we basically all become Bob the Builder!

That’s the miracle of open source software. People see a problem and all they have to do to fix that problem is roll up their sleeves and do it.

The trouble that we have when working on Kodi and communicating to users is that they’ve joined a whole new world. They say there’s a feature they want. They say it should be easy to make happen. And we say, “Awesome. Do it. We’d love to see that feature as well.” But no matter how we say it, the user invariably thinks we are being sarcastic.

We are not. “Code welcome” is not a sarcastic reply to get users to shut up. “Code welcome” is a rally cry. It is a statement that says we are all united in this effort, and we can all contribute. And even if you can’t code, maybe you can find someone who can. Or you can learn. Many people submit code who have day jobs as butchers or accountants or lawyers or whatever, because they care enough to learn.

And then there are people like me. I’ve never learned to code anything beyond some pretty basic php, javascript, css, and html. What I did learn is that coders respect your opinion, regardless of your ability to speak the language they do, so long as you educate yourself as best you can and learn to listen and communicate. Don’t make assumptions about whether something is easy. Describe the feature you want. Learn and accept why it might be difficult. And then rather than yelling at people for being uninterested, find people who are. Kodi has 5 million users, many of whom are extremely code savvy. It’s very possible that all you ever needed to do was discuss your idea in a reasonable manner with the right people.

So when one of us says “Code welcome,” to you in the future, don’t think of it as a dismissal. Think of it as a challenge or an opening. We will not stand in your way. If you truly want a feature, the ball is in your court. Run with it.

“The power to control the world is in which finger?”

Thanks to some unexpected freeing up of time (and more news unrelated to Feature Friday), we are happy to announce that Feature Fridays are back on the menu. As always, if you have a setup you’d like featured, feel free to send it in to natethomas AT xbmc DOT org (also, see the end of this article for a new contest).

This week, we turn to Matt, who successfully managed to buy his massive collection of harddrives before hard drive prices went crazy. Like all good enthusiasts should, he’s hidden his server running Ubuntu in a back closet, where his 12 TB of harddrive space can spin quietly, away from earshot.

When Matt designed his entertainment center, he decided that visible wires were for crazy folk. The problem was, he didn’t have an entirely new room to work with when building, and he didn’t want ugly speakers hanging out of the walls. So, he did this: Continue reading

Let’s talk about brilliant user Jon from Florida. Jon has two things going for him. First of all, he started using XBMC back in the glory days when “XBMC” wasn’t a recursive name for XBMC Media Center. Second, he doesn’t do things half way. When he decided to install XBMC into his home, he decided to install XBMC into his entire home. It is running through his walls. It has wrapped its adamantium tendrils around the thick bones of Jon’s Ft. Lauderdale house, and it is going to do its very best never to let go.

Network Switch and Drobo

Network Switch and Drobo

The Brains of the Operation

Less poetically, Jon has fully wired his home with Cat5 ethernet, installing four ethernet drops in every room in the house. All of this ethernet ends up attached to a switch in a tucked away closet, as you can see in the picture to the right.

On the other end of this switch is Jon’s server, a 5 drive Drobo, holding five 2 terabyte harddrives, for a total storage of about 9 terabytes of space. This Drobo provides all the storage Jon needs for the setup of his entire home. Speaking of which… Continue reading

If you’re looking for clean lines and an elegant use of color and lighting, one need look no further than the living room of Nik from Sweden.

Nik's Place

Nik's Place

Nik was one of the very first people to post his setup on the XBMC Facebook Fanpage. Ever since then, after convincing him to let us crash at his place whenever we happen to be passing through Sweden (i.e. possibly never), we’ve been trying to get him to agree to a Feature Friday.

This week, we finally succeeded!

Next week, we plan on asking him to loan us 20 kronor for the bus.

Nik’s place looks like it could easily be used as a set for a show like the West Wing. There is no overhead lighting to speak of, and the resulting colors are beautiful to behold. All of the light sources in the room come from specific items, like the windows, and the fish tank, and the hallway, and, of course, the hidden light behind the miniature pirate ship.

Continue reading

This is Micah’s gaming PC.

Gaming PC

Gaming PC says hi

Often, Micah will play a few quick hours of Star Trek Online with his gaming PC. Naturally, this means he needs some serious processor power, which is why the PC is equipped with a Core i7 3.06GHz quad-core processor and a GTX 470 video card, along with 12 gigs (soon to be 24 gigs) of RAM. It’s also got some extensive fans and a serious gamer case.

None of that is particularly interesting to an XBMC head. What might be slightly more interesting are these: Continue reading

This is Jonathan Marshall. He’s a New Zealander and the president of the XBMC Foundation, and right now he’s standing in his crawl space. You may note the lack of a floor in his house.

Jonathan Marshall in his basement

Jonathan Marshall in his 2 feet deep basement

Jonathan has been with the XBMC  Team longer than almost anybody currently on the team, so when he and his wife (and, of course, their two cats, Chilli and Thyme, and dog Jet) bought a house back in 2006, it was a given that they were going to have a pretty nifty little entertainment system. Continue reading

Hold your breath

Make a wish

Count to three

Where the Magic Happens

Where the Magic Happens

Come with me to the home of Lutz, one of our Germany XBMC users. Lutz’s home doesn’t have a bat cave or any other kind of man cave. There are no super creative touch screens or repurposed upstairs bedrooms.  In fact, the intro to this post aside, Lutz doesn’t even proudly display any delicious Milka chocolate or Haribo.  What Lutz does have is oodles and oodles of candy.

Tech candy, to be specific.

As a rule, I try to be as jealous as possible of everyone who submits a Feature Friday.  Lutz may just take the cake for most assorted things I want.

Sure, he’s got the basic things. For example, he’s got an AMD dual core computer with 5tb of storage running Win7 Pro 64 and XBMC, and he’s outputting his sound using an ASUS Xonar DS, for one of the cleanest consumer analog outputs on the market, and certainly one of the best cards out there for receivers that don’t accept HDMI in. Continue reading

For this week’s Feature Friday, we turn to AJ Perkins of the UK. AJ has a pretty awesome living room XBMC, easy as 1-2-3setup, but this week we’d like to take a break from just telling you about how awesome the various homes of users are. Instead, I’d like to ask you to bring a loved one over to the computer. That’s right, we’re going interactive!  This week, we’d like to take a minute or two to show the friends and family members of our XBMC users just how cool XBMC can be.

So XBMC user, please stand up, go grab somebody you like (and, more importantly, somebody who likes you enough to put up with reading the blog you follow religiously), and pull them over to the computer.  We’ll wait.

Hello wife, girlfriend, mother, father, partner, boyfriend, husband, or other statistically likely significant individual! The person who just dragged you over here would like to show you some things about his recent/long-standing obsession with XBMC. I promise to try make this as painless as possible, but can make no guarantees. Continue reading

Jon Barrow is married with four children. An average trip to the movie theater for a family of that size would require two $10 tickets, plus four $8 tickets. That’s $42 $52 before the candy, popcorn, and soda.  Most times, they have to leave the youngest with a sitter, as the little one is still too young to really appreciate movies.  Needless to say, for a family of movie buffs, all of that can really start biting into the pocketbook.

Let the demolition begin!

Let the demolition begin!

Fortunately for Jon, the family had been using XBMC since 2004, when he installed it on an old Xbox.  About two years ago, Jon and his wife bought their first home.  A top priority in this search was space for a DIY home theater.  After some time, the family settled on a really delightful home that, most importantly, had a spare basement room that measured 9 feet by 13 feet and might have been the inspiration for the basement of That 70s Show.

The plan was relatively simple. Demolish the old room. Rip out the fake wood and cabinets, and then make use of the resulting space as efficiently and inexpensively as possible.

Goal #1 was to make the room as movie theater-like as possible. This meant a massive screen was necessary.  But a massive screen was simply not going to fit in the relatively small room and still leave space for all the necessary front speakers for 5.1 sound. Continue reading

Perhaps the single most popular picture ever posted to the XBMC Facebook Fanpage (‘like’ us, if you haven’t already) had almost nothing at all to do with XBMC. Palle Olsen was tired of trying to hide his cords. All the usual methods didn’t work or ended up even more cluttery than just letting the cords dangle. So, rather than accept messy cords as part of life, Palle got creative.

Awesome Wiring

Palle's Wiring Works

His old school Xbox running XBMC had relatively few cords. Likewise, the wiring for his speaker system and television weren’t presenting very many problems, and those few problems that did exist had previously been solved. The major issues were the four cords sticking out of the PS3.

Palle, being a creative guy, had an idea. To deal with the problem, he was going to hang his PS3 on the wall and then prominently display his cords for all the world to see.  Now most people would say that’s a terrible solution to a cord problem.

Most people aren’t Palle Olsen.

He bought some cheap super glue and – to protect the walls from the glue – some equally inexpensive double-sided adhesive mounting tape.  He hung the PS3 on the wall.  Then Palle snapped a photo of his television, PS3, and wall, threw that photo onto Adobe Illustrator, and got to designing. Continue reading