Introduction to Plasma Media Center For KDE [Linux]

Linux users enjoy a variety of applications and user interfaces providing an experience like a television set-top box. There’s XBMC, and we’ve covered the specialist Linux distribution OpenELEC. There’s also Canonical’s Ubuntu TV interface, MythTV, and Freevo to name a few others. For fans of KDE, there’s a new application that will fit in nicely with your desktop.

Plasma Media Center celebrated its v1.0 release in March, and while it’s still early for it to compete with more established apps, it’s also so new that it hasn’t been packaged for Linux just yet. So in order to try it out, you’ll need to build it from source.

First, you’ll need to download the source code. Next, you’ll also need to install some additional software. The quickest method to get these is via the following terminal command:

sudo apt-get install kde5libs-dev kde-workspace-dev kdelibs5-dev build-essential libdeclarative-multimedia libtag1-dev kffmpegthumbnailer nepomuk-core-dev git

Now you’re ready to build it. First, unpack the source code to your Home folder. Next, open the terminal and use the following commands:

cd plasma-mediacenter
mkdir build
cd build
cmake .. -DCMAKE_INSTALL_PREFIX=`kde4-config --prefix`
make -j(n+1)          // n = number of cores
sudo make install

You may see some warnings among the colorful output from the build process, but it’s nothing to worry about. After the “make install” command finishes, you’ll find the Plasma Media Center under the “Multimedia” menu.

Despite the “1.0” version number, Plasma Media Center is still a work in progress. The look-and-feel is pleasant, and distinctively KDE. But it provides only basic functionality to consume your media. The main menu items include Music, Video, and Pictures, and clicking over one of these presents the choice to view all available files of that type, or to browse for them on the local machine or another machine on the network.

plasmamedia-main

This appears limited to your local machine at the moment, as every attempt I made to view the “Network” option produced an error about a malformed “remote:/Network” URL. On further investigation, I found that if I created a network place (such as an SFTP account), I was able to browse there normally.

plasmamedia-network

Furthermore, viewing the three types of media – videos, music, and pictures – all worked as expected. Clicking on one of the media types started the appropriate player. But there were only a minimal set of options… just enough to start/stop/move within the video. The controls were slightly confusing as well: you’d expect the “Stop” button to end playback as well as close you out of a particular media file, but in this current version you remain in an “open” state I’d associate more with “Pause.” Also, in order to add a file to the playlist, you currently need to click-and-hold (an interaction clearly targeting touchscreen devices).

plasmamedia-video
(Angry Kid is a copyright of Aardman Animations)

On the other hand, there’s potential in being able to create multi-media playlists (e.g. containing videos and music). Plasma Media Center has a long way to go to become a close competitor to the XBMC’s and MythTV’s of the free software world, but as an unrepentant KDE fanboy, I can’t wait to see what they come up with.