Monday, 9 July 2012

Samsung Chromebox with XBMC

What to do with a Chromebox?

At google IO 2012 every delegate got a free Samsung Chromebox. Personally I already have a laptop, desktop, tablet and smart phone. Why would I need a cut down desktop? It would probably be great for your Nan who has no idea what they're doing and just wants to email the grandkids.

So what should I do with this piece of hardware? Well my xbox classic is struggling to play some high def media files, it is over 10 years old, how about I use my free chromebox.

Enable Developer Mode

Essentially flip a switch and erase all user data. Here's how.

Install ChrUbuntu

I only had one problem following these instructions, me, I didn't follow them. You must leave your box in developer mode, meaning that boot time takes almost a minute because of the developer mode warning.

Install XBMC

XBMC has been accepted into debian.
sudo apt-get install xbmc

Install VNC and SSH

Invaluable, otherwise you'll be plugging in your keyboard and mouse every time you get a problem. 

Install SSH
Enable Remote Desktop Connections

Run xbmc on startup

I had a slight issue with xbmc starting just before the window manager had fully started. This was causing xbmc to start in a windowed state. Instead I wrote a small script to pause for 2 seconds then start xbmc.

sleep 5
chmod +x and then add the file into the script to startup programs.


In total it took me about 90 minutes. My main annoyance is the beep you get on startup. I connected it to my TV through the dvi port. It handled 720p files with no problems, just need to test with some 1080p files.

Just waiting on my display port -> HDMI cable  so that I can give it a proper testing.

Would I recommend buying one explicitly for this purpose, no, unless the price tag is brought down significantly.


  1. Any update on this? I plan on following your guide tonight. I have read mixed reviews about getting audio from the display ports.

  2. Yeah I finally got a display port cable and there wasn't any audio coming through. I've stuck with DVI and 3.5mm jack for the time being.

    1. Have you tried on of these for audio via hdmi?

    2. Yeah tried that, couldn't get it to work. But didn't try too hard.