Yet another niche blog post that only one person will read, but maybe I will save them an evening.

I have an HP Workstation as my new desktop PC, so I'm now only a couple of generations behind in hardware, rather than ten years old. So with the increased memory and processing power, I thought I'd plug my iMo USB screen into it, pass that through to a VM running in virtualbox, and run kodi on that. It's much easier than trying to make the USB screen run under my main Arch Linux and not interfere with the other four screens I've already set up.

( also easier than making it work on a Raspberry Pi, which I tried here: http://blog.sonofsuntzu.org.uk/post/2017/04/01/How-to-run-Xbian-off-a-USB-display

Considering the time of year in the NFL season, there's a lot happening in free agency and the draft is coming up, so really the reason I wanted to run this was to have the NFL Network playing in the background so I can keep an eye out for headlines.

So....

Attempt 1

Set up: Debian buster, because I know the USB screen just works with Debian.

Reason it failed: NFL Network live streaming ( but not the games apparently ), needs the InputAdaptive and RTMP functionality of KODI to work. It turns out the relevant kodi packages for this haven't been in Debian since Sid.

Attempt 2

Set up: Alpine system, because I like Alpine because it's so small and fast.

Reason it failed: I just couldn't get the keyboard and mouse to work on Alpine once I started X. I tried hard, but not that hard as Alpine has no drivers ( "udlfb" ) for the USB screen anyway, I just wanted to get something working.

Attempt 3

Set up: Linux Mint 18.3. Mint tends to "just work" in general, and is one of the easier Linux distributions to get started with.

Reason it failed: Mint was weird... it would boot in the virtualbox monitor, then the Linux Mint graphical boot screen would appear on the USB monitor, but then the Mint interface would only show on the virtual monitor in virtualbox. This system was then unable to "see" the USB monitor at all, even after removing the specific entry to blacklist the udlfb driver in /etc/modprobe.d/blacklist.conf

Attempt 4

Set up: OpenELEC, installed by converting the OpenELEC img file to a vdi file and booting from it.

Reason it failed: As I suspected already from online forum postings, but I wanted to check with the latest version, OpenELEC doesn't appear to support the virtualbox virtual graphics card, so this didn't get anywhere at all.

Attempt 5

Set up: Windows 10 VM with Kodi installed, it worked well, although it took a while for the system to get the iMo screen drivers installed. For Kodi on Windows the relevant InputAdaptive and RTMP functionality just comes as part of the install package.

Reason it failed: Well... it kind of failed. I could actually watch the NFL Network streaming live using this, but from a quick look at the output of the htop command it was taking a lot to make this happen.

Other Notes

The mouse and keyboard use on this is weird, in general the virtual machine would boot, "transfer" the screen to the USB monitor, but then I'd operate the mouse on the USB screen by moving it around the, now blank, monitor being shown by virtualbox on my PC. On the Linux Mint solution the mouse and keyboard didn't get picked up, but after a reboot or two... it did. As you'll have seen above, it just wouldn't work under Alpine.

On Windows I only got as far as running that will two screens, and sometimes the mouse with be on the monitor being displayed in virtualbox, and the USB monitor, at the same time. I would have been tempted to play with that more except htop was showing how hard my PC was having to work.

Any constructive comments welcome...