Starting a web browser in XBMC for Ubuntu 9.10

One essential thing I wanted to be able to do with my HTPC is surf the web. The front-end that I am running, XBMC, doesn’t have any kind of built-in browser as it was originally built on the meagre XBox hardware, so it’d be best to go back to the Ubuntu 9.10 OS to start Firefox. To do this I’d have to suffer the almighty indignity of closing the XBMC application and having to restart it after I’d finished browsing.

Obviously this wasn’t a particularly elegant solution.

So after a little digging around I found the ‘launcher‘ plugin via the XBMC forums. Follow the instructions below to launch Firefox from XBMC. When you close Firefox, XBMC returns to the main menu automatically:

  1. Install the Launcher plugin by copying the folder in the .zip file to the plugins folder of XBMC (in Ubuntu it’s located in ‘/home/username/.xbmc/programs/plugins’).
  2. Run this command in a terminal (I have absolutely no idea what it does but it’s in the installation instructions):
    sudo ln -sf /usr/lib/libcurl.so.4 /usr/lib/libcurl.so
  3. Then I had to create a symlink for Firefox to my home folder (as inexplicably Launcher couldn’t see higher than that level). I did this by typing:
    sudo ln -sf /usr/bin/firefox /home/mark/Documents/Firefox
    Note: There were actually two entries: ‘Firefox’ and ‘Firefox 3.5′. To find out which one is used by the OS, type ‘which Firefox‘ at the terminal and you can get the path to your application here.
  4. To run the launcher plugin you need to use a skin that has the ‘Programs’ menu option on the menu. I changed from Aeon, my normal skin, to Confluence to do this next bit.

  5. On your XBMC, go to ‘Programs’ – ‘Program Plugins’ – ‘Launcher’. I hit ‘c’ on my keyboard to get the context menu and went to ‘Add new launcher’ – ‘Standalone (normal PC executable)’.
    Here’s where Launcher presented me with only 2 options, ‘Home Folder’ or ‘Profile Folder’. As I’d already created a symlink to Firefox in my Documents folder I navigated to it and clicked ‘OK’.
    Before closing Launcher I right-clicked the ‘Firefox’ entry I just created, added it to my favourites and also downloaded a nice big icon for it (using ‘Get Thumb’), all through the context menu (you have to select ‘Get Thumb’ first otherwise your icon won’t show).
  6. Once this is done (and still using the Confluence skin), I went back to the main menu and chose the little icon in the bottom left-hand corner of the screen that looks like a list. Firefox popped up and sure enough it worked.

*note* if Firefox is starting ‘behind’ XBMC, ensure you haven’t already got an instance (of Firefox) running.

The next step was to make Firefox launch from the main menu, with the Aeon skin.

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7 responses to “Starting a web browser in XBMC for Ubuntu 9.10

  1. Pingback: Modifying the Aeon XBMC Skin to Launch Firefox from main menu in Ubuntu « Mark Brewster's Blog

  2. Pingback: GUI legibility for XBMC on Ubuntu 9.10 « Mark Brewster's Blog

  3. Thanks for this very helpful post. One problem I have is that Firefox is getting launched…but in the background behind XBMC. How do you get it to launch in the foreground?
    Thanks.

  4. Ah, I see… it starts up in the background only if Firefox is already running. If I launch Firefox from XBMC when an instance is not already running it performs as you describe.

  5. Thanks, I’ve amended the post to reflect the ‘starting behind XBMC’ problem, I’ve seen a few posts about that on the XBMC forum with people with that issue.

  6. nice post, a couple of items…

    the correct spot to install to is

    /home/username/.xbmc/plugin/programs/

    and

    you don’t need sudo before your symlink command, just the following works:

    ln -sf /usr/bin/firefox ~/Documents/Firefox

  7. I can just add a little comment to this, since I used quite a bit of time figuring out how to make firefox fullscreen. But after hours of reading I found a solution. If you add -geometry 1280×720 to the launch parameters then you will have the option to resize firefox so it fits to the entire screen. Hope it will help somebody else ;-)

    Cheers,
    Jesper

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