March 26, 2018

Plasma Media Center Has Gone Silent And It's a Shame

While browsing the state of various KDE projects recently, it came to light that the once promising Plasma Media Center has seemingly went silent for a little while now. A little while as in a few years. And that's a bit of a shame, really. For a few reasons that I will touch on briefly.

I had occasion to try PMC recently, and - at least as packaged in Ubuntu > Universe, or KDE Neon, it's not usable at all. There's some dependencies missing, or something's not right. All of the features released as part of PMC 1.1 do not seem to be working.  There's no menu available on the home screen. Therefore, there's no settings available either. Actually, this is what it now looks like, run for the first time:

No menu, no options, just 3 singular - and tiny -
icons for Music, Pictures, and Videos

And since there's no menu, there's also no way to exit the application. You have to alt > tab and close from the task manager.  According to the PMC 1.1 release notes, from 2013, it is supposed to look more like a traditional media center with a 10-foot interface, like this:

Plasma Media Center
Plasma Media Center 1.1

So again, I can only assume there's some KDE 4 libs missing here, that are keeping PMC from looking or functioning properly. Case in point: No video thumbnails. Also, it appears that the default paths for media are coded in, and there's no way to change those.

Plasma Media Center
Plasma Media Center's Video Screen
As shown on KDE User Edition. Sadly,
thumbnails do not work

In it's current form, running in Plasma 5, PMC sadly is not usable. I can only assume that a few things happened here - again, these are just assumptions:

  • The original developers moved on
  • Plasma 5 happened
  • Kodi took off and gained a large community 
    • Thus slowing demand for another open source solution
  • No one stepped up to pick up the project


Why should I care?

Well, there are a few reasons that come to mind as to why PMC should exist and thrive.

- Firstly, KDE's "Plasma Everywhere" approach lends itself well to this use case. Moving from a traditional desktop / laptop to a media center PC or laptop connected via HDMI cable is a common thing. The concept of using a 10-foot interface has exploded, with the likes of Kodi, Plex, Emby, and even the long-standing and still highly-active MythTV - which has been happily running on Linux for over a decade and moving Linux into the living room and out or the office. In short, the reasons for PMC's existence were and are solid. In some ways, for normal and traditional users, it was perhaps even a bit ahead of it's time.

MythTV has been happily running on Linux -
both on the front-end and / or back - end for years

-  Secondly, with many Plasma apps also having Android equivalents, it only makes sense for Plasma to move onto as many devices as possible. The Babe Music Player developers know this already, and offer both a traditional music player along with an Android equivalent. Same with KDE's Marble Maps and others. This also falls conveniently in line with KDE's Usability and Productivity initiative.

"Your Music, Photos, and Videos everywhere, on any device, all from the KDE Community" has a nice ring to it. Yes?

- Lastly, Plasma now has the tools for any front-end GUI work to be done via the flexible and portable Kirigami Framework. To me, this would seem like an ideal use for someone looking to get into using Kirigami for app development. And, with the benefits of much of the heavy-lifting for the 'under-the-hood' parts already done.

As for me, I would love to set up a MythTV back-end feeding my TV, Music, Videos all to my TV, happily showing-off Plasma. All which Plasma Media Center could do, and more, with a little effort and a new community around it. What do you think?


- Plasma Media Center
- PMC 1.1 Release Announcement
- PMC Future Plans 

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