Using Proxmox Host as HTPC

In February this year I built a tiny second Proxmox Host with the ASRock DeskMini A300 and the following parts. I chose an AMD Ryzen 5 3400G (with integrated APU) CPU.
As HTPC I always used a RaspberryPi 3 running LibreElec (Kodi) with the Jellyfin for Kodi Plugin to access my media. But the the Raspberry reached its limits when it comes to 4k content or 10bit Audio lines. So why not use the DeskMini A300 as Proxmox Host and also as HTPC? It has enough power to play all types of media and even some steam games would run on it.
So a few things had to be done.

  1. Install a Desktop Environment & Login Manager on the Host
  2. Add a user
  3. Install some basic software (Firefox, VLC, JUK…)
  4. Set up YouTube Leanback
  5. Consuming Jellyfin media
  6. Set up Plasma Activities for each service
  7. Controlling media with KDE Connect

Of course it’s not recommended to install more than necessary on the host itself, so this shouldn’t be done on a productive Proxmox-System.
Proxmox Wiki says: “Installing additional packages could lead to a hardly upgradeable system and is not supported from the Proxmox support team and therefore only for expert use.”
Because I’m using my Proxmox Host just for my Homelab (pi-hole, nextcloud, reverseproxy etc.) I’ll take the risk.
When using a host with dedicated graphics card, you could also create a VM and pass it through, so you don’t have to mess around on the host like I have to do.

1. Install a Desktop Environment & Login Manager

There is a Proxmox Wiki describing it: https://pve.proxmox.com/wiki/Developer_Workstations_with_Proxmox_VE_and_X11
As DE I took KDE Plasma, but just the plain desktop. See here for all three options: https://wiki.debian.org/KDE

KDE (Full release of workspace, applications and framework)kde-full packageThe standard/upstream release
KDE (A common set of packages for a smaller, more flexible KDE environment compared to kde-full)kde-standard packageDebian’s selection of common KDE packages
KDE Plasma Desktopkde-plasma-desktop packageThis is a minimalist Plasma desktop
(You have to install all end-user applications later).

This was my command:

apt-get update && apt-get dist-upgrade
apt-get install kde-plasma-desktop lightdm

2. Add a user

As simple as always. Edit the visudo for root permissions and

adduser newusername
visudo

add the following line to the end

newusername ALL=(ALL:ALL) ALL

Afterwards you have to start the login manager

systemctl start lightdm

Now you’re ready to login.

3. Install software

As I took the plain KDE Plasma Desktop, there is nearly no other software besides the necessary programs for the DE.
I installed just a few things on top:

apt install konsole vlc firefox-esr tldr neofetch gwenview juk kcalc ncmpcpp kodi

4. Set up YouTube Leanback

In September 2019 YouTube announced to end Youtube Leanback TV (a web interface which could simple be opened in any browser via youtube.com/tv).
But it still exists and can be used with a simple workaround I found on reddit. Simple install the Firefox Addon User Agent Switcher and add the following line in userAgent:

Mozilla/5.0 (SMART-TV; Linux; Tizen 4.0.0.2) AppleWebkit/605.1.15 (KHTML, like Gecko)

When browsing to youtube.com/tv you should get the Leanback interface in which you can easily navigate via keyboard. Now just press F11 to go in full screen mode.

Of course you can connect the YouTube App of your Smartphone and just cast videos to it just like with a Chromecast or the native YouTube Smart TV app. I would recommend using the Vanced App if you want to see less ads.

5. Jellyfin

I tried two ways consuming media of my Jellyfin server (which is running in an LXC on the same Host) and both work fine.
First I used Kodi plus the Jellyfin for Kodi plugin. If you are already using Kodi for other stuff, integrating your Jellyfin content here is probably the best.
As second option, and what I’m using still today, is simple the Jellyfin Web Version via browser in full screen mode. Just activate the TV modus in the Jellyfin settings. There are some minor bugs when navigating via keyboard but most of the time it runs perfect. But because Firefox is still not playing MKV files (see bug 1422891) I had to install Chromium for proper use of Jellyfin.

apt install chromium chromium-l10n

Just enter the full screen mode with F11 and it looks pretty well on your TV.

6. Plasma Activities

When using KDE Plasma you can simple create Activities (click here to see how to create an activity) for each of your full screen running application and easily switch between them. In my case I created three Acitivites, one for YouTube Leanback, one for Kodi and one for Jellyfin. A of course there is the Standard Activity, which is just my normal desktop for viewing other content like photos or playing a Steam game. This way I can switch through all my full screen applications via Super + Tab (or backwards with Super + Shift + Tab).

7. KDE Connect

If you dont wan’t to use the keyboard the whole time to control your media on your HTPC, you should try KDEConnect on your Smartphone. You’ll get the app from the F-Droid Store: KDE Connect.
Next just install the application on your host with:

apt install kdeconnect

and pair the two devices. By default whenever media is played on your HTPC the app will now present you an interface to control it (with play, pause, next etc.). Also you are able to control the mouse via touch on your Smartphone. And there are some other functions you should check out as well.

I’m really enjoying this new setup. It’s much more powerful, flexible and easier to handle than my old RaspberryPi 3. I will keep an eye on whether there will be problems with a system update in the future.

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