There are many reasons you may want a flatscreen TV that displays video content automatically. Maybe you have a home office, or you’re setting up a big display at work. Whatever the reason, this Linux solution is your best, most affordable option.
Wouldn’t it be amazing if you could just walk into your home office or your college dorm room, turn on the control PC connected to a big screen monitor, and have it start playing your favorite newscasts automatically? Sitting on your favorite chair, you could enjoy the first coffee of the day, kicking back, absorbing your news fix.
It doesn’t matter if you want to have your system autoplay news, music, movies or anything else. What you’re going to set up in this article is a simple Linux workstation (although Windows would work fine), and a configuration of Miro that automatically imports RSS feeds for automated video programming.
Sound complicated? It’s not.
Getting Everything Together
Setting up this system is going to be fast and easy, but you will need the right hardware and software. All of the software is free, but the hardware you choose to use is up to you.
Here’s what you’ll need
- Any computer will do. The newer the better, but even old systems can run a Linux OS!
- Choose a Linux Distro. Follow my guide to choose the one that’s right for you, and how to set it up.
- You’ll install Miro from inside Linux (I’ll show you how below)
- A list of YouTube feeds that you want to load into Miro
- A list of website URLs that contain videos which get updated frequently (like news video websites)
Once you’ve got this squared away, we’re ready to get started. If you’ve followed my earlier guide, you should now be logged into your Linux PC. In my case, I’m using an inexpensive Chromebook running Ubuntu (which I set up using Dan’s guide).
I use Linux in this article, because then I don’t need to use one of my Windows PCs for just displaying video content on the flatscreen display that I’ll have on my office wall. Instead, I can take either an old PC from my basement or a cheap Chromebook, load up Peppermint OS, and I’m good to go.
Setting Up Miro to Stream Automatically
We’ve covered the media streaming app called Miro in the past here at MakeUseOf, both as a media manager and as a way to manage your own Podcasts. The beauty of using Miro as the driver for a TV wall display is because of its flexibility and the ability to automate regularly-updated content with very little effort on your part (none, actually, once you’ve set it all up!)
If you’re setting this system up on a Windows or Mac or non-Ubuntu Linux distro, feel free to download it directly from the Miro website. If you’re running Ubuntu though, you can just open up the Ubuntu Software Center, search for “Miro”, and install it.
Make sure that when you do install it, you enable the option to launch Miro on startup. This will allow you to leave your dedicated video-streaming PC connected to your wall display, and just turn it on to automatically launch Miro without any effort on your part.
Once you’ve installed Miro on your system, go to File > Preferences, and click on the General tab.
The two features you want to enable here are “Automatically run Miro when I log in” (which should already be enabled), and “When starting up Miro, remember what screen I was on when I last quit“.
The importance of this second setting will become more apparent as we get into setting up the actual video content from your favorite websites and podcasts, a little further down in this article.
Next, still in Preferences, click on the Podcasts tab. In here, you want to enable both “Show videos from podcasts in the Videos section” and set the “Check for new content” frequency that you prefer. That is how often Miro will go out and poll your favorite websites and podcasts for new videos to download.
You’ll want to base this update time on the frequency that your source websites and video podcast feeds update. Some sites may only update a couple times a day, while other sites update every 15 minutes – so adjust as needed to make sure you’re getting the very latest content from the video sources that you’ll be setting up below.
Now that you’ve got Miro all set up, it’s time to start loading up sources to get your favorite shows and podcasts to stream to your flatscreen wall display!
Collecting Sources for Your Miro Display
The sources that you choose for your video content to display on your flatscreen TV should really be determined by the theme of content you want to show. For example, in my case I want my wall-mounted TV to display the day’s latest news.
So you can basically go scour the web for websites that cover the theme you’re looking for. I wanted tech news, so I went looking on CNET for their video podcast section and found it. Keep in mind that what you’re looking for are video podcast feeds.
Most sites have a podcasts page where you can find the specific type of content or topical area you want to follow. You can click on the “Video” feed and get a link to the XML file.
Then, go into Miro, click File and then Add Podcast.
Finally, paste the video feed link into the podcast URL field. Click Create Podcast.
Keep searching through the Internet for more video podcasts and keep loading up those links. The more links you can find, the more regularly updated content will get fed into your automated TV display – you could potentially build up an entire day’s worth of video content to watch each day, all pulled in from various Internet sources.
Setting Up Your TV Display
Now that you’ve added all of your favorite podcasts using the procedure above, you’ll notice all of your videos automatically updating with a small number to the right side of them in the Podcasts area. These will also automatically display in the Videos area, where a small number is displayed – this illustrates how many are ready for you to watch.
The first time you launch your system connected to your TV display, you’ll need to navigate to the Videos area and play the first video. However, since you’ve set up the system to always boot Miro when you start, and to always go where you last left off, the system will automatically come back here when you subsequently boot up.
Once you play the first video, Miro will work through them all one at a time. Since all of your source video podcast streams are updated every 30 minutes (or whenever you set them to auto-update), you now have an automatically updated video streaming display which will deliver the latest video content from your favorite sources all around the web.
What better way to stay up to date with all of your favorite interests, without having to sift through the web every day? Just turn on your system and let the information come to you automatically!
The Finished System
Once everything is set up and ready to go, all you have to do is plug in your laptop or PC to a wall projector, TV desktop display, and run Miro in full screen view.
Here’s what my setup looked like when I first arranged everything.
As I mentioned above, the first setup requires that you open the Video folder on the left navigation panel. The next time you start up the computer, Miro will open automatically and go to the same folder.
Once the system is up and running, you can set your laptop or PC aside hidden under the table or tucked behind the TV if it’s on the wall. Here’s my system running, playing CNET tech news videos.
I did set mine up on a tall, narrow table by the wall (like a shelf) so I could place a connected mouse near the display just in case something goes wrong and I need to close a screen or restart a video that I want to watch again.
While you really could do the same sort of thing just by launching a YouTube playlist and maximizing it on a second screen, you wouldn’t have the same benefits that Miro gives you – auto launching, auto-updated content, and the integration of video content from all over the Internet, not just YouTube.
Have you ever used the automatic-video update feature in Miro? Do you run Miro on Linux like I have here, or do you dedicate a Windows or Mac to the task? Share your own setup ideas in the comments section below!