KDE Neon Goes For The TV With Plasma Bigscreen

Paranoid of smart TVs regarding privacy, data collection selling, or censorship? Take that spyware out and replace it with the open-source Plasma Bigscreen.

Like the name implies, Plasma Bigscreen is a Linux-based operating system — a modified ARM version of KDE Neon, specifically — designed for living room usage and navigation. The desktop environment Plasma Bigscreen uses is, well, Plasma Bigscreen, and features the open-source MyCroft AI assistant for voice commands. Plasma Bigscreen also includes libcec — the CEC stands for “Consumer Electronics Control” and allows the operator to control their TV with either a standard remote or a voice-controlled one.

It’s easy to set up, according to the official website. You’ll need a Raspberry Pi 4 (unfortunately in my testing it won’t work with model 3 — but I think my Pi’s broken anyway) and a MicroSD card 8 GB or greater in capacity. Download the image, flash it to the SD card, put the card into the Pi, then give it power. Connect the Pi to your TV and then follow the on-screen instructions with your TV remote to connect to the Internet and create or log in to an existing MyCroft account.

Screenshot courtesy of It’s FOSS

Additional apps (or skills) can be downloaded: at the time of writing this there’s six apps altogether, including YouTube and Soundcloud. SSH is also installed should you need to remotely connect to the Pi to issue commands from the command line or transfer files. I’d imagine it’s fairly painless to get steamlink set up to remotely play your Steam games from another desktop or laptop on the same network.

It’s nice to see more open-source projects like these emerge, amidst all the data leakage that most of us are aware of from proprietary services. It’s good to know we can look at the code (although I’m not a programmer) and see what’s actually going on behind the scenes. Just one thing to keep in mind, this project is in beta, so issues are likely to crop up as you use it.

The KDE community has been pretty busy; they’re not just working on this project — they’re also working on Plasma Mobile in addition to the standard desktop environment. If you’re a developer and willing to help out, they’re looking for programmers for Plasma Mobile. I’m certain they’d also appreciate donations (no, I’m not getting paid to advertise KDE).

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