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I decided to ditch the Android TV box and move to an Intel NUC as the basis for my home entertainment system. I installed Ubuntu 20.04.

I want to run the following:

  • Netflix
  • Youtube
  • Youtube kids
  • Google Hangouts (for video conference with grandma. Sidenote: This is why I ditched Android TV. It does not have proper microphone support)
  • Whatsapp

None of these have (currently supported/maintained) native Linux apps as they do on android. Thus all of them are run via the chrome browser.

This is fine, except the interface is difficult to use from 3m away. I've set the icon size to maximum.

Screenshot of what my desktop looks like:
Screenshot of what my desktop looks like

YT-Kids are special shortcuts: The .desktop file looks like this

#!/usr/bin/env xdg-open
[Desktop Entry]
Version=1.0
Terminal=true
Type=Application
Name=YT-Kids-5
Exec=/path/to/youtube-kids/yt-kids.sh 5
Icon=/path/to/youtube-kids/YouTube-Kids-Icon-5-2.png

yt-kids.sh:

#!/bin/bash

/opt/google/chrome/google-chrome --new-window --app=https://www.youtubekids.com/ &
pid=$!
echo $pid
s=60
sleep $(($1 * $s))
kill -s SIGTERM $pid
gnome-session-quit --no-prompt

Thus, double clicking on the shortcut executes a script that launches Chrome and terminates it and logs out after a set time (5 minutes in this case). This allows me to control the kid's screen time.

The shortcuts are basically in the form:

Exec=/opt/google/chrome/google-chrome --new-window --app=https://www.awebsite.com/

So as you can see I have very particular needs. I tried Kodi, but gave up after struggling 3 hours to customise it to my needs. For almost everything I need a custom add-on. They are either unstable, or no longer supported. E.g. this guide looks simple: https://www.smarthomebeginner.com/chrome-launcher-addon-for-kodi-media-center/amp/#Launching_and_using_Chrome_from_Kodi_Media_Center but then you realise that the Chrome plugin is not there.

TL;DR: I need a window manager/UI/launcher that I can add custom shortcuts as described above. And the icons must be big, and take up as much of the screen real estate as possible.

As a bonus, an application should be launched by single clicking instead of double clicking.

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I gave Kodi a second chance. Using this addon: https://forum.kodi.tv/showthread.php?tid=85724&pid=2668762#pid2668762 I can create custom launchers for everything, and then add them to the Kodi Favorites page.

This is what the end product looks like:
This is what the end product looks like

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I use cairo-dock on a touch-screen as a launcher to do some home automation stuff and launch certain things. May work for you. It's not been actively developed for years and the settings/dock GUI is fairly terrible by today's standards but it still works, can look good and is VERY customisable. You can change pretty much anything about it, postion of dock, size of icons, custom icons, and a million other things.

Can be installed from Ubuntu software app or via command line cairo-dock. Web page is here

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