Cheap Media Playback
Over the past few years I've played with several different technologies that allow for video streaming to your TV. I own a bunch of Chromecasts, an Amazon Firestick, and have had a few BluRay players that do streaming from various services. As much as they are slick and sometimes the size of a USB thumb drive, you have to buy into their tools and use Wi-Fi to access your streaming content.
A few years ago I played with XMBC to play back some files and liked it, but never played with it in depth. After I got my Firestick, I sideloaded XMBC and was really impressed. That was a pretty nice platform, but it would stutter on anything above 480p. More recently I repurposed an old laptop that didn't have a functional keyboard into a media playback device. I loaded the Ubuntu distribution that that XBMC... or should I say Kodi, created to make configuration easy. I really love Kodibuntu, but I was running into issues with the audio levels getting to the TV. The audio was so low. After some searching, I found a solution on the Kodi forums in the way of a change to the advancedsettings.xml file that configures Kodi. The addition of this made all of the difference:
I would recommend Kodi to anyone who wants a free method for streaming video or playing back local content: