Raspberry Pi Media Centre.

Issue no.5 of the free Raspberry Pi magazine – ‘MagPi‘ contains an interesting feature on using the Raspberry Pi as a media player/streamer so I thought I’d take a look RaspBMC for myself this afternoon.

This appears to be a port of XBMC which I’ve  had some success in the past running it on a Windows based ITX PC but have always found that the default player was a little bit too bit laggy and I had some audio sync issues.  Having a small TV next to my main PC on my desktop  I thought it would be cool to see how RaspBMC works on the low spec Pi  and stream from my NAS.

Installation is a breeze. Simply download the appropriate installer from http://www.raspbmc.com/ and use the handy little tool for formatting and prepping your spare SD card. It’s available for Windows, Mac and Linux and as I’ll only be streaming from my NAS, I’ve  opted to use a low capacity 2GB SD card.

Once the routine is finished, remove your SD card from your computer and place it into your Raspberry Pi. Boot it on the network and it’ll connect to the Raspbmc repository and download then install the required software.

After a coffee break or two, the Pi reboots and you have a very nice looking media centre. Note# It’s running on the Pi on the right and not on my new Sega Saturn 🙂

It’s surprising how nippy it all appears to run and navigating around from m option to option does so in a very nice jutter free way. I certainly wasn’t expecting that. The default skin looks fantastic and although you could change it so something else or create you’re own, I kinda like it as it is. Maybe I’ll experiment later on as I quite enjoy a bit of reskinning.

Next, I set up the libraries to point towards the folders that contain my movies, music and tv shows. I guess if you was using a hefty capacity SD card you could simply copy the media directly to it that but  as I’ve got  a 2TB NAS on my network with all my content stored there, I configured RaspBMC to access the samba shares using it’s file manager.

I like the way that RaspBMC can  to go online and auto scrape various covers for  movies and music album covers as well as adding  show information to compliment my tv show library. It’s one of the features I really liked with XBMC and sadly missing from Windows Media Centre (XP)

I’m still finding my way around but the interface is quite straightforward. Certainly if you’ve used XBMC before, you’ll be right at home here. With media playback I was  lown away with lag free playback of files in lovely 720p resolution. This is so much better than my previous experience with XBMC.

Enjoying a brew and a  bit of The Big Bang Theory whilst I read up on plugins.

I found a useful guide to adding additional video plugins so that you can configure RaspBMC to stream IPTV shows like those from Revision3, TWiT TV, YouTube, IGN as well as free online TV web streams like CBS and various news channels. You can enter your  own  Youtube account details and watch your subscriptions.

The guide also shows you how to setup services like BBC iPlayer, 40D and Channel 5 –  UK residents only but i guess there’ll be others out there for Fox, CBS…mmm, wonder if there’s Netflix?

You can find the full guide here –  http://djb31st.co.uk/blog/catch-up-tv-on-raspberry-pi-raspbmc-bbc-iplayer/

After a SSH session via Putty to copy the files and repositories  from my PC, I’ve got my setup playing live stream from the BBC World News 24……not the most exciting of things happening at the moment though?

Time for something a little more interesting…The lastest episode of Tekzilla from Revision3 should do nicely.

There’s also a free remote control app for IOS and Android in the event you don’t want to have a keyboard/mouse plugged into the Pi. This works REALLY well! It connects via wireless over your home network and easy to setup. Just enter your Pi’s IP address into the remote app (or click the auto browse button) and hey presto!

Nice control layout giving you full access to your RaspBMC at the touch of a…well, touchscreen.

Testing it out, it seemed very responsive and stable. You can even switch off the Pi using the remote too.

The beauty of the Raspberry Pi and it’s SD based storage medium means that  I can go from RaspBMC to a fully running  O/S just by swapping over the SD cards. It’s certainly much better than swapping out harddrives if all you want to do is mess around, explore and experiment.

All in all, I’ve really happy with my RaspBMC setup and it’s a great little project to try out that isn’t to difficult but will allow you to get to grips with simple SSH/Telnet commands.

I see that you can buy Raspberry Pi cases which include standard VESA mount holes enabling you to  attach your Pi directly onto the back of your LCD TV screen. Nice if you want to have it in the living room and have it tucked out of the way.

Speaking of cases….you’ll notice that mine doesn’t have one at the moment and so it’s off to eBay…Flippin eck, there’s hundreds of them!

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4 responses to “Raspberry Pi Media Centre.

  1. I don’t know why but I was expecting it to be sluggish but boy was I in for a surprise. Fun stuff indeed.

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