Raspberry Pi Media Center

Project Status: Abandoned

Click on the links below to jump to the various sections of this design….



I’m a geek! I don’t have a TV, I don’t have an XBox / Playstation / Wi… I do have a server though which holds lots of media that I like to play back through my laptop or on a nice Samsung monitor. Unfortunately this does mean either letting people loose on my server to play things back as well as adding a graphics card with HDMI and a sound card.

What I really need is a small simplified interface that does all these things and simplifies the interface for non techie people and prevents wandering hands blundering over the server!

Having had a quick look round it looks as though I have two options that appeal to me, google TV or Rasberry Pi. Now I know that there are other options out there like Apple TV but I just wouldn’t stoop that low and I don’t have that much money to throw away!

To cut a long story medium I went for the Pi… it can do LOTS and having the GPIO options really appeals to my techie nature as well as all of the options, the bare circuit board.

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Brief & Inspiration

Inspiration on this one is easy… XBox / Playstation / … I just want an easy way to access media content.

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Time & Money

  Estimated So Far…
Time to Design 2 hrs 2 hrs
Time to Build (Including sourcing/scrounging materials!) 20 hrs 5 hrs
Cost to Build £100 £45

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Preliminary Sketches & Development

No sketches on this one… but a few steps to work through.

1. Get it working
– Install software
2. Make it pretty
– Homemade case
– Power switch
– LEDs

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Review So Far!

Right then software seem relatively straight forward. The first software install I’m going to trial is http://www.raspbmc.com/ seems fairly straight forward.


Review So Far!

OK… so it wasn’t that straight forward. First off I got a slow SD card instead of a nice shiney class 10 card which meant that everything was working a little sluggishly. Then I kept coming back to the PI after a while and just saw a flashing cursor. This would require a wipe and rebuild of the card or a reinstall of a backup.

After a lot of swearing I switched to XBian instead of Raspbmc, there isn’t much between them for me so far I thought Xbian was just as rubbish until I tracked down an issue with my power supply! Once I had a nice shiney power supply instead of a cheap unbranded model from ebay then most if not all of the issues I had been having vanished.

The downside is now that I’ve ripped everything apart so many times I’ve kind of lost enthusiasm to tinker with it. It is however a great little media player for my screen. I’ve installed the XBMC app on my phone (free from the Play Store) and set a reservation for the Pi in my DHCP server so that it will always get the same IP even if I wipe and rebuild it. Its a really simple interface but I have not yet got the library working properly or the scrapers. At the moment I have to browse through my own folder structure on the server to find what I want.

Lessons learnt

  • Buy a nice SD card!
  • Don’t get a cheap power supply get a branded one!

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Final Review

Finally found out one of my major issues! I use a monitor, not a TV, there are no speakers on the monitor. I also use an analogue stereo sound system for the audio (I know don’t comment!). If you output 1080p video via HDMI and get the pi to do the D-to-A conversion for the audio out then it is just too much for my little pi!

This project is officially abandoned 🙁

I have however managed to scounge an intel Core2 Duo PC with 8 GB RAM and a silent 1GB HDMI graphics card (helps when you work in I.T.). Although this is a fairly low spec processor wise it is more than happy to be used as a media player for us to watch Downloads, iPlayer, 4od…

My pi has been given a new lease of life as well… meet PiBot.