Raspberry Pi – media centre

With winter coming, I wanted an entertainment system in the room with the big warm fire in. The TV is a small 24″ Samsung flat screen, with terrible speakers, a nice picture and good Freeview reception, but no recording device or easy access to one. To fix the sound problem, we found a Philips sound bar heavily discounted in Dick Smith, a local appliance shop, and connected it up with an optical cable, for instant improvement of the TV experience. Now we can listen to Concert FM (national classical music station) over Freeview with no interference or bad reception.

So how to expand the system’s capability? The Raspberry Pi with XBMC on it mentioned below was not being used in the shop, so I brought it home, connected the video and sound through to the TV using an HDMI cable, added a wifi dongle with a huge 5db antenna to get the best wifi connection, and also a Logitech wireless keyboard with touch-pad. As part of the installation, I also migrated it to OSMC, which is a media centre which uses Kobi (previously called XBMC). This all works quite well, I can access photos and music stored on the NAS drive attached to the router, but more importantly, it can see the Freeview recorder box (a Panasonic unit) which is used in the main lounge media centre, and is connected wirelessly to the home network, and I have access to both the recorded programs, and also the archived programs stored on the attached 500GB HDD. The OSMC interface is quite nice, but the slow Raspberry Pi 1 processor makes it a bit clunky.

So, yesterday (08/07/2015) I ordered a Raspberry Pi 2, which is 6 times faster, has 1GB of RAM, and 4 USB ports. I will set this up to use OSMC and replace the Pi 1. The final upgrade (if there is such a thing) will be a Flirc infra red remote control receiver, to allow access via the TV remote rather than the keyboard. I may have to save up for that, it’s another NZ$50!

Wow, the Pi 2 arrived this morning (10/07/2015) from the pishop.co.nz, along with the Flirc aluminium case I ordered. I haven’t fired up the Pi yet, but I have installed it in the case. Installation is so easy. The case doubles up as a heat sink, so there is a thermal pad between the processor and the case, once that is in place, the Pi slips in, slotting the HDMI, microUSB and video/audio socket into the cut outs on the side. The bottom  panel drops on top, and 4 screws go through the bottom of the case, the 4 holes on the Raspberry Pi, and into pre-tapped bosses in the main case. The materials are so tactile. The upper and lower surfaces are a plastic with a rubber-like feel, and the rest of the case is what looks like a laquered aluminium. All sockets are either inset or flush,  its almost a shame to put so many connectors into it! The microSD slots through the case into the socket on the main board, and a very small slot allows the system lights to show. At NZ$29 it is really good value, and looks and feels like  a million dollars!

Posted in Computer Stuff, Raspberry Pi

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