Raspi starts its life as media centre

I now have the Raspberry Pi hooked up with my TV.  It’s really something great.

HDMI has now given a new way to control the Raspi – it passes CEC control codes from the TV remote so no extra remotes are required, and the keyboard can disappear.  HDMI-CEC fires up automatically with no configuring required, however my Samsung TV only passes the basic TV remote keys to the Raspi and I will need to edit an xml file if I want to assign a key to access the context-menu.  No biggie.

I learned very early on that if I want my media files to happily slot into the libraries that I would need to rename a lot of my content so that it scrapes properly.  Originally the scrapers were mis-identifying most of my films and shows, but if you sacrifice your own free thought to the XMBC naming conventions then everything very quickly resolves itself.  Of course one could always choose not to use the scrapers and just browse through file structures, but you’d miss all the bling of cover art, plot information, genre categorisation, etc.  And if you do name things correctly then you can also get XBMC to treat multi-part/split files as single gapless files – which is excellent for films whose encoding harks back to the CD-era.

I set up the local (Australian) TV catch-up services without any great issue (apart from SBS On-Demand creatively being called SBS2 in the addons).  I was rather hoping to be able to access overseas catch-up and streaming services but most of this content is blocked for foreign IP addresses.  Having fiddled around with proxies, which most addons support, I’ve given up on this for the time being.  It’s way too hard to find a combination that actually works.  Which is a pity because I’d love to ditch the moron Australian F1 commentators and get the unadulterated feed from the UK.  Apparently this is possible using TOR set to GB outlets, but again I think this is a bit of a stretch for me at the moment.  I’ll just stick with missing all the action while a baldness remedy advertisement is being shown for the billionth time…

The performance of RaspBMC is excellent.  I know some people who are used to running XBMC on a full-sized multicore tower find it lacking, but this thing beats the pants off my $300 DVD player.  And unlike the HTPC it’s fanless, silent and you can hear your programs.  I find the Android remote useful for queuing content, but the TV control via HDMI-CEC is perfectly responsive enough that all my usual controlling happens through that.

I originally had the box powered off the TV’s usb port and it was quite happy to do so.  It meant that the Raspi would turn on and off with the TV.  But I have had a change of heart on this because it basically means that I’m crash-stopping it many times a day, and this really can’t be a good thing.  So now it’s being powered off a spare usb plugpack and lives on all day.  Of course if you had a TV that was configurable to allow permanent usb supply even when off (which many sets do) then you could save yourself some cable mess.

This really is an excellent project for anyone to get involved with.  I found the software setup and install very easy.  The RaspBMC guys provide a Windows-based helper program which allows you to download and burn system images to your SD card, and really everything else on the Raspi just gets detected and configured automatically.  You don’t need to be a boffin to set up a <$40 media centre (and cheat your way into some healthy nerd-cred).


One Response to Raspi starts its life as media centre

  1. Thomas Teo says:

    Hey Phil,
    If the F1 streams are anything like the BBC Olympic ones, apparently the data doesn’t even need to pass over the tunnel – adding a X-Forwarded-For HTTP header is enough to fool it.

    This is the Privoxy config from a prepackaged viewer I was using:

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