How to create a cheap media center with Raspberry Pi
I’ve been using XBMC for a good 4 or 5 years, but for most of that time I’ve taken the slightly painful route of installing XBMC on a Nvidia ION-based Ubuntu system. As far as I know, it was the best way to do it. It did the trick, but there were plenty of configuration nightmares along the way. Infra-red support, HDMI, and getting it to run jitter-free were all issues I faced and was never able to get fixed.
Then I found OpenELEC, a minimal Linux distro which runs XBMC like a dedicated appliance. You switch on your box and XBMC boots up in about 10 seconds. It includes just enough Linux to let XBMC do its thing. It’s awesome. The first time I installed in on my ION box, it took about 10 minutes from download to having the XBMC home screen on my TV. The remote worked, HDMI worked, 1080p video played across my LAN jitter free. Score!
It was so awesome that I wanted one for my second TV, but the $500 or so it would cost to build an identical system (ASRock ION, HDD, RAM, Remote) was a bit too much for the convenience.
The XBMC team just announced official support for the Raspberry Pi, a US$35 mini-computer that is an amazing engineering feat. The OpenELEC team have been working on Pi support for a while and thanks to all parties, I now have a second media center, streaming 1080p across a LAN. And it only cost $50.
Here’s what I needed to build it:
I knew I had the rest of what I needed around the house, but this is what you’ll need:
- HDMI Cable
- 4GB SD card
- Ethernet cable
- Remote – I’m using an Android app called Yatse
So you might end up paying a few extra dollars. If you want a dedicated remote, I can recommend the Hauppauge MCE Remote. It’s about $40 and it’s plug and play with OpenELEC.
To install OpenELEC, you need to install an image on the SD card. Instructions are here.
That’s pretty much it. Put the SD in the Raspberry Pi, plug in your cables and you’re up and running. If you’re new to XBMC, check out XBMC and OpenELEC wikis for instructions on adding network sources, allowing third party remotes, etc.
Tweet me if you have any questions! @glenn0