Raspberry Pi as XBMC Media PC

So… wanted to try out the Raspberry Pi to run XBMC. Already run XBMC on a Revo 3700 under Windows7 but wanted to set up another TV a cheaper way. Step up the Raspberry Pi. First the shopping list. As well as the Pi bought the extra bits needed as listed below (price in GB £ at Jan 2013 – click on links to go to products on Amazon and CPC-Farnell):

  • Raspberry Pi (Model B) 512Mb version (£28.07) CPC-Farnell
  • Cyntech IceBerry Case for Raspberry Pi with adaptor to fit to VESA 100 Monitor (£8.99) Amazon
  • High Speed HDMI Cable with Ethernet (v1.4a) 0.50m (£2.95) Amazon
  • USB 2.0 A to Micro B 0.30m (£4.99) Amazon
  • SanDisk 8GB 30MB/s Extreme HD Video SDHC Card Class 10 (£8.64) Amazon
  • Super Talent UFD 8GB ST Pico Mini-A USB stick (£3.99) Amazon

All these bits are available from Amazon if you want to do a one-stop shop, else shop around. The Pi is cheapest from CPC/Farnell. Total cost £57.63. So for under £60 you have all you need. You can miss out on the USB stick depending on install options selected.

CIMG2948

Assembly a reasonably simple job – the Pi is a tight squeeze into the case – just have to watch be careful pushing the USB connector into its cut-out. The case can be used with the model A Pi, but for the model B need to remove the tabs that cover up couple of the ports not found on the A (Ethernet and 2nd USB port). The ‘IceBerry’ case loks quite nice – can still see the circuitry and get the nice ‘light tubes’.

CIMG2951 CIMG2952

Bought the case with a 100mm VESA plate, but then discovered the TV only has 75mm VESA mounting – doh! The screws that hold the box together go through the plate first. The plate comes with the stand-off posts for mounting away from the back of the TV. However, such is the width of the PI box, you wont get all four screws in, so just using two extra holes drilled in the plate and using top two screws only. This isn’t really an issue as the PI weighs very little. if you have a wall mount TV, then you can just use sticky pads to fix the box or just wedge it behind.

The picture below shows PI mounted on the back of the 22” TV. You can see the short micro USB power cable going to the USB socket on the TV for power and the short HDMI lead.

CIMG2961

Before you power it all on though, you need to prepare the SD card and USB stick fro XBMC!

Powering the Pi

I am powering the PI from a USB port on the TV, hence the ‘USB A to Micro B’ lead. Most modern TVs that support you plugging in USB hard drive to a USB port to play media should have enough oomph to run the Pi – you need 700ma at power on for this. If you want to power from mains adapter then will need one of these as opposed to the ‘USB A to Micro B’ lead.

XBMC Install

I am using RaspBMC . Raspbmc is a minimal Linux distribution based on Debian that brings XBMC to your Raspberry Pi. The RaspBMC Wiki has instructions for downloading and installing from Windows. The installer requires a wired network connection on the Pi’s first bootup. Go here for the download and instructions. If your PC or laptop you are running Windows on doesn’t have an SD card reader you will need to get yourself a USB card reader instead.

When running the installer, select the ‘Install Raspbmc to a USB drive’ option. You will get a warning about the USB option this saying for Advanced users – just click OK. Performance is better using the USB and SD card, hence why I went for this option. Also tick the ‘Manually configure networking’ box, then enter the IP details for your PI. This is preferable to using DHCP as probably dont want your XBMC to change IP addresses at any time. The DNS IP will just be same as you gateway IP, e.g. 192.168.0.1 or address of your broadband router.

raspbmcinstaller

Once its finished, you can insert the SD card into the Pi along with the USB stick. Connect up your wired networking to the router, HDMI lead and power via micro USB.  Now power up the Pi. Must have internet connection as the install will download the latest RaspBMC image. The first install will take around 20 minutes, will see text scrolling and then blue screen with information about the progress. On completion the Pi will reboot and how the ‘R’ logo before starting up XBMC home screen. It will be slow to start with as it downloads various extra add-ons to XBMC.

Next post will go into setting up and tweaking RaspBMC to run with HD content, NFS shares etc.

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2 thoughts on “Raspberry Pi as XBMC Media PC

  1. Nice post, going to follow this when my Rpi arrives. How did you get on with the setup then?

    Also any advice on decent SD cards for performance?

    • Hi, haven’t had a chance to fiddle with set-up much. In short though changed to ‘fast’ setting but not much else. Down-mixing to stereo is the weak point of the Pi – if you have a TV or Receiver that can do the processing so you can just use pass-through, then you will be good to go. As it is, my son’s TV needs stereo down-mix setting. DTS and HD audio formats from BluRay rips do glitch on the sound.

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