Weekend Project: Open Source Media Centre


Open Source Media Centre
I’ve been running a Raspberry Pi connected to my TV for a while now, and I’ve been using Rasbmc, a version of Kodi (formerly XBMC) quite happily.  I decided since I had a spare Raspberry Pi, I should do the same to my second TV in the lounge.  Setting this up and pointing it to my media files from the office shared drive, means I can now watch Game of Thrones while my wife catches up on her soaps.

Using this setup can get you a cheap media centre (small enough to hide behind the TV). Read on for setup instructions …

Hardware

I used a Rasperry Pi Model B, since I had a spare which wasn’t in use.  The Open Source Media Centre (OSMC) software supports both original Rasperries and the new Rasperry Pi 2 models.  Apart from this all you’ll need are a USB power supply, a HDMI cable, networking (either wired or wireless) and an SD card to hold the software.

Software

Rasbmc has now evolved into the OSMC software. I decided to give it a go for the new media centre, so I downloaded the installer from their website.  Firstly, as I run Debian on my desktop PC I tried installing it, but it insisted on making some major system configuration changes so I declined.  I used a windows laptop instead and downloaded the install wizard there.  The install wizard is pretty straightforward.  You select your target device, which version of the software, and the target SD card and it does the rest.  Once finished, the operating system is installed on the SD card and you’re ready to boot up your media centre.

Initial Setup

Plug the SD card into the Raspberry Pi and connect it to your TV, your network and power it up.  It takes some time for the installation to complete, in my case about 15 minutes.  Then you’re presented with the media centre interface.  You can use your TV remote to navigate the menus to make various configuration changes.  In my case, setting the user interface language, the local timezone and connecting to the wireless network.

Just add Media

Adding media files is also straightforward, as the interface allows to browse windows (SMB) shares.  Then it’s just a matter of choosing which ‘scanner’ to use as the folders contain Movies, TV shows, Music, Pictures, etc.  Once added to the library, it’s easy to select and play your media through the TV.

Gotchas

It wasn’t all smooth sailing though.  I found configuring the wireless networking a little painful, though it worked in the end.  I also found that the spare Raspberry Pi I had is quite an old model, and it tends to freeze now and again if the system gets busy, which it can do as it’s installing and updating.  Perhaps I’ll recycle it for another project and put a newer Rasperry Pi 2 back in it’s place as it has much better performance.

So give it a shot and let us know how you get on in the comments.

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