Raspberry Pi Home Media Center

Well, I did it! Finally got my Raspberry Pi to a (very!) good use. Since I got the week off from work, I played (quite a lot) with the new gizmo in town and managed to make it a “home media center”. Which, is AMAZING if I may say so.

The first thing was to install the Raspbmc on the memory card that serves as a hard disk for the RPi, following information found online (Google really helps!) and especially from here. The memory card is not a large one, just an 8GB one, which is quite enough for the OS and whatever plugins/add-ons I may want in the future.

That was the easy part, the real challenge (for me at least, being new to the RPi world) was to add the content (movies, tv shows, etc) to the library. But in the end, it all paid off really well. After a few attempts with an 8GB USB stick, of course I  wanted something that I don’t have to unplug all day from the Pi, copy files on my laptop, plug it back in the Pi and so on. Besides, it was only an 8GB stick, as I said. Pretty lame…

Tried to plug an external USB hdd I had but found out that the RPi doesn’t support USB 3 for one, and second of all didn’t had enough power to “juice” the external drive. Obviously, I needed to power the hdd externally, before plug it into the Pi. Solved that little hiccup by buying a powered USB hub. This way, I can plug the hub in the Pi and the hdd in the hub. Simples! Another thing I forgot to mention is that the Touro Mobile actually has and USB 2/3 interface so it is compatible with the Pi after all. That’s good, otherwise that would have been a good waste of 500GB of space 🙂

Back the the TV screen now. I needed to add films and tv shows to the library. After playing (quite a lot) with the Pi’s settings (and discovered that it had a pretty nice weather add-on already installed), managed to add under the “Video” category some “sources”, and scanned the entire mounted hdd for content. Here’a s tricky one: if you put the films in a directory called “Movies” and the tv shows in a directory called “TV Shows”, the Raspbmc is smart enough to add those files into their specific library. Another thing is that its best to leave the filenames unchanged from wherever you download them, as the Pi connects to the TV Database over the internet and downloads a lot of information about the shows you’re adding to the library: images, plots, cast information, etc. The same for films, only it connects to another internet DB for films.

Of course, after all was in place I needed to control the new “home media center” somehow, and I don’t mean with the mouse or keyboard.

So, to feel more Star-Trek-ish I installed some remote control apps on my iPad, which, let me tell you, are truly amazing! You can only imagine how I felt like when controlling the Media Centre from the iPad!

There are also libraries for adding Music and Pictures, which I didn’t detailed here, but they are great as well. Oh, one more thing – you can also install some add-ons that allows you to listen to Internet Radios, Vimeo or even Youtube! You can even watch live TV on it, but for that you’le need some other external hardware. I’ll give that a try as well at some point, I’m pretty sure 🙂

Below are some images with the setup of my “Home Media Center” on a Raspberry Pi.

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