Actually putting my raspberry PI to some practical use

So just as any other tech geek I do of course own the mandatory gadget number one at the time being; A raspberry PI.

I have played quite a bit with this magical little computer and its a nice piece of tech but up until now it has just been a toy that has made servos turn, lights blink, display stuff on a 2×16 character LCD and talk to Arduinos, I have tried both wiring pi which is pretty much like programming an Arduino but on the PI and the more common python libraries (Python is a language I need to get more into by the way).

But just out of curiosity I thought I’d check out the customized Xbox Media Center or XBMC called raspbmc on the raspberry, I really didn’t have any expectations towards this, I have used xbmc before and it is a pretty good piece of software but without a dedicated media machine its pretty useless.

So I used the self-installation-script for raspbmc and the process was pretty painless, it was literally a matter of entering the address of my SD card and pressing enter a few times followed by setting up wifi before I plugged the SD card into the Pi and it downloaded and installed the image and after a quick reboot I got the raspmbc logo and then it was alive.

Now, by this time I HAD to check if this thing actually was usable as a mediacenter, and boy was I surprised?!

I practically had no hopes for this thing to be able to handle HD video as the GUI was a bit laggy, well it seems like that the gui is rendered by the CPU while the video was rendered by the GPU so it streamed video from my server (which you can read more about here) and got it out to my TV smoothly even in full HD. I was impressed.

Screenshot of the TV Series section

Screenshot of the TV Series section

Next I thought I’d tweak and play a bit more about with this thing so I played with using my phone as a remote for it, tried the official android app but I wasn’t really pleased with it, it was a bit odd and behaved oddly but I found this app called Yatse, this was a really nice app with various shortcuts, a good remote functionality and ability to browse content, select and play it straight from the phone.

I also threw in a spotify application called Spotimc, and after an install and reboot this also worked without any issues.

iPad on lap, music played through the pi and music visualization on the TV

iPad on lap, music played through the pi and music visualization on the TV

At this point I thought I’d try out something a bit more “cool”, I had read about DLNA and airplay but never tried out this magical stuff that streams media effortlessly to other devices, and once again I was impressed, DLNA from my phone was effortless (too bad the spotify app for android doesn’t support DLNA), Airplay from the family iPad also worked brilliantly.

I think I have to build a nice case for the PI with space for one of my 2×16 LCD’s in it for this gadget and have it as a permanent media center solution as I have now developed a good feeling about raspmbc.

With a whopping two makerbots and a cnc mill for softer materials like PCB boards, plastic and wood at the Hackspace now this case is a thing that has to happen!

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