Really Inexpensive Media Streamer/HTPC - XBMC

Discussion in 'Home Theater PC (HTPC) & Media Servers' started by adwilk, Jan 30, 2013.

  1. adwilk Audioholic Ninja

    adwilk
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    I'm sure a lot of you have read about or at least heard of the little computer called the Raspberry Pi. Its an ARM GNU/Linux platform in a credit card sized package. It can be used for lots of things including a ported version of Debian- Cost- $35

    Blah blah... I had been looking for something to replace a WDTV Live in a second room and it turns out that XBMC has been ported to the Pi and Openelec runs as an operating system. It runs PRETTY well. The interface isn't flawlessly responsive but neither is the WDTV. It is a superior streamer and plays 1080p on my network without a fuss. I MUCH prefer the interface and layout of XBMC and the app support for my tablet/phone/pc. I would have no problem using this device in my main system. There's currently work being done to port Android 4.0 which could bring Netflix, Hulu+ and other apps to the party.

    Raspberry Pi - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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  2. TLS Guy Audioholic Overlord

    TLS Guy
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    I'm really interested in this. Please can you provide more details of the hook up and connectivity and if possible post pictures of the set up.

    I'm particularly interested to know if this is a set up that could stream H.264 via HDMI to a receiver of pre/pro. Does it support flash player and HTML 5?

    I'm looking for an easy and economic way of streaming HD content and high quality audio to people's AV systems. It must support flash player and HTML 5. It must be able to be set up and used by individuals who are not computer geeks and widely and easily implemented.

    I have been considering a mod of Xbox, but this looks as if it might be simpler and easier.

    Thank you for this post. If you think all of this might not be of interest to the general membership, then you can PM me. I guess I want to know ALL of the blah, blah, blah. Remember I'm now officially geriatric and stated with a spring wound up gramophone.

    When you say the interface is not flawless, that concerns me. I need a stable widely applicable solution easily useable by the non technically inclined.

    As you can probably guess, I'm getting deeper and deeper into what may prove to be a pivotal and vital project to the musical arts community. I have to get my research sound, and know we have something like this that is stable before the next phase.
  3. BoredSysAdmin Audioholic Warlord

    BoredSysAdmin
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    Pi has model B which now supports 1080p video and as you mentioned, XBMC 12 supports the Pi ... this maybe quite easy project from where I sit :)
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  4. BoredSysAdmin Audioholic Warlord

    BoredSysAdmin
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    Just found interesting comment from Ars Tech:
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 19, 2014
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  5. TLS Guy Audioholic Overlord

    TLS Guy
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    Thanks for that. It sounds Geeky and not ready for prime time and wide market.

    I need a reliable and small streaming device, that would reliably output HD video and audio. Multichannel is not a game changer right now as flash does not support it anyway. I need at least 1080p from H.264, and we have H.h265 announced now for 4K. Two channel audio at least 350 kbs and AAC is the bare minimum.

    HDMI to receiver or pre pro, and it must work for people with limited IT skills without a ton of glitches and futzing.

    Any ideas would be welcome. This would need to interface with a dedicated streaming site.

    Any ideas are welcome.

    I do not really rule out having to have some programming and customization. I think I could get at least 10K from donors for a feasibility study.
  6. BoredSysAdmin Audioholic Warlord

    BoredSysAdmin
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    I'm looking at my next media streamer and so far PCH-A400 is most likely candidate as it has biggest user (and modders) base
  7. Grador Audioholic Field Marshall

    Grador
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    I would venture to say that XBMC has a larger user and modder base, but I would agree with TLS Guy that it is most certainly a geeky solution and will likely never be ready for "prime time market" as that's really not what it's aimed at.
  8. TLS Guy Audioholic Overlord

    TLS Guy
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    Thanks for that. It might do the trick. The price is right. However after a quick read of the menu, it does not look as if you can just go to the NET and run a streamed (not downloadable) program easily.

    It looks to me that you have to go through the Apps market. That I think means that they would have to agree to add an app for our site, at least I think it would. Would it be possible to write and program the app for the device? This is a problem for other devices, such as Boxee Box.

    May be I should try and contact them.
  9. Grador Audioholic Field Marshall

    Grador
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    This is going to be the case for most set top boxes, which is one of the main reasons I've stuck to HTPCs.
  10. TLS Guy Audioholic Overlord

    TLS Guy
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    Yes, that is why I built an HTPC and love it. However that is not a solution that is applicable to my plans.

    I think the XBOX 360 with Gold membership might do what I want. I understand it now can Browse the Net with Windows 8 and Internet explorer.

    I think this was supposed to happen coincident with the release of Windows 8.


  11. adwilk Audioholic Ninja

    adwilk
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    Just jumped on quickly to review the thread- I will indeed make an expanded post- and share some of my experience in researching and implementing the system. A couple quick things... simple settings adjustments allow for passthrough that will allow the Pi to send AAC, DTS, etc to a receiver. Its actually best for performance so that the Pi isn't doing the encoding which is CPU intensive. Granted, it requires a pre/pro but you wouldn't need the streams if you didn't already have the hardware anyways.

    Its not perfectly polished, probably not entirely mainstream, but the setup of the actual device is quite simple. Some of the finer points cannot be controlled via GUI, but a backend program would be fairly simple to code, I'm sure. I will explore HTML 5 and Flash specifically, but there are tons of Repositories with various HD content accessible by XBMC.

    I'll post a bit a more and outline the setup when I have just a few more mintutes..

    EDIT: The Firefox OS runs smoothly on the Pi... it supports HTML5 and Flash (pretty sure)...

    Cheers...

    RPiconfig - eLinux.org


    Last edited: Jan 31, 2013
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  12. Grador Audioholic Field Marshall

    Grador
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    XBMC has absolutely no support for HTML5 or flash. Any "flash" based sites that have plugins that function on XBMC must somehow directly link to the media stream that the flash-player is acting as the intermediary for.
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  13. TLS Guy Audioholic Overlord

    TLS Guy
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    I don't think this pi XMBC will fly.

    What do you know about XBOX 360 and windows 8 for AV streaming from a generic site, not Netflix, Hulu etc?
  14. Grador Audioholic Field Marshall

    Grador
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    Absolutely nothing, but I just cannot imagine it actually working out that well. Browsing anything on a console is clunky at best, and I've never seen the 360 do terribly well with media. I'd do a lot of research before committing to this one.
  15. BoredSysAdmin Audioholic Warlord

    BoredSysAdmin
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    It's very possible, that said PCH is already developed small footprint, low power and noise product running pretty stable. Last XBMC has gained indeed very tempting features like HD pass-thru, but they are very much depend on your hardware and os choices. PCH just works.
    Some reviewers mentioned running XBMC on lower spec processors like AMD's E350 had below par experience in response times and highly recommend atleast core2 processor level. This correlates with my findings running older xbmc build on atom 330.

    Yes, PCH will stream only thru "apps" and there are plenty, but definitely not for every video site online. and no, there no fully functional web browser which I think is not useful (at least for me) on 10ft interface anyways...


    Very true. Boxee might have good web browser, but I don't know much about it. HTPC still most flexible and this build of XBMC might actually do the trick for me, BUT I would very like to know which tiny $250-350 computer can run XBMC ( without menus/animations delays) and fully support 1080p and hd audio pass-thru

    Intel NUC ? I dunno
    Linux ? How to manage power/remote etc.. etc.. etc..

    p.s:
    Adwik says Pi can pass-thru DTS to receiver - I would like to confirm if Pi outs unmolested 5.1 to receiver
  16. Grador Audioholic Field Marshall

    Grador
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    My main system is atom 330 based, it's plenty snappy and I'm running two separate server applications in the background. They've done a bit of work on efficiency.

    The pi on the other hand can get pretty laggy.
  17. BoredSysAdmin Audioholic Warlord

    BoredSysAdmin
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    Thanks, but I wasn't talking about running server apps on 330, but xbmc... Not exactly xmbc, I used to run boxee for windows on it - 330/ion and while it was zippy enough, it was very edgy around corners like working with artwork and mid-to large size collections of movies.

    I have ebil plan in mind - building a custom nas and media server) based on intel's 35w Pentium processor - G640T or similar and pch-a400 as a client.
  18. Grador Audioholic Field Marshall

    Grador
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    I know, i'm saying XBMC works just fine on my 330 WITH the stuff running in the background as well. They've revamped their graphics engine over the last year or so, and changed the way they deal with thumbs. I have 350+ movie collection, the thumbs are always present immediately and browsing couldn't really be much smoother.
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  19. BoredSysAdmin Audioholic Warlord

    BoredSysAdmin
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    Oh, cool... I might to dust off old girl and see if I bring her back to life... Last I think it wont boot... (last time I'm buying Zotac stuff)
  20. adwilk Audioholic Ninja

    adwilk
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    Since the "deal breakers" of the PIXBMC, have been pointed out, I'm not sure just how much detail in my particular setup one would want to see, but...

    Really simple. OpenELEC (basically a bootable standalone build of XBMC) gets installed on an SD card. There are multiple builds but its not too terribly difficult to find an image for download that can be directly installed- OpenELEC can be downloaded from their hompage: Home - OpenELEC Mediacenter

    It should be pointed out that other builds are available- Raspbmc for example. I found the boot time and configuration simplicity preferable with OpenELEC.

    Once you have the image, it has to be extracted. The one I downloaded was not a zip file and using a windows machine required an installed too. I use WinRar frequently and this did the trick. Most folks probably have that already installed that would be interested in the device, but pointing out the varying levels of Geekiness. WinRAR download and support: Download

    Once the Image file is extracted, its ready to be installed on the SD card, but the SD card might not be quite ready. Its recommended that it be formatted thoroughly. I tried skipping this step and failed to boot. Reformatted the card writing zeros using SDFormatter. https://www.sdcard.org/downloads/

    I used an 8GB SDXC from Sandisk. The Sony 4GB SD Card I have doesn't boot quite as quickly. Recommended to use a high quality SD card. 8GB is proving to not be necessary. I've yet to load a single file onto it. It gets broken into two partitions in the end and the storage partition is above 5GB. Space and 7 dollars I'll never use or get back.

    Once the SD card is formatted and the image is ready to be installed.. Head on over to Win32diskimager's wiki to read up and download a program that allows you to install a linux image on a Windows box. Follow the prompts. Yada yada yada... SD card is ready to be installed (er.. baked?) into the pi(e). I'm so funny.

    Still awake? The Pi has multiple connections. It has HDMI and Composite video outputs. Keep in mind that the Pi was designed so that ANYBODY in the world could use a computer. All it takes is a TV (keyboard, mouse, power adapter, internet, USB hard drive) to have a computer. I chose to use the HDMI to hook up to my 1080p 30in Display in my bedroom. I also hardwired internet, hooked up a dongle (that word makes me laugh a little) for wireless keyboard with trackpad and thats it.

    I realize that I had done nothing up to this point that was even the slightest bit innovative. I didn't have the tiny computer in a case at all but after inserting the SD card and making all the various connections (2) and using the Micro USB power cable recommended from MCM electronics (there are specific power requirements. Your Pi will NOT come with a power cable) that little guy lit up and after about the longest 38 seconds of my life- the XBMC interface showed up on my screen. It was awesome.

    OK.. back to real data. It took a reasonable amount of configuration. The video had to be calibrated for some overscan in the upper left corner and I minimized the amount of "extraness" XBMC offers. Get rid of the weather widget- thats what windows and smart phones are for. I also chose to stick with the default skin. I noticed immediately that there were options I hadn't seen before on my other XBMC boxes. OpenELEC has a built in set of tools.. makes sense since it would be difficult to change these the options via UI since it is the operating system. The ones of interest to me were the network settings.

    This is where things got a little tricky. I like to use the "Library" feature so when I show it off, my audience can immediately see that I have all the seasons of "Boston Legal" with artwork installed. Beyond that, it makes remote control of the device super handy with the Yatse app on my android tablet, phone, and windows 8 laptop. I really like browsing artwork than file structures. Here's where I ran into a problem. Using the UI to set a static IP didn't work correctly. The settings entered into OpenELEC's network dialogue box didn't "take" even after multiple attempts and reboots and I would have to find the IP and adjust my remote settings. That was horrible. All media on my devices and media queue'd on my phone and tablet were ready to be sent to XBMC- had the DHCP lease not changed. I finally figured out to access it via SMB on my laptop, and change the Settings XML file to a forced IP address and it works. I have my NAS, the Pi, and my WDTV's outside the DHCP lease settings of the router for a reason and I didn't just want to have a reserved IP for those who are going to mention that.

    SO THATS IT! Wait. Finding the networked media and setting content isnt exactly a breeze. XBMC takes a little patience in that regard. This after already renaming media and making it scraper friendly for another XBMC box.

    SO THATS IT! Piece of cake- mainstream stuff, right?

    Here's how my WDTV works. Take out of box- don't eat the packet of tiny rocks- plug it in.

    I imagine thats how the Popcorn device works as well.

    Anything that you want to work exceptionally well takes effort. I know first hand that HTPC's take some research, some know-how, some troubleshooting, etc. But they are customizable beyond imagination. Stand-alone boxes require almost no know-how and offer zero customization.

    The Pi solution isn't perfect- but at 35 bucks, its pretty tasty. (hyuck hyuck hyuck) My library has over 500 movies, 2000 tv episodes, and 30000 songs. In my bedroom (or even a main system) once its setup (I haven't touched it since) I can grab my phone, my tablet, my computer, or a keyboard and be playing anything I want (in full HD) almost instantly. I enjoy projects like this and couldn't be happier with the outcome. ITS 35 DOLLARS. 1/3 the price of the POWER SUPPLY in most HTPC's. Its a brilliant solution for a streamer on a budget. Simple as that. Myself? I just had to try it. The API and Remote support are enough for me to abandon the WDTV- save Netflix.

    BTW- took a minute to hook up to a Yammy receiver (I don't use) with HDMI and pass through enabled.. (have to change that back- my tv doesn't care it for it at all) and DTS showed up on the display. Its its molested or not, I don't know.

    Anything else? I'm not proofreading. :)
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