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Make a Raspberry Pi Media Center with XBMC

February 14 2013

Turn your Raspberry Pi into a $35 Media Center with XBMC!

Why XBMC?

We asked you guys what you would do if you had a Raspberry Pi and overwhelmingly, you wanted to make a media center. We did it and found some things out.

If you're unfamiliar with the Raspberry Pi, it's a $35 computer with a 700MHz processor, 2 USB ports, Ethernet, HDMI, analog video and audio out. You power it with a USB adapter. It's a pretty powerful machine at a low cost and it sips electricity.

We loaded RaspBMC on to our Raspberry Pi. It is a specially made version of XBMC. XBMC is a free media center piece of software that is available for all platforms. It originated on the Xbox (formerly known as "Xbox Media Center") and made its way to the PC. RaspBMC is a tiny version of XBMC that is made specially for the hardware on the Raspberry Pi.

Loading RaspBMC

You have to load RaspBMC onto an SD card. We suggest an 8GB Class 10 card. That SD card is used by the Raspberry Pi as its hard drive because the device does not have any onboard storage. You can use a command line or go with the easier GUI solutions. The official Windows installer is made by the RaspBMC guys. There's also a Mac installer called XPi.

RaspBMC on your Pi

Once you get your XBMC installer on the card, plug in your SD card to your Raspberry Pi. Then attach all the other cables (network, HDMI, USB devices and power). We highly suggest using a powered USB hub to support your wireless keyboard or mouse.

Once you power it up, the installation process will continue on the SD card. It ought to take about 30 minutes to download and update all the components.

Performance

The Raspberry Pi handles a lot of things well. Web streaming video, Airplay (audio better than video), local video file playback were all very good.

We did have issues with playing videos from a network resource. It wasn't an issue every time, but we found a workaround. If you have another PC, use it as a server and run a transcoder like PS3 Media Server or TVersity. PS3 Media Server is free and runs on Windows, Mac and Linux. TVersity costs $4 and runs on Windows Only.

Overall, the Raspberry Pi worked very well as a Media Center with XBMC. Responsiveness could be a little slow from time to time, but it's easy to forgive since the device is only $35.

Google+ Spotlight

We've got a great active community where you can discuss ideas with other folks over at Google Plus. Give it a look and get involved!

Reith Walls with a tip on Media Monkey
- you guys missed a MAJOR feature of Media Monkey. Once you have everything tagged, you can right click your ENTIRE library, tell it to auto-rename and organize the files, and Media Monkey will actually re-name all of your music based on the proper tags, and then organize them into Artist and Album folders. Not only does it get everything tagged, but it gets everything organized too.

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People: Leo Laporte