Tuesday, February 11, 2014

XMBC Media Center

In the living room the media center used to be a PS3 but in the last six months or so the DLNA client has just gone buggy and its hard to play a whole album without it stopping for no reason.

So I decided to make my own media center.

Bravery or folly? Not so much, a bit of Googling and tinkering brought me a very usable result. My U/I of choice is XBMC, if your have not taken it for a ride it's very cool & simple to use.  I did not want to put a full-blown PC by the TV, something more discreet was preferred and since its a media player, did not want to blow a fortune (you can get a brand-name device for $50+).

So I went the way of the Raspberry PI, a "system-on-a-chip" board with 10/100 networking, 2x USB & most importantly an HDMI port.  And it goes for $25.  Complement that with a SDHC 8GB card, electricals & a case from these guys along with their IR receiver (for the Logitech Harmony of course).

I tinkered for a while as there are 3 Linux distributions made for the RPi with XBMC and settled on OpenELEC, for speed & compatibility with the IR receiver.  Once set up I added NFS support to my NAS (Synology 212J) so access is as fast as possible, configured it and voila, a media center for the living room which outpaces most of the commercial ones.  The only think missing (for now I hope) is Netflix support.

Love it for all the features (including the weather but you could look outside), the flexibility & the overall look.  Performance is as good as any commercial product I've tried so far (limited to only a few brands).  Plus a bunch of add-ons are available (my wife is very happy that I put the Songza one), and supports Airplay (which I found choppy) so for now no AppleTV (can't stream directly the content of my NAS for music & movies as far as I know).

There is a new version coming of XBMC (13 codename Gotham), I'll get a new SDHC card to try it out so I won't mess up what I've got working.

Try it for fun on Windows, Linux or MacOS (even Android), time well spent.  Here is a sample pic of  the main U/I:

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