When we first heard of this little credit card size computer our jaws dropped and we were ready to throw our money into the hands of anyone selling it, of cause we were too late so the first batch slipped by us and we got stuck in the queue that formed as the developers ran into delivery difficulties and CE marking problems but finally it has arrived and what a treat it is
The raspberry PI is a 25$ Linux-based computer with the capability of running 1080i HD video for it’s HDMI outlet shown in the back on the picture above, this fits well with the plan we have for the PI. The Raspberry PI has a ARM1176JZFS processor running at 700 mhz with 250 MB ram it has 1 analog video, 1 analog audio, 2 USB plugs an Ethernet controller and a SD card reader in addition to the HDMI mentioned above.
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The PI was developed by The Raspberry PI foundation with the intended use to be in education that is why the original OS that you can get for it comes with all one needs to learn Python programming and application development, this is not quite what we’re going to use it for on the other hand and we’re not alone we have found this nifty little piece of hardware also has potential for being a great Media Center. This use has been so popular that there even is a Linux distro for it that does exactly this called the RaspBMC which basically is a scaled down version of Debial Linux with XBMC layered on top of it, so rather than whipping up a clean install of Linux and installing XBMC our self we opted for RaspBMC.
XBMC is a media center application that allows you to flip through your video collection in a nice looking environment and plays off almost everything you throw at it, it supports streaming online content and also media hosted on Network locations like a NAS or your home computer.
The RaspBMC software comes with an installer that takes care of everything for you all you need to do is plug a SD card into a reader and select it from a list and it does the rest for you. When that’s done you plug the SD card into the PI and boot it up and you are greeted with the following screen
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After downloading the latest sources and patches it installs and sends you off to a break…
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When done it reboots and starts Raspbmc
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Gotta love camera flashes…
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The raspberry does not have a hard drive other than what’s left on the SD card this can be connected through the USB ports. We were planning on using a 500 GB USB hard drive but seeing as the Raspbmc software has native SMB support it was deemed useless. This means that we can simply just share our video folder on our computer or NAS and add it as a source on the PI with a few simple steps, streaming over a home network is usually not a problem now in 2012 most people have good enough networks to support this. The PI only supports 10/100 Mbit network but this is more than enough for its use though we would like to see Gigabit features on it in a updated version sometime in the future.
By now you’re probably thinking how are we planning on controlling it, and surely we do not intend on having a keyboard lying around our TV, no that would not flow well with the interior(according to my girlfriend) no we’re going to use the XBMC Android remote app this is a network based remote that works very well it’s quick and responsive just like you want with remotes and it works with Raspbmc, all you need to do is go into Settings and allow remote control under services on the PI and enter the PI’s IP address in the app along with username and password here’s a few snaps of the PI and it’s remote
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The Raspberry is a great machine to use as a media center, although without case it is a bit fiddley and you need to think where you place it, we were thinking of making our own case for it but we stumbled upon this case a little Plexiglas based case to house it in, and at 15 euro it was well worth it so we’ll be ordering one shortly
And this was so much like our idea that we decided to just can our idea and go for one of these…
So do we recommend it? Yes it is truly a great little gizmo packing quite the punch, we can recommend it both for educational use as it is only 25$ which makes it budget friendly for any schools that want to start teaching kids programming or even just to use as a in classroom computer. As a media center it is great as you can stick it in a drawer if you don’t want it to be visible and it just works.