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Raspberry Pi - the easiest and most affordable htpc solution

wirednuts

Diamond Member
Jan 26, 2007
7,121
1
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i finally received mine today! 512MB revB

i thought these things would be really cool, but was getting skeptical about their lifespan (cheap android phones being better and whatnot)

well, first impressions i am blown away. after you get the 2GB xbian image downloaded onto your sd card, youre done. there is no install. pop the card into the pie and it just boots and works. it is absolutely the easiest os install i have ever done, across any operating system, period. no doubt about it. an old person could do it.

then, you first notice how it can find your windows network without a hitch and streaming music is instant. the sound is amazing, its top notch. it gets even better when you point it toward a high def movie file on your network. it-just-works!

i cannot believe this is linux. there is no setup, and its fast. this thing really is a game changer. a $45 device can go inside almost any tv, basically drawing no power, and turn that tv into a smart tv. this is just amazing! im so excited about these, the software will be constantly growing for years to come for sure, and its off to an incredibly smooth start.
 

pandemonium

Golden Member
Mar 17, 2011
1,768
60
91
Nice! I'm impressed that the OS is that simple and easy to use. I've been looking at getting one for a while and glad to hear they're as awesome as intended.
 

SMOGZINN

Lifer
Jun 17, 2005
12,977
2,507
126
I've been waiting to hear from someone that has build a R.Pi HTPC.
Have you run a 1080p movie from it yet? Was it able to handle it?
What sort of front end is it running?
 

wirednuts

Diamond Member
Jan 26, 2007
7,121
1
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ohh so many things i wasnt going to do right now! give me a bit, ill try to answer those questions.

last night i only tried 720p video and it was surprising. its probably a placebo, but i thought it looked quite a bit better then my e350 machine using the same monitor. the e350 uses vga though so i guess that could be the difference... just it being digital vs analog i mean.

then i whipped out another sd card, this time a 8gb one, and put raspbian wheezy on it. the results were a little weak, but its not fair to judge yet because 1) that os is made for programmers not for end users and 2) it doesnt recognize the 512MB pi's as 512MB. it sees them as 256MB machines and you can definitely tell. its like a slow cellphone (which makes sense if you understand the hardware). the ram problem will be fixed soon though, they simply havent had enough time to fix the bugs since these new 512MB versions are very new to the scene and were not originally planned; ram is so cheap right now they were able to pull it off.

and even though xbian uses all 512MB, it does have delay when launching actions. the menu is fine until video is running, then it becomes somewhat clunky. i am running it off a no name 2GB sd card though, which might be a lot of my problems. i hear there is a way to run this off a usb thumbdrive, and if thats the case there is some fast ones out there that would work well. an i3 windows 7 htpc setup is still far superior, but the pi does basically everything a win7 box can just a little slower and a little less... i dunno, classy i guess? it sure is far cheaper and dramatically less power draw though...

also, anyone reading this trying to figure out why they have a lemon raspberry pi (haha), its because your a/c adapter sucks. i tried 4 cell phone adapters, from 500ma to 1.5ma output ones, and none of them would keep the pi going. the pi would get to desktop and freeze up randomly. i was pretty bummed and frustrated until i just gave up after an hour, and plugged it right into my server's usb port. that did the trick, and the device runs perfectly ever since. the pi obviously has little to no power filtering, so make sure you are using a high quality power source.
 
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wirednuts

Diamond Member
Jan 26, 2007
7,121
1
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ok. 1080p bluray 15GB mkv movie i have works perfectly. its gorgeous, and im grabbing it from a network server. more impressive- youtube 1080p streaming works perfectly! no joke!!! it does come through one of pie's addon programs though, so maybe its specially compressed.. but it looks excellent besides the black levels being chopped up (as usual with internet video)

uPnP works perfect. any device sees it as "Xbian" and you can change that too. also allows control of pie through uPnP.

also automatically searches and downloads movie info even for downloaded movies in various formats including mkv. you get cover art as the background as you browse!

and one thing im noticing, is even why you try to do too much (dont multitask, its just too slow), the pie never wants to quit. it seems very resiliant already, and the software is in its infancy.
 
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KingRaptor

Member
Jul 26, 2012
52
0
66
Noob question... But what is the best way to control the Pi when it's an htpc streaming things from the web?

I know DLNA can be controlled from other devices; I mean finding flash/html5 video online.
 

VirtualLarry

Lifer
Aug 25, 2001
49,205
5,458
126
This is quite the revolution in "personal" computing. When you no longer need MS Windows for content-consumption on the internet, what will BillG and company do? Plus, it's cheap.
 

wirednuts

Diamond Member
Jan 26, 2007
7,121
1
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its cheap, easy to use, doesnt produce heat and will not make a difference on your power bill. i think its very close to revolutionary- exactly as it was intended to be.

dont get me wrong, it doesnt hold a candle to the windows 7 MC experience... but for the cost and ease of troubleshooting its going to be a game changer. people really dont care about how fast electronics are, just as long as it works. and i say troubleshooting because that is the #1 reason why i cant sell windows htpc boxes. FAR too many weird issues that are easy for me to fix but it means a lot of phone calls from people who just dont know what to do.

if there is a problem with a raspberry pi htpc, at very worst i just send them a new $5 SD card and they can put it in themselves. done. i get goosebumps just thinking about it.

and my server! holy crap i just thought about it last night. im actually going to leave my e350mITX board in there, so it can still be my cat's ass tv viewer... but im going to add two raspberry pi's. one to do the actual file serving so i can turn off my "power hungry" e350 when im not watching tv. sounds weird but if my e350 is drawing 30w most of the time when i can have a pi do the same thing for less then 1w, why not?

so, one pi for the harddrives to share them on the network (and serve my stuff through dlna), and another pi will be inside to run asterisk for a phone server. the asterisk pi will be run off a dedicated power supply with battery backup. i think a cell phone charger plugged into a ups unit would probably run for days on battery :D this way everything inside my matx case will have a dedicated job to do, and i will keep backup sd cards around so if one ever goes screwy it will be a lightning quick fix. and if i ever want to add more feature to my server, i will just setup and run a new pi. down the road, i plan on getting security cameras so that will be a 3rd pi in my server to do that. this is just so awesome.

i already told my family all i want for xmas is raspberry pi's. thats it. i want as many as they want to give me :D
 
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Auric

Diamond Member
Oct 11, 1999
9,596
2
71
Yeah, HTPC-wise it is not comparable to a media center in features nor performance. It is more comparsble to low-end hardware players with the advantage of custom interface/XBMC but the disadvantage of either not playing all formats or at best requiring additional license costs which along with required accessories brings the total price up in line with those.
 
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wirednuts

Diamond Member
Jan 26, 2007
7,121
1
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its not just about the upfront cost though, which really only is about 1/3 of a budget amd cpu/mobo/ram combo is... its the extremely low power draw and tiny footprint that opens the doors wide open for possible uses. and in the case of htpc use, the ease of setup is holy grail. nothing is easier, and that is key to any good home media device because there are always problems at some point.

and the fact that you dont have to turn it off... people dont like leaving electronics on, but if they dont even know whats on or off they just leave it alone. with windows boxes, you have to rely on sleep modes and it simply doesnt work as well as you want it to. there is nothing better for convenience then 24/7 operation.
 
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Auric

Diamond Member
Oct 11, 1999
9,596
2
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Are dedicated players much different though -around 5W whether in standby or just left on?
 

wirednuts

Diamond Member
Jan 26, 2007
7,121
1
0
yes. now show me a $45 dedicated player that can run multiple sofwatre packages with a simple sd card swap. and run most linux supported peripherals. on batteries. ;)
 
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techpun

Member
Oct 19, 2012
27
0
0
i thought they had this chip running xbmc already? i would love to know how that would work with indexing the movies and scrapping data from the different sources.. Maybe plex would be a better option for this chip since it offloads the db duties to server install of your choosing.
 

wirednuts

Diamond Member
Jan 26, 2007
7,121
1
0
plex? ill look at it.

xbian is a custom premade image file to run just xbmc on a raspberry pi without any setup. just copy with an image utility, and put it in the pi. xbmc in less then 10min and a couple clicks.
 

zaydq

Senior member
Jul 8, 2012
782
0
0
I'm hovering the buy button... but the wife may murder me before I can enjoy it.
 

wirednuts

Diamond Member
Jan 26, 2007
7,121
1
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where do you find it in stock? mcm electronics is now backordered till two more weeks at least :(
 

wirednuts

Diamond Member
Jan 26, 2007
7,121
1
0
whatever. i thought it was a fad too until i bought one and tried it. this is a dream machine for people on a budget.

my newest idea- an email viewer for my grandma. she always uses windows machines and they always break on her. if i can set up an email viewer inside xbian she would be perfectly set. and portable.
 

teh_pwnerer

Member
Oct 24, 2012
151
0
0
whatever. i thought it was a fad too until i bought one and tried it. this is a dream machine for people on a budget.

my newest idea- an email viewer for my grandma. she always uses windows machines and they always break on her. if i can set up an email viewer inside xbian she would be perfectly set. and portable.
no it's really not.

First of you still need a TV/Monitor, mouse, and keyboard.

The thing can't even play 1080p without stuttering and audio out of sync.

There is no hard drive space.

Only choice for OS is Linux.

If your TV doesn't have HDMI you have to waste money on old expensive cables.

It's more fragile than a credit card.

It ceases up browsing constantly.

Good luck trying to do anything other than watch a movie. Which takes about 5 minutes to get going.

:thumbsdown:
 

wirednuts

Diamond Member
Jan 26, 2007
7,121
1
0
it does show its weakness at 1080p. but you might have a slow sd card too because mine does any 1080 movie i have without skipping. but i agree the menus are a bit slow at that resolution.

i am running mine at 1024x768 right now, and a DVI 19" monitor. its pretty much lag free at this resolution. very fast.

in my eyes, for $45 shipped there is nothing like it. dont complain that you need a tv to run this. because you dont. and if you need to run 1080p at uber speed then you have enough money to buy a better computer.
 

teh_pwnerer

Member
Oct 24, 2012
151
0
0
Well you have to give these guys props. Manufacturing a $15 computer and selling it for $40 or more.

That's pretty much exactly what I do. Sell junk for a profit.
 

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