Sunday, September 2, 2012

Raspberry Pi OpenELEC Media Center

The last few weeks I've been experimenting using my $35 Raspberry Pi as a media center. My goal is to have my DVD collection instantly playable with the disks and cases safely stored away. The concept is very enticing because the solution is low power, low cost, and has the footprint of a credit card. I don't want a PC in my living room playing 24x7.

My first attempt is to use the OpenELEC Home Theater PC (HTPC) distribution which combines the excellent XBMC media center software with a minimal Linux kernel.The result is a tiny 70MB SD image that is simple to install and manage. Installing only took the time to burn an SD card for the Pi and minutes to configure from the GUI. I store my media on a SheevaPlug and USB hard drive. The video quality is excellent and the only downside is the time spent backing up each DVD to the server.

I'm very happy with the result.  I just added codec licenses for mpeg2 and VC-1.  I've also transcoded some DVD's into h.264/mpeg4 which work well but take hours to convert.  I plan to try more codecs in the weeks to come.

My longer-term goal is to extend the concept beyond a video library ... but that's a story for another blog post.