It’s been four weeks and I’ve been playing with the Raspberry Pi in a variety of ways, from using it for web browsing and standard day to day computing tasks to playing around with the various configurations that are possible for networking (Ethernet vs wireless USB). But is there an end goal for this device, or will it be a curiosity on my shelf to be included when a useful goal rears its head?

Elsewhere on we have covered in detail the many uses of the Raspberry Pi computer, but one of the most popular is undoubtedly converting the device into a media streaming system or home theater system.

As I write this, the print magazines on the newsstands herald the arrival of the «£22 smart TV» and the Raspberry Pi certainly delivers this type of functionality to the typical flat LCD or plasma TV thanks to its port of the popular XBMC. software, resulting in Raspbmc.

Preparing the Raspbmc Software

You should have already followed our previous guide on installing a Debian distribution for Raspberry Pi and setting it up.

To install Raspbmc you will need a couple of things. The first is a new SD card — your old one is needed for the Raspberry Pi to work under normal conditions; it’s actually the Pi’s hard drive, so overwriting it will cause the card to need to be overwritten, which is about the same as reinstalling the operating system. You don’t need to use a new SD card, but it’s recommended. Please note that a microSD card with an SD adapter is suitable.

Whichever solution you use, the device must be formatted and inserted into a memory card reader connected to your PC before proceeding.

raspberry pi home theater

Next, you need to download the Raspbmc installer. After saving on your computer, unzip and run the file installer.exe .

Your SD card should be listed in the installer window; check the box and click » Install» and the utility will install Raspbmc to the media. When the message » Congratulations ”, it’s time to remove the card and replace it with the Raspberry Pi.

raspberry pi home theater

Setting up Raspbmc

After inserting the SD card with the Raspbmc installed into the Raspberry Pi, turn on the device, after making sure that it is connected via Ethernet to a router or local network. Further data will be downloaded as part of the installation, so this is vital.

raspberry pi home theater

You don’t have to do anything — unless there’s an error in your internet connection, ethernet cable, or SD card — so sit back and enjoy your coffee (as instructed by the Raspbmc installer!) while you wait.

You’ll know when the media center is ready…

What can you do with XBMC on Raspberry Pi

Raspbmc is essentially a popular XBMC media center project ported to the Raspberry Pi. So the user interface and functionality of the software is more or less identical.

raspberry pi home theater

Images, videos and music are separated into their own menus, and you can also get weather information for three locations. Media sources must be added manually, while various add-ons can be installed through the add-on manager.

raspberry pi home theater

What’s great about XBMC/Raspbmc is that it’s so easy to use — the user interface is clear and attractive.

For complete information on using Raspbmc, please refer to the XBMC wiki.

Raspbmc improvement

Setting up this media center software on your Raspberry Pi is as easy as plugging in your media and enjoying the fruits of your (relatively easy) labor.

However, the system is not perfect — codecs for certain file types are not available with the software. Instead, you must purchase the MPEG-2 and VC-1 codecs. Fortunately, they are relatively inexpensive and can be found on the official Raspberry Pi website.

However, even without these additions, your Raspberry Pi will make a great portable media center!

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