If you’ve been following our recent Raspberry Pi articles, you know that it can be configured as a media streaming client with a custom build of XBMC. and you should also be aware that by combining the device with any additional hardware (external hard drive, cables and adhesives) it can become a complete media center. .

However, as a fantastic Raspberry Pi solution for your various HTPC requirements, there are a few things it can’t do too well. Some additional hardware may be useful in some situations, but in others—for example, where DRM or proprietary software is required—there is currently no way around the restrictions.

You will find more information about using and setting up your Raspberry Pi in our new guide guide.

Streaming Subscription Services: What Works and What Doesn’t?

Due to the popularity of the Raspberry Pi, it has been chosen by thousands as the compact Raspberry PI home theater device. However, while it works great with XBMC for streaming content stored on your SD card or connected device (local or network), the Raspberry Pi is limited when it comes to some popular online TV streaming and movie subscription services. .

Lovefilm & Netflix

Popular like Lovefilm and Netflix over the past couple of years, none of the services offer a plugin, add-on or app that will allow you to view its content on a Raspberry Pi with or without XBMC.

Although there are XBMC plugins for both services, they will only work on Windows machines. Because the Raspberry Pi runs Linux and runs on an ARM processor, plugins are not suitable for compatibility reasons and because they use Microsoft’s Silverlight software to stream content. This is a proprietary system, so there is no stream access.

raspberry pi home theater

However, not all is lost. There’s a good chance that an Android build for the Raspberry Pi will be able to run Lovefilm and Netflix — and if those two companies see how many Raspberry Pi computers have been sold (there’s over one million now!), then there’s also a good chance they might see the meaning soon…

Services that will work

This does not mean that there are no streaming services on a Raspberry Pi running XBMC. For example, Hulu will work in the same way as UK TV broadcasts provided by BBC iPlayer, Channel 4 4OD and ITV Player.

Downloading a Raspberry Pi home theater from XBMC and checking out the various add-ons available will give you access to YouTube, Vimeo, and a host of streaming services such as German TV and various niche channels streaming video games, tech shows, and movie trailers.

Storage: local or network?

With XBMC installed, the Raspberry Pi can play music, videos, and photos on devices connected locally and remotely. You will probably find that the best solution is either to use an external hard drive or a network drive (either a NAS drive or a hard drive on your PC that has been shared with a LAN).

raspberry pi home theater pc

While SD cards can be used for storage, the largest supported size for an SDHC card is 32 GB. This probably won’t contain all the media you want to view, and using the same storage device for the media and for the operating system to run isn’t ideal if the OS crashes and the card needs to be reformatted.

Similarly, the maximum capacity of USB flash drives does not come close to external hard drives or network drives, so while they are useful for playing a small amount of video files, USB flash drives should not be considered a permanent storage solution for Raspbmc.

Watching Live TV on Raspberry Pi

There are several ways you can watch live streaming on Raspbmc. The former requires the most up-to-date build of XBMC (version 12 and up) and a PC on your home network that is equipped with a TV card or USB TV tuner. Acting as a server, this computer will relay TV signals to your Raspberry Pi, and the XBMC software provides an interface to the TV card, allowing you to change channels remotely.

raspberry pi home theater pc

An alternative is to use a Raspberry Pi compatible USB TV tuner. Such devices are made by Sundtech, but you will need to purchase an MPEG-2 license key for Raspberry Pi (only £2.40) in order to successfully decode digital TV streams.

Raspberry Pi: ideal as a media center with some limitations

If you have a Raspberry Pi, then you have a very versatile mini computer in your hands that can be used for learning to code, as a NAS controller, retro/MAME gaming device, or media center.

raspberry pi home theater

In all these cases, the use of the device has some limitations, usually in terms of power, so finding that it does not cover Netflix and Lovefilm streaming should come as no surprise.

However, remember that this limitation was imposed by third parties. There is a possibility that the Raspberry Pi will eventually be able to stream video from these services in the future.

Image credit: Hulu logo

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