Raspberry Pi as media centre

PicturePhoto Credit: adafruit via Compfight cc

Today I decided to turn the Raspberry Pi (RPi) into a media centre, attached to my television so that my boys can watch their movies. We have collected a fair number of videos over the years and I have copied them all onto a hard drive that I attach to my computer which I would then connect to the TV in the games room so that the boys could watch their movies. There are times when that becomes very inconvenient, particularly when I am trying to study or work on other projects and the rest of the family wants to watch something that needs to be connected to my laptop. After doing a little research, I found that there is an application called OSMCtv available for the RPi that will allow me to turn the RPi into a media centre device, much like an Apple TV. The RPi is cheaper to buy than the Apple TV, and more importantly, I wanted to see if it would work as well as the reviews claimed, and if I would be able to get it run.

After a Google search for “Install OSMC on the Raspberry Pi3,” I was greeted with a website called WirelessHack (I love the names that some of these sites have) that had all of the instructions on where to find the OSMC software, how to install the package, link the device to my storage hard drive and how to hook everything up. I have to admit that this was the absolute easiest project so far. The website had instructions for the Windows platform but I am starting to become familiar with the ins and outs of flashing the SD cards and then the simple command line code that I need to get things running so I was able to make the adjustments necessary to complete everything on the Mac. Needless to say, there was no fiddling or head scratching with this project, it couldn’t have been easier.

PicturePhoto Credit: roguemarine via Compfight cc

Once the software was loaded, I had connected the Rpi to my wireless network and told it where to find the movies, all that was left to do was to plug it into the ‘HDMI’ input of the TV, the ‘TV in’ of the surround sound system and watch some tv. I was amazed by both the quality of the picture and sound – I was watching the movies in 1080p HD quality with 5.1 surround sound, as good as any blue ray disk player. The boys were able to figure out how to navigate to their movie sources, how to get the movies to play and best of all, I don’t need to sacrifice my laptop to connect to the television. There are also ways to connect the RPi to streaming music sources such as Spotify, Songza, your own home music library, as well as your saved photos so that the device becomes an all-in-one media player. I still need to do some research to see if Netflix and Crave will work with the device then the RPi will convert our old ‘unsmart’ television into a ‘smart’ television for a fraction of the cost of replacing the old one.

I think I need to buy another RPi so that I have one to dedicate to this project!

What did I learn? I learned that there are significantly more things that the RPi is capable of than I ever imagined when I began this project. The OSMC material is also open source and it is compiled from the media centre capabilities built into the original XBox game console, and there is an entire community dedicated to this project. After looking at the source code for the operating system, I have a new-found respect for the people who have developed this, it boggles my mind to think of all of the hard work, and effort that these people just share with the world as if it means nothing to them. This is one of those things that I will probably donate to. In this case, I will pay for something because I know it is free…