Sunday, 24 June 2012

Media Centre - because we know we all want to...

Right - let's get back on track!

For anyone that's vaguely interested in this sort of thing, the fact that the Raspberry Pi has the potential to be used as a media centre has been once of the most talked about points.  Now, for anyone paying closer attention to the project, you'll have read that there's a lot more this than plugging it in and getting a state-of-the-art media centre.  This is still early days for the Raspberry  Pi project (remember, we're still technically in the developer release stage) and the main focus is the educational release due out at the end of the year.

Thankfully, this is where the community comes in.  There are a large number of people out there working on projects like this, and they're doing an awesome job!!  The two main projects I've been looking at are OpenELEC and Raspbmc.  Both of these are full media centre operating systems (they boot into an operating system that is a dedicated media centre rather than a standard desktop) running the XBMC interface, or XBox Media Centre.  This is the interface that runs on the original XBox.

So - let's start with OpenELEC.  This is a well-established solution that has been ported to the Raspberry Pi.  It's still under development, but is feature-rich.  As an open source project, the code it out there for anyone to download and compile, with a lot of published information on this.  If you'd like to try build it yourself, take a look here:
Alternatively, you can get the latest build here (thanks sparky!):
An for up-to-date builds, published by members of the community as they built it, take a look here:
And of course if you'd like more information on the project itself, take a look here:

Next, there's Raspbmc.  From what I can make out this is a fairly new project, based on the Debian distro and XBMC, written specifically for the Raspberry Pi.  While you have the obvious downsides to a new project like this (bugs, stability, etc.) there are a lot of positives - you have a product aimed specifically at the Raspberry Pi, without the distraction of different targets, distributions, etc.  At first glance, the added benefit of Raspbmc is that is has an installer that automatically downloads the image and applies it to the SD card.  I've always had issues with creating an SD card other than using DD for Windows (see here), this seems to write without a problem.  So - here's where you can download the installer:
And that's about all you'll need!

So - that's my first pass at a review (and first post in a few weeks!).  I'll apply these images, test them out and post my feedback soon.

EDIT 24/11/2012: I've had a play with the latest 2 images and am pretty happy with what I've seen.  I'll go into more detail soon, but for now you can find the images here:
Raspbmc -
OpenELEC - (Thanks Chris Swan!!)


  1. Thanks for the intro Tass. DO you have any opinion on which is the better media center of the two?


    1. Thanks for your comment Phil - it's given me the kickstart I needed to dust off my Pi(s) and start trying the latest images.

      I've started with Raspbmc and I'm pretty happy with it at a first glance. Quick download and writing of my card and I'm up and running. It's got a nice clean UI without any noticeable lag. The mouse cursor movement isn't accepted like you might be used to from a PC, but it's smooth and responsive. It picks up a 2GB USB stick without even batting an eyelid and playback is smooth (1.3GB .h264 rip of Thor).

      I haven't tried out OpenELEC since my first attempt, although have just downloaded the latest image. I'll post my initial thoughts on it, and more detailed things like network playback yet, remote control, etc., as I find the time.

    2. I should add to that, Rampbmc comes as a daily pre-built image, as well as the option of an installer which downloads and writes the SD card. OpenELEC on the other hand you'll need to either build yourself of download the weekly build and create your own image. Not too difficult, but could put off the faint-hearted, or those without a bit of time on their hands.

    3. OK, I found a blogger that's kindly hosting daily builds & images of OpenELEC:
      (along with a great blog on how to do this!

      Initial thoughts - seems pretty much identical. A few different menu options, but not much else.

      I'll post more once I've tried them out in detail!