I am an engineer and a vocational tech geek, therefore always fascinated by technological progress, specifically by the fact that now we have access to cheap solutions, unthinkable only a decade ago. It is the case of the Raspbery PI, a mini computer slightly bigger than a credit card able run Linux to be used for a variety of applications.
The potentiality to solve real world problems is endless as the computer can be fitted with an optional I/O board to control switches, motors and read data from sensors.
Leaving all this good including programming language, hacking interfaces and aside for now, I focused on the simplest experiment possible, that is to use it as a network player. The great thing is that the Raspberry Pi can run XBMC, a free, open source player maintained by a community and constantly updated. You have two options for the setup (search the references detailed process): a) install a Linux distro like Raspbian and XBMC, b) install OpenELEC, a small Linux distribution optimized to run only as a XBMC player. The first option is useful for experimentation and educational aspects but performances tend to be low specially with 1080 videos. The second option, I have to say, was a great success as I am a able to use the Raspberry Pi to play content across my network. Personally, I think the overall experience is even better than the one of the WD TV. All of this for about 5oUSD (including power adapter and Raspberry Pi box). The only limitation of this solution is that basically you get an appliance, cannot do anything beside the OpenELEC specification. It needs to be mentioned that the computational capacity is somehow limiting the amount of frills you can do even in this optimized distro (no complex themes,get a coffee while performing setup tasks such as library update), but this does not impact the overall experience. The other nice thing is the remote control, again two options: a) some add-ons such as IR or radio, b) moibile applications over Wi-fi. I used the second one and found that works great. All you need is an Apple or Android tablet or phone and an application either the original XBMC remote or a third part. I found that the Yatze for android be the best. All in all I would recommend this solution not only to the enthusiasts but also to anybody who wants to have a great network player and spend just around 50USD. Here the ingredients for this recipe:
- Raspberry Pi
- Micro USB and power adapter (reccomend 1A) and cable
- SD card (minimum 4GB)
- Software either Linux and XBMC or Openelec
- Optionals: video codecs (around 5UDS from Raspberry store)
I like this little computer and plan to experiment more with it. I heard you can build you own cloud, a robot or a home alarm a fish and pretty much anything else. Also I will write about a plague of software and IT projects projects called scope creep…