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XBMC

Using an Android phone as an XBMC remote control

I’ve been a little quiet on the RPi for a week while enjoying XBMC working pretty well. However one thing has been bothering me: a lack of a decent remote control. My current setup uses a wireless keyboard (without numeric keypad to keep the size down), but it feels like a pretty clunky remote control. Last night I did some research and found a usable alternative:

http://code.google.com/p/android-xbmcremote

android-xbmcremote to give it its official title is a pretty decent remote control application that connects to XBMC on the RPi via the phone’s WiFi LAN connection, supporting both button and gesture input. And of course it runs on my Nexus S phone, which is pretty much remote control sized. Superb :)

The remote control application works well but is clearly still in development as it has a couple of glitches. For example, when the RPi is under heavy load, such as when starting to play a movie, the remote software briefly loses the connection and pops up a warning on-screen on the phone which has to be cleared. The connection is restored almost instantly, hence this warning could definitely be suppressed.

Also, I found that while it is possible to start playing a movie or trailer by clicking on the film record on the phone, depending on where one is in the XBMC menus on the RPis this can cause the software to go into a loop: play - refresh screen and show XBMC GUI - no PLAY I tell you - no I won’t - yes you will - no I won’t... clicking on Stop on the remote exits this loop. The workaround at present appears to be to navigate the XBMC menus on the RPi remote and select to play a movie when prompted. All works fine with this method.

So, some work still to be done, but this is an excellent work in progress and really is better (even with current limitations) than using my keyboard as a remote control.

XBMC continues to impress.

XBMC Huzzah!

My N570 powered Asus Eee Netbook took 12 hours to build OpenELEC for the RPi. Once built I followed the instructions at www.openelec.tv/news/item/242-openelec-meets-raspberry-pi-part-2 carefully (noting that the * in some of the file paths needed to be explicitly typed to work at the command prompt) and after first using the command:

dd if=/dev/sdb of=./sd4gbrpi.dd

to backup my existing RPi installation I then had a working XBMC box. Awesomeness is such an understatement :)

A few quick observations:

1) Plug the RPi LAN Ethernet cable in BEFORE booting OpenELEC or you’ll have no IP address.
2) Likewise plug in your external HDD BEFORE booting or you’ll have no media files.
3) Oh and as I’ve not stored my files with the recommended directory and file naming conventions for XBMC I’d suggest going to Videos and adding a new source and telling it to re-scan and not just browsing through your media files. After this I got film information and the like (but no cover thumbnails... that’s on my to-do list now).

With XBMC up and running I’m drinking a rather tasty Spanish Rioja to celebrate. May even watch a James Bond film on the RPi tonight as well.

Raspberry Pi: To Do List

OK, well here’s my To Do list for RPi:

  • Install Debian onto SDHC and achieve first boot - DONE
  • Build and install XBMC onto SDHC - DONE
  • Connect external 1TB USB2.0 HDD to RPi and control through XBMC - DONE
  • Install Webmin - to do
  • Install a firewall - to do
  • Get XBMC to show me those lovely movie thumbnails - DONE
  • Put it in a case - to do

I’ll keep adding to this list and whenever I have some interesting info for you I’ll make a dedicated page (installing and using Webmin on RPi is a definite).

Raspberry Pi: some interesting links

A quick one for you. Here are some links to interesting RPi sites:
(I will keep this page updated with more resources as I find them, hence please do check back)

www.raspberrypi.org - main RPi site

www.raspberry-pi.co.uk - intro to Python on the RPi, lots of good news articles including a list of compatible SD cards (they beat me to it). Also info on the Fedora Remix distribution.

www.themagpi.com - a free monthly magazine on the RPi (how awesome is that). It is a really good read and very professionally put together.

www.raspbmc.com - a project to create a small Linux distro that boots into XBMC providing you with a one-stop media centre.

www.openelec.tv/news/item/241-openelec-meets-raspberry-pi-part-1 - OpenELEC is also a self-bootable Linux distro that provides XBMC support. You can either build it yourself (as I am doing now as I type), or download one of their builds directly from a kindly bod named James Newman to save on all that build time: www.numan1617.com/rpi/openelec/builds . Oh and Part 2 of the OpenElEC instructions can be found at: www.openelec.tv/news/item/242-openelec-meets-raspberry-pi-part-2 .
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