So thanks to my main man Mohtaram Eyang Kakung Signore Rhino-ji, I have a Raspberry Pi (model B). If you’re not familiar with what that is, clickie the linkie and go check it out.

When I first was thinking about rebuilding my media server, the RaspPi immediately came to mind. There are literally dozens of online blogs, readmes, tech sites, etc with details about how to set that up. And honestly, even if there weren’t, this was ridiculously simple to do. First step, figure out which version of xbmc to use. If you don’t know what that is, go take a look here. Essentially, it is a front end for media servers. In addition, it has several dedicated builds supporting the Raspberry Pi. Foremost among them are OpenELEC, RaspBMC and Xbian. You can do your own investigation around which of these (or others) is best, or you can just trust this guy. I ended up going with RaspBMC.

Ok, so after doing that reading, I still need a few things. The Pi doesn’t come with any “extras”. So in order to make this go, I needed a power supply, some kind of rudimentary case and a memory stick for it. I opted for the acrylic case from Adafruit. I also ordered a power supply from them as well. And finally, I ordered a 4GB SD (Class 10) from B&H Photo, my preferred site for all things camera related. Total cost, about $35. About a week later, everything arrived, and I was ready to rock. I snagged the Windows installer from the RaspBMC site, and that “burned” the image to the SD card. The installer also lets you manually set the ip address, instead of using DHCP. I want a fixed address so I can point tablet/phone based remote apps to it, so I set that as well. I popped in the freshly minted SD card, attached network and power, and up it came. Note that I did not attach it to the video or USB keybd/mouse yet. I was hoping to complete configuration through an SSH connection. This turned out to be less effective than I would have hoped. You can’t just use the web interface either. You can, however, avoid the keybd/mouse since the app remote called Yatse (check your droid store, not sure if there is an iOS version) has a remote keyboard function as well. It takes only a minute to point it to the right host, and you’re good to go for controlling it over the network.

It goes through a couple quick setup steps to pick locale and timezone. At this point, I needed to point it to my network storage where my Videos are, which is quick step as well. I have a Synology NAS that I’m sharing out Videos from (via NFS) and for each type (Movies or TV Shows) it “scrapes” your collection to gather info and locally cache that info. At this point, I just need to get it hooked up to the real TV and receiver and I’m good to go.

And therein lies the rub. Basically, I’m just out of HDMI ports. My receiver is an older SONY model that doesn’t have any, so the video signal is not going through the receiver. The TV has two inputs, currently occupied by the DVD player and DirecTV thinger. Also, since my A/V gear is in its own “closet” (read; the furnace room), I’m dependent on those long runs to get signal to the TV. So, I’m going to put an HDMI switch in my rack, push the HDMI outs from the Pi, DVD and DirecTV device to it, and just use one of the long runs to the TV. I picked out this model. Monoprice is my default vendor A/V gear and network cabling and supplies. They’ve always done right by me, orders big and small. Anyway, that should arrive sometime next week, at which point my install will be complete.

Oh, one final note. Since my receiver doesn’t use HDMI ins/outs, it also isn’t taking advantage of the HDMI audio signalling. I’m using digital coax or fiber connections from the various devices currently. I’m hoping that switch’s digital coax connection can be used to get the HDMI signal’s audio over to the receiver and that way I can take advantage of the full audio I’ll get from that instead of using the Pi’s 1/8″ audio jack. I’ll see how that works once I get it all hooked up. Worst case, though, I just use that jack.

I will follow up on this post once I get it hooked up and running and watch my first movie!

PS – might be time to consider getting a modern receiver. Ah well… something to add to the list.
PSS – I’m very pleased with the RaspPi performance thusfar. My testing using my HDMI monitor had really high quality output with no smearing. I can’t wait to see this on the big TV.