Raspberry Pi Catch-All

It sounds like what you're doing now is loading media onto the external hard drive, connecting it to the Logitech device, powering it up, and then issuing commands from a special client on your laptop to make it play back. Is that right? What about that process are you trying to change? I assume there must be some pain point that's making you think about replacing the Logitech, so what specific problem are you trying to fix?

Or do you want to play with a Pi, and want it to work just like your Logitech does?

Yup, just as I thought, my comment was confusing

So, the external hard drive is now connected to the WD Live appliance. WD Live is connected to the AV receiver, the projector, and to my home WiFi, and I can map the external drive on my laptop. This works fine, I can put stuff on the external drive without disconnecting it from WD Live. The transfer is painfully slow over 802.11 g, but I don't mind most of the time.

The good thing about WD Live is that I can control it with Logitech universal remote (just a plain Harmony universal IR Remote). The bad thing is that it is pretty atrocious in managing media library. So, I end up with a plethora of weird, random movies in the library. I checked out XBMC on my computer, and I could get MUCH better results (better matches in the library).
What is more, the WD Live thing has no screen. Which makes it totally impractical for listening to the music stored on the external drive. I would have to unroll the screen and start up my projector to navigate through the media library. Now, if only I could make a VNC connection (like I am hoping to with the RPi).

I'm trying to think what the optimal setup would be for me...

EDIT: Oh, and the RPi is supposed to replace the WD Live media player. It would be great if I could IR-control it, but if not - then a connection from the laptop (something like remote desktop) would do the trick too.

OK, well, then you're trying to run a standard HTPC, pretty much, with a wireless connection to the Internet, and presumably, the same large local drive for holding local media.

Does it need to be an actual IR remote and/or VNC? I'm sure that can be done, but what I did on my HTPC was to rig up a wireless keyboard/mouse combo, and then used the TV as the monitor. VNC over wireless will run, but it kind of sucks. (VNC in general kind of sucks, actually. ) So you could do it that way, controlling the Pi's screen and keyboard with the laptop, but it will be kind of laggy, and it will be especially laggy and nasty if you're trying to also load media over the wireless at the same time. But, and this is a big but, a wireless keyboard (probably Bluetooth, these days) will probably cost more than the Pi does!

If you'd rather avoid that expense, then VNC would be better, but wireless keyboard/mouse is going to feel much more responsive.

Malor wrote:

OK, well, then you're trying to run a standard HTPC, pretty much, with a wireless connection to the Internet, and presumably, the same large local drive for holding local media.

Good summary, thanks. The main challenge, I suppose, is not the remote control, at least not directly. I would like to be able to use the Pi without the screen. Not for videos, of course, but for the music. You see, starting the overhead projector every time I want to listen to some MP3 or an internet radio is rather pointless. And it is a sure way to kill the projector lamp very fast. This is basically why I am considering the VNC use.

What about sharing the connected local drive over the local network? And uploading the files from the laptop directly to the Pi-connected drive? Is it possible? Can the Pi run as a SAMBA server, so I can access the drive like a 'Windows share'?

MsbS wrote:

I am sooo tempted to get a RPi now, as a HTPC. But my setup is kinda unusual. And I am a Pi-noob, so I need help/info...

- I have no TV, only an LCD Projector (HDMI). It is mounted to the ceiling just above my sofa.
- The Audio/Video equipment is on a cabinet next to my sofa.
- Currently, I am using a WD Live media player for playing back media.
- The media is stored on a portable HD (2,5") connected to the WD media player.
- I use a Logitech universal remote to control all this mess.
- I have no USB keyboard (I work on a laptop), and I use a Logitech M570 wireless trackball. I should be able to find a corded USB mouse somewhere...
- My modem/router is in another room, so I generally use WiFi.

Leaving this in but I may come back to it later...

MsbS wrote:

So, I suppose here is what I need to get it all to work (please, let me know if my conclusions are wrong):

- Raspberry Pi (duh!), the B version
- Power adapter (my phone chargers are 0.7 or 1.0 A only)
- A powered USB Hub (4 ports should be enough).
- USB Keyboard to get it all configured, then I should be able to use VNC from the laptop?
- SD card to install RaspBMC. Another one to test out various OSes, OpenELEC, and all the fancy stuff?
- A WiFi dongle for the RPi.

You may not need all of it, it would certainly be easier with all of it.
For instance you could get an OS up and running and copy the image of the sdcard off to return to and still play with other OS's that way with a single card.

I have not successfully gotten RaspBMC to succussfully run on any of the three PI's I had, I don't know if it is SD card related or not. On one type of SDCard (C4), it wouldn't get past bootstrap installer. On the others (C10) the install would complete but it wouldn't boot post-install, I'd only see the Raspbmc logo. Also, keep in mind for an HTPC the Pi may be still a little under powered for your needs, there is much criticism of the sluggish response of RaspBMC. Another thing that isn't prohibitively expensive but to have the pi play mpeg video will require the purchase of the license from the pi foundation. I think it's under 10$.

MsbS wrote:

And I still have some questions/unknowns:
- Anybody using an IR receiver? So I could control XBMC and/or other media centre apps using my remote?
- How does it all work? I connect the USB drive with movies/music to the RPi-connected powered Hub, slide in the SD card with RaspBMC, and power on the RPi? Will this be a persistent state bootable thing, so I only need to do the config once?
- Are there any USB hubs with 1.2 A on the output ports, so I could also power the Pi from it?
- If I get an external (USB) DVD or BD drive, will the Pi be able to play back the discs?
- Can the Pi share the connected USB Drive? Basically, will I be able to access the drive from my Win7 laptop (via SMB or NFS)?

1) No, I am not but there are people that do.
2) You will need an SDcard, at the very least, in the initial setup. There are guides you can google to configure the device to boot to a usb post setup but I've not done it. Connect all your stuff, I recommend connecting your Wifi to one of the pi's USB ports and the hub to the other for configuration. Any changes you make AND save will stay made so you should only need to configure and then tune and have an end-state that is acceptable.
3) Not sure but you have options again. Post configuration you probably won't need the hub, just the wifi and drive plugged into the pi. You could also just buy a long enough HDMI cable to run from where your equipment is to the projector so the pi can sit with the gear, this may take more manpower to look purty. Remembering your IR dongle, the HDMI cable may be your best bet.
4) The pi is a linux box so you'll need to google how to play dvd/bluray in linux.
5) Yes, using samba you could share the drive, you could also configure ssh and then copy things over with sftp.

I think the only decent way to play Blu-Rays in Linux is MakeMKV. At least, it's the only way I've found that actually works. And I didn't even get the streaming from the disc to work, I have to rip it then I can play it or encode it.

What about sharing the connected local drive over the local network? And uploading the files from the laptop directly to the Pi-connected drive? Is it possible? Can the Pi run as a SAMBA server, so I can access the drive like a 'Windows share'?

Well, yes, a Pi should do everything you're asking it to do. It's a Linux computer; you can run VNC and Samba and all that. I used to run real, honest-to-god production servers that weren't as fast or powerful as a Pi. You can do exactly what you want, without question. But it's going to take some work to bend a Pi distro to your will. I have no experience with RaspBMC, but I suspect adding what you need won't be that hard. Or you can go with Raspbian, which will probably be even harder. (But I personally can probably help you better with Raspbian, since it's recompiled Debian.)

If you have another HDMI monitor in the house somewhere, you might want to do setup there -- don't forget an extra cable. You can get an HDMI->DVI adapter if all you have is a DVI screen. Do your initial build/setup on that monitor, and you can take all the time you want; you won't be burning up your bulb. Once you have it working the way you want, then transplant it to the front room.

As far as how to tackle your problems, the two main approaches are with command-line utilities, and with X-Windows tools. Does anyone know how RasBMC is driving the video card? Is it through X-Windows, or kernel video mode?

edit: Well, as others are saying, actually, Blu-Ray playback could be awkward. There will be some way of doing it, but just being able to stick a disk in the drive is pretty unlikely. You will almost certainly have to transcode it to another format before playing it. And transcoding will be terribly, terribly, TERRIBLY slow on the Pi, so you'll want to work out how to do it on Windows, and then send the converted files over Wi-Fi.

Another way of putting that: a Raspberry Pi is sort of a Lego set, not a finished product. You can make it do what you want, but it's going to take a build process, and you're going to be tackling and solving a number of different problems to get there. It absolutely is not going to be plug-and-play. But, at the same time, it's absolutely capable of most everything you're asking. You just have to beat it into submission.

Malor wrote:

Another way of putting that: a Raspberry Pi is sort of a Lego set, not a finished product. You can make it do what you want, but it's going to take a build process, and you're going to be tackling and solving a number of different problems to get there. It absolutely is not going to be plug-and-play. But, at the same time, it's absolutely capable of most everything you're asking. You just have to beat it into submission.

QFT.

I'm still very impressed with the fact that mine is handling web server duties just fine.

Sounds like I would be buying a media player and a puzzle at the same time

From what I've read, I am quite impressed by the flexibility and adaptability of the Pi. I mean - I know it is basically a Linux computer, but nevertheless, at this price range it's quite amazing.

If I spend some time configuring it, I can use it almost like a 'cartridge-based device', right? Insert one SD card - get an XBMC media player. Insert another one - get a retro gaming emulator. Another one - get a fully functional operaitng system. Another one - web server, mail server, or IP camera streamer.

Sure -- and if you put a card in that's large enough, you should be able to have all that software loaded on SD at once, though I'm not sure it has enough RAM to actually run all that stuff at the same time.

There's a fair bit of work going into retrogaming on the Pi, but realize that it's just not fundamentally that great a choice for that usage. Emulation uses CPU grunt more than almost anything else you can do with a computer, and CPU grunt is where it's weakest.

Sounds like I would be buying a media player and a puzzle at the same time

More precisely, you are buying a puzzle, one that will eventually be a media player if you assemble the pieces correctly. But it can also be a bunch of other stuff, too.

Oh, well. Just got a pie. I mean Pi. And the casing. And an audio cable, and a power adapter. Dispatching in two weeks, now I have to get a powered USB hub (I have a 'plain' one), and rummage the apartment for some SD cards lying around. It's gonna be fun (or at least affordable ). When I get the XBMC or OpenELEX running, I will put my WD player on eBay, which should make the Pi free. Raspberry Pi for fun and profit!

MsbS wrote:

Oh, well. Just got a pie. I mean Pi. And the casing. And an audio cable, and a power adapter. Dispatching in two weeks, now I have to get a powered USB hub (I have a 'plain' one), and rummage the apartment for some SD cards lying around. It's gonna be fun (or at least affordable ). When I get the XBMC or OpenELEX running, I will put my WD player on eBay, which should make the Pi free. Raspberry Pi for fun and profit!

Who did you order through for a 2 week wait? If you're in the states (your location is EU, so I doubt you are), MCMElectronics has them in stock and are located in Ohio (crazy close to where I live...)

When I chose Poland as my location on raspberrypi.org, the default seller was RS (UK branch, to be precise). Another option available was Allied Elec, though they mentioned waiting time of up to 6 weeks (!)

I probably should've checked Allegro (the local equivalent of eBay) - I can see some RPi sellers there, for not much more than at RS! Oh well, at least I will get some peripherals from them.

EDIT: Speaking of peripherals, I found an auction of a 2 A power adapter. The seller claims that if I use it for my Pi, I will not need a powered USB hub, a normal one will do. Is this true?

I don't own a Pi, so I'm not the best guy to ask, but I suspect that's probably true. However, you'd want to be careful not to plug any high-power devices into the hub. (ie, regular mice and keyboards are probably ok, external drives, perhaps not.)

Using a powered hub is probably better, because it has the actual power supply right where the power load is. You'll always be plugging new devices into that hub anyway, so it'll be safest and most efficient to provide the juice right there, rather than trying to haul load from the Pi.

If you're trying to avoid the extra wall wart, can't the Pi run from a powered hub? I thought I read something about that somewhere. You'd end up with, at least from a power perspective, the Pi becoming a peripheral of the hub, instead of the other way around.

Malor wrote:

I don't own a Pi, so I'm not the best guy to ask, but I suspect that's probably true. However, you'd want to be careful not to plug any high-power devices into the hub. (ie, regular mice and keyboards are probably ok, external drives, perhaps not.)

Using a powered hub is probably better, because it has the actual power supply right where the power load is. You'll always be plugging new devices into that hub anyway, so it'll be safest and most efficient to provide the juice right there, rather than trying to haul load from the Pi.

If you're trying to avoid the extra wall wart, can't the Pi run from a powered hub? I thought I read something about that somewhere. You'd end up with, at least from a power perspective, the Pi becoming a peripheral of the hub, instead of the other way around.

All the stuff I have read regarding power for the Pi suggest you not run it from a hub.

OK, it's time to share my Pi story. It arrived in mail two days ago. Here is what I got:

- 1x Raspberry Pi B
- 1x white case (nicer than I expected)
- 1x power supply
- 1x powered USB hub
- 1x wireless portable keyboard/trackpad combo (el cheapo, but works quite well)
- 1x WiFi dongle
- Some SD cards (+ some I had lying around)

The first step was easy-Wheezy. Put the image on SD, insert, power up. Enjoy a running Linux distro. Configuring the WiFi was a breeze, so was installing a VNC server to access the Pi from my laptop. Connected the external USB storage - it auto-mounted and was instanyly accessible. It all just worked, with no special tricks needed.
What I liked was how I could just VNC to the box, launch an MP3 in VLC and enjoy the music on my home audio (to which I connected the Pi).

Now, the main reason why I got a Pi was XMBC. This proved to be more difficult. RaspBMC would not start without WiFi - it requires Ethernet for the first launch. I have my router in another room, too far for the cable. And somehow, bridging the WiFi connection from the laptop failed. Too bad...
Moved on the OpenELEC. It booted just fine, I was able to configure the WiFi as well. Added some directories from the HD to the library. But the network was very unstable - while scrobbling the library, it would fail to connect to the TVDB/MovieDB for most files. And then, it would fail to refresh the weather info (so it's not just a TVDB fail - I suppose this might be something with the WiFi driver?).
Anyway, third time's the charm. Got XBian. The 'bleeding edge' sounded quite bad to me (sounds like 'buggy and unstable'). Fortunately, I was wrong. Configuring it was simple, and the WiFi worked very reliably. Yeah, I did get two or three fails when scanning the library, but on the next attempt it got them right. So, I got a working XBMC install, with a working library, working subtitles (including local characters). NEAT! I installed 2 or 3 addons (di.fm and a radio one). I was able to connect to the XBMC from a web browser on my laptop. And from an app on my Win7 phone.

Meesa like! Now, some future plans include:

- Get two retro-arcade joysticks (USB) to work
- Install and configure Rom Launcher, WinUAE + Dynablaster/Sensible Soccer. And maybe some NES Contra
- Get an IR Receiver to operate the XBian with Logitech Harmony.
- Perhaps replace the kitchen radio with a Pi-based Internet radio thing?

Nice. I also went with Xbian and have no complaints.

I had a similar thought about getting a new Pi to use as a radio. There is a great Android app, Yatse, you can use to connect to your XBMC Pi, so after you do the initial set-up, you can disconnect the keyboard and monitor and just have it hooked up to some speakers and the Wifi.

I have this old-timey radio that doesn't work and was thinking of installing the Pi and some speakers into the shell.

Upgraded the SD Card in my webserver Pi last night, and ran some benchmarks. Was previously using a Class 2 8GB MicroSD card in an adapter, now using a Transcend Class 10 16GB Ultra High-Speed SD Card.

My average write times went from 4.56 MB/s to 18.16 MB/s (397% faster)

My average read times went from 14.0 MB/s to 20.63 MB/s (147% faster)

Note: I tested using the methods in the RPi SD Cards wiki (Performance section)

I probably could have eeked out a bit more performance had I better investigated the results others had provided, but man, what jump anyways

That's really impressive.
My pi has been nearly perfect as a home media/file/web/VPN server but every now and then when I jump on to change or update something I am reminded how painful it can be to use interactively. I had started looking at some similar but more powerful devices as possible replacements but I think I will try an SD upgrade instead.

I'd recommend running those benchmarks, should give you a solid idea if it does have I/O speed trouble.

I'm currently installing Node.js on my Pi with the new card, my make command has been going for about 2 hours now.

trueheart78 wrote:

I'd recommend running those benchmarks, should give you a solid idea if it does have I/O speed trouble.

I'm currently installing Node.js on my Pi with the new card, my make command has been going for about 2 hours now.

Hah! I would not suggest compiling much on the Pi... But then again, it's not like it's draining your power bill or anything...

Biggest issue for me is that it takes about 3 minutes for the older ipod touches to see/connect to its wifi AP when it boots in that mode. The ipad and ipod touch 4 connect in about two minutes. It's the best car media center at this point.

Citizen86 wrote:
trueheart78 wrote:

I'd recommend running those benchmarks, should give you a solid idea if it does have I/O speed trouble.

I'm currently installing Node.js on my Pi with the new card, my make command has been going for about 2 hours now.

Hah! I would not suggest compiling much on the Pi... But then again, it's not like it's draining your power bill or anything...

Considering it's also my self-hosted web server, I don't mind so much. Most low-end VPS systems that I'd feel confident using aren't much more powerful (or are less powerful), so this at low-cost-per-month?

Just received a Pi as a present this weekend. I've been talking about having one for ages. Gotta get a case and should have everything else. May just use a basic SD card that I have versus investing in a Class 10, assuming they're still compatible.

I'm thinking of the HTPC function, but that also seems a little mundane especially when it won't necessarily beat the PS3 in our living room. Now to find some other stuff to do!

I'm running a ZNC bouncer on mine.

muraii wrote:

Just received a Pi as a present this weekend. I've been talking about having one for ages. Gotta get a case and should have everything else. May just use a basic SD card that I have versus investing in a Class 10, assuming they're still compatible.

I'm thinking of the HTPC function, but that also seems a little mundane especially when it won't necessarily beat the PS3 in our living room. Now to find some other stuff to do!

I was in a similar situation and have found it quite handy as a DLNA steaming device and home server. I still use my xbox or PS3 to watch video on the TV but it's been great to have an low powered, always on device which holds all our video, pictures and general files for access on any device in the house.

Edwin, I thought about that, but it'd have to sit at work as my home internet is the culprit for Verizon's traffic shaping. Definitely worth looking into.

Cronox, that definitely is a better choice than my erstwhile gaming machine, in terms of power consumption and noise. I know trueheart78 also runs a webserver (or did) on his, so I wonder: how much concurrent activity can it handle?

Guess it's time to find out.

I just ordered myself one of these bad boys. I have a MIDI controller that only has a USB port and not the traditional 5 pin DIN connectors. This presents a problem in that I can't use it to control older sound modules and synths that only accept the old style MIDI inputs. The plan is to take a USB to MIDI cable that has DIN connectors and connect it to the Pi. I'll then connect the controller via USB and use the PI to read its MIDI messages and pass them out to the DIN connectors. Hopefully I can do this without introducing too much latency. We'll see.