My family and I (wife plus two young children) are away travelling the South Island of New Zealand for our summer holiday.  At least one of the places we are staying hasn't upgraded their TV to go digital, the owners usually take their Sky decoder with them.  With our car already loaded to the gunwales with a double buggy, two kids car seats, buckets and spades for the beach, fishing rods, a small selection of christmas toys, and enough clothes to cover four seasons, packing anything extra was out of the question.

 

The plan was to take the Raspberry Pi Media Centre loaded up with RaspBMC and my laptop (which was going on holiday too).  I had loaded up ISO images from a few of the kids favourite (legimately purchased) DVDs as well as one or two for the grown-ups.  The Pi could be hooked up to the TV, and after a long day at the beach the kids could enjoy a bit of The Wiggles or Hi 5 while winding down for the day.  True, I could have just used VLC or something similar on the laptop, but the laptop can't beat a 48" display when several people are watching, and curious little fingers are kept well away from my laptop! :-)  A bit of research has revealed that playing ISO images is not straight forward with XBMC but there has been quite a bit of work done on this recently and people seem to be getting better milage with the built in player.  I also realised I was probably going to need an MPEG2 codec licsense to get this working.  I figured there was probably going to be a bit of tweaking involved to get all of this working successfully.

 

The media center also offers a whole host of other options via the myriad of add-on plugins.  As a big fan of NASA TV and Youtube, there were plenty of options available there.  And if I had the time then I might also try and get the MythTV backend up and running on my laptop with a USB DVB-T tuner and using RaspBMC as the front end.  Finally, with the addition of an Element 14 WiPi there was a possibility of hooking up directly to my iPhone's wireless hotspot.

 

As it turns out NZ Customs were overloaded with the extra Christmas post and although dispatched promptly by the team at Element 14, the Rasperry Pi Media Center kit hadn't arrived by the time we had cleaned up all the leftovers from Christmas Day, loaded up the car, and hit the road for sunny Nelson.  Having prepared for this possibility, I already had a spare Pi floating around, and downloading and installing RaspBMC image was quite strait forward.  I don't have the mini keyboard and trackpad, or the Pi Control and Display (which to be honest I haven't figured out how I'm going to integrate that yet).  The keyboard will be dearly missed though as already using just a wireless mouse with limited range for the initial install and configuration has tested my patience more than my 11 month old son's glee in fiddling with the controls on the home theatre.  He can't walk and he can't talk but he sure knows how to wind up his old man!  So all is not lost and my review will probably be in two parts, the first related to our experience with the cut-down backup version while travelling and the second related to the full blown kit once we return home and organise for the courier to redeliver.