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Raspberry Pi Media Center: Part 2

Join Les Pounder as he guides us through turning a Raspberry Pi into a Media Center!

Learn about Raspberry Pi, XBMC, Plex and even Kodi streaming services.

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This is the Final Part. 

In this final part, we finally reach a point where we can build the project!

 

After a few notable false starts I’ve cracked it! No not the screen...well ok the HyperPixel screen was damaged…

 

So our modified project goals

 

  • The project should connect to my home wifi.
  • It should have its own screen and speaker.
  • Input will be via a touchscreen.
  • I like to watch YouTube videos and listen to podcasts.
  • I want to watch films on the device.

But the kit that I need will change due to the new choice of screen.

 

Download OSMC

 

Let's start the project by downloading the OSMC (Open Source Media Centre) image from the osmc.tv website to our computer,  and as we are using the Pi 3 we need to use that version. The download is only around 200MB, tiny compared to Raspbian (1.8GB!) so it shouldn’t take too long.

Flash the OSMC image using Etcher

With the download complete, now we need to flash the image to a micro SD card. So insert the microSD card into your computer using an adapter. Then head to the Etcher website and download the application.

 


 

Install the application, then open it. There are three steps in the process.

 

1: Select the image that you wish to flash, in this case the OSMC image.

2: Select the microSD to which the image will be written to.

3: Flash the image!

 


 

Once the card has be flashed, you are able to eject / unmount the card and insert it into the Raspberry Pi 3.

 

Connect the display to the Raspberry Pi.

The official Raspberry Pi display has been with us for a couple of years now, and it uses the Display connection on the Raspberry Pi Model A and B series board. Please note that this screen is not compatible with the Zero range of boards. The official display offers a 7 inch screen at a resolution of 800 * 480, not a fantastic HD resolution, but adequate for the application at hand. The display connects to a controller board using a flat flexible cable, be careful as it is rather fragile! Connect the cable to RPI-Display and ensure it is secure. There is a smaller flat cable, this is for the touchscreen, and this also need to be attached to the controller board, into PANEL 1, again make sure that it is secure. To power the board use an external micro USB power supply OR connect the 5V and GND pins from the Raspberry Pi GPIO to the 5V and GND pin of the screen. For my setup I used a Smarti Pi case that provides a neat stand and protection for the Pi and the screen. Now add power and a keyboard / mouse and power up the Pi!

 

Configure OSMC

On first boot, OSMC will take you through a series of steps to configure the setup of the application. Typically this will cover the language / region where you reside and then it will cover networking. If you have an Ethernet connection available, now is a good time to plug in, but it is not essential as it can be configured later. Once the configuration is complete, you will see the default OSMC interface, clean and simple. The touchscreen will react to your input, items can be directly selected with a simple push, for long lists you can scroll through in the same manner as a mobile device, but take care as there is a slight delay/inertia when scrolling. A single tap will select a menu item, but to go back to a previous screen you will need to do a double two finger tap. This can be tricky to get right!

 

Configure Audio

As I am not using an HDMI screen, I need to route the audio to the analogue jack of my Pi. To do this I need to go to System >> Settings >> Audio and change the Audio output device to Pi: Analogue and that is it, your audio is now output to an external speaker or headphones.

Configure WiFi

Initially I did my setup with an Ethernet connection already present, so I skipped the WiFi config part, silly me! To setup the WiFi click on My OSMC >> Network >> Wireless. Then enable the WiFi adapter, choose your network and provide the password. All done!

 

Play a local file

I wanted to test that I could playback a local file, so I loaded the Empire Strikes Back radio drama onto a USB stick, inserted it into my Pi3, then went to Music >> Files >> <Name of USB stick> and selected the file to play. The audio played straight away I had full control of the playback slider and the volume of the track. I then copied a video from my laptop to the same USB stick, inserted it into my Pi3 and then went to Videos >> Files >> <Name of USB stick> then I selected the video file to play, and it worked!

 

Legality of Add Ons

In recent months there have been numerous reports on the legality of Kodi boxes, a term which osmc also falls under. While Kodi and media boxes are themselves perfectly legal for media that you own or have permission to use, some of the add ons, extra functionality provided by third party developers, have been known to use copyrighted material, circumvent piracy protection and in some cases stream content direct to the device via torrents. This tutorial will not show you how to use these add ons, but it will show you how to install and use legal add ons for popular content such as WebTV and YouTube.

 

Configure Add Ons

Adding Add-Ons is made really easy. Go to Settings >> Add-on browser >>Install from repository. Now scroll down the long list of options and look for Video add-ons, of course you can also install other add ons for games, song lyrics, streaming music and even weather! In the video add-ons section I chose a few channels of content (Hak5, YouTube, Sky News, NASA, Ted Talks and Trekyards, because I am a trekkie) Installing these only took a few clicks and then they were ready to be used. You can find them in the Videos >> Video add-ons menu.



Use the Add Ons

Using the add-ons is easy, as we are in the video add-ons menu we can select the channel that we wish to watch. Then depending on the channel select the content that we wish to watch.

 

In the case of YouTube we can also login and see a personalised playlist, or we can search for videos using the onscreen keyboard to type in search terms.

 

And of course I had to take a look at one of Ben Heck's shows!

 

Conclusion

 

It may have taken some time to get here, and along the way there were a few bumps, but I can finally say that I can now watch videos, listen to podcasts and check the weather all from a single device while not overtaxing my desktop computer, rather letting the Pi take the strain.

 

Thanks for your patience!