Getting Started - Raspberry Pi XBMC

Posted by Christian on Jun 3, 2013

XBMC is a very popular media center software for the home and was originally designed to run on the original XBOX. XBMC has been developed on a variety of platforms and is always under active development for various devices/platforms. XBMC is free, is open source under the GPL licence and is designed and developed by like minded programmers and volunteers located all around the world. Over the last few years XBMC has been under constant development and has spanned onto a variety of platforms including Linux, MAC OS, Microsoft Windows and many other custom hardware devices. Its exciting to see XBMC mated with the Raspberry Pi though, as using the two together provides the popular solution at a phyiscal size smaller than many other options.


MCM offers two XBMC kits for your Raspberry Pi:

  • Raspberry Pi XBMC Starter Kit - With Raspberry Pi Board

    This kit comes supplied with a pre-loaded SD card with the ever so popular RaspBMC OS. Additionally, you'll get a Raspberry Pi Model B 512MB board, power supply, ethernet and HDMI cable and a WiPi to connect to your home network.

  • Raspberry Pi XBMC Kit - For Existing Raspberry Pi Owners

    This kit comes supplied with a pre-loaded SD card with the ever so popular RaspBMC OS, along with a multimedia keyboard and ethernet and HDMI cable. No board is included in this kit, which makes it a great choice for those already using a Raspberry Pi board.


Currently there are two main distributions of XBMC for the Raspberry Pi OpenElec and RaspBMC, both distributions are very different and also developed to the public for free under the GPL open source.

Key Features:

  • Audio/Video/Picture playback
  • Wide range of supported formats
  • Media scraping form the web
  • Web interface
  • Open Source under the GPL License

Getting connected

  1. Connect the HDMI lead into the Raspberry Pi HDMI Socket and plug the other end of the HDMI cable into your HDMI enabled TV. If you are not using the HDMI cable provided then plug in the composite cable into the composite socket on your TV.
  2. Plug in the XBMC SD card into the Raspberry Pi SD card slot on the underside of the board. Make sure when slot the SD card in it is pushed all the way in and that it makes good contact with the pins.
  3. Plug in the WiPi dongle into one of the Raspberry Pi's USB slots for Wi-Fi access. If you are not using Wi-Fi then plug the Ethernet cable into the RJ45 socket on the Raspberry Pi and then plug the other end of the Ethernet lead into your Router.
  4. Plug in the Micro USB Power supply to the Micro USB port on the Raspberry Pi and the Raspberry Pi should now power on.

Menu Navigation

There are many different options and peripherals to control the RaspBMC.

Mouse & Keyboard

  • If you have a mouse and keyboard you can connect these to the Raspberry Pi using the USB Ports on the Raspberry Pi or from a USB HUB connected to the Pi.
  • If you are connected a wireless mouse & keyboard then plug the Wireless dongle one of the USB ports. Please note that this may require an additional power source such as a powered USB Hub.

Network - Web URL

  • You can control the RaspBMC from any web enabled device that is connected to the same network. Open up your favorite web browser and in the URL bar, type the IP address of your Raspberry Pi in this format: http://123.4.5.6:8080. You can now browse through your collection of media and select your Movie/Music/Photo.

Smartphone or Tablet

  • By far the most convenient way to control RaspBMC is to use one of the XBMC Remote apps from the Apple store/Google Play store on your smart device.

IR Remote

  • You can control the RaspBMC using a USB IR remote control by just plugging in the USB dongle into one of the USB ports on the Raspberry Pi.
  • If you have CEC function on your TV then you can enable CEC in the Settings of the RaspBMC and you can use your TV remote control to navigate the XBMC menus.

Connecting to your home network

If you want to unlock all the best features of your XBMC kit and stream over your network then connecting to your home internet will enable you to do this.

  • Ethernet is by far the easiest way to connect to the internet. Just plug the ethernet cable from your XBMC kit into your Raspberry Pi and plug the other end into your DHCP enabled router. By default both your router and Raspberry Pi will connect and assign an IP address to your Raspberry Pi.
  • If you are like most users then connecting to your router through ethernet may not be possible. The most convenient way is to connect to your Wi-Fi Router using the WiPi wireless dongle that is provided in your XBMC kit.
    • In the "Programs" menu there is a program called RaspBMC settings and this is where you can configure the network settings.
    • Select network configuration tab in the top and this will show a list of network settings to configure for both Ethernet and Wi-Fi. By default the settings are configured for ethernet.
    • In the option "Network Mode" use the arrow keys up/down to select the "Wireless (WIFI) Network" and make sure that "USE DHCP" "Unique DHCP Client Name" is checked, as this will get an IP address automatically from your router.
    • Scroll down the settings and you will see a list of options to configure the key WIFI options. Here you should enter your SSID (Must be typed Exact) which is the name of your wireless router. Now enter your security information such as your type of Encryption (WPA/WPA2) and enter your password (KEY).
    • Now once all settings have been entered correctly click "OK" to confirm and your RaspBMC should now connect to your wireless router.

RaspBMC Interface

If you are familiar with XBMC, the interface for the RaspBMC is very similar. The RaspBMC interface has been specifically optimised for the Raspberry Pi and works with many additional peripherals. The main interface consists of several menus and submenus.

  1. Weather Menu

    Weather menu is an application that can display real time weather reports in your area. The weather app displays the current weather for that day and also displays a 10 day forecast.

    To change the location and various settings such as Celsius – Fahrenheit, map zoom level and animated map you can scroll to the sub menu and select settings.

    • Map Zoom Level

      This setting will affect the area covered in the weather map on the maps & alerts screen

    • Animated map

      Instead of on static image, use the weather maps images over the last few hours to create an animation, this may not work for all locations as they may not be updated frequently.

    • Weekend

      Some weekend days are not the same across the world so select the settings that match your location.

    • Enable logging

      This option enable logging for debugging so you can submit a debug report

  2. Picture Menu

    The pictures menu is an easy way to view your photos, it allows you to view them as a slideshow with a nice transition effect and you can also listen to your music while doing so.

    Once a picture is displayed you can rotate it (R), display picture information such as dimensions, filename and order in slideshow (O) and you can manually slide to the next/previous photo using the arrow keys or equivalent (<- ->)

    • Zooming In/Out

      This can be performed while viewing pictures individually or in the slideshow. When viewing the Pictures you can use the keypad number [0]-[9] to zoom in and the use the arrow keys (<- ->) to scroll around to the edge of the picture

    • Slide Show

      The slideshow function will start a sequential slideshow of the entire pictures in the current folder with some nice transition effects. If you do not wish to have any of the transition effects then you can disable this in the picture settings submenu.

    • Recursive slideshow

      This option will display a slide show using all the images in the current folder and also all the images from the subfolders

    • Randomize

      When this option is selected XBMC will display the pictures in any given random order

    • Playing music while viewing slideshow

      In order to play music while viewing a slide show, simply go to the music menu and start playing your desired music, then start the slideshow. The music will continue to play in the background.

  3. Video's Menu

    The video menu is where you add files to your library and play video files from various sources.

    Adding Video Sources

    • Click Add Videos

    • Click Browse to select a video source location

    • This menu shows you a list of sources from where you can add you video files from. The list is populated from both local hard drives and network sources.
    • Browse to where you video files are stored and click the OK button.

    • Now enter a name for your media source. You can call it whatever you want.

    • This menu is used to set the content. This is important if you want to browse your movies in the movies menu in RaspBMC and also get the Meta data from a selected source.

    • Once the content is selected you also have the option to choose a scraper. (A scraper is a way of collecting data from another source)
    • In this case we can collect data about the movies in "The MovieDB" or "IMDB" from the internet.

    • Once clicked ok you will be prompted to refresh all the items in the folder. This will then scan the files and scrape all the video meta data.
  4. Adding Music

    Adding music uses the same method as adding a video by browsing through the menu options to add a Music source. When selecting the source content choose Music in the drop down box and this will then be able to scrape for music Meta data and add it to the library.

  5. Add-ons

    In XBMC there are many different 3rd party add-ons available to download and use. Most popular are streaming applications such as ITV player, BBC Iplayer, Netflix and many more. Most of the Add-ons available can be downloaded through the XBMC repository by browsing through the menus.

    • iPlayer

      Available from here Open it from the Videos/Addons menu and go to [Settings]. On the [Streams] tab, go down to [Stream source preference] and select "Limelight" (or experiment with the other options there).

    • 4oD

      Available from here Use Mossy's version, rather than the one in Hitcher's repo as that version (Nibor's) is no longer being developed and is out of date. Previously, I found one slight issue with this – when I first tried to load up a category, I got a script error, however choosing a different category then returning to the original one, I suspect that this is an issue with the 4oD site, rather than the addon. For instructions on how to set up rtmpdump, please see here (please note the disclaimer)

    • ITV Player and Demand 5

      Available from here ITV and Channel 5 seem to be using the same content delivery system and something has changed, as these are older versions they may no longer work (please message me if you find a more up to date version)

    • TWiT

      Available from the standard repository. This Week in Tech works ok, with no changes required.

    • MythBox

      Available from the standard repository. There are two ways of accessing the recordings from your MythTV server – the plugin and the server's uPnP server. The plugin has worked fine for me, in the past, but currently it seems to hanging when loading. If you have this issue you can browse the file locations on your network and your server should appear under the uPnP device list. See for more detailed instructions Unless you have set up your server to transcode the files, you will probably find the files produced are MPEG2 files which the Pi, out of the box, isn't licensed to decode – however, help is at hand: you can buy licenses to decode extra formats at the Raspberry Pi website under the "Codec Licenses" heading. If you purchase the one(s) you need you will then receive instructions on how to enable them (you edit the /boot/config.txt file and put the codes you are e-mailed at the end), the files should then play

    • YouTube

      Available from the standard repository. This works ok, with no changes required.

    • TV Catchup

      Available from here The main TV Catchup XBMC page is here but I found the repository link on that page didn't seem to work, so you may need to use the above link and then look for the link on that page to download the plugin directly. Once you have installed it, if you find you have playback problems edit the file /home/pi/.xbmc/addons/plugin.video.tvcatchup/lib/TVClibs2.py and change where it says PLAYER_CORE_DVDPLAYER to PLAYER_CORE_AUTO this should correct any playback issues.

      (If you are installing the add-on from a zip file then select the menu option "Install from Zip File" and browse to the selected folder where the Zip file resides.)

Category

Tutorials

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