Using a Raspberry Pi as a cheap media centre

Raspberry Pi media centre

With a plethora of mini media centre boxes becoming readily available, it comes as no surprise that open source platforms are also available for this purpose. Kodi is one such platform and it is available to be installed onto a Raspberry Pi.

Kodi (the software)

Kodi (formerly known as XBMC) is a free, open-source media player available on various platforms including Linux, OS X, Windows, iOS and Android. With its ’10-foot user interface’, Kodi is optimised to be used on television screens with remote controls.

Kodi interface
Kodi’s user interface. From here, videos, movies, programs, etc. can be accessed.

Local network locations are easy to set up, so for your own music, movies and videos files, Kodi simply needs to be instructed where they are stored. With additional plugins, streaming channels (and there are many), can also be added to your favourite watching lists.

The Raspberry Pi (the hardware)

Model B Raspberry Pis are almost perfect to be used as low power, stand-alone media centres. Since the model 2s, Raspberry Pis have enough memory and computing power to stream and serve media well. When comparing these Raspberry Pi models with other mini media centres, they are much cheaper, readily available and really not difficult to set up.

Raspberry Pi model 2B
Raspberry Pi Model 2B board.

With model B boards having HDMI output, USB ports, Ethernet and sound output, these single-board computers have all the tech necessary to play well with TVs, speakers and remote controls. In addition to this, the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B has Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, which makes an even better choice.

Getting started

The hardware

Apart from a Model B Raspberry Pi 2 (or higher) and Kodi (see below), you will need the following:

  1. Power supply
  2. MicroSD card (8GB or larger)
  3. MicroSD card reader
  4. Keyboard
  5. HDMI cable
  6. Network cable (if model 2B is used)
  7. Case (optional)

Software – Kodi

For the Raspberry Pi, Kodi is available as Xbian or OpenELEC. Both of them are installed as an operating system onto the MicroSD card before inserting it into the Raspberry Pi.

XBian Vs. OpenELEC
XBian vs. OpenELEC.

XBian and OpenELEC are both free, Kodi-embedded, Linux-based operating systems. XBian is built on a reduced version of Debian and OpenELEC (Open Embedded Linux Entertainment Center) is built on JeOS, or ‘just enough operating system’.

The recommended installation process differs between XBian and OpenELEC. Whereas OpenELEC is installed similarly to most other Raspberry Pi operating systems, XBian has its own installation tool.

Note that other Kodi-related posts on Behind the Scenes is based on OpenELEC.

About the author
Renier busies himself with improving his English writing, creative web design and his websites, photoshopping, micro-electronics, multiple genres of music, superhero movies and badass series.
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