Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Using Raspberry Pi with XBMC

Since I finally found the time to try out my new Raspberry Pi, I gave the specialized Raspbmc image a try.

My original goal was to use my new Ras Pi as a replacement for the somewhat less than stable Apple TV 2 running XBMC in my living room.

In it's current iteration I found Raspbmc to be a bit too laggy and a buggy for immediate implementation. The menu system is a tad laggy compared to the ATV2 xbmc port and the ARM processor cannot process DTS sound without lagging the video and audio every few seconds. The Pi seems capable of decoding full 1080p H.264 video in mkv, but too many of my files are in dts for audio.

This is a known issue and is being worked on by the developer.

If you do not have a large dts library and would like to try installing the image to your own Pi then lets get started below!

Installing from Linux

Open a terminal

wget chmod +x

sudo python

This should start the installer script! Which is pretty cool :)

When the script starts, find the listing for your SD card.
Be certain to pick the correct drive! If you pick the wrong one you are probably going to break something you don't want broken.

enter the DEVICE label NOT the partition label!
for instance I typed in sdb when making my selection, as this is the label which pointed to my SD card reader.

Once you have made a selection the installer will run. If you get an error telling you to re-run with root privileged, then you failed to use the sudo command whn activating the script... try again...

Once the script is done, eject the SD card and pop it into your Pi and apply power!

You MUST be connected to the internet for the first boot. When the Pi powers up and reads from the SD card, a configuration script is initialized. The Pi must have internet access in order to complete configuration properly.

After a few minutes you will be greeted with the familiar XBMC dashboard!
Take a few minutes to poke around and you will find a configuration script available under programs! This works pretty well to set up nightly builds and auto updates.

Now just add shares from your server like normal. It is probably possible to plug in a USB HDD and try it as a source, but all my media is on my server these days.

Everything works as expected, except for the dts sound issue. All of my files with dts audio skipped and stuttered with no possibility of a simple fix. I attempted every manual fix and patch I could think of, along with every suggestion made on the forums. The developer has written that the dts processing issue is being worked on and they plan to offload some of the work to the gpu. If you have a reciever which processes dts, then you should have no issues at all! Raspbmc is stable enough to give a serious try as an HTPC replacement.

Keep an eye out for my next few posts on the Pi.

I am considering turning it into a dedicated mySQL server for syncing the XBMC boxes throughout my house. This will help me speed things up when an ATV2 inevitably crashes and requires me to rescrape 13tb of media!

I am also on the lookout for a simple case for my Pi. Right now I don't have any legos, and I don't have access to a 3d printer/cnc/machine shop/hackerspace.

Stay tuned!


  1. I am using OpenElec. Its faster than xbmc because it uses a very minimal linux with busybox under the hood (and it does not need an internet connection to install).
    pros for OpenElec:
    - faster, minimal, even wlan works with some adapters
    - you can only run xmbc on it (if you don't build it yourself and have a LOT of experiance in crosscompiling).


    1. I haven't had a chance to compile OpenElec yet, I've been playing with raspbian and mySQL for the past few days.

      How is OpenElec doing with decoding? Have you had any stability issues or video/audio issues?
      Any issues with DTS on OpenElec?

  2. It is an inspiring blog post. The issue handles very nicely. I really appreciate the communication skill of yours.


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