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Gadgets Raspberry Pi

Make any remote into a Pi remote with FLIRC

I recently acquired a FLIRC USB Dongle to use with my Raspberry Pi, and thought I’d post a few impressions of this handy media gadget.

FLIRC is a USB programmable adapter that can learn from any IR remote controller. You program the FLIRC using an app running on a Mac, PC or Intel based Ubuntu install, and once setup the FLIRC just appears as a standard USB keyboard.

The FLIRC itself is the size of a small USB stick – I’ve been using it with an old SKY box remote which has lots of handy buttons to use for various options. These remotes are a nice size, take AA batteries, and there are plenty available from amazon if you don’t have one to hand.

SKY remote being used as a Pi remote
It’s a (SKY) Pi remote

Each of the keys is set by running the FLIRC app – this can be set up as a simple apple TV remote:

Super simple (apple TV)
Super simple (apple TV)

for a more complicated XBMC remote, compatible with the Raspberry Pi’s RaspBMC:

FLIRC XBMC
More options here…

Or for the full kitchen sink option, as a complete USB keyboard:

Just when you need something that adds a couple of keys here and there...

The latter is particularly useful as it offers keys like left and right command – which are missed off some keyboards, like the one on the Motorola Lapdock and using a small remote as a keypad is also quite a handy feature. Programmable keypads are usually much more expensive than the £22.99 that the FLIRC retails for.

All in all the FLIRC is a handy tool for the Raspberry Pi – it’s only downside is that it can’t be programmed directly from the Pi itself, as you need an intel based Mac or PC to program it. There is an API promised in the near future that should hopefully address some of these issues.

One possible option would be to use the Pi as a bluetooth adapter, thus allowing you to control your iPad with an ancient Sky remote. 

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Gadgets Geekery Random Raspberry Pi

Get iplayer on the Raspberry pi XBMC – RaspBMC

I wrote a post a while back about installing Sam Nazarko’s Raspberry Pi flavoured XBMC – Raspbmc, but now things have moved on a bit, rendering my original instructions out of date. Updated update: RaspBMC is now available as part of the NOOBS installer.

Sam has now released the final release version of Raspbmc so I thought I’d give it a go.

Raspbmc
Now with a lovely logo too!

My criteria in trying this out is, is this something I could use everyday and is this something I could set up for an older relative and just leave in place

The updated release version of Raspmbc now has a very easy to use installer, and is really simple to get running. Just prepare your SD card using the appropriate installer (I’ve been using the Mac version) pop it into your Raspberry Pi (ensuring it has an ethernet connection) switch on the power and then go and have a cup of tea.

Everything’s lovely and smooth – the menus work slickly, and the behind the scenes hard work on Raspbmc has really paid off. It behaves like a commercial product, and although it does pause occasionally it’s still far superior to the bundled apps that come with a lot of  (often very expensive) smart TVs.

It also works well on a Motorola Lapdock (adjusting the screen size automatically from the HDMI monitor I originally installed it on).

In face you often have to remind yourself that this is running off a $25 computer.

Once you’ve got it running adding WiFi is nice and straightforward – I’ve been using the Edimax EW-7711UAN 150Mbps Wireless adapter which is detected and works with my BT hub without any issues. You just need to enter your network SSID and login using the Raspbmc settings option which is under programs.

Installing iPlayer on RaspBMC

Youtube and Vimeo plugins can be found in the ‘add plugins’ section and work out of the box.

To add iplayer – possibly the main thing I use my streaming box for these days there are a few additional steps (for just iplayer follow the step by step guide see this blog)

You’ll need to add some additional repositories –

There’s actually a handy plugin which automates the addition of new repositories, so we’ll install that first.

With the Raspberry Pi connected to the internet:

Home Screen to Settings > System Information. You need to locate and take note of your Pi’s IP address – this usually starts with 192.168.1.(then a number)

Next on another computer, you’ll need to connect via SSH – on a Mac or Linux PC open the console and use:

ssh pi@(your IP address)

the standard password is raspberry. Select yes and enter your locale details in the menus that appear – this will then end up with a [email protected] prompt.

On a PC you’ll need an SSH tool like PuttY

Copy and paste the following into your terminal window:

get http://passion-xbmc.org/addons/Download.php/plugin.program.repo.installer/plugin.program.repo.installer-1.0.5.zip

Then back on the pi go to system -> addons (in XBMC backspace moves up through sub-menus, so you might have to hit this a few times to find the top menu) and select install from zip file option.

Select homefolder and then plugin.program.repo.installer-1.9.5.zip

you should get a little message in the bottom right hand corner to say it’s been installed.

then select the programs icon and run the Repositories Installer

There’s a long list – iplayer can be found in Hitchers Repo, 4OD in the Mossy repo. Once this is installed you can navigate to system – settings – add-ons to install, and then video- Add-ons to watch.

For much more – including things like setting this up for airplay, using an ipad as a remote – and to support this excellent project – check out Sam Nazarko’s book for more info: Raspberry Pi Media Center

Categories
Gadgets Geekery Raspberry Pi

Raspberry pi XBMC media server (nearly)

One of the exciting possibilities of the Raspberry Pi is using it as a media server – potentially providing a cheap as chips way of watching online video at home (for almost the same cost as a PS3 game) or serving as a cost effective video booth for displaying content. I suspect this is one of the factors that lead to the excitement of the Raspberry Pi’s launch and the 600,000 or so pre-orders.

Raspbmc running on my lego pi
Raspbmc running on my lego pi

I’ve used XBMC before on low-end systems – it works quite well on the (now ancient) Asus EEEpc 701 and I originally installed it on an old Xbox 1 – which soon became it’s most used feature. 

I’ve recently been playing with a version of XBMC for the Pi called Raspbmc created and maintained by Sam Nazarko, an 18 year old student from London, and it’s impressive. I’ve been able to play 720p video from YouTube and Vimeo smoothly. So I thought i’d post up some instructions in case anyone wants to give it a try.

For starters I’m using a Mac as my main PC, and my Raspberry Pi is connected to a Samsung TV via a HDMI to DVI adapter. The following worked for me!

I’ve been using a Samsung 8 GB class 6 card from Amazon which seems to work fine.

First was to download the Raspbmc installer – once you get this up and running it connects to the internet and installs Raspbmc. As I’m on a Mac I modified the Raspiwrite script to include a link to the installer. If you open the python script you can either rename one of the existing links or add it as an option. You can use my edit of the Raspiwrite script here (right click and save). 

Raspiwrite is easy to use – make sure you have a blank SD card mounted on your desktop then open the terminal in your mac and type cd – then drag and drop the folder that contains your copy of Raspiwrite onto the terminal – this saves you having to write the full path (just make sure there’s a space after cd).

Then type sudo python raspiwrite.py – it’ll ask you for a password and start the script which guides you through the process. It will take a while to write to the card, so be patient. Go and have a cup of tea, or try baking some cookies.

Once it’s finished writing, you might need to add a config.txt file to the card. I had to use this to get my display working – so for reference if you’re using a Samsung SyncMaster 940MW LCD TV monitor with a HDMI to DVI adapter made by Nikkai the code you need is:

disable_overscan=1
config_hdmi_boost=4

(if you don’t have any display issues you can ignore this bit – if your display blanks after booting it’s worth checking out the threads on the config.txt file on the Raspberry Pi forums)

Then you can put the card in the Pi – either you’ll see the installer or you’ll get a command prompt. You can login to this using root and root, after which you’ll need to use shutdown -h now to shut the system down and reboot.

I think I saw this step as my Pi connects to the internet through network sharing on the ethernet on my mac – when I encounter issues with this, stopping and restarting internet sharing usually works to fix it. When I did this step I found it worked ok for me and booted into the installer – which I was able to leave to do it’s own thing, and then hey presto! Raspbmc is up and running.

It works well – some of the menu transitions are a little bit slow but video plays smoothly at 720p (which is as much as my monitor can handle). I got sound up and running by changing the settings to analog output.

Pretty HD videos to try from youtube are First Orbit which re-creates Uri Gagarin’s flight around the earth, the trailer from BBC’s Planet Earth or on Vimeo the quirky Plan of the City.

You can donate to the Raspbmc project here.

Update: there’s now a new version of the installer script which includes scripts for mac and windows – making these instructions redundant. I have got the iplayer plugin working so i’ll post up instructions on how to do that shortly.

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Gadgets

How to turn the eeePC into a media centre (and get iplayer to work in fullscreen)

I must admit to being a bit of a fan for the Asus eeePC. I have a black 701 model which I impulse bought after the price hit £150, and i’ve found it to be a really superb machine.

Although the default Xandros boots up very quickly and is handy for checking emails on the fly, I eventually installed Ubuntu eee onto a removable SD card. It took me a while to work out how to get it to work, so I’ve added some instructions to the Ubuntu eee wiki to make the process easier.

I remember when I first got my eee one of my friends commented on using it to watch BBC’s iplayer – now one of the most popular ways to watch telly in the UK. However when I tried the video was very choppy – and only worked when not running in the full screen mode.

Initially I put this down to the eee’s fairly paltry celeron processor – at 600 mhz it’s fine for a simple bit of web surfing and word processing, but for anything more taxing it’s a bit underpowered, so I assumed that full screen video was beyond the reach of the eee. However after a bit of digging I found a discussion of Linux v Windows on the eee Forum here, which indicates that it a problem with the firefox / linux flash plugin. Rather than install Windows XP – which once i’d spent additional money on buying anti virus would be almost as much as I spent on the machine itself, I wanted to find an open source way of getting round the problem.

I’ve been running XBMC (X Box Media Centre) on my old modded xbox for some time now – hooked up to a telly it makes a handy way of watching DVDs, online media and networked media off a NAS drive. Given that XBMC works flawlessly off a machine with 64megs of ram and eeePC should be no problem.

So a visit to http://xbmc.org/ later and an install I got xbmc working – and it works really well.

Note that there are a few steps to go through rather than rely on Ubuntu’s built in add new software tool – you have to add the sources to the software sources control panel:

deb http://ppa.launchpad.net/team-xbmc-gutsy/ubuntu gutsy main

deb-src http://ppa.launchpad.net/team-xbmc-gutsy/ubuntu gutsy main

then type the following into the terminal application:

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install xbmc

but once I’d got that over with XBMC appeared in the applications folder like normal.

Next step is to install the iplayer plugin:

See http://code.google.com/p/xbmc-iplayer/

The iplayer plugin works by using the BBC stream intended for ipod / iphone users .

(See comment below) The iplayer plugin uses the same streams as the Flash interface on the iPlayer website, in all it’s VP6 quality (higher-res than the iPhone stream), and with future improvements to the XBMC RTMP client, may also be able to stream the high-quality H264 streams also offered via the Flash interface instead.

Which explains why it looks better on the eeepc than on my iphone.

And I can report that it works in full screen no problem with the eee. Which makes the possibility of the eee becomming a handy ultra portable media centre. There are a few issues – very occasionally it freezes after watching a programme, and it doesn’t work smoothly with compiz, but these are really minor – the more I play with XBMC the more it impresses me.