Build Media Center PC using Raspberry Pi

Raspberry Pi is a credit card sized computer built using Broadcom SOC (system on chip) created by Raspberry Pi foundation. It costs $35 for model B board which has 700 MHz ARM CPU, 512 MB RAM, 2 USB2 ports, 1 HDMI port ,1 RCA video port,Ethernet and audio port. It has SD card for installing Linux distribution.

Here is screenshot of Raspberry Pi board


There are number of Linux distribution that target Raspberry Pi , including distribution to run Media Center software.

In this post I will talked about how I built my media center pc using Raspberry Pi and OpenELEC ( open embedded Linux entertainment center ) Linux distribution.

OpenELEC is a small Linux distribution with complete XBMC media center software. Compared to Raspbmc which is another Linux based media center distribution , OpenELEC is very small around 80MB in size. Because OpenELEC distribution  packages only software necessary for media center it is small and fast compared to Raspbmc.

Here is the screenshot of my Raspberry Pi board with all necessary connection .(HDMI connection to monitor, micro usb power connection, Ethernet connection and USB keyboard and mouse).

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Creating bootable SD image

Before powering up the board , you need download OpenELEC distribution from the OpenELEC website. Make sure that you download image which as RPi-arm name in it,  example : OpenELEC-RPi.arm-devel-20121124031454-r12577.tar.bz2

To create bootable OpenELEC image on SD card you can Windows/Mac/Linux OS workstation with SD card reader. Here are the steps to create SD image on Ubuntu 12.10 .

1. Unzip and un-tar OpenELEC to some folder ,

2. Insert 2GB blank SD card to your machine.

3. Execute create_sdcard shell script from OpenELEC folder with device path of the SD card.


linux-vm:~/OpenELEC-RPi.arm$ ./create_sdcard  /dev/sdb

4. Once step 3  completes without any errors, SD card will have bootable OpenELEC image.

5. Now insert SD card to Raspberry Pi board and power up.

6. You will see the boot screen with OpenELEC and Raspberry Pi logo.

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7. After while you see familiar XBMC media center interface.

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8. Now you navigate the menu using keyboard and add your data source where you stored your media collection.

OpenELEC supports UPnP, DLNA,NFS,CIFS,SMB,FTP,SFTP and others file sharing protocols. Using these you should be able to browse the media collection stored on your PC , MAC, Linux or NAS box.

You can also connect your USB2 hard drive to Raspberry Pi and browse media collection from OpenELEC.  OpenELEC supports hard drive formatted using NTFS ,FAT/FAT32 and other Linux file system formats.

Once you have contents you play any audio/video/photo formats.

OpenELEC also supports Apple AirPlay as target. You can enable this from settings menu. Once enabled , you can stream photo and video from you IOS device( iPhone ,iPad ,iPod touch and MAC computers )  to OpenELEC connected device ( TV or monitor )

In the next blog post I will explore installing Java 8 on Raspberry Pi and running Java FX application.


1. Raspberry Pi : Main Raspberry Pi website.

2. OpenELEC : Open Embedded  Linux media center website.

3. OpenELEC on Raspberry Pi :  Instructions to install OpenELEC on Raspberry Pi

4. XBMC : XBMC wiki page .

5. Raspbmc :  Raspberry Pi media center distribution based with XBMC software.

6. Run Java Application on Raspberry Pi. Oracle TechNet article for installing Java on Raspberry Pi

7. Raspberry Pi accessories :  Collection of Raspberry Pi compatible accessories.


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