An XBMC controller built for Grandma

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Is your grandmother cool enough to use XBMC? Maybe it’s a testament to the functionality of the wildly popular home entertainment suite rather than the hipness of your elders. But indeed, [Brian's] grandmother is an XBMC user who needed a controller with larger buttons to accommodate her. This is what he built. He sent us a set of photos and a description of the build, both of which you can see below. He was inspired to get in touch after reading about the custom controller which [Caleb] has been working on for [Thomas].

[Brian] didn’t get bogged down with electronics. He went with the simple, cheap, and popular solution of gutting a wireless keyboard. After tracing out the keys he needed he got rid of everything except the PCB. A wiring harness was crafted by soldering jumper wires to the PCB traces and terminating them with crimping slide connectors. The arcade buttons he used have terminals for the connectors which will make it simple to mate the electronics with the mechanics.

The enclosure is a little wooden hobby box. It originally had a lid with a mirror. [Brian] broke open the lid’s frame to replace it with a thin piece of plywood which hosts the buttons. Inside you’ll find a battery power source. These keyboards last a long time on one set of batteries so he just needs to remember to preemptively replace them from time to time. The finishing touch was to add decals so that granny can figure out what each button does.

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Building a touchscreen XBMC setup with the Raspberry Pi

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[Andrei Istodorescu] has been hard at work building a 7″ touch-screen rig which runs XBMC. It may be upside-down, but the Raspberry Pi board which is front and center is still easily recognizable. There’s a lot of stuff connected to it in order to pull this off, and even more software configuration. But as you can see in the clip after the break he did get it working!

The screen is an eGalaxy 7″ touch sensitive module he picked up on eBay. It sounds like it was meant for a backup camera in the dashboard of a car. He compiled his own Linux kernel to add support for the screen. It uses HDMI for the video interface with the driver board, and the touchscreen connects to one of the USB ports. The rest of the setup involves compiling XBMC with touchscreen support and calibrating the screen to accurately sense input.

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XBMC workaround for Android hardware video acceleration

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An unofficial, but fully functional release of XBMC should make the uber-popular media center software work with almost all Android devices. About six months ago the developers of XBMC announced that it had been ported for Android. That was true, but there was one caveat. The port was made functional on one specific Android device. The hardware company Pivos paid for the devs to add support for their Xios DS device. Although that build could be run on other Android devices, the hardware video acceleration could only be use if it was the same as the Xios. When not using the hardware acceleration many common video formats would only play at a few frames per second, if at all.

This build is a workaround and is not officially supported. What it brings to the table is the ability to use an external media player with XBMC. This way any video format which your Android device is capable of playing (with hardware acceleration) can be launched from XBMC but will be played by the native video application. We haven’t tried it for ourselves. If you have we’d love to hear about your experience in the comments.

[via Ars Technica]

Raspberry Pi reaches critical mass as XBMC hardware

For years I’ve been dreaming of a streaming media device that could just be stuck to the back of a television. Since XBMC has been far and away my favorite set-top box software, I’ve closely monitored hardware developments that can run that package. Now I think it’s time to declare that the Raspberry Pi has achieved the base specifications to be branded the XBMC device that rules them all.

There are a huge range of opinions on this topic, but please hear me out after the break to see what has brought me to this conclusion.

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XBMC hits Android

XBMC just issued the announcement we’ve been waiting to hear for some time now. The Android platform is now officially supported. Having seen the popularity of this open source media center software, and the willingness of some to spend hundreds of dollars on small computers to use it as their set-top-box interface of choice, we knew it was only a matter of time before a hardware manufacturer stepped up to the plate. In this case it is a company called Pivos Technology Group, who helped fund the push to bring XBMC to Android.

The good news is that the Android version of XBMC should work on a very wide range of devices. The bad news is that it will take a bit of time for that wide range of devices to support hardware video acceleration. Right now the only platform that has the hardware accelration for all video formats is the Pivos XIOS DS unit seen above. Looks a bit like a white version of the Apple TV huh? This turns out to be a great alternative to the Apple hardware, which requires a jailbreak to run XBMC and there is no jailbreak available for the current generation of that hardware. You can grab the XIOS DS for about $100-120, and as you can see after the break, it runs XBMC without a hitch, shows the ability to navigate menus while 1080p video is playing, and demonstrates working video plug-ins.

Plus, it’s an Android device with access to apps like any other. We looked around and it seems the Netflix app will work, but there is currently a problem with the video driver on units which have been upgraded to ICS. You can check out an unboxing of the device in this forum post, which is where we got the image seen above.

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Raspberry Pi runs XBMC; reliably decodes 1080p

This is the Raspberry Pi board, an ARM based GNU-Linux computer. We’ve heard a little bit about it, but it recently garnered our attention when the machine was shown running XBMC at 1080p. That’s a lot of decoding to be done with the small package, and it’s taken care of at the hardware level.

Regular readers will know we’re fans of the XBMC project and have been looking for a small form factor that can be stuck on the back of a television. We had hoped it would be the BeagleBaord but that never really came to fruition. But this really looks like it has potential, and with a price tag of $35 (that’s for the larger 256MB RAM option) it’s a no-brainer.

Now there’s still a lot of rumors out there. We came across one thread that speculated the device will not decode video formats other than h.264 very well since it uses hardware decoding for that codec only. We’ll reserve judgement until there’s more reliable info. But you can dig through this forum thread where the XMBC dev who’s been working with the hardware is participating in the discussion.

Don’t forget to peek at the demo clip after the break too.

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extMEDIA: An XBMC disc changer interface

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A while back, [Ben Gilstad] built his first HTPC, loading XBMC on it to manage all of his digital media. He loved XBMC’s features and flexibility, but he needed a way to enjoy his DVD and Blu Ray collection on the device without too much hassle. Far before [Ben Heck] considered fitting his Xbox 360 DVD drive into a CD carousel, this [Ben] was busy hacking a Blu Ray player into his.

He bought a broken disc changer at a garage sale, and tore apart a standard SATA Blu Ray player in preparation for the optical drive transplant. An ATMega168 controls the changer’s mechanics, monitoring the carousel’s position and triggering the proper motors when discs need to be swapped out. The AVR currently takes its direction from the HTPC over its serial port via a UDP proxy as XBMC did not support a serial interface at the time he was building the changer.

The second half of [Ben’s] project is an XBMC add-on that he uses to manage his huge collection of optical discs. In order to get XBMC to recognize each disc as a valid ‘file’, he created a clever workaround involving blank WMV clips. This enables him to view his DVDs as if they were digital files on his hard drive, complete with cover art.

It’s a fantastic project, and [Ben] says that his system should be able to support any number of physical disc changers simultaneously, without much issue. Unfortunately the project went on hiatus when he lost his job, so it’s packed away in storage for the time being. Once he gets back on his feet however, he has a whole list of planned changes and improvements to work on – we can’t wait to see it once complete!

Keep reading to check out a video demonstration of his XBMC add-on in action.

[Read more...]

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