Building a touchscreen XBMC setup with the Raspberry Pi

rapsberry-pi-based-touchscreen-xbmc-tablet

[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.

[Read more...]

XBMC workaround for Android hardware video acceleration

xbmc-android-video-hardware-acceleration-workaround

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]

ODROID-U2 is latest barebones board begging to be used

odroid-u2

Oh hey, another barebones dev board. Well, that’s what we said to ourselves when we first saw this picture, but the way this is presented is like crack for geeks. It starts with this tiny board, which has a footprint smaller than a credit card. But once you start looking at the add-ons you’ll want to watch out or you’ll cover yourself in drool.

The name of the game here is speed. It’s running a quad-core Cortex-A9 chip with a Mali-400 graphics accelerator. There is no on-board storage, but the microSD slot is meant to be used for OS and storage. A faster option is to use a NAND add-on board offered in 8, 16, and 64 gig capacities ($25-$79). There is a micro type-D HDMI connector and the device is powered by a cellphone charger. It ships with a big heat sink that acts as a case for the board.

After the break you can see it booting Android and immediately loading into XBMC. The menu looks mighty snappy, making us think this is a great alternative to using Raspberry Pi as a media center. But you’ll pay for the faster speed and ability to run Android. The rig they’re showing off, plus the add-ons, comes out to about $132. There are also questions to be answered as to which video formats are supported through hardware decoding.

[Read more...]

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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One remote to stream them all

We’d bet that most readers stream video as the lion’s share of their entertainment consumption. It’s getting easier and easier thanks to great platforms like XBMC, but not everything is available in one place, which can be a bit off-putting. [Tony Hoang] is trying to simplify his viewing experience by creating one remote to rule all of his streaming software. He’s got an HTPC connected to his entertainment center, and used a bit of scripting to add some functionality to this Lenovo N9502 remote control.

The hack is entirely software-side. The remote already works quite well, but he remapped the home, end, and page up buttons, as well as the mouse controller. The three buttons will launch XBMC, Hulu, and Netflix respectively. They are also set to kill the other applications before launch so that one button will do everything needed to switch between one another. The mouse remapping takes care of up, down, left, and right keys for navigation in the UI and control of the playing videos. See a demo of the setup after the break.

Everything was done with autohotkey scripts for Windows. But this should be easy to code with other OSes as well. If you’re prone to have a slip of the finger you might want to work out a double-click to launch the applications so you don’t accidentally hit a key in the middle of your favorite show.

[Read more...]

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.

[Read more...]

Hands on with Raspbmc

Have you heard of the Raspberry Pi? Surprisingly enough, they’re starting to trickle into the hands of thousands of hackers, and we were fortunate to get our hands on one (second-hand since we didn’t jump in time for the initial preorder). We’ve longed for a tiny embedded option for running XBMC and this is one of the best opportunities we’ve seen yet. The Raspbmc project, created by [Sam Nazarko],  is tailored to getting XBMC on the Raspberry Pi just a few minutes after it arrives in the mail. And that’s exactly what we did.

If you’re familiar with writing an image to an SD card (or any device for that matter) this is a simple process. Raspbmc is distributed as a single image file which starts up the RPi hardware, then copies itself to RAM while it downloads and installs the filesystem for the distribution. Once the card is flashed just pop it in, power up, and wait about 20 minutes until XBMC shows up on the screen. After that it’s a quick boot each time.

The good news is that its works. XBMC runs pretty fast, with just a hint of lag when loading some menus. We felt at home using the confluence skin we’re familiar with, and had no trouble setting up our samba shares to the video library. The one problem is that it won’t play any of the video files we have on hand. None of them. So we downloaded the Big Buck Bunny trailer. It wouldn’t play that either. This is all a codec issue. Although the chip used on the RPi is capable of hardware decoding MPEG2 video, the foundation didn’t license that ability. So it can’t play that format, period. With the movie trailer we tried the OGG format and that’s not currently supported, but the MOV version did play, in full 1080p without trouble.

So the verdict is, if you’re looking to get an RPi just to run XBMC you should wait. So far the package is promising. But we record ATSC video, all of which is MPEG2. If you use MakeMKV to store your DVDs on a server, that also uses MPEG2. Of course there is the option of transcoding everything. But you’ll want to be careful if you have other XBMC frontends which may not be able to play alternative encodings.

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