Fri, Oct 12 2012
Raspberry Pi

The Clear Case

Today I received my clear acrylic case in the mail! Saw it in the mailbox on my way out to work so I ran back in the house to get my Raspberry Pi so I could put it together while at work!

It looks awesome! All openings fit perfectly, the case snapped together tightly and once assembled seems extremely sturdy. My only worry at this point is that since the HDMI slot is pretty much flush with the edge of the board and the acrylic has a few millimeters of thickness, I am wondering if the HDMI cable will be able to be pushed in far enough to make a proper connection with the board. I will have to check that out and update this post later. However I am confident these cases have been thoroughly tested with multiple boards since this is a UK company manufacturing them and not just sloppily put together in China.

For now this case gets an A+ for manufacturing, ease of assembly, precision fit for the ports and overall cool factor. As a bonus these cases are stack-able for those who have more than one!

UPDATE: The HDMI plugs in without a problem. After a few days of usage the case is holding up well and I am very satisfied with it.

Sun, Oct 07 2012
Raspberry Pi

The Remote

So I managed to get my LG remote working with the Raspberry pi by modifying my remote.xml file in XBMC. I had to remap my Previous/Next buttons on the remote to work as Back/Menu buttons instead. This seemed the most sensible approach since my use of previous/next is mostly limited to rewind/fastforward and this same function can be achieved with the left/right directional arrows on the remote. Essentially the previous/next buttons were useless! Now keep in mind these changes were specific to my particular Lg tv model. It seems newer models dont have the back button issue so normally the remote would work out of the box. 

I also remapped by pause button to bring you all the way back to the home menu, except when your in fullscreen video/music (then it actually pauses the media). Also made the previous button bring up the power menu when in the home screen (since there is no menu to back out of anyways) and the next button brings up the favourites menu when in home screen. These 2 menus are accessible from the home screen anyway if you navigate to the little icons but a button for them makes just that much easier to access.

Fri, Oct 05 2012
Raspberry Pi

The Other Software

Last night when I tried to boot up my Raspi it just wouldn’t. Some kind of VFS mounting error? Possibly a result of changing some of the Raspbmc settings to “super” from the “fast” default. I found the response was slow for my taste and that maybe changing the profile would help. I have heard that some people corrupt their SD cards by overclocking the Raspi. Overclocking is when you make the device perform at faster higher speeds then it is intended to. Raspbmc settings should not have caused this, only if the user defines settings that are outside the limits. In any case it seems my SD card was corrupted somehow and so I would have to reinstall it.

I took this opportunity to try out the competition. OpenELEC is an alternative software that can be installed to the SD card to run the Raspi and boot directly into XBMC. Where Raspbmc is a stripped down version of Debian with only the necessary bits to have XBMC running, OpenELEC is a stripped down version of linux with all the bits required to run XBMC. Apples and Microsofts (AKA apples and oranges). Basically the difference between Mac OSX and Windows. They both do the same thing, just in different ways.

OpenELEC requires for you to build the images yourself. This can be rather lengthy and confusing for beginners. I looked at the instructions when I first compared the different options (and subsequently decided to go with Raspbmc due to the easy installation) and thought it was overly complicated. However I have found that you can download prebuilt images from users. Of course you should trust the person who compiled the images! It would seem that Chris Swan is trusted by many in the community and releases daily prebuilt images for OpenELEC. So I downloaded today’s image, used Win32DiskImager which copies the image to your SD card and booted the Pi! All in all about 5 minutes time. Much quicker then Raspbmc.

So OpenELEC booted up no problem, my LG remote works without any setup, add-ons installed and worked and everything seems normal! Honestly I am not sure I would be able to tell the difference between the two if asked. I do however find it a little bit quicker between menus and whatnot.

Another software I could try out is XBian but from forum posts it seems to have a generally negative view in the Raspberry Pi / XBMC community.

I will probably end up reverting back to Raspbmc mostly since it self updates and is easier to manage. It also has a strong lead devlopper who knows what he is doing and constantly implements new features. More importantly though he only implements a new feature once it is ready and this is the kind of developer I like to think I am. Plus having to rely on other users to build images of OpenELEC is not my cup of tea. Yes, I could learn to compile them myself but I am lazy!

Thu, Oct 04 2012
Raspberry Pi

The Connectivity

The Raspberry Pi doesn’t come with integrated WiFi to keep costs of the board itself as low as possible. It does have an ethernet port but what fun is it having a media centre that needs a cable running from your computer room to the living room? For this reason I have purchased a USB WiFi dongle from ModMyPi. The advantage of course with this particular model is that it is tiny. Keeping the Raspi as small as possible is one of the reasons it makes for an ideal living room accessory.

Apart from size, another point to consider when purchasing a WiFi dongle is how power hungry it is. The Raspi needs a stable power supply and sometimes WiFi dongles can suck more power then they are suppose to, therefore pulling power away from the board and causing it to crash or corrupt your SD card. This dongle is (suppose) to be able to be plugged directly into the Pi without needing an externally powered USB hub.

A third but important factor in a WiFi dongle is what drivers it requires to be able to be used. This one uses the Realtek 8188CU Chipset. This chipset, among a few others, is compatible out of the box with most Raspberry Pi softwares including Raspbmc.

At a 15$ price point (yes 15$ exactly after exchange rates and shipping!) this makes for a pretty impressive wireless solution.

Cost to date: 84.76$

Thu, Oct 04 2012
Raspberry Pi


I call it the iPi!