RPi not suitable as a media center [Solved]


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by toprobin » Wed Jan 09, 2013 1:52 pm
Regarding XBMC on RPI, there are a few gaps:

Video: No Netflix support, Amazon Prime free content only, Hulu, the rest are more or less stable addons from user community.

Audio: Non-starter - no ability to bypass internal jellybean DAC, so only viable output is 1/4" analog phone jack, which I can do with many other devices. HDMI audio is digital output, but for true hi-fi systems (S/PDIF, TOSLINK or USB DAC inputs, in order of quality) there is no option.

If I have a bunch of VOB video content on an external drive, I guess I can use RPi for playback (fixing intermittent audio synch problems), but not for audio, or content services.

What am I missing? The many articles that tout RPi as a viable media center or even Smart TV are off-base, imho.
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by rey » Wed Jan 09, 2013 2:42 pm
You're missing that you are, apparently, willing to spend thousands on all your media centre equipment yet want to only pay £30 for the actual player and expect it to be the best player in the market and do literally everything.
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by penguintutor » Wed Jan 09, 2013 3:13 pm
Neither does the Raspberry Pi have 4GB of RAM and the fastest graphics card, but that doesn't mean you can't use it to play games on!

If you want all those features and want to pay hundreds of pounds for a media player then feel free to buy something more expensive, but for those that are happy with a low-cost easy to use media centre that can be connected to a HDMI TV then the Raspberry Pi is ideal.

I have a Raspberry Pi with XBMC and it provides everything I need for my bedroom TV, which is playing video and music through my HDMI TV, which is being streamed over the network from another PC in the house. I'm happy with it and it cost far less than most other alternatives.
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by jamesh » Wed Jan 09, 2013 3:26 pm
toprobin wrote:Regarding XBMC on RPI, there are a few gaps:

Video: No Netflix support, Amazon Prime free content only, Hulu, the rest are more or less stable addons from user community.

Audio: Non-starter - no ability to bypass internal jellybean DAC, so only viable output is 1/4" analog phone jack, which I can do with many other devices. HDMI audio is digital output, but for true hi-fi systems (S/PDIF, TOSLINK or USB DAC inputs, in order of quality) there is no option.

If I have a bunch of VOB video content on an external drive, I guess I can use RPi for playback (fixing intermittent audio synch problems), but not for audio, or content services.

What am I missing? The many articles that tout RPi as a viable media center or even Smart TV are off-base, imho.


Well, for me, I'm not interested in Netflix, Amazon or Hulu. HDMI output of audio is fine as I only use my TV as output.

So, seems fine to me...
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by redhawk » Wed Jan 09, 2013 3:51 pm
I use XBMC as a media centre all the time and I'm perfectly happy with it i.e. TVCatchup, BBC iPlayer, ITV etc.
However, it should be worth taking note that many video streaming sites do not endorse the use of XBMC as a way to watch their videos.
The fact that some plugins work while others don't isn't really the fault of the Raspberry Pi but a lack of wiliness from companies to support XBMC in the first place.

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by cosmo » Wed Jan 09, 2013 4:01 pm
When I first found out about the Pi, and placed my order for my first one, I had no idea that it could even be used as a media server. I have a few projects which it may be very suitable to, especially once the camera module is available.

To me, being able to repurpose it as a media server when those projects are not in use is an added bonus. Sure, it isn't as powerful as other dedicated media servers, or more powerful computer platforms, but it's pretty cool that I can use it as a multifunction gadget.
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by toprobin » Wed Jan 09, 2013 4:27 pm
Right - I'm not ascribing any fault here to RPi (it is useful to me for other things). The articles that tout is as a cheap alternative to SmartTV or as a Media Center should add the caveats:

+ Access to vendor video content is very limited (no Netflix, Amazon Prime limited)
+ It cannot be used as an audio media center unless you want to pass music through the TV.

It just so happens that those are my main use cases. It is pretty good at streaming videos from my library, with glitches. But many devices can do that and don't have trouble with basic functionality like pause, ff, review.

My sour grapes - it is too limited right now, maybe in several months. Once peripherals, case, cables, power source are added in, Roku is a better buy.
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by MattHawkinsUK » Wed Jan 09, 2013 4:47 pm
But my Samsung Smart TV has the same limitations.
- No HULU
- No NetFlix
- LoveFilm app never worked and Samsung has no intention of fixing it

None of this was mentioned when I bought it. They mentioned the LoveFilm app but forgot to mention it doesn't work. No one else adds caveats to their products so I wouldn't expect anyone writing about the Pi to bother.

So I consider it fair to describe the Pi as a possible Media Centre or Smart TV alternative. When I fire up XBMC (which I used to run on a real XBOX) it instantly improves the capabilities of my TV. It's more unfair that TV manufacturers are selling products with "Smart" features that they have no intention of supporting. You are just expected to buy a new TV.

My VirginMedia TiVo box has YouTube on it but the interface is so painfully slow that it is easier to not bother. VirginMedia don't mention this in their adverts either.

The Pi is never going to be the best media centre but it doesn't have many competitors given the price.
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by cosmo » Wed Jan 09, 2013 4:52 pm
I'd agree with the fact that there are caveats to consider, I think that the title of this thread may be more appropriate that the RPi is not 'ideal' as a media center. If someone was considering the RPi solely as a media server, there are definitely better alternatives. There is certainly a lot that it can do, whether those meet your requirements or not is up to you.
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by Jim Manley » Wed Jan 09, 2013 6:31 pm
Given that the goal of the Pi is educational in nature, think of it as an experimental platform with many names and potential uses, only one of which is "Baby's First Media Center/Centre" that kids of all ages can use to learn how network-distributed digital video and audio work.

Beyond the previously-mentioned limitations, the biggest problem with digital media streaming is network contention, both internal to your location if you have multiple people each trying to stream GBs worth of content at the same time, and upstream on your neighborhood's and intermediate wide-area networks. Network performance can vary widely depending on the time of day, and problems ascribed to streaming services (beyond lack of support/compatibility) can actually be caused by the network. Even the Pi can outpace network capacity without really trying hard in many places, especially if you're not located in proximity to wide-area network capacity (fiber optic trunks).

If you really understood how the technology works, you'd be amazed that any of it ever works at all, let alone as well as it does. Murphy (of his renowned Law) hasn't retired, but we seem to gradually be making progress faster than he can muck around with our stuff. Even 10 years ago, no one was predicting a $35 credit-card size, open-source, user-programmable computer capable of 24 billion floating-point operations per second and 1080p digital video output, that consumed at most a few watts of power, and now there are nearly a million of them in the wild. That it allows me to play all of my music (via Aqualung) and stream 1080p video from local storage (via VLC), in addition to developing 3-D STEM educational software, is nothing short of astonishing compared with my early computing experience just a couple of decades ago.

I have to laugh when I hear people complaining about their cell phone dropping a call, an aircraft arriving a few hours late, or not being able to stream any movie they want, whenever they want, with no glitches. They have no idea how good life is for them compared to that of people in many other places, and that they're able to routinely do things that not even the richest people in the world could do less than 30 years ago, for a pittance.
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by goujam » Wed Jan 09, 2013 6:48 pm
HDMI audio allows lossless audio on more than 2 channels. So buy your self an av reciever and you have very good audio.
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by pluggy » Wed Jan 09, 2013 7:19 pm
Who said it was a media centre at all ?.

Sam Nazarko ?
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by randyks » Wed Jan 09, 2013 7:49 pm
@toprobin

What’s a Raspberry Pi?

The Raspberry Pi is a credit-card sized computer that plugs into your TV and a keyboard. It’s a capable little PC which can be used for many of the things that your desktop PC does, like spreadsheets, word-processing and games. It also plays high-definition video. We want to see it being used by kids all over the world to learn programming.

http://www.raspberrypi.org/faqs
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by toxibunny » Wed Jan 09, 2013 8:37 pm
Loads of people, Pluggy.
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by cyrano » Wed Jan 09, 2013 8:52 pm
Loads of people believe in ghosts too... And zombies... and...
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by Wizard » Wed Jan 09, 2013 9:30 pm
Can a Raspberry Pi be churned into a pvr or a media player? -Yes but with limitations.

Is the Raspberry Pi designed to be a full blown media player? -No, never.

Do some people expect too much from this "cheaper than a bottle of scotch" soc computer? -Yep, frequently!

For you who only want to "build" a media center or similar - buy a 2:nd hand laptop or mini-pc and use that as hardware since you're now holding more cpu and ram in yer hands (unless you buy some really old stuff)

Us other tinkerers are very happy with the Raspberry Pi and can't understand why some people ask for faster cpus, more ram and other bits when you have so much at hand already???
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by Pete6 » Wed Jan 09, 2013 9:35 pm
toxibunny wrote:Loads of people, Pluggy.

Well, yes but these were mainly the people making media centers.

XBMC does run and it works quite well too. On a $35 board that itself is a near miracle. It is not the fault of the Pi that Netflix have not provided an Add-on for Arm based Debian systems. The OP needs to take that up with Netflix, imo.

The stated goal of the Pi is education. However as with any computer it is not what it was designed to do but what it is actually capable of doing that defines its boundaries.
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by toxibunny » Wed Jan 09, 2013 9:56 pm
...and it's been repeatedly stated in the major tech/hacking websites and blogs, by the vendors, and by foundation members, that it makes a fairly good media centre. And it does make a fairly good media centre, for the price, exactly as they said.

Now someone's come in with a few complaints, and suddenly certain posters are all like 'Why wherever did you get the idea sir that this educational device should be used as a media centre? You must have concocted it up out of your own head sir, or maybe you have been listening to foolish prattle, such as by those who believes in ufos and ghosts, sir. Nobody here has said such a thing, ohohoho."

Cosmo's got it right though, in that OP's topic title is wrong. The Pi is not ideal as a media centre, and neither is it an ideal media centre. It *is*, however, *suitable* as a media centre, given that many people enjoy it as just that (including me - it plays 1080p stuff better than my laptop).

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by milhouse » Wed Jan 09, 2013 11:09 pm
The thing is, the OPs criticisms are pretty weak - to the point of being trollish.

The lack of proprietary streaming services is not the fault of the hardware, as they'll also be missing on quad-core x86 hardware. If the OP is claiming the Pi is an unsuitable media center, then so is an x86 PC with high-end graphics card when both are running XBMC. The point is, it's got nothing to do with the hardware, but if you want those proprietary services you'll be stuck with a restricted device that only does one thing, and you'll pay more for it too.

It's up to the service providers to start supporting products like XBMC, but don't hold your breath. And on the whole, from my experience, products (such as Smart TVs, Blu-Ray players and games consoles) that do support these proprietary streaming services usually end up providing a much worse "media center experience" than that provided by XBMC - I'll take the latter every day, thanks. Even on a Pi.

As for improved audio, this can be added for under $20 (USB DAC with S/PDIF & TOSLINK). Granted, improving the audio does require a little extra expense on top of the cost of the Pi, but most people don't need or want S/PDIF and TOSLINK so it's a sensible option to leave it out and those that want it can get it themselves. Sure it would have been nice if it were there as standard but not if it increases the cost, and it's a little churlish to complain when the solution is so cheap and simple - you might as well be complaining that the Pi doesn't include 802.11n WiFi, or come with a keyboard.
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by bbond007 » Wed Jan 09, 2013 11:51 pm
goujam wrote:HDMI audio allows lossless audio on more than 2 channels. So buy your self an av receiver and you have very good audio.


Exactly.... Receiver is outdated. Time to upgrade...

I also have a ROKU 2XD player... no digital-audio out (other than HDMI) ... cost over twice as much as the RPi too...

My older receiver did not support HDMI, but its a fairly nice Harmon Kardon AVR, so I really did not want to go out and buy some inferior cheapo to replace it.

Until I was able to afford one that would not be a downgrade, I just ran the optical out of my TV to my receiver. I was able to enable AC3 pass-through working by purchasing a service menu Android app for my LG TV. I was even able to get DTS working but I had to change the TVs region to Korea which caused other issues.

There are options other than USB which as been mentioned... Ultimately I just wanted a new receiver so I could put my old one in my bedroom.

HDMI audio extractor is an option:
http://www.ebay.com/itm/ViewHD-Premium- ... 416f00a281

Also this 4-port HDMI switch:
http://www.ebay.com/itm/HDMI-4-x-1-HIFI ... 416c68d77b
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by Jessie » Thu Jan 10, 2013 4:59 am
I haven't had many issues using my R-Pi as a media center. It has served pretty well. I power mine off a usb port on the TV and have a router behind the set providing a real eithernet connection. Aside from 1080p content with DTS audio everything has played fine without issue.

I used my PS3 as my DLNA box before this and it definatly has more issues and costs way more. It won't read MKV files off my media share (not going to waste my time transcoding.) The wireless was so slow and crappy that it was unusable.

Netflix, Amazon, Vudu, and all that other garbage is built into my TV set, my DrectTV box, or Apple TV. Unfortunatly there is nothing out there yet that can do it all, kinda BS if you ask me. I would throw down some real money (like $500) to have XBMC, Netflix, Amazon, Hulu with all the codecs plus the ability to DVR at least 3 channels at one time. Nobody makes a good seamless media center yet, but I will definatly argue that stating that the R Pi is not suitable as a media center because I regularly watch 1080p, 720p and SD media on it and it works just fine. For $35 it gets more use than my PS3 and Apple TV get. Once you have had Netflix and Prime a couple months you have pretty much watched anything worth a damn on there after that it's only there for the kido to stream Dora and Seseme Street over and over again.

The audio is fine, my BluRay rips sound great. The TV decodes the audio and passes it through an optical cable to the reciever no lip sinc issues whatsoever. I think if you find this many flaws in the R Pi as a media center then your setup is junk, your content is junk, or the most likely option is that you just haven't used one.
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by antacti » Thu Jan 10, 2013 5:12 am
Getting back to one of the issues brought up. The rPi is extremely light weight on the processing end but can it run a plex client? If so then you can use another computer in the house for all the heavy lifting and stream the content to the Pi. That way it leaves the Pi's CPU resources to the interface.

I know that Plex at least supports Hulu, dont know about the others.

Correction: Just checked and Plex also supports both Pandora and Netflix
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by mediakill » Thu Jan 10, 2013 1:22 pm
I gotta agree with op on this one. Alot of the articles and hype surrounding this imply greatly that this raspberry pi is perfect as a media center. Anyone who's read more into what raspberry pi really can do and is limited in will probably not be surprised by the limitations. Pretty much every article has been OMG a cheap 35 buck aio media center bile downplaying or omitting its shortcomings . IT can be disappointing if you bought this expecting things other media centers do natively and to be honest I think op has a valid point. Even knowing full well the limitations I was still a tiny bit dismayed that it does less than was hyped in the tech media but at the same time thinking well for 35 bucks you get what you paid for.

Also bit let down when realizing that my 35 bucks creeped up a lot more after factoring I power supply, wireless mouse, kb, sd cards, case,etc and realizing a more powerful cheap netbook might have been a more sensible way to go and the price difference really not that worth it. Still enjoy my little toy though
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by rey » Thu Jan 10, 2013 4:58 pm
pluggy wrote:Who said it was a media centre at all ?.

Sam Nazarko ?


This is such an odd post. What did Sam do?
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by bwoodbury » Thu Jan 10, 2013 5:10 pm
Sam is the creator of Raspbmc

www.raspbmc.com
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