Entertainment Hub Version 1

I received my first Raspberry Pi back in October, ten days after I ordered it online. After that I brought it back to my home in Kluang, Malaysia. The reason is that I would like to setup a home theatre with the help of Raspberry Pi. Hopefully in near future, I can have a complete entertainment hub setup for my family. Thus, I name this project, the Entertainment Hub.

Gunung Lambak, the highest point in Kluang.
Gunung Lambak, the highest point in Kluang.

Getting Raspberry Pi

Raspberry Pi is a credit-card-sized computer. According to the official website, it is designed to help the students to learn programming with lower cost. To understand more about Raspberry Pi, you can read its detailed FAQ. By saving S$1 per day, I easily got myself a new Raspberry Pi Model B (with 8GB SD card) after 2 months.

Entertainment Hub Project

Before the use of Raspberry Pi, I was using a Wireless 1080p Computer to HD Display Kit from IOGEAR to stream video from my laptop to the home TV. It requires a one-time installation of both the software and drivers on the laptop before I can use its wireless USB transmitter to connect between the PC and the wireless receiver which is connected to the TV with HDMI. Afer the installation, whenever I want to show the videos stored in external hard disk on the big screen, I always first need to switch on the receiver at TV side and then plug in the wireless USB transmitter on laptop. Now with the use of Raspberry Pi, I can easily browse the videos directly on the TV.

I only worked on the Entertainment Hub when I was at home. Also due to the fact that I only went back to home on Saturday and I would need to go back to Singapore on the following day, I didn’t really got much time to work on the project. Hence, I finally got video to show on the TV only after four times of travelling back to home.

Connecting External Hard Disk to Raspberry Pi

Before I started this project, I thought connecting an external hard disk directly to the Raspberry Pi would be enough. However, it turned out that it’s not the case. When I connected the external hard disk to the Raspberry Pi directly, the USB optical mouse, which was connected to another USB port of the Raspebrry Pi, lost its power. After doing some searches online, I found that it was most probably due to the fact that the Raspberry Pi didn’t have enough power to power up both the hard disk and the optical mouse at the same time.

The USB hard disk I have is 2.5” Portable HDD (Model: IM100-0500K) from Imation. After finding out that Raspebrry Pi had insufficient power for the portal hard disk, I chose to get a powered USB hub. Fortunately, there are nice people done a lot of tests on many, many USB hubs to find out which powered USB hubs are best to use together with Raspberry Pi. They posted a useful list of working powered USB hubs online for us to use as a guideline when choosing USB hub for Raspberry Pi. I bought the Hi-Speed USB 2.0 7-Port Hub by Belkin at Funan. Even though the model isn’t same as the one in the list, the USB hub works fine in my case.

To find out if Raspberry Pi can detect the portable hard disk or not, simply use the following command.

sudo blkid

If the external hard disk can be detected, then a similar results as follows should be printed.

/dev/sda1: LABEL=”HDD Name” UUID=”xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx” TYPE=”ntfs”

Luckily my Raspberry Pi can auto detect the external hard disk and then can mount it automatically.

Entertainment Hub Version 1 Structure
Entertainment Hub Version 1 Structure

Enjoy Movies on Raspberry Pi

After successfully mounting the external hard disk on Raspberry Pi, I just need to browse to the folders on the hard disk to pick the video files and then play them using OMXPlayer, a video player pre-installed on Raspberry Pi. As I used HDMI cable to connect Raspberry Pi and TV, so by using the following command, both audio and video can be successfully transferred to the TV.

omxplayer -o hdmi -r video.flv

The reason of having -r here is to adjust video framerate and resolution. Without it, not only the video won’t be displayed in full screen on TV, but there also won’t be any audio from TV.

When I first used omxplayer, it showed a black screen after I closed the program. There are online documentation and solution about this issue as well. For me, after I rebooted the Raspberry Pi, the issue disappeared.

Watching Movie with Help of Raspberry Pi
Watching movie with the help of Raspberry Pi.

Dad’s Help in the Project

The case of my Raspberry Pi is designed and made by my Dad. I am very happy and thankful that my Dad helped making a case for my Raspberry Pi. Usually the case of Raspberry Pi is box-shaped. However, the case I have here is a cylinder. So my Raspberry Pi looks special. =)

A closer look of my Raspberry Pi.
A closer look of my Raspberry Pi.

Future Work

With this little success of having movies played on Raspberry Pi, the first part of the Entertainment Hub is done. Now, there are more things needed to be done in order to make it more user friendly and robust. First of all, there needs a playlist support. Secondly, the ability of replaying the videos. Thirdly, a better GUI to select videos, instead of just a command-line UI. All of these depend on how fast I learn to program an app in Raspberry Pi.

Let’s look forward to completion of this project.

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