Tag Archive: XBMC

Kicking back for a week at Center Parcs. Came fully prepared with Raspberry Pi & 2TB Portable Hard Drive fully loaded but forgot the damn remote! My HTC One has an IR remote built in, but the Microsoft MCE remote isn’t listed. Every result googled turned up was an XBMC or Media Center remote which only works over the network/LAN.

Eventually, after trying a dozen or so IR apps with no luck, we found ZappIR.


After trying a few combinations- Console/Media Manager -> Microsoft -> Media Manager MCE Media Center Code Group 2- Bingo!

Now back to kicking back! Nice little hot tub, steam room and sauna in the back garden!


Raspberry Pi #1 – RaspBMC

I’ve been very quiet (that means work has been very busy!) but some waiting is starting to draw to a close:

-Fibre has finally been installed in my local exchange and cabinet and should be installed at my house June 6th!
-My first RaspberryPi has arrived:

My Acer Revo R3610 running XBMC has been playing up lately and pulling far too much juice (30 Watts+ if I remember correctly) so I thought that could be the destiny of my first Raspi.

Sam over @ http://www.raspbmc.com/ has been working on a dedicated linux distribution RaspBMC- so I thought I’d give the beta a whirl.

The installer image was downloaded in no time at all and writing to my Sandisk 16GB class 10 SDHC card:

Unfortunately when trying to boot the device just sits repeating mmc0: Timeout waiting for hardware interrupt:

I found information suggesting this would be fixed in the release but I’m far too impatient to wait so thought I’d try a workaround found http://forum.stmlabs.com/showthread.php?tid=184

By overwriting the kernel.img and start.elf with those from https://github.com/raspberrypi/firmware/tree/master/boot the installer was able to boot and the install process complete. Unfortunately then when the device tries to boot it, once again, gets stuck mmc0: Timeout waiting for hardware interrupt.

I decided to try another SD card, this time a Verbatim 16GB class 6. This time the installer fired straight up without needing patching but after completing I was faced with a login prompt and no XBMC GUI. I re-imaged the SD card and re-ran the installation. Third time lucky! XBMC appears, as if by magic :)

I was quickly able to mount my Samba (SMB / CIFS) network media share and start setting up my library:

Playback seems pretty good, although I currently have it connected to my Onkyo amp so it doesn’t need to decode audio. I understand it struggles a little if connected directly to a TV which requires audio to be down mixed.

I’ve yet to get my MCE remote working but XBMoteC works perfectly from my iPhone.

*EDIT* At one point after rebooting RaspBMC i got an error in /etc/rc.local: ./getfile.sh: not found. Fortunately i was able to fix this by SSHing into the device, and:

cd /scripts/upd_sys
sudo wget http://svn.stmlabs.com/svn/raspbmc/testing/update-system/getfile.sh 
sudo chmod +x getfile.sh
reboot now

Next stop- a little overclocking :)

Now just to wait for my 2nd Raspberry Pi so I can’t start hacking the thing to hopefully get my home automation project back on track!


I have been making a lot of changes the network recently so thought it was time to sketch it out:

The left hand stack is housed in the A/V rack/closet and the right stack is housed in the garage rack. To clarify a few points:

  • The two switches are linked using a 2 x 1 gigabit fibre trunk
  • The ESX servers and file servers are connected to the switch using 2 x 1 gigabit ethernet trunks
  • There ET9000, XBMC, Apple TV 2, HDMI Matrix and Sonos devices can all be controlled from smartphones, pcs etc
  • The ET9000 records to the file server
  • The Sonos Connect / ZonePlayer 90 is connected to the Onkyo Amp to allow Sonos to output to my home theatre
  • The Sonos Connect / ZonePlayer 90 is connected to the Apple TV to allow streaming from iTunes/iOS devices to all zones
  • I haven’t bothered to include my router, wireless access points, client pcs, smartphones, printers and various other devices in the diagram

The wireless sensor network provides:

  • Whole house power consumption currently using a CurrentCost EnviR
  • Individual appliance power consumption (currently monitoring 6 appliances using CurrentCost IAMs)
  • Environment information (temperature, light, humidity) using Jeelabs Jeenodes in multiple zones

This is a good reference point for where I’m headed (not much progress since I last listed but alas, still the way forward):

  • Further appliance monitoring and more importantly control (potentially through upcoming project/device: HexaBus – https://github.com/mysmartgrid/hexabus/wiki or plugwise – http://www.plugwise.com/idplugtype-g/)
  • Security cameras (and doorbell integration)
  • Environmental information (I have pulse counters for my gas meter and water/central heating system that need installing)
  • XBMC hardware replacement (once the Raspberry Pi – http://www.raspberrypi.org/ is available to buy I’d like to replace my Acer Revo)
  • Home Automation Hub replacement (once the Raspberry Pi is available to buy I’d like to try Domitiga – http://www.domotiga.nl/ or my own custom solution)
  • Web Interface (to bring all of the information together from the wireless sensor network, along with the state of all network devices (from bandwidth to free space etc) and most importantly allow central control- so instead of me having to use different methods to switch on the ET9000, change the channel on the HDMI matrix, power on the amp etc, I can do it all with one button)

As usual- I imagine I’ve missed a few bits out from the above but it hopefully provides a good overview of my network.


Small PC Options

I’m eagerly awaiting the release of Raspberry Pi : http://www.raspberrypi.org/ a credit-card sized computer. I intend to use one (or more) for home automation and possibly XBMC (media pc) for streaming movies throughout the house.

This got me looking at what other options are currently out there for small computers which can run linux:

Raspberry Pi CuBox PlugPC Alix
Website http://www.raspberrypi.org/ http://www.solid-run.com/ http://www.plugcomputer.org/ http://pcengines.ch/alix.htm
Cost $25 / $35 $135
Size 85.6 mm x 53.98 mm 2" x 2" x 2"
Housing No Yes
Processor ARM v6 ARM v7
Video HDMI + RCA Video HDMI
Audio Analog Audio Jack SPDIF
USB 2x USB 2.0 2x USB 2.0
Network No / 100 Mbit Ethernet 1 Gbit Ethernet
RAM 128 MB / 256 MB 1 GB
Power MicroUSB 5V DC PSU?
Card Reader SD MicroSD
Extra IR, eSATA
Power (Watts) ~3


You can see I’ve only partially filled out the table as the PlugPC (many variations available) and the Alix didn’t really excite me like the Raspberry Pi and CuBox. The first of which still looks the most promising because of it’s incredibly low price point. Neither product are currently available (as of posting this article 7th Jan 2012) but the first 10 beta boards from the Raspberry Pi are currently being auctioned off on eBay for charity http://www.ebay.co.uk/sch/raspberry_pi/m.html?_nkw=&_armrs=1&_from=&_ipg=&_trksid=p3686 and fetching over £1,000 each!

I’m hoping to see both devices available later this month and will be trying to get my hands on both!

*EDIT* Forgot to add this link to a video of the Raspberry Pi running XBMC: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iKhnoQMwjmQ&feature=player_embedded

*EDIT* Thanks to Tyrell Beveridge for pointing out the fitpc: http://fit-pc.co.uk/ this looks like another good contender although rather pricey

*EDIT* 11/01/2012: Discovered another device- the Bifferboard: http://www.bifferos.co.uk/. It’s not very powerful and will set you back about £50 include a case and power adapter but does support a few common linux distros with apt-get/yum etc


More Home Automation Chat

I’m away from home at the moment so not much to report. I’ve not had a chance to install the water meters with my friend yet nor connect the gas meter to the hah but I have taken delivery of a bunch more jeenodes and room plugs:

Starting to put one together:

I now have 3 nodes collection temperature, light and humidity data and posting to pachube along with my total household power consumption and appliance level detail for 6 devices:

Whole house power consumption:

An example of individual device consumption (this happens to be the boiler):

Room data:

I’ve tried to create a "naming convention" where the data stream id contains the nodeid (first digit) followed by 1 for temperature, 2 for light and 3 for humidy.

You can quite clearly see where the temperature rises in line with the boiler coming on. You can also see the light pattern during the day (wow- it’s getting dark real early!!!). Humidity isn’t really of much interest.

Interestingly I think node 2 is in the same room as the receiver/hahcentral/hub but seems to drop out every few hours. Node 3 in the room next door is rock solid. And node 5 in the room next to that is extremely flakey! Brett from over at hah has suggested lengthening the antenna on the nodes to resolve these issues- I will do some experiments when I have a little more time on my hands :)

And one final note- whilst on the topic of "home automation". I have replaced my sky boxes in recent months with the Clarke Tech ET9000: https://tickett.wordpress.com/2011/09/20/getting-started-with-clarke-tech-xtrend-et9000-and-sky-hd-uk/ and pipe the picture round the house from these and my home theatre pc (htpc) running xbmc with a cheap 4×4 HDMI matrix I picked up off eBay. I now have full control over these devices from my mobile phone (iPhone):

DreaMote Lite (for Enigma2 satellite receivers):

And XBMoteC (for XBMC):

All slow, but steady progress toward a completely integrated/automated home!


After pillaging a few components out of my HTPC a while back I finally got round to re-installing XBMC and wanted to get my favourite skin back!

Here are the steps I used:

Open a terminal

  • From XBMC press Alt-Ctrl-F1
  • From a windows machine I recommend putty via ssh
  • From a mac I recommend ssh straight from terminal

Execute the following commands to configure all pre-requisits

  • sudo apt-get update
  • sudo apt-get upgrade
  • sudo apt-get install git-core

Execute the following to download the skin (beware the skin is currently around 565MB so it may take a while to download depending on your internet connection speed)

  • cd ~/.xbmc/addons
  • git clone git://github.com/pix/aeon.git skin.aeon65

From XBMC select the new skin from the settings screenHere’s a screenshot I found on google- but I will try and add a few of my own (and possibly a short video) later:


The HTPC is an Acer revo r3610


I’ve collected quite a few Blu-Rays and HD-DVDs but recently moved over to using XBMC as my media center instead of Windows 7. XBMC doesn’t play from disc (due to some form of licensing issues) so I need the films all available on the network (not to mention for convenience).

I tried a few different applications (on both my pc and mac) and ended up with the following process to keep file size “reasonable” yet maintain optimum quality.

1. Rip: MakeMKV http://www.makemkv.com/ (open source, cross platform, brilliant application) -> Simply pick the main movie title, best quality audio track and any english subtitle tracks then go!

2. Encode Video: Handbrake http://handbrake.fr/ (open source, cross platform, brilliant application) -> Change output format to MKV, pick a target size (remember your audio track is likely to add a few GB later), tick 2 pass encoding, remove any audio tracks and subtitles, then queue/start!

3. Remux: MKVMerge http://jonthn.free.fr/MKVtoolnix/ (open source, cross platform, brilliant application) -> First add your .mkv with encoded video to input files and tick only the video track and chapters, now add the original .mkv and tick the audio track and subtitles, start muxing and we’re done!


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