By now we know that our Raspberry Pi can be run with Power over Ethernet. Next question is: what to do with it? I’ve a little media center with TV, speakers and a blu-ray player back at my home, but I’ve not been satisfied with the ways to deliver content to it. Even if a smart T can play files automatically from my collection, given recent fiascos with smart TV’s and privacy I’m not willing to give one an Internet connection.
PC or laptop would feel like an overkill, so Raspberry Pi to the rescue! Last time I tried to run a media server with Raspberry Pi I was using model B. At the time the device was not powerful enough for the smooth experience, and I ended up donating it to my local hackerspace where it still serves as a IRC client. Let’s have another try with the new Raspberry Pi 2, as it is 6x faster, according to the box.
First thing was to plug the Power over Ethernet -board on it, so far so good. As the player software I selected Kodi, previously known as XBMC. The steps to setup Raspberry Pi as a media PC is documented well enough around the internet, here for example. I already do have an ownCloud installation, which supports WebDAV file transfer. Kodi can be configured to access files over WebDAV, so I’m not limited by the 8GB of SD-card space anymore.
Next thing was to add a HiFiBerry DAC+ to Raspberry Pi for as good sound as possible. Setting it up was straightforward with the instructions found at their website, and I was ready to listen to the results. Everything worked… sorta. But there were a few user experience issues I wanted to correct. First of all, streaming media over WebDAV was laggy between songs. Maybe Raspberry Pi had to download entire song between playbacks? Anyway, this was simple enough to solve. Plug in USB-stick, download media locally to it and play from there.
Final version of our board won’t have electric tape, no worries 🙂
Another issue was that I didn’t really want to go through the trouble of controlling the thing with keyboard and mouse. There are remote controls, but I’ve too many of those already. Kodi has a few web interfaces, I went for one known as Chorus. It allows me to control the Raspberry Pi through my LAN connection, so I can play music from my main speakers, adjust volume etc. Chorus also lets me to stream music to my local computer, in case I’m in another room and I don’t want to annoy my neighbours by turning the volume up.
At this point, I was pretty satisfied with the results. One more little thing, though. While I’m entirely happy to access my music by checking which IP was assigned to my Raspberry Pi by my router’s DHCP and entering something like 192.168.1.128:8080/ to my browser, my friends might not be that technologically oriented. My router runs DD-WRT, and it was pretty simple to assign a static IP-address and a hostname to my Raspberry Pi through the management interface of my router. Then there was the matter of routing the Kodi’s port 8080 to HTTP default port 80, but luckily I’ve done my fair share configuring Apache in the past.
Now I’m all set, all I have to do is to log into my home network, navigate to musiikki.a11 and enjoy.
We still have a few sets of boards for the next round of prototypes available, so if you want to order one PoE boards + parts, contact us at Indie@ell-i.org and we’ll arrange things from there. We’ll sell them at cost, but you’ll have to be skilled with soldering iron to assemble one. You can find earlier experiences of hand soldering the board from Vaasa Hacklab’s blog post. Be sure to sign up to our mailing list here and we’ll keep you updated of our progress.