Raspbmc versus OpenELEC
Since I bought a Raspberry PI from http://12geeks.com/ in Singapore, I was impressed when Michael Cheng showed me at http://hackerspace.sg/ you can play back videos with it.
Yes! A way to easily watch my downloads on a big screen, which was basically impossible to do on an Apple TV.
First I tried Raspbmc when Michael was using. IIUC it's a port of XMBC 12.2 "Frodo" to the PI. I quickly found a few issues:
- UI is a bit crap. Why are pictures, movies and TV shows seperated? The mind boggles.
- IOS7 doesn't work
- No bug tracker, only the dreaded Web forum
- Fails to pick up .srt subtitle, e.g. foo_eng.srt isn't found from foo_.mp4
- When I try playback videos on my Samsung UE46C6530 TV, the TV loses signal, later solved by a re-install
- Zeroconf fails to show Web sites, have to add them manually
Later I found http://openelec.tv/ prompted by a tweet.
Open Embedded Linux Entertainment Center (OpenELEC) at least has a decent github powered issue tracker. Nonetheless both raspbmc and OpenELEC rely on XBMC. Nonetheless OpenELEC's support / IRC channel seems much healthier than the Raspbmc project.
Annoyingly the Web interface isn't enabled by default, so I had to plug in a USB mouse instead of controlling it from my iPhone
HDMI CEC works with my Samsung UE46C6530 TV nicely. Not sure why Raspbmc fell short here.
Plugging in a USB stick in the top port causes the PI to reboot, same as Raspbmc
Zeroconf does not work like Raspbmc, Web sites aren't shown but can by manually added in the horrible UI
OpenELEC:~ # avahi-browse -at | grep http
- eth0 IPv4 XBMC (OpenELEC) _http._tcp local
- eth0 IPv4 x220 _http._tcp local
Doesn't automatically mount ExFAT formatted USB sticks. I found a fix in a pull but I have no idea when it will be deployed or how to use this particular revision
For subtitles, I've discovered the amazing XBMC subtitles that goes off and downloads the subtitles
Anyway, both projects stem from XBMC which has a ton of usability issues, however I really like their potential. I wish Chromecast was better supported, but after looking at it briefly, you get the same functionality by just pointing XBMC to the content as suggested in this JSONRPC post.
I can't help but think though, if it was easier to connect my laptop or desktop to my big screen TV, it would probably be a better solution overall. Basically I like to flick through my photo collection at lightning speed. You need SSD, fast CPU, a suckless image viewer and the latest codec support like that for WebP. Nonethless I still think the PI presents a pretty good low cost dedicated media solution. It's better than the Apple TV, if you can live without Airplay Mirroring (which is so damn nice tbh).