Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Raspberry Pi & Windows Media Centre

We have a TV upstairs in the study that we wished to use to watch TV, unfortunately there were no TV aerial sockets upstairs and I didn't want to get involved installing more.

I have been using Windows Media Centre on an Acer Revo R3700 (powered by an Intel Atom) with Windows 7 for a number of years now, and am happy with this for recording TV and watching live TV.  Having tried to run XBMC on a different PC it took some time and digging to get the drivers set up for the TV tuner and the overall experience was not as good as Windows Media Centre.

Not wanting to spend the extra money just to get Media Centre onto the Windows 8 PC that is conveniently located in the same room as the TV, I Googled to see if it was possible to get XBMC to work with Media Centre especially as I have a spare Raspberry Pi with the Raspberrys particular flavour of XBMC, Raspbmc already loaded.

Fortunately there is the excellent ServerWMC, which you can load onto your Windows 7 Media Centre PC and setup another PC with XBMC, with the add-on pvr.wmc to connect to ServerWMC to stream live TV and get the Electronic Program Guide.  Downloading and installing was relatively easy and the software connected to Media Centre without any interaction.  The only setting that I have changed is to set the ServerWMC to start when Windows starts, which is not set as default.

As the RaspBMC already comes with the pvr.wmc add-on it was simple to set this up, just enable live tv and then enable the add on in the settings, set the IP addresss of the Media Centre PC and we were up and running, only not just yet, the systems all connected but all TV programs I tried just came with audio only.  The Raspberry Pi does not come with licences for MPEG-2 and VC-1, which can be bought from the Raspberry Pi store, for a reasonable price of £2.40 for the MPEG-2 Licence.

Installing the license has been made simple by just using the Raspberry Pi settings in the menus of the RaspBMC, rather than changing the config files manually.

Top tip as well is to make your Media Centre PC have a static IP address to ensure seamless connection.

Up and running the stock Confluence skin of the RaspBMC is easily understandably and quick to navigate.  When connecting to get streams from the Media Centre it is slow, and when initially turned on it takes almost a minute after the Raspberry Pi has booted to connect and synchronise the channel data with the Media Centre before Live TV can be selected.

At the moment I am running this setup controlling with a mouse which isn't ideal and will be looking to purchase a remote control fairly soon.

I am happy with the picture quality.  Although there have been a couple of lost signals, these have been few and far between.

This has been a far better experience than the NowTV box that I have also tried, although the setup was harder with the Raspberry Pi, the user interface is less clunky, which is a major selling point.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Soggy Hampshire walk round Jane Austens Chawton.

Distance: 5 miles
Start & Finish: Chawton opposite Jane Austen Museum
Refreshments: Cassandra's Cup Coffee Shop, Greyfriars pub
Parking: Car park in Chawton opposite Jane Austen Museum
Conditions:  Dry to start off with, second half of walk alongside a brook with fields that are damp under foot.  400 metre walk along busy road with no pavement, followed by damp fields and one short muddy walk.
Runkeeper Route:  Runkeeper

Having a visitor this weekend who was interested in Jane Austen we decided to do a walk starting at the Jane Austen House Museum in Chawton, Hampshire, and include a visit to the museum.

As Hampshire is currently suffering a number of floods due to the recent bad weather, we were aware that we may have to re-plan when we arrived in the area.  As we arrived at Chawton the first flood related issues became apparent, firstly the A32 was closed south, and there was a power cut in Chawton itself, which meant that the museum and the coffee shop were closed, which caused some upset.

The walk sets off from the car park of the museum, which had a confusing sign which either said car park closed or footpath closed, we took this to mean that the footpath leading out of the car park over the river was closed, which would not affect us.

We followed a walk from the AA guide that we have, but which does not appear on their website.

Heading west from Chawton we followed the road turning right on Ferney Close, to meet and walk along St Swithun's Way just before it crosses the A32.  St Swithun's Way is a long distance walk between Winchester and Farnham.  We followed St Swithun's Way as it heads down a disused railway before turning off the tracks at an old bridge that has been blocked by earth.

Crossing back across the A32 we saw another operation caused by the recent flooding, a pump was pumping water along the road to a stream, the noise of this could be heard from quite some distance way.

Massey's Folly
Heading up the track towards Manor Farm brought us to Farringdon where we headed in to the village and paused for a quick drink on the seat opposite the Village Hall (Masseys Folly) and discussed the building that stood before us.

Yew Tree in Churchyard.
Setting off again we headed through the churchyard, and were amazed by the Yew trees, the first of which had been split at some point in its history.  Exiting the churchyard we set off down the road.

After half a mile we turned left off the road up a track and then right at the footpath sign that directed us down a grassed track, which, after a style became pasture fields.  We were amazed that although this part of the route followed a brook, there was no real evidence of the flooding that has affected the local area.

After heading through a field of sheep and crossing the brook a couple of times, the ground getting steadily damper under foot, but not impassible, we exited the fields at the somewhat busy A3006.  Turning left to walk alongside the road for around 300 metres, not ideal as the hedgerow kept us in the road, which is reasonably fast and fairly busy.  Just after the Shepherds Court with some relief we turned back off the road and again into the fields, pausing to read a sign informing walkers, fortunately not our route, of a path that was now closed by the landowner.  Following the path the fields got damper and damper as we headed towards Eastfield farm.  Skirting the farm through kissing gates we passed through a field with sheep and Llamas.

After the farm we entered a copse which descended into muddy fields with horses and crossed these to re-enter Chawton through a narrow alley, before walking back to the car park.

I enjoyed this walk up until the final 3rd, when the styles became high and uncomfortable, and the busy A3006 would put me off recommending this walk for anyone uncomfortable with main roads.

There are other walks setting out from the same car park.