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.