Smart TV – Raspberry Pi style

When I ordered my £25 Raspberry Pi, I didn’t know what I was going to do with it, but when I heard that XBMC had been ported to run on the Pi I realized that I needed 2 Pis; one for XBMC, and the other so I could have one I didn’t know what to do with!

XBMC was originally a media center (MC) that ran on an XBox (XB).  It’s Linux based and now runs on many things.  It allows you to play music and videos from a local hard drive, a network location or the internet.  There are loads of 3rd party plugins that allow you to do things like stream YouTube videos, use a smartphone as a remote control, get the weather, and about 1000 other really cool things.

Whilst I’m happy enough with the Raspberry Pi being a bare circuit board, if it’s to be part of my AV set up, it has to look respectable.  There’s now a load of aftermarket cases made for the Pi, but none of them are quite what I was looking for.  So I started to think outside the box.  And that’s when I found a remote control Smart car…


It’s about 6 inches (15cm) long, and 3 inches (8cm) wide.  Big enough for the Pi, but small enough to look discrete.  So I set about removing all the radio gear and motors and seeing what would fit where.  I had already been using the Pi as a XBMC, so I knew it worked, and I also knew that I needed a USB hub in there, both to power the Pi, and connect it up to a small flash drive and allow expansion.  The Pi would go nicely on the chassis, and the hub (after removing it from the pretty but overly large case) would go in the roof.

When I was confident it was going to fit, so using the facilities at Nottingham Hackspace I got to work modifying the bodywork and cables where necessary.  To hold the PCBs in place, generous amounts of Sugru were applied.

With all the leads inside it’s quite cramped.  Some of the plugs needed the protective rubber stripping back so the wires could be bent enough… but it all went in.  Eventually!

Once it’s all hooked up it works lovely.  I can use my phone as a remote control, so no need to have messy keyboards cluttering up the place.  And it streams full HD quality video over the wifi connection perfectly.

It’s been used for a couple of weeks now, and apart from one lockup has been perfect.  It didn’t get on so well with the official XBMC app for Android, but I’ve started using Yatse and it does great.  There’s quite a bit of natural ventilation in the case, but I’ve been keeping an eye on the CPU temperature just in case, but it never seems to go over 48’C.  It does take a few minutes to pick up the wifi connection though (and without that I can’t use it at all), but I can live with that.  The only complaint really is that when playing music, there’s a cracking sound at the start and end of every track (mainly noticeable when turned up loud though).

Oh, and being able to send YouTube links direct from Twitter on my phone to the TV, well, that’s really blown my mind! How did I ever live without that feature?

Click here for a full photo build of the project