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Friday, January 31, 2014



Around Christmas 2012, I decided I wanted to have a media server.  I was looking at the Mac Mini and was pretty serious about it, but I didn't really want to spend $800-ish for this, and then a big HD in addition.  I looked at mini-computers running Windows and Linux and my buddy Tim asks "Have you looked at the RaspberryPi?".

No.  No, I hadn't.  I started researching and in about 72 hours made an order..  Sure, it's only $35, but with SD cards, power supply, case, wireless keyboard and mouse, wiFi adapter (which I am not using..) I was still under $100 for the thing.  Add another $100 for a 3TB external USB 3.0 drive, and I got something worth playing with.

First and foremost, I wanted a media server and I really like XBMC.  I know there are a lot of PLEX users out there, but PLEX on Unix doesn't play files, it just serves them to other PLEX clients. I find XBMC to be better for my purposes. Next, I researched a few of the RaspberryPi Linux distributions for XBMC, and settled on RaspBMC.  I settled on it before I actually had my Pi. The Pi took a little over a month for me to get the damn thing!  The order was in back-order hell.

Initial setup

I finally got the thing in the mail, and I had already decided that I was going to set it up temporarily in my office and then move it to its designated spot - next to the main TV in our media room.  The initial setup was fine, although I did re-image the SD card twice just messing around with it.  Next, I plugged in the already formatted drive (EXT4) and the Pi recognized it, and I had a working media server.  I copied a few movie files over and played them.  Everything was ducky, so I moved it to its home.


From what I have read 90% of problems with the Pi are a result of a poor power supply.  I was victim of this as well.  For the longest time, my TV was getting some wavy lines on its input, and it carried over to other inputs on the TV - it wasn't too bad, but it was noticeable and definitely undesirable.  I tried 3 power supplies over about 6 months and finally settled on the solution I have now. Here's a rundown of what I experienced:
  • First power supply was the one I bought from the store I got the Pi from.  This gave me wavy lines on the TV (I am using the RCA video, not the HDMI right now). Other than that, everything worked well.
  • Second supply I tried got rid of the wavy lines on the TV, but the external hard drive mounting kept dropping.  I really don't understand this one too well, the external drive is powered from its own power supply, but when I switched back to the original power supply, the HD mounting issues went away.
  • I found an interesting wall outlet item - it plugs into an existing outlet and the bottom outlet is 2 USB charging ports.  I got a nice thick USB cable (with lights!) and all my power issues went away.  The only issue with this solution is I lost a power outlet on the wall and the USB cord is kind of short, so the Pi had to move down a shelf.  It's a simple solution, I just plugged it into an existing outlet.  I could buy an outlet and pull the other one, but for now, this works and it was an easy test.


Over the past few months I've been messing with the little box and have found it to be pretty damn neat.  It's not a powerhouse, but here's what I am doing with it.

XBMC - obviously.  this is why I got it.  It doesn't play as many formats as the Mac or Windows - and I even bought the additional MPEG-2 and other license (for $2 each).  I tried using software as a remote control from my phone and tablet, but it got into some repeat loops.  I usually just use the wireless keyboard and mouse I got for it.  The interface is a little slow to refresh, but once you're watching something it runs fine.  As I said above, I am using the Raspbmc distribution.

SSH - For remote access to the Pi.  Since I still don't have an HD TV in that room, using the command line directly from the Pi is not very good.

FTP - I use this mostly as a file manager - FileZilla is a great interface and I can rename, move and generally muck about with files with ease.

Torrent - I am using Transmission as a headless server.  I can manage torrents via a web page interface from any computer on my network.  This works out pretty slick!

iPerf - For some network issues I was having, this was a great tool to install and use for me.


I have found that I like having a Unix box always running on my network.  I've been playing with it and re-learning the Unix command line; although, I am still not an expert, I know enough to be really dangerous. This has led me to use my Mac OS X terminal for unix commands, too.  I have a lot more fun on a command line now.

There you go, that's my geeky project that has been around for a little over a year now.