DynPi My Portable XBMC Device

Almost all commercial media boxes, such as the AppleTV 2, have no internal storage. I want to build a fully portable, internet non-dependant media centre. As with all things the first step is a plan!

This is a new project I’m working on, so I wanted to share it with you as its going along rather than waiting till completion.

I’m a huge fan of TV and Movies, like most of us are, and I’ve transferred a large majority of my DVD collection to the PC – partly to protect the discs, but mostly because I hate having to keep changing disc when I’m the mood for a Doctor Who marathon. Now the problem is when you go on holiday you can’t realistically take your DVD collection with you. Since readers have kindles and can take several hundred books I decided this was a problem I needed to solve.

Almost all commercial media boxes, such as the AppleTV 2, have no internal storage – Apple having decided it could make more money streaming content instead. I’ve already setup my home NAS and have several Raspberry Pi with OpenElec XBMC installation through out the house but again these don’t have hard drives ether they are simply streaming content from my NAS. My first thought was to setup a system like Plex so I could stream my content from my home NAS to where ever I am, the downside of this being I would be come reliant on both my home internet and having free access where ever I go. Since most hotels charge you and set data limits this is a less than perfect solution.

So, braking it down, what am I trying to achieve:

  • Portability
  • Not relying on an internet connection
  • Plenty of content

My first idea was to simply put stuff on my Nexus 7 and watch it from there. After a few experiments it is useful, but watching stuff on a 7 inch screen is far from ideal. I know I could get an adaptor, but after wondering the shops around here no one stocks a SlimPort adaptor only HML and since SlimPort is really only being used on the Nexus range its not future proofing – nor is there allot of storage.

So I quickly decided on using a Raspberry Pi and XBMC, inspired in part by the Slice which could soon offer exactly what I’m looking for except the Slice want be on the market till at least November so I want to build my own. Once its all done I want to be able to connect to the Pi over ether the Cat5 or WiFi since I’m not assuming there will be a router I can plug a Cat5 into everywhere I go. That means the project, which I’m going to call DynPi as in Dynamic Pi, will need its own WiFi dongle I can connect to. I also want to setup an automatic solution for getting media on to the machine. I’m thinking about newest movies/TV or perhaps most watched and definitely a short-list of must have things – something like that.

Once I’m setup I’m going to use Raspbmc this time instead of OpenElec. OpenElec is a fantasicly simple XBMC setup and perfect for most set-top boxes, but because the OS has been stripped back so much allot of things aren’t available which includes the software required to setup the DynPi as a WiFi hotspot.

The shopping list:

  • 1 Raspberry Pi I already had a spare Pi
  • 1 PiHub This was harder to find, I wanted a hub that would port the Pi as well and this is the best one I could find, plus I think it looks cool
  • 1 Edimax EW-7811UN Wireless Nano USB Adapter
  • 1 Laptop Hard Drive This one is 500GB, but I had 230GB drive in the house so I’m using that for now
  • 1 Hard Drive Encloure You can obviously get external hard drives and use that instead. The reason I’ve got both items separately is, again, future proofing. I wanted a quick and easy way to upgrade the drive.

Okay, so that’s the shopping list. Next I need to put it all together. I’ll post that stage once its all done, stay tuned (updates are posted to my twitter account, so you don’t have to keep checking the site waiting on an update)

Stuart McCulloch Anderson

For over a decade and a half Stuart has been in love with all things science fiction or technology and for almost fourteen of those years his operating system of choice has been one breed of Linux or another and despite some brief trips back into the world of Windows Stuart has never found him self wanting anything else.

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