I needed some form of entertainment centre in the bedroom, but didn't want to spend too much money...especially not buy a new TV. So I had a look around at what I had lying around, devised a plan and started the battle!
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Step 1: Planning Your Tree
I wanted to use my old Raspberry Pi which I bought years ago and never put to proper use (other than testing, playing around and gathering some much needed dust).
First Step - decide what must go where...then redesign based on your stumble-blocks.
Power :: I had one power point to work from and although I added a multi-adapter, I wanted to use as little power supplies as possible.
Speakers :: I didn't have any PC speakers systems lying around that were not in use and found an "impulse purchase" from a while back, called X-Vibe...now I needed a suitable surface.
Network :: My network is good but the router sits way to far from the bedroom to run a cable (which I also don't have)
Display :: I had a PC Monitor sitting there, looking pretty, but not serving much purpose other than the occasional use. The problem - VGA...that's it...no RCA, no S-Video, no HDMI.
Step 2: Raspberry Solution
Because I wanted as little as possible power supply cables "hanging around", I am powering all the components through the USB Hub which has it's own external power source.
Generally, when using a hub with the R.Pi, it is advised to use a hub with external power, so it was a given that this is what I needed.
The power source is a 5V 2A power adapter.
This provides the perfect voltage for all components and ample current, so the one doesn't dominate the other.
Here's a rough breakdown:
1. Raspberry Pi - 5V 700mA
2. X-Vibe Speaker - 5V 700mA
3. HDMI Converter - 3.3V - 5V & 500mA - 700mA (not 100% sure, but found various websites giving different answers)
4. Just enough spare current for keyboard/mouse/etc used when setting up.
I had a power supply lying around, so didn't need to buy one, but they can be purchased at most electrical shops.
Step 3: Can You Hear It?
I did not have a PC Speaker system just chilling, nor did I want these unsightly, faded grey-ish, noah's arc things next the the screen. And buying the pretty, modern black ones didn't go with my "Saving Money" plan.
so instead I dug out my X-Vibe.
X-Vibe is a vibrational speaker that turns any surface into a sound-emitting piece of equipment (think Mighty Dwarf, but less "mighty")
As I was doing the entire layout on the chest-of-drawers, I used the backboard as the surface to for the X-Vibe to attach to, for emitting sound.
The backboard is thin and provides enough elasticity to hear the bass sounds, while sturdy enough to not distort the higher frequencies.
X-Vibe can run off batteries, but I opted to rather have it plugged in if possible.
X-Vibe has become rather popular and can be purchased from most online stores for around 23USD/270ZAR.
More info - http://www.xdreamexperience.com
Step 4: Part of the Web
So an important part of this project, was to connect to my network.
Why? Simple - There is no external storage connected to the Raspberry Pi, thus everything needs to be streamed.
I had an old (very very old) D-Link Nano WiFi USB Dongle I used, which worked fine initially. I was able to set everything up straight through WiFi and stream any video, picture or music.
I opted to upgrade my old WiFi Dongle and spent a bit of money (190ZAR/16USD) in purchasing a 300Mbps 802.11n Tenda W322U Wireless USB Adapter HERE
My network has (effecting this project) a Netgear Router & 2Mpbs ADSL Line. Which works for a.) perfectly streaming movies, series, music and pictures located anywhere on my network and b.) sufficiently streaming TV, movies from the internet (will discuss this later).
One important note before we carry on - Once your R.Pi is set up, assign a fixed IP on your network to the R.Pi system. this will make the following steps easier.
Step 5: Show Me the Good Stuff
My PC Monitor I have and hardly ever use, is a 23" LG LCD Monitor.
It's perfect for this project except for one major issue - It ONLY has a VGA port and as you might know, Raspberry Pi's has RCA & HDMI.
So what do you do? Buy. and buy some more.
This is the stage where I battled the most and spent the most amount of money, WAY more that I had planned.
I did a quick google-search and bought a stock standard, off the shelf, HDMI > VGA Converter. Then suddenly started having issues with the keyboard, the WiFi and even a bit with the sound. In the meantime, I moved everything from the study to the bedroom, so didn't realize at first that the problems are caused by the converter. Battled for days when suddenly it hit me...the converter.
Bought a different one from a different online store...same problem. Bought a few others. Tried an RCA to VGA converter which worked, but both the picture and sound quality was not good.
Did some serious research and found that my suspicions are correct - in my opinion, 90% of HDMI>VGA converter found on the net is absolute craaaa-nonsense.
I did, however, find a brilliant one HERE which works fantastic! The picture quality is great, the sound quality is great and it doesn't interfere with any of the other components.
Step 6: CTRL
Before starting this chapter I should make mention of the following - I formatted the Raspberry Pi with RaspBMC. it's the smaller version of XMBC which is a Linux based Media Centre. RaspBMC has since been replaced with OSMC, but I didn't like it when I tried it. It's not simple to set up, especially since it's been replaced and you can't get support or new drivers for it, but in my opinion, it's well worth the struggle.
Now that everyting is set up, it's time to remove stuff...that's right...remove stuff.
Although everything was working, there is a lot of clutter and unnecessarily as well.
So I removed the keyboard. 1 less cable and 1 less item sitting on top.
Removed the mouse...didn't really use it to begin with.
So how do you then control your new media centre? With the wonders of technology!!!
I downloaded and installed XBMC Remote for Android HERE and although i believe it's available for iOS as well, I haven't tried iOS's version.
This app is very basic, but allows you to do everything you need to on RaspBMC.
This is also where it is handy to have already assigned a static IP to you R.Pi, as you need to configure the remote to the IP Address.
Step 7: Never Finished...
All done...for now.
Go kick back in bed with a nice movie. Or go get ready for that party with some funky music. Or stare at the same picture for no apparent reason. Whatever.
Still to come and added notes.
1. So I briefly mentioned streaming TV & music...well I'm currently working on it. But I found an add-on for RaspBMC called Navi-X. On their website you can setup your own playlists which point to...well...any media. I'm attempting to point it to my satellite TV Subscription and Jango music streaming. :)
2. I stuck all the components to the backboard with a hot glue gun, but first onto a foam square. The foam is simply to reduce the vibrations on the components, created by the vibrational speaker and for the components and hanging wires to not interfere with the sound quality.
3. At some point I also want to introduce a switch to the power supply...but it's a minor change and doesn't really take preference at this point.
4. I have (it's more dabbling) a small solar setup which i'm trying to tie into the house-lights. Was thinking of doing an individual setup to keep the R.Pi going (as I live in South Africa and we have to deal with "planned outages").
5. Feel free to comment below - I'm always looking to improve these kind of projects.