Belgium

Raspberry Pi – Hands on Model B

I just got my hands on the Rasberry Pi model B, a tiny PCB with great computing capabilities embarking a 700Mhz ARM11 CPU on a Broadcom BCM2835 SoC with 512Mb of RAM. I got it from a local retailer in Toulouse: Snootlab with convenient free pick-up avoiding shipping costs.

What you get is a micro-USB powered device capable of running any distribution of Linux built for the ARM architecture. Dual USB ports, Ethernet connectivity, HDMI/Analog output as well as a stereo audio jack.

I also got the following:

  • Lexar SDHC Premium 8 Gb
  • D-Link DWA-121 Wireless USB dongle
  • Black Raspberry Pi case

What was my goal? Replacing a disfunctional HTC Dream + Android Airplay receiver app that I was using to get music in my Kitchen/Dining Room. The problem with the old Android Phone hooked up to a pair of good speakers setup was that for some reason, the app would sometime close and I would need to manually re-launch it making the setup inefficient in practice.

I started by following this guide. I adapted it slightly:

  • Never hooked a display or keyboard, got the IP the Pi was assigned by my DHCP server and SSHed yo it directly
  • Configured the wireless through wpasupplicant.conf rather than using the GUI
  • Didn’t go for a USB soundcard as recommended

Despite what I have read, Audio out of the Pi is not that crappy. It is not the best one could expect of course but for talk shows or low bitrate streaming, it’s more than enough.

Once I had the Pi setup for Airplay, I couldn’t just stop there and had to go ahead and setup a few other ways to stream music to it, specifically, from non-apple devices.

I’ve tried BubbleUPNP which is an excellent piece of software, one of the only UPNP software I saw that could query my Linksys UPNP compatible wireless router to discover UPNP services on other subnets. The only downside to BubbleUPNP is the “closed source” aspect which in the end made me look for “open” alternatives.

The only feature I wanted was to be able to control the audio playing on the Raspberry Pi from my Android mobile phone. I decided to setup an MPD instance on the Pi and combine that with the excellent MPDroid app that does just what I needed. Now, it turns out I already had an MPD deamon running elsewhere on my home network and MPDroid is unable (or I couldn’t find how) to use two different servers on the same Wifi SSID. For now, I have resigned to having two MPD player apps on my phone, one for each server.

Once I had it all setup, I gave the sdcard to fsarchiver and saved that to a backup location, just in case the SD card goes dead sometime and I have to change it.

What do I want to do next? Get another one and get XBMC on it to replace/complement my current MythTV HTPC setup. I might get a Model A this time and replace the Model B I have as an Airplay receiver in the Kitchen to use it with XBMC, the 256Mb extra RAM will certainly come in handy.

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