So a while ago I talked about Plex, and my love of using it as a platform for sharing media. I briefly talked about RasPlex/Raspberry Pi, but I thought it might make sense to expand on it a bit. A quick refresher on Plex, it is a piece of server software that centralizes all your media on that server and can then stream all that media to any Plex clients you have available. That works great for using Plex clients on your phone, your computer, etc. But what exactly do I have hooked up to my TV(s)?
In my case, to access Plex from my couch I have to pieces of gear that are essential, a flirc, and a raspberry pi. Here is a description of each:
1. Raspberry Pi – the raspberry pi is a tiny and cheap computer that was developed as an inexpensive way to build small computers that don’t draw a lot of power and can be used for many things. There are a huge number of projects people have built using a Raspberry Pi (home automation controllers, video game consoles, smart picture frames, etc). One of the projects for that platform is RasPlex, a software client to access Plex. Another is OpenElec (Kodi, the platform for all those android tv boxes out there lately). It is a great little device that has all you need for making a media center computer….. network connectivity, usb ports, hdmi output, etc. The new version even has onboard bluetooth and wifi. (well almost everything, I’ll get to that in a minute) You can buy one of these kits from amazon.ca for about $100. So go, grab one of these from amazon, and then go download/install RasPlex on the memory card. Hook up to TV with an HDMI cable and you are off and running. If Plex isn’t your thing and you want to try Kodi instead, give the OpenElec project a try. (I’ll do a Kodi blog one of these days to compare with Plex). You will need to control the device by using an app on your phone/tablet, by using a specialized USB/Bluetooth remote, by using a USB keyboard, or ……
2. by using a Flirc. This is what I use. I wanted to use the same remote I use for my TV as I do for my media pc. This fantastic little device will allow you to program any IR remote to control a computer by converting each IR signal to a button press. So in my case, I set the AUX setting on my universal remote to be programmed to some random VCR code so that it sends out IR signals that don’t control any other device I own. I then used the Flirc to record those signals and convert them to key presses. Once done I plug in to the Pi and pressing the standard remote now controls the Plex client. (Up/Down/Left/Right/Play/Stop on the VCR remote sends those appropriate key presses to control the computer connected to the TV. It is awesome. Only one remote, and it functions just like a store bought player device would. That is the one thing missing from the Pi itself that I think is worth it for a media center PC, an IR receiver, and this is a smart one on steroids. It will cost you $40-50 to get it here, but it is WELL worth it.
So that is what I have connected to my TVs in house. This little machine gives me access to all my media from the comfort of my couch. The interface is great and is works very slick. If you are a techy and you want something a little more customized than a Roku or Apple TV for your streaming client, I don’t think there is a better platform. And if you find it isn’t working for you in the future, you can always re purpose the machine into a fantastic other project (give RetroPi a look).