I finally got a chance to order a Raspberry Pi 2 a few weeks back. I’ve been meaning to post about it for a while but I’ve been extra busy. I ended up picking the Pi up from The Pi Hut after really struggling to track one down on the high street. As always the service from The Pi Hut was great & a few days later my new Pi arrived.
It’s hard to believe that the Raspberry Pi team have managed to squeeze so much power out of the same form factor & price point. The fact that it’s a quad-core means that everything feels much snappier. Less like a mega budget hobby machine & more like a mid range desktop PC. It will always be limited by processing power & RAM, not to mention raw graphic processing, but when you consider the price point & opportunity to try any project you like for very little financial outlay the Raspberry Pi will always be a great machine.
I really wanted this Pi to replace my ageing B+ which was used as a RASPbmc media centre. While great gains were made by Sam Nazarko with regards menu speed & performance, you can’t beat the extra grunt, ram & processing power of the latest Pi 2. I also wanted a viable replacement for my Apple TV 2 which is jailbroken & running Kodi. I also have an ATV1 which is great but uses much more power than a Pi & gets extremely hot, not to mention the pretty huge footprint in comparison to a pi.
I also opted for one of the 16GB Sandisk Extreme Micro SD cards. The SD cards have historically been a nightmare for me on the Pi, with corruption and poor compatibility with unbranded cards. Hopefully going for a well manufactured high spec card I’ll get the best I/O speed and a good long life. For the price I don’t mind them burning out, but just not too quickly.
Many of you will also know that I’m currently in between houses. My wife & I are in the process of relocating & downsizing so we are staying with Family why we look for a new place. This means my lovely hard-wired network is in storage & I’m relying on wifi. I hate wifi. It’s unstable, throughput is always compromised by interference and environmental factors & it’s generally a poor substitute for a hard-wired environment. This presented a major headache for me. The only USB wifi dongle I have is an Edimax EW-7811UTC which would not play nicely with OSMC (the new name for RASPbmc). As much as I tried to configure the wifi dongle the connection would fail. I even tried to SSH in and setup the connection manually but the connection kept dropping & was a PITA to get right. So I decided to give Openelec another go.
I generally stick to what i know when it works. I love crystalbuntu & RASPbmc so I was loathed to use a distro not produced by Sam. However in a few months I can go back to my wired network & return to OSMC. In the mean time we have Openelec.
Installation was painless. I prefer not to use n00bs so I used terminal on my iMac to download Openelec and copy the distro to my SD card. All simple enough, 10 minutes later all was ready and it was time to boot up the Raspberry Pi 2 with Openelec. I was stunned by the boot times and snappiness of the whole experience. Boot takes seconds from power on to the main Kodi window. The menus are super fast & fluid with the standard Kodi Confluence skin. Browsing through & adding to my library is vastly improved & as a whole this media centre setup is unbeatable. Power consumption is tiny, the footprint of the pi (which is now rear mounted on the TV) is ideal and it’s a fanless design so no worries with noise. I did fit an OmniVESA mount to my Pi & a heatsink to aid cooling, but I currently have it mounted without a case on the back of my Samsung TV and it’s a dream to use.
Something that has always put me off the Pi as a media centre & kept me using the Apple TV 2 was remote support. As the whole experience on the Pi 2 is fast & native (doesn’t require jailbreaking & hacks like the ATV2) I decided to address the remote issue. I went for a Wireless Keyboard which is a tiny little keyboard with remote control buttons & built-in mouse trackpad. I reviewed the keyboard here. This is the perfect solution. I can type searches in without using an on-screen keyboard & because it’s wireless and doesn’t require line of sight I can mount the raspberry pi out of sight keeping my living room looking neat.
I have tried throwing so many media files at Openelec on the Raspberry Pi 2 and I’m yet to find something that won’t play. The CPU is largely idle & I can even ramp up fancy de-interlacing and other post processing without stressing the Pi too much. It plays with no lag at all. What’s more the built-in Openelec settings mean I can set my wifi connection from the gui & the connection is rock solid. The distro is also auto updating & the software footprint is tiny. I’ve also had the media centre up for weeks without a single crash. It’s rock solid. The only issue I did run into was the appearance of a coloured box in the top right hand corner of the Pi. I’ve never experienced this before but the box is caused when the power supply isn’t supplying sufficient power. I upgraded the supply to one of the official Raspberry Pi 2A supplies which I picked up from Pimoroni along with the OmniVESA.
If you haven’t already tried the Raspberry Pi 2 you really should. I have a few projects in the works which will require a few more units & I hope to write these up soon.
Have you got a Raspberry pi 2? What kind of projects are you doing? Let me know in the comments below.