29 November 2012

How I got all of my favorite channels for free with XBMC (Raspbmc on Raspberry Pi)

I recently purchased a Raspberry Pi and installed Raspbmc in an attempt to duplicate and even augment the functionality that I currently have on my Roku 2. I was successful and wanted to share what I found for my own future reference and for the benefit of others.

Hardware

I purchased a Raspberry Pi Model B Rev 2 with 512MB of RAM from Amazon.com while it was selling for $50 including shipping and out of stock at every official distributor. If you are willing to wait a couple of weeks you can order from Newark.com or MCMElectronics.com and probably get it for about $40-$45 shipped.

I was able to fabricate a case for it using a 3D printer that I had access to, but many can be found for sale for $15 or less. Mine is based on this one by Adafruit. I already had a spare USB adapter, 8GB SD card and HDMI cable lying around. I also had a spare USB hub, mouse and keyboard, but ended up not needing them in the long run because of CEC which is supported by the Rpi and my LG tv (under the name SimpLink).

For those not familiar with CEC (I wasn't), more can be found on the Wikipedia article. Basically it allows you to remote control XBMC on your Rpi using your TV's remote control

I also purchased an Edimax EW-7811un USB wifi adapter which is supported out of the box in Raspbmc.

Software

I am using the latest Raspbmc image with Speed profile set to Fast and UI Res Limit disabled.

Wifi Setup

Wired and TV available

If you have access to a wired ethernet connection and your TV at the same time, then all you have to do to get this working is install the NetworkManager add-on in XBMC and setup your wifi.

Wired and TV not available

If, like me, your TV and router are in separate rooms you can do the following:

  1. Setup the SD card in Windows using the Raspbmc installer
  2. Plug the Rpi into the router and into the wall and allow it to setup for about 20 minutes
  3. Figure out your Rpi's IP address
  4. SSH in and setup a connection file in /etc/NetworkManager/system-connections/ per the following post. If you are using the Edimax wifi adapter I mentioned above, you can skip the apt-get steps. Those steps will likely need to be adapted to your particular adapter.
  5. Reboot and make sure that you can now SSH in on the Wifi IP address.
  6. Power down and move to TV

Add-ons

Now for the best part. Here are the specific channel add-ons I have setup.

The best part about the Hulu add-on is it allows you to watch even if you do not subscribe to Hulu Plus. It also allows you to skip advertisements if properly configured.

  1. Install BlueCop Repository
  2. Search Hulu and install
  3. Configure the following settings:
    • Disable Network Preroll
    • Lower all ad numbers to '0'

  1. Install BlueCop Repository
  2. Search Amazon and install
  1. Download and install from zip.
This one was a little bit trickier, but following the instructions found here, I was able to get it working.
  1. Install BlueCop Repository
  2. Search ESPN and install
  3. Configure following these instructions

Free Cable 

This add-on gives you access to episodes of TV shows from dozens of networks that make their shows available for viewing online for a limited time. I primarily use this for PBS Kids shows for my kids as well as CBS Primetime Shows like NCIS that can't be found on Hulu.
  1. Install BlueCop Repository
  2. Search Free Cable and install
The Pandora add-on is not currently maintained in a working form in any central location at the moment. I had to download one of the latest offerings from this forum to get it to work.


  1. Install BlueCop Repository
  2. Search Youtube and install


Issues


  • (12/3/12) The BYUtv add-on doesn't properly downgrade the quality when the connection (either client or server) isn't fast enough and tends to quit after a few times buffering.
  • (12/3/12) The YouTube add-on fails to load subscriptions
  • (12/3/12) The Free Cable add-on sometimes causes a reset of XBMC while trying to load the menus.


This post is sort of a work in progress. Please feel free to ask questions and give comments and suggestions.

10 comments:

  1. Nice article, I use my raspberry pi also with XBmc and also run sickbeard and sabnzbd to turn it into a PVR. http://www.justaloadofbs.com/overview-on-how-to-use-sickbeard-for-htpc-pvr/ Pretty simple to setup. But I really need to get the newer Pi to get that extra RAM. The 256 model is just slow and constantly maxing out RAM.

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  2. Brad,
    I have read about sickbeard before. Sounds like a cool idea. If I had a USB TV Tuner handy I would definitely go for it.

    I managed hold off on the Rpi until the 512MB was released. It works great and I usually have about 200MB of RAM available at any given time.

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    Replies
    1. I am using a pi with XBMC installed on thumbdrive connected to the TV, an ambilight clone connected to the GPIO pins and a modified original xbox remote dongle in the other USB. I have another pi with a 2Tb USB HDD attached running Samba for streaming locally, Apache2 for streaming to the real world and sabnzb/sickbeard for grabbing all the new episodes as they are released, then automatically renaming and moving the files to the correct folders, before telling XBMC to refresh the library. With this setup, you won't need a USB TV tuner (I don't even have a signal coming into the house. Saves on buying a TV licence). You get home from work and everything has been done for you...

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  3. This is really snazzy! Great article. Think I'll have to try it when I can get a raspberry pi.

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  4. Drew, not sure what USB TV Tuner will work with the raspberry, I have a Haupauge USB950 I think it is, it would not run it on Linux. I just have a antenna plugged into my TV and get OTA channels with that. Not able to record, but oh well. I will be picking up the new Raspberry pi with the 512MB soon.

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  5. I have installed the BYUTV addon, and at home, it reboots the pi at first, then it starts to play the stream, at another location with same internet speeds, I get Video cut off after about 5 seconds all the time.

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  6. Hmm. I have a few issues with the addon, but generally they are related to server congestion or a slower internet connection. There aren't any options for configuring the Addon so I don't really know what to tell you. Generally the very first run of it fails, but then it works after that.

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  7. This is the best link I've found for Pandora for Raspbmc. Works great, easy to install (just go to install from zip, select the file)
    http://forum.stmlabs.com/attachment.php?aid=350

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  8. Nice. I've been looking to add some more functionality to my Pi. I've still got my Model A RPi and performance is still pretty good, especially after the recent June updates.

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  9. I tried this successfully on a raspberry pi b, but doesn't seem to work with a raspberry pi b+. The message said something about a dependency is missing. Has anyone tried this lately with a b+ and got it to work?

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