HTPC setup

This video sums up our living room experience:

What we have: The Raspberry Pi is essentially just another computer and is far more extensible than WDTV/Roku/Apple TV/Chromecast/… The software (XBMC) plays media off a connected 1TB USB hard disk and also has addons capable of streaming from pretty much any video/photo website. Typically we use our phones to pick a video on say, Youtube and share the link over for the Pi to stream it to the TV. In addition, a torrent client on the Pi can also be used. Netflix/Hulu is not available in India since it is outside their service region. Nowadays popular regional TV shows are made available on official Youtube channels within 12-24h vs. a few months on Netflix/Hulu… This setup also allows iOS devices to stream any audio (no video yet) via AirPlay.The software also catalogues available movies, TV shows and music so that they can be browsed by genre, actors, tags, keywords, IMDB ratings, etc. and keeps track of what has been watched, resumes from last stopped position, online subtitles, auto pause/resume on phone calls, send notifications from phone to TV and a whole lot of other great-to-have goodies!Hardware setup: Our TV is a dumb Samsung 42″ Plasma, made smart by a small device called Raspberry Pi. It’s a general purpose computing board that has an onboard processor, graphics card, 512MB of RAM, USB and ethernet ports. In addition we also have an Ambilight setup for a great viewing experience as well as mood lighting for the living room. The software is controlled through our TV remote (or Android/iOS devices) without the need for any other hardware. The Pi automatically turns the TV on and off on power on/shutdown ๐Ÿ™‚

Why: The one significant advantage of having a third-party box is the comparatively minimal setup time (open box -> connect -> use).ย  In comparison, the cost of the Pi is far lesser (~Rs. 3000 for the board, Rs. 500 for a case – pick your fav colour/design, ~Rs. 600 for a USB WiFi dongle or a ethernet cable if close enough to internet source). There is more than sufficient documentation for “grandmothers” to have complete the setup. Given the parts are ready, it takes about 30 mins to complete the full setup. I am also not a big fan of “vendor lock-in”, so I prefer being in control of the hardware and software ๐Ÿ™‚