6 Best New Things To Do With Raspberry Pi (Part 3)

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Project 5: Turn your raspberry Pi into a media center

Raspbian isn’t the only operating system that runs on the Raspberry Pi, but it’s the best choice for general use. However, to turn your Pi into a media center and share photos and music around your home network, you should use the RaspBMC operating system. This will let you stream everything you’ve stored on a USB drive attached to your Pi over your local network. You’ll also be able to add extra services such as BBC iPlayer (, 4oD ( and radio service Tuneln (http://tuneirtcom).

Watch BBC iPlayer on your Raspberry Pi via XBMC

Watch BBC iPlayer on your Raspberry Pi via XBMC

Start with a fresh SD card and copy NOOBS to it (see ‘Install the operating system’). Insert the SD card into your Raspberry Pi and start it up. When the boot menu appears, select RaspBMC and follow the prompts to install it on the SD card. After several reboots, you’ll be prompted to choose your language. The software will then finish loading. If the picture overspills the space on your screen, go to System, Settings and select Video Output, Video Calibration. Move your mouse off the top-left corner and drag it into view. Do the same with the bottom-right corner until the RaspBMC window fits properly.

If you’re using a wireless dongle, move your mouse over Programs and click RaspBMC Settings. Go to Network Configuration and change the network mode two wireless, Scroll down and type your Wi-Fi network name into the SSID field and the password into the Wi-Fi key field.

To use 4oD and iPlayer with your Raspberry Pi you need to install XBMC add-ons. Adding 40D is easy because it’s part of the standard RaspBMC installation. Go to Video/Add-ons and select Get More. You’ll find 40D at the top of the list.

BBC iPlayer is not on the official list but it’s easy to install. The most reliable method is to use PuTTY and open an SSH session. Follow the instructions we gave there for remotely accessing your Pi. Log in and double-click the LXTerminal. Now type wget--no-check-certificate htps:// and press Enter. This will download the add-on file to your Raspberry Pi.

Double-click RaspBMC to launch it, go to System, Settings, Add-ons and select the two full-stops at the top of the list. This takes you up a level in the file structure. Click the full stops successively until you reach the menu that includes the ‘Install from zip file’ option. Click it and select the Home folder in the window that appears. You’ll see your zipped iPlayer file there. Click it and select OK. BBC iPlayer is now installed. You’ll find both 40D and iPlayer on the main menu under Video/Add-ons. To watch catch-up TV on your Raspberry Pi just click to launch iPlayer or 4oD. You’ll need to have a Wi-Fi connection for it to work.

Tune into internet radio

To convert your Raspberry Pi into a web radio player, download the TuneIn add- on. You’ll need to use PuTTY but this time type wget--no-check-certificate then press Enter. Follow the same process as before to install the zip file. TuneIn is listed in the Music menu.

Play music from a Pi on your PC or phone

To play music stored on your Raspberry Pi USB drive, select Pictures, Music or Video from the main menu, click Add Source to add your attached USB disk or network location then choose Music.

The easiest way to control RaspBMC is via an app. There are free XBMC apps for Android ( and iOS ( Launch the app phone or tablet, type the IP address and login details for your Raspberry Pi then sit back on the sofa and control your new media center using your smartphone or tablet.

XBMC Play music on your Raspberry Pi

XBMC Play music on your Raspberry Pi

Project 6: Program and control a robot arm

Your Raspberry Pi can be used as a robot. Yes, really. Maplin stocks a $68.5 self-assembly robot arm ( that can be controlled through 32bit Windows XP or Vista. But you can also control it from a Raspberry Pi and program it to carry out tasks. The arm can lift items weighing up to 100g. We’ve found several of these robot arms on eBay for around $30.5. Once you’ve assembled the robot arm, check you've set it up correctly by testing it with a Windows PC.

Once you’ve got it working, connect the robot arm to your Raspberry Pi via a powered USB hub and boot into Raspbian. You’ll need to install the Geany code editor, Python programming language and the USB library. Type these commands in sequence in LXTerminal and press Enter after each.

sudo apt-gct install python-pip

sudo pip install pyusb

sudo apt-get install geany

Launch the Midori browser and download the files and from www.rpi-net.code/robotarm. Create a folder on the Raspbian desktop, name it ‘robotarm’ and copy the files to it. Now double-click LXTerminal and type sudo python Desktop/robotarm/

Robotic controlled by your Raspberry Pi

Robotic controlled by your Raspberry Pi

The file contains a sample routine that moves every joint in the robot – it should be easy enough to see how it moves the arm so try to work out how to get it to go through a set of movements and then return to its original position. Maybe you could get it to stir your tea.


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