For once. I spent birthday cash on a specific fun item: the new Raspberry Pi 3. The cigarette case-sized Pi with clear case and power supply cost $50.
A few needed extra expenses:
Two Kingston Digital 8GB microSDHC Class 10 UHS-I microSD cards: $11 total
Logitech MK270 Wireless USB Keyboard/Mouse Combo: $20 (already had one to use with the hacked Wii)
This new Pi has a quad-core processor, much more powerful than the original Pi (which has a new place, plugged into our bedroom TV… see below). That makes for much snappier response in OSMC (Open System Media Center), the adaptation of Kodi software for the Pi and other devices. I loaded one of the microSD cards with OSMC, then customized it. That’s easy by now, having previously explored most of its many available settings and options.
The other microSD card I loaded with Raspbian, a Windows-like operating system for the Pi. For the first time, I can efficiently browse with the 65″ theater room TV as a monitor using a wireless keyboard and mouse. When we got married in 2002, I presumed this feature would be coming soon. It turned out that laptops were a much better way to browse (the height of boredom is watching someone else browse). But this would be great for demonstrating a site to a group of people.
As much fun as I have with the Pi, I must admit you can now accomplish almost everything it does for home theater with a Roku and/or Chromecast device.
But the Pi still does a few unique things for me:
Serves Windows Media Center recordings to the TV. But I wouldn’t need the Pi for that if the WMC PC had an HDMI output.
Plays back practically all audio and video formats. I use VLC media player with Windows Scheduler on a PC to record weekly radio shows from KWGS online. The highest quality stream offered is aacPlus. The Pi/OSMC/Kodi is a good way to take advantage of this .m4a stream delivered via Plex, my current preference in music/video library systems. (Chromecast can handle .m4a with the proper setup; my Roku 3 wouldn’t play these particular .m4as, even using the Roku Media Player channel.)
Skip directly and easily to specific times on audio/video recordings with a Kodi smartphone app, such as Kore or Yatse. Roku can play my .mp3 files, but no skipping allowed.
Pi/Kodi has a slicker and more comprehensive interface than Roku. It includes current Yahoo weather for your zip code and a news ticker, just in case you shut yourself off from the outside world a little too much.
Free Kodi addons of various stripes, e.g., ESPN3.
More tinkering (and hair-pulling) possibilities.
As I mentioned, the original Pi has moved to our bedroom. I added a USB wifi dongle, got it onto the current version of OSMC, added PlexBMC and a few other music and video addons.
But honestly, the Roku LT is sufficient in there. I will be thinking about what else I might do with the old Pi, e.g., RISC OS, Software-Defined Radio, etc. (See previous post $8 USB tuner turns PC into FM radio/recorder)