Raspberry-Pi for media and web browsing

I recently had another look at using the Raspberry-Pi as a media player with the idea of reducing power draw for general media, web browsing and email.

In the past I’ve used XBMC on a modded X-Box. For the last couple of years I’ve used a full-blown PC running KUbuntu which has worked really well for media and runs Firefox and Thunderbird. I went off XBMC probably because it lacked a good web browser and email programme, and found Kubuntu did everything reliably.

So I tried Raspbmc and unfortunately didn’t get very far. The first problem was getting the hdmi working, which meant editing the config.txt file. This gave picture but no sound; just a continual chuffing noise. I decided to come back to the sound problem if I could get a web browser running in or from the XBMC menu.

It seems that Firefox and Chrome are a too big for the R-Pi. There is a browser called Netsurf, lighter, missing some features but possibly OK. Apparently, it won’t launch from Raspbmc without a lot of fuss; get source, editing makefile, compile. This far exceeds the amount of time I’m prepared to spend on this and would likely create update problems.

I’ll forget about the R-Pi and Raspbmc for media/browser/email. IMO it’s not there as a media appliance yet. The R-Pi can best be used in education and net connected projects were its cost, ease of use and low power consumption are ideal.

From recent stick-PC news (quad-cores running Ubuntu), it looks like the R-Pi may be left behind as a basic PC replacement.

For now I think the best media/web machine is a low power mini-itx board, Atom or E350 running a full OS. I tested my Gigabyte E350 board with PSU, RAM, HDD and DVD which runs 40-50 watts at full noise and 30-40 watts at idle. A reasonable improvement over my KUbuntu machine at 100+ watts and noisy fans. This mini-itx board is heading for another job.

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