Turning fortunes of my TV with Raspberry Pi

Yogesh Singh
Mar 1, 2017 · 14 min read

I recently got an email from Amazon to review my Raspberry Pi 3’s purchase. You know, those promotional emails that sometimes convince you to write some words for your recent purchase. And I did write, actually finished writing a half-page review with nothing in it! And, then I thought, why not show every ‘Noob’ out there to set-up their own Raspberry Pi with their TVs, from installation to configuration and recommended addons.

Enough of this chit-chat! Let’s do this!!

It’s going to be veeeery long… I’m telling you!

First things first, what you will need (Primary):

  1. Raspberry Pi 3 Model B (Get it from here: https://www.raspberrypi.org/products/raspberry-pi-3-model-b/ )
  2. A TV (CRT/LCD/LED/OLED with 1 VGA/DVI/HDMI slot)
  3. Micro SD Card (At least 1 GB)
  4. Power adapter 5W 2A recommended (Any android device charger would work).
  5. 1 HDMI Cable (Only if your TV has the HDMI slot)
  6. A USB keyboard or a Wireless keyboard (only for initial setup)
  7. A Computer (For downloading and writing OS into SD card)

What else you will need (Secondary):

  1. HDMI to VGA splitter and VGA cable (Only if your TV has a VGA slot)

OR

  1. HDMI to DVI splitter and DVI cable (Only if your TV has a DVI slot)
  2. Raspberry Pi 3 Case (optional)
  3. RCA cable (For audio, if you TV does NOT have HDMI slot)
  4. SD card reader (If your PC does not have inbuilt reader)
  5. Ethernet cable (if you’re planning to give it a wired connection)
  6. Thumb drive with data such as pictures/videos/music (optional)
  7. Winrar/7zip (For extracting the OS)
  8. Win32 Disk Imager (For installing the OS into SD card)

To be noted: This is not a powerful device like a smartphone or a computer. You cannot game on it (Except some NES/PS1 or similar platform titles and only with a specific OS which is RetroPie). You also cannot run Full Windows/Linux OS on it.

Downloading and writing OS:

  1. Go here: https://www.raspberrypi.org/downloads/ and download any OS of your choice. (Keep it mind that every OS has same installation procedure but different configuration). If you want to install the OS which I’m running, it’s OpenELEC and can be found HERE (Download the “Disk Image” ONLY).

Yes, I know OpenELEC 7.0 is available to download but I won’t recommend it because it has a lot of compatibility issues with addons and most of popluar addons are not available.

2. After finishing downloading, double-click the archive to open it and extract it anywhere.

It should look like this
Extract it somewhere common

3. Now plug-in your SD into your SD card slot in you computer OR if your computer does not have a built-in SD card slot, use the SD card Reader.

You will see something like this

4. Now Install Win32 Disk Imager and run it. It will look like this:

Win32 Disk Imager

5. Now click the folder icon to open the disk image and navigate to where it is stored, just like this:

Open the Disk Image

6. Now, make sure correct drive letter is selected and then click write, like this:

Click “Write”

It will show you a warning, just click “Yes”:

Click “YES”

Now the software will start writing the OS into your SD card so DO NOT unplug your SD card while this process is going on. At the end, it will show you “Ready” confirmation:

Click “OK”

7. Now unplug your SD card and do connections:

Connections:

Make connections like this
  1. Insert SD card. The SD card slot in RPi3 is at bottom.
  2. Connect Power cable into Micro USB slot and the adapter into the wall switch.
  3. Connect HDMI cable into RPi3 and your TV OR if your TV does not have this slot, use the splittler connector for the available slot.
  4. If your TV does not have HDMI slot, you probably need the RCA cable. It goes into the 3.5mm jack (It looks just like the headphone jack in your phone) and your TV in respective Red, White and/or Yellow colors.
  5. If you are planning to give it a wired connection, connect the one side of Ethernet RJ-45 cable in your RPi3 and the other side in your router/modem.
  6. Plug-in your USB keyboard or wireless receiver into USB slot of RPi3.

You do not need the Thumb drive right now. It will be needed later to access content.

Booting up:

The first boot will look like this and will take a minute or two:

Configuration:

After the boot is complete, it’s time to setup and configure the OS. Use the steps below. Keep in mind that it will take a lot of time to completely configure for media playback, for basic usage, it will just take a couple of minutes.

  1. After booting-up, the first thing you would see is the Welcome screen which you can pass by pressing next.

2. Next, it will show you the Host Name as “OpenELEC”. Here, you need to rename it into small letters as “openelec” or some other desirable name because many times caps create unnecessary problems, so just don’t let that happen in first place.

3. Now it will ask you to connect to a Wi-Fi network (Skip this if you are connected via wired Ethernet connection). After successful connection, it will change the State to “Ready” and put a tiny yellow star next to the connection.

Here, make sure the name (SSID) of your Wi-Fi network is NOT in caps, the password contains only small alphabets and numbers, and the Channel is on “Manual” mode and set between 1 to 7.

4. Now it will show you sharing and remote access services. If you are going to control it via web, enable SSH, otherwise leave it OFF and if you are going to copy files to/from your PC turn ON Samba, else turn it off.

5. Felina! Now press “Next” on Thank you screen to finish the basic setup. After this, you’ll be taken to the Home Screen.

Here, the basic setup completes but there are a lot of things left such as enabling appropriate addons, making you phone work as remote control to make it keyboard free and A/V configuration. So, if you are interested, carry-on reading.

Setting-up Audio for Non-HDMI TVs:

You can skip this if your TV has HDMI connection and you are connected via HDMI.

If you want more options in settings, change ‘Settings level’ to “Expert”.

To get audio from your connected RCA cable, you need to follow the steps below:

Head over to Settings>System menu and choose “Audio Output”. Then press “Audio Output Device” and choose “Analogue”. Now you’ll start to get audio.

Setting-up Display Resolution:

Most of the times, the resolution will be set automatically but if you are not satisfied with the current resolution, you can head over to Settings>System and choose “Video Output”. Then press “Resolution”. Here you can choose your desired resolution.

Don’t worry if you selected wrong resolution and the display went black, simply plug-off your RPi3 and plug it back in, and try again.

Audio/Video Playback settings:

To do this, go back to Settings>Video>Acceleration and check all except the last check-box which states that “Use Full HD HDMI modes for 3D”.

Now, goto ‘File lists’ and check all the check-boxes.

Fixing Date & Time:

Even most of pros think that date & time cannot be permanently fixed, it has to be changed every-time but it is not like that. You can set-up the date & time very easily and without much hassle with following steps:

  1. Goto Home Screen>Settings>Weather. Now press ‘Service for weather information’. By defauly, it will not show any service in the pop-up so you need to press “Get more” button which will show you weather addons (If you are connected to internet) from where you can choose your desired weather service provider. I chose Yahoo weather. Now press on “Install” on the pop-up. It will install in a few seconds. Now select the service as default.

2. Next, you need to set the location for the date and time to work properly. So, press on “settings” and add one or number of locations and press OK. Most probably, it will fix it but still to make it full proof, proceed to next step.

3. Now go back into Settings>Appearance>International. Here, change you Region, Timezone country and preferred Date & time formats. This finally fixes you date and time.

Remember: If you date and time resets on boot, this means that you are not connected to internet or there is some problem with your connection.

Backing-up current settings:

In order to prevent any unwanted changes we should take back of system settings. As most of configuration is now complete, we can back-up settings by going to Home Screen>OpenELEC>System. Here press on ‘Create system and kodi backup’ written under Backup.

Setting-up Remote, Casting & File sharing:

The best of RPi3 and Kodi is that everything is so simple is available for users. First we are going to free-up the keyboard and then we will set-up casting and File sharing. To set-up remote, there are two ways: Phone as Remote and IR remote. for IR remote, you need to be a little techy. If you have those skills, here here: https://blog.pattapongj.com/raspberry-pi-3-day-2-ir-remote-8a6d60045ef8#.8gx46eavt (You need to translate it into English). Or, if you want you phone as remote, you need to have Android/iOS phone and follow the steps below:

  1. Goto Home Screen>Settings>Services>UPnP/DLNA and check all the check-boxes (Make sure the Settings level is set to ‘Expert’).
  2. Now goto Remote control and check both the couple of check-boxes.

3. Now, after doing this, head over to Google Play Store/Apple App Store and search for “Kore”, alternatively, you can find it HERE for Android and HERE for iOS. I don’t own iOS phone so I can’t show you the connection procedure for iOS. However, I do have an Android phone, so here’s the process:

Open the app and as soon as you open the app, it will search for a media center, if found, it will show you. Then click “Next” and then click “Finish” to begin using the remote.

Remember: Your phone and RPi3 should be on same network to make it work i.e. If your phone is connected to a Wi-Fi named “abc”, the RPi3 should also be connected to “abc” or the same network via Ethernet.

Note: If someday, you are unable to control your RPi3 via the remote app this means that your RPi3 is not connected to internet or you are not in the same network. Don’t worry, attach a keyboard to it and goto Home Screen>OpenELEC>Connections and connect it to your Wi-Fi.

Setting-up Library and Installing Addons:

Addons extend Kodi’s functionalities and as the name implies adds many other features such as subtitles, automatic downloads and much more. To set-up library properly we first need to install proper addons, so we are going to see how addons are installed. See below:

  1. Head over to Home Screen>Settings>Addons. Just after you open it, it will give you a quick overview of operation, click OK, just like this:

2. Here you will see options: My addons, Install from repository, Install from ZIP file, Search and System.

  • My addons: it will show you currently installed addons.
  • Install from repository: It allows you to browse new addons from Kodi and OpenELEC repositories ranging from skins, visualizations, audio endocers/decoders, and many more.
  • Install from ZIP file: It allows you to install addons saved in your thumb drive/any connected device.
  • Search: As name implies, it allows you to search from currently installed/available addons.
  • System: Here you can see the system addons. BEWARE! Do not uninstall any addons from here.

3. First we should check for updates for currently installed addons. To do this, open the sidebar by pressing Left arrow key and choose “Check for Updates”. It will then check for updates, download and install them only if you are connected to internet.

4. After finishing installing the update, it is now time to get new update. Goto Install from repository>All repositories. First open “Addon repositories” and install “OpenELEC Addons (unofficial)”. After finishing it, go back to “All repositories”.

5. Now you are free to install any addon of your choice. Here are few popluar: Soundcloud, Youtube, Aljazeera, Fox News, Mix Cloud, Rdio, Last.fm.

There are so many addon categories and important addons namely:

  • Add-on repository: OpenELEC Addons (unofficial)
  • Audio decoders
  • Audio encoders: Flac, Lame MP3, Vorbis, wav encoder
  • Context Items: Extras
  • GUI sounds: Android TV UI sounds
  • Information Providers
  • Languages
  • Lyrics: CU LRC Lyrics
  • Music addons: Soundcloud, Mix Cloud
  • Picture addons: 500px
  • Program addons: Couch Potato Manager, Globar Search
  • PVR addons
  • Screensaver: QLock screensaver
  • Services: AutoSubs, Last.fm
  • Skin: Arctic Zephyr, Eminence, Maximinimalisation
  • Subtitles: Subscene.com
  • Video addons: Aljazeera, Fox News, Youtube
  • Visualization: Waveform, Spectrum
  • Weather: Yahoo weather
  • Web interface: Arch

Now the last step at this article is to set-up library. There are two steps: Library set-up from USB drives such as Thumb drives or Hard Disk drives OR Library set-up from networked devices via SMB such as your Computer. For former, follow these steps:

  • Goto Home Screen>Videos>Files. Here you can see your USB drive with your specified name. This process is same for TV serials/Music/Pictures, you just need to set the appropriate content.

Here, if you have only one type of content in your USB drive such as Videos only or Music only or Pictures only, proceed. Else, you need to organise the content into folders via File Manager under System on Home Screen, and then go back and open your USB drive’s Video folder and proceed.

  • On your phone’s remote (Android), press the ‘Context menu’ button on top-left side of arrow keys and choose “Set content” which will open the pop-up where you can set the content as: None, Music Videos, Movies, TV serials, Pictures, Music.
  • Now choose information provider from right-side, if you have installed multiple providers, else don’t change it.
  • You can also press “settings” (If available) for advanced options.
  • Then check the appropriate check boxes and press OK. It will then ask you to scan the memory for specified content, press OK/Yes.

For the latter one, library set-up from networked device via SMB, follow these steps:

  • Goto Home Screen>File Manager (Under System)>Add source. Now press on “Browse” and select “Windows Network (SMB)”. Make sure your PC is turned ON, Homegroup sharing is ON and the drives are shared before proceeding.

Here’s how it is done:

a. Goto My Computer/This PC and right click on Homegroup. Choose “Change Homegroup settings.

b. Now click on “Change advanced sharing settings”.

c. Then make sure everything from “All networks” and “Private (current profile)” is turned ON.

d. After this go back to My Computer/This PC, right click on the drive which you want to browse in RPi3 and goto Share with>Advanced sharing:

e. After this in Sharing Tab, click on “Advanced sharing” and this will open another dialog box. Tick the check-box, give your shared drive a name and limit the maximum number of concurrent access to 2 or whatever you want.

After doing the sharing process on your PC, make sure you have put a password on your user account. In case of Windows 10 (Microsoft account) your username and password will be your Microsoft ID credentials and in case of Windows 7 (or a local account in Win 10), your username and given password will be used.

  • Now press “Workgroup”, you should see your PC here, press on your PC name, put your credentials, browse the folder you want to set as Videos/Music/Pictures, then follow the same steps as done in case of USB drive.

Remember: It will take a lot of time to scan and update your library because it will first get content from your PC then decode the info, upload that info, download the details and then update your library.

Remember: After updating your library, if you are trying to watch a movie or listen to music stored on your PC, make sure it is turned ON because if your PC is not turned on, you will not be able to access any content and if you click on it, it will deadlock the RPi3 and you’ll have to reboot it. Same applies to content stored on your USB, if it is not connected, you can’t access it.

Finally! After all this long mind-bending setup, you’re free to go! If you are facing any problems or want to inquire something, feel free to contact me on twitter: http://twitter.com/cyogesh56.

Thank you everyone for reading such long tutorial. Cheers!

Yogesh Singh

Written by

Interaction design, Photography and lots of experiments.

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