So I decided to pick up a Raspberry pi which is a credit-card sized computer that plugs into your TV, see http://www.raspberrypi.org/ for more details. Its a pretty cheap device at €35 Euro available from Element14 or RS Online you will need a few more bits to get it going, namely a HDMI cable, a 5v micro USB power supply, SD Card, a USB keyboard and Network cable for internet connection.
My Model is the original B model with 256mb of RAM and 2 USB Ports along with a network port.
For my first experiment I picked a simple one, I grabbed Raspbmc from http://www.raspbmc.com/ downloaded the installer and setup an 8GB SD card. Then I connected the pi to a monitor via HDMI inserted the SD card and connected network cable and keyboard and powered the pi up. The installer just ran for about 20 minutes downloading the latest image and installing.
It rebooted and presented an XBMC screen, all too simple so far really so I decided to connect a USB Flash drive and it detected the drive and mounted it. I selected Videos and started playing a 720P h.264 file, and it played without flaw.
So less than 30 minutes from the time I setup the SD card I had a working XBMC install playing a 720p video file, that’s impressive and I’m not easily impressed!
I next tried a 1080p file and it worked pretty well but did suffer from the odd stutter.
Next time I’ll build a nice case for the pi 🙂