I’ve been sick the last couple of days so this post is later than I like.
I’m definitely happy with my Raspberry Pi. As I mentioned in my previous post on this topic obtaining a Raspberry Pi was pretty much spur of the moment. I’d actually been watching the Raspberry Pi since it was first announced and kept wanting to get one to play with. So, when my son-in-law said he was getting one and asked if I wanted to order I jumped in as well.
Once I’d downloaded and verified the raspbmc OS worked, I set everything aside until last weekend. That weekend my son-in-law came over and after some discussion we ran a CAT5 line from my ham shack (my son’s old bedroom) to the living room. The main factors driving this were (1) there were definite persistent reports about slow performance streaming via wifi and (2) I still had not successfully been able to install the wifi dongle and get it to work reliably. Reliability was critical in this case as my wife is not a geek and so I needed something that would simply work. End result: running a cable it was going to be.
As seems typical lately, what should have been a one hour job turned into a four hour job.
Looking back on it, the majority of that time was locating reference points and measuring. Actually running the cable and doing the connectors probably was only an hour. I have a half basement with the other half being crawl space. The cable would drop from the ham shack into the basement and from there run to the other end of the house and come up in the living room. That was the plan: two holes in the floor and walk the cable over to the other end of the basement. Simple, right?
Checking in the basement it turns out that the main floor joists run EW, but the joists in the basement room, and only in that room, where the cable would come out run…NS. Yep, that’s what I said, too. Now I not only had to measure from the wall into the room below, but that particular room was mostly a finished ceiling so I had to measure where the probable joists were and use that to extrapolate where to drill in the room upstairs. Fortunately, I had some exposed joists I could measure and extrapolate from. That measurement done, four times, reference points measured multiple times, with a quiet “here goes nothing” I drilled the first hole through the carpet into the basement.
The drill bit wasn’t long enough to reach to the plasterboard ceiling, so I got a stiff metal rod, poked it through the floor, and used a hammer to tap it through the plasterboard. It came out in the ceiling below barely an inch from the wall. WHEW!
We taped the CAT5 to the rod and pulled it through the hole into the basement. From there to the other end of the basement I was happy to see there was already a hole through the wall of that basement room plus wiring holes in the joists. We ran plenty of cable to the other end of the basement.
Now I just had to get through the cement wall into the pantry then up through the floor into the living room. That was actually easy, there was an opening into the crawl space near the cement wall and another into the pantry so we utilized those. Now all I had to do was drill the hole in the living room floor.
Another round of measuring, double checking, extrapolating points from upstairs to the basement, and I worked out where I had to drill through the floor. I wanted it to be in the corner so that if we re-arranged the living room, the cable would easily cover both walls. Unfortunately, all my measurements pointed to that corner being over the crawl space or the cement foundation wall that ran down the middle of the house. We didn’t want to go in the crawl space again. If you’ve ever been in the crawl space under a house, you’ll understand that sentiment. My son-in-law said I could use all the cable I wanted so that clinched it as I’d have enough cable to cover re-arranging the furniture.
I was wearing a T-shirt that said, “To err is human, to blame others shows good management skills.” I pointed at the quote and asked my son-in-law if he would drill the hole. Without hesitation, he looked at me and said, “No.” After some hemming and hawing, some double-checking my measurements, I drilled the hole through the wood floor. We repeated the process with the rod and broke through the plasterboard ceiling in the pantry. That done, we went into the pantry and drilled the hole through the plasterboard and had our cable hole from pantry to living room.
I really lucked out this time. The rod came out in the pantry right up against the foundation wall. Even though I was two inches out from the wall upstairs, it still came out right against the cement foundation. That foundation was wider than I thought.
It took us two tries to pull the wire up through the floor into the living room. The hole in the ham shack was plenty large enough for the CAT5 plus tape to go through and the carpeting there masked the hole. In the living room, since it was in a wood flooring, I used a smaller drill bit to minimize the hole’s impact. It was a tight fit for the CAT5 plus tape on the rod, but we finally managed to pull it through after the first try pulled the CAT5 off the rod. In addition, the two holes were offset…directly down from the living room hole was the edge of the foundation. Tapping the rod to locate the edge and angling the rod a hair let us bring the hole through into the pantry.
Cable run, it was now time to crimp on the connectors. That my son-in-law took care of. Once he was done, I connected the HDMI cable and the new network cable. For power I connected it to the USB connection on the TV. That powered the Raspberry Pi up just great. The first attempt at the connectors on the CAT5 didn’t work quite right. The LEDs on the Raspberry Pi indicated an internet connection, but the data clearly wasn’t flowing properly: on the home screen the displayed time was wrong and the local weather wasn’t showing. Using my laptop we verified that the connectors weren’t done right so we cut them off and re-did them. This time the laptop showed the connection was good so we plugged the network cable back into the Raspberry Pi and rebooted it.
I’d already loaded the official XBMC app onto my Galaxy Nexus and while I had the Raspberry Pi running in the ham shack had already programmed raspbmc to see my PC share. I had also set up raspbmc with a static IP address on my home network. With all that prep already done, it was time to see if it really worked. I pulled up the app on my phone and hit one of the navigation buttons.
It worked like a charm. Response to button presses on the Galaxy Nexus is nearly instantaneous. If I press the right arrow on the remote control part of the app, the Raspberry Pi responds and shifts the menu over before I’ve even pulled my finger completely off the phone screen. It’s slow (15-20 seconds or so) starting up the movies, but once they’re streaming there’s no discordance or hiccups, it’s like they’re playing off the DVD player. I’ve also set it up to automatically play subtitles. It’s also slow coming back with online materials, for example if I go to the Food Network it takes about 20 seconds to fetch and display what’s available and a like time to display episodes if I select, say, “Chopped”. But the reaction to the XBMC remote app button presses on my phone is instant. Hit pause, the movie’s paused before the phone finishes vibrating.
BTW, in the ham shack the other end of this new network cable plugs directly into one of the four ethernet ports on my wireless router. Originally I was going to plug it into a network hub I had for the printer and PC but my son-in-law mentioned he’d read about possible latency issues if we went through the hub. Since I already had a free port on the router itself, it made sense to just connect there anyway so that’s what we did.
Like I said, I’m pleased with it. And my son-in-law now wants a LEGO box for his.