Feature Friday: The Kitchen Hi-Fi

Posted By: Team XBMC on Apr 15, 2011 in Site News

In this first edition of Feature Friday, we are going to forego the boring old bat cave and million dollar living room in favor of a wee bit of creativity. Brilliant user Oliver Owen, of the UK, has been using various versions of XBMC since 2003. He has had XBMC installed on at least one box in nearly every room in his flat.  Recently, he decided to add another room to the XBMC fold by building a custom touchscreen version of XBMC in his kitchen, primarily for music playback and easy access to the weather application.

XBMC Touch Screen

The XBMC Touchscreen… that ISN'T an iPad

XBMC on the iPad, of course, would not do, because Oli’s twin goals were minimal expenses and girlfriend approval.  As such, portability wasn’t a major concern, but cost was.

Cost is the biggest problem for nearly all modern tablets. They look nice. You can attach them to a refrigerator. You can create a kitchen stand out of chopsticks. You can even equip them with meat thermometers!

But you can’t get a tablet cheap. XBMC is free and can run on relatively simple minimal equipment. There’s really no reason to get fancy on the hardware, when XBMC can handle fancy all on its own. And that’s doubly true when you have no need or interest in playing HD content.

So Mr. Owen picked up an Acer Travelmate C110 off of ebay for 40 pounds sterling and a touchscreen kit for another £35.  If you’re counting at home, that’s £75, a savings of about £325 off the £399 price of the cheapest iPad.

He then convinced his friends Mr. Smith and Mr. Yates to cut a wooden box frame and a thin metal border, respectively.

Wooden Box for Computer

Step #1: Make wooden box

metal for bezel

Step #2: Cut thin metal border for bezel

Oli then slapped the kit together, and attached the entire setup to the Hi-Fi that was already installed in the kitchen.  For the touch-enabled skin, Oli downloaded the modifications found at this forum post, which appear to be user mods of PM3.HD, designed with touchscreens in mind. (Thanks LoloMc2 and our entire skinning/addon community for this skin and many other amazing addons!)

The converted HTPC had built-in Wi-Fi, so Oli simply browsed to the shared music folders on the two house laptops. The Weather application came set up out of the box, so that needed next to no attention. And with that, the installation was complete.

finished product

The Finished Product!

In the future, Oliver hopes to set up various podcast or radio features and possibly catch a few vids with the tvcatchup addon. For now, he just has to figure out how to convince the girlfriend to start using the new kitchen tablet.  We have faith in his persuasion skills!

So that’s the XBMC Kitchen Hi-Fi. Good job, Oli, and thanks for sharing!

If anyone has a setup they’d like to share in the future, feel free to email me at natethomas AT xbmc DOT org with some pics and details. Who knows, maybe you’ll be the next Feature Friday.

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Discussion - 37 Comments

  • Nathan Apr 15, 2011 

    This is fantastic! Definitely a project to try when I have some spare time.

  • T. Apr 15, 2011 

    Nice!

    I would really like to see a diy-kit or a manual, on how to build stuff like that.

  • watzen Apr 15, 2011 

    two questions:
    Why buy a touchscreen kit when the computer itself has a touchscreen built-in?
    Is that Acer computer really powerful enough to run the xbmc interface at nice framerates?

  • Me Apr 15, 2011 

    I like this article, sweet setup.
    The only thing i’d change is have the music on a NAS so computers didn’t have to be on.
    I look forward to the next installment.

  • chrulri Apr 15, 2011 

    @watzen afaik he had to attach another touchscreen layer because the touchscreen of the Acer computer only works with a stylus and who wants to work with a stylus in the kitchen? :P

  • Woutervddn Apr 15, 2011 

    Old Laptop: Check
    XBMC: Check
    Remote: Check
    IRC Receiver: Not Yet

    This is gonna be awesome :p

  • Neill Apr 15, 2011 

    What a great idea, I have an old laptop I want to reuse, I’m thinking about attaching it to the bottom of one of my wall cupboards (upside down). I just need to figure out how to control it but will most probably use the android remote.

  • deliarmin Apr 15, 2011 

    Mr. Owen seems to be a quite cool guy!

  • Dave Apr 15, 2011 

    I recently did a similar thing. I loaded XBMC onto my old G5 iMac and have it in the kitchen. Awesome.

  • Rixtar Apr 15, 2011 

    I want one….. a build guide would be awsome…… even the wife (who admittedly is in love with XBMC) would approve.
    Also as above why the Touchscreen kit?

    Awsome Work!!!

  • carlos Apr 15, 2011 

    @watzen
    Maybe the touchscreen kit is there for protection. Dirty fingers touching the screens, food or liquid projections will happen in a kitchen.

  • tbciic Apr 15, 2011 

    Great 1st installment! Tempted to try something like this myself.
    Looking forward to next Friday and more awesomeness

  • Gushy Apr 15, 2011 

    I am so stealing this idea! Nice work Oli.

  • Oli Owen Apr 15, 2011 

    I took a gamble on the acer, and in some respects it didn’t pay off, the touchscreen element no longer worked, hence why I had to buy a kit, but it the framerate is not an issue at all, menu’s with the skin I’m using are smooth, and sd xvid video plays with no problem.@watzen

  • Oli Owen Apr 15, 2011 

    I perhaps didn’t explain this very well when I submitted the piece but the music doesn’t stream music from our laptops, instead it syncs the music library’s contained on my and my girlfriends laptops to it’s own 160gb hard drive.@Me

  • AaronD Apr 15, 2011 

    Good post and interesting project. Keep them coming! :)

  • mojo Apr 15, 2011 

    watzen :
    two questions:
    Why buy a touchscreen kit when the computer itself has a touchscreen built-in?
    Is that Acer computer really powerful enough to run the xbmc interface at nice framerates?

    The screen on that laptop requires a stylus, the touchscreen kit allows them to use fingers.

    Great design!! Looks great and looks functional!

  • realburb Apr 15, 2011 

    Interesting project, but do you have any ideas for a cheap touchscreen I can use xbmc with? I already have the PC. LVDS/VGA or similar?

  • Dave Apr 15, 2011 

    Did I miss the part about how he got a touchscreen interface for XBMC? Did he have to make is own skin?

  • Dave Apr 15, 2011 

    @Dave

    Ooops, sure enough.. I did… glazed right over it..

  • Monkey Apr 15, 2011 

    I don’t think he can watch HD video on it, but I would hazard a guess that the video playback is same or better than the XBOX..

  • AB Apr 15, 2011 

    That’s quite like the setup I am in the process of building. Media is on a QNAP which includes an iTunes server. The idea is to run XBMC on a AxiomTek 12.1″ SVGA TFT Fanless Touch Panel Computer (GOT-3128) which has a 2mm stainless steel bezel. This is cut into the drywall cavity where power / ethernet is, with enough space for extra passive cooling. The unit will then be able to play / drive the music from there to speakers in various rooms & act as a central heating / cooling control / weather station.

  • Vexxan Apr 16, 2011 

    Awesome job Olive!

    Feature Friday sounds like a greaty idea, keep ‘em coming!

  • MiL0 Apr 16, 2011 

    I did something similar 3 years ago to an old laptop of mine. Basically I flipped the entire screen around so that it’s facing the outside of the laptop. I then mounted the entire laptop on to a small wooden frame on the wall. XBMC works great on it!

    See here for more details: http://www.dogsonacid.com/showthread.php?t=569852

  • Tom Apr 16, 2011 

    I have had the same idea for a while now, and only just re-looked into it, has anyone used one of those cheap android tablets all over ebay?
    There seems to be tones available dirt cheap, with HDMI out and USB ports… there going for about £80-£200…

  • J0539h Apr 17, 2011 

    Keep XBMC, get rid of the girlfriend!

    If you need to get ‘girlfriend approval’ now, just wait till it becomes ‘wife approval’. The only thing that will make her happy is when all your tech stuff is in a cardboard box in the attic. Besides, it’s easier to upgrade girlfriends then wives. With wives, they could get half your junk, and throw sell it in a garage sale, and buy another pair of ugly shoes.

    Your tech is there to make you happy, your wife, ahh, not so much. Her goal is to make her happy and make you think she’s making you happy.

  • Paul Apr 18, 2011 

    Pure genius, congratulations. Very impressive thinking and execution.

  • wikid24 Apr 18, 2011 

    i a totally unrelated note, i’ve wanted to get netflix working in xbmc for a very long time, but it turns out that netflix refuses to develop an api that works in canada because they are “understaffed” and dontfeel like it. please help me in posting on their forums and blogs to beg them to develop an api that works in canada! http://developer.netflix.com/search?q=canada
    cheers,
    wikid

  • Alasdair Paul Apr 19, 2011 

    @watzen
    The touchscreen add-on was because the pre-installed version no longer worked.

    I’ve seen the unit in action and it works surprisingly and impressively well

  • Ryan Apr 19, 2011 

    nice work, would like to build something similar for myself.

  • @moin Apr 21, 2011 

    is there windows or linux installed on the tablet?

  • Joe Bloe Apr 21, 2011 

    Why go to all that hassle when u can buy a nice 10 inch ipad copy from china for around $100 with wifi, 3g, etc etc, network the storage drives and load up xbmc and u r set….

  • Tero Apr 22, 2011 

    @Joe Bloe
    Just for the creative process and perhaps a more ecological result?

  • xray911 Apr 27, 2011 

    Will the Custom touchscreen version be available for download Oliver Owen? i hope so because I’ve been searching fir a touchscreen version

    cheers,

  • natethomas Apr 28, 2011 

    xray, it’s currently available from that forum thread. http://forum.xbmc.org/showthread.php?t=48818

  • Wickyd Apr 28, 2011 

    @watzen
    Actually, I have that exact same model notebook sitting next to me right now at the office and I’ve been trying to get either Jolicloud or Ubuntu netbook remix installed on it to use the touch input. The problem is, the Travelmate isn’t actually touchscreen, it’s “Pentouch”. Meaning it only works with the stylus…not very practical for use in an application like this (it would probably get lost the first day in my house).

About XBMC

XBMC is a free and open source media player application developed by the XBMC Foundation, a non-profit technology consortium. XBMC is available for multiple operating-systems and hardware platforms, featuring a 10-foot user interface for use with televisions and remote controls. It allows users to play and view most videos, music, podcasts, and other digital media files from local and network storage media and the internet.