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PiCast: The open source, Raspberry Pi Chromecast alternative


If you were one of the many fortunate enough to grab Googles new Chromecast HDMI dongle before it sold out, youre already well aware of what a great experience it provides. Its not perfect, and while we wait for Google to allow developers to release third party software to fill in the gaps, one man decided to implement his own Chromecast solution using the Raspberry Pi computer.

Googles Chromecast didnt so much create a new concept as make an existing one affordable and dead simple to use across multiple platforms. If youre interested in streaming Netflix, YouTube, and occasionally sharing a browser tab with no know-how required, youd be hard pressed to find something more user-friendly than the Chromecast.

But if you want to stream your own video or use anything other than the currently approved and admittedly short list of services on Chromecast, youre only option is to wait until Google releases the Chromecast developers from their beta prison and allows them to start publishing apps. This delay has frustrated some users, even to the point of trying to root the Chromecast and expose its tiny Android underbelly to more useful apps. Lance Seidman went a different route with PiCast, and now has a service that can be deployed to any $25 or $35 Rasberry Pi with ease.

While the Raspberry Pi is certainly larger than the Chromecast, theres a great deal more flexibility to be had when using it over the Chromecast. For starters, youll be able to rely on an ethernet connection instead of WiFi to guarantee a better stream when mirroring a display or sharing local content. Both devices are low power and relying on a MicroUSB to deliver the appropriate power to the hardware, all you really need is the know how to deploy Lances solution and a desire to contribute to the project when you decide you want to add a feature you are interested in.

The current implementation is only a couple of weeks old, and is already capable of mirroring a web page and streaming from YouTube just like the Chromecast does. Music is his next target, and the whole project is available on GitHub for any who wants to contribute.

This is a project well worth following, especially if they manage to mimic the entire feature set of the current Chromecast. Right now the inflexibility of each service on Googles device is self inflicted, and the strength in their design comes from the functionality on iOS, Android, and anything with a Chrome browser. PiCast could easily add support for Windows Phone, for example, and gain access to an entirely untapped group of users for their project.

Its a great idea, especially for anyone who already has a RasPi, to take advantage of the momentum created by Googles latest project.

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