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Quick Start Guide: Raspberry Pi + XBMC + Hulu

The Raspberry Pi is the $35 credit card-sized barebones computer that’s been the center of much enthusiasm from educators and tinkerers alike. At the heart of the RPi is a Broadcom BCM2835 system on a chip (SoC), which was originally designed as a low-cost, full HD multimedia processor for mobile devices.  As such, the Raspberry Pi makes a pretty killer (and cheap) HTPC, thanks to Raspbmc, a Raspberry Pi port of the popular Linux-based XBMC.

screenshot014

With Raspbmc installed, you can easily stream multimedia from another computer or an online service, such as YouTube. But one service that doesn’t come pre-installed with Raspbmc is Hulu. Fortunately, there’s a way to get Hulu onto a Raspbmc box. And the best part: unlike most Hulu apps for mobile devices,  you don’t have to subscribe to Hulu Plus for it to work.

Before Begging

Before you undertake this 1 to 2 hour project, it’s best to set some realistic expectations. Raspbmc is not going to be as slick or hassle-free as buying an Apple TV and subscribing to Hulu Plus. But it will be cheaper. The software that supports this is very much unofficial, and is maintained by a few hardworking independent developers. There’s no guarantee that this will work 100% of the time, especially if Hulu decides to rejigger the way they deliver content. If you aren’t prepared to handle that possibility, don’t rush out to buy a Raspberry Pi for the sole purpose of streaming Hulu for free.

With that being said, here’s what you’ll need to get this up and running:

 

 

  • Raspberry Pi
    • Power source (1A charger @ 5V or 4xAA batteries to micro USB)
  • Wired network connection (for initial setup)
  • SD Card (Class 6 or faster/2 GB or larger)
    • Note: I am using a Class 4 card with no problems
  • HDMI cable
  • Software:
    • Raspbmc
    • Bluecop Repository

Installing Raspbmc

The first step is to install Raspbmc on your Raspberry Pi. The easiest way to do this is with the installer app you can get at Rapbmc.com. Insert your SD card and run the installer to write the Raspbmc installation image to your card. Load the SD card to your RPi, get wired and get comfortable for about 25 minutes while it downloads the necessary packages and installs them.

The Raspbmc installer for windows is handy, but won't always work

Note: If the installer isn’t working for you, you can image your card using a prebuilt image. At the time of this article, I was having trouble with the network install, so I used the Standalone image that you can find on the Raspbmc download page. I used Win32 Disk Imager to write the image to the card. The advantage of using a standalone image is that you don’t need a wired network connection for installation.

Adding Bluecop Repository to XBMC

Download and install Bluecop repository. Do not unzip it. To make things easy, save it to a FAT32 formatted USB drive.

the bluecop xbmc repo is free on google code

Fire up your Pi with Raspbmc installed and plug in your USB stick. It should mount automatically. If not, try again or reboot. In these screenshots, I’ve named my USB drive “Kingston.” You’ll see a notification in the bottom-right when it mounts.

Once the USB stick with Bluecop Repository is mounted, click System –> Settings –> Add-ons. Then, click Install from zip file.

Install the bluecop repo from a zip file on a usb stick

Browse to your USB drive.

USB drives will mount automatically in xbmc

Choose the Bluecop repository zip file (repository.bluecop.xbmc-plugins.zip).

repository.xbmc-plugins.zip installation

Wait a few seconds while the repository is added. You’ll see a notification in the bottom-right that says “Bluecop Add-on Repository Add-on Updated.”

bluecop add-on repository gives you access to hulu

Go back to the main menu and click Videos –> Add-ons.

click Vidoes and then add-ons to access hulu on the xbmc app for raspberry pi

Click Get More… Scroll down till you find Hulu. Click it. (Note: I had to reboot my Pi after adding the Bluecop repo before Hulu showed up in the list.)

hulu is a video add-on for raspbmc

Click Install.

install hulu add-on xbmc

Wait a few moments for it to download and enable. Go back to Videos –> Add-ons. You should see Hulu in the list.

hulu can be streamed for free on a raspberry pi

Enjoy your free Hulu!

full episodes of the colbert report on hulu raspbmc

A Raspbmc box on the mantle makes a great, low profile HTPC. Wireless is notoriously finicky on the RPi, so you might want to get an Ethernet over Powerline adapter. As for a remote, there are XBMC remote apps for iOS and Android. Or, you can get a wireless multimedia keyboard, like the FAVI Mini Wireless Keyboard with Mouse Touchpad.

favi wireless keyboard on the raspberry pi

Notes and Troubleshooting

Overall, Hulu on the Raspberry Pi is good, though with some drawbacks. The video playback is smooth, but as you’ll notice, navigation of the menus and interfaces is a little tedious. It’s nowhere near as seamless as actually visting Hulu.com or using the Apple TV Hulu Plus interface. For the bluecop add-on specifically, I’d like to see the ability to add shows to a “favorites” list, especially since the menus are so slow on the Raspberry Pi.

I ran into a pretty common issue with my installation:

XBMC Bluecop Hulu Add-on Only Plays Commercials but No Video

Sometimes, when you open a stream, it plays the ad and then returns to the menu without playing the actual video or episode. There is a fix for that. From the Videos –> Add-ons menu, right-click Hulu and click Add-on settings.

hulu on the raspi

Go to the Streaming. Deselect Network Pre-Roll and adjust Pre-Roll Ads and Trailing Ads to 0. Click OK.

fixing hulu only ads bug

Your stream should go directly to the episode now. Plus, you won’t have to sit through any ads.

Other Issues

Like I said, I had issues getting the self-installer/network installation image to work. Some users have reported success through patience, i.e., letting the thing for for 45 minutes untouched. Others, like me, simply did the standalone image straight to the SD card.

Other common culprits for technical difficulties are faulty SD cards, SD cards that are too slow or SD cards that are too small. I got a Class 10 Amazon Basics 8 GB SD card for my first go round, and there were occasionally write errors (not uncommon, according to the reviews). More recently, I used a Class 4 Sandisk 8 GB SD card and it worked fine. Your mileage may vary.

For more information than you ever wanted to know about SD card speeds, read this SD card speed guide.

Lack of sufficient power can also give you trouble. I use a CyberPower CP-H720P powered hub to power my Raspberry Pi and all my peripherals. It seem to do fine. But a dedicated wall charger with a microUSB cable seems to be the best bet. Powering the RPi off a computer USB port or a TV USB port isn’t recommended.

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8 Responses to Quick Start Guide: Raspberry Pi + XBMC + Hulu

  1. anonymous February 27, 2013 at 10:37 am #

    Thankyou so much for taking time to write this excellent and detailed guide. I wanted exactly this when I typed in google but had to go through 2 pages to get to this. It was worth the time searching. I got it up and running. Thanks

  2. Harv April 13, 2013 at 11:49 am #

    I installed raspbmc and added blue cop through zip in a USB flash but HULU doesn’t show up even after reboot. Any ideas?

    • KS April 13, 2013 at 7:55 pm #

      Same problem here. Is this plugin still working or not?

    • Vern May 25, 2013 at 1:54 pm #

      Hi Harv,

      Try right-clicking on the bluecop repository add-on and select “force update”. This worked for me.

      • Dogmar June 7, 2013 at 10:50 am #

        I am having the same problem and I don’t see a Bluecop repository add-on anywhere. Where would I see this?

  3. scstsut June 18, 2013 at 12:50 pm #

    Hitting the “c” key while the “bluecop Add-on Repository” is highlighted will also give you the options to “Check for updates” and “Force refresh”.

    I had to play around with these a few times before it loaded anything from the repo.

    • scstsut June 18, 2013 at 12:53 pm #

      Here’s where to go:
      System > Settings > Add-ons > Get Add-ons
      There you should see a list of repos you have enabled.
      Highlight the bluecop repo and hit the “c” key.

  4. Dogmar June 23, 2013 at 12:57 pm #

    I still don’t see Hulu anywhere. I checked in the System > Settings > Add-ons > Get Add-ons and it isn’t there. I saw it say “Bluecop Add-on Repository Add-on Updated.”, I rebooted but still no luck. This is a complete rebuild of the RaspBMC too.

    Please help. I need my Hulu Plus to make this perfect.

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