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I’ve used a Windows PC as part of my entertainment center since before “HTPC” was a thing and finding a suitable keyboard-and-pointer required explaining what I was trying to do.

Now I have a TV wall mounted in the guest room and want some way to provide content. It is intended for my Chinese mother-in-law who is not at all tech-savy.

The various products I’ve seen seem to be too dumb, not allowing playing files from network shares (only dlna) or adding additional subtitle files. I figured a Raspberry Pi based project would let me do “everything” since it’s an open computer like I’m used to using. But, I still need a good solid “canned” media player app that a non-tech user can handle once I set it up.

Hard requirement: it must be locallized in Simplified Chinese (PRC). It would be very desirable to be able to switch languages on the fly trivially even by someone who can’t read the current menus! That is, a dedicated button or special sequence.

It must play Chinese CCTV Internet feeds.

Youtube, YouKu, etc.

Play files located on my network server, often in mkv format. And, use external subtittle files.

Play a disc located on a different machine on the network (the Raspberry pi doesn’t have a disc reader, unlike my primary HTPC. But other PCs are handy and networked.). And again, add a 3rd-pary subtitle file when playing the disc.

I have a gigabit Ethernet cable run to where the TV is, so hard connection is preferred over wireless. That’s another reason I’m looking at the Raspberry Pi instead of a commercial media player dongle.

Is there a Raspberry Pi solution for me?

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Yes, the RaspberryPi is your thing (I'd say) and the primary software tool you're looking for is kodi formerly known as xbmc. So you should look into openelec and alternatively into any of the basic Linux distributions for the Pi (e.g. Raspbian) with kodi on top. Typically it directly boots into kodi so that the non-tech user should be able to handle it.

locallized in Simplified Chinese

Yes, all menus and on-screen mesages are localized. See: http://kodi.wiki/view/Add-on:Chinese_(Simple)

switch languages on the fly... dedicated button

There seems to be plugins able to link the Pi's GPIO pins to kodi. That way it should be able to wire some buttons to the Pi and have some script do the language switching, e.g. see here: http://forum.kodi.tv/showthread.php?tid=154211

Other than that the main user interface will control the Pi via HDMI-CEC and the TV's remote control.

allow playing files from network shares

Yes. The underlying Linux allows to mount network shares (e.g. NFS or samba) and kodi can be configured to list specific mount points in its menu.

Chinese CCTV Internet feeds, Youtube, YouKu, etc.

There are add-ons to play various sources, e.g. https://www.tvaddons.ag/kodi-addons/show/plugin.video.youkutv/

mkv format

Should do fine.

use external subtittle files.

Per default kodi will expect subtitle files in the same folder as the media files. Might be possible that this behaviour can be changed.

gigabit Ethernet cable

No problem. Just be aware that the Pi only supports 10/100-MBit-Ethernet so throughput will be a little lower.

Is there a Raspberry Pi solution for me?

I'd guess so... but allow for some time and effort to set it up.

  • Dropping the subtitle file in the same directory as the movie is no problem. That doesn’t make sence playing a DVD (or VCD) though. Thanks for the tips to get me started. – JDługosz Oct 24 '16 at 1:10

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