If you have children, you will recognise the "Are we nearly there" syndrome. This happens on long car journeys, usually starting only a few minutes after setting off and repeating at frequent intervals. If you have three children, it's like listening to a quadraphonic speaker setup with one of the speakers missing.

Raspberry Pi DLNA Server.

In pre-gadget days, when I was a child we used to play endless games of "I Spy". Whilst this is still fun, it does get a bit tedious after three of four hours. Now most children will have some sort of gadget that lets them play games, or watch a video. On problem with videos is that the one they insist on watching isn't on their phone/tablet and even if they had though to put it on their phone before leaving home, it's still quite a faff.

However, for the open source tinkerer there is a solution at hand. How about creating a Wifi access point inside the car connected to a box that streams video. If you already have most of the bits, this isn't too expensive and given a big enough hard disk you can take almost your whole video collection with you. Even better if you arrive somewhere with no TV, you can simply take the whole setup inside with you and carry on watching videos.

Using This Document.

This document is written using Emacs org-mode . The source files can be generated directly from the document using Babel . If you don't use Emacs, you will just have to resort to copy and paste!

You can always get the most up to date version of this tutorial from GitHub , which also included all the source code.


The system uses a raspberry Pi with a WiFi dongle and a usb external hard drive. The Pi is configured as a WiFi access point using a WiFi dongle, while the ethernet interface is configured on a separate network, which can connect to my home router. This allows me to connect to the access point with your phone, but still just plug the Pi into my home network using an ethernet cable.

I installed a dhcp server on the Pi to give out addresses to clients connected to the WiFi interface. This server only listens on the WiFi interface, so will only hand out dhcp addresses to devices connected via WiFi and not try to compete with the dhcp server on my home network. The ethernet interface is configured to use dhcp, so you can plug it into any network with a dhcp server.

I have also installed hostapd which allows the Pi to act as an access point and minidlna, which turns the Pi into a dlna server.

Since I am using both a WiFi dongle and an external USB hard drive, I am powering the Pi via a powered hub. You should check the specifications of your hub to make sure it can power the Pi.

To power the powered hub in the car I am using a Universal Battery Elimination Circuit (UBEC). This converts this 12v from the car battery and provides a 5v 3 amp output. I will also provide some protection from voltage and current spikes. These are available for about £6 on eBay.


  • Raspberry Pi
  • Wifi Card
  • Powered hub capable of powering the Pi from the hub itself.
  • External bus powered usb drive
  • Resistors 1x10k and 1x1k
  • Momentary switch
  • UBEC
  • Some sort of box to hold the Pi hard drive and hub (Tupperware)
  • Jack plug and socket

Setting Up the Server.

I am using Raspbian, but the setup should work with most distros.

Install required packages:

sudo apt-get install isc-dhcp-server hostapd minidnla

Connect the External usb Disk.

Check what device your hard drive is:

pi@mediapi ~ $ lsblk
sda           8:0    0 232.9G  0 disk
└─sda1        8:1    0 232.9G  0 part /mnt/sda1
mmcblk0     179:0    0  14.6G  0 disk
├─mmcblk0p1 179:1    0    56M  0 part /boot
└─mmcblk0p2 179:2    0  14.6G  0 part /

In my case it's /dev/sda1.

Make a directory and mount the drive:

sudo mkdir /mnt/sda1
sudo mount /dev/sda1 /mnt

To make the drive mount at boot modify /etc/fstab:

sudo nano /etc/fstab

proc            /proc           proc    defaults          0       0
/dev/mmcblk0p1  /boot           vfat    defaults          0       2
/dev/mmcblk0p2  /               ext4    defaults,noatime  0       1

# Mount our usb disk.
/dev/sda1  /mnt/sda1               ext4    defaults,noatime  0       1

Configuring the Wireless Access Point.

The WiFi access point must have a static ip address, that is in a different subnet to your home network. My home network uses the range of addresses, so I setup the WiFi interface to use This means that you can just plug in the Pi to your home network to copy files, but minidlna can serve media files independently via the WiFi interface.

First check that your WiFi dongle can act as an Access Point (look for AP n the output):

sudo iw list

Supported interface modes:
		 * IBSS
		 * managed
		 * AP
		 * AP/VLAN
		 * WDS
		 * monitor
		 * mesh point

Now edit /etc/network/interfaces:

auto lo

iface lo inet loopback
auto eth0
iface eth0 inet dhcp

auto wlan0
iface wlan0 inet static

Now we need to set up the dhcp server to hand out addresses to devices connected on the WiFi interface. Edit /etc/dhcp/dhcpd.conf:

# Sample configuration file for ISC dhcpd for Debian
# $Id: dhcpd.conf,v 2002/05/21 00:07:44 peloy Exp $

# The ddns-updates-style parameter controls whether or not the server will
# attempt to do a DNS update when a lease is confirmed. We default to the
# behavior of the version 2 packages ('none', since DHCP v2 didn't
# have support for DDNS.)
# ddns-update-style none;
ddns-updates on;
ddns-update-style interim;
ddns-rev-domainname "in-addr.arpa.";
ignore client-updates;      # Overwrite client configured FQHNs

ddns-domainname "bantercat.co.uk";

# option definitions common to all supported networks...
option domain-name "bantercat.co.uk";
# option domain-name-servers firewall.banter.local;
option domain-name-servers;

default-lease-time 600;
max-lease-time 7200;
one-lease-per-client on;

# If this DHCP server is the official DHCP server for the local
# network, the authoritative directive should be uncommented.

# Use this to send dhcp log messages to a different log file (you also
# have to hack syslog.conf to complete the redirection).
log-facility local7;

# include "/etc/rndc.key";

subnet netmask {
    pool {

	     max-lease-time 1800; # 30 minutes
	     allow unknown-clients;

    option routers;
#    option subnet-mask;
    option broadcast-address;


#subnet netmask {
# --- default gateway
#interface eth0;
#option routers
# --- Netmask
#option subnet-mask
# --- Broadcast Address
option broadcast-address;
# --- Domain name servers, tells the clients which DNS servers to use.
#option domain-name-servers,,;
#option time-offset 0;
#default-lease-time 1209600;
#max-lease-time 1814400;

Next we need to configure hostapd. Edit /etc/hostapd.conf, replacing "yourpassphrase" and "ssid" with something suitable:

wpa_pairwise=TKIP CCMP

Now reboot and log into the Pi, making sure it's still connected via the ethernet cable. Check that the wireless interface is up and running and configured to the correct address:

pi@mediapi ~ $ ifconfig wlan0
wlan0     Link encap:Ethernet  HWaddr 7c:dd:90:30:99:02
	  inet addr:  Bcast:  Mask:
	  RX packets:0 errors:0 dropped:0 overruns:0 frame:0
	  TX packets:26 errors:0 dropped:0 overruns:0 carrier:0
	  collisions:0 txqueuelen:1000
	  RX bytes:0 (0.0 B)  TX bytes:7876 (7.6 KiB)

Look carefully at the inet addr: to make sure its got the correct address.

If you look in your wireless manager app on another computer, you should see a new access point called "mediapi" (or whatever you called it in hostapd.conf). You can try connecting to it - the password is whatever you set in hostapd.conf.

Configuring the minidlna Server.

Once you have established that you can connect to the WiFi access point, you can setup the minidlna server.

Edit /etc/minidlna.conf

# This is the configuration file for the MiniDLNA daemon, a DLNA/UPnP-AV media
# server.
# Unless otherwise noted, the commented out options show their default value.
# On Debian, you can also refer to the minidlna.conf(5) man page for
# documentation about this file.

# Path to the directory you want scanned for media files.
# This option can be specified more than once if you want multiple directories
# scanned.
# If you want to restrict a media_dir to a specific content type, you can
# prepend the directory name with a letter representing the type (A, P or V),
# followed by a comma, as so:
#   * "A" for audio    (eg. media_dir=A,/var/lib/minidlna/music)
#   * "P" for pictures (eg. media_dir=P,/var/lib/minidlna/pictures)
#   * "V" for video    (eg. media_dir=V,/var/lib/minidlna/videos)
# WARNING: After changing this option, you need to rebuild the database. Either
#          run minidlna with the '-R' option, or delete the 'files.db' file
#          from the db_dir directory (see below).
#          On Debian, you can run, as root, 'service minidlna force-reload' instead.

# Path to the directory that should hold the database and album art cache.

# Path to the directory that should hold the log file.

# Minimum level of importance of messages to be logged.
# Must be one of "off", "fatal", "error", "warn", "info" or "debug".
# "off" turns of logging entirely, "fatal" is the highest level of importance
# and "debug" the lowest.

# Use a different container as the root of the directory tree presented to
# clients. The possible values are:
#   * "." - standard container
#   * "B" - "Browse Directory"
#   * "M" - "Music"
#   * "P" - "Pictures"
#   * "V" - "Video"
# if you specify "B" and client device is audio-only then "Music/Folders" will be used as root

# Network interface(s) to bind to (e.g. eth0), comma delimited.

# IPv4 address to listen on (e.g.

# Port number for HTTP traffic (descriptions, SOAP, media transfer).

# URL presented to clients.
# The default is the IP address of the server on port 80.

# Name that the DLNA server presents to clients.

# Serial number the server reports to clients.

# Model name the server reports to clients.
#model_name=Windows Media Connect compatible (MiniDLNA)

# Model number the server reports to clients.

# Automatic discovery of new files in the media_dir directory.

# List of file names to look for when searching for album art. Names should be
# delimited with a forward slash ("/").

# Strictly adhere to DLNA standards.
# This allows server-side downscaling of very large JPEG images, which may
# decrease JPEG serving performance on (at least) Sony DLNA products.

# Support for streaming .jpg and .mp3 files to a TiVo supporting HMO.

# Notify interval, in seconds.

# Path to the MiniSSDPd socket, for MiniSSDPd support.

The parts you need to edit are shown above. Note that mediadir should be the path to the directories usb hard disk containing your media. In the example above, I have got one directory for video files and one for audio files. I have also configured it to serve media on both the ethernet and wireless interfaces.

Now you can test the dnla server. With my Android phone I use MediaHouse . You should be able to connect via your home network if the server is plugged into your router via the ethernet cable. Now see if you can see a new Wireless Access Point called "mediapi" on your Android phone and try connecting to it. You should then be able to browse your media using MediaHouse.

Connecting the UBEC.

Before you try to do this double check to make sure you know what you are doing. If you fry your car electrics, or the Pi don't blame me.

I have cut the power cable between my powered usb hub between the power brick and the hub. I have put a jack socket on one end of the cable and a plug on the other end. Make sure you don't get the polarities mixed up. This allows me to disconnect the wall wart and plug the output from the UBEC into the powered hub input, which is 5v. If I want to use the unit in the house, I just unplug the UBEC and plug the jack plug from the wall wart back in.

Hardware Off Switch.

There is one final problem. How to turn off the Pi in the car, without simply pulling the plug which may well corrupt your USB card. There are several tutorials on the web showing how to use GPIO to turn off your Pi. I based my circuit on this article.

Holding the push button down for more than a second will shutdown the server.

Web Server Off Switch.

As you are probably already using your phone/tablet, you may want to use it to turn off the Pi. This is slightly tricky for a couple of reasons. First most web servers are specifically designed to make it hard to execute commands like turning off your computer. Secondly servers like Apache consume a lot of resources to use for something as simple as just turning off your computer.

Luckily we can use NodeJS, which is lightweight and can be run as the pi user, so can run sudo commands without requiring a password. The app just displays a single page with a Shutdown button, that does what it says on the tin.

You are already connected to the Pi via WiFi, so you just need to browse to http://localhost:8080 . You can change the port by modifying the NodeJS app. By default the NodeJS app may crash if it encounters an error. However, we can use the forever app to make sure NodeJS restarts in case of an error.

First you need to install NodeJS and its package manager npm:

sudo apt-get install nodejs npm

Once NodeJS is installed you will need to install some node packages. Change to the directory where you installed server.js:

npm install node-static

Create the server.js file in the same directory:

var http = require('http');
var nodestatic = require('node-static');
var sys = require('util');
var path = require('path');
var url = require('url');
var exec = require('child_process').exec;
filesys = require("fs");

// Setup static server for current directory
var staticServer = new nodestatic.Server(".");

// Get temperature records from database

// Setup node http server
var server = http.createServer(
    // Our main server function

    function(request, response)
	// Grab the URL requested by the client and parse any query options
	//var url = require('url').parse(request.url, true);
	var pathfile = url.pathname;
	var my_path = url.parse(request.url).pathname;
	var full_path =  path.join(process.cwd(),my_path);
	var query = url.query;
	var shutdown = "/shutdown";

	console.log('my_path: ' + my_path);

	if (my_path == '/shutdown'){
	    console.log('Shutting down server');
	    child = exec("sudo shutdown -h now", function (error, stdout, stderr) {

      // Serve index file.
	if (my_path == '/'){
	    console.log('Requesting index file');
	    path.exists(full_path + 'index.html',function(exists){
		    console.log('Error: index.html not found');
		    response.writeHeader(404, {"Content-Type": "text/plain"});
		    response.write("404 Not Found\n");

		    //response.writeHead(200, { "Content-type": "text/plain" });
		    filesys.readFile(full_path + 'index.html', "binary", function(err, file) {

			if(err) {
			    response.writeHeader(500, {"Content-Type": "text/plain"});
			    response.write(err + "\n");

			    response.write(file, "binary");


      // Handler for favicon.ico requests
	if (pathfile == '/favicon.ico'){
	    response.writeHead(200, {'Content-Type': 'image/x-icon'});

	    // Optionally log favicon requests.
	    //console.log('favicon requested');

	else {
	    // Print requested file to terminal
	    console.log('Request from '+ request.connection.remoteAddress +' for: ' + pathfile);

	    // Serve file using node-static
	    staticServer.serve(request, response, function (err, result) {
		if (err){
		    // Log the error
		    sys.error("Error serving " + request.url + " - " + err.message);

		    // Respond to the client
		    response.writeHead(err.status, err.headers);
		    response.end('Error 404 - file not found');

// Log message
console.log('Server running at http://localhost:8080');

Now create index.html in the same directory as node.js. Note this index.html is very basic, feel free to jazz it up



<p>Hello world!</p>
  <a href="/shutdown" class="danger">Shutdown</a>


To run the server:

nodejs server.js

If you are connected to your local network via ethernet you can open the webpage at http://ip_address_of_your_pi/ . If you are connected via the WiFi dongle on the Pi the url is http://localhost/ .

Final Thoughts.

Streaming videos isn't the only thing I plan to do. By adding a usb 3G dongle I can also use it as a portable WiFi internet hotspot. However, the details are for another post.


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