Plex

So… Finally got around to trying out Plex Media Server. First impressions, it’s pretty cool and probably the most complete media server I’ve experimented with so far. I had been using a simple DLNA server (minidlna) on Linux to make files available to devices on the home network but after a recent upgrade on the tablet I noticed that AllShare no longer could play files due to a generic error “Unsupported file format” the app returned. I know previously AllShare worked but on the ICS build it would report the file format of */* and no file size. The AllShare app on my phone worked for the most part (it’s also a bit buggy but at least works after a couple of tries). Regardless I have always thought I needed to find an alternative to AllShare since I don’t like to depend upon manufacture specific apps on mobile devices.

So while looking for alternatives I recall seeing something about Plex Media Server being available for Linux (more specifically Ubuntu) and starting looking for a possible version that would work on Debian. I found at http://forums.plexapp.com/index.php/topic/32852-plex-media-server-debian-repository/ and was able to get 0.9.6.7 installed and running. Surprisingly adding my media locations to the web based console was easy and it’s pretty cool how it pulls all the meta data in from the internet. I’d say nearly 90% of the files were identified correctly. A few I just need to rename in a specific way to help the scanner and finally a few I just used the web UI and selected the correct information.

One huge advantage of using Plex is that we can stream media to the iPad regardless of the source file format since transcoding automagically takes place. The price of the app is surely worth the $5 as it looks wonderful and is by far the best media app I’ve seen as far as usability and  experience.

The only negative I see at the time is dealing with the Plex Media Server files on the Linux side due to many paths / files having spaces within the name. Not really a big deal since I hope not to spend much time on the backend other than the occasional apt-get update. In hind-sight it probably would have been better to throw this on a VM rather than the bare metal hardware but we’ll take care of that after Wheezy is released and I rebuild things in a more streamline fashion. Corrected (2012-08-25). Plex is now running in a standalone DomU. For anyone interested the migration was as easy as copying the contents of /var/lib/plexmediaserver to the new server.