Playing with Plex


Since I left off on the subject back around Thanksgiving, I’ve actually made a lot of progress in my little Plex project…

I still have my little test server running on an old laptop that’s hardwired to the network.

The server is running CentOS, Plex … and that’s about it. Eventually it’ll also have a CrashPlan install on it, but that tested out fine – no sense in running it now until I’ve got more disk space available for it.

Media-wise I have about 1 TB worth of shows and movies ripped from DVDs and whatnot, split between the laptop’s hard drive and a bigger drive in my old desktop PC that I was able to share out and mount to Linux that Plex seems to read just great.

Total count is about 130 movies and a couple dozen TV shows that I’ve collected to various regards. Considering the two 4 TB drives that I have sitting waiting to be used, I’m expecting to just about fill up 4 TB (with the other for backup) by the time I’m done ripping our entire DVD and Blu-Ray collections.

Thankfully, disks are cheap and I think it’ll take a lot longer to fill the next 4 TB! 😉

The Positives:

  • So far, Plex has been pretty awesome. I absolutely love the interface and how it pulls pretty metadata for everything that it can identify, and at first I thought that naming stuff so that it could ID it would be a pain in the ass, but it really isn’t. The organization with poster and background art is wonderful!
  • Once my brother-in-law was able to help me sort out firewall permissions on the server, we got it streaming to any device on the local network in the house and I’ve been able to watch all sorts of stuff using the Samsung app on my new TV with no additional setup hardware needed.
  • Picture quality looks as good as the original DVDs did, which makes me think I made the right choice by just doing straight MKV dumps rather than re-encoding everything, despite the much larger file sizes.
  • I’m very surprised that both the laptop and the wifi have been able to handle full-size streaming pretty well. I’ve only had one or two hiccups where the video stopped or the audio temporarily cut out, although it’s hard to tell whether Plex is even to blame because I think at least once the remote for the TV had fallen into the couch and itself is very sensitive!
  • Did a very limited test of streaming to multiple devices when we were sorting out the firewall issue and that seemed to be ok, too, so I have little doubt that it’ll run just fine when I move it over to my old quad-core desktop hardware when I’m finally ready to do so…

The Challenges:

  • Finding time!!! Both to move the hardware over as well as just to finish ripping another 200-ish DVDs – right now everything hinges on first moving my old files over to my new laptop, which I’ve been doing slowly, but I’m also hesitant to completely pull the plug until I’m 110% sure that I don’t need anything anymore on Windows.
  • It’s not a big deal, but I still need to sort out port forwarding in my router so that Plex is available outside of my home network. It doesn’t really matter now, but I can see it being a neat bonus when we travel or go on vacation to be able to access all of our movies remotely. Plus I think I’m going to load all of my music as well, which admittedly would get used more remotely than the movies and TV.
  • Speaking of music, that’s going to be a pain in the ass simply because a huge number of my MP3s aren’t tagged properly and I don’t really know how to tackle the issue yet. iTunes hates it, too, and there have been all sorts that I’ve only ever been able to play on my desktop because if they’re not tagged right, iTunes doesn’t load them right and you can’t move them to a mobile device. It’ll be another huge project, so maybe when I’m nearing the end of DVD ripping…
  • One other random thing I’m noticing is that aspect ratio can be a pain for older movies and TV shows, which let’s be honest, a bunch of my collection consists of! Plex seems to preserve 4:3 if that’s what the original video is, although I did find just last night how to make the TV stretch it to 16:9 … I’d just like it to be automatic rather than having to make the tweak each time because so many older TV shows especially weren’t encoded in widescreen.

If anything, I still think that my biggest complain/concern is that I don’t know how I’m going to handle adding new content to the server, meaning that as far as I can tell there’s no good way that I can just buy a movie or TV show from iTunes or Amazon and automatically import that into my Plex library. I’ve already tried doing it manually with iTunes, but the movie has DRM on it … not sure if Amazon is any better.

I have a bad feeling that my best option may still be to buy the physical discs and rip them, which just seems stupid when ultimately what I want is a digital file … plus I don’t know what I’ll even do with the discs afterwards when I’m thinking that just like my old CD collection, my DVDs are going to end up in a tote out in the garage once I’ve ripped and don’t have a need for them anymore. 🙁

Good progress, though! Looking forward to sharing some final numbers once everything is done and cleaned up … I’ve wanted to do this for a long time and the apps just didn’t exist to do what I wanted yet, so progress is good. :mrgreen:

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