Using Plex to make your media-streaming life better

Some of you may recall that our own sweet Colton wrote about his Home Theatre PC (HTPC) adventures, and his sadness over the death of Windows Media Center. His was a lovely article, and I encourage you to read it. However, in 2019, for many of us there is a better way. Instead of having an entire computer hooked up to my TV, I started using Plex, and I’m not going back. Plex is an application available basically everywhere—Windows, Microsoft Store, Android, Tizen, FireTV, iOS, macOS, Xbox, PlayStation, Roku, and probably more ecosystems support it.

When we moved some months ago, we needed to downsize. We essentially wanted to bring only what we could fit onto or in our Subaru Impreza. That meant I needed to have fewer computers, since for some reason my wife insisted on bringing all three of our children. So, I arrived in Calgary without an HTPC. What’s a man to do? Obviously, you sob for a while, but you can only cry for so long, even after such a deep loss. Eventually, you must move onto finding solutions, as Colton detailed in his piece. For me, the solution was Plex. 

Plex works by running server software on your computer, whether it be Windows, Linux, or macOS, and it sends your media through client applications installed on whatever device you’re using, or through a browser, where you can then enjoy it.

My TV is a Samsung UN43MU6300F, which is a Tizen-based 4K smart TV with low-end HDR support. (Read: Cheap enough that I could buy it without my wife killing me.) Decent smart TVs now come with quite a collection of features, including apps like Plex, and if you switch the region on the TV to the USA (no easy feat), there’s even a built-in official Steam Link app. Here was my solution! Not only could I store my video library far away and still access it, I could also stream games to my TV. My tears of sorrow became streaming tears of joy.

If you lack a smart TV, you can get a dongle to make your TV pretend it’s smart. They’re available from many different companies, such as Amazon and Roku, essentially all of which have support for Plex.

 

Get started with Plex

To get started with Plex, you need a PC to use as a media server. I use my kids’ computer for media storage. They use it mostly for word processing, so the machine’s resources are generally freed up. It has an Intel Core i3-6100, 8GB of DDR4 RAM, and roughly 12TB of storage. 

The first thing you need to do is install the Plex media server software on whatever PC you’re going to use. Pointing it to and managing the different media libraries was simple. Once I signed into Plex on both my TV and my PC, voilà, all my video and music appeared, nicely organized. Plex also collects metadata and presents it attractively, with writeups, actor details, and more, not unlike how Netflix displays the same info. If there’s something that Plex isn’t automatically finding and organizing, you can manually match it to their database.

I did learn that you need to make sure your shows are using one of few different naming styles, such as including S01E01, etc. in the file name to make sure that they’re picked up correctly as individual ordered episodes. Also, having a folder for movies and a folder for shows is necessary for Plex to accurately collect and categorize your media. Well done, Plex, you’ve taken a collection of files and made them simple and easy enough for even my family to navigate and play!

Not only does Plex handle local playback of media, it also allows for legal remote streaming and downloading, and it includes a library-sharing feature. You can send out an email invitation to allow friends and family remote access to your collection, and you can decide which libraries and collections each of them can see. This is huge, because this way, family members aren’t wasting time and energy collecting the same media files. Are you and your sibling both enormous soap opera fans (you know who you are)? Now only one of you needs to set that up, and then you can both stream your stories to your houses and watch together, at a time that’s convenient for both you. 

Just make sure you have unlimited data caps if you’re going to be sending and receiving many hours of video. I know some ISPs still think it’s 2001 and have implemented bizarrely low data caps, especially in the U.S.. Also, consider that for remote streaming, you need to have sufficient upload speeds to handle whatever quality video you’re trying to watch.

 

Plex Pass and transcoding

It’s not all magical sparkles, though. If you’re the sort who likes to DVR things, as our wonderful Colton is, Plex wants you to pony up for a “Plex Pass” subscription. You can pay monthly ($4.99) or yearly ($39.99), or snag a lifetime pass for $119.99. The pass is required if you want to watch and record broadcast TV directly within the Plex app. You can always continue doing it separately, and if you name your shows correctly, Plex will add them to your collection. Given that Colton is paying $35 a year for an annual subscription fee for his tuning software, this Plex price doesn’t seem too unreasonable, especially given the lifetime subscription option. 

The Plex Pass also gets you a discount on a Tidal music streaming subscription, a dashboard to see server activity (though configuring the free and open source add-on Tautulli does this for you), and the ability to download media to mobile devices. You’ll also need to have hardware-accelerated transcoding operational. Hardware acceleration is really the feature that is most attractive; without it, your Intel Quick Sync transcoder or discrete GPU sits idle while your CPU tries to do it all in software.

One thing to keep in mind is that when you’re using subtitles, you’re almost always going to be transcoding. That’s how they’re overlaid on the video, and how they’re subsequently sent to the client software. If subtitled video is your thing, make sure you’ve got a setup to handle it. On its website, Plex suggests that you need the following CPU grunt to software-transcode these formats:

  • 4K HDR (50Mbps, 10-bit HEVC) file: 17000 PassMark score (being transcoded to 10Mbps 1080p)
  • 4K SDR (40Mbps, 8-bit HEVC) file: 12000 PassMark score (being transcoded to 10Mbps 1080p)
  • 1080p (10Mbps, H.264) file: 2000 PassMark score
  • 720p (4Mbps, H.264) file: 1500 PassMark score

Hardware transcoding can drastically speed up this process, depending on what formats your hardware supports. I paid for a lifetime Plex Pass, so I do use Quick Sync on my machine. So far, it’s handled everything I’ve personally thrown at it, including a little 8-Bit HEVC stuff that’s hardware-supported on Skylake and most Intel CPUs that have come after it (though some Xeon and lower-end chips lack Quick Sync hardware).

Given that you can use the bulk of Plex’s features for free, I can’t really complain. Unless your server owner has Plex Pass, you’re required to pay a one-time $5 fee to stream media on mobile devices. (This includes the Microsoft Store version of the Plex app, but not the superior Win32 version, so just download that on your PC. If you’re running Windows S, you get to pony up five hard earned dollars since additional Win32 apps aren’t a thing on those devices). Essentially, you can likely have Plex do what you want for free, or you can dust off that credit card for a Plex Pass, both of which are a heck of a lot cheaper than building a new computer.

 

Not perfect, but worth it

Although Plex is among the most popular, it isn’t the only media streaming game in town. As more people have gone this route and created a larger addressable market, others are muscling in. Probably the largest competition comes from Emby. Originally an open source project (whether it’s still open source is apparently somewhat complicated), Emby is functionally similar to Plex. However, when I was setting up my shared collection, I discovered that Emby lacked an app for Tizen. That’s apparently now been rectified, but my people are trained on Plex, and retraining them would be more painful than Emby could possibly be worth. I also find that Plex has better media organization and that the apps both look nicer and function better. 

But if, unlike me, you’re not set up with a particular ecosystem yet, Emby is worth checking out to compare with Plex so you can see what suits you best. I hear it also integrates better with Kodi, although I haven’t used Kodi in years, so I can’t confirm firsthand.

Thanks to Plex, I was able to put on Paw Patrol for my three-year-old during a marathon drive we took last month from Calgary to Los Angeles to Las Vegas and back home again. (Some of you Canadians are saying “just watch it on Netflix,” but in the U.S., Paw Patrol isn’t on Netflix, which raises the question as to why Netflix even exists there if it doesn’t have Paw Patrol?!) This marvelous media setup has also been a boon to my father, who lives on the east coast. His health is poor, and being able to login to my server and have a single and familiar place to veg out has made his life easier.

Plex isn’t perfect, and it required a bit of work, but in the end I managed to get everything doing exactly what I want. All my media, music, shows, and movies are available not just in my house, but remotely and shared with my family, for quite a reasonable price. Plex has drastically improved my family’s media experience, and for that I highly recommend giving it a look to see if it’ll help yours, too.

Josh Pozzolo

I WRITE ON THE TECH REPORT ABOUT ALL THE IMPORTANT STUFF YOU WANNA READ

Comments closed
    • slate0
    • 4 months ago

    My experience with Plex customer support is that they really want everyone to work in a certain way, and they don’t want to even give the option for users to use Plex in a different way.

    This means reorganizing your stuff FOR Plex, instead of Plex adapting to you. There was a bug once, and the Plex support forum actively removed posts about a workaround, because they felt the workaround was worse than waiting for a patch. When I argued with them, they came across as a rather non-user-service oriented company.

    If Plex identifies a movie wrong, try listing your movies by filename. Let me know how that goes (hint: you can’t, on purpose).

    • davidbowser
    • 5 months ago

    My current slightly absurd Plex setup:

    Windows gaming system for manual ripping of 4k and BD that we buy/keep. AnyDVD, MakeMKV, Handbrake, etc.
    Linux Plex server (recycled dual Xeon HP workstation) with local storage
    2x SiliconDust HDHomerun with CableCard (Comcast)
    Mac Mini with attached Drobo running NFS server (synced iTunes and Google Play Music repository)
    Clients are AppleTV, Roku, Android and iOS devices

    The Linux box is the core server through which everything flows. It is beefy enough to transcode on the fly if someone wanted to watch a 4k h265 movie, but the end-to-end network connection could only support 720p. HDHomerun enable LiveTV and DVR.

    The Mac was done because I needed a way to consolidate music, but have a good way to purchase OR rip, and so I settled on a shared local library of iTunes (and Google Play Music) that I can also share via Plex. I serve it up to the Linux box as an NFS mountpoint.

    It is working, but still a franken-solution. I don’t like the Plex mobile client sync (errors with no error message), and (as others mentions in the comments) I don’t like the options for family/kids sharing. Logging in as another user is cumbersome and doling out who gets what content is manual and thus a constant battle.

    • derFunkenstein
    • 5 months ago

    I just can’t figure out a way in which this isn’t a ton of work to set up. Specifically, ripping all my DVDs and Blu-Rays. This looks super cool and all, but who’s got time to rip hundreds or a thousand discs?

      • deruberhanyok
      • 5 months ago

      The thing is, if you’re ripping a device with resilient storage (like a NAS with a multi-drive RAID), you only need to rip once.

      I’ve been doing a few discs a day, whenever I sit down at the PC to do some work. It takes a while but once it is done, I don’t need to do it again.

      (And if you have enough space, do straight rips without transcoding, so you don’t need to do it again later with a different codec).

        • derFunkenstein
        • 5 months ago

        Yeah, that’s kind of my point. Doing a few a day would take months. Maybe a year. Sure, I just rip it once but that once is an eternity in and of itself.

        Not to mention I don’t already own a NAS setup, so that’s like $600 right there. Just to avoid swapping discs or going upstairs to pick up something off the shelf. I get that people love it and find it handy but it’s just not for me.

          • cygnus1
          • 5 months ago

          If you have physical disks, retrieving a ripped copy in the format of your choice from the internet is indistinguishable legally from ripping and transcoding it yourself.

            • derFunkenstein
            • 5 months ago

            I quit torrenting stuff a while back because I just don’t want to get reported to my ISP. It’s happened before, though it’s been years.

            Edit: I do agree with your assessment though.

            • cygnus1
            • 5 months ago

            Ahh, but when’s the last time you used newsgroups?? Combined with tools like sabnzbd, Sonarr, and radarr, newsgroups today are pretty amazing as a self built movie/tv service.

            Edit: Also, unless your ISP manages a man in the middle attack on you and your newsgroup provider, they can’t see what you download so no being reported. And since it’s a download only situation, you’re not even making a partial copy available to a 3rd party like with torrenting, the only breaking of copyright law is done by the newsgroup provider.

    • Chz
    • 5 months ago

    “One thing to keep in mind is that when you’re using subtitles, you’re almost always going to be transcoding. That’s how they’re overlaid on the video, and how they’re subsequently sent to the client software.”

    If true, that’s rubbish. I’ve been using Serviio for years (due to low overhead and my underpowered ARM-powered NAS) and it has to option to bake in the subs via transcoding, *or* to just toss some text on the screen from a subtitle file (or layer in an MKV). Transcoding looks nicer, to be sure. But it really shouldn’t be necessary in the case of lower-powered systems. I find most televisions support enough codecs that I don’t normally need to ever transcode.

    Yes, my NAS is 7-some-odd years old (QNAP TS-219P+). But it works.

      • davidbowser
      • 5 months ago

      I don’t think his statement about subs is accurate. There are ways to embed subtitles in different file formats like mkv, that work natively on several platforms.

        • sweatshopking
        • 5 months ago

        it is [i<] technically [/i<] possible to have them work without transcoding on multiple platforms, but they require some changes and specific file formats. for MOST situations, you'll be transcoding.

      • Stiqy
      • 5 months ago

      Plex doesn’t transcode for subs, although I think you can force it to. It by default just overlays the sub file according to the time stamp. It will even go fetch the subs automatically if they are missing.

    • SuperSpy
    • 5 months ago

    [quote<]I did learn that you need to make sure your shows are using one of few different naming styles, such as including S01E01, etc. in the file name to make sure that they're picked up correctly as individual ordered episodes.[/quote<] The best way to get the matching right is to look up the series on [url<]http://www.thetvdb.com[/url<] There you can get the proper series naming and season/episode numbering. Plus it will show you specials which normally have a different numbering style (typically S00Exx). This is one of the sources Plex uses for it's metadata lookups so if you match to that it will help immensely.

      • Waco
      • 5 months ago

      Filebot will do the lookups from tvmaze, tvdb, imdb, and a bunch of other scrapers and rename files for you. Once I started doing this Plex had a MUCH easier time getting everything in sync.

        • deruberhanyok
        • 5 months ago

        This needs more visibility. One of the biggest hang-ups I had to getting my plex library set was going and making sure things were named properly. I’m still having to manually rename files to some simple conventions (s1e01, for instance) after I rip, but this makes it much easier to clean up the whole structure when I’m done.

          • DancinJack
          • 5 months ago

          you can add the “S01E01” stuff with filebot. Just change the scheme.

        • davidbowser
        • 5 months ago

        thumbs for filebot.

    • Wrakkenruan
    • 5 months ago

    Does this handle “record once” type media over cable? If not, I’m still stuck with my HTPC and Win7 Media Center for now (and HD Homerun Prime and cable card).

      • davidbowser
      • 5 months ago

      It does. I have HDHomerun (Comcast cablecard service) hooked up to Plex without major issues.

    • ember1205
    • 5 months ago

    I, too, started using Plex a couple of years ago. At the time, it was ahead of most everything out there and the lifetime pass was a great option that brought a lot of benefits for me.

    Since about the middle of 2018 (maybe a little before that), Plex has gone to complete garbage. This seems to coincide with an investment they took for the product and they are now completely beholden to the investors and have forgotten about the community that got them to where they were. The AndroidTV app has all kinds of issues staying connected to the local server, it restarts if you delete a TV episode and then try to watch another show, and it constantly complains about slow connectivity to the server. The mobile device apps have had the option to force only local content removed and it has been replaced with a “prefer local content” option. Now, you have no idea if you’re playing something from a local file or streaming it unless you put the device into airplane mode and shut off WiFi.

    Posts to the Plex forums go unanswered and the mods/admins have basically turned into ghosts unless you’re blowing sunshine up their collective butt. What I once saw as a product with a good roadmap is now something I view as a complete write-off of the money I spent. I’m moving to Emby and I would encourage EVERYONE else to do the same.

      • Walkintarget
      • 5 months ago

      Never tried Plex, but I’ve been using (and happy) with Emby for 2 years running. I held out for as long as I could on WMC, but the writing was on the wall years ago on its eventual demise. I was hoping Emby would support my VOB folders structure left over from WMC, but it is listed as an unsupported feature which doesn’t work very well as it stands. If I get bored, I could convert all movies to MKV, but I just don’t want to devote all that space to my already large library.

      • Stiqy
      • 5 months ago

      I’ve been using Plex for years. None of the problems you describe. I use the app on Roku, fire TV, Fire Tablet (which is android), iPhone, and over the web. Never any problems. Been running trouble free on a very low power fanless HTPC for literally 3 years, seeing daily use.

    • Laykun
    • 5 months ago

    Plex is nice, and I use it at home but there’s a few gotchas if you’re hosting your server on linux that they seem stubborn about fixing. I think my biggest gripe is lack of support for end-to-end hardware transcoding on Linux using nvidia GPUs. The transcoding process is the sequence of loading media, decoding the media then re-encoding it on the fly for clients that are remote and need a leaner version of the content or clients that don’t have the ability to handle the original format (1st gen apple tvs, etc). The problem here is Plex WILL NOT use hardware decoding on anything it transcodes, meaning your power usage goes through the roof and your server’s CPU gets bogged down while it buffers up a whole bunch of frames ahead of where your clients play head is. If you run a windows server (but why would you?) this is not a problem, but it really shouldn’t be a problem in the first place.

    Plex uses FFMPEG, which comes with nvdec and nvenc built in, so Plex doesn’t even need to go far to use those capabilities, it just needs to explicitly use FFMPEG in a way that would better utilize this hardware. The feedback from devs on the plex forum leaves a lot to be desired though.

    I’m torn, because Plex is otherwise very good, but Emby on the otherhand has this functionality built in and working well.

      • Deadsalt
      • 5 months ago

      [quote<]The problem here is Plex WILL NOT use hardware decoding on anything it transcodes, meaning your power usage goes through the roof and your server's CPU gets bogged down while it buffers up a whole bunch of frames ahead of where your clients play head is.[/quote<] So maybe I am confused but why would you want decoding if it is transcoding the video for a client? If the server encodes the file to a new format wouldn't it then just send the new format over to the client who would then handle the decoding? Also I fully agree that Plex on Linux needs better hardware transcoding support. Besides Intel QuickSync, you either have Nvidia which isn't fully supported like you said and nothing at all for AMD.

        • jihadjoe
        • 5 months ago

        The server first needs to decode the video before it can encode to whatever format the client supports.

    • deruberhanyok
    • 5 months ago

    I like plex. Been using it for a couple years now, streaming off of a Synology 415 play. Blu-ray and DVD rips.

    Recently I’ve found that there’s no built-in simple method for setting up a “for kids” menu like Netflix has, though, which is a bit irksome. As the kids get a little older I’d like them to be able to pick their cartoons from Plex and not accidentally jam more DVDs in the Xbox, but I’d prefer to give them the flexibility to do it themselves and not require constant supervision so they’re not accidentally clicking on [i<]Alien[/i<] or something. From what I've read people are doing this by creating multiple plex accounts and assigning permissions to them based on ratings or by building specific libraries just for their kids. But I figure since Plex already provides a media catalog with ratings in it, it would be a great feature to enable that any connected client app would present you with a "plex" and a "for kids" option prior to loading libraries.

      • Usacomp2k3
      • 5 months ago

      If they did that, I’d much, much rather it be a whitelist than based on ratings.

        • deruberhanyok
        • 5 months ago

        Sure, that would work too!

        However they implemented it, or whatever options they made available, I just think it would be nice to have some kind of simple client-based way to specify whether it should present a “for kids” menu or the full list.

        • Glorious
        • 5 months ago

        if you make specific plex libraries for kid movies and kid TV shows (and corresponding segregated directories—that is, you cannot intermingle the kid stuff with the non-kid stuff in the same directory structure) and then make a “kids” account that only has access to those libraries with your original account having a pin, the experience is extremely close to Netflix’s.

          • drwho
          • 5 months ago

          isnt a lifetime subscription a scam? or evidence of a failing company? imagine if you will, that every subscriber to plex gets a LT sub. Then for that year the directors have trebles all round, BUT from then on they have very little income but the same ongoing costs.And the future years the same. The only lifetime sub I got was red fox?? Blu ray ripping software…I’m still here …the LT sub finsihed ….LOL ?
          But to plex … yes It works well as long as the host server has enough power. Something like a WD mycloud, is simply too puny… app never even loaded properly/at all.
          PC plus smart TV app works well …
          AL-tho my naming (films Tv shows) is still haphazard …

          • Waco
          • 5 months ago

          This is what I did. Segregate by content, then bin the accounts based on what they can access.

            • deruberhanyok
            • 5 months ago

            Yep, this is the best solution I’ve found online for it. But if you’ve already got your content organized you’ve got to reorganize it into new libraries. That’s not really too big of a deal – a little cut and paste, and then wait for Plex to crawl through everything again – but it would be nice to have a built-in generic “kids” account and some kind of automatic filter rules that could be applied to it.

            • Waco
            • 5 months ago

            Agreed! I know it’s fairly high up on their internal priority list to have a “kids” type account.

            • Stiqy
            • 5 months ago

            Plex supports sharing with tags. So you can make a “kids” account and then use the tag feature under sharing to tag whatever you want the kids account to see. No need to seperate your libraries. For instance, I have a “family” tag that I add to any movies that are okay for my son to see, and he then can see them when he logs on. He is browsing the same library, but can only see items tagged with his tag.

      • keltorak
      • 5 months ago

      You can have a “for kids” version, at least as far as filtering content goes. Put a pin on your main user and create sub-users that are limited by ratings or labels. See [url<]https://support.plex.tv/articles/204232573-restricting-the-shares/[/url<] In our case, most ratings were grabbed by the scrappers without issues, though we did change a few manually to give or remove access to specific content.

    • cmrcmk
    • 5 months ago

    [quote<]If you lack a smart TV, you can get a dongle to make your TV pretend it's smart.[/quote<] If you lack a smart TV, let us know what you found! A lot of us would like a dumb TV with a purpose-built streaming box just like we want a dumb monitor with a purpose-built PC.

      • Usacomp2k3
      • 5 months ago

      I use a projector.

    • jihadjoe
    • 5 months ago

    I like Plex but I can’t bring myself to pay for it, mostly because they decided to monetize what was once a completely free and open source project.

    I starting using XBMC way back on the original Xbox and it was pretty great, Kodi too.

      • Usacomp2k3
      • 5 months ago

      You can use quite a bit of it for free. It’s basically the live TV/DVR side that you get with a paid copy.

    • bwcbiz
    • 5 months ago

    Am I the only one who came in thinking this would be about purchasing streaming services by trading EVE online currency?

    Oh well. Never to old (lol’d) to learn.

    • Kinski
    • 5 months ago

    FreeNAS + Plex jail.

    Never looked back.

      • DragonDaddyBear
      • 5 months ago

      One huge down side to this is the lack of easy support for hardware transcoding. I’m thinking of ZoL (ZFS on Linux, which is a political mess at the moment) + Plex on Ubuntu just because of that reason. Buuuuuut, I’d need more drive bays available and time to do it.

    • TorontoCarl
    • 5 months ago

    With Plex, the server computer needs to be on in order to access the media. I often found that to be an inconvenience, especially if I’m not home.

      • DancinJack
      • 5 months ago

      I guess I don’t get it. Not sure what the knock is here?

      If you want a cloud service, use Netflix/Hulu/Prime/whatever. If you want your own media to be accessible, chances are the device you’re streaming from is gonna have to be on?

      • cygnus1
      • 5 months ago

      As Jack also said, yeah, you need an always on machine or a way to remotely power it up. If you can’t handle the idea of running a system like that then you should probably plan on only using cloud services. You could always look into cloud hosting a plex instance, but that would definitely be expensive once you attach cloud storage for a large library.

      I have my home plex system sitting with zwave power strip that lets me power cycle what I need to remotely, which could be enough if you’re happy with just having the system set in the bios to come on when power cycles.

      But I also built my “server” with a supermicro motherboard and Xeon CPU that I got in a cpu/mb/ram combo off eBay for only a couple hundred dollars. The supermicro board has remote access (IPMI) that gives me remote ability to hit the actual power button or reset or whatever I need to do remotely. It’s generally on 24/7 but I do shut it down when I travel and sometimes turn it back on remotely if I’m somewhere I have the local internet bandwidth to actually stream from it.

        • JustAnEngineer
        • 5 months ago

        I set up Plex on a Synology DS418play. It sips power when working. It’s also set to wake on LAN access if it happens to go into idle standby. Of course, a lightweight device like that doesn’t handle tons of transcoding very quickly. At the moment, what little transcoding I’m doing is happening on the desktop PC, with the output saved to the NAS for Plex to share to all of the devices in the house.

      • K-L-Waster
      • 5 months ago

      And with streaming services the Internet connection needs to be up. What’s your point?

        • stdRaichu
        • 5 months ago

        For the internet connection to be up, server to be on and TV to function, you need pay for power.
        For power you need to buy a power station and pay for a cable to be run.
        You also need to pay for a building to run the power in to, and also pay an electrician to make a safe way of connecting to that power.
        Inside the building you’ll also need a surface of some kind to place the TV on, and likely somewhere to lie or sit whilst I watch it. More needless expense!
        And if I’m not going to starve to death inside this building, I’m also going to need to buy food, pay for things to keep the food in, [i<]and[/i<] pay for ways in which my various excreta can be taken away from my building so I don't end up dying from cholera. Are we done yet? NO! If I want to watch the media with people, I'm going to need to hire a bunch of $5000-a-night prostitutes and they're also all going to need things to sit on, food to eat, sewerage services. It. NEVER. Stops. And this only covers expenses [i<]inside the home[/i<]. If I want to watch this stuff anywhere else on the planet, I need to repeat the above at every point on Earth. Thanks Plex, now I'm trillions of dollars in debt and in jail on four million counts of soliciting prostitution.

          • derFunkenstein
          • 5 months ago

          That’s just way too much work. I’ll use Netflix.

    • albundy
    • 6 months ago

    “Instead of having an entire computer hooked up to my TV”

    vs. part of a computer hooked up? lol

    i hooked up my pc to my first LCD tv a decade and a half ago and have never looked back to tiny monitors and haven’t been a desk sitter in a long time. 2 tv’s later, i’ve got freesync, hdr, 120hz 1080p gaming, and 4k for movies. plex was never an option.

      • derFunkenstein
      • 5 months ago

      vs having a Roku built into my TV. It’d be worthwhile if I had time, I guess.

      • deruberhanyok
      • 5 months ago

      /shrug

      The Plex app is built in to Vizio smart TVs and probably other brands, and on any Android TV you can just install it from the Google store.

      If you’re just streaming media, there’s no need for an HTPC these days. Plex, Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, Pandora, Spotify and so on run just fine on a modern set. And if you don’t have a recent TV that can run these apps, but you wanted to (for instance) play a 4k blu ray, any recent 4k blu ray player will also run those apps (Sony’s UBP-X700 for instance).

      So, sure, if you are playing PC games on your TV you obviously need a PC connected (or a Steam box thing) but if not, why even bother?

    • Waco
    • 6 months ago

    Plex is my favorite media manager of all time. I’ve been ripping my DVDs / Blurays for a very long time and manually sorting/playing content/finding subtitles – with Plex it all just works with a nice interface, decent search, and excellent metadata scraping (there are plugins to improve it as well).

    Plex also makes that all work anywhere in the world. I run mine in a jail on FreeNAS and it’s absolutely wonderful in almost every way.

    I even set up a few libraries for my IP cameras in my security system to dump to – then I can check up on my home from anywhere as well. I like it so much I didn’t hesitate to pick up a lifetime pass when they were on sale for $100.

    • drfish
    • 6 months ago

    I’m blushing. Thanks for the kind words, Josh. Sweet setup you’ve got there.

    • Deadsalt
    • 6 months ago

    Plex is pretty great. Switched from Kodi to Plex a few years back. The convenience of only having to go to my Roku to see all my media services was awesome.

    There have only been two annoyances; one the number of scrapers for media content and the Smart TV apps. I have a rather large collection of older Japanese anime for which IMDB and TVDB have either no or very sparse information on. There are a few plugins that rectify this but with the news of plugins going away and being redone I’m not sure I want to go through the work of doing the fix.

    The other is that Smart TV apps, especially LG’s webOS, apparently have problems glaore.

      • DragonDaddyBear
      • 6 months ago

      I was on Kodi with HD HoneRun until we got a Roku TV. Apparently Roku doesn’t license MPEG2 and, even if your tuner transcodes, they won’t make an app. We just wanted the TV and sound bar for a clean set up. So Plex to the rescue!

      I will say I’m nervous about using their world-facing service. You do need to open a port or use UPnP, which I refuse to do. Do I use my very overkill server to do a VPN. Works well enough for me.

        • cygnus1
        • 5 months ago

        I haven’t had issues with the exposed port. It occasionally gets hit with scans, but I put it on a non default port and have scanned it myself with multiple tools. Even if it were hacked, it only has access to media files, so I wouldn’t worry too much. I’m sure there are people that host exposed plex servers on shared systems that could access a lot if compromised, but that’s a risk some are willing to take.

        I also have Tautulli setup and it notifies me when there are plex updates, so I don’t let it go more than a day or two out of date. Mainly only waiting those couple days to see if there are any bad bugs in an update.

      • Philldoe
      • 6 months ago

      I’ve not run into any issues with my LG TV and Plex FWIW.

        • Deadsalt
        • 6 months ago

        I was basing it on the forum threads for the LG TV app and the experience of a friend who I share with who has a C8 OLED. Of course it turns out it was a port issue between my VPN and Plex and not with the TV app so that puts me at having only one annoyance.

        • Waco
        • 5 months ago

        Ditto. My LG (can’t remember the model…maybe C something?) hasn’t had any trouble with the built-in Plex app.

      • faugusztin
      • 6 months ago

      If you got your NFO files with XBMC metadata for them, XBMCnfoTVImporter.bundle and XBMCnfoMoviesImporter.bundle are your friends. Then Plex will use your XBMC .nfo files and pictures.

    • chuckula
    • 6 months ago

    THANKS FOR THE STREAMING ARTICLE!

    HAVE YOU TRIED SOME LINUX PLEX SERVER ACTION THERE SSK?

    OH AND I NOTICED KIDS IN THE HALL. CAN PLEX ALSO PLAY SCTV, TRAILER PARK BOYS, AND … DA VINCI’S INQUEST??

      • sweatshopking
      • 6 months ago

      I haven’t messed around with Plex on Linux too much. I did install it on an ubuntu 18.10 machine, but then i couldn’t get Samba working properly with Windows 10, had about 25 minutes of patience, then just put one of my many windows keys on the machine instead.
      Linux has better transcoding support than MacOS, but it’s not as supported as Windows. I’ve generally heard good things about plex on Linux, otherwise.

        • Redocbew
        • 6 months ago

        Samba can be quite particular at times. I’m sure it’s gotten better since the last time I tried it, but I probably wouldn’t have had much patience for that either. Sitting down in front of the TV is exactly when I don’t want to think about these things.

        There’s that, and if I was setting up a Plex box now I’d probably still use Ubuntu 16.04. The latest LTS still has a few rough edges which I don’t think I’d want in a machine that should “just work”.

    • Usacomp2k3
    • 6 months ago

    I enjoy Plex as well. I have the data stored on my NAS, but the server sits in my wife’s desktop. It works great that way streaming to either the AppleTV or the Xbone.

    The only thing I wish is that it could manage multiple libraries more easily. For example having the kids movies and TV shows in one place separate from the adults stuff. I think you can make a playlist so maybe that is the solution.

    It’s still not as nice as WMC.

      • emorgoch
      • 6 months ago

      I’ve got no problems making separate libraries. You’ll first have to separate them from each other though. So something like /Movies/Adults & /Movies/Kids. Then create 2 different Movie libraries in Plex mapped to each of the folders. Ditto for TV shows. Then create separate accounts for the adults vs. the kids, and provide appropriate access.

      Haven’t tried it, but the other option is to only have a single library, but use the Ratings control to restrict access.
      [url<]https://support.plex.tv/articles/204232573-restricting-the-shares/[/url<]

        • Waco
        • 6 months ago

        I trust the multi-library approach more than ratings. Anything that doesn’t pull ratings properly will appear in both by default I believe.

        • Usacomp2k3
        • 6 months ago

        I’ll have to give that a shot. I haven’t played with it too much, but Plex should figure it out.

          • Stiqy
          • 5 months ago

          Can also use the sharing tags. Create a user that has access to all libraries but only to items with a specific tag. Then just manually flag anything you want the kids to see with “family” or some other tag and that is all they will see. You can have as much granularity as you want. “toddler” “child” “teen” “adult” whatever flags you wanna use, just enable them for certain users.

      • Glorious
      • 5 months ago

      You can just make a new movies and a new TV group for only the kid stuff. I have done this myself and it works fine.

      Edit sorry I did this on the phone and didn’t see how someone already suggested this

      • drewid79
      • 5 months ago

      Plex is by far the best media center software available, you just need to take the time to learn it’s features. To do what you want to separate kid’s stuff, or any category of video you just need to create multiple libraries.

      [url<]https://support.plex.tv/articles/200288926-creating-libraries/[/url<] Name the libraries "kids TV/movies" and then create a new profile for your kids and only share those libraries with that user profile. This support article lays it all out with a great example for setting up access for different family members. + It's written in the context ofThe Simpson's family so that's fun. [url<]https://support.plex.tv/articles/204234313-example-plex-home-setup/[/url<]

    • GasBandit
    • 6 months ago

    My seedbox came with the option to also install plex. I did, and it’s been a real game changer. Not just for my own home, but wherever I go (there’s a smartphone app, and it supports chromecast). The transcoding works really well. I only wish the automatic name parsing was a little less freaky-outy, but it’s manually correctable so it isn’t the end of the world.

      • emorgoch
      • 6 months ago

      Double-check the meta-data on your media files that you’re having naming issues with. I find that Plex prefers to compare against the Title metadata first, rather then the file name, if it’s set. I’ve had a few movies where that’s happened. Use VLC to remove the metadata from the file do a re-scan in Plex, and they’d come back happy.

        • Waco
        • 6 months ago

        Filebot (if you can find an old version that is free) works wonders for badly formatted filenames.

          • DancinJack
          • 6 months ago

          Yes, Filebot is amazing for the actual filenames, but metadata (especially with Plex) can be a little troublesome at times.

          I’ve found the solution, or at least partial solution, is to reconfigure your Plex “Agents” for each library to a combination that works best for your media. Putting, for instance, tvDB or Plex Movies ABOVE “local files” or whatever it’s called will work wonders for some particular files.

          It’s an odd problem honestly, Plex is so great at a lot of things, but every once in a while falters on metadata stuff that seems easy. I will say though, I was a very early Plex user and still am because it’s such a great service. I can’t rec’d it enough to people.

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