How To Get Your Media Served

The History Of MediaCD Media To Data

From records to tapes, tapes to CD, CD to DVD & DVD to Blu-ray. These are physical forms of media storage that have been allowing consumers to get their hands on the best version (at the time) of their media desires. However in the background of this another type of media form has started. Since the late 90’s people around the world has started sending media to one another. This has opened up a world of opportunity for both the consumer and the media industries. I don’t think it is all good (I don’t condone illegally downloading materials) however it has made the TV/Film industry play catch up and push for same day releases for content. It has also reduced the time for movies to go from the cinema to DVD/Blu-ray. It also means that people can start to demand the higher quality of the media they purchase (otherwise why not just get the MP3).

I’m not too interested in physical media. There is a very large transition going on at the moment to live and offline streaming. TV’s now want an internet connection and as we push towards a more connective world we seem have a consumer push for both ease and demand. We want it now, we want it to be of quality production and we (are starting) to want it to be interactive.

We have seen the Kazaa and Napsters come and go. They have been attacked by industries that are trying to maintain their control over an archaic business model. Obviously these types of media sharing methods are gone. However to replace them we have iTunes, Pandora and Youtube. These solutions are all delivering on the premise that it is easy and on demand. The next generation will expect nothing less.

There is also the underbelly that still exists with millions of people transferring media content through newsgroups and bit torrent. These systems make it easy to transfer and serve your own selection of media to yourself and others.

We are going to look at what has helped this along, where we are at the moment and where we are going to.

Home Media Solutions

XBMCXBMC

I would call XBMC the first true media centre. It was started in 2003 and (once) stood for Xbox Media Centre. It’s now something so much bigger and was so ahead of its time that Microsoft used it for the basis of Windows Media Centre. As the name suggests it was first developed for Microsoft’s Xbox. It required the Xbox to be modded (hacked) as well so it was definitely something that was for only the technically minded.

Due to XBMC’s success the developers then went a produced it for Windows/Linux and OSX. They have also extended the compatibility for many different formats and decoders. However the problem with this is that it is still just a client, meaning that it doesn’t help you store your media. Moving to the server-client model…

PMSPS3 Media Server

PS3 Media Server (PMS) was once again created primarily for a console to play media. It is a server software package that runs on Windows/Linux/OSX. It works by creating a Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA) Server. This is then automatically published to the local network and devices discover it. When the client goes to play some of the media it negotiates with the server and then plays either with the client or the server decoding it.

When it first came out it was extremely buggy and only certain file formats would work. Over time it became much more reliable, added thumbnails and other little things that made it a little more functional.

In 2011 it became unsupported and although it was good other solutions were starting to take the limelight. Welcome to Plex…

PlexPlex

Plex is the full solution to media. There is a client, a server and it available on PC, MAC, iOS and Android. It supports almost any media format out of the box and now even TVs are coming out with it. Just like PMS it also supports DNLA extending its compatibility even further.

Plex is built on the open source foundations of XBMC. It is extremely evident when you see the client layout. It looks and feels like XBMC. The obvious difference is that it is now a server-client solution. When you deploy a Plex Media Server you open a world of possibilities and the support is extremely good as they extend the product with updates and new features every month. The newest feature is a web client that utilises flash to run media. This means that almost any device since 2000 can run media (decoding is done on the server).

So since Plex is the latest and greatest in home media solutions how do you get it working?

Getting it all working

Install the Plex Media Server

Download the Plex Media Server from their website, http://plexapp.com/ (For this demo we will concentrate on the Windows version but they are all extremely similar). Once downloaded you can install it. The default installation will include everything you need. I will run through it though.

Install Bonjour by clicking the Install button.

The Plex installation will start. Click Next. Click “I Accept”. Click Next.

Choose the directory you want to install the server and Click Next. (Keep in mind this is where it will store the index file so you will need about 8GB free. It also makes it better if you can put it on a fast hard drive like an SSD)

Click Install.

Like I said, pretty straight forward. Once installed you will need to configure it…

Configure Plex Media Server

 All configuration for the Plex Media Server is done from the configuration website, called Plex Media Manager. The path to this should look like this http://SERVERNAME:32400/manage/index.html.

Once your there you can add data sources (movies, TV series and music) to your Plex Server.

You can also use the preferences button in the top right to configure your Plex Media Server in different ways. This includes the myPlex function and index/scan times for your media folders.

There are a lot of options here and you don’t need to use one of them but if you feel the need to play/learn/explore then please use a fellow bloggers post to help you understand a little more about the configuration of Plex.

Install a Plex client

Like the server this is extremely simple. You get the latest client from their website and install it. There aren’t any options to get mixed up with in this so just keep clicking next until the job gets done. :)

Configure a TV

You will find that a lot of recent TVs come with the ability to use DLNA. As discussed above DLNA is a little limited and can be considered yesterday’s technology. If you really want to get the most out of your media configuration (and your using Plex Media Server) then you will want a Plex compatible player. LG and Samsung seem to be leading the way with this. They both have Plex clients included. All you have to do to get it running open the Media Link/Plex application. It will pick up on the Plex Server and your away. Look at http://www.plexapp.com/connected/ for more information.

Get the App (iOS & Android)

You can get Plex for your phone or tablet now. As soon as you’re on the network it will find the Plex Media Server and you can start streaming.

iPhone & iPad: https://itunes.apple.com/au/app/plex/id383457673?mt=8

Android phone or Tablet: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.plexapp.android&hl=en

So apart from using this to stream your content to your phone or tablet you can also use it as a remote control for your Plex Media Player. It can also push content choices to a Plex Client making it a must have for any enthusiast.

LAN or Wifi

This is both a simple and complex question. The simple question is “Do you, or can you, run a cable to your Plex Client/TV?”. If the answer is YES then you must. It is only way to get the best experience from your media needs. If the answer is NO then it comes down to whether your wireless is good enough to provide the bandwidth. This is where the complex part comes in. I can not tell you if wireless will work. It is getting better all the time but it has many variables. Some of these are distance, number of wireless devices, type of wireless & compatibility. All of these can make or break a wireless solution.

Let’s bring it back to the simple terms. If you can you will always want to use a cable/LAN. It is the only way to guarantee the quality you need to Hi-Def.

Sharing Content With Friends

Plex now allows you to share your media libraries with your friends. You can sign up for a MyPlex Account and then share with other people that have a MyPlex Account. Obviously at the moment (within Australia) our bandwidth makes it hard to share data in large quantities.

Just sign up at https://my.plexapp.com and join the party.

Web Client

So this is good and all but what about a true device agnostic solution. Plex has just introduced the web client to Beta. This means that the server hosts and plays the data and all you need is a web browser and HTML5/flash. This is the beginning of something very exciting because soon enough everything will be able to play it. It will be your own personalised Youtube with all of your favourite media no matter where you are.

Plex For Web

Where To From Here

It’s an exciting time for media. As we move away from traditional distribution we move to an always available and connected world. Digital Distribution is the future of media. There is no question about it. However nobody has truly taken charge in this area yet. You have the likes of iTunes, Amazon, Bigpond all taking a shot at (because it’s worth a lot of money) it but nobody has really won this war yet. Plex currently has a growing library of plugins as well. Many of which allow for additional channels on your Plex Server. Internet based shows allow for that highly available & on demand feature set that consumers desire and it does it at a cost that is easily obtainable (compared to traditional TV).

Everything comes down to bandwidth and it is something that Australia lacks at the moment. These sorts of solutions will become extremely viable when you can stream to your phone any of the media hosted at home. 4G & the NBN are data solutions for a growing desire to have data faster and more available, specifically video.

It’s come a long way from the original XBOX based XBMC but I believe on the next couple of years we will see it expand and dominate video/DVD/Blu-ray sales.

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