To Plex or not to Plex

Last year we dumped cable and bought a couple of Roku streaming players.

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We added three more when we moved back in after the fire, and excepting a short, three-week stint with Direct TV (quantity dismal, quality only passable), we’re happier without cable.

I looked into a video jukebox in the early 2000s, but they were outrageously expensive – $6-10,000. Hardware in which you put all your DVDs and selected from a menu sounded cool but it wasn’t ever going to be an affordable option. Prices dropped to the $2,000 mark around four years ago, but that wasn’t any more attractive.

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Now they can be found for $300, but 400 discs is limiting.

Enter the software solution.

 

When we unplugged cable, we learned about Plex, a media aggregator that Roku had a plug-in for. I ripped a lot of our DVDs (don’t have a Blu-ray reader on my PC) and put them on a net drive. Point the server at the media files on the drive, and bam! – software video jukebox. If I’m not worried about data limits (meaning, tied into wifi somewhere), I can even stream my home vault to my iPad.

Plex Screen Disney

I like that it can order television shows into seasons rather easily, and it grabs meta data from various sources. Now, Plex has some annoying limitations, such as the inability to mix movies and television shows in its libraries – what if I wanted to park Serenity in my Firefly library? –  but it’s done well for more than a year.

That is, until last week when my Plex Media Server suddenly forgot where all its libraries were. I couldn’t figure out how to refresh its memory, so I ended up reinstalling the program and started reteaching it new libraries.

Back in business, and all fine again until today. I loaded up the web app to continue adding libraries, and got a blank screen. It took a little research and I ended up having to delete the contents of the plug-ins folder. The plug-ins were reloaded on a restart and the app was back.

Plex is good, but Google saves the day. Sure hope Plex doesn’t get the dreaded CrApple disease…the phone and iPad are crashing routinely now. Maybe iOS8 will bring stability to the beleaguered iOwners.

And better colors.  Meanwhile, we Plex.

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