I’ve always used iTunes to manage my sharing and remote playing of my media library within my home.
As you no doubt know, iTunes sucks at sharing/streaming media. I used iTunes because it was the path of least resistance despite all the verbal abuse I’ve hurled at it…it’s bloated, slow, crashes etc…but that’s a whole different article…. 😉
Enter Plex. My Padawan at work turned me on to the Plex Media Server and my media consumption has been upgraded beyond my wildest imagination.
Plex is media server software that runs on virtually anything. Literally from your NAS device to a Raspberry Pi to game systems. Mind you, its capabilities vary widely depending on the hardware but the flexibility is second to none. Bottom line- you run the media server on your own hardware.
Running the “Media Server”
Installing on Windows or Mac is stupid simple. Download, install, point it to your media.
Linux is similarly simple as are NAS devices like those from Qnap. Note that non Intel based devices cannot convert/transcode media so if you use a non Intel based device be aware of that.
My General Thoughts
Let’s start with its ability to serve media. It will stream any media to any modern web browser. I can watch movies/tv shows, listen to music on any device that has a modern web browser (I say that because (I swear) I tried to watch a movie on a PPC Mac w/ Yellow Dog Linux and it failed….). Any iDevice can watch anything in my library. It’s really cool to watch a movie full screen on your iPad/iPhone from within Chrome….
Best of all to watch/listen to media – you don’t have to be on your home network. Want to stream music to your PC at work? No problem. You can make play lists with movies, tv shows, music anything you want. Since you aren’t limited to your home network you can even share your library with other Plex users.
Oh even better than better…it’s free. I personally paid for a year subsciption to their “Plex Pass” so that I could download media to my local devices. If you don’t need to do this then the pass isn’t really necessary- but another bonus is that you can create sub users in your account with complete control over what they can do.
Note- you must have the media items you want to stream/share/watch. This is NOT a system for piracy. It’s for making your personal media library accessible- in this case very accessible in a very easy way.
The media can be your own home videos, photos and recordings. Stop publishing your personal videos/photos to Facebook (I hate Facebook and no I’m, not on it). Retain control over your personal media. Don’t upload it to someone else who can profit from it…
You have control over who can see and modify your media. The only catch to this is that every person you share with needs a free Plex account- unless you have a paid account- in which case they’d have a sub account from your paid account.
This isn’t a paid endorsement. I felt the need to rant in a positive way about something that for once is easy and, gasp, useful in my daily life….