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Monday, 17 March 2014

Rasplex & Plex Home Theatre

Recently I grew tired of my complex XBMC setup for the house and decided to see what all the fuss was about with Plex.

I'd heard about Plex many years ago as an alternative to XBMC, but at the time that was all it was, just another variant of XBMC. Targeted primarily at Mac users, I had little interest because XBMC was also available and it was very good and more customisable.

However. Plex got serious!

It's barely recognisable compared to what I remember. What stuck out for me:

  • Incredible ease of pairing my NAS with the Media Center's using a email address and password ( account)
  • Installation and setup on my Ubuntu based NAS was simple and didn't require any command line foolery
  • The availability of Plex for iOS, Android and the Raspberry PI (not officially supported but works great)
  • The great web interface allowing access from anywhere to my content
  • Airplay support (although this is in XBMC as well)
  • Built in transcoder!
  • Channels for BBC iPlayer, etc
  • Best of all, apart from the mobile apps, it was free!
Now I had a similar setup for my XBMC setup, but it was no where as simple and straight forward to set up. I didn't have to deal with any DDNS configuration, installation of a transcoder, dodgy usernames/passwords for direct access to content, VPN's, plugins, etc. It just worked.

Now I had some issues with Rasplex and the RPi, but only because I think the USB WiFi device I had was a little cheap, maybe too cheap, and it didn't work for a few boot ups, but it slammed into life for no apparent reason and started working great.

I also installed Windows 7 on to my main media centre in my living room and installed plex home theatre on top. For the moment, there doesn't appear to be an x86 lightweight variant like OpenElec or Rasplex, so this will have to do for the moment. I might consider changing this to a Ubuntu system if Windows give me any problems.

I've also purchased the Plex Pass feature, which among many other things, allowed me to use my many cloud based storage services as extensions to my own private storage. And without any effort, these locations show up on the Plex home screen :-)

I may write up some more technical explorations of Plex and any customisations I make in future. I don't see my changing for a while unless it starts doing something unexpected.