Archives for category: Media Server

I’ve successfully done it, and with the right technology it wasn’t even that bad (Under 5 minutes).

Who’s interested in how it’s done?

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I said that if we had at least 15 people in by the 21st.

There are only a few more hours until that deadline is up, and we’re almost there.

What we’re looking to accomplish:

  1. A server that downloads automatically, as soon as each episode is online
  2. the metadata is then automatically applied, and it becomes available to watch
  3. currently, the plan is to download everything in HD, and then shrink it if you want to watch it on a smaller device or with a weaker connection
  4. we plan to support all sorts of devices: RasPi, Roku, Laptops/Desktops, smart TVs, android, iPhone/iPad/iPad mini, and even a web interface for on the fly content grabbing
  5. everything will be documented on this blog, and in the private mailing list, so that anyone can set up a similar system

It’s worth noting as well, that so far the system would let you download anything you can watch, without drm or strange barriers thrown in your way.
Also, no ads. That means no popups, popunders, banners, etc.

There are all sorts of really interesting things to try as we really push the limits of what’s possible…

If you want in, send at least $20usd via PayPal to linkingparents@gmail.com.
If we do not hit 15, then all money will be refunded and I’ll move on to something else.

In case you’re curious, here’s a little background on why I’m a good choice for this project;
I’ve been in tech for over quite a few years, and have been running a server at home for almost all of that time. 90% of the work of the server has always been media, with quality climbing up slowly every time a new codec is released or I get my hands on more capable technology.
9-5 (or 6-9+), I’ve always worked best when directly plugged in to business owners on one side, and large-scale server setups on the other. This has given me the skills of strong documentation and communication. Usually going overboard on documenting the technical parts so that I can translate for the non-technical people more easily.
This will be my first community-funded project, and also the first public project that has grown organically from a personal project that really begs to be done right, from the ground up.
I’m looking forward to the journey, and to watching personal media take flight in to the clouds. (don’t worry; cheesy analogies are not standard lol)

A very interesting idea that’s in the queue for testing, is to tie in the external server to a service like bitcasa, using the server for file renaming, processing, and transcoding, and having the bulk of videos in the “infinite” storage.

This opens so many doors…

  1. Trying to find the right seedbox for your Plex server, but 1TB+ of storage is an extra $40? No problem!
  2. If you need to move servers; No problem!
  3. Need more horsepower for sharing personal videos? Add more servers to the same bitcasa folder!
  4. Want to tweak like crazy? Run the server off a smaller SSD: No Problem.

Of course, there are still unknowns, which is the best part

And, it’s being tested for Plex servers right now, meaning it’s mature enough to get our hands dirty with.

And, sometime soon, we’ll see how the landscape evolves when Mega brings storage back with a new focus on personal encryption.

 

I’m excited for 2013 to unfold.. Are you in?

Note: The testbed for all this still needs a few more people to chip in by sending at least $20 each via PayPal to linkingparents@gmail.com (refunds if we don’t meet the minimum).
Once we reach the goal, we’re setting up a seedbox-based media server, and documenting the whole thing so anyone else can do it!

I wanted to cover some of the details of the seedbox media server so we can all get excited about the possibilities.

The short:

When we have it set up, it will mean a ‘cloud server’ that automatically downloads the shows that you choose, and serves them to you on any device that supports Plex. This includes the RasPi.

You let me know which shows you watch, and the second a new episode gets online, we’ll make sure the file transfers properly, and is ready for you.

This means that you don’t have to use your home connection for downloading, don’t have to put the time in to hunting shows down or organizing, and don’t need anything more than a small device, a good screen, and an internet connection.

Of course, we’ll look at storing backlogs, and downloading an entire series if you want to check out something new.

The other fun bits that we’re thinking about:

The big reasons I personally want this instead of (or in addition to) Netflix/Other services are:

  • No need to wait for new episodes to hit Netflix (this can take months)
  • Video looks much better: With a small enough user base and the right home connection, it’s possible to watch shows in full-quality 720p, or even in some cases 1080p.
    We find Netflix to be blocky compared to a commonplace x264 served via Plex.
  • Killer Seedboxes can have 100Mbps or 1000Mbps speeds: that’s 6 seconds to download a 30min show in razor-sharp 720p,
  • It’s even possible to push out a notification, so that if you’re chomping at the bit to watch Walking Dead, but you’re not home; you know the minute it can be streamed in full quality from your iPhone to a friend’s AppleTV. (Or through your android device via HDMI).

 

And to Recap the deal:

If 15 people to send at least $20 each to linkingparents@gmail.com via paypal, we’ll set up a seedbox-based media server. If we don’t meet that number by January 21st, I’ll refund and focus on something else.

 

Here’s something else that sethmccumber and I have been working on:
Can you spot the console?

LegoRasNES-Teaser

Cartridge-loaded SD cards are sooooo handy!

With the NZB scene in flux, it’s more and more complicated to sort out the details in order to have a smooth and automatic experience (aka; our favourite). Plex is also making rapid progress, and there has been some very promising work with using the RasPi as a Plex client.

With everything where it is, it’s time to start

Everyone has been pulling in their votes, and there have been some excellent insights to go along with it; now we get to act.

There are 3 hosting services that are excellent possibilities, and in order to dive in for real testing I need to know if you’re serious about this;

If 15 people sign up by sending at least $20 via PayPal to linkingparents@gmail.com, then these people will be the core, ready to try out all the crazy ideas we come up with before settling on the ideals that work for everyone.

Obviously the ongoing costs are monthly (where it gets sustainable looks to be about $20/mo), and if you send the minimum of $20, I’ll personally make sure you get at least 2 months out of it (lots of time for testing and the start of the new tv season).

If we’re successful, then by the end there will be a continually updated guide (or wiki) about how to roll your own seedbox media system, and step into the freedom from bandwidth issues, ISP notices, home-server resources, and the other annoying time-sinks.

And, of course, with Plex on the raspberry, we’re getting closer and closer to a solution that just means a seedbox and a RasPi plugged in to any tv that doesn’t already support Plex.

In case you skimmed;

if 15 people to send at least $20 each to linkingparents@gmail.com , we’ll set up a seedbox-based media server. If we don’t meet that number by January 21st, I’ll refund and focus on something else.

An idea that’s been in the back of my head for a while has been to get rid of the home server and have everything hosted somewhere else…

(somewhere with a nice big internet connection)

I’m about 3/4 of the way through planning this, and am at the stage where I want to test out some providers.

We won’t mention names yet, but if it all pans out, there will be a big post about the solution.

The idea is to outsource a server that holds all the new stuff (fresh episodes of TV shows, movies that I want to watch but have not committed to yet, etc), as well as a good chunk of the archive of HD content.
The CPU will be powerful enough to enable this server to become my personal Netflix, with the added bonus of being able to share personal media with friends…

Of course, everything will be available via the RasPi, iOS devices, Android devices, and laptops. This change will also means that having a super huge connection at home becomes less of a priority, which might even make the whole thing cheap while it makes it more stable and more convenient.

There are thousands of seedbox companies now, and since the technology lines up extremely well (raw HD space on a very fast internet connection) it makes the cost of something like this almost trivial once I can find a company that lets me have terabytes of space in trade for the small amount of constant processing this server will need.

Having a media server in the cloud just feels like the right choice.

It’s been a painful ride, for sure: NFS has never been something I’ve needed, or even had a desire to test until now.

It pretends to be easy to configure, but I could not find beginning-to-end instructions for setting up NFS for XBMC when you’re not already an NFS native.

 

So; I created one.

 

This encapsulates all the stuff I’ve learned (we learn most through failing, after all), and hopefully will help anyone else that wants to accomplish the same thing. 🙂

Android 4.0 is coming!

Sounds like a whole other angle of promise for turning the raspberry in to a “Connect it to every TV in the house” unit; The youtube videos are promising with youtube HD playback, a silky interaction with the UI, and mouse support.

Paired with Plex, and the Android Plex app, it sounds like a win-win.

I’m curious as well; what would the remote situation look like? I doubt there’s “Android Plex app remote” for iPhone… Maybe it registers as a myplex player; that would be spectacular. 🙂

We obviously want speed when accessing files over the network; I would even say that for just the media files, it’s the only thing that we care about. (Security is only a factor when dealing with personal media, or when letting everyone add and delete from the folders) I take care to make sure that the home network is secure, and set unique passwords or use encryption keys when necessary – This serves not only the function of making sure the kids only watch what’s rated for them, but also a test bed for the smaller business clients that I work with. Unfortunately, large file access has continued to be an issue – there’s no true cross-platform file system that allows files over 4GB (which is small for a HD movie), and cross-platform network file access is also rocky, with SMB/CIFS being the ‘standard’ because a lot of work went in to reverse engineering what windows uses so that admins could run linux and not have everyone burning their doors down because of how much things changed.

Samba (SMB)

Of course, SMB is notoriously slow and bloated as a protocol, but it’s also built in to every major operating system and very simple to configure, making it the obvious choice. CIFS, which speaks the same language, is the preferred choice in many cases, but it’s like organizing a piled-high room without taking anything out of it. Better, but not good. (note: in many cases, SMB and CIFS are terms that are used interchangeably, and the differences are in specific situations)Unfortunately the raspberry pi, with it’s lower powered cpu, starts to reveal just how bloated this is, leading to slow scraping, slow directory lists, and even buffer issues in some cases. My media server is set up for SMB since it shares to all number of devices, but now we have to look ahead a bit further.

Apple Filing Protocol (AFP)

AFP is great for communicating between Macs running OSX, but is not at all cross-platform. Again; the work being done by countless dedicated volunteers means that we can set up Linux to be an AFP file server (it takes some doing), but it’s far from cross-platform. Thankfully as of XBMC 11, we have support for connecting to AFP servers so we can do some testing.

Network File System (NFS)

The only open standard that I would still consider as a ‘standard’ method of accessing files, and seems to be the preference for many people using XBMC on low-cpu machines. I’ve not been in any scenarios where it was a valid option for deployment, so have not taken the time to dive in to it. On the surface, it’s very obviously designed by people who value organization and covering all bases with complexity; great for large scale and high-availability server situations, but not so much fun just so I can (hopefully) shave the directory listing times down to something reasonable and test out the buffer issues (which means rebuilding the library), but worth testing.

Special Mention: Plex

Plex, since it split off from XBMC has taken many user experience and user interface cues from Apple, and has shifted from XBMC’s Everything and the kitchen sink on your desktop (and all the desktops) to a server-client model. This means that the library and the files are all kept in one place, and the Plex client simply asks for them in a sane way, with the server transcoding the content when it’s the right choice. Why I mention it here, is that having a native Plex client on the RasPi would mean I don’t have to even think about network file access, nor do I have to think about making sure that the kids don’t press play on any R-Rated movies… But, we’re not there yet. Interestingly enough, this Raspberry Pi project, while exposing me to the current stage of XBMC (which I have not run for a few years) has really made me long for certain functionality and control in Plex that is not there. I’ve mentioned before that my ideal setup is Plex media server. I’ve added Pseudo TV to the wish list, and I’m now realizing that without a TV-like experience, TV gets taken too seriously and a lot of the content is never actually watched. It’s like having a walk-in closet full of clothes and being comfortable in the same 4 outfits.. Triply so when it comes to reconciling the tastes of 4 kids with a netflix subscription… The lowest common denominator is the one that’s always on.. With TV, there were many unexpected enjoyable family watchings of the food network or documentaries that cropped up, and even the stuff that’s not first pick, but worth at least 15min never gets touched when the choice is always active.