Archives for posts with tag: Plex

Bitcasa; the service that I struggle with supporting…

In theory, everything sounds good, and the end result is so tantalizing

One of the usage mistakes I made early on was to use Bitcasa for a ‘temp’ folder; the TV Shows – Downloaded folder.
The main use of this folder is to hold currently running shows that are not going to be archived, meaning it goes through a lot of usage in a week as episodes are filled in, watched, and deleted.

But, forces were conspiring

Bitcasa pulled the Ubuntu client, claiming data loss when used with any other client, and all talk of a headless version has died out.
Also, Plex and Bitcasa are not super friendly towards each other, with issues scanning in new episodes (among other minor quirks).

I personally think that this issue with new episodes is because of the way Bitcasa handles ‘infinite’ drives in linux: basically mounting a folder ‘on top’ of the old one, leaving all the old content there to wait for the day that you deactivate and remove it from Bitcasa (I did this today and had to bring the folder back up to date).

 

Some lessons to move forward with:

  1. If you plan on using the current Ubuntu client (if you can find it), plan on only using that and the read-only clients like the mobile app or website.
  2. If you really want an infinite folder, create a new, empty one and transfer data in to it: Do not turn an existing folder infinite, it’s just confusing and a waste of space.
  3. If you want to use Bitcasa and Plex, start with the free plan, and get seriously involved in both forums.
    There are things Bitcasa should be doing, and there might be things that Plex can do to work around what Bitcasa should be doing.

 

I’m still not giving giving up, of course

The idea of paying $20/month + $10/month for all this:

  • automatically handle all the downloading,
  • transcoding,
  • and serving to
    • RasPis,
    • Rokus,
    • iPhones,
    • iPads,
    • Friend’s AppleTVs (through AirPlay),
    • and every other device the Plex supports
  • never having to worry about bandwidth complaints
  • or content notices that the ISP has cooperated on
  • keeping the home FTTH connection super responsive by keeping the concurrent connections as low as possible

as well as the ability to stop maintaining an in-home server if I choose to…

is just so much better than the old way.

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As I mentioned last time, one of the things to be aware of when running RasPlex for the first time is how very slow the UI is before the cache is built..

With our larger library, it took a few days to cache everything properly.

Note: Based on the speed of development, this is going to be outdated information VERY quickly.

I’ve been doing a bunch of other projects, so now need to update, and want to preserve the cache (of course).

So, since I have to go through the process anyway, it’s sharing time.

  1. ssh in to the Raspberry (default username/password: “plexuser” / “rasplex” (no quotes) )
  2. Transfer the ‘/storage/.plexht’ folder to your local computer
    (I would normally suggest using gzip, but that would involve the tiny CPU, so I personally just transferred the whole folder with rsync. SCP and other SFTP programs are good choices too)
  3. Use the GUI Installer to update RasPlex (which is a nice choice that only means pressing a couple buttons)
  4. Boot up the updated version
  5. Transfer everything back, overwriting the updated ‘/storage/.plexht’ folder

And, a pleasant bonus:

This process keeps the myPlex login info, and all other Plex personalizations.

Honestly, it’s been a little bit since researching and trying new HTPC software has pulled me in, and recently I’ve been shown

just how wrong it was….

In previous posts, I talked about how the dream setup was to have a lightweight Plex client installed on the RasPi, so that it would just be a matter of the well-established Plex server serving content to any number of RasPis automatically.

Recent work, however, has blown this entirely out of the water!

In what seems like the blink of an eye, RasPlex has sprung up, bringing a complete port of the new codebase of Plex/HT to the RasPI version of OpenELEC.

Seriously; the entire (Next generation) Plex desktop  client is now on the Raspberry.

Even the site is flash, yet looks like it works with it’s hands – very nice.

Initial impressions: Fantastic.

One caveat: The FAQ warning at the bottom of this page mentions having to ‘warm up’ the cache in order to have a responsive UI, but it’s not a well-known fact, and the first boot of RasPlex had me thinking that my Raspberry was slacking – 3-4 second response times to the plex remote, taking over 7 seconds to start a video, grinding to a halt when AirPlay was tested…

With with size of our Plex library, it was still caching 30 minutes later, and was still fairly sluggish before getting up to this speed a while later (left it on all night).

TADA! Raspberry Pi and Plex; together in the future at last!

After having used Bitcasa for the past two months, the potential is obvious.

There are still a few things to work out, however…

First and foremost: there is no ‘headless’ client.

Using the Ubuntu client on a headless server requires installing the X Libraries, a window manager, and a VNC server so that it runs in it’s own (networked) GUI.

The client itself feels unpolished, and moving a large folder from a ‘backup’ folder to an ‘endless’ folder requires re-uploading the files.

Moving forward,

thinking towards having a cloud server downloading files and serving them through Plex to all the different devices, including Raspberrys (Raspberries?); something like Bitcasa makes more and more sense: Download to an infinite drive, and you can move servers at will, or scale up/down on the fly without having to worry about shuffling terabytes of files between instances…

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.

Now that we’ve been testing the Raspberry Pi as a media client, there are some Greats and some Not So Greats…

Greats:

  • Small
  • Super light on power
  • Wicked graphics chip for video playback
  • Flexible (the kids can learn how stuff works and how it breaks, and trying something completely new is just a matter of a new SD card, and that only scratches the surface of the amazing projects being worked on. Android, puredata, GL shaders, just to name a couple…)
  • Technically a full computer
  • Enthused community
  • PseudoTV (To be honest, this has kept me plugging away for much longer than I expected – there’s a benefit to just hitting up your own channels)

Not So Greats:

  • Needs a TV with CEC and HDMI to really shine (without those, there is a hardware barrier (new remote? or keyboard? mouse?), and a software barrier (Downmixing DTS continues to be an issue with volume level problems and outright stuttering due to software decode. To be fair, it’s the way the analog audio chip was designed that’s hurting everyone Edit: Thanks to XBMC officially bringing RasPi in to the fold, this was resolved on the firmware level by the amazing popcornmix just days after I filed the bug report with XBMC)
  • XBMC’s continued reluctance to offer a real Client-Server solution.. Syncing libraries involves a lot of setup, and this doesn’t even do half the stuff that Plex does
  • Speaking of Plex; Lack of Plex support is huge for me right now. I wouldn’t be surprised to find myself with 20+ hours invested in to shoehorning XBMC in to my previously butter-smooth Plex setup.
    PleXBMC is to be respected, but it’s limited by being between a rock and a hard place; XBMC shines when the library is populated locally, and Plex shines when the library is populated on the server.

Now, I’m in a new town,

and the inhabitants have not been exposed to good tech.. Fall is coming, and with this: hibernation.

So, I’m asking myself: what’s the best I can offer them?

To me, this is still Plex. With MyPlex, media is everywhere you want it to be without router setup or fiddling, and it transcodes 5.1 when necessary without the volume issues that plague software on the Raspberry Pi.

We’re testing the Roku boxes (Just got them up here in Canada), and after being spoiled, I can’t say I’m very happy with them.. No AirPlay support, adding unofficial channels is… non-intuitive…, no chance of Navi-X or PseudoTV.. However, they do Plex, Netflix, and Crackle (which I didn’t know I would enjoy) very well. Good remote, smooth interface, and analog out…