Plex Media Server

Plex Media Server

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Plex Overview

Plex is an online streaming service where you provide the content. Content is provided by selecting folders or files, including digital copies of downloaded videos.  These can include home movies, tv shows, photos and music.  These can be streamed and shared via Plex. Plex connects your device’s files over Wifi on and off-line (with a premium option available for a small fee). Think of Plex as a way to watch what’s on your phone, but on your PC; what’s on your PC you can watch on your tablet;  and also on your TV with no plugs or internet. All you need to use Plex is a wifi router and all your devices on the same network.  With internet access you can share those files with friends and family.  It’s a great way to show off that family vacation video or new favorite movie.

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Plex is the new XBMC

XBox Media Center or XBMC for short, is the soul and roots of what Plex does and what it offers. XBMC is now known as KODI, but Plex has been my XBMC replacement for years. Plex, like XBMC, is a DLNA host that allows you to access your provided content via media server. The DLNA option enables even more streaming possibilities without running the Plex app. For example, on the Xbox One, the Plex app requires a premium membership; but since you can use Plex to host your own server, just go to Xbox Media Center and you’ll see the name of your Plex Media Server for streaming over the air. This only works for devices that are on the same wifi network, internet is not necessary for DLNA.

Plex w/Friends

Adding friends is easy and so is selecting the files and folders you share with them. You can even monitor who’s watching what and on which device. Why Plex alone when you can Plex with friends? 🙂 Sharing your new favorite movies and music couldn’t be any easier. Just add a friend to your list, download the digital copy of your new “gotta see this video” and add the file to a public folder to share with everyone. Be the talk of the group by finding the new hit show or keep up with everyone’s favorites.  You can decide what’s worth watching or listening to based off your friends Plex content.

How to share

Now that you have some friends on Plex, let’s talk sharing. Sharing on Plex is easy and safe thanks to the controls they offer, both for free and also with some premium setting options.  Just choose the friend(s) you want to share with and the libraries you want to share with them. From there you can set rating and content controls. Setting restrictions is great for sharing with the kids, so you don’t have to worry about them watching your digital copy of Fifty Shades or listening to that new Fetty Wap album. It’s also handy for keeping personal files private while allowing access to other media, all within the same folders or libraries. Building a strong sharing and streaming community is what Plex is all about.  They make it really convenient for anyone to use, even a noob.

 

Channels on Plex

Using channels on Plex is the neatest feature by far. It allows you to watch live TV and use an OnDemand like catalog with provided plugins liked it CBS, History Channel, FOX, even YouTube and others. Plex channels is a portal to a never ending, always growing list of apps within an app inception like world, that you could get lost in. It’s clean neat and very organized for being free; well basically free if you’re a premium member which starts at $4.99 a month. Just go to the channels tab and search for the desired plugin, once you’ve found it just click and wait for the server to connect. After a few hours, you can either stream Live TV or an On Demand like content depending on the channel plugin and what it offers.

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How I use Plex

I use Plex for all my entertainment media streaming needs, including LIVE TV, an On Demand like catalog, my music & photos. Plex offers a DLNA server that casts over the wifi network and does not require active internet, just a connected network of devices. The Plex app itself is like the cloud; I provide the content and anywhere I can access the internet and install the Plex app I can access my files and stream them without lag or much buffering depending on the quality and internet strength. Using Channels and plugins like iTunes and Photos brings all of your media together organized and always ready to share. Sharing digital media fills in the gaps of Plex and helps you keep connected with family and friends.  You are able to share photos from today’s big event or introduce someone to your new favorite TV show.  Plex has so much to offer, it’s crazy not to use it and use all of it.

DLNA streaming works offline and only requires that both devices, the one hosting the server and the other you’re using as a screen to stream, are both on the same wifi network. From here, within the Plex app, you can choose the bit rate and image quality to better tune your streaming and avoid lag or buffering. This is how I utilize Plex with my Xbox One, since the Plex app on that device requires the paid premium membership to stream within the app. First, I have the Xbox One and Plex Media Server connected to the same network, over wifi. Next, I open Xbox One’s Media Player and select the Plex server and appropriate folder to start streaming, it’s that easy. The DLNA server is the best work around for viewing Plex content on a device that does not support the Plex app, but does support DLNA.

The channels Plex offers like Yahoo Screen, iTunes, Photos and Tablo make streaming your media simple. Since the Plex Channels let you basically use an app within an app, you can watch Yahoo Screen content that’s otherwise browser based, or listen to your iTunes music on a device that does not support the iTunes app. Tablo is an over the air TV tuner/DVR that gives you the ability to stream LIVE TV and pre-recorded content, from your home set top box or on the go in the Plex app. So where ever there is Plex, Smartphone/tablet/PC/ect, you can watch LIVE TV or listen to your music and even watch free On Demand like content from FOX or Comedy Central. Channels is a perfect work around for accessing your favorite media content when it’s not always available the way you need it.

Sharing your collective media with family and friends is the best way to keep up to date on the latest trending shows and movies. It also gives you the ability to share photos and music with everyone, so you can show off the photos of the big event or introduce the gang to the newest best band ever. There’s nothing like watching a new movie or listening to a new song and having the ability to share it with someone who’s near or far and get their take on it. Logging into Plex and checking out what’s new in your friends queue is like waking up on christmas morning, each library has something new to view. If your family members like mom & dad or the kids want  to watch that movie you been talking about or see those photos from that vacation you won’t shut up about, all they need is a Plex account and internet access. Finally sharing your digital media, movies, music, and photos is easy, safe, and convenient.
So that’s how I use Plex.  It organizes everything I download or imported onto my PC and makes streaming it wherever I go possible. Plex is where my PC, phone and tablet(s) collective media is stored and is the one place to access everything at once no matter where I am or what device I’m using.

 

Kenn Bosak

Writer/Dev./Tech

Plex Is My New Ish!

October 1, 2015

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