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Ask Slashdot: Suggestions For a Simple Media Server? 420

rueger writes "We live and breathe Netflix, but sometimes want to watch programs downloaded from the 'net. I've been carrying them downstairs on a USB stick, but would prefer to run a small media server on my Mint Linux box. As usual, I thought this would be simple. Install a package on my PC, and use our Netgear NeoTV Max box to play stuff off of the server. Plex was highly recommended, and installed easily, but will see some .mkv files, but not others, for no obvious reason. The one file that does show up plays fine, except that subtitles don't work. And it completely refuses to see the partition full of music. A quick tour of the Plex forums suggests that making this work would take more hours than I'm prepared to spend. Serviio looked good too, and 'sees' my music, and sees the movie folders that Plex couldn't, but won't show the actual .mkv files. And again, it looks like configuring the thing could consume half of my life. So I'm asking: is there a fairly simple, works-right-out-of-the-box, fairly resource friendly media server that will just allow me to play movies that I download without a lot of headaches? (One obvious issue is that movies and TV shows downloaded can be in a any of a dozen formats. I'd love it if the server dealt with that. I'm also open to suggestions for a Roku style box that does Netflix well, but which will also play nicely with a media server. And if any or all of these things can also let me play streaming video off the web (like BBC iPlayer content), I'll be in heaven.)"
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Ask Slashdot: Suggestions For a Simple Media Server?

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  • UMS (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @06:18AM (#45963177)
    I use Universal Media Server on OS X, which is available for Windows, OS X and Linux. It works well with our WD HD TV Live and various Samsung TV and DVR devices. But the first thing to do would probably be to get the Netgear device the boot.
  • Raspberry PI (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @06:19AM (#45963183)


    I'd suggest to master something from Raspberry PI or alternative. It's cheap and versatile solution

  • XBMC ftw (Score:5, Informative)

    by AoOs ( 1336153 ) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @06:21AM (#45963191) Homepage Journal

    XBMC is your go-to media server software.

    Install it, set the path for your content and it'll take care of the rest.
    Subtitles can even be setup to be downloaded automatically.


  • PS3 Media Server (Score:5, Informative)

    by narfdude ( 732890 ) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @06:26AM (#45963215)
    XBMC but on a PC might be annoying? Also take a look at PS3 Media Server - I used to use it before moving to a NAS, works really well
  • by Camembert ( 2891457 ) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @06:29AM (#45963227)
    The Western Digital TV live box is cheap and it plays almost any reasonable media file (except flv) you'd throw at it. Certainly the ones prevalent on internet. It can access a shared folder on your computer so you don't have to walk around with that stick anymore. To be fair, I only use it for downloaded video files. For music and photo I have an Apple TV, I love its GUI and easy integration in our Mac/IOS based home.
  • I keep it simple. (Score:5, Informative)

    by jtownatpunk.net ( 245670 ) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @06:43AM (#45963285)

    I plug my laptop into the TV and play stuff from my storage array.

    If I wanted some sort of dedicated device, I'd put XBMC on a Raspberry Pi, point it at my array, and control it with my phone, tablet, or laptop.

  • Re:XBMC ftw (Score:5, Informative)

    by profplump ( 309017 ) <zach-slashjunk@kotlarek.com> on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @07:24AM (#45963471)

    Plex uses an internal ffmpeg to decode (and transcode, if needed) media files -- if it doesn't play there it will be hard to play in general. And you don't need to muck with an OS-level codecs, as Plex won't see or use them anyway.

    But that's not relevant in this discussion; Plex will add files to the library even if it can't read them, so long as it can figure out from the file path what they are. If you need Plex to parse the tags in the file it will have to be able to decode it, but if it can match based on the name it doesn't care if the file can even be opened.

    The problem is almost certainly a naming issue, or possibly a selection of the wrong scanner type. If you select a TV or Movie scanner Plex will only add files it can specifically match to databases like thetvdb.com, and you must use one of the naming conventions to help it do so. If you just want it to put up all of your media as-is without matching against a DB you need to select the "Home Videos" scanner type, which simply walks the filesystem and builds a matching hierarchy in the Plex library. And of course Music has its own scanner, which can similarly match against Last.fm or simply read local tags, depending on wishes.

    It's not quite brain-dead simple if you have a mess of unorganized media, but it's not hours of work either, and the DB-matching modes provide rich metadata with all the hassle of ensuring that your paths include the series title and episode number somewhere along the line.

  • by Sandman1971 ( 516283 ) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @07:55AM (#45963601) Homepage Journal

    I third this recommendation. I have 3 WD Live boxes in my house, all connecting to my media SANs (DNS 323s with DLNA enabled) , streaming my music, videos and photos. It also does netflix, Hulu (US only), Pandora, YouTube, TuneIn, Shoutcast and a few dozen other built in apps. The best deal is to get them at Costco as they're not only cheaper but they come with a HDMI cable. The one I bought at an electronics store didn't come with the HDMI.

  • Re:MiniDLNA (Score:4, Informative)

    by nightsky30 ( 3348843 ) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @09:02AM (#45963913)
    mkv files are containers. They may contain many types of codecs within. I think you are right, and the XBox must not have the decoding capabilities for whatever codec resides in some of those mkv's.
  • Synology (Score:4, Informative)

    by DrXym ( 126579 ) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @09:02AM (#45963915)
    Just buy a NAS from Synology and be done with it. It's simple to set up, has an attractive web front end and supports DLNA, SMB and other ways you might want to stream content.
  • Re: UMS (Score:5, Informative)

    by P-niiice ( 1703362 ) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @09:14AM (#45964003)
    SMB streams 1080P stuff fine across my network, as long as I'm close to the router. 720P is damn good anywhere in the house. Been doing it for a long time, most lately on my Nexus 7 and my GBox MX2.
  • Converted to MP4 (Score:2, Informative)

    by Jason Levine ( 196982 ) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @10:08AM (#45964493) Homepage

    This probably won't help the OP, but my solution was to convert my MKV files to MP4 format. The reason for this was that I was putting them on an external hard drive to connect to my Roku box. Roku says it supports MKV but in practice I've found it doesn't really. MP4, on the other hand, works nicely.

  • Re: UMS (Score:3, Informative)

    by Kielistic ( 1273232 ) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @02:29PM (#45967727)
    Because most people wouldn't encode their 1080p files to carry less visual information than their 720p files and so: higher resolution requires a higher bitrate. Stop being obtuse.

"Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there." -- Will Rogers