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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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  • MiniDLNA (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ImperialXT ( 1938692 ) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @06:19AM (#45963185)
    I had a brief look on the product page and couldn't find a clear answer if it supports DLNA or not, but it should do. So maybe look at something nice and simple such as MiniDLNA which was recently renamed to ReadyMedia apparently.
  • Its not the server (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @06:47AM (#45963301)

    The problems you've found come not from the server, but from the netgear box you are using. Apparently, it only supports USB or DLNA to play your local content, and that is a huge limitation. Should it support some other ways to access your content, you could play whatever you wanted; for example, windows networking, that is native in windows machines and easily incorporated into linux machines via the samba package and (I think) also in OSX machines. That way, anything in your computer could be accessed from the client machine just by locally sharing the path where you store it.

    So, really, the best solution would be to have a more capable box in your TV (a XBMC box will be probably the best solution, although it can take some time to configure everything properly, specially if you want just one box and so XBMC need to take care of netflix etc to get rid of the netgear device).

    If you do not want to add a new box to the TV and keep only your actual netgear client machine, you must then bend everything else to cope with its limitations, in this case you should look for a capable DLNA server that plays nice both with your actual content (format, naming convention, etc) and also with the special needs of the NeoTV Max, whatever they are; plex is one possibility, and there are others, but probably none will be at the same time good enough, cheap enough and easy enough for your purposes. But the main culprit is the less-than-capable box in your TV: local windows sharing should be more than enough.

  • by blocsync ( 320897 ) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @06:48AM (#45963311) Homepage

    I also use and recommend the WD TV Live. I use it in conjunction with a rooted Seagate Go flex home 3 tb NAS. I run transmission on the NAS and use is Web interface to snag torrents of movies and shows. I can then turn my computer off and still be downloading and watching movies. I have 3 of the WD units and they all stream from the NAS simultaneously without skipping a beat.

  • Re:I keep it simple. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by rikkards ( 98006 ) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @07:07AM (#45963395) Journal

    even better is XBMC on pi uses libcec so you can control it from your TV remote.

  • Re:MiniDLNA (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ch0rlt0n ( 1515291 ) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @07:18AM (#45963439)

    I have MiniDLNA running on a raspberry pi with 1TB self powered usb disk attached. This is connected directly to the router in a cupboard under the stairs.

    Then use an XBox 360 or PS3 as the client connected to the TV.

    I do have similar issues with mkv files which the server sometimes sees and "advertises" and sometimes doesn't (i'm guessing based on file exension?) and which the XBox sometimes can decode and sometimes can't (based on enciding?). I haven't determined exactly what the cases are for when it works and when it doesn't.

    I am not doing any transcoding on the server but I'd consider it to be a system that works well.

  • Re:Raspberry PI (Score:3, Interesting)

    by StripedCow ( 776465 ) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @08:18AM (#45963693)

    Someone has a new hammer and every problem is looking like nail...

    Come on, it's 2014: media streaming is not a "problem" anymore.

  • by warren.oates ( 925589 ) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @08:58AM (#45963877)
    As far as i'm concerned, XBMC is pretty much the only way to go here. I keep my media files (Movies, TV, Music) on a terabyte drive in my first generation Mac Pro and samba share them gigabit to a Zotac id41 [zotacusa.com] running Openelec [openelec.tv]. Openelec is an appliance-like Linux distribution that installs quickly and does nothing other than run XBMC (there's no "desktop" except XBMC; you can control it via ssh). I tried Serviio, and a couple of streaming servers, but they don't always understand what a file is supposed to do and choke on it. Samba just shares files and lets the remote machine figure them out. XBMC figures everything out that I've sent it so far; it has a host of plug-ins (what they call "add ons") including one for the BBC iPlayer, and for the ITV player, and for Hulu and you can even control rtorrent from one of them. For the Beeb and ITV I use Witopia's VPN service which can be invoked from Openelec's command line if you know what you're about. Plays 1080p nicely on my 50", all sorts of 5.1 audio goes through a semi-decent Pioneer amp. Openelec is not for dedicated Linux tinkerers. I set the Zotac up originally with Arch Linux [archlinux.org] because, you know, "I'm a geek, uh huh, uh huh" and it was a huge mistake because I was updating the damned thing every 20 minutes the way Arch people do, and I put a desktop on it and installed browsers and so forth thinking that I'd have a neat fully blown computer there in my living room and I could surf and check my email -- fahgeddaboudit! It's an HTPC only these days, plays music and video. Those Zotacs are powerful little machines though. I have a friend in town does the same thing with a Pi.

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