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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.
    • by shokk ( 187512 )

      I use this all the time and it’s a great solution using a 6 year old “server” grade computer and CentOS Linux.

  • 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.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by ch0rlt0n ( 1515291 )

      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 wor

      • worth mentioning that it also shares >14000 tracks of music plus photos as separate "shares". Music can be browsed and searched easily using Banshee from Linux laptop and WMP11 on work laptop.

      • 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.
        • I've found the 360 to be extremely hit and miss when it comes to decoding certain media. MKV's especially are a nightmare with it. I ended up using my PS3 for streaming for a long time, but realistically nothing quite beats the likes of XBMC for media support.

          I've had a raspberry pi since launch (I got one of the first batches) and XBMC was quite flaky at first, especially with things like DTS decoding but right now it's very stable and I find I have few issues these days. There's the odd MKV that gives it

    • an alternative is Fuppes, from sourceforge, it is a simple DLNA server that works very well. The only disadvantage I have with it is that it doesn't prevent Windows from sleeping when its streaming (I have Windows set to sleep after an hour of inactivity so halfway through a 2-hour movie, I'd have to nudge the mouse) which is a pretty major problem.

      It looks like a dead project but the author said it wasn't, but I still couldn't build it, even on its native Linux platform. Still, if you run it on Linux or ha

  • 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.


    • XBMC is an awesome Media Player. It is also a decent Media Server. Distinguishing between the two is key to getting the right solution. If you have XBMC on your end device (player), and if your media files are accessible via the home network, then you don't need a media server. However, you may want one if you have other devices you want to use to access that medai (tablets, Roku, etc).

      As for Netflix, just go ahead and use a dedicated device such as a Roku or a Bluray player with apps. You won't get a go
    • I have an Acer 3-core low profile PC w/ Win 7 that runs XBMC 12. The same app is on both of my tablets (Nexus 10). The media is stored on D-Link NAS drives and is accessible across the network from anywhere in my home. Works awesome. Setup was as simple as specifying the SMB path to the NAS, and letting XBMC run it's media scraper to collect all the file names. I have a large collection of digitized anime, and XBMC handles handles MKV files with subtitles and dual audio as well.

      With the full range of p

  • Four letters: XBMC ....Strongly recommended, plays pretty much anything and also has loads of add-ons.
  • 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.
    • 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.

    • 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.

    • I also love my WD TV Live. I don't need to use Handbrake any more -- anything I rip to an MKV (either DVD or Blu-ray) works great as-is. Any video I've ever downloaded from the Internet also works as-is.

    • by Kardos ( 1348077 )

      I fourth this suggestion. Got it about a year ago, have been quite happy with it. It plays everything I've tried to play including subtitles, and it mounts NFS shares from a LAN linux box effortlessly (mounts CIFS too if you prefer). Also plays netflix and youtube, but the text entry leaves a lot to be desired (character by character with a remote), I haven't tried connecting a (wireless) keyboard to the USB port but that may solve that problem too.

    • Another happy WDTV Live user here. I have this exact model, purchased in November 2011:


      Just set up a SMB or NFS share on any computer you want, and this device will play ANYTHING you can throw at it (including flv, at least in my experience). Has 100Mb ethernet, N wifi, HDMI out, optical out, USB port, and a remote.

      It will talk to a "media server" if you really want it to (DLNA, etc), but I've found a simple file share is the way to go.

    • I have the same setup people hear are talking about - headless NAS serving multiple WDTV boxes.

      Don't "forget" to upgrade the firmware to WDLXTV firmware. It adds tons of features - nzbget, torrents, nfs, DNLA, subtitle download and much more. In a pinch you can even have one of the boxes serve content off a USB drive.

    • I use to have WD Live devices on each of my TV's pulling from a network share. The problem is once you get a super large library (over 1000 movies, hundreds of tv show episodes) the WD Live units bog down and are slow to scan (5 minutes initially on power up to over 15 for a large library) and you have to wait to use them.

      The WD Lives cant be left on or plugged in, each of t he 3 unit I had would get extremely hot, even left plugged in and powered down. We took to unplugging the power from them when we

  • I'm pretty sure this supports streaming although I've not used it in that manner - preferring instead to simply download before using.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • I've been using TVMobili on a Kubuntu machine I have set up as a media server. It's not free... you can pay a one-time fee of $30 or $1.50 per month - but you can try it out first, to see if you like it. I've found it just works for everything I've thrown at it, I mostly use it for playback on my Samsung plasma smart TV (AllShare feature), handling MKVs, MP4s without a hitch, as well as the usual formats and containers. It can also do transcoding, and it has a web interface (My server sits in our basement).

  • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @07:21AM (#45963453) Homepage

    "making this work would take more hours than I'm prepared to spend."

    There is no turn key no work involved media server out there. you can try a standard NAS and build yourself a XBMC playback box, but you can not buy one.
    You will have to invest an entire weekend if you are a novice, or an entire saturday if you are an expert to do what you want. You had better prepare to spend some hours on this.

    • And it's to pay somebody else to build your media server for you.

      You say you can not buy one.

      Hogwash. I'm sure if you had the money you could find a computer savy nerd to build you an XBMC server solution for your home.

      That being said, Roku + Plex pretty much does everything.

  • I use Mediatomb from my Linux Mint box. If I recall correctly, I had to edit a conf file to get it to work with my PS3, but I don't think it was too involved to set up.
    • I run Mediatomb too. Works Great with my 40" Samsung TV, and various Android things: Nexus, Samsung, etc. Using it as I type this.
  • I use it for all my files, media or otherwise. I can go on and on but this works for me. Run it as a VM if you have no extra hardware layin around.
  • by ihtoit ( 3393327 ) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @07:39AM (#45963537)

    Backend: commodity Pentium 4 2.6GHz PC (that I was given) with 2TB RAID & laptop with XBMC and 11TB USB storage->Softmodded XBox Crystal Rev. 1.1, 20GB HDD (£15 at good gaming stores), XBMC->TV

    • And you can transcode on the fly a 1080p video + stream it using a Pentium 4?

      • by ihtoit ( 3393327 )

        not that the XBox can actually decode a 1080p stream (being an SD box via SCART), but... no. Just tried it. It'll do a buffered transcode, but not live streaming. Can a Raspberry Pi do it? I would think not being a 700MHz single core. Please don't throw out challenges that you know damn well can't be fulfilled with common gear (and no, a 2.4 quad core is NOT common gear).

  • I too was looking around at different solutions. I have Serviio working on an old XP box, but silly me I wanted to get moved to something a little more stable and permanent. A friend donated an XP Media Center PC that's a few years old, so I tried 2 or 3 different Linux media players, and all failed. XBMCbuntu looked like a great idea until I found out that it simply will NOT work on a machine using an ATI video card, which I have. Was excited to try LINHec, found out that it will only run on a machine

  • by mikelieman ( 35628 ) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @08:03AM (#45963627) Homepage

    Just expose the directory as a "Windows Share" and any client on the network should be able to see it.

  • With sickbeard and couchpotato to rename the media nicely into folders and download meta-data. Be careful with those though. If there are two files they think are the same, they'll delete one without warning.
  • by captjc ( 453680 ) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @08:14AM (#45963677)

    Miro is a free Cross Platform media manager and has built-in library streaming and video converter. Just put in RSS feeds or have it monitor folders.

    http://www.getmiro.com/ [getmiro.com]

  • I like it. Maybe it would do what you need.
  • 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.
  • My media lives on a WD MyBook Live 3TB drive which is basically a Power PC Linux box and hard drive all in one. It comes with a single network connector. Plug it in, use it's web interface to configure a couple of things and you have a very elegant DLNA sever that will happily also serve up SAMBA as well. I SSHed into mine and added Transmission to it, so now it also downloads all my torrents for me.

    For the front end I use a pair of boxes, one for my room, one for the lounge. My room runs off my main PC run

  • 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.
  • I have a server in the basement with all the media files (DVDs and BluRays that I own) and I use XBMC on a few Raspberry Pi devices around the house to organize and play.

  • http://www.rikomagic.com/en/index.html [rikomagic.com]

    Lots of options.
    Basically, it attaches to your TV android port. You can run any media server like xbmc etc., or whatever.
    You can go online, use an app to view videos, or simply use network file system.... Possibilities are endless

  • I recommend Plex (I know I know, I read the question)

    I have an Ubuntu 12.04 box running that.

    Don't generally have any problems with it.

    I did have an MKV problem where some encoding option caused it to barf but that was with DLNA clients and the transcoder.

    And it does have the advantage that you can get paid support for it at a very reasonable price.

    The MKV files that are missing, are they missing on the PMS or just missing in the client?
    And is the client DLNA or the native Plex client?

    Also, if you have a Sa

  • I mostly play downloaded video and while MediaPortal is aimed at the DVR crowd, I've found that it's been able to play most everything I download far more consistently than the competition. Also it doesn't try to index every media file you own (though the option is available) which in my experience causes many problems if you have a lot of files with inconsistent naming conventions. MediaPortal lets you simply browse your file system with a MCE Remote, select a file, and play it. It's 100% free and I'
    • ... I'd like to add that I don't use the TV Server functionality of Media Portal at all. Just the client. My video is stored on a windows server which is simply sharing video folders via SMB, My MPC box is just a PC running Windows 7 and Mediaportal, pointed at the server's SMB shares. You could just as easily keep your video on the MPC box. Takes about 20 minutes to setup and configure from scratch, assuming you have Windows already installed. It's much easier these days as they now include a very
  • Have you looked into Twonky [twonky.com]? It's what I use. Works exactly how you'd want.
  • I picked up a 1TB Buffalo Linkstation. It already runs a flavor of linux that you can telnet into fairly easily. You can then install something like uShare on it which is a DLNA server. It works well for me, I have a TV that can connect via DLNA or I can also connect via the PS3 or the XBox 360. Note that the PS4 and XBoxOne don't support DLNA even though their previous editions did.
    • by asylumx ( 881307 )
      I should have paid more attention to the summary. My solution does not work right out of the box, but it does work with only an hour or two of setup if you know your way around google (looking for how others did it).
  • I have a set-up where all my media files are stored on a generic Linux file server running Samba for CIFS/SMB and exporting NFS shares. This can be any old box you have laying around, and yes, the Raspberry Pi can do this fine.

    My televisions have small boxes mounted via VESA-mount adapters on the back of them. 2 are Raspberry Pis, 1 is a Zotac Z-Box [zotacusa.com]. Two are wired, one is wireless, all have power and HDMI cables. All run OpenELEC [openelec.tv] as a front end and I use Yatse [google.com] on my Android phone as a remote.

    The downsides a

  • I haven't look at the commercial products since I wanted to set up something free. However the free solutions *will* require quite an investment in time to learn how everything works and set up your device profiles.

    I'm using Serviio on my CentOS box, it took me weeks to get the profiles for all my devices working properly, but now it transcodes on the fly to my Panasonic and Samsung BueRay players (if you don't have a smart TV, get a BlueRay player that supports DLNA, should be around $100), and it works w

  • by jon3k ( 691256 ) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @09:52AM (#45964309)
    Nothing is 100%. Plex is pretty close. Other than that, build a PC and use Mobile Mouse [mobilemouse.com].
  • Converted to MP4 (Score:2, Informative)

    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.

  • by HockeyPuck ( 141947 ) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @12:26PM (#45966045)

    To me I wanted a solution that "just worked" for everyone in the family. That included me not wanting to have to compile anything or modify scripts, and the interface had to look polished hence running VLC isn't a solution for me.

    I've got a 2010 mac mini with an external nas hooked up to my TV. I've got over a hundred movies ripped and thousands of mp3s and a few dozen tv shows. I put them into to root folders "Movies", "music" and "TV Shows". I pick the right scanner for each (30 seconds worth of effort). If I wanted I could store the music in iTunes and plex can retrieve it from there.

    As long as you've got the files named something useful (I use the movie's name and year of release in the filename rather than "ROTJ.mov"). Only issues are with titles that are a bit out there like concert DVDs, and for those very few I just manually correct it. (5 min of work).

    The GUI for plex is optimized for a remote control If you've got the silver apple remote this is perfect (the old white plastic one didn't have enough buttons). Or just use the iphone/android app instead. I do have an IR keyboard if I need to do something on the mac.

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