Plex Media Server on the Raspberry Pi 2 – Joy and Anguish
Over the years, I have been collecting DVDs, backing up the movies to a desktop computer for playback on its big screen. Recently, projects like Kodi and Plex media server came along and promised to not only offer those same movies in a pleasing GUI, but to gather metadata about the movies and to save my place when I access them from different places. I would love to have a dedicated server so I don’t need to continuously run my desktop computer, but I’m too cheap to spring for a dedicated NAS. The raspberry pi 2 promises an easy way to accomplish this goal without first having to earn a degree in computer science.
(Video syncs out with the audio at the end, but it’s all there otherwise)
Spirited googling took me to a rather detailed walkthrough by Richard Smith on YouTube. I used ‘dd’ in Ubuntu 15.10 on my laptop to create the Debian Wheezy microSD card. Then, I used wget to pull down the latest Plex Media Server package and used dpkg -i to build and install it. Then, I installed a few extra packages (mkvtoolnix, libexpat1 and ffmpeg). Then I restarted the server.
sudo service plexmediaserver restart
Lastly, I launched the gui (using ‘startx’), launched the default iceweasel browser and pointed it to the newly-launched plex server (http://localhost:32400/web/index.html). This brings the user to the standard Plex interface, where you can connect your server to your Plex account, if you have one. This makes the server visible to Plex clients using the same account (assuming port forwarding and firewalls are configured correctly).
Performance was surprisingly good. Movies launch after a short delay, the video and audio quality are excellent and there is no stuttering or lag. Streaming video from subscribed channels in Plex, such as Vimeo, seem to play just fine. Playback works well on the Chrome web app in Linux and on the Nexus 7 2014. The Plex clients for iOS refuse to connect, stating that the server needs to upgrade to the latest version. I got the same error on the iPhone, iPad and Apple TV 2.
Another disappointment is that the Pi2 is unable to transcode video. This makes it unable to play other videos I have accumulated over the years. For example, I have a number of .mp4 videos of television recordings I made for myself using EyeTV that just won’t play.
Notwithstanding these small shortcomings, the Raspberry Pi 2 does an admirable job playing video server, especially with hardware whose cost is scarcely more than a tank of gas.
Richard Smith’s YouTube guide to running the Plex Media Server on the Raspberry Pi 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9OVEmTPZomI
Powered USB Hub: Belkin F5U404-BLK
Hard drive: Western Digital My Passport P/N: WD8Y8L0020BBL-01
Raspberry Pi 2 + kit on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00MV6TAJI/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o08_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1