Plex blog

It’s not easy being green: Secure communication arrives!

06.04.15 154 Comments

We’re incredibly excited to let you know that we’re teaming up with DigiCert to provide all of you with high quality SSL certificates for your media servers, at no cost to you. Your media server will now be able to communicate securely with top-grade encryption. This may not sound like a big deal, but we’re not exaggerating when we say that this will be one of the largest implementations of publicly trusted certificates, ever.

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When we first started our little operation so many years ago, the Internet was a much kinder and gentler place. Ah, the halcyon days before NSA wiretapping, ISP traffic shaping, POODLE, Heartbleed, and LaBRADooDLE.

Okay, I made that last one up, but it’s only a matter of time.

Needless to say, times have changed. In today’s Internet security climate, it’s a laughable offense if every packet leaving and entering your network is not encrypted, its recipient verified. The security community has rallied to create some truly amazing technology to enable this for traditional web sites. In a nutshell, your browser and your bank’s website work their asses off under the hood to render that coveted “green lock” which assures you that yes, the form that you’re typing your account number and password into is actually your bank’s and not, in fact, being served up by a golden retriever.

This is tricky enough when trying to secure a single web server, but for a system like Plex, comprised of a bazillion servers talking with clients running on every platform under the sun, it’s another matter entirely.

(At which point, the peanut gallery yells “Just add an S to wherever you were using HTTP. Duh.”)

Oh, if only it were that easy…

Let’s look at some of the complexities: For starters, secure communication requires something called a certificate, which securely identifies a website. Now anyone can make a (self-signed) certificate, but it can be tedious to install, and for a browser to trust it and give it that elusive green lock, it has to have been signed by a trusted authority. It’s a pretty laughable security experience if the browser warns you that your server isn’t trusted! We knew from the start that we needed real, official certificates, and there are a few problems with that. For starters, they’re expensive, especially when multiplied by a bazillion. And we knew we wanted to give a secure experience to everyone, not just our Plex Pass users. And that’s why we hooked up with the amazing team at DigiCert, and they were all “you want an ungodly amount of certs? We can do that!” So yeah, we’re buying you all DigiCert certificates for your media servers. Because we love you, and because your security and privacy is really important to us.

Secondly, as mentioned before, we’re on a lot of platforms, and there are lots of nuances to secure communication. For example, did you know that Internet Explorer requires Diffie-Hellman primes to be larger than 512 bits? Did you know that certain models of LG TVs ship with a specific set of root certificates which is missing some common ones you might expect? Frankly, I hope you have no clue what I’m talking about here, because it gave us some major headaches along the way, but if you’re nodding your head as you reach for your small-batch home brew IPA, send us a resume. No, really.

Next is the server itself, which doesn’t just have to support HTTPS, it has to do so avoiding many pitfalls, crocodiles, and whatever else was in that awesome game. Thankfully there are tools to help with that, and they even give you a grade. Let’s just say the Plex Media Server is an overachiever! Its parents are so proud.

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Last of all, the media server can be accessed both remotely and on a LAN. At any given time, it may be accessible via multiple addresses. Certificates are generally associated with a small set of unchanging IP addresses. So we’ve worked some DNS magic to remove that limitation, and make things Just Work.

So what does it look like? Well, it might be a bit anticlimactic, because everything just works as it did before. Well, except for the BEAUTIFUL GREEN LOCK AND SECURE CONNECTION!

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So what do you have to do? Well, update to the latest release (v0.9.12.3), and make sure you’re signed in. Also, check out our support article on the topic. We’ve silently pushed support for secure connections to Android, Roku (Preview app), the web app, Windows, and Plex Home Theater. (Gaming consoles and Smart TVs coming soon, and iOS is wrapping up a major release which includes full support for secure connections.)

Since all servers won’t update at the same time, we make it clear with a green lock which servers are secure. If you’re connecting to a friend’s server which isn’t, encourage them to upgrade. Cajole them with free alcohol. Or a cronut.

This release brought to you by upside-down Barkley. Who wants to give him a belly rub?

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Plex Music Goes to Eleven!

04.30.15 362 Comments

I have a confession to make.

Picture Al Gore blasting air conditioning with his car windows rolled down, a cooler full of polar bear steaks in the trunk, and in the passenger seat, Tipper’s singing along to Ice Cube, with all the naughty words. It’s literally that bad.

You see, for the past few years, I’ve been using iTunes for music and not Plex.

Why, you might ask? Well, inertia for sure; I’ve been using iTunes for a decade. But let’s just say that our support for music wasn’t exactly stellar. And that’s just completely unacceptable.

Thankfully, that changes today.

Six months ago, we gathered up a crack team of music lovers and holed up in a secret underground bunker. Armed only with oxygen-free audio cables, a Technics SL-1200, and three copies of Duran Duran’s Thank You, we toiled away in total darkness, fueled only by yerba mate and guarana. Finally, shielding our eyes from the unfamiliar light of day, we emerged like naked mole rats, except less naked and somewhat more human, carrying code wrought in the fiery furnaces of vesuvian compilers. And without further ado, we’d like to show you what we’ve been working on.

(Not a big fan of the written word? Not a problem, head straight over to our quick start guide.)

Vastly improved scanning

The first step is getting your music into Plex, and we’ve made some giant improvements to this process. We scan new media first (so even if you have a giant library, it’s quick to pick up the new stuff), and we download posters and other information during the scan, instead of waiting until the end. (As a bonus, this works for movie libraries too!)

Massive management and browsing enhancements

One of the biggest shortcomings up until now was that when we didn’t scan something quite right (because, let’s face it, nobody’s perfect), it was really hard to take charge and correct the mistake. We’ve added rich multi-select, full access to edit things like disc and track number, and the ability to quickly delete whole albums or artists. You can easily move tracks between albums, albums between artists, and merge albums and artists. Multi-select features have been highly requested, and of course you can use them to set genres on multiple movies at the same time too, for example.

We’ve also finally added multi-disc support, and we’ve added some new filters and sorts for music (play count, date played, rating). Should we have had these things from the beginning? Yes. Does that mean they’re any less appreciated now? Well, we certainly hope not!

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Music videos

I might be dating myself here, but I remember when MTV actually played music videos instead of airing shows about kids having kids and a certain shore on the East Coast. Plex now supports adding your own music videos to your library, associated with tracks or artists. You can add regular music videos, live music videos, lyrical music videos, or even interviews. (Have a Plex Pass? We make it even easier with Vevo, as we’ll talk about more below.)


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Rich music discovery features

We’ve added more ways to explore your own media. You can see albums you’ve listened to most in the last month, rediscover artists you haven’t played in some time, and other such suggestions, which can be much more fun than just browsing through a list of thousands of artists or albums.

We also display the most popular tracks for each artist, as well as allow you to browse to similar artists.

All this discovery and exploration can be incredibly immersive; I sat down the other evening to quickly test something out, got lost for an hour watching a bunch of music videos, and then finally ended up playing an old Neil Young album I hadn’t heard in years.

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You want one more thing? You can have one more thing. We’ll also show you when artists are on tour. Just another way we make your music library more connected to the bands you love!


Incredible platform support

As many of you know, Plex is available just about everywhere, but it’s worth reminding you that once you have a brand new, mega awesome music library, you can stream all of your music, wherever you are. Whether it’s inside your house, or thousands of miles away, you’ll always have all your music available.


As you all know, we do love our Plex Pass members, and we always go the extra mile to provide them with great value. Dear Plex Pass members: we really think you’ll enjoy this latest batch of goodies! It makes us really happy to spare no expense to bring you the absolute best.

(Just one caveat, some features are not available on a few platforms.)

Sonic fingerprinting for improved matching

You can’t always be super organized with your music collections, and ensure everything has perfect tags, and now you don’t have to. Even if the file doesn’t have any tags at all, Gracenote’s sonic fingerprinting can work magic. We’ve developed our own smart system to take advantage of this new data. We can’t promise it’ll be perfect, but we can promise it’s much better, and we’ve worked incredibly hard to tune all the heuristics, scanning test libraries literally hundreds of times and using a deep neural network (ok, just our own brains) to optimize.


Plus, as a bonus, artist and album art show up instantly during a scan. You have to see it to believe it.

Artist bios, album reviews, and more

We’ve licensed the best metadata money can buy; you get rich artist bios, great album reviews, high resolution artist and album art, and well-organized genres from Gracenote.

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Mood mixes

Individual tracks now have moods associated with them, so you can make a smart playlist with a mood of “Euphoric Energy,” or quickly shuffle all tracks in your library which are “Exuberant” or “Forlorn.” Is anyone surprised The Cure showed up here?

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Automatic music videos from Vevo

Don’t want to spend hours finding and managing your favorite videos? Let Plex and Vevo take care of it for you. Vevo’s catalog of over 140,000 HD music videos show up automatically in your library, ready to stream, without interruption! For more details and to see which countries Vevo is available in, visit our help article on the topic.

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Plex Mix

Create a custom radio station from tracks in your own library. Simply pick a track, select “Play Plex Mix” and you’re off to the races. Love a track you’re hearing? Queue up a Plex Mix and you’ll keep the mood going.

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Last words

With all this goodness, I’m happy to report that iTunes is a thing of the past for me. These days I’ve straightened up and I’m flyin’ right—just like if Al got rid of his gas guzzlers and personal jets, and Tipper confessed to being a massive NWA fan. It just feels right.

We’ll leave you with this video we made to introduce everyone to the new Plex Music! This is Mike. He has a beard.

We’ll let Barkley have the very last word, as usual. He’s been busy enjoying the beach, learning to bring in the paper, and just relaxing in the sun.

If you made it this far, thanks for reading (no really, we appreciate it)! Head to our quick start guide, and get your Plex music on!

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