Plex/Seven: Introducing the all-new Plex Media Server - Plex Blog

Plex/Seven: Introducing the all-new Plex Media Server

| 15 Nov 2008 | by 60 Comments

We’ve been talking about providing integration for a while now with iTunes and iPhoto, and with the feature I’m describing today, your wait is officially over.

The Plex Media Server is a standalone program that runs alongside Plex (or alone on any machine, it’s a Universal Binary). It serves up media from your iLife applications (iTunes and iPhoto today, Aperture and Lightroom shortly). Plex communicates with the Plex Media Server on the local machine, on your local network, or even across the world over the Internet. This means that you can play your friends’ iTunes playlists or browse their podcasts or photo albums.

FEATURE: Access to your media locally or across the network.

The Plex Media Server knows where all your iTunes and iPhoto libraries are, monitors them for changes, and reloads them seamlessly in the background upon update. Add a new album or two to iTunes on your server in the basement, walk over to your home theater setup, and the new albums will be there already for you to play. It’s also extremely fast, loading about 3000 tracks a second.

FEATURE: Hassle-free continuous access to all your media.

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Without further ado, let me take you through the iTunes integration. There are lots of little details that enhance usability. Primary browsing is of course through Artists, Albums, Compilations, and Tracks. When you want to browse by Tracks, you pick the starting letter so you don’t sit there waiting for a 30,000 track list to display.

FEATURE: Designed for high performance, even across the network.

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When you display albums, the year is displayed alongside. When browsing through all tracks, the track and artist are displayed. When displaying tracks of an album, only the track number and name are displayed. The Plex Media Server automatically adjusts the display to provide you with exactly the information you need.
FEATURE: Smart display of data.

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So far I haven’t displayed album art. I mean, who needs it, right, when you have the correct information being displayed? Wrong. When Plex talks to the Plex Media Server, it obtains 100% of the album art, whether it’s stored in the iTunes album art cache, ID3 tags, or cover art files in the album folder.
FEATURE: 100% iTunes album art, even over the network.

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(Bonus points to anyone who can name all of the albums displayed.)

Podcast support is also excellent. Both the Videos and Music sections in Plex communicate with the Plex Media Server to provide Podcast browsing and playing. Anyone else out there a Fresh Air fan?

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You can also browse albums by genre, or even by decade:

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You can also see the albums you’ve added recently, as well as your recent plays by artist, album, or track. This is another example of where we’ve taken the basic iTunes functionality and enhanced it for Plex users.

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All said, we think it’s very spiffy! We’ve had a lot of fun browsing friends’ iTunes catalogs over the network; the speed is excellent, and will be improved even further in future versions.

Support for iPhoto (thanks to James, who also added support for Bonjour in the Plex Media Server which will be put to good use shortly) is also rich. You can browse by Event, Album, Keyword, or Rating. Here we are browsing albums (sorry, most of my stuff is in Aperture):

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And here we are browsing by keywords:

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All said, we’re really excited about this new component to the Plex experience. We’re definitely going to be taking the Plex Media Server in some interesting directions in the coming year.

I’ll leave you with this photo of Barkley and his friend Manu, in which Barkley looks distinctly less clean-cut.

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60 Comments so far

  1. Jamie November 16th, 2008 12:17 am

    Wow,

    I feel another donation coming on. Amazing stuff.

  2. joshua November 16th, 2008 12:20 am

    Looks amazing guys … this feature i’m most excited about .. especially once Aperture support is in there working ….
    keep it up !!

  3. Neckaros November 16th, 2008 12:21 am

    Wow! You have done some amazing work! i didn’t expect so much!
    It’s 16/11 here in france! can’t wait! :)

  4. joshua November 16th, 2008 12:22 am

    Forgot to add …. are itunes playlists supported in the plex mediaserver as well ?
    thanks again !

  5. Lars November 16th, 2008 12:23 am

    Same here, I’m so looking forward to this update I just sent them a tenner for their hard work. Excellent work, guys.

  6. elan November 16th, 2008 12:26 am

    @joshua: iTunes playlists are 100% supported.

  7. Ben November 16th, 2008 1:24 am

    What about support for non-iTunes DAAP remote libraries? I’ve got a linux server that has my complete music collection, and it shares this out on the network over the DAAP steaming protocol through Banshee, a linux music player. The problem that I currently have is that about half of my music is in FLAC, which iTunes does not support, although Plex does. It’d be my dream come true if Plex could see and talk to my linux server’s music share, and play the formats that iTunes can’t handle.

    So basically, do you have support (or planned support) for iTunes shares on non-Macintosh computers not using the Plex Media Server? Thanks! On that note, I can’t wait for Plex/Seven!

  8. tintifax3k November 16th, 2008 1:25 am

    +1 for the Cardinology Album!!

  9. pletopia November 16th, 2008 1:31 am

    2 questions
    -Will we be able to create genius playlists on the fly withing plex ?
    -Are there plans to move the movie/tv scrappers to the media server and have them also managing the video library?

  10. elan November 16th, 2008 1:32 am

    @Ben: Plex Media Server will eventually support your configuration from a server perspective (that is, it will run on Linux, and serve up your media directly to Plex).

  11. elan November 16th, 2008 1:33 am

    @tintifax3k: Yeah, I loved his last album with the Cardinals as well :)

  12. elan November 16th, 2008 1:39 am

    @pletopia: No (see http://ootunes.blogspot.com/2008/10/create-genius-playlists-in-itunes-on-go.html for why it’s not clean or easy) and um, no comment :)

  13. Allards November 16th, 2008 1:47 am

    It seems great to me, i can’t whait, any idea when we can start playing with it?

    It supports podcast, i hope including resuming from where it was previously stopped.

    I also hope that XBMC can connect to the Plex server. Sometimes at work i need to use Windows, using Plex to connect to my Plex server at home is not an option then!

  14. Conny November 16th, 2008 1:49 am

    Wow, yesterday I was asking for iTunes and iPhoto support and today I got it. Can’t wait to play with it.

  15. pletopia November 16th, 2008 2:23 am

    using this implementation, if i play a mp3 in plex, will itunes know about it and update its last play & play count for that file ?

  16. Magnus November 16th, 2008 2:26 am

    I’m getting very excited about this release!

  17. Andre November 16th, 2008 2:52 am

    I can see Kings of Convenience’s Versus, two albums of Zero 7 and Bebel Gilberto’s Tanto Tempo.
    Nice taste, I have them too =) and two thumbs up on the new features, they look awsome. Cheers

  18. gregd November 16th, 2008 3:23 am

    An incredible achievement! Well done. Dare I ask when we can get our hands on this gem of a release? In time for Xmas I hope? :)

  19. shaddix November 16th, 2008 3:50 am

    Great news! This really goes into the right direction.
    Just a short question, do you guys plan to integrate video streaming as well? (in the future)
    And if yes, just through your iTunes library or also through your local media files? (.avi etc) (the lack of supported video formats in iTunes just sucks…)

    Anyways, another great update!! Keep it up! =)

  20. Omer Katzir November 16th, 2008 4:05 am

    Dude, you SUCK! only one doggy picture??? we want more! :-)

    Plex replaced frontrow on my Macmini, and i must say, you’ve done good job so far. I’ll even donate once I’ll find way to charge my PayPal account.

  21. DCstewieG November 16th, 2008 5:26 am

    Seriously, guys. This is incredible. I continue to be amazed by your dedication and the stuff you’re turning out. I hope the appreciation of thousands of fans and (hopefully more than a few) donations keep it worth it!

  22. jayman978 November 16th, 2008 6:17 am

    More info about this great new feature here:
    http://wiki.plexapp.com/index.php/Getting_Started#Plex_Media_Server

    Much thanks to the Elan and the Plex Devs for this great feature!

  23. anville November 16th, 2008 6:35 am

    Will the server transcode video to a lower bit rate to stream to a plex front-end over the net? That would be slick! Opens up the possibility for an iPhone mini-plex :-)

  24. stockds November 16th, 2008 7:57 am

    Ok – looks like some devs have been rather busy, well done!

    Any time you’d like to stop teasing and release some code would be fine with me :D

  25. Jezz_X November 16th, 2008 8:31 am

    when you say ” (or alone on any machine, it’s a Universal Binary). ” I assume you mean “on any OSX machine” and that you don’t have versions for windows or Linux

  26. Weavus November 16th, 2008 8:36 am

    One question… is this transparent to Plex or does the skin have to support this? All the new features have so far only showed MediaStream in the screenshots. Am I still going to be able to use Aeon/Horizonz without losing any new functionality?

  27. Michael November 16th, 2008 8:38 am

    This sounds great. A number of folks to whom I’ve evangelized about this great project mentioned an interest in this.

    That said … Whatever you do though, please please please don’t ever remove support for the existing local / network file system model. =) You’ll think I’m crazy (probably true), but one of the biggest reasons I ran xbmc on my xbox for so long was that I didn’t have to use iTunes or any other media server. I’m old school and prefer to organize my personal setup by folder. …yes I know, thousands of albums and thousands of pictures in folders with no tags with no search capability – but that’s the way I love it =)

  28. Maddox November 16th, 2008 8:46 am

    oh man. thanks guys! This is something i’ve been saying forever that we’d need in order to get perfect support for everything.

    Have you thought about supporting videos as well? This way all of our tv show and movie metadata can be maintained in one spot and served out to our multiple plex setups.

    I have plex in the living room and the bedroom, so this would make everything nice and easy.

  29. Michael November 16th, 2008 9:12 am

    Oh, one other thing – do you plan on having any uPnP support for the media server and can it run without Plex running (since its a separate binary)? I currently run twonky on the same machine that runs Plex so that I can serve content to my PS3. It would be great to just have one media server app…but would also be nice to not always keep the main Plex app running (keeping the cpu busy even when idle).

  30. Adam November 16th, 2008 9:20 am

    WOW! you guys are blowing me away with all the ingenuity behind this product. I have to get a Mac…it is a for sure now in my life

  31. elan November 16th, 2008 10:00 am

    @pletopia: We don’t write back to the iTunes DB (for now?)

    @Andre: Good eyes!

    @shaddix: Yes all around.

    @anville: Not presently, but there is of course potential to do lots of cool stuff like that.

    @Weavus: Transparent to Plex.

    @Maddox: You can play iTunes video podcasts right now. More support to follow.

    @Michael: Yes. We emphatically believe that Plex is the wrong place for a UPnP server. I have a Roku Soundbridge so I have a slight soft spot for the protocol.

  32. Ben November 16th, 2008 10:08 am

    I already donated, but I wish I wasn’t a poor student so I could donate significantly more. These features are fantastic and exactly what the doctor ordered. Good work!

  33. Lcs November 16th, 2008 10:18 am

    Ok, let’s help someone to get the bonus. In addition to Andre: Frou Frou – Details, Massive Attack – Mezzanine, Kruder & Dorfmeister – K&D Sessions, Eels – Beautiful Freak.

  34. pletopia November 16th, 2008 10:18 am

    @Maddox .. have you looked into linking the “slave” plex machines to a “master” plex machine

    i think it’s possible to have one plex machine that handles everything and then have “slave” machines with their Plex dir from Application Support linked to that master .. wouldn’t that work ???

  35. Maddox November 16th, 2008 2:47 pm

    @elan I meant more for standard video files, not just video inside our iTunes libraries. Also, if the server worked as a uPnP server as well, it’d be absolutely amazing. That’d take care of my ps3 and for tunes on my 360 while playing games. I’m running so much software to get the same functionality done on different platforms!

    @pletopia Do you mean using file shares and symlinks? I’ve done this before, and its a good proof of concept, but Os X’s file sharing is so bad, that its easy to break. If you dont manually mount the share after a reboot, everything breaks.

  36. PlexMedia November 16th, 2008 4:10 pm

    The more we invest on this question the more power you will gain….

    WHEN WILL ALL THIS BE RELEASED?

  37. Freddyflinty November 16th, 2008 5:23 pm

    This is amazing….

    What are the chances of the plex:// source type being ported back to XBMC for Linux? I have a Mac with all my Music/Photos but my Media Center runs Linux. Would love to run the Plex Media Server on my Mac and access via my XBMC Linux box.

  38. mister ed November 16th, 2008 5:46 pm

    let’s see…

    what i see:

    a few t-corporation albums, and a kruder & dorfmeister.

    you should check out some ‘sofa surfers’, if you haven’t already :)

  39. Shawn November 16th, 2008 5:49 pm

    In addition to the others, we’ve got St. Vincent, Marry Me as the first in that picture. Great album.

    And AMAZING features coming up. Any thoughts on Parental controls or an additional way to sort movies and TV shows? I currently mark anything ‘not kid safe’ as watched and then say ‘Hide Watched’.

    I’ll be donating soon.

  40. iordonez November 16th, 2008 7:26 pm

    @Allards, Freddyflinty Unfortunately we can’t comment on any features that team XBMC will be adding to their software for obvious reasons (mainly we don’t know them).

  41. OwlBoy November 16th, 2008 8:41 pm

    UPNP support would be sweet. So Plex MS could serve up our media not only to our XBMC installs, but to the increasing number of devices that support the UPNP standard.

    Though this would be something to do down the line :). Keep it in mind, it would be awesome to have such a thing that knew about iLife media in such a great way this seems to!

    -Owl

  42. Sal November 17th, 2008 12:53 am

    Now that Plex7 is released, shouldn’t there be a link up for this too?

  43. rickler November 17th, 2008 8:06 am

    Wow, love the app – don’t know if anyone else has picked up on it but love the new icon!!

  44. sat_ellite November 17th, 2008 1:11 pm

    WHERE CAN I GET THE APP!!??? (sry about the yell)

  45. elan November 17th, 2008 1:43 pm

    @sat_ellite: Check the latest post, there’s a link :)

  46. migueld November 17th, 2008 6:50 pm

    Argentina photos? Nice, that’s my home country :)

  47. sat_ellite November 18th, 2008 2:47 pm

    ;) ok.. i got it…

    but.. :( i can’t hear anything … music plays slooowwwwwwwwwww tch…. tcha… tchaa…tchaaan… and so.. What can be happening? Any other with the same problem? Pls help!!!1

  48. DJ Rick November 19th, 2008 2:30 am

    I’ve been using Plex a long time now, especially for playing HD content, better then VLC (also when you’re using NAS).

    With this release I finally can switch completely for all media from FrontRow to Plex :-) I still use FrontRow for playing my iTunes music, but this version 7 is very, very, very nice. It looks good and is easy to use! And in case I want to, via ‘programms’ I still can access FrontRow ….

    @sat_ellite: I’ve got the same problem, in the beginning all iTunes music played well, but now the music plays too slow :-(
    I’m using digital output to my Sony STR-DA3200ES receiver.

    For the rest, this is a very big step forward for the development of PLEX!

    Thanks.

  49. engessa November 21st, 2008 12:39 am

    Hmm, i remain a little sceptical. So next to samba, UPNP, DAAP, XBMSP we also get Plex as a streaming protocol. Yay.

    I use Freenas to share all my media across many different protocols and to many different systems (xbmc on the xbox, xbox 360, windows xp and vista machines and my macbook) and this is just another protocol i might or might not figure out and get it to work on my Freenas.

    It gets a little cluttered with all these protocols and getting and keeping them to work in the right way.

  50. elan November 21st, 2008 12:44 am

    @engessa: I respect your skepticism. I’m not sure that you need to do anything to get it to work with your FreeNAS, since if you’re storing iTunes or iPhoto libraries there, it will just work (since presumably OS X is already connecting via SMB).

    Anyway, hopefully what we’re doing in the coming months will convince you that it’s worthwhile!

  51. BitPerfect November 21st, 2008 4:25 am

    What are the technical differences between the existing UPnP, Bonjour, XBMSP protocols, and this new PLEX protocol? Or is PLEX just a forked and modified version of UPnP or XBMSP?

    I am just curious why you would want to create a new proprietary protocol instead of using an existing open and widely used standard like UPnP or Bonjour.

  52. elan November 21st, 2008 9:06 am

    @BitPerfect: They are completely different animals. The Plex Media Server communicates (like all self-respecting web services) using XML over HTTP and is thus completely standards based.

  53. RL November 24th, 2008 3:47 am

    Hi. I’ve been doing some reading on Plex and I’m excited about it but I’m a bit of a tech neophyte. I have a Mac, I have a PS3. If I download Plex, will I be able to stream media from my Mac to my PS3? Thanks.

  54. Todd November 26th, 2008 5:25 am

    Hey, the DL link is gone. Was it removed due to bugs?

  55. anewie December 3rd, 2008 8:53 pm

    Do’t show the font menu

  56. mike February 24th, 2009 8:58 am

    what’s up with the podcasts screenshot? is that an alternative skin? View:Roller is what’s throwing me off because I can’t get Plex to mimic that view.

  57. mike March 2nd, 2009 8:26 am

    @mike : Horizonz skin

  58. David August 22nd, 2009 1:27 pm

    Hey, just wanted to say great work. I’ve moved to using Plex for my “entertainment system”. It works great so far.

    Just adding my 2 cents asking for an ETA on a windows version of Plex Media Server – just so happens my big workstation with the large disks is a windows box, and currently syncing iTunes libraries across SMB is one hell of a chore! :)

  59. deloco January 20th, 2011 11:22 pm

    I really like Plex, and I love that the MediaServer is now a separated program…
    But what about Linux-compatiblity?
    I think the Server only is really usefull, when you can run it on any machine, especially an some old Linux-Server lying around…

  60. knut March 14th, 2014 1:11 am

    Plex running on Netgear NAS 102, we are liking this! But it needs an newer version of server software. Only update is a bin file and does not extract or install, in order to update it needs a deb file. Which I can not find or even if there one, would need to know how to install without going to the shell and risking data loss or damage to my system.
    I’ve seen and read a lot of attempts to update some good, a lot bad.. Please someone on staff at Plex find a update release for the NAS 102, it seems a lot of people are waiting and even more are not installing until some update is available to be able to use html 5 and some trans-coding for video.
    Thanks – K

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