Adam, Jerod, and Tim get together to talk about Plex! Plex is a media server which allows you to store your movies, TV shows, music, photos, etc. Turns out, you can actually use it together with an antenna to watch live TV and DVR content. They chat about what has Adam so excited, the pros and cons (or as Adam said, “trade-offs”), and how to get started.
Click here to listen along while you enjoy the transcript. 🎧
Alright, we’re backstage, talking about Plex. We have this show here on The Changelog, and we don’t really – we’ve done like one…
Well, this is two.
Okay, so we’ve got two.
We have bigger plans for it. Maybe conversations like this resonate with you, and if it does, go into the app and favorite it, go on Twitter and tweet about it, or hop in Slack and say what’s up, or tweet at us, and just say “Hey, I really like that. It’s cool. Do more.” But I kind of got into Plex recently, and if you’re not familiar with Plex, their tagline is Stream Smarter… But basically, Plex has been around for years, and I’ve known it as streaming your own personal media, so ripping Blu-rays, ripping DVDs, movies, things like that… Well, now it’s kind of grown into this new mix where it’s like video news, and they have recorded shows you can do off of live air… It’s kind of morphed over the years. More importantly, it’s gotten better.
Back in the day, I used to have to use a Mac Mini, and this was before Apple TV was ubiquitous and worked well… And it’s just interesting how things have played out; I used to rip my DVDs with (I think it was) iDVD Rip, or something like that… And even for a while, they were sort of frowned upon; it was like, was it legal, was it not legal? All these different things. Well, hey, if you own it - like, if I borrow Jerod’s disk and rip it, that’s illegal. But if I own my own media, I should be able to rip that from the original medium (the disk) and have some sort of digital copy.
Now, they’ve obviously evolved their ways to offer digital copies, and that’s one argument we’ll talk about here, but we wanna talk about this software called Plex Media Server, what it has to offer, why you’d use it, why now, and more importantly, why not?
What got me on this kick was like – you know, I’ve got all these Blu-rays…
Do you buy those, like, all the time, or what’s your purchasing habits? Because I was a DVD collector, but I own zero Blu-rays.
Right. It’s definitely ebb and flowed. I think what’s become evident, actually, is if I sorted in Plex so far by year – I’ve got a couple that have been released in 2018, 2017, a few in 2016, but most of them were like scattered throughout the years, and they’re more like my headliners, things I would definitely watch, one or many times… Or, in the case of like, if I went to the movie to watch it – like, I’ve always had some version of theater in my house, some sort of nice speakers. It may not have always been 7.1 or 5.1 or whatever, but there’s always been some sort of nice experience where I’ve had a sub, nice speakers, and good enough, where I didn’t feel like I had to go to the movies to get a good experience.
So I’ve always just eventually bought my favorites to rewatch again, or not see them in the theater because “Hey, I’ll just buy the Blu-ray”, or watch them in the theater and love it so much I had to buy the Blu-ray as well, because I’m gonna watch it two, three, four, or fifty more times. The weirdness here is that I’ve probably watched The Martian at least 75 times.
[laughs] That is weird.
And it’s not like I’m actually watching it… As you know, we ship a newsletter, and the older ways we used to do it prior to this year having a newsfeed - I would spend a Friday night or a Saturday night hacking on a newsletter, and The Martian tended to be my timer, so to speak. I would just play The Martian in the background, and if I wasn’t done with the newsletter in that hour and a half, then I was wrong, basically.
[00:04:14.09] Do you have a man-crush on Matt Damon, or what’s within The Martian specifically that makes that one the one you wanna watch?
I’m a Sci-Fi guy, I listened to the book on audible… The audible book is so much better than the movie, but the movie is definitely a good meal replacement for the actual 9+ hour-long book.
Did you say a meal replacement? [laughs]
Yeah, just for fun… Why not.
The score of that film is spectacular, as well.
Very good. Aside from the ending - I’m not gonna spoil it, because we’re not a spoiler kind of show here… He gets off Mars, okay? [laughter]
Aww… What was that…?!
Right after he said, “I’m not gonna spoil it…” [laughs]
Speaking of wrong, that was wrong right there.
Rewind, don’t listen, that was a lie.
We were gonna take this straight to tape, but now you’ve just put an editing job into this, man…
Well, you know, Tim can bleep it. He can be the final say in the edit booth. [laughter] So you’ve got this movie, The Martian, I’ve seen it a ton of times, and I’ve seen it a ton more times because I own it on Blu-ray… But at the time, I was okay with literally getting up – because we’re all lazy, to some degree, right? Getting up, putting the media into the Blu-ray player, spinning it up, dealing with all the unnecessary trailers and all that crap…
Oh, man… Are you kidding me?
The experience of playing a disc was just terrible, right? If you have a collection of that many – the spin-up of the disk, the waiting, the trailers, all that stuff is just enough to make you be like “Screw it.” And that’s where Netflix comes in.
Let me ask you this, because I don’t have Blu-ray experience, so I’m very much flaunting my ignorance here, so help me out… Because with DVDs they had all those required, unskippable portions - you have to watch the menu, you have to watch these six–
It’s the same.
That’s a terrible experience.
Like, forget lazy… It’s just like, why would I wanna waste 12 minutes watching this thing – especially because you’re a repeat watcher… You spend enough on a brand new movie, but if you’re watching the same show over and over again… That’s a terrible experience.
Well, I’ve got a list here of what we can do down eventually, but you’re speaking to one of them, which is just like, you know, you can avoid this extra crap they force down your throats, and if you have a connected Blu-ray player, well now you’re getting dynamic trailers… So it’s almost like ads.
The Blu-ray is several years old - well, now they’re gonna fetch out to the internet and get you some current trailers.
That’s actually not so bad, because at least you’re not watching the same trailer over and over again.
But they’re watching you.
[laughs] They’re watching you…
They’re watching you.
For me, the trailers aren’t the bad part of that experience, because I personally love to watch trailers… But it’s that screen that says–
No, it’s also the screen that says…
The FBI one?
Exactly, the FBI one…
Oh, my gosh…
And they play it for like 8-10 seconds. It’s just so long, and it’s ridiculous.
They’ve actually extended the length of that timing because of how - this is slightly political, but how the education system… I don’t know if that’s the right word even, but the average reading time of Americans has changed.
We don’t read so good?
We don’t read so good, so they have elongated it by like 0,5 seconds, or something.
We need to open a school for kids who wanna read good, and how to do other things good, too… [laughter]
[00:07:53.13] Well, that’s terrible. Okay, that I get. That, I totally get, in terms of like “I’m gonna rip these, because I can’t put up with all of this cruft.” It’s like consumer hostile activity going on. What do you spend on Blu-ray - $30, $20?
Some of them, yeah. It depends. A good 4K Blu-ray that has the 4K disc, the 1080p Blu-ray, and potentially separate featurettes or a bonus disc, plus a digital copy - which is a common package these days - is averaging probably between $20 and $30.
Yeah. So you spend 30 bucks and then you’ve gotta put up with that junk?
I’d say it’s more $20(ish) than $30(ish), but yeah.
Adam, you’re keeping these Blu-rays after you’re ripping them though, right?
Of course, yeah. This isn’t like a “Hey, buy it, rip it, throw it away or sell it.” I mean, maybe you could, so that could be part of your strategy, eventually you might, that’s a choice you could make, but ultimately, what you’re really trying to do, which is point number one for me, is you’re just trying to backup your media.
You see, to me this is the flaw in this strategy to a certain degree, is the reason why I don’t like Blu-rays as well - it’s the fact that you have to store them. There’s something else that you have to find somewhere to put them.
Well, they look nice on your shelf, or something… Do you have like a display case, Adam, or do you stick them underneath your pillow at night, or…?
I used to. Not under the pillow. [laughter]
But you really like Blu-ray…
I used to have a display case… I used to. I think everybody has treated their favorite movies like you would books, right? So the same you may be proud of your book collection, you may be… If you’re an audiophile or a music person, or a movie person, then these things become sort of sympatico with your identity, to some degree. If I go look at your collection versus mine, I could probably discern some things about you.
How awesome am I at movies?
I’m looking at my old DVD collection, because it’s getting dust all over it over there in the bookcase…
See? There you go, because you’re getting back on track here. Back on track.
So let’s summarize here - the experience of DVDs and/or Blu-rays, which is really just a 1-to-1… All the difference is is just resolution. The experience of the media, and putting it in or taking it out… I used to have this idea of a 100-disc player; those are not the case anymore. I don’t know why, but they’re just not – they would break down too often.
A lot of moving parts.
You’d have a disk carousel for CDs. This is just not common these days, I don’t think.
It’s old jukeboxes that used to actually shuffle in and out things, right?
Right. So the experience of putting in, and managing, and storing, and collecting, and displaying this media, in my opinion, has just lost its lackluster because of the ubiquity of services like Netflix, or streaming services… Those are all great, too; totally fine with that… There’s just some things that you eventually wanna own. And think about this - your favorite movie is on Netflix today, right? They’ve got a huge collection, and they’re adding stuff all the time. Well, those things eventually expire… As they have wars between Disney and Netflix…
Yeah, Disney especially.
Disney movies aren’t gonna be on Netflix forever… So you can’t rely on them either. But if you own it, you can always rely on having the disc, but now you’ve got the experience. So one layer removed from that is backing up to a known format called MKV. On a Mac you can do that, on Windows you can do that via this application called Make MKV. It’s free. I think portions of it might even be open source, which is kind of interesting.
[00:12:00.28] Now you have this backed up, full resolution version; it’s the exact movie. What happens is you pop your disc into a player - which we’ll get into later, because there’s a player… We’ll talk about that later. There’s some different players you can do, especially from the Mac. Macs don’t have Blu-ray support out the box.
It’s a bag of hurt; isn’t that what Steve Jobs called it? Blu-ray is a bag of hurt, I think… Or a bag of trouble? What did he call it? It was a bag of something. I’ll get the quote, keep going.
I don’t think it’s necessary. I’m glad they’ve gotten rid of the slots, they’ve made the machines faster, and really you only need this slotted player if you use media, and in today’s world we don’t need media.
Yeah, bag of hurts is what he called it. That brings my next question - a rip of a 4K 2-hour movie in MKV format… How big is that, file size?
I’m glad you asked that question. 4K is not an option right now. I think there’s something with the codec they haven’t cracked yet, but you can’t pull 1080p Blu-rays. 4K I think is a newer format, I think they may have some issues with that, so right now 4K rips are not – I could be wrong; I’m still new at this, so take all of this with a grain of salt to some degree, because I’m still learning. I’m not a master, by any means. But I’ve reached enough mastery where I feel like I could share my sheer joy and happiness…
Your enthusiasm, yeah.
Yeah. You all are gonna go this way, you’re gonna like it.
By “you all” - are you afraid of Tim and I?
You all as in you all proverbially - you, and Tim, the rest of the world listening to this… You’re gonna like a lot of it. Like with anything though, there are trade-offs. We’ll take several of those later on, but let’s get to some of the pros.
One, backing up your media - a DVD, or a 1080p Blu-ray. If you’re gonna store, there’s strategies. My strategy is a full-resolution MKV rip, which tends to be between (get this) 20 and 30 gigs.
That’s a lot of storage. So that’s a con. We’ll get to that later.
Well, it’s the same thing that’s on the disc, but… Pick up a box of 100 Blu-rays. It weighs a lot. It weighs a heck of a lot less on a hard drive.
Alright. Well, we’ll get to storage later, I think.
Right. Well, I think storage is a big part of it, because you definitely have to have storage if you’re going this route. Now, I have chosen to go that route because my strategy is one part back-up, but not full replacement.
Because you can’t do 4K, right?
Well, there’s just times I’m gonna wanna reach for the actual Blu-ray because I still feel like – I don’t know, I haven’t done the tests back and forth but I still feel like the disc can still give you some options. If I have friends over and we’re gonna purposely watch a movie, then I’ll probably reach for the Blu-ray, because I know we’ve selected a movie. But if it’s about browsing and accessibility… Think about the box of DVDs and Blu-rays you have - how often do you reach for them?
Probably not very often, because they’re stuck in a box, the experience is bad - all the things we’ve talked about. However, if you could just on your Apple TV, or on your phone, or even on your web browser navigate somewhere or open an app and select from your player and literally, in seconds, be playing your favorite flick, well then there’s trade-offs. You can deal with anything that may change from the original source, and there’ s always something that’s a little different… But from what I can tell, not much. So much not much that it’s not even worth talking about.
[00:16:03.05] Now, there are certain cases where – I did a demo for you guys; you guys can laugh at me here. Interstellar did have some issues; it just is a really high-resolution movie… It could be the media, it could be the transcoding process from disc to file format, that somehow that file is just horror to read, unless you in Plex use a different version, or not go with the original quality.
These things, even when you have a Blu-ray in your player, it’s streaming to the transcoder in the player at a megabits/second kind of format. Full resolution is like 20-30 megabits/second; that’s original, unchanged, uncompressed. Now, you’re still compressing it and that gets faster. Compression can go to, let’s say, 15, 10, 9, 8 megabits/second… Obviously, if you compress it, it gets easier to transcode faster, it’s less bandwidth across your player, less bandwidth across your HDMI cable, across your network, whatever.
So why would we be laughing, though?
To me this is a con, but I guess we’ll get there eventually…
We’ll get there. I just keep bringing up cons. [laughter]
It is a con, and it’s a con worth mentioning, but I would actually categorize it as a trade-off.
Well, why would we laugh at you though? Because you said “You might laugh at me”, but you didn’t tell anybody why we might do that.
Oh, because my demo kept having glitches and issues.
Yeah, it kept buffering.
Yeah, it buffered… Which I’ve actually identified and I’ve actually ended up re-ripping it from a whole brand new disc, because I just happened to buy the 4K version, which gave me a brand new Blu-ray to rip from, and that Blu-ray must have had something different with it, because the new version doesn’t have any buffering. So that’s part of the trade-offs.
Right. So you tape this video of you explaining your setup, for Tim and I to watch.
Right. I pulled out my iPhone, and on my Mac here I opened up plex.tv, and I launched my player, I browsed my library, I started playing Interstellar, and I’m talking over it, narrating to you guys, kind of giving a preview of what this looks like. And by the way, we haven’t even talked about the interface. The interface is amazing. We’ll get into that.
That’s what I was trying to show off - this experience is like your own Netflix. It’s your own media, it’s your own Netflix, and you control it, basically. And the interface is super-slick, and it’s open source too, by the way… Which we’ll talk about a little later as well.
But I played this thing in this demo and it kept buffering, so that means the wheel would spin in the middle, and that would mean the track would actually pause…
And he’s trying to explain how awesome it is, and then it started to buffer, and he’s like “That’s the first time it’s ever happened…”
And I’m like, pay no attention to these issues. This never happens… And it happens again. And then it happens again. I’m like, “Well, clearly this has got an issue.”
I watched that video in the Dropbox web UI, because you just dropboxed it to us… And actually Dropbox was buffering your video as well. So Dropbox was buffering, and then your video was buffering Interstellar… I just had to close the tab eventually. It’s only so much I can put up with. But that one wasn’t your fault, it was Dropbox’s fault; or my internet, I don’t know.
It could be both. All the above.
That’s the problem - there’s lots of places where that can fail - the network, the I/O, the CPU…
Yeah, I think it’s just – where am I really at? What am I trying to explain? What was the core question here?
Well, you went to the pros.
Well, let me go down my list here then. I’ll go down this list. I actually have a one through nine list. I could probably go on further – I just put down what I thought was pretty cool. First up is back-up your Blu-ray or your DVD to the MKV full format in full resolution, assuming that’s your strategy… Which is mine, and I’m just cool with that.
[00:20:10.09] So I’m pulling down 10, 15, 20, sometimes 30 GB files from my media and I’m storing it. Plex is basically a real-time transcode of this full resolution file format, which you can pretty much format for any new machine or whatever, and it does this all in real-time, or in the background. I’ll pause here and say typically you would rip it, and then if you knew that your strategy was not store the full version of it, and you know that you’ll always watch it on iOS, for example, then you can open up HandBrake and feed the MKV format, and then transcode it to a newer, lesser version of it… Which defeats the whole purpose, in my opinion. Well, you don’t have to do that, because Plex does all that for you. So you can easily manage and play different versions.
Let’s stay Interstellar has some issues on your device, your Apple TV. Well, you can tell it to create a separate version from the original, that doesn’t have any issues; the resolution barely changes if you even pay attention. If you watch a movie on Netflix, you are not getting full resolution, Blu-ray, 1080p quality. At all.
So if you watch Netflix and you’re cool with it, you’re cool with this too, because they’re playing you a version as well; they’ve already done that for you. Speaking of Netflix - it’s like Netflix, but you don’t have to pay monthly for it, VMs don’t expire… The cost for a lifetime pass of Plex is like $100… So you’ve paid once forever, it never expires, so that’s cool. A whole different thing; look it up if you want to, but I think it’s totally worth it. This is your media; you already own these things.
You don’t have to pay that $100 to do these things, though. That’s like additional things that we’re all talking about?
Right, it’s kind of additional features inside of Plex.
Okay. So all that’s optional. You don’t have to do that to get this core stuff that you’re talking about here.
It’s your media, you own it, so if you’re a person of ethics, then you’re not breaking the law, you’re not torrenting these things and sharing these things… That’s the part I think you would get hounded by any necessary parties… But it’s your media - you own it, you can rip it, you can do what you want with it, that kind of thing. You can organize it to your heart’s content. Most of your discs have extras, shorts, trailers, behind the scenes - you can rip those things off too, and organize those… And they show up in Plex, really cool. You don’t have to have the media. You can literally just ditch the media for the movie, the trailers, the behind the scenes, the featurettes… If you really wanna go that far, you can.
The UI is amazing, I love the UI. It’s easy to use, it’s fun to use, it’s got animations in it… It’s just really snazzy and fast. I’ve never really been let down with the UI. It’s amazing.
Here’s a cool one - if you want to, you can play and access your Plex media from outside your home network. If you’re on the road, at a hotel, you can open up your Plex app on your iPhone, or on your Mac, or anything else that supports it. There’s so many things that support Plex… Everything. Any of these app players - Amazon Fire, Google whatever, they all support Plex.
Does it handle all the NAT traversal, or do you have to poke a hole in your network, to have a public IP, or anything like that?
Great question. You do have to have a port forward, and that’s fairly easy… So if you’re comfortable with doing any firewall stuff… The other one though is you can actually use – was it UPnP, I believe it is…?
Yeah. So if you’re cool with that, which has its trade-offs as well, then the media server can actually do that for you, and do the firewall stuff. But if you’re a super nerd and you wanna actually poke a hole, you can do the whole public – on your IP address, you can… This is really easy though. If you have a firewall–
Which one did you do?
I went the firewall way.
You’re a super-nerd then.
I’m a super-nerd. [laughter] I port-forwarded to the port on… And I have my server on a static IP locally… So I port-forwarded to that, and I can just literally open up my iOS device anywhere there’s internet, basically, and stream from it. Now, there are pros and cons to that too, just like with Netflix; you can do the same. Bandwidth, resolution, things like that… But that’s whatever.
Last one I put here - and this is not a comprehensive pros list. This is just what I could think of. I’m sure there’s plenty more. The last one - and maybe one of my favorites - is syncing movies for when you travel. Let’s stay with the digital copy direction; I may do all my digital copies through VUDU, for example. Tim, you may use Disney, because you love Disney, or something like that. Disney Anywhere. Most Blu-rays give you the option to register your digital copy with iTunes, with whomever… But they kind of hold the rights, they’re like a gatekeeper to your digital copy, and moving that from one player to another – it’s like Kubernetes in the cloud; it’s not like you can just move from one cloud to another really easily… It’s not agnostic; they kind of lock you in. That’s why I’m with the digital copies. They have their own trade-offs as well. It’s a good idea, but for them, it’s really about control. It’s not about giving you choice.
In this case, you’ve got this rip, you sync your movies to your device, and you can sync at different resolutions, and when you leave - boom, you take your media with you. So you can sync up some kids movies for the plane, some of your favorite flicks, even some of your favorite music, and travel on. So that’s the basic list… We’ll stop there and take some questions.
Something I missed - on the sync side, are you referring to sync your playback position, or are you referring to actually moving the movies onto a device to take with you?
Moving the movies onto a device to take with you.
And they have all the typical apps –
The same exact UI, the same exact experience, except you’re limited to what you’ve synced. You may see your other – if you do like offline, where you can see your list, but you can’t play it… If you’re literally not on the internet.
So there’s like a Plex Android app and a Plex iOS app that you just install, and then sync?
That’s pretty cool.
And syncing is so easy. When you sync, it says “Which version do you want? Original, or do you wanna transcode to High/Medium/Low format?” and they give you options. If you’re like “I’m trying to get out of here fast” or “I don’t have a lot of space on my device”, or for whatever reasons… You can take the original copy, it’ll transcode that for you, it’ll sync it to your device, and then you move on. Or you can pull down a lesser version for bandwidth or storage reasons… The point is that you can take it with you… No different than as if you would sync from VUDU, because VUDU allows you to download as well, and usually they force you to download SD versions, which basically is 720p… A low-grade 720p.
It is. But here’s the thing - if you’re doing this, go Plex Premium. I mean, it’s just a no-brainer. You’re gonna enjoy it. For me, if you enjoy this stuff… Think about how long you’ve had Netflix. Year! $10-$12/month, $15/month - I don’t know what the number is these days… You do the math. Four or five months later you’ve got yourself a Plex pass, and you pay them one time.
Yeah, but with Netflix you get content that you didn’t previously have access to, whereas Plex Premium doesn’t provide you that. You still have to purchase all your media.
That’s true. It depends. That to me – I don’t mind doing it. I didn’t mind having the Plex pass at all. It was just a no-brainer, because it’s one-time… It’s not like it’s “Well, it’s one-time now, and then we’ll think about changing our rules and we’ll ask you for more money later.” It’s done.
Yeah. Not to mention – they offer a $5 month of Premium, that you could use to try out these features easily, and decide whether you want to continue.
That’s true, yeah.
So Tim, what do you do right now with your media setup? Do you have any local media? Are you simply a stream guy? What’s your view on the world?
Yes, so I have Netflix, and we have a few different channels that we enjoy, like HBO and CBS All Access for Star Trek: Discovery and stuff like that.
Is that good?
Oh, yeah. Yeah.
Is that the only place you can watch it, CBS?
Man, that’s a heck of a scoop they’ve got there.
[laughs] But I use iTunes nowadays for all of my media purchases. My movie collection is slowly moving to iTunes… Back in the day I used to buy a lot of Blu-rays that had a digital coupon, so that I could get it on iTunes. Then what I’ve done also is subscribe to Movies Anywhere, which used to be, I think, Disney Anywhere, which is something Adam said before… But basically, what it means is that you can hook up Amazon, you can hook up Google Play, you can hook up VUDU, you can hook up a few different stores that sell movies, and whichever store you buy it on, it gets backed up. You have it in one central place, which is what I wanted. If one day I decide iTunes is not for me anymore, I still have my movies in Movies Anywhere. I feel like that was a pretty secure decision. The only part is that there’s some movie studios that don’t currently support Movies Anywhere, and that can be a problem, depending on the movie that you want.
But yeah, anyway… I have more commentary on what Adam all said, but I’ll wait for later. [laughs]
Well, share it, man. Or at least give us a tease.
Yeah, go ahead.
[00:31:43.21] Okay, so here’s my main issue with this whole thing - and it’s something I put at the bottom of the doc… My problem with Plex - because I did use it for a little bit - was the fact that I have to manage the media, and that’s the part that I don’t like. I love iTunes, because I don’t have to keep track where those files are, I don’t have to make sure that they’re backed up, and I don’t have to pay for RAID space, or an upgraded Dropbox to put files in there. With iTunes, I just download the ones that I want, the TV shows or the movies that I wanna watch to my device when I need it, and then I remove them when I’m done with it, and they’re safe in the cloud. I don’t have to worry about it.
One of the things that you said earlier was the fact that with the MKV format you have it in full resolution and then you can pick which version you want… I mean, it’s weird for me as a geek to say this, but I don’t wanna care about that. I just wanna watch a movie, and I want the software to say “This is the best version that we can give you at the internet speed that you’re at.”
It does that. It does that for you.
That’s kind of my main thing as to why Plex didn’t work for me personally.
I can see why managing the media would be considered painful, because I don’t fully disagree with that, and I think it comes down to what you’re comfortable with dealing with. There’s some pain level, as you just said, in the scenario you mentioned, as well… And I talked about that, because lock-in, or moving around, or whatever… And I love the idea that these things are in the cloud, but you are not getting the full resolution version of it. I don’t care what kind of internet you’ve got. They’re giving you the compressed version of it, and that’s the first trade-off; so you’ve already inherited lower quality. That’s not cool for me. [laughter] If I paid $20-$30 for Blu-ray, well, I want access to the Blu-ray. That means going to get the media. Painful.
But they have 4K on iTunes, right?
And you can pre-download it.
That’s compressed, too.
Their 4K is compressed? Doesn’t it have to be a certain resolution or it’s not 4K?
All it is is a resolution. There’s two flavors here. You’ve got a size - I can give you an image, and that image can be 10 MB, it can be 20, it can be 30, and it’s more or less information, but it’s still the same size. So resolution and quality are not the same thing. It’s a misnomer.
I don’t feel like I can tell the difference, for that to matter for me personally.
The question becomes how much of a videophile are you, in terms of like, do you notice the little trailing things in high-action moments? Do you see how black the blacks are? There are people - and Adam, it sounds like you’re one - who are like “The black needs to be very black, or I’m gonna notice. It’s washed out grey. I know that originally it wasn’t grey.
And then there’s some of us who are just like “I didn’t even know it was grew versus black, because I don’t pay attention to details…” So I can see where – maybe that’s the distinction between you two; one is more of a videophile, and one is less.
Well, if you’re watching it on a TV that’s 55, 65 inches… And maybe it’s a 4K TV, because these days you really just can’t buy a non-4K TV, especially if you’re going new. Or you’re watching in your home theater, or something that’s theater-like where you actually have a projector - you will see a difference. You will. You’ll see a difference of quality.
Between a 4K Blu-ray versus a 4K Apple version?
[00:35:44.13] Well, let’s skip 4K because you can’t rip that anyways… Let’s just say 1080p HD Blu-ray, original, uncompressed. You can tell the difference. You’ll see banding, you’ll see color shifts, you’ll hear sound differences… They even compress the audio, as well as the video; so you’ll hear a difference if you have stereo speakers, or maybe even a soundbar, or something that’s upgraded to make your experience better, you will tell the difference, and you can.
Where Plex I believe really does well and is less trade-offs is that you’re getting the original, locally. You’re not even using the internet bandwidth. It’s locally to you. And provided you have a decent home network, this shouldn’t be an issue.
Well, that’s what I was saying with iTunes - you can actually pre-download, so you don’t have to stream it. You can say “Download this and hold it locally”, and it will do that.
But Tim, maybe you – well, maybe you haven’t seen them side-by-side, or it’s not something that bugs you, whatever compression they’re doing or whatever down-sampling, or whatever it is. It just doesn’t register to you, Tim, as an issue, or…
Yeah. I mean, I’m not trying to say that I’m some sort of caveman that doesn’t understand the difference between qualities…
And I apologize if I implied that. I’m trying to see where the disconnect is. I did not call you a caveman.
[laughs] It’s not like that. I would say that to me the differences between these two in terms of quality is just not enough for me to take on the additional hassle of managing a server, managing media, managing the size of all of this stuff. To me it’s just not worth the trade-off.
Well, you’re terrible. You’re a terrible person then. [laughter] I think it comes down to what works for you. I’ve had enough issues with – I am more of a… I wouldn’t say more of a movie buff, but I care enough about the picture and the audio where I had a ton of Blu-rays that I was not watching, because not all my Blu-rays gave me digital copy. So as you said, there’s limitations there, too. Your digital copy version is not a one-to-one because I bet you I can get far more of mine ripped and in my system than you will have digital copies of.
Now, pretty much when you buy something today it’s sort of like a given, because it’s just become a thing, but what happens when they change the rules to digital copy, they change the rules to how that works? I still have my local format.
Uncompressed, full resolution… I still have all my rules in place. And Plex will get better; it’s gotten better. So this is not so much to say it’s better or worse than your method; I feel like I have more control over my content on the long-term, and controlling – now, we haven’t even gotten into features like this… Eventually, we’ll have kids - I have kids, Jerod has kids, Tim, you’ll eventually have kids… I can give access to PG and down only ratings to my kid, so they can have their own login. With that login I can see they’re streaming stuff, I know that my network can handle multiple streams, things like that, of this coveted content we buy… It’s like, Christmas time, Thanksgiving time, you end up buying a bunch of stuff for your children, because it’s on sale or whatever, and if it was in a disc format, then you’d have to put a disc player in their room, and most times, kids these days, they’re on some sort of device, so… Well, they’re not gonna touch a disc, because that’s like “What is that?”, right?
So there’s scenarios where it may not work perfectly for you, and I can see how it’s not a one-to-one; it’s more of like a “maybe”, a “one-maybe” for you…
In other cases, I just think this provides more flexibility… Because I have so many Blu-rays that I have just not watched or played or whatever because they’re literally – they were; now they’re right behind me, because I’m ripping them all… But they were in an attic. And I would wanna watch them, but I’d be like, “Well… I mean, I’ve gotta get up and go find it, and put it in the player”, and then deal with the whole trailer stuff that we’ve talked about before… And I was like, “Well, I just won’t do that.” So I’ve got a lot of movies unwatched that I would totally watch again and again, with friends, family, whatever, that I just don’t.
Stuff that I’ve gotten for my son Eli, that we never would put in the Blu-ray player because 1) we don’t have one in every room, so you’ve gotta pick where it’s at, whereas I pretty much have a connected TV in every room, because that’s just how the world is today… They’re all internet-ready, they’re all IoT devices, basically… So I can just from the TV itself go into the Plex app; not even having to have an Apple TV. The TVs are smart, they have access to this stuff.
And in Eli’s case, he doesn’t care if it’s full resolution or not, he just wants the media… And I can give him - or my wife - an experience where it’s just like “This is just Eli’s stuff.”
I feel like you’re also touching on some overarching topics, which is the fact, like, “Where are things going in technology?” I think that also plays a factor in this. When I was growing up, my music collection was very important to me. I had a thing full of CDs that I purchased, that I loved. And as time has gone on, I basically rent my music, because I subscribe to Apple Music. And it’s that feeling of not owning something which is a feeling that I’ve had to get comfortable with. That also, I think, has influenced the way that I’ve gone about my movie collection… That – yes, does it make me nervous that I don’t know if in ten years the rules will change and I may not have access to these movies anymore, maybe, the way that I do right now? But to a certain extent, I almost feel like I’m more comfortable with that now, just because of how other things have happened, where I feel like I’m renting my music anyway. I don’t know.
I feel you on the ownership part, because it’s a big deal for me. Jerod asked “What’s your collection like? Why are you buying these things?”
That’s a great question, because I certainly don’t go and buy every movie I watch. I buy movies that I know for sure I wanna watch at a better quality - better sound quality, better picture quality, maybe even multiple times… These are things that are a little bit more close to my personality. There’s movies I’ll rent, there’s movies I’ll even rent in Blu-ray, and there’s movies I’ll for sure buy.
I’ll go out to a Redbox and rent something if I think that I know I wanna hear it or see it in higher quality… And I know that even if I’ll rent it through the iTunes store on my Apple TV, that I’m still getting a compressed version of it. It’s probably okay, but if I wanna for sure get 7.1, then I’m gonna go and do Blu-ray… Which is a big deal, and you can for sure, 100% I will go bow to you on this - you can tell the sound difference. Sound - if anything, you can tell the difference.
Yeah, I believe that. I believe that more than the video difference, especially if you have a 7.1 setup.
[00:43:49.12] If we all agree that sound is – yeah, sound is way important when it comes to a movie. It can make a movie. Speaking of, in particular - and let’s get into an actual movie here and see if we all agree on this… Blade Runner 2049.
Never seen it.
I haven’t seen it.
More importantly, an amazing Hans Zimmer score. If you haven’t seen it, bro… See, now you can’t go back to the theater… But you come to my house and watch it with me.
[laughs] Hey man, I’m thinking “Why not?”
It’s amazing in a 4K – this is where I would actually probably pull out the media. If you guys came over for the night, I’d pull out the media in this case.
Aw shucks. [laughter]
I feel special. “I don’t normally do this, but I’m going up to the attic and I’m getting the media.”
But if I’m watching it for the third or fourth time, while I’m just hacking on something, and I wanna watch a good movie behind the scenes, I’ll play it through Plex. Not that it’s not good; it’s still great, but even if it’s full resolution, I would probably – in this case, with you guys coming, I would wanna make sure 100% that it’s the top quality… And I know from the media, on a 4K Blu-ray player, that it’s gonna be the best quality I can guarantee you guys, and you will have a good experience.
So those are just some cases there. Sound is tremendous. Sound in that movie in particular I believe makes the movie. Great picture, but even better score… And a score is all the difference in a movie.
Yeah. What about you, Jerod. What is your setup like?
Yeah, good question. Part of this is I’m a completely different person than you two, or especially Adam, because I rarely find a movie that I like. Most of them are trash, and they’ve wasted two hours of my life. [laughter] There’s no way I’m gonna watch it again. And even a movie I like, or a movie I love, the chances of me watching it a second time are so low - especially if it’s Solo… Nah, I’m just kidding. I actually haven’t seen that yet… It’s so low, that that’s why I never bought a Blu-ray.
I used to collect DVDs when I was young and had dispensable money and nothing to do - I bought a bunch of stuff, and I’m looking at it and I’m like “Yeah, I love those movies”, but I never watch any of them, and I will never watch any of them. A lot of it’s a moot point, except for the kids, and movies that they wanna see again, and stuff like that - The Sound of Music, and the Pixar movies, and all that… So my setup is very basic. We have an Apple TV in the main living space, and my old laptop in the basement, which has the DVDs that I have ripped over the years via HandBrake and iTunes… And we stream from the Mac in the basement to the Apple TV, those.
And then I’ll rent on iTunes, or whatever… But mostly we’ll watch almost all Netflix and Amazon Prime; that’s pretty much where we live. But I’m such not a movie watcher that I just don’t have these problems… [laughter] Or I don’t have these joys. Because I just don’t collect movies, so that’s why I don’t have too much to say on it.
I was actually more like that with music. Tim, I was in the same boat with you with my music collection growing up. I felt closer to music, and I had CDs… I had a huge case, and I had it in my car, and I would take it around…
Yeah, of course.
All original purchases, right?
And then it got stolen out of my car when I was a freshman in college…
And it was so painful that I thought, “I’m never doing that again. I’m never gonna collect a bunch of anything again that can get stolen.” So that stopped me there, and I’m on Apple Music. As long as I can take my library with me, I’m fine. I’ve disconnected from owning and collecting movies, but… Yeah, I just don’t watch movies more than once, so why do anything…?
I’ll agree with you on the music part of it. My disc collection I did end up ripping from the original media, and I think I was so bullish on the idea that I actually got rid of the media… Like “I don’t need this anymore. I’ve ripped it to disc and I’ve got it forever”, and I do, I still have it.
[00:48:16.18] Yeah, I still have a library that – when I got stolen, I went on Napster and just redownloaded every… Actually, it was post-Napster. It was probably LimeWire, or Gnutella, or the crazy things after Napster got taken down.
I remember LimeWire.
And it took forever to get it back in MP3 format, but it was never the same. And I felt okay doing that, because I already purchased all these things, but…
You see, I tried to rip a lot of discs too, but I was really disappointed with all the metadata stuff, too.
Oh yeah, it’s all masked.
Yeah. Because you don’t have it anymore.
I bet Plex does all the metadata for you.
Oh my gosh, thank you for saying that…
…because it does. It really does.
That’s good, because I used to do that, too.
The metadata in Plex is no different than as if you were browsing iTunes movies to rent one.
Yeah. That is really nice.
You’ve got Rotten Tomatoes in there, you can add or choose album art, background, it’s right there. All the cast click-throughs, the movies in your libraries, you can rate it, you can see what they’ve rated on Rotten Tomatoes (it’s 87% tomatoes, 81% popcorn), you can see the PG rating, the length of time… It even stores - something you asked earlier, Jerod - your sync of watch, so where you last left off. It will ask you when you go to play it again, just like a DVD or a Blu-ray might, if you wanna resume where you left off, at this point in time, or start from the beginning. So you see all that stuff.
The experience of watching it, to me, if you’re really into this stuff, is well worth it. If it’s less important to you and you don’t have a collection and that stuff is just not important to you, and you don’t really care about owning these things and you just move on - that’s not for you. For me, it’s for me. I’m like that.
Well, let me ask you this, on the practical side of somebody who’s like “This is for me” - what’s the buy-in on the hardware? What’s a typical server look like, etc?
Well, if you have a laptop hanging around that you’ve since moved on from…
That’s what I have.
If you have a Mac Mini, or if you wanna get one of those little Intel things I think I’ve mentioned before… You can get something that’s like a little device for $500 or less, and have multiple reasons for it. It could be maybe the brain of your household if you have a wired house, or a networked house, it can be one part NAS, one part NVR… The reasons are infinite for investing into a smarter computer, and then attaching it – like, it doesn’t have to just be Plex. It could be Plex plus your NAS.
Multi-faceted server, yeah.
Mine acts as Plex and as a NAS for me and other people that use our network to backup photos, to backup other things. So it’s a multi-face computer. I will say some requirements may be – you should have strong Wi-Fi. I would prefer wired when it’s a main screen. If it’s your living room, or your media room, those would be wired, so you can truly enjoy full resolution. But I’ve gotta be honest with you, I enjoy full resolution on my iPhone 7+ device on Wi-Fi. Full resolution, no buffering, no concerns, ever. Ever. I’ve never had an issue playing, even Interstellar, that caused me some issues one time. Full resolution on Wi-Fi.
[00:52:26.03] So I would just say strong Wi-Fi, or at least be able to make it better or fine-tune your connection choosing different channels, whatever. Whatever you can do to make your Wi-Fi more strong for you, then I would suggest that, and prefer wired when you can do wired back to your network.
Some sort of dedicated computer - it could be your machine and you just run it for the cases you want to… So this is like lower buy-in, higher buy-in. You don’t have to have an actual dedicated – although my preference would be something dedicated.
On the storage side, your mileage may vary, but basically if you’re gonna go the full resolution route, lots of storage. I would say 10 TB or more. I would say preferably on RAID, just because of the redundancy and the loss of a disc. RAID 5 works just fine, it’s fast, and it gives you at least one disk fail, which is great. I would not recommend RAID 0, although it’s pretty cool, but you don’t need it. It’s pointless to do a RAID 0 for this. If you’re not gonna do RAID, just be able to back it up as often as you think makes sense for you. It would just suck to lose all your hard work of storing these things and the drive failing and you lose it. To Tim’s case earlier, that is the cost of doing business with this.
Do you have outside backup, like CrashPlan or Backblaze, or anything that you can run against hat?
I’m sure it’s like any hard drive, so yeah, whatever you can do to backup media–
No, I’m saying are you doing anything to protect against your house fire, or another storm like last year’s?
No… You know, I just haven’t found a reason to do so.
Peace of mind. They say if it doesn’t exist in three places, it doesn’t exist, right?
Yeah… I haven’t had the issue though, so… I’m not saying it wouldn’t, but I just haven’t tackled it yet. If I need this, I’m sure I’ll just enable Backblaze in the drive, and walk away and wait for it to eventually sync up.
I’m not sure about a NAS, if you actually need a NAS.
I think that’s the difference, if I remember, between those two backup things - CrashPlan will treat a NAS as a typical device, whereas Backblaze has to be mounted as a disk on a machine in order for it to count as part of that computer, or something. I don’t know if you’re still talking about backups or you’ve moved on, but there’s some difference between the two, and that’s integral - if you’re using a NAS, versus just a mounted drive.
I have a NAS with Backblaze on it. They have a different thing for NAS specifically.
And the price is so affordable. I think I have a few terabytes worth of data and I only pay $2 once a month.
I would love it if it was scaled: backup to Backblaze, or whatever, as much as I have, and charge me accordingly, as it grows. I don’t wanna buy 10 TB if I only need to use 2,5.
That’s what Backblaze does with their NAS backup. You’re only paying for the amount of data that you’re actually backing up.
[00:56:03.18] And I’m sure you could probably just have that installed as an app, even on like a Mac OS, and point it at a drive and say “This is the drive I want you to watch, or these drives”, and those things sync to, say, different sources or endpoints inside of Backblaze.
Backblaze is basically $5/month per machine. So if it’s mounted as a drive on that machine and it’s not like an actual network storage, then that computer backs up, and it’s just another…
Sweet. I should do it then.
But there are some gotchas there. I’m not sure exactly what they are.
You need a Blu-ray player, right?
Well, you only need a Blu-ray burner.
I mean, theoretically you would have a player, but to burn, you would attach to your Mac. Let me go through one other thing and then I’ll go on to the burn here in a second. I’ve heard that a NAS actually may not be preferred for Plex, but I’ve seen people use it. Maybe that’s not worth going into [unintelligible 00:57:10.23]
I would say if you could swing it when you do buy your hard drives by NAS-rated hard drives. They’re just disks that can spin next to other disks, basically. All hard drives are not created equal. Sure, you could put them all in a RAID system, but the micro-vibrations can cause issues, and things like that… So NAS-rated hard drives then to have the ability to be right next to another spinning disk, deal with the heat requirements, deal with the micro-vibration requirements to be in an enclosure that has 4 or 8 disks. So I would say you’ve gotta pay attention to your hard drives.
This is all normal stuff for people who are planning to have some sort of large-scale storage. My storage isn’t just Plex storage; it’s Plex storage plus other stuff. In my case, my solution is a solve-many-problems solution, not just a Plex problem. So I would just say be prepared to have massive amounts of storage.
To give you a scale of massive - this may be a swinging pendulum for you, but in my case, I think it’s like 36 TB in a RAID 5 configuration. So I actually have 36 TB available. That means it’s 12 TB per drive, in a RAID 5, and that gives me 32 or 34 TB - one of the two. But either way, it’s a lot. It’s a lot. And I have plenty of room.
If you’re on a Mac and you’re doing these rips on a Mac, then you need an external Blu-ray burner/reader. And you can get one of those for like $100. I can recommend one to you, it’s a Pioneer BDR-XD05B. You can find that on B&H for $99… So it’s really easy.
We’ll put that in the show notes, right?
Yeah, we’ll put it in the show notes. I like that because it’s bus powered. You just plug it into your USB and it boots up. It doesn’t need to have an external power source. Really easy. Make MKV free, VLC free, but not needed… It comes in handy to preview your files, so if you’re ripping the extras, too… Like, you know what they are; you’re just ripping MKV files from the disc, and in a lot of cases you’re assuming what you’re ripping because of the size. If it’s 20-30 GB, it’s probably the movie. And then even then, you can go in and toggle off, like “Okay, I care about these different languages, I care about these different translations, I care about these different audio tracks, I for sure want 7.1”, so inside of Make MKV when you’re about to rip it, you have choice of what to actually pull off and store. So you can somewhat fine-tune that, but in the scale of gigs, it’s not a dramatic change. In most cases, I just pull off all of it. If I’m really being, you know, whatever, I’ll only pull off English because I only speak English and I only read English. So in my case I’m not planning on sharing it with anybody - there you go.
[01:00:37.25] With Plex, if you plan to enable remote access, as Jerod asked about earlier - if you’re gonna do that, you should be comfortable with fiddling with your firewall and being able to do a port forward on your firewall, and your Plex server should ideally be on a dedicated local IP address. In the case of mine, it’s 192.168.99.10.
Don’t tell people. They’re gonna hack you now.
That’s local. [laughter] It’s local.
“No way, that’s my Plex IP server!”
Good luck… [laughter] Apple TV on the television is in my opinion the best experience. Very fast, easy to use app, totally free… You’re only paying for the Plex pass, not the app, so even with the $5 plan or with the free plan you still have full access, but you just have less features. So it’s essentially in-app purchases is what you’ll see. But you can get away with a lot for the free stuff; you don’t have to have a paid experience. I just prefer it because you get all the extra metadata. And for like $100-$110 for a lifetime pass, it was just a no-brainer.
All the Plex apps on iOS are amazing. I’ve never, ever had an issue. And I’m one of those kinds of people that actually likes to listen, not just watch, so sometimes I will be just taking a break or going to bed instead of listening to a podcast or an audible book… I will queue up a movie I like, I will close my phone, the movie will stop, and then if you hit your Home button again or another button to get access to the screen again, you can push Play, your screen dims and goes away, and you just hear it in your headphones. You can listen to a movie and go to sleep. So those are some getting-starteds. I do have a list of trade-offs, but we’ve covered most of them…
Can you give us your affiliate fee, so you get the sale…? [laughter]
I don’t even know if they have one. They may…
“This episode is brought to you by… Plex! And Backblaze.” [laughter]
We should do a disclaimer - this is not a paid advertisement.
No, this is definitely not. But I will say I do want to talk to one of the co-founders/leaders of Plex on Founders Talk… So I do have a plan to do that. I’m really interested in learning more about the direction of Plex, because I feel like this is something so cool that with a few tweaks and turns, with the support of – like iTunes has the support of digital copies, they’re getting there. They have podcast support, they have music support, they have web shows support… They’re doing all sorts of cool stuff outside of just – we’ve talked about the most obscure place that Plex really applies, and there’s so much more to it.
Everything from – let’s go to the homepage real quick and read about some of the stuff they do… Or even in the Plex app. So… Playlist, movies, music, TV shows, plugins, podcasts, web shows…
Podcast is written there.
Are we in there?
Do they have a directory, or are they just pulling in from–
It’s a directory. You can search. I can play… [“Bandwidth for Changelog is provided by Fastly… To actually play the sound, to play the song back. Hm. It’s almost like a runtime for the instruction set.”]
That’s Feross. And Jerod.
Yeah, I just went into the latest Master episode and just pushed Play, and that was what was playing there. So yeah.
[01:04:21.04] Well, okay, so this is I guess how I’d summarize this whole conversation - I feel like we’ve covered three different people’s perspectives here.
Your perspective, which is someone who is completely okay and comfortable worrying about the storage, worrying about management of media, and is okay with that because they want the full resolution movies, they want the full resolution audio as well, to be able to do 7.1… And I believe you can do 5.1 on iTunes, if I’m not mistaken… So that’s one person. So if you identify with that, then maybe Plex is for you… And you have a vast movie collection.
Probably it is.
Yeah. If you’re like me, who doesn’t wanna deal with media, doesn’t wanna manage media, doesn’t wanna deal with RAID, or doesn’t know what RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID-whatever is, then maybe going the iTunes route is better, or a store like it. There are many out there; you can probably find one.
And then the last one is probably Jerod - you don’t care about movies at all. Most of them are garbage to you. You don’t collect any movies… Anymore. Except for the ones that maybe your kids watch, and maybe in that situation an iTunes or a store like it is probably the solution for you as well.
I think that’s fair to say. Now, Adam brought up TV shows. We haven’t talked about TV much. I guess it’s the same situation in terms of my collection. I just don’t collect things, I guess, is my problem. But I think this is super-cool. I think anybody who does… One of the things you said there is “Adam’s okay with worrying about it” - I think even more than that is like he enjoys this.
Right. There we go. Yeah.
This is part of the experience - the management, and the tweaking… All this stuff gets him excited, and so…
It’s like tinkering with my car, or something.
It’s like twisting bolts, and stuff like that.
That’s why I said you’re an enthusiast, so…
Here’s the one thing I think might get you though, Jerod, because you live in the country… And maybe it’s less now, but I know when you first moved there you had less access, originally, with your internet…
But Plex has a DVR option for free over the air stuff. So if you can put an antenna on your roof and get ABC, NBC or all these free to air type stuff, Plex will be a DVR for you. And I know several people who cut the cord–
You might have just got me right there.
Why didn’t you tell me that at the beginning of the show?
Well, that’s why I said it’s so multi-faceted. See, that’s where I came in. My entry point was this old-school way, and it’s so cool. My brother-in-law does not pay for cable anymore. He put a satellite on his roof, and is comfortable with running wires, and stuff like that; I’m sure you would be, too…
And an antenna, right?
An antenna, yeah. And does free to air stuff. Some people actually broadcast in 4K. Most of them are just 1080p.
Does he have to have a separate tuner card to do that?
So he takes an antenna and plugs it directly into a computer? There’s gotta be a device in-between there somehow.
[01:07:57.03] I don’t know. At this point I don’t know. We can research that one. What I do know is it’s the first feature they mention on their site. Left to right at plex.tv is “Live TV and DVR.” And then online content, and then finally the main subject of our show here, “Your media.” So “Your media” is further down their feature list than we’ve shown here today. That’s not the thing that they do. It’s online content - your favorite web shows, podcasts, your favorite video news - and then recorded shows, like live TV, and then personal media.
I think they’ve transcended the “Your media” stuff, although that’s the thing they’re most known for, and certainly still fits their wheelhouse. However, I believe the live TV and DVR stuff is becoming more and more a thing.
Well, that’s compelling. It does say right there “With a Plex pass and a little extra hardware…” Do you see that part right there? “A little extra hardware. Say goodbye to cable and enjoy free over the air live TV.” So there’s definitely some sort of tuner card or something.
Oh, yeah, it looks like there is. Tuner cards. Yeah, right there. Too easy though.
And that’s what I was gonna say too, again - that’s a Plex pass feature.
Right. But $100 one-time purchase isn’t terrible for that.
You can do HD frequency…
It’s a no-brainer. Mark Reader actually is in Slack right now, saying “I love the Plex DVR functionality. HDHomeRun is a great tuner that works with it.” So he’s mentioning something that he has actually probably used… So yeah, this is where, as you become a cord-cutter – and I wouldn’t even say you’re a cord-cutter, because that’s sort of like…
We never had a cord.
Well, I just think that now you have many cords. Now you actually have tubes, too; you’re cutting tubes, you’re cutting cords… [laughter]
Don’t be cutting my tubes now… [laughs]
Well, for example, what I mean by that is Disney will eventually have their own Netflix-like competitor, so they may move their content from them to their own thing… So you may not cut the cord, but you may have to choose “Well, do I wanna subscribe to Showtime AND HBO, or is HBO enough, or neither?” Or “Do I wanna actually have local cable for AMC, ABC, all these other channels…? Or do I wanna just get an antenna and see what I can get locally, through that way, and maybe I don’t even need the cable TV anymore?” It really just depends.
In my circumstance - I mean, I haven’t had cable TV since I was in… Well, not since college, but let’s just say 12 years… So that’s not what I’m looking for. What I’m looking for is just network television over the air, which I have, but the commercials are such trash that I can’t even watch it with my kids around. Because if I’m not a hawk during the commercials, it’s gonna show them just the most insane things. So we don’t even watch it, even though we have it, because we don’t have a DVR function. It comes into an antenna, it goes through a coaxial cable, it gets split, and it runs directly to our TVs, and so they tune it. And I’ve looked for this… I didn’t see Plex, but I looked at it, and all the software that does this is trash; and all of the hardware devices that I had previously tried to see Amazon reviews, like the actual tuners, were all just like – you could just tell it’s just junk.
So I’ve given up on it, and so now I’m like “Plex?!” I’m gonna check this out. It sounds exciting.
Well, it seems to have a lot of different usages. I’m not that excited about podcasts… Now, I will say I was actually trying to listen to some – for a study, that was online music files, they would let me download, and it was totally fine to do this… But then I downloaded it and put it in Dropbox, but Dropbox didn’t save what I was last listening to, and then it was Dropbox, so if I had to have Dropbox open to play it – if I navigated away, it would stop playing… I was like, “Hm, let me throw in Plex real quick.” I did that, and guess what - I’m tracking where I’m listening from, I have it on every device… So even just the music, whereas not a replacement for Spotify, it may be a replacement for educational stuff I’m listening to, or my personal music collection. If I’m moving to that as one UI…
[01:12:24.03] And iTunes - we have to agree that iTunes has lagged. Especially as an app on the Mac, it sucks. It’s been not great for years, it’s slow, it’s kludgy… And in this case, I would have had to put it in iTunes, and then sync my library, and all this weird stuff, whereas with Plex, I just created a new music thing, and put the data in there, the files, just like I would anything else, and I walked away. And on my TV, on my iPhone, on my iPad - yes, I still have one; it’s from like ten years ago - on my Apple TV, I have access to this music now. And then even so outside of my home network.
That may not be the biggest features, it’s just really about control, I think. Managing and control - you have that with Plex. It’s sort of grown past the movies-only scenario.
To me, I do feel like you are selling me with this feature as well… But you see, I think I come back to the same thing - I wish Plex offered a way for me not to have to worry about my own media. If I could rip these files and then upload them somewhere and then never have to worry about them again, I think that that would make this whole offering a lot more appealing to me personally.
How about this…? [laughter] Are you ready?
You’re like a certified Plex salesman here. [laughter]
How about this - Plex Cloud.
Is that real?
No, it’s not real.
I’m just assuming that’s what’s next for them though.
I would love that.
It would make sense, and I think that’s probably coming next, because - I’m serious - I’ve been thoroughly impressed by their change. I’ve seen Plex in the past, and it turned my nose away, because I was always just like “Oh, that’s terrible. That’s bad UI.” Now it’s amazing. They’ve done so much to progress the product that I’ve just been really impressed with just what I wanted it for, that it’s pulled me into things I never considered.
The web shows is actually pretty cool. If you really enjoy the Plex experience on your different devices, then you just navigate the web shows and you can literally be playing TechCrunch or Engadget, or all these other things that are out there for you. You can specify it as “My show.” Tweet.tv, changelog.tv, all these fun things…
What’s Changelog.tv? What is this?
Uuh… [laughter] You know, a dreamer may dream. That’s all. A dreamer may dream. Bloomberg Technology…
Is that kind of like Changelog Conf 2019?
Yeah, something like that. [laughter]
Something like that. So these web shows get in there. I believe the way they get in there is probably just by the same as iTunes, or YouTube. I’m sure that’s probably how you get in there, it’s just like that.
Speaking of YouTube - isn’t that pretty much what we’re all watching anyways? Just YouTube?
Pretty much. I mean, yeah, it’s designed for YouTube, and then it goes everywhere else.
Yeah. You can’t escape YouTube at this point.
It’s like a good black hole. It’s pulling you in, you can avoid it, and you cannot escape it.
The problem with YouTube is guilty pleasures… Or you know, when you watch something and you’re like “Yeah, this is trash, but I’m gonna watch it, because I’ve got seven minutes and I’m trashy…” And then it’s like, “You liked that… I’m gonna give you seven more things that you can’t help but click on and watch next”, and it’s like a self-fulfilling prophecy.
[01:16:12.10] And if you go into the deepers of that, like the algorithms, they have been talking a lot about “Everybody needs engagement”, so we can agree with that, right? So the algorithms is what keeps you engaged, and they will actually show you controversial content to keep you watching.
And by controversial, it’s like, controversial to you. It’ll just fuel your fire, stoke your fire even further, and create or inherit a bias… Which, you know, we all can read about AI training biases, and so-and-so abandoning it, Amazon banned some sort of AI bias thing, recently I saw a headline…
That’s gonna be a thing, you know? It’s gonna be a thing… And I think with that we just have to be smart consumers of media. You cannot escape that, and it just comes down to you being a smart consumer.
I think if I died, I’d be very nervous for people to see my YouTube search history. [laughter]
There was an old sketch on SNL, with Sweepers… And when you die unexpectedly, they come into your house and sweep it of all the things that are embarrassing… So they can clear your search history, and stuff like that.
I need that.
You should look into that, Tim.
Let’s do a consensus here. Jerod, you go first - are you sold?
No. I’m gonna check it out for the DVR-ing… Because if I can watch some network TV and skip through the commercials, then that’s probably worth checking out. That use case is compelling to me. I’m looking at some of these devices… I hate the fact that I have to buy a piece of hardware that’s probably gonna break, or be terrible, but… We’ll check it out. Not sold. I’m sold on it for you. I think it’s amazing for your use cases. I’m happy for you. I would never use it that way, because that’s just not the kind of person I am. But it sounds like a cool piece of software.
Tim, what about you?
Dang it, man…
I feel like my answer is no, too. I’m not sold on it because of what I’ve just said. You said Plex Cloud right now, and that sounds really appealing to me.
Yeah, that’d be cool.
Maybe we should build a cloud for Plex and sell it as a service, become millionaires…
You know, that’s probably true…
You’ve already got all those hard drives over there, Adam. We can just lease out your space.
You just keep on buying hard drives, we lease it out…
Let me send my movies to you.
Oh, look at this - Plex Cloud was a thing, but it’s shutting down.
So they tried it and it didn’t work… So there you go.
Where are you seeing that at?
I pasted it into the chat… It’s an FAQ on their website. There’s a new chat channel, made ad-hoc, as Dan realized that we don’t have a Backstage channel. There you are, Adam. You now have joined.
Now I’m here, yes. I didn’t know this was a thing either.
This just became a thing while we were talking. Tim made it.
Because on our website it says “Join the Backstage channel on our Slack”, which didn’t exist… Which now exists. Yay!
So it’s no longer available as of a few weeks from now, November 30th, 2018.
“We’ve made the difficult decision to shut down the Plex Cloud service. As you may know, we haven’t allowed any new Plex client servers since February…” So it’s been a long time coming. Let’s see why… “After a lot of investigation, we felt we haven’t found a solution capable of delivering a truly first-class Plex experience to Plex Cloud users at a reasonable cost.” Alright, we shouldn’t try it. We shouldn’t try it. It’s gonna cost [unintelligible 01:19:58.15]
[01:20:01.25] So here’s the reasons why I felt like it worked for me… Because I already wanted to have a large – I need large-scale storage… 1) For all of our content. So this is like a – one, it was already sitting there, for the most part, to back up all of the podcast stuff and video stuff we do. That’s part of it, too. So this 32 TB is not just for Plex, it’s for this - for photos we take, for conferences, and stuff like that… For Heather to use as a part of the things she does as well… So it’s sitting there, doing several jobs.
The NAS is already sitting there, so why not just drop Plex on there and enjoy my movies, too. Like, it’s already sitting there, and the machine can have another Thunderbolt drive attached to it in a whole server bus eventually, so it can expand beyond the 32 TB if I want to… So I’m like, hey, I know I will always want or need large-scale storage here at home, and to me it just makes sense. And my house is newer, and is fully wired… We didn’t talk about networking at all, but it’s really a lot of fun to do that kind of stuff too, to make sure that you’ve just got a cool network at home… It’s probably more geek than it’s even required, but whatever. Like Jerod said, it’s something I enjoy, so for me it’s kind of like my tinkering whenever I’m bored, or just wanting to tinker on something… It’s my area to tinker. But it has some really good benefits.
Most important devices in our home are wired devices, and the things that need to be Wi-Fi are Wi-Fi. For example, in the media room - in your media room I’m sure it’s probably not this way - our Apple TV is wired. Most Apple TVs are Wi-Fi, not wired. But because we have ubiquitous wiring everywhere in the house, it’s a no-brainer. That way I get full resolution when I’m watching iTunes, full resolution when I’m watching Plex, or anything else. Definitely not for everyone…
Mine’s wired as well, just to match your geek…
My laptop here that I’m using right now is not wired. I do have a wire running into that wall over there that has a AirPort Express on it, but… Yeah, the Apple TV is wired… I’ve got wires, man.
You got wires.?
I got a Cat 6 up in here… You know, representin’…
Wow, Cat 6 even… Nice.
Why not… They said “You want 5 or 6?” I’m like, “6…”
5E, what’s that? What’s 5E?
“You’ve got 7? I’ll take 7.”
I’ll take 8. I’m getting 8 next time.
Yeah, they’ve got Wi-Fi 6 coming next. Did you guys see that? We should hang up. We should call this a show, because I’m gonna start rambling about Wi-Fi next. We can talk about Wi-Fi later…
Well, okay, let’s close with this then, and then we’ll go into some sort of after-show kind of thing… If you’ve listened this far, thank you. Geez, it’s been a long rant here…
What’s wrong with you…? Why are you still listening to this?
[01:23:17.08] But if you’re interested in us talking about more geekery things like this, that’s sort of like who we are and why we do what we do, and maybe some more interesting purview, developer-related stuff, like Plex, or home networking, home Wi-Fi, which Jerod and I both have differing opinions on, which we wanna get into on another show… If you like this kind of stuff, subscribe to Backstage.
Is Backstage subscribable, or is it in the Master feed only, Jerod?
You can only get it in the Master feed. And let me say, not just home nerd stuff, but also the direction of the Changelog, and things that we’re trying, experiments… Very much behind-the-scenes, both about the podcast network, the news network, as well as us and our home networks… See what I did there?
Oh, nice. I like that.
Yes, it’s only available in the Master feed. Why is that, and what does that mean? What the heck? What’s a master feed?
I’m getting a phone call. You tell them.
Changelog.com/master. It’s not only where you get all of our shows, but you also get the shows that don’t have another feed - special content only shared in the Master feed. That can stop you from having to subscribe to each show individually. If you subscribe to The Changelog and JS Party and you’re like “Well, let me check out Master”, well, Master has both of those plus Backstage… And the only way you can get Backstage to your podcast app is through Master. Changelog.com/master. Subscribe today. Search in your podcast client “Changelog Master.” You will find it, you will subscribe, you will enjoy… Thank you for listening.
Our transcripts are open source on GitHub. Improvements are welcome. 💚