Sunday, December 23, 2012

First impressions of Plex

My old PVR having given up - and, admittedly, rather behind the times when it came to video formats - it is time for a new one.

I heard about Plex on Lifehacker, and it sounded worth a try.  I prefer to keep my PVR (recording) and media center playback software separate right now, so the fact that Plex does not record TV was not an issue.

Plus, it's free.  Why not?

I have found a few things that I do not like.  Note that I am not criticizing - well, maybe I am, a little - but free software is free, and you can't complain, really, or it wouldn't exist.  This information is here to help other people decide if Plex is right for them.

Here's a few things that I have learned so far:

1.  You need a dedicated folder for your media library.

Why?  Plex has no "exclude" function.  The developers don't seem to think it worthwhile.  ("Can you explain why you want this?" is a pretty amazing comment to me.)

Given there are a near-infinite number of ways to organize your media, chances are your organization is not what Plex expects.  This is just because there are many more ways to do it "wrong" than to do it "right" - i.e. the way Plex wants.

I like flat file structures.  And, of course, the way I have organized my videos does not suit the Plex scanner.

The Plex devs even have a recommended file naming structure - great, if you're just starting out, but not so great if you already have hundreds of shows.

Many people will not find this a bother, admittedly.  Maybe you already have a dedicated folder or drive for your "library".

I already have lots of scripts and macros built around my existing structure, not to mention knowing where everything is and what means what.  Plex is not flexible in this area.

In my case I see no reason why I should want to move my "recordings", "in work", home videos and the like out of my "Video" directory, just to suit Plex.

[Update]:  OK, Plex even says you have to organize your videos according to what Plex wants, or it will not work.  Tail wags dog?

[Update]:  OK, Plex now supports an "ignore" feature, which requires using a Linux-type hidden file holding patterns to exclude.  Haven't tried it myself, hope it works!

2.  Mouse support sucks.

Reportedly, this is because of their "10-foot UI", which somehow precludes use of a mouse.

Why, oh why, do the Plex devs not understand that my wife, 3-year old and senior-citizen mother-in-law do not want to use a keyboard just to watch TV shows?  Seriously - everyone is trying to get AWAY from keyboards on HTPCs, but not Plex.

You can enable the mouse, but trust me, it does not do what you expect.  What mouse support does exist is totally counter-intuitive.  If I can't figure it out, how can my kid?

Somehow I can use Windows Media Player just fine with the mouse, but not Plex.  10-foot UI or no.

And no, we do not have a remote control for the PC (yet).  Maybe I'll get one, if I can figure out which one(s) will actually work.

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