Anyone who has heard me on the various shows I have been a guest on will probably of heard me, at some point, mention Plex. If however you have been in the fortunate position of never hearing me wax lyrical about this service then please permit me a few moments to describe it.
Plex server is a free piece of software that is available here for your PC or Mac. Simply install the program and follow the set up instructions, namely pointing the app at the folders on your machine containing your music, movies and TV Shows. Plex then proceeds to scan the folders and tries it's best to collect all the relevant metadata for your media.
Once it has achieved this you basically have a server that is ready to serve up your media files in a number of ways. Firstly you can install the Plex Home Theatre that will act as a beautiful front end for your Plex server, this is perfect if you have a Home Theatre PC such as an Apple Mac Mini for example.
You can also purchase various Plex apps for a myriad of mobile devices such as iDevices, Android and Windows 8 Phones and, as long as you have set up a MyPlex account, effectively stream your content to anywhere in the world. On my last trip to Florida, for example, I was able to watch movies streamed to me from my server back home in London. It was almost magical.
There are many media boxes too that allow you to stream from your server. Boxes such as the Roku 3 , Google TV, Smart TV's and most recently the Chromecast.
My personal favourite however is using an Apple TV . Unfortunately the ATV doesn't support the Plex service natively but there are a few ways to get around this.
Firstly you can use the simplest. If you already have the Plex app on your iPad, iPod Touch or iPhone you can simply Airplay to your ATV to stream your content. This works surprisingly well and with a few tweaks in the Plex Server settings even allows 5.1 Surround sound.
The second option is a bit more technically involved. It involves two extra pieces of software installed on the same machine as your Plex Server. These are PlexConnect and Plexify. The function of these additional apps is to repurpose the Trailers icon on the ATV and redirect it to the Plex Server. This will then allow you to surf your media library to your hearts content.
When PlexConnect was first introduced this process used to be pretty involved, but now with the creation of Plexify it is significantly easier.
Simply download Plexify from here and install it. Plexify will now download the latest version of Plexconnect and give you a series of easy to follow instructions, mainly dealing with altering the DNS settings on your ATV. Don't worry if this sounds complicated it really isn't. You will then be asked to enter an local address on your ATV so it can install a certificate required to repurpose the Trailers icon. This is probably the hardest part of the whole process as it involves using the Apple TV remote to enter a HTTP:// address which is a tool far from conducive to the task.
Once you have performed this series of steps you should now be able to access your Plex server through the Trailers icon on your Apple TV and enjoy your media to your hearts content presented in a gorgeous fashion.
As this is a cutting edge hack of sorts there is always the possibility Apple may push out an update that would break this tweak. However as I mentioned there are various media boxes also available that offer a simple plug and play interface that works just as well.
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