Monthly Archives: August 2017

Choosing Media Server Software

Some years ago on my home network, I set up a Media Server on an old Windows PC, as I wanted to be able to stream some stored home movies, music and photographs to Laptops and TV screens around the house. The TV Screens had WDTV Live units (~ AUD$100) connected to them which were hardwired to the network, so they could play the content being streamed.

The Serviio Media Server was great (free, effective, easy), but the Windows PC (Win10 Pro) not so much. I started to run out of hard disk space as I transferred files across plus the Media Server would always go non-responsive every time Windows wanted to update itself (all too regularly).

Raspberry PiThen came my January 2017 holiday project, where I decided to relook at the $50 Raspberry Pi as the much more powerful model 3 had been released. It occurred to me that this unit, with a big fat portable Hard Disk attached could make a fantastic Media Server.

Most of the introduction to Raspberry Pi articles I read usually talked about using the free minidlna as a media server, so I thought I would start with it. Installing it was a bit fiddly and it was hard to determine where the issues lay when it wouldn’t work properly. For instance, the media server worked, but had no content. Or I couldn’t log into the samba share over the network (which was not strictly at minidlna problem). Eventually I uninstalled it as:

  • minidlnaI had to log into the Raspberry Pi and use a text editor on the config files to make changes (always time consuming and a little dangerous).
  • It was completely rubbish at tracking what was on the disk. All too often its directory would be corrupted showing file s that were no longer there (as I had moved them), or not showing files that were there, for reasons I couldn’t fathom. Eventually I gave up trying to solve this as it was too frustrating.
  • The third issue was that it presented very little to the DLNA client other than a complete list of media files, or the files categorised into their folders. Our needs (the wife’s) included knowing “What have you just been viewing” and “what’s just been added” which weren’t options.
  • I was also a little concerned that the project governance for minidlna was weak (eg minidlna is called its previous name everywhere, but you can only download minidlna) which could lead to heartache when updating it downstream.

The second crack at it was installing Plex. Plex had lots of great reviews, so I had high hopes. Mind you, you tend to get the reviews you look for. Eventually I uninstalled it as:

  • PlexIt has lots of system defined options for presentation in the client, (eg By Album, by Artist etc) but you can’t configure them or turn them off. This means I have about 10 options I don’t want and can’t have the ones I do (the Recently Added folder)
  • The licensing agreement of Plex is of concern – it appears you give them a right to use any content you load into Plex in anyway they like (whether you have the right to do this or not). Others online also seem concerned about this.

Finally, I installed Serviio, which I hadn’t realised previously you could run in a Linux environment. For some reason It generally doesn’t appear in Media Server reviews for Raspberry Pi. Serviio runs over Java and is a little complex to build as you must install java first (already there on Raspbian Jessie for Noobs), ffmpeg and finally Serviio. Once in it was easily configured though a nice interface via the web browser. However I did tweak some config files to name the server in a way that suited me. In summary:

  • Serviio Serviio seems to track changes on the hard disk without error.
  • Offers my wife the menu options she want’s which is “Last Viewed” and “Just Added” and can hide all the rest of the options.
  • Finally, Serviio doesn’t seem to offer any creepy licensing requirements either (from a non-lawyers reading of the EULA).

Winning. At this stage I’m keeping it.