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Plex Media Server

This one’s a relatively new departure for me but I’ve been well impressed so far. I’m sure most people have heard of Plex. If not, it’s a media server that you host yourself.

No technically home automation but it definitely falls into the smart home ecosystem in my opinion.

Very easy to install from the command line once you’ve installed Raspbian. As a really quick guide, start by installing Raspberry Pi OS Lite. Download it from the official Raspberry Pi website and login to the command prompt. Before you do anything, make sure you change the default password!

Next thing to do is get yourself over to PiMyLifeUp and follow the instructions there.

What you’re going to need apart from the Pi is an external drive. Unless you have one DVD, you won’t get much on the SD card. I just picked up a 2TB drive from Amazon.

After that, get yourself some DVD ripping software. I use MakeMKV which seems to do the trick.

Once you’ve got the files you need by ripping the DVD, put them into the correct directory on the external hard drive. Plex will pick them up automatically and download all the artwork and meta data for the film. The only thing you need to do, if you want to, is weed out all the “Extras”. It’s easy to do as the file sizes will tell you which file is the main movie and which files are the extra bits.

Film details and artwork are automatically populated

If you’re doing boxsets it can be a bit hit and miss. All the recommendations talk about organising and naming the files in different ways. I’ve found that in some cases Plex will sort it all out itself even if I just dump all the files in one folder. In other cases, I’ve organised them all beautifully and Plex misses out an episode or something. I’m more interested in films so I’m not that worried.

It takes a bit of time to rip all your DVDs. I did 4 or 5 per evening until I’d got everything I wanted.

For me, I have a house in Spain that I’m going to be renting out. My Plex server will end up over there with a couple of hundred films on so that people will have something to watch if the weather is bad or they just want a night in. Now that Brexit has scuppered being able to use my Netflix and Amazon Prime Video over there, this seemed like a fairly easy option.

Ultimately, this is about having an offline, personalised version of Netflix with all your favourite films. Once it’s set up, you can stream to any device in the house. Kids upstairs on tablets, you in the office on your laptop, or get the Plex app on your smart TV. And if you sign up for a Plex pass then you can login from anywhere where you have a mobile signal.

It’s definitely a neat addition to your tech toys!