For some time now I’ve hunted for the perfect media center solution for my apartment. Let’s face it, DVDs are so last year! Digital media is where it’s at.
I’ve tried (and loved) many solutions, all the way from plain old Windows Media center to XBMC. Since my recent migration to OS X I stuck with the old faithful iTunes.. That was until now.. Featured on one of my daily RSS feeds was the latest release of Plex, it wasn’t that I hadn’t heard of Plex before – but I’d never actually downloaded and tried it out.
So off I went, downloaded and installed version 0.9.3.4 (latest at time of blogging). The install was start forward enough and was quite quick to complete. I was then greeted by Plex’s Media manager, which was a first for my media center trials.
Media manager makes it a cinch to set up your media locations, and uses its Internet links to download and update your medias metadata. Right from your movies synopsis’ to its media artwork.
What’s even more special, is the ability to choose different artwork if you’re not happy with the default.
As with most media center solutions Plex is also capable of managing your TV shows, audio and photos. Just like it does with your movies the media manager downloads and updates the meta data and artwork for your TV shows and audio.
Once you are happy with your freshly organised and professional looking media collection, it’s time to start-up the beast.
My current setup (awaiting further cash injections) is a 2010 17″ MacBook Pro with HDMI out to my LCD tv, and audio out to my Sony surround sound unit. Now my TV is quite dated now and doesn’t normally play well with my MacBook. However straight out of the box, Plex looks stunning.. With the slight exception of cutting off the RSS feed at the bottom and weather in the top right. Luckily a few tweaks in Plex’s settings soon had this rectified.
The Plex home screen is pretty similar to most media centers on the market, with a menu system on the left hand side and a selected menu related image on the right.
One thing that immediately becomes obvious it’s just how well Plex works with Apples remote control. The menu structure is easy to navigate and intuitive. Giving you everything you need to make this the perfect in media solution.
I am a massive fan of the movie selection screen, everything you need to know to make an informative choice. Displaying information such as the media quality, the movie rating, it’s synopsis and a movie poster. Now, there are other views to choose from, but I always seem to come back to this one.
Plex has a massive amount of features, and should be enough to satisfy any tech hungry mind. So why not dump your current media centre solution and give Plex a try. I promise you, you won’t be disappointed!
Not only is Plex available for download to your nice shiny Mac, but there’s also a version available for Windows users too!
Do you use something else for your media centre? Why not post its details in the comments below and we can see how it stacks up!
Songbird is a mozilla powered media player which claims to give iTunes a run for it’s money. Songbird’s latest release has delivered improved CD ripping and mass storage syncing support. Unlike most CD Ripping tools Songbird is capable of looking up metadata information from Gracenote to ensure complete data is held on each MP3 in it’s library.
Songbird is also capable of ripping songs in FLAC, OGG or WMA formats along with the most common extensions, it’s also capable of syncing with Apple iPod’siPhones along with generic MP3 players and mass storage devices.
Songbird ties in with some of the more popular social networking sites, delivering rich track related media from flickr, YouTube and Last.FM.
Like many popular applications out in the wild Songbird offers a feature rich API allowing developers the potential to develop any add-on they can think of. A rich add-on directory already exists and is being added to constantly!
Even if you are a massive iTunes fan, Songbird is still worth a try!
Songbird is available for most operating systems from the hosts website
As some of you may already know, I have been slowly building a MediaCenter PC which is connected to my HI-FI, Network and Plasma TV. The main use of the machine to date has been a dockingcharging station for our iPod Shulle’s, Kat’s iPhone and my HTC Diamond. Boasting a massive ammount of MP3’s and Movies.
As it get’s little use I couldn’t bring myself to spend £80+ on Vista Home Premium so I could use the media center aspect. So it’s still running Windows XP Service Pack 3.
All though all of the music and movies are indexed in iTunes (for obvious reasons) I have been constantly on the hunt for something to turn the machine from a PC to a proper media center.
During my daily trawls on the net I managed to stumble accross MediaPortal. Which seems to be serving my needs perfectly.
What is MediaPortal?
MediaPortal is an Open Source application ideal for turning your PC in a very advanced Multi-Media Center / HTPC. MediaPortal allows you to listen to your favorite music & radio, watch your video’s and DVD’s, view, schedule and record live TV and much more.
As Open Source software licensed under the GNU/GPL agreement, you get MediaPortal for free. This means anyone can contribute to MediaPortal or customize for their own needs!
MediaPortal is built on the Microsoft .NET framework using C# and currently has a growing international community of over 60,000 users.
Create your own skins, or choose one of the available skins!
MediaPortal can easily be extended with extra plugins
You decide which keys you want to use for which actions
Internal support for several remote control (streamzap, MCE, redeye, winlirc, hauppauge, FireDTV)
Windowed and fullscreen support
Supports analog TV, DVB-C, DVB-T, DVB-S and ATSC
HDTV and AC3 support
Support for multiple tuners
Record, watch, and timeshift Live TV
Advanced recording scheduler: – Record once – Record now – Daily o Weekly – Weekdays (Mon-Fri) – Every time a program appears on this TV channel
Timeshifting,Watch, Pause, Rewind, FF, RW Live TV
Advanced recording management: – Handle conflicts – Set recording priorities – Quality settings / recording – Transcode to WMD, XVID or MPG – Diskmanagement auto deletes old and/or watched recordings
TVGuide: – Grab DVB-EPG & MHW-EPG directly for DVB – Supports XMLTV – Colors for genres
TV Guide search
TV Channel grouping
Supports over > 10000 channels
Auto channel tuning
Normal OSD (On Screen Display during movies/tv)
Special ZAP OSD (Shows description of what is playing currently on TV)
Support for Teletext
Standby control to put your HTPC sleeping. It will awake when there a recording needs to start
My Video / MyDVD
Play any movie your PC has a codec for (divx, mpeg, matroska,…)
All your movies will be stored in MediaPortal’s video database
View your movies by actors, genres, year, title
Sort your movies by actors, genres, year, rating
Automatically retrieves video art & info from IMDB
Stacking/unstacking if your movie consists of multiple files
Internal DVD player with menu’s (you can also use an external DVD player)