Stream anything to any device over a home network "catch-all" thread.

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I just noticed I have not been getting emails from Plex, despite actually being subscribed. Is the lifetime Plex Pass deal something someone can send my way? Wanted to pick it up.

EDIT: There's also the gift sub. Maybe I could work something out that way.

Any codes I've had in email in the past have been a 'for your account only' type of deal, and usually also a 'for today only!' although they do appear once or twice a year for me.

Perhaps they open it up to everyone, or do similar deals around Black Friday?

Now that I've got a fancy 4k TV that does HDR, I'm down the rabbit hole of competing formats. On my old TV, we kept a Roku Express and a Fire Stick hooked up. Both did the same basic thing. We primarily used the Roku because we preferred the cleaner UI, and because it has an app for this kids' sign language series my wife likes. It was a compromise because our sound bar doesn't support Dolby Digital+, and neither the Roku nor the TV would transcode it down to regular Dolby Digital, so any DD+ show came through in stereo.

The Fire Stick does do that transcoding, but the UI is a nightmare, and my wife really wanted that sign language app, which doesn't have a version out for Fire Stick (and I couldn't find an apk to sideload). But it does let you directly pair bluetooth headphones to it, which I used a lot for watching stuff early morning and late night. The Roku lets you do private listening through the phone app, but the audio lagged behind the video doing that, and it annoyed me. Also, and this is super minor, the Giant Bomb app on Fire Stick is way better than the one on Roku.

So now we have the better TV, so I wanted to get either the Fire Stick 4k or the Roku Ultra. Since I'm dumb and black friday happened, I wound up getting both. Now I'm trying to settle on one, and neither has everything I want.

The Roku Ultra has an ethernet port, which is nice. Possibly because of that, the private listening on the phone is actually in sync. The new TV handles downconverting DD+ to DD, so I even get surround. BUT, the Roku doesn't support HDR10+ or Dolby Vision, so it doesn't look as pretty as it potentially could.

The Fire Stick still has a nightmare interface, and still doesn't have that sign language app. But it does support HDR10+ and Dolby Vision.

So now I'm probably going to stay with the Roku as the primary streamer, but always have that little voice in my head saying "this could look nicer." They might add support later, and apparently HDR10+/Dolby Vision don't look that much better, but still. Why can't I have one device that does all the things?

You're really not missing anything by not getting HDR10+ (which only Samsung TVs support right now) or Dolby Vision. Regular HDR10 is plenty good enough. What makes a bigger difference is the quality of the HDR mastering, which seems to vary wildly between shows and platforms. E.g. The Last Jedi in HDR10 on Amazon Prime looks much better than the DV version on VUDU, which just looked way too dark to me.

The Roku has the headphone option on the remote too, if you have a pair of wired headphones. I've used it a bunch and it works pretty well.

I picked up a refurb Roku Ultra from B&H a few days ago and I am loving how much snappier it is than the Roku sticks (which I now have on all our secondary tvs). It's like night and day on button presses and response time. That and I love that the remote also has a power and volume buttons that now control my tv, as well as the aforementioned headphones jack built into the remote.

I've kicked this can for a few years, hoping for a better answer than I was finding at the time:
My spouse and I have several hundred DVD's we've collected over the decades... What's the current state of the art for digitizing those while retaining things like menus, special features, alternate audio tracks, etc. Basically, can I mount DVDs like ISO's from a graceful UI that can be used from a TV/device yet?

Rezzy wrote:

I've kicked this can for a few years, hoping for a better answer than I was finding at the time:
My spouse and I have several hundred DVD's we've collected over the decades... What's the current state of the art for digitizing those while retaining things like menus, special features, alternate audio tracks, etc. Basically, can I mount DVDs like ISO's from a graceful UI that can be used from a TV/device yet?

Why menus?

If you can live without menus, for alternate audio tracks and special features you can rip discs to MKV using something like Handbrake, and then use a media server like Plex.

MKV is a "container", so you can encode to h.264, include as many audio streams as you like, subtitles, etc. But not the disc menu. Most people digitizing stuff for home use want to save storage space, and even with terabytes of storage the difference between a 40gig Blu-Ray iso and a 5-10gig encoded file that most human eyes can't tell the difference between is pretty huge.

MKV used to be pretty sparsely supported, but these days it's incredibly useful if you're the type of person who, let's say, enjoys multiple audio tracks/dubs, and even multiple subtitle versions (I prefer to distinguish between "dubtitles" and "subtitles" for example).

The process would be similar for a Blu-ray or DVD (although with DVDs you have a lot more options for ripping, with Blu-ray MakeMKV seems the best game in town).

Step 1: Rip the DVD/Blu-ray with your software of choice (MakeMKV can rip DVDs too, for what it's worth).
Step 2: Load the unmodified file into something like Handbrake.
Step 3: Decide on quality settings and encode. For most folks the presets will be fine, but for tweaking the settings to balance speed/filesize/quality the waters are treacherous, deep, and cruel.
Step 4: With DVDs, if you've got a lot of space to you might not even want to compress/encode them. And if you were going to use ISOs anyway, don't care about space, and can live without the menus, then you could do this with Blu-rays too.
Step 5: Name them and sort them into folders in some sort of consistent fashion.

Using MakeMKV as an example, you choose which "streams" to rip. The main movie, special features, and I suppose even the disc previews/video backgrounds can all be ripped, and software like Plex can accommodate those items too.

If you're *really* obsessive you can use something like TinyMediaManager to download metadata and specify artwork for all your movies and shows.

Edit: I just tried Kodi for the first time in awhile, and it turns out that Kodi *can* handle DVD menus. Blu-ray menus are apparently hit or miss and require Java.

So it does seem like you could rip your collection to ISO, point Kodi to wherever you're storing them, and go to town.

https://kodi.wiki/view/First_time_user

If you're not sure how Kodi/Plex differ, it can be hard to explain.

IMO the biggest differences are that Kodi can be a lot more difficult to setup, as you can tweak damn near any option and setting. Even just deciding on a skin can become a journey. It's also really more focused as a media library/player, i.e. you'll install it onto a single device that's connected directly to your TV via HDMI.

Plex is a media library/media *server*. It doesn't have nearly the "swiss army" mindset of Kodi. It won't work with ISOs, and you're less able to tweak things (such as forcing it to abide by your exact metadata/artwork). But if you want to be able to stream your media library to essentially any device you can think of, it's pretty great. And depending on your setup, it can even support hardware transcoding for those streams.

So in regard to being in a home network streaming thread, I'd say the answer to your question is "no".

On a more nuanced level, you *could* use Kodi to retain everything as long as you treat it more like a device meant to be connected to a single TV.

But to truly "stream" that content elsewhere, I can't think of an option that will let you retain menus.

Chaz wrote:

So now I'm probably going to stay with the Roku as the primary streamer, but always have that little voice in my head saying "this could look nicer." They might add support later, and apparently HDR10+/Dolby Vision don't look that much better, but still. Why can't I have one device that does all the things?

If Android TV had a wider array of apps, I'd say the Shield TV is your sweet spot. What's the app your wife uses? I can check to see if it works/is in the Play Store.

ccoates wrote:

Solid gold info.

Thanks! A dedicated "Our DVD's Live Here" box is Plan B, so I'll take another look at Kodi. It's what we're already running on our phones to talk with the simple media server so score!

Got in on the geforce steam stream beta. Hmmm this might not count as streaming but maybe. What it does it allow you play steam games you own from a server. It is like stadia but only for your steam games. So you can do stuff like play the witcher from your phone, mac or whatever. Or play a demanding game on your crappy pc with all the bells and whistles. Or maybe you might just want to play games without installing them.

I think I signed up four months ago and they just now sent me the invite. I know the beta has been going on for over a year. No info on pricing or when it will be out of beta.

Baron Of Hell wrote:

Got in on the geforce steam stream beta. Hmmm this might not count as streaming but maybe. What it does it allow you play steam games you own from a server. It is like stadia but only for your steam games. So you can do stuff like play the witcher from your phone, mac or whatever. Or play a demanding game on your crappy pc with all the bells and whistles. Or maybe you might just want to play games without installing them.

I think I signed up four months ago and they just now sent me the invite. I know the beta has been going on for over a year. No info on pricing or when it will be out of beta.

Assuming this is GeForce Now, they actually allow you to stream games from Steam, Epic, and uPlay. Certain games are considered 'optimized', though, and you'll hop right into them. Other games will need to be downloaded to the server you're playing off first (though in my experience it's real fast). It's a cool service. I used it more often before I built my gaming PC when I only had a Mac in the house.

billt721 wrote:
Baron Of Hell wrote:

Got in on the geforce steam stream beta. Hmmm this might not count as streaming but maybe. What it does it allow you play steam games you own from a server. It is like stadia but only for your steam games. So you can do stuff like play the witcher from your phone, mac or whatever. Or play a demanding game on your crappy pc with all the bells and whistles. Or maybe you might just want to play games without installing them.

I think I signed up four months ago and they just now sent me the invite. I know the beta has been going on for over a year. No info on pricing or when it will be out of beta.

Assuming this is GeForce Now, they actually allow you to stream games from Steam, Epic, and uPlay. Certain games are considered 'optimized', though, and you'll hop right into them. Other games will need to be downloaded to the server you're playing off first (though in my experience it's real fast). It's a cool service. I used it more often before I built my gaming PC when I only had a Mac in the house.

Yeah it is geforce now. Nice to see they are doing multiply services.

To add to ccoates, I use Plex, and rip everything with MakeMKV (DVD and Blu-Rays) and convert with Handbrake. I've recently used this as a guide to dial in file sizes. MKV format is better than MP4, as it allows for multiple subtitle tracks.

And thanks for the TinyMediaManager recommendation as the program I've been using is pretty rough and buggy, old, and the new version is not free.

mrtomaytohead wrote:

To add to ccoates, I use Plex, and rip everything with MakeMKV (DVD and Blu-Rays) and convert with Handbrake. I've recently used this as a guide to dial in file sizes. MKV format is better than MP4, as it allows for multiple subtitle tracks.

I recently upgraded to a 4k TV and I was thinking about re-ripping/encoding some of my Blu-rays.

For kicks I've been comparing my custom presets to the Matroska H.264 1080p30 and Matroska H.265 2160p60 defaults. On my monitor, with my face inches away from the screen, comparing them side-by-side, sure. I can confidently say my custom presets produce a smaller and higher quality file.

Watching on my TV from six feet away? I just can't tell unless I'm stopping the videos and really squinting, getting up from the couch to examine the picture.

I think I'm going to ditch hardcore optimization in exchange for slightly adjusted versions of the default Matroska presets. I don't really need to worry about small differences in filesize anymore and prefer leaving the audio untouched.

Those small changes to the presets being:

On the "Dimensions" tab:

Unchecking "Optimal Size" (I can't remember what that does, and Handbrake documentation isn't really clear on it).

On the "Video" tab:

"Framerate" to "Same as source"
"Encoder Preset" to "Fast"
"Encoder Level" to "Auto"
"Constant Quality" to "22 RF"

That's it for the video end. All the options after this point are just because I like having all the commentary tracks and different audio formats.

On the "Audio" tab I essentially went full passthrough. Under "Selection Behavior":

"Track Selection Behavior" set to "All Matching Selected Languages"
"Selected Languages" set to "Any" (when I ripped from the Blu-ray I only kept the original language track and any additional English tracks.)
"Auto Passthru Behavior" set with everything except mp2 checked.
"Fallback encoder" set to "AAC (FDK)"

Under "Audio encoder for each chosen track" I added two entries (in this order):

"Auto Passthru" "Mixdown None" "Samplerate Auto" (I think when you add a Passthru entry it ignores these settings anyway, but just in case).
"AAC (FDK)" "Bitrate 192" "Mixdown Stereo" "Sample rate Auto" (this mixes the first audio track down into AAC stereo, which is a nice fallback to have for compatibility reasons.)
"For Additional Tracks" set to "Use First Track as template".

With this setup you'll get every audio track in the final video file without modification, plus a single AAC Stereo track.

Under the "Subtitles" tab for "Selection Behavior":

"Track Selection Behavior" set to "All Matching Selected Languages"
"Selected Languages" set to "English"
"Add 'Foreign Audio Scan'" unchecked.
"Burn-In Behavior" set to "None"

You could also just try not tweaking anything at all, but old habits die hard.

I just got a Roku Express 4k+ for my home office TV and i have to say I'm really surprised how great it is, especially for $25. I have Apple TV's but didn't want to spend another $100+ for a streaming device that doesn't get constant use.

I just set it up and it's much snappier than I expected and the menu is clean. It even has air play and screen mirroring.

My only question is, does anyone know how to turn off the repeating (continuously scrolling) menus? I'm nitpicking but for whatever reason they annoy me. I checked out the settings but don't see a toggle. I may be missing it though.

I have had Rokus for years. What do you mean by repeating menus?

I believe he's talking about how there's no end as you scroll. Instead it loops back to the "top" of the menu.

I thought he was talking about the "screensaver"-type thing that comes up when the Roku goes into sleep mode - the scrolling landscape with occasional ad for a show or channel.

Are there enough of us running Plex to warrant a separate Plex topic? I just scrolled back a couple of pages and found that I started in 2017. I've made some huge upgrades from then and thought it would be fun to have a topic on it. However, since I only went back 2 pages to get to 2017, I may be way off on this one

I'd be happy to nerd out over Plex, but I'm not sure there's enough of us to warrant a separate thread.

As far as Plex goes I ripped all my disks, pointed it at my mp3s, and have a basic 2 tuner USB device. Maybe use it once a month. I think I like having access to my library (and OTA channels) more than I actually use it.

I have a lifetime pass for Plex, so I don't really have any motivation to migrate my streaming setup to anything else, but I recently tried Jellyfin for the first time and... it's pretty neat.

I'd say it's overall a bit harder to setup and the documentation is sometimes a bit sparse. Since it's not as established as Plex there's a smaller community for finding help (although I did find folks to be helpful). But I dropped in my media shares and it picked up my library folders and metadata almost perfectly (a few stragglers here and there didn't load correctly, but still impressive).

Plex relying on its own servers makes things like sharing your libraries, streaming content out of the home, syncing content to other devices, and managing library access for other users easier than Jellyfin, IMO. But that's possibly also a negative if you don't want a third party handling your data. Plex has a lot of settings for managing bandwidth and simultaneous transcodes that I don't really see equivalents for in Jellyfin. And you can manage and switch between multiple Plex servers in a way that Jellyfin can't.

Plex also has built-in utilities for things like automatically converting media to mobile friendly bitrates and formats (you can set it to automatically make a 720p mp4 of all your movies, for example, so that you don't have to transcode those on the fly later). You could setup Handbrake CLI to do that without Plex, but for folks that in general don't want to mess around with that type of thing it's nice to have built-in.

On the other hand, Jellyfin is free and opensource, so you don't have to pay anything to utilize features like hardware transcoding, Live TV/DVR, or downloading media to other devices. It's got a decent selection of client apps, although not as many as Plex (which basically runs on everything at this point). It also has some basic eBook/comics functionality, although if you have a decent sized library a dedicated book/comics server would be better. Still nice to have out of the box.

If all you want to do is stream content to devices within your home, it's great. If you don't like the direction Plex has been headed with its UI, marketing, or features, it covers a lot of the same ground. If you absolutely don't want to buy a Plex Pass (personally I've definitely gotten my money's worth out of it, a lifetime license is $120) and you don't mind investing a bit more time and effort into setup and technical troubleshooting, Jellyfin is a great alternative.

https://jellyfin.org/

Is there any current HTPC software that can work as an alternative to a Roku/Shield/etc.?

My Shield TV has been performing worse with each new update (lag, stutters, apps not launching or working, having to reboot a lot), which makes me wonder if the Tegra just can't handle newer versions of Android. It doesn't look like a hardware refresh is in the Shield's future (although if Nvidia releases one, I'd definitely get it.)

Are there any HTPC setups that can replace what you get with a Shield? Something that can run streaming apps, Steam Link, and the like? I know I could just install Windows and use a mouse a keyboard but not wanting to do that is why I like devices like the Shield. Remote only for life.

Has anyone tried installing Android TV themselves on PC hardware?

I use a Chromecast with Google TV, and so far it's been a great experience!

If anyone else is using Plex on Docker, the most recent image update added the universal streaming search/discovery/watchlist feature they've been beta testing.

It's pretty neat, although it seems like it's just a Plex skin of JustWatch: https://www.justwatch.com/

Doesn't work as a Shield TV stand-in because it's (similar to JustWatch) just a front-end that finds content, it doesn't have any ability to play the content itself. It does try and open a related app or the website, though (the same as the JustWatch app does).

Nice to see some useful features added to Plex to differentiate it from similar apps, since JellyFin has really closed the gap between the two.

https://support.plex.tv/articles/dis...
https://support.plex.tv/articles/uni...

Thanks for the suggestion, bobby. Chromecast won't quite do the trick (the Shield has built-in Chromecast functionality), because one of the things I really like about the Shield TV is how flexible it is.

I use it as my Steam Link, for streaming apps, for emulators, etc. And it's been great for quite awhile. But it might be showing its age at this point because I'm spending a lot more time troubleshooting issues than watching stuff or playing games since the "Shield Experience 9.0" update.

The new Google TV Chromecast is an Android box that runs Android apps. It is not just for Chromecasting to like the older ones. It supports many apps out of the box and you can side load a ton of others if you want. It has a remote and voice control etc. My parents love theirs. It does not have the video hardware that the Shield has but I’m not sure if that will matter if all you use it for is streaming.

Oh, I see! Maybe I'll check it out then.

Thanks panda/bobby.

Edit: looks like it may struggle with some emulator cores. And the lack of storage might cause issues with apps like Plex. Still might try it out as a fun project or something though.

Also if I ever get off my butt and get my Mister up and running, the emulation won't be as big of a deal.

ccoates wrote:

Oh, I see! Maybe I'll check it out then.

Thanks panda/bobby.

Edit: looks like it may struggle with some emulator cores. And the lack of storage might cause issues with apps like Plex. Still might try it out as a fun project or something though.

Also if I ever get off my butt and get my Mister up and running, the emulation won't be as big of a deal.

It's fine for NES and SNES, but for anything more recent, I just stream the emulator running on my PC through Moonlight.

bobbywatson wrote:
ccoates wrote:

Oh, I see! Maybe I'll check it out then.

Thanks panda/bobby.

Edit: looks like it may struggle with some emulator cores. And the lack of storage might cause issues with apps like Plex. Still might try it out as a fun project or something though.

Also if I ever get off my butt and get my Mister up and running, the emulation won't be as big of a deal.

It's fine for NES and SNES, but for anything more recent, I just stream the emulator running on my PC through Moonlight.

This is the way

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