How to create your own Personal Netflix!
It has been a very long time since I have posted here, I wish that it could be that it was because I was doing something noble, but the truth is that I’m a procrastinator. My love of Roku and what is has to offer isn’t diminished, if you’ve gone to the Facebook Roku Sites, you’ve most likely seen me active on there.
It’s time to get back in the Game.
Plex Media Server is one of the things that I have bragged about for quite some time. I installed it on a computer for the first time about six months after I got my first Roku to try it out and have been an avid fan since. It’s got a sleek layout, both on your computer as well as on your Roku device. It supports subtitles if you rip them from your DVD or Blu-ray, it supports Chapter marks and if you encode your movie in the MKV format it will allow you to have multiple audio tracks.
Yep. You have the obvious like foreign languages such as Spanish, French, Portuguese but also the directors commentary. What else? Digital Audio. That superb audio track you get with surround sound 7.1 audio where it makes you feel like your in the middle of a battle while watching Fury or the sound of Darth Vader’s Tie Fighter behind your X-wing while watching Luke attack the Death Star, or the sounds of rain falling all around you while watching the Notebook. Roku 4 supports a digital audio out into your sound system now.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my movies, but I’m more concerned with picture quality while encoding my DVD’s into MP4. My TV has a left speaker and a right speaker. That’s good enough for me.
I digress. Back to Plex Media Server.
I’ve actually already have one that works okay. I could have gotten by without one, but my nephew has informed his parents that he wishes to build a computer, which is something that I’ve been wanting to do for some time. I saw the article that he wanted to use as his guide and doing some quick mental calculations I determined that he could have a significantly better build for just a few dollars more, but we were doing his build on some very high dollar equipment. I figured that if I purchased the parts for my computer, we could build mine first to get some practice.
My plan for this computer was to be budget build (read as “I wanted it to be as cheap as I could get away with”). Considering that I’m getting away with a 12 year old Dell computer as my Plex Server with very little problems, so I wanted something that will be more powerful than that. I wanted a tower that would permit me to expand with multiple hard drives (I currently have close to a TB worth of movies and TV episodes ripped from DVD’s) because video does take up a significant amount of space, and my video library is slowly growing. So doing some online shopping I ordered everything from Newegg with my total bill coming to just slightly more than $350.
Going into this, there were a few thing that I knew up front. I was going to go with AMD because their prices are about 1/3 lower in price compared to their Intel counterparts, and I wanted more processing power than my current set up. Although I’ve not had any major issues with my current Plex Media Streamer, a Optiplex model that hasn’t been made in over 10 years, I did notice that while streaming from the CBS or CW channel I would often get buffering, most likely due to the computer having difficulty trans coding (changing the video format on the fly to a format that Roku can stream) it.
I settled on two different processors. A 2.02 GHz quad core and a 3.6 GHz dual core. The side by side testing reviews that I looked into showed that these processors perform nearly identical with the 3.6 GHz dual core performing just a tad bit better, but the 2 GHz using less electrical power. I opted for the 2 GHz quad core and when double checking the compatibility of the unit I found that, although it did have a USB 3.0 on the back of the motherboard, it had no place on the mother board to plug the USB 3.0 that was located on the front of the tower, meaning that my USB 3.0 would be either dead, or a USB 2.0. Not a huge deal mind you, but enough for me to look harder at the other motherboard and CPU combination.
I really like Newegg’s set up. You have the ability to pick a motherboard and it will give you options on what CPU and RAM will go along with that motherboard on some select combination setups. Found a motherboard that would carry the CPU that I was interested in, checked to ensure that it would allow me to use the USB 3 on the front of the tower and picked the RAM. My total cost: $207.09 for the Motherboard, Computer Chip, RAM and 2 TB HDD.
This one was a little tricky. At first I wanted one that was slightly larger than your DVD/Bluray, but it dawned on me that if I did that there were some issues that I was going to have problems with, like, installing another HDD when the time came (note – when the time came, not IF the time came) and the possibility of doing a TV/DVR system that I’ve been wanting to do for some time too. I also knew that working in such a little case was probably not my wisest decision for my very first build, so I ruled it out. It was a shame too because there was this kit that came with a Power supply and smaller tower that I really liked too. Going to the Parts setting on Newegg search, I selected ‘Towers’ and “Most Reviews” as how I wanted them sorted out. This listing placed the Towers with the highest number of reviews at the top of the list and the average egg rating. When I saw that the average rating was high (4 or 5 eggs) and if it fell into my budget range (under $50) then I would look at the details of the case such as how many bays it had for optical drives and for hard drives. If it had more than two, I would look at the reviews and see if I noticed anything sticking out. The one that I picked had several things sticking out. It was rated at 4 eggs, it’s price was $30 (Wow… Okay) and it was reviewed by 156 people. 85 of the reviews were either 4 or 5 egg ratings (you have my undivided attention) containing 2 HDD bays and 2 optical bays (No problem, I can convert one of those optical drive bays into a hard drive, maybe both depending on what the future holds for it) and a place to put a SSD (Solid State Drive – Not likely to be put into this computer, but good to know, I can put a large laptop drive in there though). Then I started reading the reviews.
“Best tower that I ever worked with”
“I can’t believe you get this much quality for this price”
“No, it’s not as sturdy as my $150 case I purchased for my last build, but you know what? I’d pick it again because it’s a much better value.”
“It’s so easy to work with, cable management isn’t that difficult, plenty of room, and to be honest, it’s sharp looking too.”
Then I came to the one that really got my attention:
“It looked like a Lamborghini”.
… Um…. What?
I did a double read on it. Yep… The reviewer said “It looked like a Lamborghini”
Maybe I should take a closer look at this case. Sure I looked at it, it was black, I could see the drive doors so I knew that it would hold a DVD if I decided to put one in there… So I looked at it again. It.. uh… reminded me of a Lamborghini. It’s not that I wouldn’t have noticed the sharp lines, but to be honest, when I looked at it more closely, it looked more like Darth Vader’s mask with a cat head where the breather would be, but okay… Lamborghini… I see it too. Yes… It’s very sharp. It’s got a hint of red on the inside of the case with the fan, this is one very sharp case here!
Add to cart? “Hell YA!”
I did the same process on my power supply, set the max dollar amount that I would be willing to spend, I knew that my power usage wouldn’t be all that high, so I didn’t concern myself about it too much, just decided that I wanted something that would give me room to grow if need be. Looked at the number of reviews, the average egg readings and come across a 550 watt power supply that would do the trick. $30.
Add to cart? “Sure!”
Then I did something that I never planned on doing, I actually looked at the LED fans to install in this case, I mean, it looks so sharp, why not, right? Ultimately I decided not to do it, however, I did go back to the choices on my motherboard selections. My RAM was blue, for $1 more I could get some Red RAM instead. Silly, I know, but what the hell. Why not.
Picked this out because I need one for my Windows computer. $51.
I’m looking at my list knowing that I’m forgetting something, then realized that I’ve got no way to connect it to the internet. All of my ports are full on my router with Ethernet cables, even my Roku has to rely upon WiFi to stream, and it sits just inches away from the router too! I looked at hubs, I looked at several things, but decided that I was going to get me a WiFi card.
Now, I don’t encourage you to use WiFi for you to stream video with your Plex Server. It’s possible, I’ve done it several times with my laptop computer, but it does create some potential for problems, especially if you live in a home with several individuals using WiFi, which to be honest, I’m not in that category at all. But I do have a Linux Desktop that if it was connected to my LAN with a WiFi, it wouldn’t be that big of a deal, it’s mostly used for web surfing, some minor storage and writing documents. I do use it as a secondary Plex Server, but only because I was bored one day…. That would be the one to get the card. $18. Add to cart? Lets see…. Linux support… Yep, add to cart.
Grand total: $346.91
Plex suggests that at minimum you should have a 2 GHz dual core, with 2 GB of RAM 2.4 GHz will be enough to trans-code a full HD video of 1080p quality, I know that this will trans-code at bare minimum 2 HD videos, but seeing how my videos are in a format where trans-coding isn’t necessary with Roku, it should easily stream 3, 4 or even 5 videos if I ever need to do that many, but most important, it will have more than enough to convert that 1080p High quality video that I’m streaming from CBS.com when I watch Scorpion with no buffering!
The parts are ordered and on their way. ETA for delivery is this Friday, which means that I should be able to get to it next week. Haul everything to the south side of town and grab a 13 year old kid who thinks he knows what he’s doing, and put it together!
I’ve got plans for this computer. It’s powerful enough to do what I need it to do, and will be able to for some time I believe. If not, I can upgrade the CPU in it fairly easily.
Installing Ubuntu as my operating system gives me several options in the future, as well as the present. With Ubuntu, I’m able to easily set it up on my LAN network. This allows me to put it under a counter or in a back corner someplace where it will be out of the way. When I rip a DVD or Bluray I’ll be able to transfer the file over it as if I were putting it onto an external hard drive. With Ubuntu I can also install Mythbuntu, which is a DVR style program allowing me to record over the air TV on it just like you would with a TiVo, the only thing it needs is to have the software installed and a supported Digital TV tuner, a $120 purchase from Newegg…. Don’t think that I didn’t look hard at them, I did, but I just didn’t want to invest that much money into it right away, I’ve got my plate just a tad bit full right now, so I’ll wait till most likely this fall or even around Christmas. But once the videos are recorded onto the hard drive, all I’ll need to do is set up Plex to read that folder and I’ll be able to watch it on my Roku. Just a few minor adjustments to it.
But the thing that I’m most looking forward to trying with it is a bit torrent sync.
A concern that my brother and I have both had is that we both have a massive video library on DVD and Bluray. What we’ve always wanted to see if we could do is sync the libraries so that if his hard drive fails, which isn’t an unlikely scenario, I’ll have a back up of his videos on my server, as he would also have a backup of mine.
It’s currently a theory, but one that I think will actually work. We’ve talked about this for some time, our concerns about making backups of our videos. We’ve both worked for over two years to get our library built up, and it’s actually a very nice library, but neither one of us want to go through ripping each of them again.
I will be documenting this build and will be posting it here, but if you wish to go ahead and take one of your computers and install Plex just to play with it, may I suggest that you go to my Plex Pals Group on Facebook. It’s got several fans of Plex who are more than willing to assist you in getting started.