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Home Theater tutorial by MikeG.6.5

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Home Theater tutorial by MikeG.6.5

Postby SPOinNS » Sun Dec 27, 2015 3:28 pm

I'm just posting to say thank you for a job well done.

I've been idly wondering about giving a handful of people some kind of access to the media collection stored on my 204TE. Your tutorials are a great map to what would be required to pull this off.

It's a good trick when a writer can convey densely packed info in a conversational tone.

I'm curious about one thing though - are you able to serve all your 'subscribers' without overloading your upstream bandwidth? Are you using a VPN in your setup? VPN services kill my bandwidth and give me that 90's feel to web browsing and downloading. You can almost hear the modem mating calls...

Hey Asustor, if you're paying attention to the forums at all, I think you should acknowledge MikeG.6.5's contribution and maybe send him some beer money. Or is that Mountain Dew?
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Re: Home Theater tutorial by MikeG.6.5

Postby MikeG.6.5 » Sun Dec 27, 2015 7:30 pm

You are most welcome. This is the first real indication that someone has actually read that long, dry series of posts on using Plex Media Server.

As for Asustor helping out with beer money or MD... They had already "rewarded" me for the gobs of posts I've made before this set. While I didn't feel "obliged" I did feel it was time to nip the anti-Asustor sentiment in the bud, so to speak. My 7004T works a lot better than I expected it to after running my original 202T. And no, Asustor didn't give me the 7004T..... I bought that workhorse with my own duckies, and paid a pretty heavy price over the initial costs as well. (Long story, but it cost me a job, too...) It's no one else's business how they rewarded me, so I ain't telling anyone. Period... Don't ask again!! (Was that plain enough?) :)

You can ask Jagstyles about the guidance I provided him during his set up on his NAS. What I outlined in these posts were almost exactly the same info, just laid out a bit differently. I gave hom more guidance with other things, but the lion's share about Plex is right here....

One thing I want to stress with your 204TE. That NAS can NOT transcode at all. It has less than 300 passmarks. The guide for Plex is 1500 passmarks for a 720p stream and 2K passmarks to a 1080p stream. You are going to have to pre-transcode for the bitrates your upload can support multiple clients streaming with. So if you have a 20Mbps upload, you will need to generate a 2-4Mbps or so version of your media to send them, and then have them set the client app to 2-4Mbps for max on the client app. When you do this, it uses the pre-transcoded media to send them for their stream.

If you don't, you won't be able to support more than one, or at most 2 streaming sessions at a time. The CPU just hasn't got the power required to convert the media on demand. they will be buffering more than they will be watching and they won't enjoy it, nor use it more than once or twice. I was able to support streaming to 5 clients at a time by supplying the media to support the bitrates. After I did this buffering became non-existent and streaming became enjoyable.

Plex is coming out with a per stream setting for remote, soon. So if you set it to 1.5Mbps max per stream this only sends that to the client requesting from the remote side. But it sends that to EVERY client that requests a stream. So for a 15Mbps, you can get a max of about 8 streams or less at a time.... (You are always going to lose a bit to overhead and saturation. You can't factor 10 in the real world.)

With the 204TE you will again need to make that 1.5Mbps version to send them. Just be prepared for this limitation... Without going to a real processor this is a "hard" limit for that NAS. There is no way to get beyond it with a transcoded stream, PERIOD. And a 1.5Mbps stream is somewhere between a 480p and an SD for over-all quality. So it's more than watchable, but not like watching on your 4K TV. (I consider the Atoms and basically anything short of a Celeron CPU a glorified Cell Phone CPU... borderline toys....)

The 510x is the SMALLEST Asustor NAS that can handle any transcoding with Plex. It has just under 2K passmarks. And the 700X is the real workhorse with over 5K passmarks.. IMHO everything else is just a bit better than a PS3/4 for functionality....

Screw VPN with Plex. For one, VPN and Plex don't mix well, and for the other, VPN has so much overhead in the encryption to gut your bandwidth to 2/3 or 1/2 of the available. Don't try VPN with Plex if you intend to use remote streaming at all. No one will be happy with it.
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Re: Home Theater tutorial by MikeG.6.5

Postby SPOinNS » Mon Dec 28, 2015 5:19 am

I'm glad your contributions are acknowledged by Asustor. Products like a NAS need an active and knowledgeable userbase who are willing to share their experience.

My experience with the 204TE has led me to believe that it is a great low cost networked storage box as long as you keep your expectations reasonable. The HDMI port is amusing but not terribly useful and should probably be far less emphasized in Asustors marketing material, especially with the official death of XMBC. It may be more useful to people using the NAS as a surveillance machine but it is not fit for purpose in the home entertainment arena.

While I could handbrake my movie and television collection down to appropriate sized MP4 format, it would not be a job I enjoy. This is idle speculation but I wonder if another approach might work. I had an idea to create a simple shared database with title, cover art, IMDB links and whatever else I think might be useful as well as a download link for the show itself from my NAS. I wouldn't stream to my circle of people but I would provide an informed access point to my collection. I'd rather leave the media in it's original form (whatever that might be) and concentrate on telling them why they might want to watch any given choice. I would be happy if I could get the media into their computers and let them take it from there. Some will watch on their monitors, some will copy to USB sticks and watch on their TV's but it will be up to them.

I suspect you probably went through several ideas before deciding on your current Plex setup. If you see obvious logic holes in my idea/plan please let me know.

Ultimately I may well follow your path but I don't really want the frustration of trying to pull that off with the 204TE. My ancient desktop is due for replacement and whatever new machine I build to replace it will have the grunt necessary to transcode material pulled off the NAS on the fly. Under those circumstances your roadmap will make sure I don't get too lost.

The fun for me is building a carefully curated collection of material and then sharing it with family and friends. My collection will probably never approach the scope of yours. Your collection is HUGE compared to mine. Everything I have still numbers in the hundreds rather than thousands. Still, I like the idea of being another 'channel' for my family and friends.

I'll say one thing for Asustor, their hardware is second to none. It's well designed and well executed. Software? Not so much...yet.
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Re: Home Theater tutorial by MikeG.6.5

Postby MikeG.6.5 » Mon Dec 28, 2015 7:56 am

What started out my journey down this road was having to go to work in Alaska in a town with no movie theater, no bowling alley, nothing but fishing (commercial) and long hours. The town has 1300-1600 people during the off-season and it ballons to well over 4500 during the on-season.

Internet is expensive and spotty at best. So some way to stay out of the bars and drinking my liver to death was the first thought in my mind. As I said, I tried XBMC and other DLNA apps to stream media back and forth and none of them worked worth a darn with the large library I had. A that time I had maybe 600 movies and TV shows combined.

Enter a NAS to get the media off of rather full hard drives on various computers and then I started looking at the apps they had available. My first is about the same unit you have. A 202T. No HDMI out, and the same processor and only 2 bays. Installed Plex and had a lot of issues with AVI's and MKV's I had in my library. But MP4's worked! Ok, started asking questions on Plex's forums, and looking at other options.

The conversion scripts I have will work on a 202 or 204. It's going to take them a while to do each movie, but it WILL work. (3-4 hours to do a 2 hour movie.) But the main advantage is, it's mostly automatic. Move the file into the watched folder, come back the next day and move the converted file into a Plex Library folder. Loss of detail on these converted media files? Absolutely NONE! Same bit rates, better compression, cleaner files and no bloat from subtitles or language tracks I'll never use. Best thing was, it puts the file into the best possible streaming format I could ask for from the start.

If you have a Plex Pass you can make use of the new feature they just introduced called Optimize Media. This feature does the same thing the scripts do, but the end result is the media original has to remain in the folder unless you do a bit of file shuffling, and the quality isn't as good as using the scripts. We're hoping to get that quality issue fixed real soon. I got a Lifetime Pass when they were half the price they are now. They marked it up a few months after I got mine. Even at the current $150 price tag, the features in my mind make the costs worthwhile, but what do I know about your situation... :)

Doing as you suggest, with a "landing" and "download" page is going to put you on some tricky legal ground. You are distributing media you don't own the license to distribute. Even if you weren't officially charged your ISP may shut it down. Streaming the media has already been determined to be perfectly legal if you own an original hard copy of the media. (DVD or BD for example) Since your ISP can't confirm the actual physical possession of the hard media, they have no legal grounds for limiting your streaming abilities. They could still shut you down, but they are on much less firm ground doing so.

Plex already can put a lot of the info you suggested into your library as a part of how it does it's business. The IMDB links are not present, unless you run a browser extension called Transmogrify, but the rest of it is there.

Asustor's hardware is drastically limited by the software. Until they stop breaking things with every update, the hardware isn't going to be as good as it could be. You can't get to the hardware without the software working right.

I have a very well curated collection. Plex makes that collection available to my friends and family, that otherwise they would never be able to use, because a lot of them barely understand what a thumb drive is, or how to download from a link... Install a client app on a Roku, Android or iOS tablet and suddenly they are watching things left and right. What a world of difference setting this up makes for the computer challenged.
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