You might remember back in April when I wrote about Plex. For those of you who don’t (and don’t want to read the article at the link), Plex is a media server that allows you to view your media remotely on a mobile device or a computer (with apps and via the web). When it works, it’s great – I’ve used it on trips to see my own videos while trapped in hotel rooms at night, on even sketchy wifi networks.
It has a lot of great features for presenting your media – it can organize it for you into seasons, download artwork and synopsis, and it will do that all automatically. However, here’s where we run into the “when it works” portion. There are some of my TV shows and movies that it simply refuses to get right – it insists they are something else, or in the wrong (or unknown) seasons, or have completely different titles. It ignores the embedded metadata (artwork/synopsis/name/season/etc.) at times. And the worst part is, to fix it requires navigating and editing the database directly, because the editing tools don’t let you fix all those things (and even when you do, it often reverts back – adding new content rescans the library). I was manually editing the Plex database and writing custom SQL scripts just to fix up the entries.
So when a co-worker told me about a different free media server, I decided to take a look. This server is called Emit, and it doesn’t have all those fancy bells and whistles. It does reliably stream content though, via web or on iOS or Android devices, and the server can be Mac, Windows, or Linux. It’s pretty simple to use – download and start up the app, tell it where your media is, and open some ports on your firewall. There are pretty good instructions on the page I linked to. It took me maybe 10 minutes to get it running.
Now, as it turns out, this solution isn’t 100% free – you need to buy the iOS app ($1.99, universal), although there is a free version of the app (with ads) if you want to test it out. The desktop app is free, and you can view on the web for free (although the web view isn’t great – I didn’t see a way to make it full screen, or even a decent size). Plex has a free desktop client app, where Emit doesn’t, just the web. But the iOS app is pretty good. Both let you stop and pick up where you left off (something I can’t get the built-in Apple video app to do reliably!). Both will also let you download your media remotely – but Plex charges a yearly fee, and with Emit, it’s included. Emit also supports AirPlay. Note also that neither app can play your DRM media, like shows and movies bought on iTunes. But you can copy that media to your device with iTunes already.
Emit won’t show you any info about your media, so you need to organize it on disk (or in iTunes) so you can find things. For example, Plex (when the database works) will show you your media by season and by episode number in the season. Emit show you by file structure – I have my media broken out in folders by season, but I don’t have the episode number in the file name – so it shows them to me in reverse alphabetical order. On some of those programs I plan to add the episode number at the front of the file name to make it easier to order them. I just found Plex too hard to handle.