Friday, 20 June 2014

Moving Beyond the QNAP Concepts

It's been some time since I drooled over a friend's set up of Plex on a QNAP NAS, and wondered how I could efficiently manifest something similar on a RasPi.  Further analysis of the circumstances have reshaped my thoughts on that matter.  But as for any of the technical challenges I seem to take on around our home, the journey is rarely straight forward, and the direction constantly changes.  And for this project, so has the prospect of a budget.

Previously I had identified that running the Plex services of the RasPi was not an option.  And the reason I wanted to use Plex was that it would work natively with our lounge room TV.  Further research and trials has since blown that concept out of the water - LG does not have the smart TV apps for our model that work with Plex.  This does not mean our ideas for using Plex are dead - far from it.  Allow me to elaborate.

The media centre solution that I need to apply now needs to facilitate the following:
Access from our lounge room TV (LG) - Wirelessly connected to our internal network
Access from our bedroom TV with smart Blu-ray (Samsung) - Wirelessly connected to our internal network
Limited access from our son's playroom TV (Medion) - not currently connected to our networks
RasPi does not run Plex, but can run XBMC
I have canabalised an old 2nd hand machine, and setup an Ubuntu server with Plex, CouchPotato, Sickbeard and other apps.  It's in our DMZ.  This means that the Samsung smart Blu-ray can access it, but our LG TV cannot as its network features do not seem to allow it to discover appliances outside its subnet.

So, the Plex server in the DMZ, works. Samsung has a Plex app. Works on the bedroom blu-ray. Lounge TV can't use Plex, and can't connect to the DMZ. But the Plex server is capturing content, and I don't want to put it in the internal subnet.  The Plex server has a fair but of content on it already, but I want to be able to control the access our son has to that via his playroom TV.  And at the same time, whilst I'd like to be as power conservative as possible, our current situation dictates that conserving money is the more important criteria.

Limiting the connectivity of the playroom TV would also be advisable - helps with regulating the young boy's Internet access.  Plus, it would be beneficial family suitable content could also be made available on our portable DVD-player when we travel.  It accepts USB connections, as does the playroom TV.  So, my thoughts are that the easiest solution there, is a portable USB drive.  I can refresh the content every once in a while to provide variety, but otherwise it is low-cost, simplistic, restricts access, and is portable.

That means that there is only the lounge room TV to satisfy.  My current thinking is that my RasPi with XBMC, could serve movies to it directly through HDMI, and the content for the RasPi could be migrated from the Plex server either by some kind of scheduled task, or by establishing some code that will detect when new movies and TV shows have arrived on the Plex server, and will cause an update to the RasPi.