See, up until now, my home server was Thing That Let Me Play With So Many Cool Things, and as a side benefit, resulted in two promotions at work and a reputation for coincidentally always having the basic skill sets for any tech work because when you're running Ubuntu server and can download pretty much anything used on web servers to practice with and forums chock full of experts to google, the learning curve is fast.
However, as I have discovered while ripping 4Ks, Plex Media Server wants all the resources, all of them, every one. Actively doing nothing on my server, I can mostly play everything okay, but transcoding is almost impossible because of all the other things running on it even when not being actively used. Trying to rip something while Plex is running? Nope. Trying to use Handbrake at all? God no.
And: I do a ton of recreational scripting and sometimes it's even useful, I experiment with different programs like ntop and oracle and apache just to see what they do, I have several IDEs to keep up with my python and C++ and so I can read downloaded source files, and I experiment with different flavors of Linux, and when I've uninstalled, reinstalled, and altered programs too many times or I start getting too many errors (which is a side effect of trying four different Linux distros or ever installing anything oracle as you never, ever get rid of all of it), I nuke or replace the OS drive and start over with a fresh install (all data is kept on separate drives).
Which leads me to the biggest difficulty: even if I do a full backup of Plex, a lot of organization inevitably gets lost. I finally gave up and did the painful work of using someone else's organizational folder scheme in preference to my own much better one, but there's still a lot of bad matches that must be fixed and customization, and the hellscape that is organizing TV shows that have some questionable quirks (hi, Dr. Who), stand up comedians (sometimes they're movies! sometimes they're TV!), and miniseries (sometimes they don't even know for sure).
That's nothing, though, compared to the nightmare hellscape of Plex when it comes to home media organization, aka fanvids.
Plex: The Home Media Category
The Home Media category combines loose with strict and manages the worst of both worlds. The expectation is that it's all home movies organized by date or event, and if that's what you want, it probably works, I have no idea. But trying to adapt it to anything else is basically DIY all the way.
First step after adding the entire Fanvid folder: for it to be useful in any way at all outside of Folder View, you gotta tag everything.
Primary tagging aka Fandom: this one is actually easy. Fanvid folder has ninety eight subfolders by fandom.
In Plex, switch the view to Folder, select everything in the folder, and add the appropriate tag or tags. That part, thirty minutes to a couple of hours as i just discovered tag hierarchies a few months ago and it's a work in progress.
Secondary tagging? Here's where it gets trickier and is related to the nightmarescapehell of Plex.
All those fucking vid titles. Generally, the title of the vid is the filename. Why is this a problem? Whoo boy, it's time for show and tell.
(Note: these have been mildly altered in very specific letter relate formations to protect the guilty. But you should feel guilty, okay. Or probably laugh evilly, which is my guess.)
This is a good one! No, really. Song title, pairing, vidder name right there! I just need to edit, which is monotonous and time consuming but gave me tagging info and full song or vid title so fuck yeah, this is good shit.
Me: ...well, it gave me pairing. Could be worse.
Example: __final3_sm_au(spoilery)__[crack!vid]__s h e r l o c k__
Me: You know like this.
Note: song title was not fucking final3
Example: hp_divx__(in the style of Mulan!)_sm_________
Me: I am not getting the love of multiple underscores.
Me: ...oh my God I hate you.
Note: this, as it turns out was an acronym for the song.
Vidders do not owe me clear titles or file names, I get that, total respect, but when one's vid collection is between 800 and a 1000 files in roughly ninety-eight fandoms and only one in five has the minimum 'song or vid title' in the name, only one in twenty has any useful information at all, far too many have random repeat-one underscoring, and all--ALL--still have to be hand edited anyway, you get cranky and wish you were more entitled. Editing eight hundred to a thousand vid titles is never going to be fun, but titles that have information for the tags make the process at least a little less miserable.
(Shoutout to obsessive24, keewara, here's luck, and talitha78, who consistently have a file name that generally includes both title of song and their names at minimum, and fan_eunice and sisabet, who never fails to have a minimum song title and sometimes even a pairing. None of you abuse underscoring, either. Bless you all.)
All of this careful, obsessive metadata for reasons unknown will not migrate from backup after a reinstall. Moving a file to a different folder will mean redoing all the data for that file, and that holds true for any file in Plex.
Example: My movie files were in two 3TB drives, mounted at /media/movies and /media/movies2 and I was down to minimal space on both. I just added a new 8TB to take care of this. Here's what I did to minimize impact.
Note: I partition and format all my drives in gparted the gui but manually edit fstab in command line when it comes to mounting.
- stopped Plex server
- unmounted drive at /media/movies
- edited fstab to switch the UUID of the movies drive to be mounted at /media/movies3
- in gparted, relabeled the drive to Movies 3 because it's confusing when label and mount point don't match
- remounted the driver formerly at /media/movies to /media/movies3
- stopped Plex again, just in case.
- in gparted, partitioned and formatted new drive to ext4 and labeled it Movies and got the UUID of drive
- edited fstab to associate UUID of new drive with /media/movies mount point.
- mounted the new drive at /media/movies
- found out the /media/octavia drive vanished. Have not followed up because one thing at a time.
- started migrating files on /media/movies3 to /media/movies
Probably around Midnight:
- migrate files on /media/movies2 to /media/movies
- start Plex
- edit movie sources and remove /media/movies2
For those super confused on what the fuck that means.
Plex doesn't know anything about physical hard drive; it doesn't care. It only knows the location/address of the file. Mount points are not entirely unlike the letter drives in Windows for the purposes and only the purposes of this conversation (or like ten peole will be like "...uh, wait" and yeah, but it's close, okay?)
Windows: D:/Plex Media/movies/the.martian.2015/the.martin-4
If you had to replace your D drive with a different D drive but set up the organization exactly the same, Plex would have no idea. It doesn't care. Provided, however, you shut down Plex before you took out the old drive and put in the new one and migrated your data. If Plex is still running, it will get super baffled, wonder why the location no longer works, search for them, update the database that These Don't Exist What, it's a mess.
Generally, it should settle once the new drive comes online as long as the file organization is identical, but sometimes, the database is a dick. And if you decide to now use the location D:/All Video/Plex Media/movies/the.martian.2015/the.martin-4
Back to Ubuntu:
When I turned off Plex, /media/movies and /media/movies2 are known movie folders. It has no idea of the hijinks that occurred since I did that. So when I bring it back up after all movie files from /media/movies3 (formerly movies) and /media/movies2 are on the new drive mounted at /media/movies, it's tricked! As far as anything that was on movies3 (formerly movies).
To avoid doubled files, I'll edit to remove /media/movies2 from movie sources immediately since those files are copied on to /media/movies. Depending on how quickly Plex notices, I still may have doubles, but that's not a big deal. The reason I didn't remove that source last night before I stopped Plex and not worry about doubles at all is this: sometimes, Plex will--for reasons--migrate over all the metadata if it realizes the file didn't Mysteriously Vanish Forever, but simply moved. Sometimes, it won't. Sometimes, some it will and some it won't. There has got to be a pattern here but fuck if I can work it out.
All of the above only applies to the Plex categories of TV, Movies, and I think Music; Home Video/Other Video--only the part where you can trick it by location. But it never, ever, even by accident, retains metadata if you move a file even to another fandom folder; it's gone. Which means I can't reorganize easily but far more stressfully, I made an incredibly basic error during my last file reorganization.
Here are the Plex sources:
All other video:
/media/video/[other video categories]
This was a mistake.
Fanvids was supposed to be mounted on its own drive or partition at /media/fanvids for the same reason /media/television and /media/movies are mounted on their own drives/partition with a backup on a secondary drive. That way, should drive failure occur, not only are my fanvids safe, but once I switch out the drives for a new one and mount it to /media/fanvids, all my weeks of painstaking manual metadata entry are safe.
(I literally cannot work out why I did this.)
Moving fanvids now is going to be a problem. The only option that will definitely work to get fanvids on its own drive and not lose metadata is to mount a drive at /media/video/fanvids. However, while perfectly practical, that offends my very strict personal organizational structure: all physical drives other than the OS drive are mounted directly to /media/[mount point of drive].
Exception: when a program has libraries and data I want to store on a separate drive either because the OS drive isn't big enough (that's a feature: my OS drive should never have any data I am not willing to lose in a drive failure), to keep the data safe in the event of an OS nuking, a program does fit the OS but slows it down anyway due to amount of data/libraries, or a program has a lot of data, libraries, and services that are hard to get rid of when I uninstall the program itself (oracle, ntop) and each service have to be tracked down and individually uninstalled and the libraries manually deleted or they'd keep not only sucking up resources but complaining with obnoxious popups in the GUI or causing random errors. If most of it is on a separate drive that I wipe after removing the program, the services are still obnoxious and there but don't take up nearly as much resources and therefore can ignore them for a while.
This, by the way, is the number one top reason I regularly nuke my OS and do a clean wipe, re-partition, and new linux install from a USB drive. You can remove, autoremove, purge, and purge-all, and it just thinks you're cute to even try. The nice thing now is that with this method, I can ignore it until I have the time and leisure to plan the OS wipe and reinstall and reconfiguration because that shit is fun. I hate having to rush through it to get everything up and working instead of taking a weekend and leisurely researching which linux distro will be the GUI this time on top of Ubuntu Server, then spend a wonderful evening restoring all my configurations for SSH and Samba, restoring the host file and configuring fstab, greeting midnight while compiling programs that don't exist as packages or the packages are outdated or limited, adding links to all my bash scripts in /usr/local/bin, fixing file permissions as dawn breaks--God, that sound good right now and why am I torturing myself with something I can't possibly do until probably November??????
Sorry, back on subject
Plex Media Server, for example, has all data mounted at /var/lib/plexmediaserver but on a separate SSD labeled Aemilius. My OS drive isn't nearly big enough to house all the metadata and therefore my OS runs faster and Plex can run at all.
Which leads me to why I need a dedicated server for Plex (yeah, it took a while to get here and I bet you forgot. Yeah, I did, too): nothing but Ubuntu Server, a basic GUI distro, Plex Media Server, and all packages required to run it will be on the OS drive. Provided I plan the organizational structure carefully and assume its permanent (aka Why Did I Put Fanvids With All the Random Video??????), once it's all installed, configured, and running, all I'll need to do is minimal maintenance and updates and ignore it otherwise. And my home server can return to being for ripping, encoding, experimenting, and as needed, nuking.
I was originally thinking NAS--after all, those are made for Plex and media servers, right? Dedicated, less expensive, easy to use?
Funny story: I googled on which one to get. Color me surprised: none of them. Low processor power and low RAM (non-expandable) were an issue (aka, playing 4K movies, playing multiple movies on different devices at the same time, playing movies with subtitles on, transcoding, you know, the things the NAS was purchased to do?) but also? Expensive as fuck. And that doesn't include the price of the hard drives to put in it, which you buy separately.
Most recommended NAS for Plex: Synology Bay DiskStation DS1019 - $639.99. The five bay expansion to this costs $449.
You know what's almost half the price, has a much, much, much better processor, more and better RAM, comes with four bays, has a DVD RW (not needed but is there), and RAM is expandable to 64 GB (and possibly 128) and drive bays expandable to six (and some have gotten eight) with the purchase of a SATA PCI-E controller card that retails under $30? It even comes with a 1T hard drive.
Dell PowerEdge T30 Tower Server (2017) - $370.94
In case you're curious: this is the current top recommendation for a Plex Media Server.
Dell PowerEdge T30 Tower Server (2019) - $479 and the price is more than justified by twice the RAM of the 2017 (16GB) and a 2 TB hard drive.
I am seriously not over this. That Xeon chip can play two to four 4K movies simultaneously, can transcode on the fly, and probably clears your skin and removes wrinkles, this processor has power to spare. Pair that up with all that RAM.....
Yes, I did start a budget for this like right now.
Look, if anyone here is thinking of getting that Synology because you don't want to do the OS installation and configuration and all that--I have a counteroffer. For less than the difference in price between those two you can buy me a plane ticket to come to your house for the weekend and do it for you--set up, installation, configuration, format, partition and mounting of all drives, customization, and teach you how to do it yourself as well, and that server will be up and running and you will be watching movies before I leave. I may even do some tagging for you. Price of labor is meals and a Good Omens binge on Saturday night, maybe some squeeing, vodka and ice cream, and nachos. I'll even bring salsa.
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