itunes versus plex media server

I’ve written before about my desire to consolidate my media in a simple and easy to use application. Clearly, iTunes is not that solution.

iTunes really sucks

All right, that’s possibly an overstatement. iTunes is merely okay. But only okay. Mainly. It’s fine if you’re importing well labelled songs that haven’t been through the wringer of prior iTunes versions, or if they’re from the iTunes store. But if you’re importing music from different sources, purchased on CD, online or from existing recordings, it becomes a tool of pain.

The problem I have is the endless preference panes (henceforth referred to as Pains), where details are added to tracks to make them go to the right place. If you get one detail wrong, it’s a massive issue trying to get the tracks into the right album or under the right artist. Drag and drop simply doesn’t exist (unless you want to create a playlist). It seems perverse that you can playlist tracks but you can’t drag and drop them around to suit yourself.

In fact, I’d go so-far as to say that iTunes is very Windows-like. It’s unintuitive, it’s messy and there are far too many options to choose-from. Worse still, is that the preference pain options seem not to be retained in the file itself, but in endless XML files which are built on-the-fly by the application.

My suggestion, Apple, me old chums: Ditch the panes. Recreate the system with the drag and drop you’ve got for playlists. Allow the creation of folders in Finder and allow the user to drag and drop.

That’s just music. TV shows are worse by far, especially those downloaded from the iTunes store.

I like Doctor Who (some would say a bit too much, but I digress). I’ve gone to the trouble of actually purchasing content from the store, which has been semi-nice (as the store only contains some of the content available on DVD, not all). So imagine my irritation when I downloaded content only to find it categorised all doctor who, current and original series as “Classic”. Not only that, it didn’t put episodes in the right order, it didn’t sequentially set them up, it didn’t organise anything.

I’ve spent half an hour trying to get the various panes in order so I can see what I’ve actually got. I eventually decided to split the series into the number of Doctors, so I ended up with:

  • Doctor Who: The Fifth Doctor
  • Doctor Who: The Eighth Doctor
  • Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor

Next we have categories which are a bloody mess. For starters, you can’t edit them. At present, due to a typo, I have two “Science Fiction” categories. One is the in-built one, one is almost identical to the eye, but a duplicate. It puts the files under documentaries.

Frankly, the amount of effort I’m going to to try to keep things in iTunes would be better spent just renaming the files for Plex.

Plex: awkward but consistent

Rather than mucking around in endless preference pains, with the confusion that occurs, we have plex.

We do, however, need an element of pre-planning.

Plex media server allows you to create folders for your content, but they have to follow a certain consistency. And you have to name your files in a very specific way.

The nice part is that Plex actually tells you how to do this on their Wiki page on the subject

This doesn’t fix everything though. Next you have to add descriptions. But this is optional.

Plex also does a search and destroy, I mean, add, where associated information about the content you’ve set-up is added to the system.

You can also have Plex import content, but this is a bit hit-and-miss.

See alsoXBMC or Boxee.

But what about Frontrow?

I used to use Frontrow on the mac, and found it to be pretty nice. It would, at least, play DVDs and if I set-up my folders just right, I would see everything I had.

Frontrow, however has its own set of issues: it’s particular about file-types and won’t play everything.

Except, there’s an issue: Frontrow is only available on earlier versions of the mac operating system.

Author: gotheek

Sometime writer, full time human.

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