Plex on FreeNAS

Written by James T. Nixon III on .

“Hey man, check out this totally flippin’ sweet app!” said friend and co-worker, Peter, while sitting in the iX lounge sometime last summer. He had his Plex server running on his Macbook Pro and was controlling it, and viewing movies, from his iPhone. It was impressive, but my first question was: “Does it run on FreeBSD”? He snickered and ran away.

Fast forward one year later: “Bro, seriously, come check this out!”, I said to Peter while walking out of the break room, coffee mug filled to the brim. We walked to the lounge while he waited for drivers for the-operating-system-that-shall-not-be-named to finish installing. I stayed late the previous night configuring the newest plugin for FreeNAS: Plex Media Server, so I was pretty excited to show it off.

First thing, I brought up the Plex client and browsed to my “Channel Directory” which displayed more than 30 online streaming videos for topics that would interest me, like TED, YouTube, SoundCloud, NPR, The Onion, and Sesame Street (for my little girl). I know, I know, Slowpoke.jpg – but: I found this to be pretty amazing. The interface is solid and the options for content seemed endless (and I hadn’t even imported my personal collection yet!). Now I understood why people chose Plex over XBMC. MythTV users of the past, I feel your pain. I really do.

Setting it up was pretty easy and only took a few minutes. I started with a “Firmware Update” from 8.3.1 to 9.1.1 by downloading the “GUI Upgrade” img.xz file from FreeNAS.org, then opened my web browser to the FreeNAS interface, drilled down to ‘System->Advanced’ and clicked the ‘Firmware Upgrade’ button. It asked a question, I hit Ok, then browsed to the img.xz file and waited about 10 minutes while staring at a progress bar that was seemingly stuck at 24%. Once it finished, I refreshed the UI and clicked the new ‘Plugins’ button in the navigation bar at the top.

01_freenasui-plex-plugin

There I saw a list of available plugins and chose to install the Plex plugin by clicking ‘Plex Media Server’ in the list, and the ‘Install’ button below.

02_freenasui-plex-tree

Plex will now be available in the tree menu with the rest of the installed plugins.  Click on ‘Plex Media Server’ and then click the link to get to the Plex WebUI. At first, I didn’t realize there was a link there, so I actually did a little research and found that the Plex server is running on port 32400 on the IP of the jail (not the same as the FreeNAS IP) and browsing to ‘/manage’. Or in other words, by going to this page: “http://ip_address:32400/manage/”.

But first, you may want to add a mountpoint, share, and directory for media.

03_freenasui-shell

Create a directory in the Plex jail for your media.  Then create a dataset and mount it inside the jail by clicking ‘Add Storage’  from within the jail’s tree menu node.

04_plexui-add-section

Then browse to the http://ip_address:32400/manage/ to add the common media types (Or click ‘Plex Media Server’ in the tree menu, and click the link in the pop-up dialog).  I created a folder in my dataset for each media type by creating an AFP share pointed to my mountpoint, then accessing that from my workstation.

05_plexui-media-addfolder

I wanted to try out a movie first, so I chose “Movies” and a new dialog appears asking me to ‘Add Folder’; this is where I browse to the directory I created in the Plex jail.  You can call this whatever you like, and if you organize your movies in multiple directories you may change the section name to match.

06_plexui-add-folder

I chose to add a directory ‘/plexon’ to the jail so that it would be easier to find. You can place it wherever you like, though.  You can do this a couple of ways. I chose to mount the filesystem read-write and then create a directory called “plexon” in the Plex jail with ‘mount -uw /’ then ‘mkdir /mnt/zeddy/jails/plex_1/plexon’. Yes, I named my dataset “zeddy”, which is also how I refer to the dragon in one of our “Medieval Beastie” posters that Jenny (our graphic artist) designed.

07_plexui-insidefolder

Now inside the ‘/plexon’ directory, I created a different folder for each of the “media types” Plex allows you to add. These are the directories I created via that AFP share I mentioned earlier.

08_channels-block

Then I added all the channels that interested me after copying my iPhoto library, movies, and music over.  These are some of the video channels I installed.

09_soundcloud

I can even browse my Favorites on SoundCloud.

10_music-visualizer

Finally, I sat back and stared at this for a few minutes while reality started to bend to the beat.

Honestly, Plex on FreeNAS (FreeBSD) is in beta, so your mileage may vary. My personal experience was great, though. I will recommend this to my friends and family as their one-stop-shop for enjoying the multimedia they’ve acquired over the years accompanied by a multitude of online streaming media services.  Well done Plex team, and kudos to John Hixson for whipping this plugin into shape. It is truly a “game changer”.  If you have FreeNAS 9.x installed you can try this out today.  Now back to my normally scheduled work day, which does not include watching the latest episode of Breaking Bad. I’ll have to queue that up later.

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Comments (26)

  • Flynn

    |

    Awesome, this is the perfect thing to add to my media empire…. to complement Rasplex running on an RPi! Thanks :D

    Reply

    • James T. Nixon III

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      Nice! I was wondering what to do with my RPi, now I know what I’ll be doing in some uneventful weekend in the near to late future ;)

      Reply

  • fob

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    what collection url are you using to see the plex plugin?

    the default freenas one does not have it :)

    Reply

    • James T. Nixon III

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      Can you link me to documentation about this, I am unfamiliar with the term. Thanks!

      Reply

  • kevin

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    This is awesome, The only thing keeping me from using freenas was no plex support but now I am sold. Thanks

    Reply

    • James T. Nixon III

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      Thanks Kevin, this was my first time trying Plex out, and I must admit I am feeling a little like Slowpoke right now, lol

      Reply

  • Anthony

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    any chance you can send me a email of how you got the /plexon to work? Pretty new to freenas, much appreciated

    A

    Reply

    • James T. Nixon III

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      Here’s what I did:

      1. Open up the shell in the freenas UI
      2. run: jls
      3. look for the plex jail ID
      4. run: jexec jailID csh (e.g., jexec 3 csh)
      5. run: mkdir /plexalicious (or whatever you prefer)
      6. close the shell
      7. Go to: ZFS Volume Manager, add dataset
      8. Name your dataset: Media (or anything you wish)
      9. Go to: tree menu-}Plex-}Add Storage
      10. A dialog should appear
      11. Source: browse to your dataset (/mnt/zeddy/Media for me)
      12. Destination: browse to the directory you created in the shell (/plexon for me)
      13. Click ok
      14. Now create a CIFS, AFP, or NFS share that points to your dataset (/mnt/zeddy/Media for me)
      15. Set permissions for your share and dataset
      16. enjoy!

      If you’d like more details, check out this video: http://youtu.be/-WF0r36cxO0

      Reply

  • Jason

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    Dear John Hixon,

    I love you man!

    This is a fantastic addition to FreeNAS. I switched to Plex for my media serving needs because of the centralized database and web client for easy media consumption. If Plex could replace the Flash player for something better *cough*VLC*cough* I would be happier than a pig in you-know-what.

    Reply

  • Kyrka

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    If you don’t see Plex on the list of plugins available, odds are you’re stuck in the same boat as I am: You installed FreeNAS on a 32-bit system.

    If so, you can probably stop searching now.

    Reply

  • Johan

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    Talking about Plex on the FreeNas; is there *.rar-support or any solution for that? :)

    Reply

  • Chris

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    Just wondered about updates of this plugin. There is a newer FreeBSD build on the Plex Website.

    How is a update process? Is there any?

    Reply

  • Yatti420

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    Don’t hate on the original xbox + xbmc ;)

    Reply

  • Richard

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    We have FreeNAS 9.1.1 running on an HP Micro-Server with AMD Turion II Neo N54L and 3x 2TB drives in RAID 5. I tried to install the plugin for Plex and also tried the plugin for uPnP but both tell me that I first need to configure ZFS. We dont plan to use ZFS at this stage as the server does not have enough memory. Is there any other solution to get DLNA working on this box ?

    Reply

  • Darren

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    Can anyone confirm where the user rather than system dlnaclientprofiles.xml should go?

    Reply

  • Richard

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    We run FreeNAS 9.1 on a HP Micro-server. It has only 2GB memory, so the 3 disks are set in Raid 5 config. We tried to install the Plex plugin and the UPnP plugin, but both refuse, with a message that we need to set up ZFS. Does that mean there is no hope for us ?

    Reply

  • Grigore Marian

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    Hi all.
    The Plex plugin periodically spins up my hard drives, every other 20 or 30 minutes. They are always in a deep sleep mode because the Freenas Server is only used for backing up important documents and files. Any advice on how to avoid that? Currently the Plex plugin is uninstalled but i really want the functionality provided without it automatically spinning up my hard drives. I sleep in the same room where the mini server is located and at night hard disk activity is pretty loud. Please help :) .

    Reply

    • dark-star

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      thats because Plex tracks the movies you have and your viewing habits. i dont even mess with Plex

      Reply

    • CV

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      Actually it’s probably because Plex scans your media periodically looking for changes, and this is optional and adjustable. If you want it to be manual refresh you can set it this way, at least on the Linux version.

      It’s also possible to change the time interval.

      Reply

    • whoniversereview

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      You can change it to only check your disks every 12 or 24 hours. It’s checking for new files, updating the info on your current files, and seeing if you’ve moved or removed any files.

      Reply

  • Freth

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    Loving how streamlined the PLEX plugin is now with FreeNAS 9.1.1, with one caveat. I’m sure it’s my fault, but the CIFS share I had configured under 8.3.1 for miniDLNA has vanished. DF shows that the disk space is still used, but the pointers are gone and I can’t get to the media.

    I set up a new dataset and started reloading it – PLEX is amazing, and the FreeNAS plugin is smooth as can be to my Roku3!!

    Reply

  • nicky2702

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    hey guys!

    does anyone know if there are any plans to bring plex 1.0 to freenas anytime soon?

    thanks in advance!

    Reply

    • Saphroxx

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      Only the server is ported to FreeBSD/FreeNAS. It seems kinda useless to me to have the client side ported to FreeNAS because you probably want to view your media from other devices like SmartTV/Tablets/Phone/HTPC etc instead of from your server.

      Reply

  • Will

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    I want to know more about this Medieval Beastie.

    Reply

  • Freenas 9 | Hoenjet

    |

    […] one of my favourites: Plex media server http://www.freenas.org/whats-new/2013/09/plex-on-freenas.html . Flex has clients for almost any device: whether it is you pc, smartphone, tablet or smart tv. So […]

    Reply

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