A couple of weeks ago I purchased an Android tablet (The Google Nexus 7 which is excellent btw). One of the first things I wanted to do with it was to be able to stream my music and films to it over my home network. I naively thought something like this would have been supported as standard in the latest version of Android (v4.2.2 at the time of writing) but it isn’t. To get this working there are a number of steps that you will have to follow which I will outline below.
The first step is to set up a media server. Now what do I mean by this. Well ideally you want some software that can interface with all of your devices (not just Android). There are a set of networking protocols that allow this which come under the Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) system. So our server will have to support these. Also, many modern devices also support DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance). Most modern TVs, games consoles, mobile phones and many more devices are DLNA certified so it would be ideal if our server software can interface with devices as well. After doing a bit of searching I found the Universal Media Server. It is a DLNA compliant UPnP server that is written in Java so it will work on Windows, Linux and OSX. After installing UMS you will be presented with the form below:
However, allowing my media to be accessed over WAN, its nice to have some extra security. BubbleUPNP Server allows that by streaming via HTTPS and also having a username and password login. This stops anyone from seeing and accessing your media. Something which Universal Media Server does not allow (I’m not sure about Twonky). Nov 04, 2016 But there are still great solutions if you want to run a home media server and stream to all your devices. Sure, you could just connect a PC to your TV, but these provide convenient interfaces across all your devices. That means apps for TV streaming boxes, smartphones, tablets, and web-based interfaces for everything else. New engine to improve network performance and provide better support for alternate streaming clients. Prevent sleep If your UMS host has a power-saving mode, use this option to prevent the system from hibernating or sleeping. Currently only Windows and macOS are supported. There are three modes: Never UMS doesn't interfere with system idle sleep. A media server designed to play videos on consoles video to Pioneer Kuro. Media server for Nokia N900. Support for Philips Aurea. Support for Philips Net TV Universal Media Server is a DLNA-compliant UPnP Media Server. The program streams or transcodes many different media formats with little or no Read more. How to stream media using Universal Media Server. Download here: Media Server is a DLNA-compliant UP.
There are many things you can configure but the main thing we want to look at are under the “Navigation/Share Settings” tab. Here you can choose the folders you want to share and I also checked the “Hide #–Transcode–# Folder” option as you don’t want these cluttering up your view of the files.
Once you have made your changes to the sever settings, click “Save” at the top of the form and then restart the server. You now have a media server that is ready to serve all of your selected media over your home network (Don’t forget to add in firewall exceptions so Java can communicate through it). If you have an Xbox you will be able to see this server under “TV & Movies” -> “My Video Apps” -> “System Video Player”. You will then prompted to select a media source and the UMS should now be showing. You will then be able to play music and video through your Xbox so long it supports the format of media you are trying to play. However, this doesn’t help with my Android tablet I hear your cry. Well, to connect into the UMS that you just set up with an Android device you will have to download an app from the Google Play Store. There are quite a few apps that will do this however the one I would recommend is BubbleUPnP. BubbleUPnP is a fully featured UPnP/DLNA Control Point and UPnP Media Renderer as well as an actual UPnP Media Server as well. The free version of this app will allow you to connect to a media server over your LAN only. If you want to connect to your media over the Internet via it you will have to pay for the fill version which is around £3 at the time I am writing this blog. To connect BubbleUPnP to your UMS that you just set up go to the “Devices” tab. Here you will see all of the UPnP/DLNA servers on your network.
You may have noticed a couple of things from the screen shot above. Firstly that my Xbox is listed in the renderers. A renderer is where the media will be played, so if I select “Local Renderer” it will be played on my tablet, if I select “Xbox 360” it will be played on my Xbox. Also if you have a TV with DLNA capabilities and have set it up on your home network it will also show on this list. This is how BubbleUPnP acts as a UPnP/DLNA control point allowing you to wirelessly choose where your media is played. You may have also noticed that my UMS that I set up is listed twice. The first UMS in this list is my tablet accessing the server over the LAN, the second is it accessing it over the internet. In this next section I’ll explain how to make your UMS accessible over the Internet.
The developer of BubbleUPnP has also made a bit of software called BubbleUPnP Server that sits over the top of our UMS that we set up earlier. BubbleUPnP Server allows one or more UPnP/DLNA media servers to be broadcast over your internet connection so you can have access to your media anywhere in the world. Installing BubbleUPnP server is straight forward however setting it up can be a bit tricky if you are unfamiliar with your router settings. However before setting up your router it is best to set up the BubbleUPnP server. Once it has been installed if the server management hasn’t opened up in your browser double click on the short cut it will have made on your desktop. You will then be presented with a page like this:
This screen shows your external IP address (You will use this to connect to the server) and the ports that it will be running over. There isn’t anything you can change here but this page will be useful so we will come back to it later. The first thing you want to do is password protect your server otherwise anyone will be able to connect to it. Not doing this would be bad as not only would it be breaking the law in some countries but also it will eat up your internet connections upload bandwidth as people you don’t know can access all of your media. To do this click on the “Network and Security” tab.
Here you can set up a Login and Password. These will be required when connecting to this server. Secondly you will have to say which media server you want to broadcast. This is done under the “Media Servers” tab.
Once this has been done the server is good to go. To make this server visible to the outside world you may have to forward some ports through your router. The ports you will have to forward are 58050 (for HTTP traffic) and 58051 (for HTTPS traffic). Most modern routers have this capability so you will have to consult with the routers user manual if you don’t know how to do this.
If you want to connect to this BubbleUPnP Server through your Android tablet you will have to purchase the full version on BubbleUPnP on Google Play. Once you have done this go into “Settings” -> “Network & Settings” in BubbleUPnP on your Android device. Select one of the three “Unset” options and you will be able to enter in the connection settings. This is where the first “Status” page from BubbleUPnP Server will come in handy.
The server address will be the in this form http://#ExternalIP#:58050 or for https https://#ExternalIP#:58051. You will also have to enter in the login name and password you set up in the BubbleUPnP Server settings. If you test the setting you have entered you will get a success or failure response. If you get at failed response then it will most likely be because you have entered in your IP address incorrectly or there is some not right in your router settings. If the connection is successful you will now be able to access all of your media from anywhere where your Android device has an Internet connection. The server will now be listed in the Libraries list and you will be able access all of your shared media files under the Library tab in BubbleUPnP.
Hopefully this guide will be useful and save someone a lot of time as this took me a good couple of hours to research all of the options and to get it all set up.
N.B. It is worth noting that streaming FLAC music files or HD movies over the Internet to your tablet will only work if your have a seriously good Internet connection as they will most likely use up all of your available upload bandwidth.
Media centres are the perfect place to store collections of images, music, and videos that people create on their computers, smartphones, or other devices. Their primary function is to store this media, such as your latest vacation photos or your favorite film. However, you may find your patience being tested if you start searching for a particular file, only to realise that nothing is organised properly.
If you’re looking for a suitable management platform for your media files, you will no doubt come across Plex eventually. Launched as a freeware project in 2007, Plex has an impressive range of features and is undoubtedly one of the best media centres of all time. Thanks to various streaming portals and services like Netflix, YouTube, Hulu, or Vevo, Plex users can play online content directly through their media centre interface. However, Plex does have some formidable alternatives.
The primary function of a media centre is to organise all media files (audio, video, and image) on the selected computer system in a clearly arranged format. The user interface should make it easy for you to find and play back the content you want.
Plex alternatives (as well as Plex itself) should not just allow playback on the original device, but should also be able to play through external devices. Streaming your own media content on a TV should be a standard feature, which is why most media centre interfaces are also designed to be used with smart TVs.
The best Plex alternatives should also be able to stream video and information services. Of course, your personal interests are most important here: Netflix and YouTube are more widely supported than other services because of their popularity. However, if you are not interested in these mainstream platforms, streaming links will be irrelevant to you as a user. It is therefore advisable to check the additional features in advance (often available as optional add-ons) that can be used as a respectable alternative to Plex. It is also important that the selected media management option allows multiple devices to access the library at the same time. If you want to enjoy a film while a flatmate or a family member is streaming music, your chosen Plex alternative must always be usable by several people at the same time.
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In addition to the range of functions, cost and compatibility play an important role when it comes to choosing the best media centre. The latter does not just deal with which systems the media centre should be created on, it is also about what platforms you can access the media centre from. You should also consider how up to date the Plex alternative is when making your decision: since many media centres are interconnected with web services, timely updates to close security holes are particularly important.
To make finding a suitable Plex alternative easier, here are some interesting examples of the best media centres and a guide to their advantages and disadvantages.
On December 20th 2007, the Australian-based software company Conceiva released their home entertainment product Mezzmo. The software was initially available as a paid program for Windows, but Conceiva now relies on a freemium model: you can download and use the basic model for free, while the pro edition (which includes a web interface so that you can access using standard browsers) has lots of extra features and requires a subscription fee. There is also a paid Android app which was released in 2014. The app is mainly used as a remote application to retrieve content stored on the local Mezzmo media server on Android devices. Thanks to an integrated digital media server (DMS), you can also stream files stored on the device itself with the app.
Mezzmo is very easy to set up: after installing the program, it automatically searches and organises all the films, video clips, music, photos, and stored subtitles saved on the system being used. These files can subsequently be played back on all devices in the network that support UPnP or DNLA, or that have the app installed (Android only) – Mezzmo transcodes the media content in real time to ensure optimal streaming quality. You can access the media collection simultaneously with multiple devices at any time, so that sharing the media centre is no problem. If you are having technical problems with Mezzmo, you can contact Conceiva with a ticket or through the user forum.
Media centre cannot be used on macOS/Linux systems
Android app with its own media server
Web interface is only available in the paid pro edition
In February 2014, Erwin Becker launched the GPL-licensed open source programMediaPortal, which is now managed by the MediaPortal team. A core feature of MediaPortal is that it supports TV cards so that you can watch TV through your media centre. Additionally, the free-of-charge Plex alternative combines FM and internet radio with TV stations, information services (weather, news, etc.), and all media files stored on the computer in a single user interface. It’s up to you to decide how content should be categorised: you can sort songs by artist, album, or genre, and video clips and films by cover, actor, or genre.
MediaPortal is an open source application and therefore benefits enormously from collaborating with the community: plugins developed as a supplement that provide additional functions that can be installed and integrated just as easily as skins to give the user interface a new appearance. This Plex alternative is only available for Windows and there are no separate apps for smartphones, tablets, or smart TVs – but there are extensions that allow remote access to your MediaPortal library from these same devices. All skins and plugins are available at any time from the official download page.
Supports standard TV cards
Media centre can only be used with Windows
Customisable user interface with skins Universal media server ps4.
Complex installation and setup
One Plex alternative, originally designed primarily as a media player solution for the Microsoft console Xbox, is Kodi. Published as ‘Xbox Media Centre’ (XBMC) in 2004, the media centre kept this name even when it became available for other platforms. In 2014, it decided to rename the open source application, distributed under the GNU-GPL license, to Kodi. This made it clear that it was no longer primarily aimed at consoles. However, the media software is not really an alternative to Plex: the Kodi project – or it’s Linux version, to be more precise – formed the basis for Plex. Strictly speaking, Plex is an XBMC separation code.
Kodi delivers all the central features of a good media centre: you can organise all your media content easily and play it back through the user interface, which supports a variety ofaudio, video, and image formats. Implementing new formats and technologies (like video acceleration) is handled by the Kodi team in real time. The Plex alternative automatically retrieves metadata from the web to provide additional information about archived content. Kodi’s greatest strength, however, is that the software is platform independent. There are not only installation packages for Windows, Linux, and macOS, but also for Android, iOS, and Raspberry-Pi. Remote control apps for iOS and Android complete the range of options.
Complicated multi-user setup (focused on one device by default)
Can also be used with alternative hardware like the Raspberry Pi
Experienced developer team
The Bulgarian startup Stremio launched an exciting alternative to Plex in 2015 with their application of the same name, which was quickly met with enthusiasm from film and TV fans. The open source media centre, which is easy to use, focuses entirely on organizing video content, and integrates video-on-demand services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, etc. in an interesting way: add-ons allow content from different providers to be combined with the Stremio interface. Video clips, shows and films on your own device are also taken into account when creating the library. Thanks to the integrated calendar function, you can also always keep track of new episode releases or highly anticipated films.
By integrating various streaming providers, Stremio not only provides an excellent overview of when and where content is available, but also offers a good price comparison. In terms of compatibility, the open source platform is just as well set up as Kodi: desktop versions for Windows, macOS, and Linux are available, as well as free apps for Android and iOS. Additionally, the developer plans to release a web application for the Plex alternative, which will then allow them to manage and access their own library as well as the existing clients for desktop PCs and mobile devices.
Third-party add-ons that allow free streaming of paid video content are illegal and should not be used or installed.
Very easy to set up and use
No function for organizing music and image files available
Calendar features help to keep track of new film releases, series, or episodes
Number of official developer add-ons is very manageable
The Universal Media Server is also an example of an open source program, written in Java. The spin-off program from PS3 Media Server was developed in May 2012 by the developer SubJunk, who had previously played a decisive role in the media server for Sony’s game console. As an alternative to Plex, the software is particularly impressive because of its broad device compatibility: both DNLA (Digital Living Network Alliance) and UPnP (Universal Plug & Play) are supported, so that music, videos, and images can be streamed easily on all devices that work to these standards (this includes PS4, Xbox 360, iPhone, Android devices, and various smart TVs). Universal Media Server runs on Windows, Linux, and macOS, thanks to its multiple versions.
The media centre is regularly updated by the developer team. Recent updates are often available as a beta version for download – however, users must expect that the software may not always work properly in these pre-releases. The Plex alternative has an optional web browser interface and is expandable with plugins. This can be used, for example, to integrate a link to SoundCloud. Further information on the development status and useful links to interesting Universal Media Server websites can be found in the official directory for the project on Github Github.
Platform independent thanks to broad device support and an optional web interface
No separate client applications/apps for accessing the media server
Time consuming, uncomfortable to start with, and not easy to connect devices
If you’re looking for a good alternative to Plex, you will no doubt come across the Emby. The largely royalty-free application (GNU-GPL), which has been maintained by Emby LLC since 2015, provides all the features you might need for the multi-device organisation of your media files, starting with a free-of-charge media server available for Windows, macOS, and Linux, as well as NAS and docker platforms. Configuration for the Emby server takes place independently of the chosen system through the very complex web interface. The server is automatically recognised by all DNLA-capable devices – but the developers also offer various proprietary (and partly chargeable) apps for mobile devices (iOS, Android, Windows) as well as for smart TVs and consoles (Samsung, LG, PS4, Xbox One).
If you start the Emby server after installation, the web dashboard will automatically open, allowing you to configure all the necessary settings for your personal media server. This is not just about filling the library, but also about finding the perfect setup for transcoding the content. It is also possible to create different user profiles, including access authorisations. This way you can ensure that adult content is not accessible to children, for example. If you subscribe to the monthly Emby Premiere package, you can use numerous additional features like cloud and folder synchronisation, a cover configurator, and a backup function. In addition, you can stream videos and music to individual devices, as well as save them when you take out a subscription so that they can be played without a network connection.
Excellent user account management
Limited extensions available
Apps for various platforms/devices available
Some features are only available in the paid premiere subscription
TVersity is a proprietary Plex alternative from TVersity Inc. Their paid media server package uses DNLA/UPnP technology to enable users to stream content from their own PCs to a wide variety of devices (content can also be accessed through standard web browsers). If the format/codec on the target devices is not supported, the TVersity server will transcode the corresponding files in real time. Indexing photos, songs, and videos happens automatically in the background, ensuring that your collection is always up to date. When it comes to server operation, unfortunately this Plex alternative only runs on Windows.
There is a free version of TVersity, but it only supports a small portion of the formats and codecs. In addition, there is no real-time transcoding in the free output, which then limits streaming capabilities considerably.
TVersity combines your personal media collection with useful web content like free video streams, RSS feeds, or podcasts that can be retrieved from the client on the chosen device. If you’re looking for a specific file, you’ll benefit from the media centre’s outstanding performance, which is sure to impress even large libraries with more than 100.000 entries. A large part of their fast, uncomplicated file retrieval system is the powerful search mask and integrated cache function, which caches transcoded content. The Plex alternative has a REST API that allows you to integrate the media centre into other tools easily.
Platform independent web app available
Server application is only available for Windows
Media library platform
GNU GPL, proprietary (Apps)
Windows, macOS, Linux, Docker, NAS
GNU GPL, LGPL
Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, iOS, Raspberry Pi
Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, iOS
Paid Pro edition, free basic edition
Universal Media Server
SubJunk and others
Windows, macOS, Linux
Plex is one of the most popular applications for organizing your own multimedia collection on PCs, smartphones, and other devices, but there are a number of good alternatives that don’t have to hide behind the mainstream media centres when it comes to functionality and streaming quality. This article explains exactly what characterises software that manages and plays back audio, video, and image files, and what Plex alternatives are available.