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September 1, 2010

State of the Release

Just over 24 hours since the release, and this has been an extremely exciting time for all of us. We simply can’t tell you how much we appreciate the outpouring of positive feedback on the release. Over Twitter, Facebook, email, and in the forums, the number of positive comments were astounding to us, and definitely made all the hard work worthwhile. We all want to say, collectively: Thank You.

A few salient things about the release:
  • The demand on our server was completely unprecedented. The OS load went over 30 for long periods of time, and there were HTTP and database issues. Isaac jumped in and quickly and skillfully spread our services out over a few spare slices and was able to return things to normal. Isaac, you rock.
  • Our mirrors (a big thanks to them!) were hammered badly as tens of thousands of downloaders tried to get the latest release, so in the morning we moved the main download site to S3 to ease of the pressure on the mirrors and get the app into people’s hands faster.
  • At this point, all services should be performing well, and we’re continuing to monitor and make adjustments as needed.

We are also tracking at this point a number of issues with the release (nobody’s perfect, right?), and we wanted to give you a quick summary of the more common issues, along with workarounds or resolutions whenever possible. Note that these are not the only issues, just the ones at the top of the list at the moment:

  • CRASHES ON STARTUP: We’re tracking these here. The most common reason (fixed in the next release), is if your computer doesn’t have a name. You can easily workaround this by going to System Preferences > Sharing > Computer Name and put in a clever, well thought out name like “Macadamia”. There’s also a crash we’re seeing on Leopard, which will also be fixed in the next release. Please post your crash reports in that thread.
  • SCANNERS: First and foremost, we’d like to help you get all your media into the library. There were issues with M4V files stopping a scan, an issue parsing date-base episodes, and an issue with .AppleDouble folder which we weren’t ignoring. We’ve pushed bug-fixes for these issues, and your Plex Media Server should update automatically the scanners within the hour. The good news is that you simply have to do another scan (assuming you don’t already have it set to automatically scan). You might be asleep at this point, and you might wake up with a bunch of missing episodes tucked comfortable into your library, and that, my friends, is magic. MAGIC! (If you’d like to track the progress on the scanners, you can follow our Github repository here.)
  • TV SHOW METADATA: Slightly less about magic, and more about laws of large numbers, I’m sorry to report that we, um, melted down TheTVDB today. My sincere apologies to them, and my apologies to you all, as we’ll be without metadata from them until we figure out how to reduce the load. We are working with them as we speak, and hopefully will be able to bring that back online shortly. The good news is that the Alexandria library system has been architected for this exact scenario, and you’ll still be able to scan your episodes into the library, and play them, there just won’t be show and season posters or summary data (until the next time you’re sleeping, when we’ll silently push another update and you’ll wake up with lots of posters). We really like magic, have I mentioned that?
  • LOCAL MEDIA AGENT: This is the one that picks up existing thumbs and fanart and such. There were a few bugs in it, and we think we’ve fixed them, but we need to test more. If you’d like to take the new agent for a spin and know what you’re doing, feel free to check it out here. (Note that you’ll need to remove and add the section to get the new art to “stick”, expect improvements here.)
  • AFP SHARE ISSUE: There seems to be an issue adding folders which live on a remote NAS. A bit baffling, but we’re looking into it.

There are of course other issues, but these are the ones we’d like to get resolved as soon as possible. So, how can you help? Why, I’m glad you asked. If you’re having trouble getting your media into the library, please post in the forum with your exact directory and file layout (screenshot or ls -lR from the terminal).

A few other tips:

  • If you’re seeing pausing when playing video in the iOS app, there are a few simple things you can do. Don’t select “auto” quality setting, and make sure you select a quality that’s appropriate to your network speed. Also, make sure you’re not trying to play 720p content (highest quality) to an iPad/iPhone4 if you have a slow server (less than 2.2GHz). Use this as an excuse to upgrade (“Honey, but don’t you want to watch So You Think You Can Dance without a pause ever time she does a pirouette?”). And finally, if you take the wireless router and tape it to your chest while using the iOS app, this improves reception.
  • If you have a huge library, you might want to let the Media Server take a bit of “alone time” while scanning for the first time. I mean, come on, it’s walking through all your files, computing hashes, extracting thumbnails, generating automatic fanart, analyzing the media, getting it all into the database, talking to the Internet for metadata, downloading that metadata and getting it associated with your media. Multiple agents are working together to contribute data. There are hamsters running around everywhere. So just sit back, work on your golf swing or water the garden or something. Lotus position and staring at the Plex Media Manager works well.
  • A positive review on the App Store directly contributes to Barkley’s diet. Like every time we get a five star review, I walk into the kitchen, get him a delicious venison jerky treat and feed it to him. Literally. Just remember, only YOU can make Barkley gain 10 pounds.

And now, I really need some sleep.

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