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March 9, 2011

Coming Attractions (part 1)

We’ve been working hard on the next release of Plex, which will be out very shortly, and we wanted to take some time to go over some of the features and fixes that are in this release. There’s lots of stuff to cover, so I’ll do a series of posts to go over the most salient changes.

The Flash 10.x bug has been fixed. You can now install the latest and greatest Flash release with Plex, and no longer do you have to worry about security issues and hopping between versions. This one makes me personally happy because if I had a beer for every person posting about “audio with no video” (the symptom of a 10.1 or 10.2 install), I’d be very drunk.

We don’t refresh media for no good reason. In the last release, we refreshed items every two weeks. This could lead to posters changing (if more popular ones trickled up) and any unlocked metadata changing. We no longer do this. If you do want a refresh, either right-click and select Refresh Metadata or shift-click when refreshing a section (which initiates a forced refresh of the section, downloading new metadata for all items).

We don’t delete media from the library during a scan. Originally the library was designed to stand in stark contrast to iTunes-style media management, where there is no way to “scan” for media, and deleted media just sits there, eventually imbued with an exclamation point when you try to play it.

ITunes

(Don’t worry, no actual Death Cab For Cutie tracks were harmed in the making of this blog post.) The first versions of the Plex library took the opposite approach, being quick to remove media from the library as soon as it disappeared during a scan. The problem with this approach is two-fold: For starters, lots can go wrong during a scan, from someone removing a drive in the middle of an automated scan, to a temporary permissions problem. Although we take pains to detect offline media, it’s hard to be perfect. Secondly, now that we allow metadata editing, the “value” of the metadata is greatly increased, and losing it is much more painful.

In order to solve this problem, we’ve introduced something called soft deletion. During a scan, if a piece of media appears to be missing, we flag it as such, but don’t actually remove it from the library. You’ll get a graphical indicator of this, and – at your leisure – you can decide to go ahead with the deletion by emptying the trash for the library section.

Plex Media Manager 2

Note that – for no good reason, because it’s an awesome movie – I’ve removed Evil Dead II and ran a scan. If I move it back, and rescan, the warning icon will go away, and I’ll have lost absolutely nothing in the process. Note that if you like the old behavior, you can simply enable the “Empty trash automatically” option.

Scanning is much faster. Those of you with really large libraries will be happy to hear that we’ve greatly sped up the scanning process. A scan of my Television section used to take about one and a half minutes, and with Plex Turbo Scanning it now completes in 6 seconds. Music sections, in which scanning is more expensive due to tag reading enjoy an even greater speedup.

Hopefully this gives you a small taste of what’s coming up! There are about six total posts in this series, so if you haven’t heard about your favorite feature/bug yet, there is still hope.

James has been out here working from the Maui office for the last six weeks, and in between all the late nights and coding, we found some time to go cliff jumping.

Aperture 5

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Coming Attractions (part 1) is a premium feature and requires a Plex Pass subscription.

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Plex Media Server

Plex Media Server is the software that allows you to stream your content to all of your devices, anywhere.

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