Here is my media setup. I also realize this looks like a lot at once, I’ve personally been screwing around with these sort of setups for like 8 years now so on my end this is a lot of accumulated knowledge, though I will note that I am absolutely not an expert here. You’ll need to independently do some research on all of the bullet points below and figure out what will work best for you.
Sorry about typos; its a Saturday morning and I’m trying to give up coffee.
I’m aware the URL says January 2022. I’m leaving it as-is so this link still works.
Update, March 2022: I migrated my site away from free basic Bloggger and over to WordPress + hosting. I think I got them all, but if there are any weird Blogger links, sorry.
Update, February 2023: Added a note about your TV media player and how much I hate “Android Boxes.”
- Usenet provider. Access to usenet. I use UsenetServer.
- UsenetServer also provides a VPN. I literally never use it, but if that’s important to you, it’s included.
- Usenet indexer, basically access to search for the files you want. You can use as many as you want, I bought a lifetime subscription to NZBGeek and just ran out my subscription on NZB.su.
- Torrent site. I rarely use torrents, but do still find them useful sometimes, especially to fill in gaps. Ideally, you should use a private site that will require you to upload. I use TorrentDay.
I’ll also note that the subscription costs are about the same as a yearly Netflix subscription.
- Usenet client or downloader, the program that downloads your files, connects to your usenet provider and to your preferred media automation programs (see below). I use NZBGet.
- Torrent client, the program that downloads your torrents. Connects to your torrent site, and to your preferred media automation programs. I use ruTorrent.
- Sonarr, tv show manager. Enter the shows you want to track, set preferred quality, then Sonarr will search your usenet indexer or torrent sites to find the episodes you want as the files become available (including shows as they air). Sonarr can be set will rename files and folders properly, which is super important for your library program. Sonarr is linked to your hard drive where your media lives, so it can a) move downloaded files there and b) scan your drive for shows and fill in any gaps. It’s linked to your indexer or torrent site to find content, as well as your downloader programs. Link.
- Radarr, same thing as Sonarr but for movies. Link.
- Other programs. Depending on your setup and what you want, there are a bunch of other programs you may consider. Here’s a list, there’s programs for things like subtitles, music, books, porn, whatever. On this list I think I just use Jackett to connect Sonarr to my torrent site, which is not natively supported (some torrent sites will not need this).
- There are several programs that will basically look at the hard drive where you store your media, scan the contents and build a user-friendly interface in which to browse and view it. Two programs are needed: the server, and the client. The server is on your media computer doing all the library management and sends the media to the client. The clients play the content – on your phone, other PCs, your Xbox, whatever. You stream your the content over your internal internet within your home, so imagine it like Netflix but the content lives on a computer in your house.
- The most popular media server is Plex. Plex runs on basically anything and is super user-friendly. Sharing your Plex server with friends/family is also generally pretty simple. Other options are the Emby or Jellyfin, Jellyfin is particularly interesting, and I think a decent number of Plex users are waiting for Jellyfin to mature a bit.
- Kodi (formerly XBMC). Kodi is often synonymous with free pirated content and crappy pre-loaded Android boxes from Craigslist, which is incorrect. Kodi is a media library platform first and foremost, but due to the plugin options that it allows, Kodi is often just connected to various free TV sites online. I’ve listed Kodi separately sicne it’s not a media server like the programs listed above – it’s more of an all-in-one option that as far as I’m immediately aware doesn’t offer any options to stream. Kodi is more of a self-contained system. As a library I think it’s just as good as Ple, but it’s less convenient if you want to watch on several devices. Kodi will run pretty well on a potato, and there are basically Linux-based operating systems that only run Kodi, like LibreELEC. Let’s say you have a spare PC, maybe a mini-pc like a Zotac box (which I used to use) or a Raspberry Pi or something – you install LibreELEC like you would any operating system and it literally just runs Kodi. I used to use Kodi for everything before moving to a media server.
- There are libraries available for other media as well. I’m less familiar here, but Ubooquity or Calibre are both ebook library managers.
- Client. If you have a Plex server, you can download the Plex player apps on whatever other devices you own. same for Emby or Jellyfin, though I believe the app offerings are more limited but they can also be accessed in-browser on your other devices. You may not actually need a media player if you have devices that can see files on your network via different connections types (eg. your smart TV might be able to see the shared network files on your PC), but it’ll be a million times easier to use a client.
You can spend as much or as little money as you want here. You can cobble this together with an old PC or go all out with a giant rack of servers. Whatever your needs or budget, there is probably a solution that will work.
- You can run all of the above on basically anything. Most of the above software is pretty lightweight. The media servers will probably struggle on super low-powered machines, but you could probably make due.
- PC or Mac. There are probably versions of everything above that will run. I assume Linus as well.
- I find it helpful to assign a static IP Address to the NAS and a few other network-connected items, like my security camera. If the IP is reset, all of the various connections are broken and will need to be reconfigured. This is especially a pain in the ass with my camera, because the NAS can then no longer find it despite the camera still technically being active.
- NAS, or Network Attached Storage. A NAS is basically a hard drive with an operating system attached to your router, giving your network access to the files on the hard drive. You can log into your NAS from a web browser and use it similarly to any other OS.
- You can cobble together a NAS out of just about any old PC. Like LibreELEC above, there are dedicated NAS operating systems that you can install and use to build a DIY NAS our of just about anything. I don’t know anything about these, but you can look into solutions like TrueNAS or Unraid.
- I use a Synology DS920+. It has 4 bays (I’m currently only using 2, waiting for a sale on HDDs) and works like a dream. There is a bunch of first and third-party software available for media, networking, productivity, home security, whatever, but most importantly to me (my last NAS did not do this), is that is supports Docker.
- PC or Mac. There are probably versions of everything above that will run. I assume Linus as well.
- Docker. Docker is software, but I want to lump it in here as opposed to above. Docker is a container platform. Docker allows you to essentially create little virtual machine-type environments where you can run a single program. What this means is that pretty much every program above can be independently installed and fired up in a Docker container, separate from your operating system or any of it’s limitations. Can’t find a version of Sonarr that will run on your NAS? Install it via Docker. Want to automate your smart home? Home Assistant isn’t available for Synology but it is for Docker. In-house password manager? Bitwarden RS. Block ads? Pihole. VPNs, library monitoring, user download requests, IPTV, etc.
- Media Player. You need to get your media from your Plex library to your TV somehow.
- I use a Chromecast with Google TV 4k. It’s a Chromecast with a TV-focused operating system + a decent remote, available for $40 (HD only) or $70 (4k) and frequently go on sale. The Amazon Firestick is essentially the same thing with (IMO) a worse layout and more ads. Just download the Plex app on either.
- Your smart TV probably has access to a Plex app as well. But smart TVs also tend to have terrible UI, bad privacy practices and some hit you with annoying ads in their system. Do not hook your TV up to your wifi.
- If you’re running your setup off of something like a laptop, just plug it into the TV and have at it. Maybe grab a wireless keyboard.
- Do not ask me about Android Boxes. I think they are garbage. They run a mobile OS on your TV and require constant babying and updating with zero support from the sellers, not to mention navigating and selecting your media is a massive pain in the ass in the godawful UI. If you’re going this route, don’t bother with anything other than an NVIDIA Shield or at the very least a Xiaomi Mi Box.
- UPS, uninterrupted power supply. Power outs can wreck your NAS or your data, in fact, I lost a drive on my last NAS due to this. I get fairly frequent super brief power outs in my area, so I bought an Eaton 5S700LCD. The majority of the time it acts as a power bar – I have my NAS, PC and router connected to the main outlets, it as well as a couple of smaller random chargers, all getting power like they were plugged into the wall. If I get a quick power out, the NAS, PC and router will remain on (my monitors will not, which isn’t a problem is the power flickers back on quickly, but if it’s a lengthy outage the next part is important to me). The router is needed to allow everything to talk to each other during a power out. The NAS is connected to the UPC with a USB cable, allowing them to talk to each other. If the power is off for X amount of time, the NAS will safely power set itself to a hibernate kind of state, then send a signal via the router to my PC, telling it to safely turn itself off. I’ve used the safe power down functionality once since I’ve bought the UPC, but have had several intermittent power outages and the UPS allows my to pick right back up where I left off. I didn’t set this up initially but will whenever I get around to reorganizing my desk: one of my PC monitors plugged into the UPS. When everything shuts off, the PC remains on but the monitor does not. Not that I need it for work or whatever, but I’d like the option to manually power down the PC or NAS is I lose power.
Remember I’m absolutely not an expert here, but have been tinkering with this stuff for like 10 years now. Hopefully this is helpful to someone.
Here are some resources that I have found incredibly helpful, particularly with the Synology NAS and Docker.