Andrew Ducker (andrewducker) wrote,
Andrew Ducker

Setting up a headless Plex server running Ubuntu on a Gigabyte Brix

My parents generously got me a Gigabyte Brix, which is a small PC (5cmx11cmx11cm). In my case, with 4GB of RAM and 250GB of SSD in it.

I've installed Plex on it (so far as I can tell, the best media server software). And because (a)it's free and (b)I fancied playing with it I decided to install it under Ubuntu Linux.

This worked remarkably easily, for the most part. I grabbed the install files, stuck them on a USB stick, plugged it into the Brix (along with a monitor, keyboard, mouse, and network cable[1]), hit Next a few times through the install process[2], and within half an hour was sitting at a Ubuntu desktop.

Installing Plex was also fairly easy, albeit needing a small amount of copy/pasting command lines into a terminal. Nothing terribly hard if you've ever used a command line before though.

The tricky[3] bits were:
1) Giving it access to my existing files on my NAS. To do that I followed these instructions.
2) It wouldn't boot without a monitor plugged in. As I want it to run without mouse, keyboard, or monitor plugged in, this was vital. Turns out the Linux bootloader (grub) didn't like that. These instructions fixed that.
3) I do want to be able to remotely connect to it, in order to carry out any maintenance, or to reboot it. Ubuntu comes with remote desktop options which work using VNC[4]. But it has encryption turned on (as of very recently, so far as I can tell), and the clients I found didn't support that. So I had to turn it off using method 1 here.

Now everything seems to be running smoothly, and Julie and I can start watching an episode of something on the TV in the living room[5], and then move to watching it on the laptop in bed, with Plex remembering exactly what we were watching, and where we were up to. It's rather neat.

I am, of course, astounded to discover that nobody is selling Plex servers readily set up. Someone competent could easily put together an image that they could put directly onto a tiny PC that had just-sufficent specs to run it. But no, I had to go off and source a tiny box myself and then install everything myself.

[1]It does WiFi perfectly well, but for video files I really wanted it on the fastest connection possible.
[2]It located me as in Scotland, and guessed what my timezone and keyboard layout was. Fancy!
[3]Actually following the instructions for these wasn't tricky. Finding the right instructions was what took about three hours in total. Asking questions when you don't know the right terminology is a pain.
[4]A standard for allowing remote graphical control of any PC from any other.
[5]Using the Plex client on the PS3.

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