Archive for February, 2013
Well, we promised you a release before the week was up, but to be honest, our weeks don’t really end on Friday. I’ve come to think of the weekend as a nice quiet time to code, actually.
Anyway, you know why you’re here, so without further ado, here’s how to get the new Plex for Android release. These links will only work for PlexPass members:
- Install the latest Plex Media Server from here.
- Visit this forum post for details on how to get the app from Google Play or download the APK.
This is the first release of a brand new codebase, so we expect there will be a veritable cornucopia of bugs. Bring ‘em on (with well-written reports in the forum) and we’ll get ‘em fixed!
Here’s a bonus Friday night photo of Barkley. Check out that sagittal crest.
Almost a year ago, I wrote a post introducing Plex for Windows Phone. In that post, I had some harsh words for Android. Turns out a lot has changed since then.
One of my biggest gripes against Android was how unresponsive the user interface was, even after four major iterations of the platform. Little did I know, the geniuses at Google were hard at work on Project Butter, and I have to say, butter tastes good.
What Android has going for it, more than any other mobile platform, is a supreme lack of complacency. Besides silky smoothness, Jelly Bean also introduces large improvements in the notification system. And Google Cloud Messaging (which completely replaced Cloud to Device Messaging), is far superior than iOS push notifications.
When the iPhone came out, it was 5 years ahead of anything else in the space. Indubitably. But one would be hard-pressed to argue that the platform has progressed with anything close to the speed at which Android has. Let’s be frank: when it first came out, Android was crap. But when you have two cars racing on a long straight highway, over time, velocity is everything. So 5 years later, Apple is no longer 5 years ahead. And more dangerously, their speed is unimpressive as of late. Their hardware is outstanding, best in the world. But iOS itself, honestly, feels like it’s languishing.
The other big complaint I had against Android was its development ecosystem. This is something Microsoft understood, and got right with its Metro [sic] toolset. It is very easy to make a nice “modern” Windows app (or whatever they’re calling it this week).
When we first started with Plex for Android, the edit/build/deploy cycle was glacial. So bad that when the app finally ran, you literally forgot what change you were deploying to test. That bad. Google should have focused earlier and with more passion on tooling. Empower the developers, and you’ll reap the rewards when they empower your platform. Annoy your developers, and you’ll have a software ecosystem problem.
Today, that problem is mostly solved. I can edit and deploy to my Nexus 7 in a few seconds. The x86 emulator is much faster than the emulator of yesteryear, running inside a Linux VM, on top of an emulated ARM processor (apparently nobody watched Inception). There are still annoyances, and IntelliJ’s UI designer for layouts is sadly primitive compared to Visual Studio, but it’s much, much better.
So where does that leave Android, and perhaps more importantly, Android users? In a good place, and getting better. For the first time ever, you can actually find Android software which is comparable (and sometimes ever better) than the iOS versions. As an example, I love the Lantern Campfire app. It runs in the background, notifies me of new messages, and looks infinitely better than 37 Signals’ pathetic excuse for an official app. I could go on, but our friend Aayush Arya wrote a brilliant article which I highly recommend you read.
I realize, you’re here for Plex news, not a 500 word meandering diatribe on mobile operating systems, so I apologize. I felt the need to update my previous thoughts on the matter, and, as a fellow Plexian said, eat some crow. Nom nom nom.
I’ll make the actual news short and sweet: we’ve rewritten Plex for Android from scratch. Frankly, we learned a lot of lessons from the old app, and it served us well. But we’ve been reading and re-reading the Android Design Guidelines, and we thought we could do better, especially if we dropped support for older versions of Android.
We targeted Android 3.2 or newer, used some great platform features (Google Cloud Messaging, lock-screen music controls, global search integration), and you’re going to love it. It also supports PlexSync. To everyone who has been patiently waiting, I apologize for the delay, but it will have been worth it. The app is fast, smooth, and beautiful. It uses paging and infinite scrolling and network data compression, which means access to giant libraries is super fast. It supports the same rich filters you’ve gotten to know and love from Plex/Web. And most importantly, it’s a great platform to build on.
We’ve prepared a little video which shows off the new Plex for Android (codenamed Kepler, in case you cared). You’ll want to watch it all the way through, because in the video you’ll see unveiled a surprise MAJOR feature (never seen before) that will literally, blow your minds.
We didn’t just set out to make a great Plex Android app.
We set out to make the most beautiful Android app, period.
When will it be released? This week. On Google Play. As a separate app, so you can run both side by side.
Will it be PlexPass only? Yes. Until it’s out of beta, at which point it will be available as a free upgrade for existing Plex for Android users. (Note that it does not, and will not, support Android versions earlier than 3.2). Also note that the PlexSync feature will always require a PlexPass.
Why 3.2? Because the Google TV runs 3.2, and we like the Google TV.
I have an Android 2.x device. Why do you hate me? At this point almost 90% of our users are running 4.0 or newer. We felt that requiring a modern version of Android was the best move for the app, and the vast majority of our user base.172 comments
Ah, the inexorable march of progress. We have three more releases to talk about today, with lots of goodies. And if you’re getting bored of hearing about the media server, Win8 app, and Plex/Web, you’re in for a treat, because the next blog post is going to be about something new, and very exciting. Promise.
That’s not to say that these updates themselves aren’t exciting. We’ve been doing a lot of work on the next-generation transcoder in the media server lately. Currently in use for PlexSync and the Win8 app, it’ll soon be available for iOS and Android and Plex/Web as well, as it offers many advantages over the old transcoder. For starters, the new version supports burning PGS and VOBSUB subtitle formats, which has been requested for – literally – years. Secondly, it should offer much better performance, stability, compatibility with codecs, should fix issues with A/V sync, and many other things. Last, but not least, it leverages a powerful server-side profile mechanism which will soon be used universally for DLNA, PlexSync, and “live” transcoding. We’re building the most advanced media server on the planet here, and the new transcoder is at the heart of it!
Here’s a full list of changes in the latest Plex Media Server, available from here:
- NEW: Greatly improved (Sync and Win8) transcoder subtitle burning: support SSA and SMI, fix crashes, fix subtitle sync when resuming video.
- FIX: Scanning TV shows near the root directory of a volume didn’t work reliably.
- FIX: Send Accept-Ranges: bytes HTTP header when answering requests for media. Fixes Win8 seeking in media.
- FIX: DTS audio inside MP4 container could be incorrectly identified as mp4a during media analysis.
- FIX: Transcoding certain media files could be pathologically slow. Thanks to Rodger for helping us diagnose the issue!
- FIX: Transcoding video audio from MP3 to AAC would fail in some rare cases.
- FIX: A/V sync issues transcoding Smooth Streaming to Windows 8 Store app.
- FIX: Actor thumbnails weren’t being offered correctly to sync clients.
- FIX: Removed unnecessary logging when running transcoder.
- FIX: Add more logging when Win8 app loopback exemption can’t be added.
- FIX: When a media asset is uploaded, it becomes the default.
- FIX: Sync item status could be prematurely reported as complete.
- FIX: Added iPad mini sync profile.
- NEW: (API) Allow converting SMI to SRT (format=srt).
- FIX: (Windows) Large log files when number of library paths exceeded 64.
- FIX: (Sync) A few issues with sync status not being reported correctly.
- FIX: (Transcoder) An A/V sync issue affecting Win8 app.
Leveraging the new transcoder, and all these other fixes, is the latest update of Plex for Windows 8. It’s taken us a few releases, but at this point media playback support on the app is really super good, and it’s able to play lots of content with remuxing, which (given our support for throttling on the server side), means awesome quality video with minimal CPU usage. Lots of other new stuff, including more keyboard navigation and a cool media information popup, and many bug-fixes.
Plex/Web also got a massive update. A giant, thundering, epic update, featuring a redesigned home screen, greatly simplified navigation, and lots of other goodies. Look at this beautiful new dashboard!
We’ll be back very soon, but until then, I’ll leave with with two photos of Barkley, who has been your faithful Plex mascot for the last five years. The first one finds him as a puppy, with giant paws and a feisty disposition.
As you can see, he’s grown in size quite a bit. (Sweetheart, don’t say I didn’t warn you.)