Emby Server

Posted: January 28, 2016 in Home Media
Tags: , , ,

As someone with several Kodi boxes floating around the house, I had always wanted the ability to synchronise both my library and my view state across the boxes. When this capability was introduced by using a central MySQL database I was happy – especially as it meant that rebuilds on low power devices would no longer taken hours as the entire library was rescanned.

Moving to unRAID 6 with it’s Docker eco-system made it even easier – no longer manually installing and maintaining the DB somewhere. Just install a MariaDB container, set up the user and off you go. I still needed to scan for new content on one device and update the DB, but at least it was on only one and not on all of them.

Migrating to newer versions of Kodi could still be an issue if the DB structure changed, but again, once the library was re-scanned by one machine, it was available to all the others.

Enter Plex

For various reasons – mostly that I had a couple of white NowTV boxes hanging around – I also installed Plex as a plugin on the unRAID 5 box. This was a much nicer experience than managing my data via MariaDB – using a central system with a nice GUI that then managed my library across multiple devices meant I could check the metadata and ensure that I had the right artwork. The trouble was I was now maintaining two systems, one Plex for a NowTV box and my work laptop for when I travelled and then ‘normal’ Kodi DB for the main playback machines. Replacing the playback machine with NowTV wasn’t an option – at that point they were wi-fi only and that wasn’t helpful. A small Plex OS install wasn’t available and I wasn’t going to install a full distro just to get Plex.

The Plex-XBMC plugins that were available didn’t seem to work properly – playback on one device wasn’t resumable on another and viewing history wasn’t always up to date. I also ran profiles on my system – the tv and films are split into stuff for the Kids and everything else. That way I can give the kids access to their stuff without worrying that they might decide to watch Alien or Kill Bill. While Plex eventually introduced this, it was a paid for option and it wasn’t enough on it’s own to justify the cost. With the retirement of the NowTV box, Plex became an unnecessary overhead and was shutdown.

Enter Emby

I’d played with Emby when it was MediaBrowser, but it was a little unstable and didn’t really offer anything new to me, so I left it alone. With the introduction of an Emby plugin that basically replaced the local Kodi library with a fake one that was fully populated from the central server, Emby became an important part of our setup.

Emby server runs in a Docker container on unRAID 6. It parses and manages the library providing metadata, art work and playback history that is then sent to each Kodi device at start up. It also includes profiles so I can map the local Kodi profile to a user on the Emby server and restrict access to content.

Rebuilds and updates are easy in that I have to install Kodi, install the Emby plugin and point it at the server and all my content is available for playback. This also means that I can run different versions of Kodi and point them at the same Emby server… making it much easier to update. I’m not updating several boxes at the same time to ensure that they all work with the new DB.

The one thing I DON’T allow Emby to do is handle playback – I deliberately tell the system to use the native file path for playback – and not to go through Emby. That way I’m not wasting resources on transcoding or double handling the files.



Emby Add-on for Kodi


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