Moving

I hope you enjoyed this blog. It was a catchall for my ideas and experiences as I transitioned from cable to broadcast tv. I’ve organized all of my thoughts in a new blog which is from the perspective of one who has been there. Take a look…

http://freetvforme.wordpress.com/

This is the last post to Roku for Dummies.

Sony BDP-S5100 Review

With my Roku 2 XS fleet grounded, I found myself once again in search of a device that would support my streaming needs…

  1. Netflix
  2. Amazon Instant
  3. Simple DVR
  4. Plex
  5. PlayOn

To my delight, the svelte BDP-S5100 did this — and more.   In fact, first and foremost, the BDP-S5100 is a highly regarded 3D BD player which upconverts standard DVDs, plays files off a thumb drive, and streams video.  It has both wired and wireless internet, can play files of a USB disk, and included apps from Sony Entertainment and the Opera App Store.

BDP-S5100 manufacturer refurbs can be purchased via Amazon for $54.99 and carry the same 90 day warranty as NEW Rokus.

The BDP-S5100 is a very good 3D BD player.   Review the specs here and read reviews from CNET, T3, and Trusted Reviews.  There are nearly 2000 user reviews and 1000 questions answered on Amazon.com.  The bottom line is that the BDP-S5100 is a great disc player.

The BDP-S5100 plays files off a usb device.  There is a usb port on the front and one in the back.  Supported file types include: .asf, .avi, .mkv, .mov, .mp4, .wmv, — just about anything.  One of my favorite features is that, if you start a video in a folder, when that video finishes, the next video in the same folder will play without intervention.  If you name the files properly, you can play through three or twelve parts of a series in order without intervention.  Great way to spend a rainy weekend.

We wouldn’t be talking about this device on a Roku blog if it didn’t stream.  It streams.  The BDP-S5100 streams content from Sony Entertainment as well as apps installed from the Opera app store.  Let’s start with the apps that matter most to most people…

  • Netflix: Netflix is a great source of premium programming.  The BDP-S5100’s Netflix app does not require a PC to activate.  A lot of people who are buying streamers do not own or use PCs, so this is a great feature.  The Netflix app supports profiles and Netflix Kids (unlike most Rokus).
  • Amazon Instant: Amazon Instant/Prime is another source of premium programming.  Prime registration can be completed via the streamer or a PC.  The interface is snappy and attractive, but I ALWAYS find it difficult to locate media I own.
  • Simple DVR: I have an antenna and six Simple DVRs.  These things are awesome.  They sit in my basement recording shows I like.  It’s important for me to be able to easily access the recordings.  While there is no Simple app for the BDP-S5100, there is a Plex app and this app plays files from the Simple DVR disks.  It will not, however, schedule recordings or stream live TV.
  • Plex: Plex is a free media server.  With Roku, you pay $4.99 for the client app.  With the BDP-S5100, the client is free (or included or not necessary).  The server shows up under the Video section.  When you select the server, you browse files and streaming media channels as if they were files on a computer.  Plex provides access to ‘cable’ program episodes posted to the internet.  Shows from CBS, Food Network, Fox News, HGTV, History Channel, MSNBC, MTV, NBC, Nick Jr., PBS, PBS Kids, Spike TV, The Colbert Report, The CW, The Daily Show, Vevo, The WB, and other web sites are available via Plex.  You must run Plex on a computer/server.
  • PlayOn: PlayOn is an inexpensive media server.  You pay around $80 for a lifetime subscription to PlayOn, PlayLater, HD plugins, and a Chromecast.  PlayOn provides access to ‘cable’ program episodes posted to the internet.  Shows from A&E, ABC, Adult Swim, Animal Planet, BET, Bio, Bravo, Cartoon Network, CBS, CNN, Cooking Channel, Discovery Channel, Disney, DIY, ESPN, ESPN 3, ESPN Live, Food Network, Fox, Fox News, HBO Go, HGTV, History Channel, Hulu (free), Investigation Discovery, Lifetime, Live News: BBC, Live News: Bloomberg, Live News: C-Span, Live News: NHK, Live News: RT, MLB, MTV, NBC, The CW, National Geographic, NFL Rewind, NHL, Nick, OWN, Oxygen, OBS, PBS Kids, Redbox Instant, Spike TV, SyFy Rewind, TBS, TLC, TV.com, VH1, Vevo, Vudu, WWE, and other web sites are available via PlayOn.  PlayOn also supports third party plugins.  PlayLater is a DVR for the channels that PlayOn streams.  You must run PlayOn/PlayLater on a WINDOWS computer/server.

The BDP-S5100 natively supports ACC Network (college sports), Amazon Instant, Crackle, Facebook, Huffpost Live, Hulu Plus, Netflix, MLB.TV, NBA Game Time, NHL GameCenter, TMZ, Vimeo, VUDU, WealthTV, XOS College Sports, Yupp TV, YouTube, and other content.  The Opera TV store adds games, social media apps, screen savers, and niche channels (Speed Racer).

The BDP-S5100 includes a web browser (authenticating on public WiFi is not supported on other streamers).  You can plug a keyboard into a USB port to help navigate the internet with the built in web browser.

Other areas where the BDP-S5100 distinguished itself from other streamers…

  • Sleep timer (my TV shuts itself off after the BDP-S5100 goes into sleep mode)
  • Parental Controls
  • HDMI Control with compatible televisions
  • Advanced BD settings
  • Rock solid performance
  • Snappy PS3-like user interface
  • Remote controls TV functions; has Netflix and SEN hot buttons; takes AA batteries

I highly recommend this device at any price and love it as a $55 refurb.

 

By Len Mullen Posted in Review

Ode to Roku 2 XS

Who knew Brian May owned a Roku 2 XS?

It started off so well
They said we made a perfect pair
I clothed myself in your glory and your love
How I loved you, how I cried

Years of care and loyalty
Were nothing but a sham it seems
Years belie, we lived the lie
“I love you ’til I die”

Save me, save me, save me
I can’t face this life alone
Save me, save me, save me
I’m naked and I’m far from home

The slate will soon be clean
I’ll erase the memories
To start again with somebody new
Was it all wasted, all that love ?

I hang my head and I advertise
A soul for sale or rent
I have no heart, I’m cold inside
I have no real intent

Save me, save me, save me
I can’t face this life alone
Save me, save me
Oh, I’m naked and I’m far from home

Each night I cry
And still believe the lie
“I love you until I die”

Save me, save me, save me, oh
Just save me, save me, oh, save
Don’t let me face my life alone
Save me, save me
Oh, I’m naked and I’m far from home

Buh-bye Roku!

I unplugged my Rokus this morning.  It wasn’t a difficult decision.  I had only invested around $300 in hardware and nothing in channels.  I bought my first Roku because the Sony SMP-N200 did not support PlayOn.  Their support guys recommended the Roku, so I tried one.  That was in 2012.  I was shocked to learn that discussion of Roku’s best channel would get you banned from their forums.

Then came the updates.  Every update made the Roku worse.  There are four locked threads on their fan forums regarding the instability of the Roku 2 XS.  Despite this, their chat support denies the problem (“It is not issue at all”), and their consumer advocacy email simply refuses to address the issue.

I was so unhappy with Roku with their banned channels, locked discussions, and broken hardware that I decided to try the Amazon Fire TV in April.  While it lacks the channels of the Roku, the FTV has been rock solid.  It supports PlayOn and, finally, the Simple DVR (via Plex).  My family loves the user interface and the snappy performance.  My kids love the games and support for real game controllers.

This week, Real Simple Software announced a Plex channel for their DVR.  With that announcement, my relationship with Roku ended.  We are now a Plex on Fire TV streaming family — 100%.  Buh bye Roku!  You can have your snarky VCMs and people whose USERID includes the word Roku.  You can keep your banned channels and primitive interface.  I don’t need your several-times-a-day reboots.  I am happily watching everything I want to watch on a streamer from a company that values its customers.

I’ll leave this blog up as a reference for the masochists, but I have moved on and you should too.

YouTube Available On All Current Rokus

In case you missed it (I did).  About two days after getting update 5.4 Build 3358, the ‘official’ YouTube app became available for my Roku 2 XS.  I really like it.  This app supports pairing so I can send videos from my phone, PC, or tablet to my Roku.  It also supports a really nice implementation of continuous play.  More information here…

http://blog.roku.com/blog/2014/04/22/youtube-update-channel-now-available-to-all-current-generation-devices/

Roku Benchmarks

I culled this information from a Roku developer’s thread.

The benchmark is a loop function in Roku’s brightscript code…

  • 1st gen (MIPS, <2200) = ~15.5k bogoloops/s (or ~64 microseconds/bogoloop)
  • Roku HD (2500) = ~58k bl/s (~17 µsec/bl)
  • 2nd gen (ARM, 3xxx) = ~68k bogoloops/s (~15 usec/bl)
  • new Roku 2 (2720) = ~78k bl/s (~13 µsec/bl)
  • 3rd gen (Roku3, 4xxx) = ~242k bogoloops/s (~4 usec/bl)

Graphically, the performance looks like this…

bogoloops

Roku has been streaming 1080p since the Roku HD-XR (N1101), so the increased performance of later models likely only impacts channel navigation (choosing a channel from the grid) and game/app play.  Roku has promised the new YouTube and Netflix apps will be ported to all Rokus intruduced from 2011 on, so it looks like 58k bogo loops is sufficient for those apps.  The 5x performance of the Roku 3 probably only makes sense for those who want to scroll up and down the channel list very quickly.

 

 

VideoBuzz, Again

A recent Roku update broke the VideoBuzz installation script by requiring a password for Developer Mode.  This, apparently, motivated the VideoBuzz gods to build a better script.  I tested the new script on a new Roku 2 XS and it worked great.  If you are tired of waiting for the Roku team to get their official channel on your Rokus, give VideoBuzz a try…

http://utmostsolutions.github.io/myvideobuzz/

Avast did not find anything malicious in this script, but I have no first hand knowledge of the script, so use it at your own risk.  Their page also has a manual installation procedure.

PS, if you do not want to side load a channel, you can always use the What’s On app.  Install What’s On and set the zip code to ‘asecret’ (no quotes).  After a restart, you will have a new Videos selection that lets you browse ‘internet videos’ from various sources.

https://owner.roku.com/add/WHATSONCHANNEL

What’s on is not in the same class as VideoBuzz.  Happy streaming!

Roku Rooted!

This morning, the following was posted on the GTVHacker blog

Hello Universe, welcome back. It’s been a while since our last post due to a lack of new Google TV hardware and developments. When we have free time we tend to look at other interesting opportunities that come our way and recently we came into just such a situation when we found ourselves auditing multiple Roku devices.

The entire GTVHacker team has put a lot of work into this release and we hope the Roku community enjoys it. We invite others to continue our work and are happy to share progress made while we work to further leverage the current exploits before a patch is released. In the mean time, if you have a second generation Roku, root it. And if you don’t, buy one quick!

A new poster to the Roku fan forum announced that the GTVHacker had exploited a security hole on the Roku streamer and that some of the devices could be permanently rooted.  A short time later, discussions of the exploit were purged from the fan site.

Apparently, you can control updates to your Roku by restricting access to austin.sw.roku.com and giga.sw.roku.com on your router (add those two sites to its list of blocked sites).

I have not tested any of this.  If you choose to, you may violate Roku’s ToS or damage your streamer, so proceed with caution and at your own risk.

By Len Mullen Posted in News

Roku Installation Guide

A lot of people are gifting Rokus this time of year.  A lot of people will be returning them to the store in a couple weeks.  This guide will help the Roku newbie start enjoying their device more quickly, avoid common pitfalls, and get the most out of the streamer.  The guide was created looking at a Roku 2 XS, but, generally, applies to all models (some Rokus do not have wired ethernet while others lack composite out).

  1. Connect everything
  2. Create your account
  3. Remove your payment method
  4. Configure your Roku
  5. Find content
  6. Getting help
  7. About Roku Refurbs
  8. Remoku

Connect Everything: With the Roku 2 XS, you have the option of connecting to your local network wired or wireless.  If at all possible, run a wire.  The Roku 2 XS supports HDMI and composite.  HDMI is high definition and composite is standard definition.  If possible, connect via HDMI.   If you like to listen to internet radio stations, run a composite cable from your Roku 2 XS’s red and white outputs to your HTIB or soundbar’s aux in.  This will let you listen to audio from your Roku without running your television.

Create Your Account: The Roku device requires a Roku account.  To create a Roku account, you will have to provide a user name, an email address, a password, a pin, and a payment method.  If you do not want to provide a payment method, call Roku support and they will create an account without requiring a payment method.  Make sure you select  ‘A PIN is required only when using your Roku account to make purchases’ whether you save or delete your payment information.  This prevents others for making purchases with your account.  If you want to make sure your kids are not able to add channels without your consent, select ‘A PIN is required when using your Roku account to make purchases or add any item from the Channel Store’ for your account.

Remove Your Payment Method: As soon as you create your account, you will be presented with an account dashboard.  Choose to Update Payment Method and choose Delete Payment Method.

Configure your Roku: Now, power up your Roku.  You’ll be prompted to choose wired or wireless ethernet.  You’ll need to know your network’s password.  After that your Roku will update to the latest software and reboot.  Once the Roku is up to date, you will be presented with a code that associates your Roku with your online account.  Tip: If you are having trouble connecting your Roku wirelessly, connect it using the wired ethernet option, take the updates, then switch to wireless.

Find Content: Some channels come pre-installed on the Roku.  Many more are available in the Roku Channel Store.  The rest are private.  There are two kinds of private channels.  The really private channels are invitation only.  The rest are channels that are not welcome in the Roku Channel Store.  This is generally due to the streamed content — it may be risque or flirting with copyright infringement or simply competing with a Roku favored channel.  Here are some resources…

If you are looking for ‘cable content’ for your Roku, check out Playon.tv.  Aereo can stream local (broadcast) channels to your Roku for $8/month.  If you are a YouTube fan, the best YT channel for your Roku is the banned VideoBuzz channel.

Getting Help: When things go wrong, you have to be careful dealing with Roku.  Their warranty is 90 days and they don’t know you on day 91.  The key to getting good support for 90 days is to act quickly and document EVERYTHING.

  • If you are having trouble setting up a new Roku, call their phone support (1-888-600-7658).
  • If you are dissatisfied with the phone support, have language issues, or simply prefer not to communicate on the phone, try their chat support.
  • If you want to talk about your Roku or learn about Roku approved channels, visit their fan forums.

Be sure to record time, date, and the support person’s name if you seek help on the phone.  Save your transcript if you use the chat support.  Don’t expect much from the fan forums.  Most important, if you are approaching the end of the 90 day warranty period, get an RMA and return the unit.  Seriously, they don’t know you on day 91.

About Roku Refurbs: Roku refurbs are a bargain.  They are offered at steep discounts, carry the same 90 day warranty, and are mostly open box returns.  At this time, almost all Roku 2 XS models are refurbs.  If you receive a DOA refurb, handle the return/refund with the vendor.  Once the return period has passed or if the problem is minor or not obvious (remote does not work), seek support via Roku.  First question to ask and first answer to document is whether or not Roku stands behind the 90 day warranty.  I generally ask this via the support chat BEFORE making a purchase.  If Roku will not stand behind the refurb, return it to the seller.

Of the four refurbs I have purchased, one had a bad remote and Roku sent a new one in a couple days.

Remoku: Remoku is a web app that controls your Roku.  This can help you troubleshoot a problem, deal with a misplaced remote, or wait out the arrival of a replacement.  You are going to need to know the IP address of your Roku.  It’s a GREAT idea to capture this information when everything is working.  From the Roku home screen, select Settings then About.  Write down your IP address.  Click this link to Remoku, click Settings at the top of the screen, type your IP address into the Manual Add box and click the + button, click Remote at the top of the screen, and click some buttons to see if Remoku is working.

Classic Roku

“The simple fact is that all the time and money and skill poured into consumer research on the new Coca-Cola could not measure or reveal the deep and abiding emotional attachment to original Coca-Cola felt by so many people.”

Coca-Cola president Donald Keough on the reintroduction of Classic Coke

Earlier this year, Roku introduced a new streaming media device dubbed the Roku 3, with its faster processor, WiFi remote, and remote ear bud jack, this Roku 3 was embraced by pundits.  Those who complained about the loss of composite outputs were dismissed as heretics.  This summer, Roku announced the rest of the third generation Rokus.  All of these had composite outputs, but none had the 5x faster cpu and only one had the battery killing remote ear bud jack.  The out-of-production Roku 2 XS continues to be the best Roku and continues to sell well as a refurb.  The chart below compares the Roku 2 XS to the third generation of Roku devices…

R3vsR2XS

The chart does not compare price, warranty, or remote battery life.  The venerable Roku 2 XS sells for half what the Roku 3 costs.  My last Roku 2 XS came with an extra game controller and an HDMI cable for $55.  Roku warrants refurbs for 90 days — just like their new products.  The gen 3 remotes use AAA batteries instead of AA batteries.  AAA batteries store about half the energy as AA.  Combine this with powering ear-buds and the batteries last months instead of nearly a year.

Roku has stopped manufacturing the Roku 2 XS.  At some point, there will be no more Roku 2 XS units.  Before this happens, Roku should reintroduce the Roku 2 XS (a red and white Classic Roku) or launch a Roku 3 XS (combining the popular features of the Roku 2 XS with the faster processor of the Roku 3).  Until then, keep an eye on the bargain sites for deals on the Classic Roku.