For Your Listening Pleasure

From the mailbag…

Q: Can you do a post with a guide to streaming a local set of MP3s to the device?

Do you have to download a special channel or do you go through pandora or something? I haven’t ever tried anything for just music

Thanks again
The Sheriff

The easiest way to play music on a Roku is to add a channel.  There are a number of channels for internet sourced music…

  • iHeartRadio
  • Pandora
  • SHOUTcast Internet Radio
  • Slacker
  • Spotify
  • TuneIn Radio

If your Roku has a usb port, you can plug a thumb drive or usb disk into that and play media directly off the usb drive.  The Roku supports the following formats…

  • Video — MKV (H.264), MP4 (H.264)
  • Music — AAC, MP3
  • Photo — JPG, PNG

The Roku USB channel (in the Channel Store) organizes the files as music, movies, and photos displaying only the file types it can play.  In Photo or Music, press the Play button to initiate continuous play.  Fast Forward and Rewind navigate the playlist.  The channel supports repeat all and shuffle.  Nowhere USB is another usb drive file player.  With Nowhere USB, you can play videos continuously.  PlayUSB remembers where you left a movie so you can resume later.

If your Roku does not have a usb port, or of you want to play your media library on multiple Rokus, you can stream media from a server using Roksbox ($12.50), Plex ($0), or MyMedia.

Hope that answers your question.

Roku Secrets

To access undocumented features of your Roku, enter the following key sequences on the remote.  You should be at the home position before beginning with no errors on the screen.  Both worked with my Roku 2 XS and Roku LT boxes.

Secret Screen (System Info, Resets, USB Test, Logging)

Home x5
Fast Forward x3
Rewind x2

Platform Secret Screen (Temp, IP, SSID, WIFI Details)

(Per Roku Chat Support, Roku LT, Roku 2 XS, and Roku 3 all operate at 40-45 degree celsius)

Home Button x 5
FF x 1
Play x 1
RW x 1
Play x 1
FF x 1

Channel Version Screen

Home Button x 3
Up x 2
Left x 1
Right x 1
Left x 1
Right x 1
Left x 1

Access Roku Debug/Bandwith Cap Screen

Home Button x 5
RW x 3
FF x 2

Access Roku Developer Mode (“Side-Load” a Roku Channel)

Home Button x 3
Up x 2
Right x 1
Left x 1
Right x 1
Left x 1
Right x 1
Note URL of Roku
Select Enable Installer
Accept Developer Agreement
Open URL of Roku in Browser

Roku 3 Enable Speakers Plus Headphone Jack Toggle (no R3 to test this on)

To toggle it on and off, press these buttons on the remote volume control while the headphone is inserted…

Up x 2
Down x 2
Up x 3
Down x 3

Roku 2 ‘Downgrade’ from firmware 5.x to 4.9  (start at Home screen)

Home x 5
FF x 3
RW x 2
click on “Update software”

Time to buy a Roku?

Been thinking of buying a Roku?  Confused by all the models and all the prices?  Ben’s Outlet sells factory refurbished Roku 2 XS streamers for $54.99 shipped every day.

The Roku 2 XS is my favorite Roku. It has composite and hdmi outputs, so it works with older televisions as well as modern HDTVs. You can use the composite audio to drive an auxiliary input on a home theater so that you can turn your tv off while enjoying internet radio or your MP3 collection on the Roku. The XS also has a usb port, so you can connect a usb disk full of videos or MP3s. The R2XS also has both wired and wireless ethernet. In my experience, the wireless radio is very good.

Reburbs are good as new!  Roku warrants refurbs with the same 90 warranty you get with a new model and the refurbs are mostly open box returns, so the discount is real.  I had a problem with a remote which came with a refurbished Roku 2 XS.  I clicked the chat link on the Roku support page and, after a few minutes of troubleshooting, they shipped me a new remote.  Roku stands behind their refurbs.

What exactly is a streaming media player? I keep forgetting some people do not know about streaming.  A streaming media player is a device that formats files and streams available on the internet for presentation on a television.  Generally, you get a nice menu and a remote and an interface that allows you to connect your streamer to the interface via your internet service provider.  That might not sound very exciting, but I promise you Netflix is more exciting on a 50″ plasma that a 15″ laptop and the Roku’s remote works better than a mouse.

Can I cut my cable if I buy a Roku?  No.  If you enjoy local programming, cable sports, continuous programming, or time shifting, the Roku 3 is not going to replace your cable or broadcast television service.  I think Roku and other streaming media interests misrepresent themselves as a substitute for cable or broadcast television.  It’s obvious that they are not once you plug the device in and, as a consequence, there is no shortage of refurbished Rokus.

Why do I need a Roku?  You don’t.  But, you may want one.  While the Roku is no substitute for cable or broadcast television, it is a great supplement.  In fact, you might find that buying a Roku will allow you to ‘trim’ your cable service.  I personally prefer to wait for a popular series to arrive on Netflix.  The reward for my patience is a block of drama or comedy in a couple days that most have to experience over a year.  I like that a lot.

And there are a lot of compelling channels…

  • ADC: Free movie channel
  • Amazon Cloud Player: Play all the free music Amazon sends my way
  • CNN: Includes CNN International Live for background news and information
  • Crackle: Sony’s FREE version of Netflix
  • CS50: Harvard Intor to Computer Science course
  • Comedy Time: ‘Play All’ makes for good background noise
  • CBSSports.com: ‘Play All’ feature makes for a nice sports news channel
  • CNBC: Streaming business news for news and information
  • FoxNews: Stream from web site plus clips of popular shows with ‘Play All’
  • Kaplan College Prep: Help your kid with his SATs
  • Lecture Kings: Librivox audio box is hidden in a channel of university lectures
  • Netflix
  • Nowhere TV: To install Nowhere TV on your Roku, click here
  • OVGuide: Free movie channel
  • Playon: To install the Private Playon channel, click here
  • Plex: Stream your own files to your Roku via a Plex Server; lost of supported and unsupported channels too
  • Popcornflix
  • Popflix Classic TV: 26 Men, Adventures of Robin Hood, The Beverly Hillbillies, Bonanza, Burns and Allen, Date with the Angels, Dragnet, Life with Elizabeth, The Lone Ranger, The Lucy Show, Man with a Camera, Petticoat Junction, Sherlock Holmes, Westerns, You Bet Your Life
  • PubDHub: The stuff your dad used to reminisce about — ancient cartoons, PSAs, commercials, and movies
  • Smithsonian: Better than the Discovery channel
  • TWiT: Steve Gibson, Leo Laporte, and others talk tech
  • WSJ Live: WSJ had good election coverage

On the horizon… There are some cool things going on in the internet television arena.  As disappointing as Simple has been, a lot of early adopters are pretty satisfied.  Simple.tv allows you to watch broadcast television on a Roku.  Aereo streams broadcast television to your Roku via the internet.  Aereo is going national this summer after fighting the cable companies in the courts most of last year.  Time Warner Cable (TWC) has a Roku channel that will let its customers use a Roku as a set top box replacement.

By Len Mullen Posted in News

Solved: Youtube on Roku (Updated 8/8/2013)

VideoBuzz is now opensource and can be installed using a script.  More here.

YouTube is a popular channel on OTT streamers.  Roku has never officially supported a YouTube channel, but there are a number of private channels that support it.  One of these has been removed.  The VideoBuzz channel has been ‘voluntarily’ removed from the list of Roku channels.  VideoBuzz was unique among Roku YouTube channels in that it was simple to install, easy to use, and worked.

Why did Roku VideoBuzz Roku pull the channel?  No one knows.  Roku won’t say, but the mods and VCMs on http://forums.roku.com claim that there was an IP issue…

There’s been a fair bit of speculation about VideoBuzz and the reason it is being deactivated. I want to take a moment to elaborate:

Every developer agrees to abide by the terms of the Roku developer agreement when creating a developer account. Among the requirements in the agreement, we require that every channel publisher must have the appropriate rights or permission to distribute the content within their channel through Roku. Other requirements include written authorization is required for channels with international or foreign language content. Channels that violate the developer agreement are subject to deactivation, though typically we do give them a chance to come back into compliance (or prove they are not violating it) before acting on it — we do realize that it can be a complicated world when it comes to rights for content. Sometimes we’re made aware of channels through formal notices (e.g. DMCA takedown notices or cease and desist notices) and other times we are notified more informally. Since we respect all content owners’ rights, we have to take each notification seriously and explore it for violation. Regarding VideoBuzz specifically, we don’t believe that today a Roku channel can stream from YouTube without violating YouTube’s terms of service (at least specifically section II paragraph 14 of the YouTube Developer TOS).

That’s not really true.  It can’t be.  The mods and VCMs have been promoting the use of Plex as an alternative…

Plex on Roku, out of the box, won’t receive YouTube. If the user modifies the setup to enable it, neither Plex nor Roku is at fault. They took deliberate steps to prevent YouTube on Roku through Plex, and the user subsequently took deliberate steps to enable it.

Playon also streams YouTube to a Roku (right out of the box without the user deliberately doing anything except installing server and channel) — despite the fact that mention of the channel can get you banned from the forums.

There is the issue, here is the solution…

You can download the VideoBuzz source and run it as a side-loaded channel on your Roku.  The code is FREE.  They ask for a donation for $1 to $15, but if you email them, they will send the source for free.  Source code and instructions can be found here…

Run a server.  Playon and Plex stream YouTube to your Roku.

Playon is the easiest solution — install the Playon server, install the Playon Roku channel, and you are done.  The Playon server can be found here.  The Playon channel for Roku can be installed here.  Instructions for installation are here.  Piece of cake, right?  Roku streams at 480p, so, if high resolution is your thing, playon may not be for you.

Plex is a more complex solution, but supports HD streaming.   Install the Plex Media Server and install the Plex channel on your Roku.    Once Plex Media Server is installed, click on the Plex icon in your taskbar. Click on Preferences then go to the myPlex tab and create a Plex account using an email address and password.  Click on the Plex Server Home button, scroll down to the channels section, click the + button, click More, click All Available Plugins, scroll down to the bottom, click the YouTube icon, and click the Install button.

Plex

Plex is a suite of products that facilitates the aggregation and distribution of media. The Plex Media Center is open source, the Plex Media Server is closed source, and various Plex clients are free or commercial. Plex also offers a sevice called MyPlex which is free, and PlexPass is not free but offers access to premium features through MyPlex. Plex aggregates content via plugins. Many plugins (channels) can be installed via the various Plex user interfaces, but others are only available for manual installation. This article will attempt explain the purpose, installation, configuration, interactions, and use of the various Plex components.  It’s intended to help you decide if Plex is worth investigation and walk you through a functional installation.

Plex Media Server: Plex Media Server comes in flavors for Windows, OS X, Linux, and NAS appliances. The scope of this discussion is constrained to the Windows Server.  Before you begin, identify a PC to act as your media server.  Create a media folder structure on that PC and copy your media to that structure.  It’s convenient to use the same names Plex uses, so I suggest folders called Movies, TV Shows, Music, Photos, and Home Movies.

Plex Server is the backend to the Plex system.  It is a database of meta data plus the transcoding and streaming components.  The media server is the only software that must be installed to use Plex and it should be installed on the computer with the media files to minimize network traffic and related performance issues.  This computer must be powered on and connected to your LAN whenever Plex is used.  The server can be downloaded from here and should be installed with all default options.

Once the server is installed, you will be notified that the installation has been completed and given an opportunity to launch the program.  Server will discover all your media.  Click the home icon to examine the installation.  Examine movies and TV shows.  Click the + icon to add folders discovery missed.   In the Channels section, click the + to add channels.  That’s it.  Your Plex server is ready to serve clients.

Plex Media Center: You only want to install Plex Media Center if you are going to watch TV on your PC or Mac.  Plex Media Center is designed to be run with a remote control and viewed from your couch.  Plex Media Center can be downloaded from here and should be installed with all default options.  When installation completes, check the Run Plex Media Center box and click the Finish button.   Enjoy!

myPlexmyPlex is a free service from Plex that lets you watch your media over the internet, share it with friends, or bookmark interesting videos for later viewing.  To use myPlex, create an account and sign in using Plex Media Center or the Plex Media Manager.

PlexPass: PlexPass does nothing at this time.  According to the PlexPass announcement, PlexPass will get you…

  1. early access to new features
  2. ‘free’ (you’re paying for PlexPass, so maybe free isn’t the right word)  access to shiny things with lots of sparkle
  3. access to private forums for discussing these new features
  4. discounts on premium features (I thought they were ‘free’)

Connected Devices: Plex Servers can be accessed by the Roku, Google TV, and LG and Samsung devices.  For specific help with these devices, please visit this page.

Unsupported Plugins:  There is a repository of unsupported channels which includes adult content.

You can add the Plex Roku channel here.

Playon

Playon is a commercial server that aggregates content from web sites using ‘official’ and ‘unofficial’ plugins and scripts.  A free version streams your media.  Playon channels are, for the most part, aggregators of files posted to internet servers.  The Food Network, for instance, is a bunch of episodes or programs that are on the Food Network rather than a continuous stream of programming.

Besides official channels, Playon supports third party plugins and scripts, so chances are that whatever your interests you’ll find something to watch.

There is a private Playon channel for the Roku.  With that plugin installed, you will be able to watch a lot of content that is otherwise not available on the Roku.  The free version or Hulu, YouTube, The Food Network, The History Channel, and Lifetime are examples.  See the full list of channels here.

Playon is relatively inexpensive.  Unlike TIVO, the Playon license does not expire when your hardware fails — you can transfer your license from machine to machine forever.  The only limitation is that the license is for the current version of Playon.  The current version will not stop working when a new version is releases, but you will not get a free upgrade to the next version.  It’s not as limiting as it sounds, you only need to upgrade when Playon adds functionality or channels that you’re willing to pay for and Playon offers discounts to upgraders.

One of the things I like about Playon is that I can use it to watch TV on my Kindle Fire.  To do this, simply open the silk browser, disable accelerated browsing (tap the menu button, tap Settings, toggle Accelerate Page Loading to off), then browse to http://m.playon.tv.

tip: to view Playon on any PC, install the Chrome browser and open to http://m.playon.tv!

Purchase and install the Playon Server here and install the Playon private channel here.

Welcome!

Welcome to Roku for Dummies.  This blog is an unauthorized travel guide for the Roku Streaming Media appliance.  Tips, tricks, and secrets are posted here that will help you get the most out of your Roku.  This blog is in no way affiliated with Roku or any of the products mentioned.  I do not personally endorse the use of the Roku or any of the products mentioned.

By Len Mullen Posted in News

Simple: Live Broadcast TV for the Roku

This is compiled from other sources as I do not have a Simple device.

Simple.TV is a device that let’s you stream and record over the air (OTA) programming.  The Simple device attaches to your own antenna, a USB disk you provide, and a wired ethernet connection.  Simple streams broadcast television to as many as five connected devices concurrently.  Simple is also a DVR.  It can record programs to an attached USB disk.

Simple.TV charges $149 for their DVR. For $299 you can purchase a Simple device plus their premiere guide lifetime license which schedules individual recordings and also entire seasons. You do not need to purchase the guide except you then lose access to a lot of extra features and will need to schedule your shows manually. The guide service is another $49 a year.

Simple is not for everyone, but if you are already receiving broadcast television via an antenna, Simple can add DVR function and stream to Roku boxes where you have no coax.

You can install the Simple Roku channel here.

Skitter: Live Broadcast TV for the Roku

This is compiled from other sources as I do not have access to Skitter.

Skitter is a service that streams broadcast channels via the internet for $12/month.  Subscribers are able to view live broadcast content plus internet services like YouTube. Skitter is currently available in Portland, Oregon but there are plans to enter other markets.

Skitter quality is not as good as broadcast and there is no DVR functionality beyond pause and resume.  Skitter on the Roku uses a simple 2D channel list.

Skitter streams ten live channels, including CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox, and PBS. There are plans to add additional channels including content not available over the air.

You can add the Skitter channel here.