Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is a Roku?
A: The Roku is a standalone streaming solution that requires very little technical knowledge, does not rely on media purchases or rentals, and is perfect for your mom and dad who have cut the cable but still want to see what Fox and Friends or Jon Stewart have to say. Plug it in, establish a network connection, associate with your Roku account (the only time you will need a computer), and watch TV. Roku players support streaming of all major entertainment services including Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, Hulu Plus, Crackle, VUDU, and HBO GO plus news, sports, and music. Some versions support applications and games as well.

Q: Why doesn’t everyone switch to free streamed television?
A: It isn’t exactly free. You have to have a robust internet connection to to stream media. If your only internet option also happens to be your cable provider, you may find internet expensive without the television and phone bundle discounts. Part of a cable or satellite bill pays for infrastructure and service. With streamed television, the consumer is responsible for both. When your Roku breaks or becomes obsolete, it’s up to you to provide replacement equipment. At $100 per set, this can pay for a lot of months of cable television. Premium services provide a LOT more channels. If you are a fan of baseball, basketball, hockey, profanity, or nudity, broadcast television may not work for you. You can subscribe to pay services, but those costs add up and you may not be able to stream your teams due to blackout rules. Finally, some internet service providers (ISP) cap or throttle bandwidth which may lead to degraded or no service.

Q: Can I get rid of my premium provider if I buy a Roku?
A: Maybe. If you are a fan of baseball, basketball, hockey, profanity, local programming, or live television, streaming may not work for you. You will still need that premium provider for internet access and, maybe, telephone service. You may not even be able to stream at your home if the connection to your internet service is not fast or reliable enough. Best first step is to post a note to the Introductions topic describing what you watch on television.

Q: Can I watch free Hulu on my Roku?
A: Yes, but you’ll need to purchase and install the Playon server and install the private Playon channel on your Roku.

Q: Can I watch live programming on my Roku?
A: Yes. While the Roku generally streams video clips from the internet, there are a number of ways to get real time or ‘live’ programming. Aereo and Time Warner Cable (TWC) have begun streaming live content. Aereo streams broadcast channels and TWC streams their programming. Aereo includes a virtual DVR. Simple makes a product that connects to your antenna like a TV and streams to five devices concurrently. Simple.tv offers local DVR capability and remote access as well.

Q: Can I watch YouTube on my Roku?
A: Yes. 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. If you are not up to side-loading a channel, and are willing to run a server on your network, you can watch YouTube using Plex or Playon. 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.

Q: Do I need to provide Roku with a payment method?
A: No. You can call or instant message Roku support for help setting up your streamer.

Q: Should I buy a refurb?
A: I think you should consider a refurb when shopping for a Roku. Refurbs can be discounted 40% or more and carry the same warranty as new units.

Q: Where are private channels?
A: Private channels are channels that are not listed in the Roku Channel Store. These channels may be distributed privately because Roku does not like the content (adult) or because support for the implicit support for the channel could damage relations between Roku and a content distributor.

Q: Where can I find private channels for my Roku?
A: Lists of private channels abound. Some of the best are Catastrophe Girl’s blog, Roku Private Channels, Roku Private Channels Database, mkvXstream, and Streamfree.  My favorite Roku channels can be found here.

Q: Which Roku should I buy?
A: The Roku 3 is the newest model. It features a phone jack in the remote so you can listen privately through a pair of included ear-buds. 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. Both models have a usb port, so you can connect a usb disk full of videos or MP3s. Both have wired and wireless ethernet. There are a lot of Roku 2 XS refurbs out there. For the price of a Roku 3, you can buy two Roku 2 XS units. Look here for a comparison of features for all models.

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34 comments on “Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Can I play more games than the ones offered on roku website ?
    Can I play games from the Micro SD ?
    If yes what is the required format ? Please give an example

    • There are probably more games than appear in the Roku Channel Store. Channels which are not listed in the Channel Store are private channels. You learn about them because the creator has posted a web page or a message in a forum.

      The micro sd is not controlled by you directly. The Roku puts channels there once your Roku’s built in memory is full. Most people never need a micro sd card.

      All apps/channels for the Roku are developed using a proprietary language called brightscript.

  2. I have tried numerous times to set up payment method each time says it can’t accept cred card info. Is there a way to use it without this info. If not why won’t it accept card info?

  3. How do I change the profile on Roku? My sister and I share Netlix, but when i view it with Roku, there seems to be no way to change the profile. We both have entirely different tastes and this is frustrating to her when she searches for choices. All of the movies that I view are listed under HER profile. is there a way to change this when viewing on TV? When I view on line, I have the option of saying WHO is viewing. Thanks!

  4. In my state, Ohio, no television can get any broadcast without a converter box; is a antenna needed with a converter box. Can I go to the store where I purchased my roku’s to seek answers or would they even know?

  5. Let’s back up. Broadcast television refers to the situation where a television station has an antenna and transmits its programming though the air. Your home has its own antenna which received that signal. The signal is carried from the antenna to the television over a coaxial cable. In the 70s, cable began carrying programming over wires. In 2009, broadcast television switched from analog to digital. This meant that you needed a digital tuner to tune the broadcast signal on your television.

    I you want to know what channels you can expect to receive with an antenna, go to tvfool.com and run a report for your address. If you post a link to that report, I will go over it with you.

    • Len I want you to know that i truly appreciate your tolerance with me and asking so many questions; I’m visually impaired ; not using that as an excuse however there is alot I need help with concerning this new technology.
      Putting the antenna topic aside for a minute, in between our conversations I’ve been trying to research Hulu. If you are willing to and can answer this next question and or direct me in the right area how can I find out if there is a specific station(WWN) included in Hulu’s package and the cost?
      Because I think this maybe a replacement solution for the antenna topic and possibly be the best answer to my situation.

  6. Hulu does not work like that. Hulu streams programs from the various networks — including Fox. Hulu has shows from the Fox network, but it would not include local/daytime programming from your local fox affiliate. Some local stations have Roku channels. Check the list of news channels for your local channels…

    https://channelstore.roku.com/browse/news-and-weather

    Nowhere TV is a Roku channel that includes streams of some local channels…

    http://www.rokuguide.com/private-channels/nowhere-tv

    WJW Fox 8 News in Cleveland and WKYC in Cleveland are streamed. WJW looks like a newscast, WKYC just seems to be weather radar (WeatherView), Looks like you are getting rain this weekend.

  7. I have a cabin out of range for broadcast television, but do have broadband. Will my Roku from home work at my cabin?

  8. Hi, we dropped regular cable provider and went with FIOS last spring in order to set up Roku (FIOS TV was not available and we were told it would not be in the near future). We have been able to get a lot of TV that we enjoy such as History and Nat Geo. Today, in trying to get a program on History, I received a message on screen that said I needed to sign in with Activation code – I did. Next screen told me I needed to sign up with my cable provider (Verizon FIOS) in order to get this channel…I am confused in NJ. Any advice?

    • First, I would contact the owner of the app (History Channel, National Geographic) and make sure your ISP is a qualified provider. If yes, contact your ISP and report the situation to them.

  9. do i need different accounts for every roku and or tv in the house? or do they link together? why would i pay for hulu or showtime twice? thank you.

    • No. If all of your Rokus are tied to a single account, however, all apps will appear on all Rokus. Roku does not support profiles or parental controls, so this can be problematic.

  10. How much is the monthly fee to setup a Roku 3? Can you get channels like Hallmark? Can you block certain channels you do want? We have an outside antenna that we get local channels through will we still be able to get them through that antenna? We have att internet, will that work with Roku 3?

    • There is no fee to ‘set up’ a Roku. There are free apps, one time fee apps, and recurring fee apps. For instance, the Netflix app is free, but you have to pay Netflix a monthly fee to access their service.

      You can browse the public Roku channels at their channel store…

      https://channelstore.roku.com

      For private apps, check out these…

      http://cordcutting.com/roku-channels/
      http://www.rokuguide.com/
      http://mkvxstream.blogspot.com/2014/06/roku-channels-guide.html
      http://streamfree.tv/

      Remember that Roku apps typically play files from a web site and sometimes include live streams. These can be similar to or quite different from your cable channel of the same name. Usually, authenticating via a cable or satellite provider will grant access to additional programs and/or streams.

      There are no parental controls. You can, however, set up two Roku accounts with different sets of apps and assign some Rokus to one account and others to another to simulate parental controls.

      If you are interested in watching over the air programming on a Roku, you are going to need a device to stream from the antenna to your Roku. The best one around right now is the Tablo TV DVR…

      https://www.tablotv.com

      The two issues that will determine if your internet service is sufficient for streaming are bandwidth and cap. The higher the resolution of the file, the more bandwidth is required. Netflix has a nice estimations page here…

      https://help.netflix.com/en/node/306

      Multiply their estimations by the number of concurrent streams (number of Rokus streaming at the same time) to estimate bandwidth requirements and ask your ISP (AT&T) if your service meets the requirements.

      The second issue is a cap — usually monthly — or threshold beyond which your ISP shuts off your internet, charges you additional fees, or throttles the speed. Netflix has a good page for that…

      https://help.netflix.com/en/node/87

      UHD is 7g/hour. Comcast is charging more for customers who use more than 300g per month. 300/7=43 hours of UHD programming per month — about an hour and a half per day.

  11. I have a little experience with using an older Roku and one thing has always baffled me, as I read about the many issues people have in setting up/using/fighting with them.

    Exactly what is the purpose of these devices? Why can’t Roku just have a website through which portal you can access everything it offers, without having to screw around with an extra gadget?

    • The Roku is an inexpensive, low power linux computer with a custom OS. It provides an HDMI or composite signal to the television. Its remote provides input to the system. With RabbitTV, for instance, you plug the device onto a PC or log in to a website on a PC. The Roku takes the place of the computer.

  12. RabbitTV for example used to have this dopey dongle thing you would have to plug into a free USB port, and they finally got rid of it. Now, you simply login and it’s all there.

    • If you are talking about the Clear TV Key, then yes. The Clear TV Key is an antenna that attaches to the RF or coaxial input of a television. The Roku 2 attaches to an HDMI input of a television. Assuming your television has both HDMI and RF inputs, you can attach both devices and switch between them by using the input selection function of the television.

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