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/

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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 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.

VideoBuzz: Open and Easy!

The popular banned Roku channel is now open source and it’s developers have automated the installation process.  Enjoy!

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

What is VideoBuzz?  VideoBuzz is an opensource roku channel that plays videos from popular Internet video sites.

Why Would I Want Another Roku Video Channel?  VideoBuzz is a very well written Roku channel that provides easy access to YouTube including subscriptions and search.  Roku provides no official access to YouTube and has ‘officially’ banned private YouTube channels.  While Roku ‘insiders’ have access to YouTube via SECRET features of sanctioned channels, none compare in quality to VideoBuzz.

How Do I Install VideoBuzz?  Roku allows developers to install a single channel directly on their Roku.  This ‘side-loaded’ channel is not subject to Roku oversight.  VideoBuzz is a ‘side-loaded’ channel.  The developers have created a script that automates this process for you.  You can use this script or manually put your Roku in developer mode and side-load the channel yourself.

If you are interested in developing Roku channels, VideoBuzz makes an excellent template.  The developers have made the source and scripts available for analysis and modification.

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”

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.

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.