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…
I didn’t want to love Play*, but I can’t help it. All they do it make it very easy for me to watch what I want to watch when I want to watch it. It’s only 480p, but 480p looks surprisingly good on my 43″ 720p plasma and amazing on my Kindle Fire. For $70, Netflix, Hulu, Food Network, and the History Channel are always on for me.
So, what is Play*? Play* is my nickname for MediaMall’s suite of streaming media programs. The suite consists of PlayOn, PlayLater, and PlayCast. PlayOn is software that streams files from web servers to your television. Channels, scripts, and plugins format files from web servers for your television. The files include episodes from many cable programs. For cable cutters, PlayOn is a lifeline to the Food Network, the History Channel, and other compelling programming. PlayLater is a DVR for this programming. PlayLater lets you store programming you would watch with PlayOn for viewing at a later time. The stored programs are saved as MP4 files that can be viewed with any software on any platform that supports the MP4 format. PlayCast is a browser plugin that streams whatever is playing in your browser window to a PlayOn client.
How does Play* work? PlayOn and PlayLater are software packages that can be purchased from MediaMall and must be installed on a Windows PC running Internet Explorer. The programs read files from your media server and/or web servers and streams the files to a device on your network that can interpret the stream and output it in a format compatible with your television. PlayCast is a browser extension that streams files from your web browser to your PlayOn compatible device — Chromecast for *every* streaming media platform.
Why you will love Play*! First, there is a one time charge of $70. For this fee, you get a lifetime subscription to PlayOn plus the PlayLater DRV, and PlayCast. You can watch content aggregated and formatted for viewing from the couch. That’s a pretty good deal. You can also timeshift or placeshift this content. The shifted contented is saved as MP4 formatted files which are suitable for playing on a tablet of phone, so you can enjoy your media even when there is no internet at all or where access to the internet is restricted. For instance…
- Last week, I was traveling on business. Before I left, I dragged some files from my PlayLater folder to my laptop for the plane ride.
- When I got the the hotel, I plugged a Roku 2 XS into the television. I had installed the Nowhere USB channel and was able to enjoy a USB drive of PlayLater content without internet access/authentication.
- We lose our power frequently and for days at a time. I have a generator and a tv antenna, but internet access is limited to cell phones. PlayLater provides entertainment absent internet access.
- We will use these files with the TV and Roku we take camping
- When a web site removes or rotates content, I can still play it off my DVR
Why you might NOT like Play*! For starters, it is only 480p. I played some PlayLater recordings on a 55″ set and, with glasses from six feet, it looked fine, but it’s 480p. A lot of recordings fail. Sometimes you can restart and enjoy success, but some simply do not record.
Let’s get started! Installing and using Play* is pretty straight forward, but here are the steps…
- Before committing to Play* consult the compatibility list and forums to make sure you have the hardware to support the software and check the channel list to make sure you will watch what PlayOn serves.
- Buy, download, and install PlayOn. Hint: if, during installation, you are prompted to close a browser which is not apparently open, open task manager, look for browser processes, and close them. For me, Chrome was running in the background.
- Enable PlayCast for your browser. Open up PlayOn Settings and click on the Browsers tab. Click on the checkboxes to enable PlayOn for your favorite browsers then click the Apply button.
- (You may need to enable the PlayOn helper app in your browser)
- Open your browser to a media page and click the PlayOn icon and a window will open and play the media. Once the video begins playing in this window, click the Next button. Click the Record To or PlayCast To button, select your target device, and enjoy!
Remote Access For me, accessing Playon from a cell phone was a lot like having sex for the first time. I thought I knew what I was doing, everything was a little different than I expected. In the end, I was extremely satisfied, but wasn’t sure what had happened.
First base: The auto configuration failed, so I tried to manually configure my router. Once I was in the port forwarding area I returned to Playon to read the helpful hint provided upon failure. The hint was gone, so I selected automatic and hit apply and it worked. My guess is that it would have worked had I not changed the userid and password on my router. Having logged on, it was able to do the rest.
Second base: I installed the app from the app store on the S3 phone. No problems at all.
Third base: Had no problem locating my server via WiFi and we were quickly streaming. I’m still not sure what ‘additional configuration’ is required for 3g/4g only access.
Home: Turned off WiFi and streamed some PlayLater recordings to the phone.
It does work and performance was very good. One thing you notice when browsing the Android app is that once you are presented with a PlayTo menu that allows you to play to ‘this device’ or any of your Rokus, so you can PlayTo without running back to the PC — just use your android device to manage the service from your easy chair.
Epilog That’s all I’ve got. I think PlayOn, PlayLater, and PlayCast are a delightful addition to to any entertainment ecosystem. Give Play* a try. If you don’t like it, MediaMall will refund your $70.
The BW for Roku is Black & White Done Right, Broadcasting 50’s Shades of Grey 24/7 in a Live TV Format.
Hard to disagree with the Roku Channel Store description of The B/W channel. This is a FREE, continuously streaming channel. Install the channel by clicking this link. The program guide is posted here.
The popular banned Roku channel is now open source and it’s developers have automated the installation process. Enjoy!
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.
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
The easiest way to play music on a Roku is to add a channel. There are a number of channels for internet sourced music…
- SHOUTcast Internet Radio
- 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.
- USB Media Player: http://www.roku.com/channels/#!details/2213/usb-media-player
- Nowhere USB: https://owner.roku.com/Account/ChannelCode/?code=KGULU
- PlayUSB: https://owner.roku.com/add/PlayUSB
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.
- MyMedia: http://www.playon.tv/mymedia
- Plex: https://rokufordummies.wordpress.com/2013/06/02/plex
- RoksBox: http://roksbox.com
Hope that answers your question.
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.
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 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!
myPlex: myPlex 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…
- early access to new features
- ‘free’ (you’re paying for PlexPass, so maybe free isn’t the right word) access to shiny things with lots of sparkle
- access to private forums for discussing these new features
- 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 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.
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.
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.
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.