Tag Archive: Roku

Cutting the (Cable) Cord…

I cut the cord to cable television about five years ago.  I originally did it because I worked out of town a lot and just didn’t see the benefits of paying for it when I wasn’t home.  I also looked at the channels being offered and wondered why I was paying for channels that I would NEVER watch.  I wasn’t going to buy anything from the countless shopping channels, and I didn’t need the foreign language channels but I still had them and was paying for them.

I tried to talk to my cable provider about having a “pay per channel” plan but that wasn’t an option (and doubt it will ever be).

So I canceled my cable subscription (about $80/month), wrapped up the box, and dropped it off at the local offices.  I was cutting the cord – cold turkey.

Now, I kept the cable internet plan – it had served me well and I was only paying about $40/month for it.

GETTING LOCAL TELEVISION

My first challenge was to get local television channels.  I have a 42″ LCD television with a built-in HD converter, so I tried the old trick of taking a paperclip and making an antenna out of it.  I pulled in about eight channels.

I found this helpful website, Solid Signal and looked to it for more information.

The first thing I did was to plug in my zip code and look for a “real” antenna. (link goes to zip code 43615 – your results may vary). I received results for their antenna models and signal strengths.  I chose a HDB8X because it was the “extreme” model and that’s the way I roll.  Also I knew I was going to put the antenna in my attic and needed something a little more powerful.  Most people in apartments can get away with the Mohu Leaf or other wall mounted antenna.

I installed the antenna and scanned for television stations.  I have 16 “stable” channels.  Sometimes late at night, I can pick up a few Detroit, Cleveland, or Columbus stations – but that’s an experiment for a later day.

TV channels 022514

So this solved my issue with keeping up with local programming.  I could watch the local news, broadcast television, and weekend sports (where available).

Could I have stopped there and been completely satisfied?  Sure…I have a few movies I could watch if there wasn’t anything on broadcast, but I wanted something more.

ADDING MORE CONTENT

I wanted to add more content.  I was already getting a great deal through over-the-air HD television (for FREE) but I wanted to add something, and keep my costs down.

The first thing I purchased was a 3-1 HDMI switch.  My television only had 1 HDMI port in the back and that was filled with my BLU-RAY player.

I wired that up, cables purchased through Monoprice (seriously – don’t get beat up paying for cables, I put all the new stuff together for less than $50).

I had three ports in the back.  One was for the BLU-RAY player, the second was for my ROKU box.

ROKU – ADDED CHANNELS

Now there are different ways to add more content.  Some newer televisions have Netflix and Pandora built into their systems, some DVD and Game Units have it as well, but I don’t have any of those and opted for the ROKU 3 unit.

The ROKU unit operates off of the internet, whether it is wifi or corded Ethernet.  I’m using the wifi mode.  It has an HDMI cable in the back, USB port on the side so I can view videos/music/pictures as a micro USB port on the back to increase memory.  Other models offer different video out options (composite) as well as memory levels.

With over 1500 channels (as of 02/25/14) to chose from, getting content isn’t an issue any more.  I added the Netflix and HuluPlus channels (for the movies) and pay roughly $18.00/month for the two.  This also enables me to watch the on my laptop or smartphone when I am away from home.

The channels I watch most often:  Netflix, HuluPlus, History, A&E, I Heart Radio, Tune-In, and Conspiracy HQTV.

The majority of the channels offer free content, but others charge a one-time or monthly fee.  Also, there are a selection of “Private” channels that you can add for more niche content.

There is a channel for everyone.  From children’s programming, games, tech news, religious, movies, music, etc.

>>

I will be updating this as I add an change things. =)

 

 

 

PLEX for Media Server?

I am cleaning up my junk room/closets and trying to tie up some projects.  I found enough pieces/parts to put together a new computer.  I know – what would I need with a new computer.  The last time I was unemployed, I was working on putting together a Linux-based media center.  Yeah – never got back to that one. =/

Well this time around, technology has changed a bit.  I have a ROKU 3 media streaming box and they have a PLEX Channel.

Plex is software that compiles all of the media on your network and gives you a clean interface to access this on your PC, smart phone, or television.  Also there are a lot of plug-ins that add additional features to your system.  From what I’ve read – it takes about 5 minutes to set up.

I was looking for something that plays well with the ROKU box and can download shows that I watch and organize them into channels.

I’m finishing up putting the PC together, making it a “Frankenstein” machine, adding harddrives from this PC, an additional USB and firewire card to add external drives, and a new quieter power supply I picked up from the last time around.

I’m going to be re-installing Windows as the OS since I am familiar with it and its architecture.

Wish me luck.

Adding electronics to the Media Center

My media center/entertainment center is in constant flux.

The configuration a month ago was:

– 42″ HP HD television
– GE DVD Player
– ROKU Player
– Sony 5.1 Receiver/Surround Sound System

Since then, I have made some upgrades:

– Vizio Wireless Blu-Ray Player
– ROKU 2 Player
– Pioneer 5.1 3D Receiver/Surround Sound with HDMI
– X-BOX
– Playstation 2

I pulled my two game units out of storage and wired them up.  I took a trip down to the used video game store and picked up 5-6 games for under $50 total.  That should keep me occupied.  The Pioneer unit was a great deal off of Amazon.com.  List price is $400, but I picked it up for $140.  The Vizio unit was an upgrade for BLU-RAY, and the ROKU-2 was an upgrade so I could play Angry Birds.

NOW – this weekend found me hooking up the new surround system.  I kept the same speakers (upgrade later) and honestly – it was a bear.  One of the HDMI cables I had was defective which threw everything off, and I was confused about the on-screen instructions to get for the speaker set up.  BUT – once I got it working right, the speakers adjusted themselves and everything is working.

I also pulled an old desktop PC out of the closed (I did a lot of cleaning of that closet.  Half the Jeep is filled with stuff to be tossed out) and was trying to get some sort of Ubuntu software running on it.  I had a PC a while back, but I broke it.  The reason I want to get the new software on it, I want to add XMBC, a media center software on it to stream music, movies, etc.  I also want an avenue to watch Hulu Plus and the programs only available via the Web on the big television.

I was struggling all weekend.  It looks as though the harddrives are shot.  Aargghh…  I didn’t get it working this weekend.  There’s always next weekend.

WOOT.com – you failed me…=(

A few weeks ago, I purchased a first generation Roku player from woot.com for $39.99.  I wanted it for a bedroom television and didn’t need the HD support.  I wanted a simple unit to watch streaming Netflix before I go to sleep.

Well, it took a few weeks to get me (another issue, but whatever) and I unpacked it today.  I went to hook it up and the wifi antenna doesn’t work.  I spent a few hours on chat with tech support trying to work it out – but nothing.

I swapped units to see if the wifi signal was the issue (I have a XDS unit I bought last year) and it worked great.

I’m just upset that it isn’t working.  I’ve contacted Woot for a replacement unit – but I’m sure this process will take some time.  I’m going to document this because it upsets me.

Vacation TO DO List – Day 4

Today wasn’t as productive as I would have liked, but I did make some headways.  It was rainy and 45 outside – killing a notion I had to get out and about.  I went out this morning to Target to pick up some items:

I also picked up a 1.5TB external harddrive.  I am finally ripping all of my CDs onto it.  I’ve just had them sitting around for a while.  On the PC front as well, I ordered a Linksys Router from Newegg.com last week and it arrived this morning.  It replaces an older Linksys wireless that had a b-protocol.  The new one covered through “n”.  The new router provides a stronger signal throughout my house as well as tougher security.  I’ve also noticed a speed difference when using my ROKU player.

I also ordered Adobe Photoshop Elements 9 from Amazon.  Original retail pricing was $79.99.  But there was a daily special at Amazon and a $20 mail in rebate inside the package, so my ending cost is $39 plus tax.  How can I go wrong with that?  I really like the Photomerge and the smart fill-in tools.

The rest of the day was spent ripping CDs and cleaning out the cupboards.

Tomorrow – taking out the trash and heading to Lowes (I mean it this time).

Roku adds Hulu Plus for $7.99/month

It was announced today that Hulu Plus is now being offered on the Roku player.

And in even better news, they have decided to reduce the price by $2/month to $7.99!

With hulu plus you can watch the entire current season of any show as well as past seasons.  Licensing agreements with NBC, ABC, FOX, and more.  I’m excited to hear this because of the lower price and the access to a lot more shows that I usually watch.  I think as it gets closer to the weekend I will sign up for the free trial week.  I’ll report on it later.

Roku Channel Line-Up (Part 1)

As I explore the channel line-ups on the Roku, this is what I am finding:

1. Netflix – Netflix streaming over the Roku was the reason the Roku was initially developed. Having a Netflix account with streaming video enables you to watch thousands of television episodes and movies in the comfort of your own home.
I was able to watch full-length movies utilizing my wifi connection in near HD quality.

2.  Amazon Video On Demand – Amazon Video On Demand lets you search, browse, and rent your favorites instantly.  I haven’t tried this channel yet, so I can’t vouch for the claims.  With all the other channels right now – I don’t think I will be using this and think it may end up being cut.

3.  Hulu Plus – Take streaming of television and add the depth of watching libraries of past shows and welcome to Hulu Plus.  I wish there was an option to have standard Hulu on this device and offer Hulu Plus as an upgrade.  It will be available to the Roku this month and at $9.99 I’m waiting to see how many network connections they make.

4.  MLB.TV – as a premium channel.  You can watch baseball in HD – even if you are out of market (which I am quite often trying to catch Cleveland Indian’s games).

5.  NHL GameCenter Live – Up to 40 out of market games a week. $169.99.  I’m going to pass…

Next: Music

My new Roku Player (XDS)

I picked up a Roku XDS box recently and I am very happy with the purchase.

I purchased it online early in the week and it arrived by Friday, so I was ready for the weekend.

I opted for the XDS because of the USB port for playing media on the television screen, and the extended range Wireless-N (b/g/n compatible) antenna.  I already have Netflix and wanted to be able to stream media to things other than the PCs.

Unboxing the player and hooking it up took less than a minute.  It was a simple unwrapping the components, putting the batteries in, and plugging the wires in the back.  It found my wifi connection quickly and once I entered the security codes it updated the firmware to v 2.8 (took less than a minute).  I hooked up the cables and “enabled” the 720p resolution (I need to get the HDMI cable for the 1080p resolution).

I quickly set up connections to my Netflix and  Pandora accounts.  I was watching episodes of Dr. Who and South Park within 30 minutes.

Later, the girlfriend stopped over and we watched Alice in Wonderland and Dude Where’s My Car?. (streamed well and looked nice on the HD television)

I am amazed at the amount of content that was available.  I’m a bit overwhelmed as I dig through everything.  Over the next few weeks I will add information on the content I find.

If you would like to try Roku and get a free month’s worth of Netflix, follow this link: http://roku.tellapal.com/a/clk/7FBn9

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