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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Na Na Na, Naa (Apple TV).......Yeah Roku !

...... Roku Rocks!
Finally dumped the Apple TV and got the Roku box - for a variety of reasons.
Roku...a Saratoga start-up that is totally thriving!
These guys have their act together and the world is looking to ape them.
Why so?

The Apple TV was essentially a media server, and a conduit into the NAS - after the jail break.
It could also play YouTube and Netflix - as a result of the jailbreak.
But it was being under-utilized, with the lack of apps.
This is the day and age of apps - with the plethora that are available on our smartphones.
So opted for the ROKU after some feature comparison between the ROKU and APPLE TV

Oh...the real reason?
Canceled our Netflix membership (wasn't happy with the monthly fee, as we probably watched a total of 3 hours of content these past few months). Love the 2 days shipping of Amazon Prime, since Amazon has seemingly become the one source to fulfill most of our household needs (that are not perishables). As an Amazon Prime member, I quickly realized that the TiVO or the PS3 do not access the Amazon Prime membership videos (freebies). You need a streaming device (like the ROKU)

There are lots of comparisons for you to look up between the Apple TV and ROKU
Here is one by CNET that has been kept up to date with edits
This one here is a tad dated - but has most of them in a single table
Must read this

ROKU - these guys have a quality product, a quality user interface, great price point $50, and almost 500 content providers (public and private Channels in the ROKU lingo) streaming onto 2.5 million devices (Roku holds the #1 position) into homes. They are a NETFLIX/ HOTMAIL waiting to happen. There are lot of content providers that are shipping out free ROKU boxes, based up on subscription. The 500 content providers? Some are free and some are subscription based. The subscription could be one time (games etc), to monthly fees (NETFLIX, AMAZON PRIME), Season Package (like MLB, NBA TV) and even channels that require a participating cable or satellite subscription (HBO GO

First....what the Roku lacks
Nope...no YouTube (google decided to yank it away from Roku).
A browser is missing - which is a bummer.
You cannot play MPG files.
You don't have a direct connection into your NAS (but have to hack your way through). What gives? My Android HTC Incredible 2 has found my NAS and has been playing video, audio content from my NAS - directly on my smartphone. So ROKU needs to get on with the times.

Lets talk about YouTube.
Last night - I spent a good 10 minutes watching clips from YouTube on Roku?
How so?
Via Facebook.
All the YouTube videos posted by your "friends" are easily available on Roku, via a fantastic Facebook interface.
And there will be 3rd party apps available. For example TheNowhereMan has developed a private channel that allows you to access Youtube videos straight from your Roku

Roku's handling of the HD MTS files...tends to be spotty, Handles the MPEG4 really well....
There’s a number of tools available online to convert video files, but people on the Roku forums swear by Handbrake, and Roksbox has helpfully listed all the necessary settings on its site.

And,....this is not like TV (just setting expectations). Some of these channels, take time to load. But this is first gen.

3rd Party Apps?
Lots of great Audio and Video content, easily accessible via private and public channels, and a easy user interface of ROKU.
Watch NBC News highlights, WSJ news, TED, CNET, your Facebook page on TV, Pandora
Movie Channels? Creepster, PopcornFlix, Crackle...
And I think I have barely scratched the surface

There are very many 3rd party apps that you can deploy on the Roku box - you essentially drive your own content. There are many free movie channels (I think they are commercial free too), including many paid ethnic channels (Indian, Italian etc). Forget Dish Network for your International Programming, Roku has many subscription channels - where you can pick and choose what you really want.
Lots of great free content (but who has the time as my wife has commented a few times)
Check out the two lists maintained on Roku-Channels.com, as well as the Roku Yahoo Group to see what’s available.
YOu can also connect a USB drive - and play content off your own hard drive (that Apple TV could not) - not that I plan to ever use this feature.
Fun stuff...
Using the free RoMote on Android to control the ROKU
Watching Live TV using Ustream channel (add it as a private channel with the channel code IN4DN)

Just watching - (yes, actually watching) Facebook on TV was such a pleasured
Such a well designed app - no wonder it is the top 5 app on ROKU.

But during the setup, I struggled with the access to the media files on the NAS
Tried out a few apps from the Roku App Store

HOW DO I access my MEDIA SERVER with the ROKU
#1 ROKSBOX is the best (since I managed to have it working with the NAS - with no additional components running anywhere else. Had to turn my NAS into a web server). Still does not play MPEG2 though.
#2 MYMEDIA works too (but need python running on a PC, not good as my preference is to have it self-contained)
Process is explained here http://rokumm.appspot.com/walkthrough
#3 CHANERU was the easiest
But the only caveat, you need the Chaneru app running on the MAC / PC
(and added the mapped ip address directory of the NAS)
#4 PLEX works for the NAS, but not for SPARC OS (what I have)

ROKSBOX process here
Roksbox tutorial here http://roksbox.com/home/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=106&Itemid=54
 Create your own WebServer
Make sure you name your website/ home page, the same as your folder from NAS where all the media files reside.
Required for running your media files using ROKSBOX or MYMEDIA

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Biswa said...
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