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Roku Streaming

© March 2010 Anthony Lawrence


We ordered a Roku box last week. If you don't know what that is, it's a little Internet connected box that lets you stream content to your TV. The funny thing about that is that if you had asked me if I wanted something like this two years ago, or five years ago, or indeed even twenty or forty years back, I would have said 'No". I would have even been mildly amused by the very idea of it because we hardly ever watched movies - so why would we want something that brought movies to our TV?

Oh, I don't mean we never watched a movie. Once in a great while we'd venture out to a movie theatre and from time to time we helped make the cable TV industry wealthier by subscribing the HBO and even though we only did that to watch The Sopranos, we'd watch a movie now and then. But we weren't "big on it". Not like my sister, for example, who seems to have seen just about anything and everything you ever heard of. Mention a movie and she has likely seen it. Mention the same movie to us and you might get a blank stare. We just aren't Movie People.

Introducing Hulu

I don't know when I first noticed Hulu - probably not very long back because, well, remember? We aren't Movie People. What brought me to Hulu was a TV show that we wanted to see but missed - I don't remember now what it was, but I found it there and we watched it. The experience wasn't great, a little choppy now and then and with sound lagging behind the video sometimes, but hey, we got to see the show. Better than nothing, right? Right.

The Lending Library

Yeah, I know: video stores have been around a long time. We had a VCR player and even rented a tape or two. But when we moved five years ago, we somehow misplaced or lost the VCR and didn't even notice that it was missing for more than a year - it was that unimportant to us.

We have a community library here. That's great, but the books are mostly fiction and we don't read fiction so that didn't attract our attention. However, there is also a community DVD and VCR tape library. There aren't many tapes (who uses VCR's today?) but just seeing them reminded us of that missing piece of equipment. Hmmm - what happened to that?

Who knows? We never did find it, but it got us thinking about all the community center DVD's sitting there free for the temporary taking. We looked through the shelves and saw a few movies we might want to watch. But - we had no DVD player.

Should we buy one? Given our movie watching habits, it didn't seem to make much sense. Sure, the darn things are dirt cheap now, but we'd probably only use it a few times a year. We hemmed and hawed a bit but finally decided it was cheap enough and I went out and bought one.

Of course we rushed right down and got a few movies, right? No - the player sat unused for a week or more before we picked out something to watch and we were in no rush to go get more movies when we were done. We still were not Movie People.


The problem was that there's a limited selection here. A pretty large selection, but measured against a video store's stock, not much. We just weren't finding enough we wanted to watch.

We knew about Netflix. Our kids and my sister and probably everyone else we know have been long time subscribers. We were not, but then wasn't that because we hadn't owned a DVD player? And now we did own one, so..

So we signed up for Netflix - just the bottom tier, one DVD at a time plan. After all, we'e not Movie People.

But something funny happened. We found we really liked watching the Netflix stuff and that made us start getting more movies from the library here - we were slowly becoming Movie People.


It was getting harder to find movies we wanted to see. Our community adds new movies regularly, but we were watching them too quickly and while Netflix is quick, we started finding ourselves movieless. We couldn't have that, could we? I noticed the Roku link on Netfilx and saw the solution.

The box arrived yesterday. It took just a few minutes to hook it up, configure it to connect to my wireless router, activate it for Netfilx and minutes later we watched our first streamed video (we watched the first episode of "Soap", an ancient TV show we had enjoyed back in the 70's).

Roku doesn't download anything - this is streaming, but we saw no jitter and no video lag. Netflix doesn't have everything available for streaming, but they do have many thousands of movies and TV shows and you can stream as many as you want - none of that activity affects your normal Netflix subscription. You just access Netflix from your computer as you normally would and add movies to your "Instant" queue. Seconds later, they are available to your Roku box.

Roku does have some other "channels" available but we haven't looked into that yet. There's no extra subscription costs; you buy the Roku outright and that's the end of that.

I've been mentioning this to people we know who have Netflix and I have been surprised by how many have never heard of it. We think it's great and highly recommend it.

Got something to add? Send me email.

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Sat Mar 6 19:06:14 2010: 8181   BigDumbDinosaur


Call me a stick in the mud, curmudgeonly old dinosaur, or worse, but I just can't see any value in watching most movies. I've have so many opportunities to do interesting stuff over the years, not to mention days past when I used to do potentially dangerous things with automobiles, I find so-called action films are about as interesting as last year's news. Love stories? I'm not into other people's drama -- real life isn't that complicated. Documentaries? Mostly someone's political viewpoint disguised as "information." Comedy? I can see plenty of that by watching what goes on in Washington DC. <Grin>

I don't need escapism, make-believe and vicarious thrills in my life, ergo I fail to see any value in subscribing to "premium" TV channels or other entertainment services, much less actually going to a theater and putting up with obnoxious movie-goers as they cough, sneeze, talk, and answer their cell phones. I have more than enough to occupy my time, and seriously doubt I will run out of things to do before Pac-Man finally takes me out -- assuming he gets me before something else does.

If I'm not busy in my office slapping around recalcitrant computers, I'm either in my electronics shop tinkering with some gadget (How about a scratch-designed single-board computer?), my metalworking shop tinkering with my large-scale locomotive, or at our large-scale model railroad club playing with trains and hauling passengers (kids love it, naturally), and enjoying the company of other railroad enthusiasts.

Little time here for staring at a "box with a window in it," as Howard Hughes was reportedly to have described a TV set the first time he saw one. In any case, watching TV is bad for you: you bulk up in the posterior due to eating too much junk food and sitting around doing nothing, muscle atrophy sets in everywhere except in the hand used to operate the remote, and your cranium gets contaminated with mostly useless drivel. <Grin>

Sat Mar 6 19:12:18 2010: 8182   TonyLawrence


Ayup. We used to feel the same way.

Maybe part of it is that I find it harder to read now. I had to give up contact lenses a few years back - I could see distance fine, but reading was very uncomfortable. Even with glasses, I now find I can't read for as many hours as I used to.

Maybe part of it that we're just getting old and tired. Just working is more than enough mental challenge - I like mindless escapism now :-)

Or.. who knows? It doesn't matter - we've become Netflix/Roku Movie People ad that's that!

Sat Mar 6 19:31:43 2010: 8183   MarkBelanger


Roku seems to be very specific about what you are able to watch (netflix, other
Roku "channels"). I would like a device like this that would stream content fro
m my computer to the TV. Meaning I could play a DVD, a Hulu show, YouTube video
, any video file on the computer and stream it to the TV. Roku doesn't to that

I've been looking at VGA to TV converters with the intent of rolling my own devi
ce for watching computer content on the TV using my laptop. Hook up the VGA->RC
A converter, fire up whatever in full screen mode and watch. No remote and a bi
t of a hassle but seems a reasonable avenue. A big advantage is that I wouldn't
have to record as much stuff on the DVR since so many shows are available on-li
ne these days. At $32.99, (link) this device is what I
'm considering.

Sat Mar 6 20:12:32 2010: 8184   TonyLawrence


It's not so much that Roku doesn't do it, it's that THEY don't do it.

Apparently it's very easy for anyone to add a Roku "channel", but so far very few have. It's odd, because as Netflix shows, nothing says it has to be free. Hulu could charge for giving you Roku access (and if you Google "Hulu Roku" you'll find that they have at least considered it).

Sat Mar 6 20:57:13 2010: 8185   TonyLawrence


Roku Development info is at (link)

Sun Mar 7 00:01:49 2010: 8188   BigDumbDinosaur


Maybe part of it is that I find it harder to read now. I had to give up contact lenses a few years back - I could see distance fine, but reading was very uncomfortable. Even with glasses, I now find I can't read for as many hours as I used to.

Ditto here, although I've never worn contacts. Either the print is getting smaller in everything or my eyes are going south on me. Must be the former. <Grin>

Maybe part of it that we're just getting old and tired.

Ah, c'mon, Tony. You're not old -- not as old as me, anyhow. It's only a number...it is, isn't it?

Just working is more than enough mental challenge - I like mindless escapism now :-)

My playing with large-scale trains is as close to escapism as I get these days. Up until 1990, I was heavily involved in semi-professional drag racing, and careening down the track at 160+ MPH gave me all the escape I needed. Around then, increasing costs along with an increase in my workload, convinced me to park the car and find something else to do.

Mon Mar 8 18:07:42 2010: 8193   Unprivilegeduser


I helped set up Ruko March 5 for a customer with cable internet and a wireless router. Setup proceeded successfully. Customer wanted movie service from Amazon and Netflix. Both services appeared after entering the passwords on the respective web page on the customer's computer browser.

The Ruko remote's beam was very directional. I may have been to close the the Ruko box. Button pushes required that I point to the box and not to the TV. Learning how to input text to the setup was a learning experience.(up, down, down,enter, go next page or form...)

Customer wanted Amazon because she gets free shipping (I let that go. ;-)) and she liked the movie library selection. Her first movie cost $4.99 and she was happy. I was happy.

Me, I rent Netfix dvd's from a Redbox vending machine at our grocery store. $1 for a 24-hour period, more if you do not return it by 9 p.m. the next day. The Redbox is "dummy" proof.

Mon Mar 8 21:10:06 2010: 8194   MikeHostetler


We have a Wii, which fairly painlessly hooks to your wireless network. You can then download the "Internet Channel" and, with it's Opera browser, surf the web. It does a real good job with YouTube. Hulu doesn't without some hacking, because Adobe won't upgrade Flash on embedded browsers and Hulu requires a newer version. You can get some third-party Windows-only tools for that. For me, I'm waiting for it.

Soon you can do Netflix streaming on the Wii.


You have to get a free DVD for it from Netflix -- that must be how they are getting around those dumb jerks at Adobe. We aren't planning on getting it, though -- we have a DVR.

Oh, and you can play games on the Wii -- did you know that? ;)

Mon Mar 8 21:33:30 2010: 8195   TonyLawrence


Oh, and you can play games on the Wii -- did you know that? ;)


Yes, I knew that. The only games we play are Scrabble and Poker :-)

Mon Mar 8 22:15:23 2010: 8196   TonyLawrence


If this is kept up to date, it could be very useful for Netflix subscribers: (link)

Mon Mar 8 23:03:39 2010: 8197   TonyLawrence


We've been watching old Columbo episodes from Netflix.

We have a bunch of movies picked out too, but we have yet to watch one :-)

Tue Mar 9 19:45:50 2010: 8201   TonyLawrence


Speaking of this kind of thing, (link) is software that lets you send stuff from your Mac to a UpNP media device (apparently Roku is not, btw).

They also have an inexpensive TV tuner Mac or PC (link)

Tue Mar 9 20:44:07 2010: 8202   TonyLawrence


Roku Channels also include Twit.tv which is Leo Laporte. Call me crazy, but I like Leo and am very happy to have this. Of course I can only watch it if my wife is doing something else :-)

Thu Mar 18 13:36:22 2010: 8232   Jeff


Be concerned about Roku. They have a history of creating great products, and then abondoning them and their customers. See Roku M500, Soundbridge, etc and the long liine of unhappy customers and consumer complaints. They even dropped their support number for these products, even though they can still be found for sale in the store.

Nexflix, on the other hand, is a great company, and the ultimate netflix viewing machine is a TiVo box. Wish netflix made all their movies availble for streaming, but understand the copyright restrictions. Along with netflix, and reagular TiVo you get Amazon movies, and youtube (plus a few other similar services that escapes me as I type). And TiVo has a history of product improvment, and great customer service. Send the Roku back and put the money toward a TiVo

Thu Mar 18 13:39:45 2010: 8233   Jeff


Almost forgot best part. You can rip and watch your DVD's, computer videos, and your video camera recordings over Tivo also.

Thu Mar 18 13:45:12 2010: 8234   TonyLawrence


Tivo is too much money.

If the Roku lasts a few years, I'm happy with it. I suspect we are on the edge of major changes in this whole space - I don't want to throw a lot of money into a volatile area like this.

Fri Mar 26 16:24:07 2010: 8278   GagetGuy



I'm the kind of guy that loves to watch movies old and new from drama to the clasics to slapstick comedy.
I have a very basic netflix account (one at a time) so when I found out you can stream some movies to my tv I had to go for it. Imagine watching movies as well as some of the old time tv shows, ones that I thought I would never see again right to my tv at any time. But if that wasn't enought along with the Roku and because I have a netflix account I am able to get Pandora.
Pandora is a music station that plays almost any kind of music or any group you choose; for me that was the clincher.

I for am glad I bought a Roku.

I can't wait until Hulu joins Roku......someday

Wed Apr 7 12:35:28 2010: 8379   TonyLawrence


It is all going to change, though. For example, see (link)
Is your tv running Linux? (yet)

Sony is making TV's with Linux controlling them. Yes, you CAN login and do some pretty cool stuff, but as the author notes "It just makes you wonder why they don't make their tv's do this by default"

Tue Sep 21 20:50:30 2010: 8987   anonymous


The last post was April 7 and it's September now. Just got my Roku; luv it so far...BUT what I'd like to do is sit in my big brown chair with my laptop and find, say, ESPN 360 and stream it thru Roku to my big TV. Any word on that happening yet?

Tue Sep 21 21:40:51 2010: 8988   TonyLawrence


It's all coming to new TV soon enough..

Sat Oct 9 09:32:51 2010: 9037   TonyLawrence


I see the Roku is now $59.5 - no doubt because Netflix streaming (and more) is built into new TV's.

Hmmm. If Roku goes belly up, we'd be almost forced into buying a new TV because watching Netflix through Roku has become very important to us.

Fri Oct 15 15:05:42 2010: 9043   TonyLawrence


Hulu is coming to Roku: (link)

Mon Oct 1 12:49:22 2012: 11354   TonyLawrence


If you have Netflix streaming, you'll love this:


It's $3.99 (one time, not per month), has a much better interface than Netflix.. well worth it! Let's you do things like get a full list of movies an actor is in without going to your computer, let's you block genre's you don't want to see and more.

Mon Oct 1 13:26:18 2012: 11355   Mark


Thanks for the tip on the Netflix browser. We have been totally enjoying the Roku - it is a great device, cheap, and works well. I have given up my cable TV and now use only broadcast TV(which is mostly HD and digital), and the Roku. In addition to NetFlix, we are using 2 pay-per-view services - Amazon and Vudu(which was just recently added). Both are good for the latest releases - just watched The Avengers which was outstanding if you like superhero movies.

Mon Oct 1 13:28:57 2012: 11356   TonyLawrence


We're still paying Verizon.. but we haven't yet bought an HDTV, either and can't give them up until we know we can get good HD reception with an antenna.

Mon Oct 1 13:44:43 2012: 11357   MikeHostetler


Leave it to Tony to update a 2-yr old post!

Since I commented on this post, we got a Roku and couldn't be happier. Much better than streaming over the Wii -- more options to chose from.

We also have Amazon Prime and watch some videos through that. I've been toying with canceling Netflix because Prime's catalog is getting better. I also installed Vudu and watched some sample (free) vides. Very impressive -- nice interface and the movies don't lag (an occasional problem for me. Yes, I have the cheapest cable modem service I could find).

I'll have to try Instant Watcher on the Roku. They also have a free Android app (and, I assume, iOS). I wished they had samples of the screenshots. Can you watch the Netflix videos from the IW channel?

I also should mention Plex: (link) . I used Plex to watch YouTube videos through the Roku. The only system I could find. Plex based on XBMC -- you can install Plex Server on a local machine and watch videos, have music, etc streamed from your machine to your Roku. I've tested it, but don't really do that.

Mon Oct 1 13:56:13 2012: 11358   TonyLawrence


No, you don't watch them in IW, but you can add them to the Instant Queue and remain in IW or go directly to Netflix when examining a show in IW.

Mon Oct 1 16:45:06 2012: 11361   BigDumbDinosaur


Call me a stick in the mud, curmudgeonly old dinosaur, or worse, but I just can't see any value in watching most movies.

I posted that comment 2-1/2 years ago in response to the original article. Nothing's changed for me. I still have basic TV service, which is for my wife's benefit. I've got far too many other things to monkey with to be squatting in front of a TV like some sort of flatulent toad. :-)


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