Roku

A month or two ago, Mel and I invested in a Roku box.  It’s a little set-top box that lets us access internet tv stuff.  We bought it primarily to use with Netflix – it makes watching movies instantly from Netflix a snap.  Before Roku, we were awkwardly stretching cables across the living room from the tv to the computer – and then the aspect ratios never seemed to work out for us.  It was just kind of a mess.  Ever since Roku, though, Netflix has been super-easy.

Also, though, Roku lets us access other internet tv stuff that we’ve enjoyed. The easiest way for me to explain it is that it’s sort of like searching through the iTunes stores for free podcasts and videocasts.  It’s a bunch of material that’s only available online, but Roku aggregates it all in one place for us, and helps us find stuff that we wouldn’t have found otherwise.

For example, one of the Roku channels is the Revision3 channel.  We’ve been watching a lot of ROFL when we’ve got a few minutes to kill.  It’s a 15 minute show featuring a bunch of 30 second tidbits of stand-up comedy.  The thing is, it’s not that the content is so phenomenal – but it’s worlds better than just turning the TV on and watching whatever banality happens to be on – which is usually mostly commercials.  At least this way, we know exactly what we’ll be watching.

Anyone else out there use Roku?  What do you think?  What’s your favorite non-Netflix content?

9 comments to Roku

  • Moe

    I don't have a Roku box, but I've had my Mac Mini connected to a TV for a few years now and love it. We use a program called Plex (have also used Boxee) to access media.

    My favorite content comes from PBS, especially Frontline. Vimeo is also excellent for finding visually stunning videos.

  • That would be awesome if we could access PBS. Also- YouTube. Hopefully it expands at some point- but its a snap for what we use it for. Before ROKU, we rarely streamed or did "watch instantly", now I think we do that more than the DVDs.

  • Andrew Guzman

    The thing that sucks about the free content on Roku is that it is super-nerdy for the most part. I love TWiT and Revision3 shows, but I can't imagine having Briana to sit down with me and watch them.

    I really like "The Totally Rad Show" on Revision3 – it's nerdy, but it's not just tech centered like a lot of their other stuff. It's a group of guys that do movie, tv, comic, and video game reviews.

    They have a show called Web Heroes that I think is supposed to be a sitcom or something – I've never actually watched it – but I think it is a show with an actual storyline as opposed to most of the other stuff they have.

    The Digg Reel is a decent collection of all the sort of "hot" youtube videos going around the web over the last week… The host can be a turn off though. It's like an amateur version of America's Funniest Home Videos with a host that tries to be edgy.

    On the TWiT network – Dr. Kiki's Science hour is a decent non-techy show.

    NSFW is pretty funny – it's probably one of those shows you'd want to start from episode one. It's Internet humor for sure, but I've laughed out loud quite a bit at it. It's called NSFW, but the content isn't really all that offensive.

    It looks like the best place to content surf through Roku is probably the Mediafly channel – and they do have some PBS content.

    http://www.mediafly.com/Browse/PBS

    I imagine there is probably plenty content just on Netflix to keep you occupied though. I have so many documentaries and TV shows just lined up in my queue that I can watch anytime. Between that and 10 or so podcasts, I don't touch the TV except for one or two shows that I just have to watch when they air.

  • @Moe – Mac Mini? Plex? Boxee? Sheesh! I don't even know what any of those things are. This post was supposed to show everyone how tech-savvy I am, but now you've made it clear that I'm not at all tech-savvy.

  • @Andy – Thanks for the recommendations – the Roku shows ARE all really nerdy. You're right.

    I wish each of the networks had a channel on Roku where I could watch the shows they're providing for free on their websites anyway. The networks should realize that if I want to stream their shows online, I STILL have to stretch a couple cables across the living room between the computer and the TV and deal with wonky aspect ratio stuff… And that's enough of a turnoff that we don't really do it. I hope the networks are realizing that I'd rather wait two years for their shows to come out on DVD and watch them through netflix than watch live or on their web sites.

  • I've been waiting for Google TV, which is the same idea, an internet link to a TV. Right now I just have my laptop that I connect to a TV and then go on Hulu. Don't need Hulu for John Stewart, which is what I watch most. Spend a lot of time hooking and unhooking cables, which brings be back to Google TV

  • I built a media PC about three years ago, and it's the coolest thing ever. Geeks call them Home Theatre PCs, but that sounds pretentious and I use it for my TV in the master bedroom, so media PC is good enough for me. It's a really fast PC running Windows Media Center.

    The cool stuff about this computer:

    * DVD Player
    * Blu-Ray Player
    * DVR with three tuners, and I have the option of adding a fourth if I wanted. I can record three shows at once, and still watch a fourth.
    * No monthly bills
    * No commercials – I installed a free program called Life Extender, which cuts out all of the commercials. You don't know what you're missing.
    * Netflix movies on demand is integrated with Windows Media Center
    * I have a remote control made by Gyration which is specifically designed for HTPCs – it has all the buttons you need, and is also an 'air mouse'.
    * Because this computer is networked, I can watch any recorded show on any computer in my house.
    * Web content is limitless.

    I integrated this computer in to the remodel of my second floor, so the computer sits in a little alcove by my bed, and the TV is mounted on the wall all by itself, making for a very clean looking installation. No cords draped all over the place.

    If you have enough patience (after reading about how you stripped the paint on your fascia, I know you do), you should seriously think about building one of these. You'll never look back.

  • @David – Google TV sounds pretty great. I'll keep my eyes open for it.

    @InspectorReuben – you've piqued my interest here. That sounds pretty great. I need to figure out a better way to watch TV shows. I'm too cheap to pay for DVR & cable, so my current system involves a healthy amount of illegal downloading. I've got a buddy coming over who knows quite a bit about networking & digital media. We're going to make a plan for my upcoming plan to install new cat 5 and new coax throughout the whole house (well.. probably just the bottom floor since I don't have a great way to string cables from the basement to the upstairs right now….). I'll ask him about some of this stuff. Know of any resources I should check out to make sure I'm getting the latest and greatest in home networking stuff?

  • I can't keep up with the latest and greatest network stuff – it changes way too fast for me. Having said that, I do know that there is such a thing as 'cat 6'. It's faster, backward compatible, sexier, etc.

    To read about media PCs and the like, check out http://thegreenbutton.com/

    btw – I'm cheap like you. I recently cancelled my cable. Love that free HD broadcast.