Roku recommendations
December 27, 2011 11:59 AM   Subscribe

Help me get the most out of my new Roku.

So, I got a Roku 2 xd for Christmas, and have been enjoying Netflix streaming movies immensely. What else should I know about?

I've mined the archives for hints and tips, and have added a couple of private channels. I understand that some folks dont think Hulu Plus is worth the extra cost. What is worth extra? What private channels must I add? Any other hacks I should know about?
posted by MrMoonPie to Computers & Internet (13 answers total) 43 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I'll be watching this thread. Got one myself. I've added most of these private channels: Nowhereman.

I haven't found anything that streams from a PC shared. I've tried about all of them. The best one so far was playon, but its a paid service.
posted by bleucube at 12:04 PM on December 27, 2011

If you have HBO, or know someone who does, or can borrow a login from someone who does, you can use HBO Go on the Roku to watch a ton of HBO shows and movies commercial-free.

There are apps for the Iphone (and probably Android) that let you use your phone as a Roku remote even if the phone doesn't have an IR port—the button presses get transmitted over the network (the phone and Roku have to be on the same subnet, usually via Wifi, for this to work). The Roku remotes can sometimes stop working reliably after a while so this comes in handy.
posted by enn at 12:07 PM on December 27, 2011

In order to "stream" off your computer, you need to buy Rocksbox and run a webserver on the computer.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 12:24 PM on December 27, 2011

Best answer: Do you have cable/satellite or over-the-air channels? If you do, then Hulu Plus isn't worth it.
I do not get any TV channels, so I pay for Hulu Plus to watch recent network/cable programming. It is just barely worth it. Hulu Plus on the Roku is buggy. The layout is ugly. I generally hate Hulu Plus, but the content is worth the bugs to me. Hulu Plus also has some weird deep pockets of content, like the Criterion Collection and some obscure British TV shows. It's hit and miss. But between Hulu Plus and Netflix, I can catch up with lots of TV shows from the pilot episode to the most recent episode, and I love that.

I have not paid for Amazon Prime, but I do use Amazon Video through the Roku. I generally buy a TV Pass for shows that are not covered by Hulu Plus, and they're available the day after airing (like on Hulu Plus). They're still available on Amazon during the months when the season ended but before the DVD set is available. I like that a lot! I can also rent movies on Amazon. Most of what I want to watch on Amazon is not free if you get Prime, so I have not bothered to upgrade to Amazon Prime.

I don't have much of a house stereo system, so I use Roku to listen to things while I am working around the house. Pandora is great, obviously. I use TuneIn to listen to radio stations, both local and not local. (It can be handy to find radio stations in nearby cities that are broadcasting my local sports teams when there's a local blackout for whatever reason). I have experimented with different Roku options for listening to podcasts, though I haven't found anything that syncs with my iTunes. MediaFly isn't terrible.

I've watched some of the aggregated news programs on Roku Newscaster, but I haven't integrated that into my daily life. I've tried some of the other film channels, like Crackle or Epix, but there isn't a ton of content there, so I haven't spent a lot of time on them.

I do love my Roku (which is just the Roku XD, last year's model) and I use it almost daily, but I use it lieu of cable/satellite/over-the-air channels and in lieu of a conventional stereo system with a radio.
posted by aabbbiee at 12:42 PM on December 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

Years ago I had an older audio-only Roku that I set up to stream my music collection via an NSLU2 and external hard drive. It was a nice step up from searching for CDs or listening to music on a laptop. You could do pretty much the same thing with a computer that you left on all the time as a server, or I reckon there is a more modern network-attached storage device that will run suitable server software.
posted by exogenous at 12:49 PM on December 27, 2011

There's a channel called Instant Watch Browser that provides a much more nuanced browsing interface for the Netflix instant catalog. You can see the entire catalog by subcategories (and sub subcategories etc) and in a few other ways like by year. You can't actually watch anything on it; you just use it to add things to your queue and then have to switch to actual Netlix to watch things. But it's much better than the official channel for poking around for stuff to watch. It's a few dollars to add but just a one time charge. If you start feeling frustrated with the discovery process on Netflix it might be worth it.
posted by yarrow at 1:08 PM on December 27, 2011 is a terrific website which makes it possible to easily browse movies in netflix instant streaming.
posted by I'm Brian and so's my wife! at 1:29 PM on December 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

Pandora for music. They a slick roku channel.
posted by cosmicbandito at 2:05 PM on December 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

I highly recommend roksbox. It costs $15 to register, but lets you play music and videos from a home server. I found it fairly easy to setup the webserver with their instructions.

For music, I use pandora, the somaFM station and the shoutcast channel.

Nowhereman does get you a lot of channels, but I hardly ever watch any of them.

A big surprise for me was the crackle channel. There's a lot of content there, although it does have commercials.

I still don't have a solution for playing youtube on roku, if anyone does have one, please share. Although I have most of these features on my new smartTV, I still use my roku because I like the interface better (even though smartTV has a youtube channel).
posted by kookywon at 2:55 PM on December 27, 2011

I like Plex a lot better than Roksbox or the other streaming solutions. It was super easy to setup and offers a nice graphical web interface to configure things. Plus it grabs metadata automatically and it's updated fairly frequently and free.
posted by reddot at 5:00 PM on December 27, 2011

I've got the same hardware - Roku 2 XD - and Plex. Plex has about a 10% success rate at streaming anything at all from my computer; WHEN it works, it is picky as hell (but since it works so rarely, I can't tell if it's format issues, or just crankiness).

For a few days we lost internet, and with it lost Plex' ability to contact my computer, so I'm guessing Plex actually streams content up from the computer to an outside source, then back to the Roku. Or something. Maybe.

It works fairly well with my roommate's Netflix subscription. That's all I can say good about it. Sigh.
posted by IAmBroom at 11:11 PM on December 27, 2011

Hi, MrMoonPie. I'm watching Star Blazers on Netflix instant as I type this. Heh.

Wether4us is kinda cool, especially if you set it up to be your screensaver.

If you want to peek under the covers a bit you can set up the speed test channel:

Also, I've used the directions on the following page to get access to the debug menus (controlling bit rate, etc) on my Roku 2, even though it was apparently written for an earlier generation of hardware:

As for other video content, we really haven't found anything that holds a candle to Netflix, but then again I'm too ornery to pay for the privilege of watching commercials on Hulu Plus.
posted by NortonDC at 7:51 PM on December 28, 2011

Response by poster: In the end, Roku has turned out to be a great way to watch Netflix. It's OK for checking the weather, and Pandora is nice and there's lots of porn via Nowhereman, but it's the Netflix interface that makes it worthwhile--we haven't found other channels that would make a purchase justifiable. But the Netflix accessibility is so great that we're considering getting a second Roku for our other TV.
posted by MrMoonPie at 6:48 AM on January 30, 2012

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