Monthly Archives: September 2014

Private channel for Roku, Tablets and other devices adds loads of content

Originally published 9/2013, this article has been republished due to repeated questions and the increased interest in Hulu with the Fall TV Schedule launching.

This article is going to focus on accessing the free version of Hulu  at home on TV’s and mobile devices via PlayOn, a multifaceted media server and DMR (Digital Media Renderer) application with many capabilities.

Everybody’s Favorite Next Day Channel
There is not a more popular legal way to watch current TV shows through a computer or mobile device then Hulu. The company which is a joint venture between Disney, Fox and Comcast has millions of users utilizing both the “Freemium” online service and Hulu Plus pay service which was developed as a mobile app for use on tablets phones and select media streaming boxes.

Apples and Apples
There are a few subtle differences between the free version of Hulu when accessed through a computer and Hulu Plus. But one of the obvious differences is that one does not have to pay to access Hulu while using a computer. For 7.99 per month Hulu Plus also provides its users with full seasons of many current shows and even shows long since cancelled along with a wider selection of movies. It’s programming is available on the go through a smart phone or tablet and at home through a streaming devices which include game consoles, Roku products and Apple TV, Fire TV and the Chromecast through wireless devices. Both services allow users to view shows after they air on broadcast television.

It seems that as long as one is anchored to a desktop or even lugging a laptop the company will give you a break, but you pay a monthly “convenience tax” for the ease of portability. Remember when a slim laptop seemed like a portable convenience? This appears to be the unifying theory of the Hulu universe. But like many seemingly absolute theories further research sometimes opens another path.

How can I use the free version of Hulu?

Enter PlayOn.  PlayOn is a media server based app for multiple platforms produced by Media Mall which allows users to access an entire universe of official and third party apps on their televisions and mobile devices. For our full article on PlayOn click here The app requires users to download a simple to install media server program to an internet connected laptop or desktop computer. Once installed one can stream content to many devices including, Roku boxes, Google TV, tablets, phones or even be utilized on dedicated HTPC’s, computers connected to TV’s for home theater entertainment purposes. For a complete listing of compatible devices see  Playon’s official site click here

In order to utilize PlayOn on an HTPC it is helpful to have some sort of media center software such as XBMC or Windows Media Center. The computer must either be wired in to the same router or have a wireless card.

The PlayOn channel for Roku has many options but one of its most popular features is Hulu and like I said, this is the free version that you would otherwise only access via a computer. The reason this works on streaming boxes and mobile devices is that the actual media is being fed to the devices from a computer instead of directly from the internet. Playon is built from Microsoft’s windows explorer so Hulu’s website interacts with the program the same way it would directly accessing from a PC based browser instead of shifting the user to a mobile based web portal. If you are a user who generally utilizes Hulu online to catch up with shows week by week then utilizing Hulu’s Free content via a TV or tablet may be the perfect solution for your media needs. The free offerings include current shows from all major networks excluding CBS, who is not a partner with Hulu. Along with the traditional networks many cable offerings are also available. The app behaves differently depending on what platform you are utilizing it on. For Instance the app/channel for Roku utilizes a side scrolling method similar to many other Roku apps while the apps for IOS and Android devices and  are optimized for a mobile platform. XBMC explores Hulu with a simple to follow list.

Where can I get the App
The PlayOn app is free to download but in order to utilize all of its features you must purchase the program. The company offers numerous special offers including lifetime access keys for $50.00 or less. Free Mobile Apps for phones and tablets are available via iTunes store, Google Play Store as well as the Blackberry  official app store. The PlayOn Roku Channel can be added to your Roku via PlayOn’s own website or by clicking here. Once there, users are linked to Roku’s add on screen and prompted enter a short code.  I personally purchased the program over a year ago and have used it on android tablets and an iPad and a Roku.

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Roku users with Android devices have a new way to watch online video. The latest Firefox build is compatible with the new Firefox Roku channel and will allow users to send video from their devices to the Roku. This is a project long in the making and has been coming together under the radar for a long time. We reported on it in June as seen here. For full directions check out this story from CNET.

Related Stories

Roku Announces Mirroring

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The Kinightwing Web Series /fanfilm a kickstarter funded project from Danny Sheppard and a number of dedicated comic fans and film makers is set to debut on YouTube. The creators have said in interviews that the series will span 5 episodes and be released weekly. If you want to watch the show on television make sure to add the creators YouTube Channel ismahawk. Once you have the channel utilize any streaming device such as a Roku, Apple TV, Fire TV or Chromecast and enjoy. The creators of the show say they are not making any money on the project but hope that it will lead to an official show being picked up by a major producer. If this project works out maybe Sheppard will be the one putting it together one day.

Where can I find the Knightwing web series?

Add ismahawk YouTube Channel Here

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Mirroring and a quad core processor would be a strong start

The Roku 3 debuted in 2013, see our review here to much fanfare. The new box launched the popular new interface and was the fastest Roku model to date. Its CPU was more powerful than any other competitor, which at the time was primarily the third generation Apple TV along with a few poorly performing Google TV based boxes, The Western Digital line of streaming products and of course the Boxee Box. Since it rolled out its new flagship and simplified its product line it has become much more of a household name and vanquished its competitors save Apple. But other companies are eyeing the streamingscape. The emergence of the Google Chromecast gave rise to the Roku Streaming Stick but Roku a new major competitor to tangle with now. The Amazon Fire TV. The Fire TV, see our review here presents a major challenge to Roku for a number of reasons. It’s faster, Amazon has a great deal of goodwill in the marketplace and it has a platform with millions of visitors every day to

Roku came a long way with its easy to use Interface. Is it time to go further?
Roku came a long way with its easy to use Interface. Is it time to go further?

push the product. Today we list some of the Roku 4 features we want to see.

Organizational Method
Roku has a great deal of content channels including 246 movies and TV selections. While its interface allows for users to display 9 selections at a time as well as move and remove channels on the grid it may be time to give users a little organizational choice like folders or bookmarks. It doesn’t have to be something forced on people but a choice. Like an IOS device allow one to create folders and name them. Wouldn’t it be nice to have news, sports and movie apps separated a bit. How about a kids folder full of things like PBS, Nick Reboot, Disney and others. Users with more than 15-20 channels may appreciate the option. The massive choice can almost be paralyzing.

Mirroring On Roku

If you have not heard of Twonky and Trimeplay count yourselves in the majority of streaming fans.

Amazon Fire TV users can mirror content from the last 2 generations of Fire Tablets
Amazon Fire TV users can mirror content from the last 2 generations of Fire Tablets

They are options that allow smart phone and tablet users to send video signals to a Roku but are workarounds. There is not an official Roku answer to Apple’s Airplay. But it’s not just apple anymore. All of its major competitors allow users to send video content to the screen from mobile devices. Google’s Chromecast allows users to mirror their laptops and now select smartphones. Amazon recently touted the new Fire Tablet’s ability to “Fling” content to the Fire TV and other devices, which builds on the HDX’s mirroring. While Roku has an exhaustive number of apps the lack of a mirroring or Airplay option now makes it stand out among its peers in a bad way. It’s time Roku correct this.

New Categories in the Roku channel store

Roku’s channel store is a one of a kind. Organizing nearly 1800 channels is a tall task and as more channels have been unveiled, more and more are starting to arrive that do not fit Roku’s predefined categories. We see new channels every week while preparing the New Channel Reviews that should be placed in say a “Self Help” category, subjects like Business strategy ideas and home organization would fit right in such a category but there isn’t one. 24-7 streaming channels that work like linear networks are beginning to spring up regularly. Maddy G TV, The Doc Box, Hunt Channel, Bloomberg TV, Ebru and others offer continuous streams of content. This makes those channels totally different from the on-demand channels which make up the majority of Roku’s offerings. Continuing to make the channel store easier to use in general will only help Roku and its partners. The more new content users find, the more revenue Roku and their partners make.     

A Roku with a Quad Core Processor

Quad Core processors are the new norm and Roku should make certain that whatever replaces the Roku 3 is armed with one. The Fire TV is not the only streaming device with a quad core processor as many Android based set-top-boxes contain them too. The faster CPU will allow Roku to offer more services like the next category.

Games Worth Playing
Roku has a number of channels/apps in its channel store. Of the 1700 plus 86 are games. The vast majority of them are simplistic time killers, basic scrolling games along with a few ports of classic arcade action like Galaga and Pac-Man and Angry Birds. This is not an inspiring selection when compared to what Amazon offers which is a vast array of both casual games and graphics heavy action. High end games would provide Roku with a new revenue stream that it currently lack. Not that anyone would debate whether to buy a PS4 or a Roku or an Amazon Fire TV for that matter. But given a choice between the Fire TV and Roku 3 it may be a factor.    

Gene Bailey TVGene Baily TV Short inspirational messages from evangelist Gene Bailey. Each segment lasts between 2-6 minutes and covers a life lesson or tale of morality.


Add Channel

Fawsome SportsSports By Fawsome TV
Very LA centric sports clips and updates featuring a heavy dose of Lakers news. There is also a mix of Pro Tips for you which is available on other Roku Channels. Its honestly kind of a patternless mishmash of information.

Add Channel

First Brn Ministries

First Born Ministries
Features a webcast of First Born Ministries

 

Add Channel

Joaquin TradingJoaguin Trading Channel
There is a wealth of information about business and finance contained in this channel from outright lectures supported with power point presentations to documentaries and interviews featuring successful business investors and entrepreneurs. Very extensive collection.
Add Channel

 

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HDMI dongle a solid lower end option

The Streaming Stick is one of many well known Roku models.

Quick history on Roku. The company has been innovating with streaming technology since 2008 when it unveiled a dedicated device allowing users to access the small uninspiring Netflix online catalogue. As much as Netflix has changed since those days so has Roku, which currently offers over 1700 channels and 4 different models in its product line. Its intro model is the $49.99 (HDMI) Streaming stick. Besides being inexpensive, the Stick is portable. The entertainment device can fit in your pocket or in some cases a wallet. Let’s talk the details.

Design
As stated earlier the Streaming stick is compact. While it is larger than a standard flash drive it is narrow as not to cause any problems fitting behind a crowded TV. It is 3.1 inches long, 1.1 inches wide .5 inches thick. Its power cord is a micro USB cord that plugs in to the back of the unit with a standard USB (male end) on the reverse side. This is a simple yet very helpful feature because it means that the device can be powered

The Streaming Stick can fit in tight places and be hidden behind a television.
The Streaming Stick can fit in tight places and be hidden behind a television.

via a USB port and it does not have to be a USB port on the TV. I tried it on the USB port on my TV, the USB port on the Roku 3 as well as a USB port on a PlayStation 3. The device does ship with a power adapter if needed. So what you have in the streaming stick is an entertainment hub that you can travel with by slipping it in a front pocket that will be ready to plug and play when you get settled for the evening.

Features
The Stick like other Rokus features access to the Roku Channel store and its channel lineup which is at 1700 plus and growing every week. Its RF (Radio Frequency) remote will allow the user to control the Roku Streaming Stick whether it is visible to the user or not. This means that the stick can be plugged in behind the television and still interact with the remote. Besides its basic function the remote seems to be designed with new users in mind. It features quick launch buttons for Amazon, Netflix, MGO and Blockbuster (Yes Blockbuster Still Exists…sort of). It greatly increases ease of use by putting two of the most popular streaming services (Amazon and Netflix) literally right at your fingertips. I bought my mother a Roku LT a year or so ago because the remote had quick launch buttons. This saves a lot of explaining which is a big bonus if you are buying this as a gift for a technically challenged person.

Performance
The streaming stick can access any channel (Roku’s word for apps) from the lineup with the exception of some games. Users who have worked with more advanced models will likely notice a slower performance overall than say the Roku3. It takes 3-4 minutes to start the device during rebooting and the initial start up

The Streaming stick lets users connect to all of Roku's popular video apps like Netflix.
The Streaming stick lets users connect to all of Roku’s popular video apps like Netflix.

and 3-4 minutes or more to download the latest firmware. This part of the performance can be affected by the strength of one’s wireless signal. I also found that the navigation could feel muddy at times. This problem is especially present with YouTube where the menu navigation seems to lag behind the actions of the remote. Otherwise the does what it is designed to do. We tested major video heavy apps like Netflix, Plex channels as well as YouTube and Hulu Plus. All of the apps performed well and gave us crisp 1080p audio and video, just not instantly. But as we said at the start this is the introductory model and $50.00 less then the Roku 3.

Great Feature
Though not exclusive to the streaming stick, a time saving feature is the ability to launch YouTube via a computer or wireless device. Once paired, the wireless device or computer can act as a remote launcher for

YouTube is one of many Free channels on current Roku models.
YouTube is one of many Free channels on current Roku models.

the web’s most popular streaming platform as well as Netflix. This is most helpful in the YouTube app where the search feature uses an A-Z hunt and peck line that is in alphabetical order ABCDEFGHI……. This can make searching for something take a very long time even if you are just looking up something along the lines of ice bucket challenge videos. Using the pairing feature users can find and even cue up a video on their computer or smart phone and then launch it to the Streaming Stick. We hope to see more services with this sort of interactivity in the future.

Miscellaneous
Because the Streaming Stick is and HDMI dongle, which essentially means a small piece of all in one hardware users will not have to have or purchase an HDMI cord to use the device. Depending on where you shop that is a savings of $15.00-$60.00. The Roku boxes require an HDMI cord to connect to a TV. The drawback of the Streaming Stick is that

The performance of the Streaming Stick is dependent on a strong Wireless signal.
The performance of the Streaming Stick is dependent on a strong Wireless signal.

it lacks an Ethernet port. Ethernet ports allow one to connect their devices directly to a modem to give the fastest possible internet connection. The only model Roku currently sells that does have the Ethernet port is the Roku three as the Roku 1 and Roku 2 also eschew the hardwired connection in favor of wireless only.

Batteries Included
Roku is kind enough to include two AA batteries for the devices remote. It may sound like a first world problem but I find it quite annoying to get an electronic device that I can not use as soon as I pull it out of the package. So thank you Roku for saving everyone another trip out.

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Sony package has potential to shake up the market

Sony is working on changing the conversation about streaming services vs cable by creating their own cable package online. The company known more for its hardware has been busy lining up deals with major media properties as it works towards offering a package that will include the Viacom family of networks, which includes Nickelodeon and Comedy Central. The service would give users an option to compete with the already established services that monopolize most locales in the US.

Why is the proposed Sony deal important?

As stated above, many people live in Places with only one viable TV option. This gives the provides I. The said area too much leverage over their customer base. If Time Warner Cable or Comcast are the only game in town your choices when you get to a breaking point with the service is give up cable completely or keep it and take the price increases and poor customer service that come with it. Throw a little competition into the mix and maybe things change up. This is no guarantee though. ATT U verse which is available in some areas does not offer a package any more competitive than the cable companies do. DirecTV which competes against cable along with Dish also offer the same sort of introductory prices that cable does to reel in customers and then jacks the prices free a year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Plex Pass which is an incentive based way for Plex fans to support development of the popular media center suite of programs is about to get more expensive. In a blog post as well an email to Plex users that was sent out Monday current Plex Pass members were informed that the service would be getting more expensive for new customers while current customers would be able to keep their current rate. The rates will change as of September 29, 2014.

What Are the New Rates

Cloud Sync is one of a number of features exclusive to Plex Pass members. The service promises more to come.
Cloud Sync is one of a number of features exclusive to Plex Pass members. The service promises more to come.


  • Monthly Plex Pass subscriptions will increase from $3.99 to
    $4.99 per month.
  • Annual Plex Pass subscriptions will increase from $29.99 to
    $39.99 per year.
  • Lifetime Plex Passes will increase from $74.99 to
    $149.99

Better get the Lifetime Price while it lasts
If you have been using Plex Pass or at a monthly rate or thinking of getting in on the program it is decision time. The current cost for a lifetime Plex Pass subscription is $74.99, which costs only 15 dollars more than the new monthly price over a 12 month period but half the cost of a lifetime price would afterwards. While current users will not be hit by the price increase one has to ask, if I have had this service for more than a few years haven’t I already paid for a lifetime pass so far? If this is a service you really enjoy its time to buy and stop renting.

More Feature Coming
Plex is promising to offer more premium services as a result of the new fees and we wonder exactly what could be on the way. Will there be more channels? The app is very much a world on to itself with several media sharing features, TV channel apps, Photo sharing along with the ability to access media from multiple shared servers legally. This will be worth keeping an eye on going forward.

Does Plex Risk upsetting customers?
This is being handled much the same way that Plex handled the change in the pricing of its Roku channel. The Plex Channel for Roku had been free to add to the streaming box, but saw a price increase to $4.99 in order to bring the Roku option in line with all of the Plex apps on other platforms. Like the change in Plex Pass current channel owners were able to keep the channel free of charge. Plex still sits as on of Roku’s most popular and most used channels. 

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Watching TV has transformed over time from something that one does in the living room to something any reasonable person might expect to do anywhere. With online options for TV viewing all over the Internet it can be touch to find out just how to find what you are looking for. To address this The Streaming Advisor provided a resource for all of you that are stuck at work, or have family schedules that prevent you from watching your favorite shows when they air. the Streaming Advisor’s TV Links Page. Take a look at it here.

How can I Watch Fall TV Season Online?

Walking Dead
The TV Links also include links to web based content from The Walking Dead.

The TV Links page which can be accessed at the top of any page on our website connects viewers directly to the web portals to all of their favorite networks, both cable and broadcast and saves you the trouble of navigating through confusing websites in order to watch your favorites shows. We make it simple to access your favorite content quickly. For instance to if one wishes to watch a CBS show going to the website is just the beginning of a search. On the other hand our link takes you to the page on their site for full episodes of their content. See example here.

In some cases depending on which device one is using to access the website, the user may be prompted to download a mobile app in order to utilize their web based service. Often the device will direct the user straight to the appropriate app to use. Users accessing the site by computer and laptop should have no problem at all. The selection will launch in a separate window. We want our readers to be able to watch fall TV season online With TV links. If you can’t be at your TV when it happens live come catch up here at the Streaming Advisor.

Server adds many options popular with XBMC

Originally Published 1/2014

If you own a streaming device or have been considering purchasing one you have probably noticed there are multiple services free and paid to look in to but very few that offer access to recently aired material and even less that provide entertainment from cable channels. PlayOn is a service that allows users to watch TV shows and movies from multiple websites on their televisions through neatly packaged channels.

PlayOn Adds new channels to multiple devices.
PlayOn Adds new channels to multiple devices.

Nearly every TV channel has a website. Whether it is ABC, HBO, ESPN, A&E and everything in between. Each of these websites has video content and often full episodes of popular series, sometimes web exclusives and in other cases a collection of clips and interviews featuring the power players of an individual series. Each of these sites are accessible via a computer and users without PlayOn can bookmark the sites for later viewing, but finding all of the sites that have free video content and collecting them in one place can take a lot of time and energy. That’s where PlayOn comes in.