Posts on the Roku line of products

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 In what can only be described as a Halloween gift Roku has rolled out and  FilmOn channel for Roku in the streaming channels store. The channel FOTV mirrors what was found on the private FilmOn channe. The private channel stopped working very recently, apparently this was because the channel was being added to the official streaming channel store.

 The new channel  is ad supported and  gives users access to both live in on-demand content .  Each category in the live TV section (43 total) is broken up into an easy to navigate grid system this often includes both the title of each channel and a description of the content available on each of them. There are 16 on-demand channels which include categories like shorts, documentary, music and comedy.  Each section is laid out like many traditional Roku channels featuring cover art on a carousel styled selector.

“The FOTV Channel brings a rich library of on-demand and live content to Roku users,” said Alki David, Founder and CEO of FOTV Media Networks Inc. “By partnering with Roku, we’re able to extend the potential reach of our ad supported programming, which includes hundreds of channels across sports, news, movies, and music, as well as our patented hologram content to millions of Roku devices.”

 The channel also includes the ability of film on subscribers to sign in and access more content. This can be found by pressing the start button on the Roku remote which will also bring up a search menu.

The FOTV channel will be available on Roku streaming players, the Roku Streaming Stick and Roku TV models. The FOTV application is also available on iOS and Android devices, and is preloaded on every PC made by Lenovo. Pay-TV subscribers can access additional live Pay TV channels from this app when they are logged into the channel on Roku.

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The Roku Express line is pocket sized.

The upcoming Roku Express could be an incredible value proposition for people looking to get into streaming or just looking to save some money on extra devices for travel or additional TVs.. By offering a $29.00 1080p streaming device with a remote and an HDMI cord included the device. Now unlike some of the companies more advanced models, the device is not a quad-core streamer. The new model is $20.00 less than the quad-core stick. For those looking to convert a non-HDTV into a smart TV, the Roku Express +the price is a little higher at $39.00. The plus of the device is that it includes a port for AV cables while the lesser priced model does not. For HD quality streaming though the Express almost can’t be beaten on price.

Compared to Chromecast and Fire TV Stick

Chromecast better watch out if FIre TV stick gets the same functionality.
The Fire TV Stick is the current low budget champ.

I have long thought that despite how very handy the Chromecast is, the lack of a remote and the fact that users are limited to whatever apps are downloaded onto a mobile device as a major problem, mush less the lack of an actual launch screen or menu. So from a usability standpoint, the Express wins out big time. Amazon’s recently announced Fire TV Stick update  for $40.00 features a quad-core processor, voice-enabled remote and Alexa should prove to be a more serious competitor. The Roku Express does not feature a voice remote, though the Roku smartphone app does allow for voice capability.  

Only available at Walmart
This is not a commercial for Walmart it is an acknowledgement. Walmart will be the exclusive home of the lowest cost device. Roku obviously has a very targeted campaign in mind for the bargain streamer.  We have to wonder if consumers will see the price slashed as a black Friday deal. Imagine buying an HD quality streamer and HDMI cord for $10.00-$15.00.

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Windows 10 is rife with problems for mirroring reverting to Windows 8.1 is you best option

Are you having trouble using mirroring on Roku or the Fire TV or any other supposed Miracast receiver since you upgrade to Windows 10? You are not alone. See this post from the Roku Forum here. Amazon Fire TV users have had problems too. This is a post from Amazon’s Forum.

Why are there problems mirroring on Windows 10?

Because the folks at Microsoft and the folks who developed Mirracast or WiDi and the teams at Roku,Amazon and

The Roku Stick can mirror Windows 8.1 but struggles to work with Windows 10.
The Roku Stick can mirror Windows 8.1 but struggles to work with Windows 10.

various TV manufacturers do not work together and test everything before various programs and operating systems are updated. Despite the different names, the two standards are actually just forks of each other. For more info on this see here. The reason it happened is that Wi-Fi Direct and WiDi was never adopted as the full industry standard so there was no motivation to make sure that it would still work once Windows 10 was launched.

There is good news and there is bad news. The bad news is that despite a number of how to’s that you may run across, explaining the simple procedure for mirroring there are some real problems with mirroring with Windows 10. I have been looking into this for quite some time and for the most part it appears that once you have Windows 10 there are a couple of options to fix the issue.

Despite what you might read on message boards, the easiest way to actually fix mirroring on Windows 10 is to ditch Windows 10. There are a few ways to do this. Because these are not my recommendations. I am going to refer you to the Microsoft page that explains the methods for reverting back to Windows 8.1 from Windows 10.  So, unfortunately, there is no easy way to enable mirroring on Windows 10. If mirroring is important to you check out the page.

See the Microsoft support page here.

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

With the new Roku Stick on the shelves, the previous generation Roku Stick is on sale wherever supplies last. So you may be tempted to pick it up. Should I buy the old Roku Stick since its cheaper? At this point, it would be a tremendous deal for sure. And five months ago a sale on it would have been considered a can’t miss purchase by many.

Why Is it Worth Buying?
The original HDMI stick is a capable device. Its speed is comparable with the Roku 1, which is still sold at regular price. It is a better value than the Chromecast by far and has all of the features of any other Roku device on the market.

Why you should skip it
The previous Roku Stick is about 2-year-old technology. Its performance was substantially slower than the Roku 2,3 and 4. And now with a quad core model out it is more than obsolete. You can always find someone who says they have had one for some time and that it works “fine” for them but I have worked with about 100 streaming devices at this point and can say that the first HDMI streaming stick, while a solid product does leave room for improvement.

Is the New Stick Better?
Yes. Without a doubt. The New Roku Stick is faster than even the Roku 3. It breezes through high demand apps and launches quickly and smoothly. The controls are snappy and to top it all off it allows for private listening through the app if that does it for you. I have a feeling eventually every device will allow the listening option in that fashion, but for now, it is a perk. The new stick is smaller too.

New hardware means better support in the future
Every product is eventually left behind but buying the latest ensures that it won’t be the fist thing dropped from support and updates. Roku has been great about retrofitting older models over the years but longtime users should remember how long it took to get YouTube on on older models, or the current interface, mirroring etc. By choosing old eqipment to save 5-10 bucks you really may miss out. This isn’t like buying last year’s Power Book.

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Step by step guide to getting your Roku ready to stream

Roku uses a simple grid to organize channels.

If you received a Roku as a gift you now have yourself a great little computer. While this is not a computer in a traditional sense it is, in fact, a computer with Wi-Fi and or Ethernet connections and the ability to access the Internet in order to provide you with content. Unfortunately, Roku does not provide very much set up material to get you started.  Setting it up is relatively easy and can be done in just a few minutes if you have the right equipment and knowledge. Read on to learn how to set this new device up. Enjoy our guide on How To Set Up A Roku. See video at the bottom for further explanation. 

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Roku’s new streaming stick, which is expected to hit stores April 20, is a powerful update to their first HDMI streaming stick which launched in 2014. The product is actually Roku’s third streaming stick. The first one relied on an MHL port for power and deliver audio and video but was most likely ahead of its time as many TV’s did not have MHL ports at the time. The new model like its predecessor relies on HDMI and is powered via a 1.5 USB power adapter. It can be

The new Roku Streaming Stick is smaller and faster than its predecessor.
The new Roku Streaming Stick is smaller and faster than its predecessor.

either used with the included outlet adapter or plugged into an available USB port. I’ve always enjoyed Roku’s products but had not used one regularly in the past month while working with a number of other products. While it does not deliver 4K resolution like the flagship Roku 4 the new Roku Streaming Stick reminded me why I have so often recommended products from this company to family and friends. Boasting more speed than any of its main competition in the (dongle) category and featuring Roku’s latest software OS 7.1.0, the pinky sized dongle packs quite a punch.

What do you get in the box
The new Roku Streaming Stick ships with the unit (of course) a 1.5 USB cord, an adapter plug a remote and batteries for the remote. The item does not come with an HDMI cord but one is not needed because the unit itself plugs directly into an HDMI port. There is also a very basic set up pamphlet that explains the very basic steps of plugging it in and such.

Roku Remote Cropped
Roku provides a mobile app as a supplement to its controller.

The Remote
The remote for the new Roku Streaming stick is a major upgrade from the remote available with the last one. While similar in size and feel to the last one and including quick launch buttons for Netflix, Sling TV, Amazon and Google Play (Units at Walmart will feature Vudu instead of Google Play). The big differentiator in the remote though is that it is Wifi based instead of IR based. That means that users do not have to have a line of sight to effectively use the device. This is helpful considering the likelihood that the dongle will not be visible during use. This feature had been reserved for the Roku 3 and 4. Will it become the new standard? There are the typical minimal buttons Home, Back Directional button, the “OK” button is in the center of the directional buttons like other smaller Roku remotes. There is also a Play/Pause button forward and backward scrubbing a 10-second replay button and asterisk button used for numerous settings changes inside and out of channels.

New To The Quad Core Streaming Stick
Many Roku reviews focus on the basics of what a Roku is in its essence and while we covered the interface and other features for those unfamiliar with the product the question people are going to want to know is how is it different/better than the last one. Is it worth the upgrade?

Speed and performance
This is where the new Roku Streaming Stick really outshines its predecessor. Roku says that the quad-core processor is 8 times faster than the CPU in the last model. I cannot confirm this for certain but can say that

The Plex App lads great on the New Roku Streaming Stick.
The Plex App loads great on the New Roku Streaming Stick.

there is a noticeable difference between the speed of the new model and the former. Something I check immediately when to test performance is Plex. This is because Plex has applications that rely on accessing separate servers. The streaming stick found the Plex server on my laptop immediately. I was able to launch video from the Plex CBS channel and catch the latest episode of Supergirl with no buffering and an almost instant launch. Anything that can render Plex as though it were streaming directly from an app passes my test. Menus and icons loaded quickly in all of the apps I tried. One exception was YouTube which seemed to lag. Video loaded fine but navigation felt a little sticky.

The Streaming Stick is small and skinny like a model at a fancy New York fashion show. This version is back in black eschewing the gaudy purple of the last edition. Roku managed to give the new model an even more narrow footprint than the last one. The color should help shoppers easily differentiate between the new and old model and avoid the kind of confusion that often accompanies a new Roku product launch like the brand new Roku 3m which replaced the Roku 3. Its most distinguishable difference on the surface was a small

Hulu Plus Is a great app for TV lovers who want to keep up with current shows at a nominal price.
Hulu is a great app for TV lovers who want to keep up with current shows at a nominal price.

microphone on the controller. This meant that shoppers at retailers like Walmart could easily purchase the old model expecting non-included features.

Exclusive App Feature (private listening)
While the controller for the new Roku Streaming Stick may, in fact, feature the higher end wifi connectivity of the 3 and 4 it does not feature a headphone jack. But private listening is still available to users as long as they have an IOS, Android or Windows device and the latest Roku mobile app. At the time of this writing, the app-based private listening feature is exclusive to the new streaming stick, though I can’t imagine that staying the case. The mobile app also allows users to utilize voice search (also not on the remote) and add a keyboard if needed.

Roku Basics
Roku has a number of Hallmarks on all of its models that are expected by those who have been using its products for years now. But if you are new to the Roku world there are some great features you should learn a bit about.

Helpful Features (found on all Roku models)

My Feed
My Feed is a feature that allows users to cue up titles that Roku will track. It was introduced originally as a

Roku uses a simple grid to organize channels.
Roku uses a simple grid to organize channels.

movie tool but has been expanded to feature TV shows also. This great for fans who can never remember when something is coming back like Game of Thrones or Firefly….episode 15 has to be right around the corner right?

The Quad Core Streaming Stick utilizes the standard grid-based interface that has been with Roku since the introduction of the Roku 3 in 2013. It displays 3 Channels/apps from left to right and nine overall in a 3×3 styled grid. A quick tap of the home button will

My Feed helps users keep up with movies and shows they are interested in.
My Feed helps users keep up with movies and shows they are interested in.

bring you to Roku’s home screen where users will be able to zip in and out of the search feature, key controls and settings, browse the company’s streaming store (app store) check out news from AOL On, peruse movies and TV shows from Roku’s new video partner. Fandango, which bought out M-GO earlier this year.

Often imitated but never replicated Roku’s cross-platform search allows users to search multiple services for a given title, director or even find apps if you lose track of them or want to know if they are available. This is a helpful feature because it allows users to find content without searching individual apps and is especially helpful when considering purchasing content because users will see how the prices stack up amongst many choices.

Rokus cross-platform search has been a longtime favorite feature.
Rokus cross-platform search has been a longtime favorite feature.

Setting up a Roku is rather simple. It is essentially plug and play if you already have a Roku account set up. As Roku says you will need a Credit card to get started. The company does not charge you but you have to register with one in order get started. Users can remove the card later if they choose to. You may also need a computer or wireless device. to link the Roku with certain apps or register the device. See this video for more on setting up the Streaming stick here.

Very important note: Streaming requires a broadband or high-speed internet connection and the Roku streaming stick requires wireless connectivity. You will need 15-20 megabits per second for a solid streaming experience.

I wish it had;

Some sort of HDMI adapter that would allow users to change the angle of the device in order to help it fit into tight spaces. Something like that can be purchased but inclusion would have been thoughtful.

A more detailed instruction book. While Roku is a relatively easy product to set up compared to a Raspberry Pi or even a basic Android box more instructions would be helpful for those just starting out.

A way to set up more of the premium apps without using a separate device. Again this is not a problem for a techie like myself but the setup requires users to log into websites, type in codes and other steps the first time around that might cause someone without a good comfort level problems. Roku though is not unique in this. It is one of the challenges of any set-top device. But if you give one as a gift consider setting it up for the person if they are computer phobic.

Overall the new Roku Stick is a very impressive product that should work out well for anyone looking to get into the streaming game.

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Cast videos from websites to the Roku.

Are there websites that you wish had Roku channels? The Roku family of products has thousands of apps and in the case of the Roku 3, 4 and HDMI streaming stick the ability to mirror some windows computers and Android phones. Roku’s can also launch a couple of apps Netflix and YouTube directly from their websites or from mobile apps. There is a private channel and Google Chrome extension for Roku that will allow users to cast videos from websites in the Google Chrome browser directly to the Roku. This will allow the device to support video from sources that don’t or may not ever have an official Roku channel. And it does so with a clear direct stream that does not require the Roku to mirror anything. On the other hand, there are any number of websites that are not represented via apps. The extension struggles with some sites including Hulu and CBS but there are already apps for it of course. Learn how to add Roku Cast here.

CBS All Access is a substantial offering as a streaming service providing access to CBS programming from throughout its daily schedule on-demand as well as a live streaming feed of local stations in over 60% of the US market on mobile and set-top devices. All of that is available along with a large library of past shows for $5.99 (plus tax) per month. But what if you just want to watch  one show. On a recent visit to the Apple store I struck up a conversation with an associate regarding salesNew PlayOn Channels figures for the Apple TV at that location (they appear strong btw). She has an Apple TV but said she wished she could watch Super Girl and that it is not available as part of the CBS app on her phone for AirPlay. She was unaware of Plex and for that matter PlayOn. With both Plex and PlayOn users can watch Super Girl without CBS All Access on Apple TV, Fire TV and Roku without having to resort to pirating or anything else nefarious.

If it’s not pirating how do Plex and PlayOn give me Super Girl? 
Plex Logo WhiteThe reason Plex and PlayOn can access Super Girl is that they connect with CBS’s website. And once the CBS channel is part of your Plex channel lineup on the free Plex media server users cab access the channel on a number of connected devices. PlayOn also accesses content via a web browser Internet Explorer. While users never use the browser actively it is what keeps the server tied to network sites. PlayOn is not free but does have inexpensive lifetime options that include DVR functions. Unlike the CBS apps, CBS’s website does provide free episodes of Super Girl, typically the last 5 that have aired. This works out very well for those who keep up with shows semi-regularly. I mean let’s face it, if you do not watch a show within a month of it airing it must not be that high on your list. Even Hulu’s commercial supported tier has a number of series that only provide the last five episodes.

Can You Watch Super Girl On Kodi?
USTV VOD CroppedYes. There is an app for Kodi called USTV VOD. The app, like Plex and PlayOn, accesses content via the respective websites of networks and provides users with a simple interface to watch them. This is another great way to keep up with favorites via the web without wrestling with yourself about whether it is the right thing to do or not. You also do not have to use another computer system in order to use Kodi, though it does not have official apps for the big three set-top boxes, Roku, Fire TV and Apple TV, nor does it have straight forward casting ability with Chromecast though there is a workaround. Kodi is available via the Fire TV without too much work as well as the Apple TV with a bit of effort.


Video on Plex and Plex Home Theater

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Netflix is the standard bearer for streaming.
Netflix is the standard bearer for streaming.

Netflix is the quintessential streaming app and was the very first streaming application that Roku ever supported. With over 50 million customers its quite likely that you already have a Netflix account. What does Netflix offer? A gigantic library of movies, TV shows, documentaries and a growing list of special presentations like concerts and comedy specials. Netflix is more of a streaming network than an app with over a dozen original shows from the gritty like House of Cards, Jessica Jones and Daredevil to the Emmy-winning comedy The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. It’s a great way to check out the shows that everyone at work has been telling you to see like The Walking Dead, Once Upon a Time or even long time favorites. Best yet if you have a 4k TV and a Roku 4 Netflix is one of the only places to find content for it.

Amazon Video
Amazon VideoAmazon’s video service is a feature included in conjuction with Amazon’s prime service. If you have been considering Amazon Prime for the shipping, Kindle reader perks and and special offers it is a no brainer. Amazon has exclusive streaming deals with CBS that makes it the home of summer hits like Under The Dome and offers a large number of TV Shows and movies from multiple studios. A perk of Amazon’s service is that the content is broken down by network so if you have a favorite TV neighborhood it can be found easily. Amazon has some well regarded originals too including breakout alternative history thriller The Man In The High Castle and the Emmy-winning Transparent. On the movie side of the spectrum Amazon offers the Epics movie catalogue which features big titles from Lions Gate and other studios.

Hulu is a great service for those who don’t have a DVR and or cable television. The service offers

Hulu has always had ads and has grown quickly in the first half of 2015.
Hulu has always had ads and has grown quickly in the first half of 2015.

next day replay of content from Fox, NBC, ABC, CW, the majority of viacom based networks including Comedy Central, the entire library of South Park, the Epics Movie Catalogue, The Criterion Collection (art and Indie films) BCC content and a large slate of originals. There are also tons of television shows from throughout the TV landscapes organized by network and studio. Users can pay as little as $7.99 for the commercial supported version of the channel or kick it up a notch for the commercial free version. Hulu customers also have the option to add current and archived content from Showtime. Overall it’s a great value.

NBC LogoNBC has its own freestanding app on Roku where users can catch up on NBC shows and specials. Users who have a participating cable provider can access even more content. The app will allow users to access a great deal of content for free though including original movies and series without the need to provide a Cable password.

CBS NewsCBSN is a 24 hour Internet based news network. It provides a daily rundown of breaking news much like CNN, Fox News and others. The service is free no strings attached. With CBSN you will not be caught off guard when someone asks you about the tornado in Texas or even the latest pop culture buzz.

PBS LogoPBS is one of the most complete apps on Roku. Any of PBS’s programs can be found via the app and users can sign in with their local PBS station to open regional based programming. For fans of hits like Downton Abbey, Sherlock and what ever makes its way through the BBC pipeline next PBS is a treasure. There are also a number of PBS favorites from yesteryear including the Joy Of Painting.

YouTube picYouTube is the most heavily used streaming service in the country. If you don’t know what YouTube is now you can probably ask the person next to you and get an earful about cute babies, Kittens and more but the app overall can become a go to for people from all walks of life. From clips uploaded from all over the world to great original programming from professional production companies it is easy spend an entire night on one short form feature after another. It is also one of the most popular places in the world to find music. Link your own YouTube account and see your favorite subscriptions and saved videos.

Watch ESPN

ESPN will son be available outside of a traditional pay TV package.

Watch ESPN is the app of apps for sports fans. Like its mobile app the Watch ESPN app for Roku provides access to ESPN’s family of networks provided that your TV provider participates in the program. A great bonus offered by Watch ESPN is ESPN 3, an internet based option that gives viewers access to extra contests from major sports conferences including live football and BAsketball, Baseball and non revenue sports. Many ISP’s especially DSL providers allow users to access ESPN 3 content without a cable subscription.

PandoraYou might be surprised at just how much you use this free music service. Pandora has a gigantic selection of music available on request. Users can set up their own stations based on specific performers and genres. Want easy listening? Search for adult contemporary or look for James Taylor and the system will populate Taylor, Paul Simon and simmilar artist. Type John Williams and listen to Star Wars, The ET score, and other works from Williams, Hans Zimmer and more. It’s one of my personal favorites when I am writing.

Vudu PicNope this is not a cult channel. It is an on demand movie and television service and one of the best places to find 4K content online. Roku 4 users with 4K TV’s should take a look at this channel early. It is free to add and with a free account users can purchase digital blockbuster films and even access their own digital content through Ultra Violet. The service offers multiple viewing options for content including SD, HD and 4K.

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Less than a year into its existence Sling TV has re-imagined its interface to make it far easier to navigate and differentiate between packages and programming. The new setup allows users to easily bounce from one channel to another without the stream reloading to reflect the selection. The functions have become easier to access and the look and feel is more smooth. We put together a video to give you an idea of how it works. If you have not received the update yet you should soon. Our video was filmed using our Roku 3.