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What Can You Make a Roku Do?


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I recently purchased a pair of Roku 2XS units for a friend.  I did not do my homework in advance (Mea Culpa) and I am somewhat stuck in trying to get these Roku units to have some value.  I need help.  I have done searches and tried some things but Roku seems to be locking out functionality (ability to play YouTube videos is an example).  

 

Background:

My friend has a new house which he did not have wired for ethernet drops anywhere.   He has a couple of cable drops in locations that are not convienent for them.   There are no phone line drops in many areas of the large home.  (For a $1MM home, it is not up to 21st century standards).

 

There are cable drops in the office and master bedroom suite but none in the living room, family room, sitting room, secondary bedrooms, or sun room.   There are HDTV's in some of those rooms.  There is CATV service as well as high speed internet.   The people do not want to run cable lines through walls and the home is completely finished so there is no easy access into the walls to run more cable drops or ethernet drop.   They do not want to have cable running along the walls on the floor (this is unsightly and a trip hazard).

 

They would like to be able to view internet channels in areas not accessible to cable drops.   They would like to be able to access cable channels in areas not accessible to cable.   They do have a Belkin N150 router which they have for guests to be able to access the internet from smartphones (They do not have smartphones - These people are in their 60's, highly educated, and well off but not interested in being constantly connected).

 

I purchased the Roku 2XS units because they have wireless capability as well as ethernet ports, USB 2.0 ports, microSD ports, and an HDMI port.   I thought that they would be able to access internet through this.  Technically, yes Roku units access the internet but only the Roku channels.  As far as I know, it is not possible to directly access internet websites like NBC.com, CWTV.com, ABC.com, CBS.com, or other websites which provide programming they have already got access to through their cable subscription.   Everything seems to be pay as you go on Roku.   The limited number of "free channels" have many ads (I went to one movie site and there were 30 seconds, or more of ads every 2.5 minutes.).

 

I am trying out power line ethernet adapters now to try to be able to connect from the desktop PC through the powerlines to the televisions.  The televisions do not have ethernet ports (they have HDMI ports, RJ-36 cable ports, and USB 2.0 ports).  I have yet to try a ethernet to HDMI adapter to see if I can get this to work.   That is a feature that the Roku 2XS already has.

 

Problem Statement/Question:

1. Can the Roku be used as a passthrough for streaming Web broadcast from the PC to the HDTV without using the Roku channels that have to be purchased?

2. Can the Roku be used to access cable channels that come into a cable ready HTPC and control the channel selection?

3. Can the Roku be used as a remote controller for a HPTC that is located in another room through either the power line adapter or through the wireless router access?

 

If Roku units cannot be made to perform this task, can anyone suggest an alternative system which will be able to receive a wired ethernet signal, or wireless signal and control the HTPC from 20 meters away through walls and floors?

 

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How many TV's do they need to watch the web based media on?  Simultaneously?  Could they look at purchasing something like a Windows RT tablet, Chromebook or something like that with an HDMI output, built in wireless, etc that could be used?

 

I don't think the Roku devices are going to do what you want without a bunch of messing around.

 

Other choices may be multiple HTPC boxes using the power line networking or Slingbox .

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My understanding is that the Roku3 is a much better device than all the other Roku boxes, but...

 

1. Here is one idea about networked media: http://twit.tv/show/know-how/72

 

2. Here is another idea: http://www.roku-channels.com/

 

I run a 2nd generation ATV with the FireCore software and it does a lot, except the local TV.

It can even play DVD folder rips from my server. I love it.

 

http://firecore.com/atvflash-black

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Tony - can the Apple TV access content from websites like ABC.COM, NBC.COM, CNN.COM.  I think that is where the issue is coming from.

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There are some hacks although it isn't a polished experience. The list of official channels is growing however (http://www.apple.com/appletv/whats-on/)

It has Hulu Plus which is yet another subscription charge. I read  you can officially stream content from a Slingbox, but getting convoluted yet again.

There is a web browser built into the FireCore software and tonight I'll try to see if it will do web streaming from the network sites.

 

PlayOn is listed as working on Roku and has a fairly significant amount of channels listed although PlayOn gets mixed reviews:

http://www.playon.tv/content-channels?rsrc=sas StreamFreeTV also talks about private channels on Roku, including some 

network options: http://streamfree.tv/.

 

 

 

I use mine for Netflix (great experience) and to stream movies from my server mostly. I also listen to music from iCloud and it works well.

I needed a low power, instant on device and for my needs it works well. If you want something to replace cable, it isn't there yet.

To do everything they want to do a Roku and Apple TV may be a little too hacky and have a low WAF.

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The Roku 2XS seems to be able to do the things that the ATF can do with the same kinds of restrictions.   I found discussions where people used to be able to get access to sites like youtube, but Roku shut those down because they could not get a revenue stream from them.   I may just have to abandon the Roku and try to sell them off on Craigslist.org or eBay.com.  Personally, after I evaluated them, I think they should give them away and let the ad/site revenue pay for them.  

 

I found something else.  Has anyone evaluated these?

Etekcity HDMI Extender Adapter Over 1 Single Ethernet Cat5e /6 Cable Extend To 50M For 1080p (Up to 150 Feet)

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=9SIA1SK1003044

 

I think that I could use this to connect a remote HTPC/Cable Tuner to the HDTV through a powerline ethernet adapter.  It makes the HDTV a remote monitor.  The question is now how to control the HTPC remotely?  I could go from the ethernet port on the powerline extender to a multi-port switch and connect in a laptop which could control the HTPC remotely.  At the same time, another ethernet cable off the switch could go to the HDTV.  

 

The powerline adapters are really limited to about 100Mbps.   I have not found any that were much faster than that.   This is T100 speed.   Also, the cost of a laptop raises the price a lot.  I might as well go to a high end ac router and AP/Wireles Extender system with individual laptops in a workgroup configuration  at each TV to pull signal off the HTPC/server and forget about powerline adapters with ethernet to HDMI adapters.

 

There has to be a better/less expensive way to do this.

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My understanding is that the Roku3 is a much better device than all the other Roku boxes, but...

 

1. Here is one idea about networked media: http://twit.tv/show/know-how/72

 

2. Here is another idea: http://www.roku-channels.com/

 

I run a 2nd generation ATV with the FireCore software and it does a lot, except the local TV.

It can even play DVD folder rips from my server. I love it.

 

http://firecore.com/atvflash-black

I will try this Plex Media server solution that was suggested on twit.tv.   That looks like it might allow the media server to transcode into a format that is useful for the Roku to use.   Thanks

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Wireless with access point as repeaters?  You'd think in a trillion dollar home, you could spend a few hundred bucks and run some cable.  That just brought down the resale value in my opinion.

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I will try this Plex Media server solution that was suggested on twit.tv.   That looks like it might allow the media server to transcode into a format that is useful for the Roku to use.   Thanks

There is a Plex app/channel on the Roku so that will help with media and potentially TV.

 

If my ATV didn't play my folder rips natively I would look into Plex more. It is maturing more than it's predecessor, XBMC, it seems.

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Wireless with access point as repeaters?  You'd think in a trillion dollar home, you could spend a few hundred bucks and run some cable.  That just brought down the resale value in my opinion.

When I saw how little infrastructure had been built in to the place, I just shook my head.  These people just didn't think about this aspect when they had the place built.  Because the place is completely finished, It would be a really major task to put in wiring now.  IMO, it would cost at least $30K to run the wiring in and repair the damage to the walls and woodwork.   This place has an elevator so that kind of $ may not be out of line to them.  I don't believe that the Wife would stand for the disruption in order to  get the wiring put in.

 

I'm in agreement that this lack of infrastructure would negatively affect the resale value of the home.  I am pretty sure that they do not care what we think.

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