Roku Netflix box rocks


Got netflix? Live in the US? have a spare $99?

Get the roku netflix box. this is a little box that attaches to your network and to your TV and lets you watch any one of netflix's 'watch instantly' titles (currently 10,000 are available)

Previously this feature of netflix was not terribly interesting because

  1. It was PC only (you had to run IE)
  2. Watching movies on a Computer in general sucks
With the addition of this little Roku box you can watch movies on your nice flat panel. You just add the movies you want to watch to your 'instant' que and they show up on your box.

I hesitated ordering it since I've heard the netflix streaming service is poor quality and I already own a apple TV but at $99 (with a 30 day return policy) I figure it was worth a risk. I'm so glad I took that risk as it's really exceeded my expectations.

First the setup: The box attaches to your TV over HDMI or composite or regular RCA and attaches to your network wirelessly or wired. In my case I used HDMI & wireless. After booting up it asks you to enter you wireless password and then downloads an updated firmware, installs the firmware and then reboots -- This entire process took perhaps 3-4 minutes.

After rebooting it tells you to go to netflix.com/activate and enter a code (while logged into your netflix account) -- This takes perhaps a minute and now boom! You can watch movies.

The movies you add to your que show up in a coverflow'ish layout that you scroll across, as you add more movies they sort of 'magically' appear (I wonder how often they check for updates? It seems to pick them up pretty fast) When you click on a movie you get the option to watch it, rate it, delete it (from you que) or (for series) you can change which in the series to watch.

Once you hit 'watch' it starts streaming. On my network over a cable modem it takes maybe 20-30 seconds to start up --- you get a little quality indicator as it's buffering and then the movies starts.

Once concern I heard about was the lack of hard drive and fact that it was pure streaming meant you can't FF/Rewind. This is (strictly speaking) true but it's not really an issue. When you hit FF/Rewind thumbnails pop up of the different scenes -- you can scroll backwards and forwards to find the scene you want, hit play and resume watching. It's not quite as nice as a DVD or apple TV but honestly it works fine.

The big concern I had, however, was the quality -- I had this horrible vision of poor quality really making it unusable. I'm happy to report that the quality is really quite good. They claim 'near DVD' and I tend to believe them. To my eye it's better than standard definition TV but not quite as good as HD -- however the main point is it's totally watchable. We qued up a few shows last night and with moments of starting you forget you are streaming this over the internet -- it's that good.

The nice thing is the box is HD equipped so when netflix slips the switch it'll start output HD quality (right now it outputs in standard def) -- I've not seen publicly them commit to delivering HD movies but the hardware is capable of it (they even mention in the roku faq that it's ready for HD -- I'm looking forward to that switch happening but even if they never do it I'm still pretty happy with it.

Finally the selection. Netflix claims 10,000 movies and they do have a lot -- it's a bit of mismash, tons of older movies and TV shows but a sprinkling of newer things. They probably won't (ever) have hot new releases (like the Apple TV) has but even with the current lineup most people should be able to find something worth watching -- Assuming they continue to gain the rights to add shows this should not be a huge problem (for the record last night we watched snippets from "The Music Man", "My Girl","Heroes Season 1" and (for the kids) "Scooby Doo Hawaiian adventure")

I'd love to see the Apple TV get this kind of functionality -- While I enjoy watching video podcasts on it and I've enjoyed a number of movies (gotta love the ability to zip new DVD releases) there is something so freeing about being able to pick from a huge library in an all you can eat plan like netflix gives you. Given that the netflix subscription for the DVD rentals includes the instant access for free it's a winner.

Highly recommended.
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Loghound Plugins & RapidWeaver 4.0

First of all I'm using a new feature of RapidBlog -- I set the 'date' in the future (4:30 to be exact). Because of RapidBlog's dynamic nature that means at exactly 4:00 in the morning my time (which is no doubt some reasonable hour in the UK) this post will appear. This is good for two reasons.
  • I don't want to spoil the launch of RW4.0
  • I don't want to be up at 4:00 in the morning
The main point of this post is to point out that all of my plugins have been upgraded to work with RW4.0. With the exception of RapidBlog they all needed some sort of change (RapidFlickr seems to work perfectly as is!). I'll also point out that all plugins work fine in RW3.6 and RW4.0 so if you want to upgrade the plugins but don't want to upgrade RW4.0 right away you should be safe. So just for reference here is the list of plugins and required version numbers for use in RW4.0 (again they all work in RW3.6)
RapidBlog Version 1.54 (or greater)
RapidFlickr Version 1.29u (or greater)
Lockdown Version 1.76u (or greater)
PlusKit Version 1.40 (or greater)
FaqMaker Version 1.08 (or greater)
SiteMap Version 1.61u (or greater)
Of course as the RW4.0 floodgates open up it's possible that other problems will be found, so keep an eye on the loghound plugin RSS feed for any critical updates. Happy Weaving!
Comments

Thanks Adam!

I've mentioned a few times that I came to the mac late in life (so to speak) and for the longest time described myself as a 'switcher' but I've been involved for a few years now and don't think that way much anymore (unless of course i'm hanging around someone like Isaiah and he starts talking about 'system 7' which makes me glaze over -- system wha?)
The point to the above (and I do have one) is that when I first got involved with the mac was around the time podcasts started getting big (this is before they were in iTunes) and the first podcast I listened to on a regular basis was a little one called the maccast.  It was a godsend to help me figure out which way was up on a Mac and I even emailed Adam a few times (to which he always answered -- a real class guy)
So imagine my suprise when he started talking about mac blog clients and he starts talking about choices, yes you have blogger, or wordpress but for mac specific you might consider Rapidweaver with (ta da) the RapidBlog plugin!  I was driving back from monterey when I heard this and I practically hit the car in front of me (not recommended by the way)
Good fun -- check it out here (toward the end) -- by the way, I'd recommend you subscribe to the maccast (as well as Macbreak weekly) if you are inclined towards podcasts.
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Will there be any charge to upgrade loghound plugins to work with RW 4.0?

Just in case there was any concern or confusion all plugins will be 4.0 compatible for existing customers free of charge.
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fun with Gform

In February the day after (or perhaps that night) I introduced @gform to integrate google forms with pluskit -- At the time I tossed up a sample page to show people what was possible and then didn't think much about it (the page is at http://loghound.com/test/form/) Tonight I was working in Google Docs and I saw that spreadsheet and decided to take a look at it -- 84 responses from a 'throw away' page I created. While I was mostly ignoring it google was steadfastly gathering data and putting it neatly into a spreadsheet for me - I read through the comments tonight and really enjoyed them (so thanks if you commented) It's really astounding what is now so easily possible that used to require a bunch of custom programming, database and reporting tools. Now "Anyone" can manage data easily on the web. If you have any need at all to collect form data on the web @gform (or using the raw google form) is your friend -- I'm a bit biased toward @gform since you can keep your look and feel better but whatever you choose it's really painless so go enjoy
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Lockdown Hosts

Hi All, I'm trying to collect a list of known 'good' lockdown hosts and 'bad' lockdown hosts -- If you have any experiences (good or bad) could you shot me an email (or leave a comment) so I can add them to the list.
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PlusKit ScreenCast

One of the biggest issues I face with PlusKit is that people get a little overwhelmed with it. It's got so many little nooks & crannies that can really help solve some tough RW problems but people don't know where to start.

To that end I've teamed up with Kevin Burns at CRM Technik in what I hope is the first of many screencasts -- This one provides a gentle introduction to the major features of pluskit but even if you are a 'pro' I suspect you'll find one new item.

Please note that this was based off of PlusKit 1.35 so make sure you have the latest & greatest, grab some popcorn, sit back and enjoy.

(edit: Fixed the broken link)
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RapidBlog 1.5b7

RapidBlog 1.50b7

Fixed up a bunch of warnings in the PHP code and a few other defects. Big change is Gravatar Support (it should be turned on for this blog to get a feel of how it works) -- As always the 1.5 series are not getting much testing as I'm looking for feedback -- It's pretty safe to try them but be a little careful before you put it on a product blog.

To use the Gravatar Support get a (free) Gravatar Account and enter your 'blogger' name and 'gravatar email' in the setup menu (under 'display'

Get it here


And yes before you ask -- I realize the setup menu GUI is a bit of a mess right now, I"m planning an overhaul before 1.5 final goes out but things are changing fast enough that I'm willing to let it slide (for now)
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Pirates Vs. Ninjas

Hi All, You can now refer to me as "The award winning director" as I've just received a honerable mention in my documentary efforts to capture the struggle between Pirates & Ninjas. At my dinner table a constant source of discussions goes like this "Dad, which is better? x or y?" -- Where (x,y) = (superman, batman) or (basketball, baseball) or (Pirates, Ninjas) As it turns out we were not the only ones asking said questions -- On YouTube similar questions were asked

We of course had to express our opinion and along with 700 other people we voted, here was our vote

After the voting was in the winner was declared.. Ninjas! -- However when you watch the award video, if you wait to the very end you'll see list of 'honorable' mentions -- look who is 4th on the list!
-John "Award Winning Directory" M
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LogDocs 0.2

New version of LogDocs -- Fixes a nasty race condition and adds sparkle and growl notifications -- Future version of LogDocs will be delivered via Sparkle.
If you had a problem with 1.0 working (e.g. it comes up but displays nothing) this should fix it.
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