Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Shows my kids can watch on Roku

I have two young daughters and the Roku has made it so easy to find good television shows for them to watch.  There are plenty of good kids shows on Roku, and even if they are previous seasons of the shows, my kids are young and haven’t seen them yet, or don’t mind watching the same episode again.  Between Netflix and Amazon Prime we had been able to build a nice little library of shows for my girls to watch, and the great thing is that we don’t have to wait for them to come on TV, we can stream them when we need them.  Like when the girls start getting out of control.

Here are some of our favorites:
  • Blues Clues (Netlix and Amazon Prime)
  • Sesame Street  (Netflix)
  • Dora the Explorer (Netflix and Amazon Prime)
  • Sesame Street Classics (really funny to watch these old episodes)
  • Mister Rogers Neighborhood (Amazon Prime)
  • Barney (Netflix)
  • Yo Gabba Gabba (Netflix)
  • Arthur (Netflix)

And a whole lot more.  There are many Disney movies that they can watch as well.  In fact, the Roku is starting to babysit my kids.

CBS on Roku

Fox and NBC make it quite easy to find shows on Roku channels, but watching CBS on Roku has always been an issue.  We basically just had to stop watching popular shows like “The Big Bang Theory”, “How I met your mother” and “Mike and Molly”.  However, CBS is starting to pop up on some of the major channels now like Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu Plus.

Hulu Plus:
  • Numbers
  • The Amazing Race
  • CSI:  Miami
  • Survivor
  • MacGyver (this is an awesome throwback)
  • Twin Peaks (another fun throwback)
  • How I met your mother (not the current season)
  • Medium
  • Rules of Engagement
  • Everybody Loves Raymond
Amazon Prime Instant:
  • Jericho
  • America’s Next Top Model
  • Undercover Boss
  • Unites States of Tara
There is still no way as far as I can tell to watch “The Big Bang Theory”.  So goodbye to that show, at least for now.  Maybe it will be part of CBS’s next deal.  And I really wish I could watch NCIS on the Roku, but no luck yet with that one either.  

Watching TV on Roku with Amazon Prime

Recently we discovered that an Amazon Prime account can be shared with your family members.  Since my mother-in-law is always buying junk through Amazon she has an Amazon Prime account so she can save on shipping.  We were able to go into her account and find a link that allows my wife (her daughter) to share her Prime account.  That means we can save on shipping when we buy junk as well, but it also means that we can get Amazon Prime Instant for the Roku.

My first impression of the Amazon Prime instant is that the app works a lot like the Netflix app, which is good.  If my wifi signal isn’t perfect, it will downgrade the signal from HD to a lesser quality so that it streams without interruptions.  You have to make sure that you search for TV shows and movies in the Amazon Prime instant section.  Otherwise, you may find shows you want to watch, but they will cost you $1.99.  That’s a pretty good price for a movie, but it seems like an awful price to watch one TV show.

Having Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Amazon Prime instant is great because there are shows that you can only watch on one of these services.  The first show I started to watch was “Storage Wars”.  I really like this show, but then it all of the sudden dropped off of Netflix so I never got to watch Season 2.  I also noticed that they had “Pawn Stars” and “American Pickers”, so I added those to my queue.  My wife and I watch the movie Hugo through Amazon Prime and just loved it.  It was a great movie and we watched it in HD quality from free.  It doesn’t get much better than that.

Here are some other shows we are watching through Amazon Prime:
  • Fringe
  • Alias
  • Ballykissangel
  • Sponge Bob Square Pants
  • Downton Abby
  •  Dora the Explorer
  • Blues Clues

And I’m sure we’ll find more.  Since we’re getting Amazon Prime Instant for free, it’s the best deal we could get and we are considering even dropping Netflix.  However there are some shows on Netflix that we would miss out on.

Monday, April 4, 2011

My Second Roku Box - Let's get rid of cable

After watching the Roku in our bedroom for a few weeks, we liked it so much we decided we needed one in the living room as well.  For our second Roku box, we decided to get the cheapest model, the Roku HD, because we will be plugging it into the router via ethernet cable and won't need the dual band wireless N support.  Also, our living room TV is several years old and is not HD.

At $59, this model was less expensive than any other Netflix box out there, but it didn't let me down at all.  Everything worked just as well as the more expensive model.  You can see the difference in the models here

With our new Roku in the living room we found ourselves watching less and less Cable TV.  In fact some nights we didn't watch any Cable TV and didn't even use our DVR.  We got addicted to Wings, Monk and Modern Family, all of which we watch on the Roku box. 

Why were we paying for the Cable TV anymore?  Well, I like Sports and I was kind of worried about losing the ability to watch my sports.  But I finally realized that most of the sports I like to watch are broadcast over the air.  I hadn't watched TV over an antenna in years, so I decided to buy an antenna and a converter box and see what it was like.  I was suprised to see that the reception was a lot better than I remember back in my childhood.  And now, instead of each network having one channel, like channel 8 for ABC, they have subchannels.  ABC has channel 8.1, 8.2 8.3, etc.  Kind of interesting.  So with that, we decided to save over $70 a month and cut our Cable TV entirely. 

Discovering Private Channels on the Roku

One day a few weeks ago my wife was working late so I decided to play around with the Roku and see if I could watch anything besides Netflix, Hulu Plus and Pandora, which I use everyday.  I started by looking at the Channel Store, a feature built into the Roku.  I found some free Channels that featured classic movies and TV shows that were in the public domain.  These will be nice some night when I feel like watching classic movies, but not an everyday channel.  Another channel I liked was a weather channel that showed my local weather complete with a radar view.  I like this Channel and use it often.

Then I had the idea to search Google for other Roku Channels and I stumbled on some "Private Channels".  I had to research what that means, but apparentlly private channels are ones that aren't ready for the Roku Channel Store for whatever reason, but are generally free if you know the Code.  All you have to do is find the Code for these private channels using Google and then enter the code into your Roku Account.  the channel pops up on the Roku right away.

I found a ton of private channels and I'm going to post them on this website to share with everyone.  My favorite private channel is called "Nowhere TV".  It has a huge selection of content from major channels like CBS as well as cable channels like HGTV, Food Network and CNN.  I found some of my favorite Cable TV shows like "House Hunters" on HGTV and "Throw-down with Bobby Flay".  I was even able to watch the NCAA Basketball Tournament Live through the Roku.  And amazeingly the quality was great. 

Now I just need to find a Channel that has my wife's favorite show "Gilmore Girls".  Okay I don't mind watching it either (Lorelai is very easy on they eyes!). 

Sharing Hulu Plus Account

I have no clue what the Hulu rules are about how many devices can be used, how many streams at one time, or if it's allowed for two families to share an account.  But apparently they don't prohibit it.  My brother-in-law has a Hulu Plus account and they have been steaming TV shows from their account on several diffent devices, so we decided to see if it would work on our Roku as well.  Again, I don't know if this violates any rules with Hulu Plus, but it worked fine and so far we haven't had any problems with the two families sharing the one account.  Since we have a Netflix account, we decided we would share our Netflix account with them as well, but so far I don't think they have tried it.  Maybe that will work as well.

My brother-in-law's only concern was that we would be sharing the same queue and that I would be able to see what programs he and his wife are watching and vice-versa.  I wasn't really sure what he was worried about until I saw "Cougar Town" in his queue.  Embarissing!!! 

My First Roku TV box

My wife and I decided to break down and finally get a TV in our bedroom.  For the first 8 years of our marraige, we had a "No TV in the Bedroom" policy, worried that it would hurt the romance, or destroy our sleeping habits.  But after enjoying some lazy mornings in hotels watching TV from bed, we decided we couldn't live without the TV anymore.  Don't worry the romance is still there (our first baby is due in September), and our sleeping habits were destroyed by our annoying cat anyway.  So the TV hasn't been a problem.

Anyway, we have had a DVR in the living room for years and I can't imagine watching regular TV anymore.  But the Cable company was going to charge us another $10/month to put a DVR in the bedroom and that wasn't going to happen.  So we decided to try one of these new internet TV boxes.  I first looked into the Apple TV because everything Apple seems to touch turns to gold.  I did like the size of the Apple TV and I heard good reviews, but the content didn't seem to be full.  So when my brother-in-law told me about Hulu-Plus, and how I can watch TV shows through that, I figured it would be the answer to the content dilema.  But wait, Hulu Plus isn't yet supported on the Apple TV.  So then I found the ROKU.

We decided we would get the highest end Roku for our bedroom because the wireless router was in a different room and the ROKU XD|S had the better wireless capabilities with the dual band N.  Although I have later realized our router is too old to support dual band or ever Wireless N.  Oh well.

When the Roku came in the mail, I was really glad to see how small it was.  It takes up almost no space and really goes unseen when sitting next to the TV.  And the setup was really easy!  I plugged it into the wall outlet, and plugged it into the TV using the HDMI cable that I purchased through the Roku website for less than $10 (a better deal than Wal-Mart has).  The box was already on, as it appears to stay on all the time because I have never found an on/off switch.

After a few short setup steps in the software, like setting the time, I was ready to view my first Channel.  I started with the Netflix Channel since I already had a Netflix account.  I started with an episode of Monk.  Finding the show wasn't hard and I got 4 quality bars (out of 4) and it said it was in HD.  The quality was great.  It's not quite DVD HD, but it's still really good.  You would never know you were watching TV over the internet.