Roku 3 Impressions

posted in: Gadget Impressions 0

roku-3-box

I bought a streaming box for my parents place because they needed something that can pull down Netflix movies. Hooking up my Macbook Air to the big screen became a chore and I wasn’t planning on lugging it over every time I paid them a visit. So I chose to buy a Roku 3 from Amazon.com.

I chose the Roku 3 because of the praise and — more importantly — because it had has Plex support. It also has support for a variety of streaming services that are either a channel install away or a DNS change away. It even supports GiantBomb’s video feed which makes the lack of YouTube support easier to bear.

Broad channel support is very nice but it wouldn’t be worthwhile without the performance as well. Roku 3 is easily the quickest and easiest interface to use out of all the TV streaming solutions I have available to me. The remote is wonderfully designed and shames the remotes the accompany the HDTVs I own.

That headphone feature is ingenius and I’m surprised by the fact that it was a streaming box manufacturer that came up with it first. The remote is essentially a mini-Wiimote. It has an accelerometer and can be used horizontally for simple games. I’ve only tried Angry Birds: Space but its serviceable. I wonder if there are any emulators out there that can transform this box into a light gaming box as well.

The Roku 3 is such a wonderful device that I’m considering buying another one for myself. It’s a very sensible box and worth every one of the one hundred and twenty five dollars I paid for it. If you’re looking for a quick Netflix watching and Plex supporting streaming box, get the Roku 3.

 

Goodbye PMS. Hello PMS.

plexWhat am I talking about here?

I’ve retired PS3 Media Server and changed over to Plex Media Server. I’ve heard of Plex before but I always thought it was just a front end application like XBMC. I looked for alternatives to PS3 Media Server but I only found Serviio which is another Java based media server. It’s a good thing I conducted another search a few weeks ago.

Major Plusses

I’ve been trying to move from a Java based media server in order reduce memory usage and having to provide upkeep on Java itself. Plex doesn’t require Java and consumes very  little memory.

Plex is also incredibly flexible with its viewing clients including web browsers, iOS apps and DLNA clients. I don’t eve need the iOS app; I can stream by hitting the webpage via Safari. There’s one more trick up Plex’s sleeve which I have yet to try out: myPlex. If/when I sign up for it, I will be able to stream my videos from anywhere in the world.

A Minor Shortcoming

The only shortcoming worth mentioning thus far is the inability to install Plex Media Server as a Windows service. There is a workaround developed by a Plex forum user but I would like to see the developers include a native option.

So Far So Good

The next step is to try myPlex and maybe even get a copy of the iOS app. I’m also toying with the idea of getting a Plex compatible streaming client. Maybe this Roku 3?

Checkpoint: Windows SBS 2011 Essentials Edition

checkpoint-windows-sbs-2011-essentials

I successfully migrated to Windows Small Business Server Essentials 2011. The change comes at the expense of easy media streaming, but it lays the foundation for future endeavors like the ability to roll out applications to all my workstations across the network via software such as Microsoft’s System Center Essentials 2010.

Switching over was fairly easy since all my data was on a separate 2TB drive already. All I needed to do was format and install the new OS. But is it that different?

Both SBS Essentials 2011 and Home Server 2011 feature connector software and dashboards. SBS Essentials 2011 is Home Server 2011 with Active Directory support and no media streaming. Going for SBS Standard 2011 would have brought me closer to Windows Server 2008 R2, but that’s not what I want at all. I don’t want to have a full blown server OS as a home OS. Small touches like remote web access and the dashboard with its add-ins are far more useful at home.

Taking care of the lack of media streaming was a bit of a chore thanks to the firewall. After spending a bit of time wrestling with that and looking for updated instructions to install it as a service, I finally got PS3 Media Server installed as my DLNA server.

With that out of the way, I think I’m pretty much done for now.

Steam’s Summer Sale is over and I’ve spent just under $15.

I ended up adding Universe Sandbox to my list of DarkSiders and Jamestown. I regret buying it right now since I’ve already played around with it, but I think it’ll be a neat toy to pick up and tinker with in the future.

I’ve wrapped up Enslaved and will be writing up my thoughts on it for this Wednesday. In the meantime, I’ve been working on jotting down thoughts on the Uncharted 3 multiplayer beta. You should try it if you haven’t. It ends Thursday, July 14th.

Checkpoint: Home Server Project Update Edition

checkpoint-home-server-project-update-edition

After getting my hands on the retail version of Windows Home Server 2011 (sans license key), two failed installs and a pre-mature catastrophic driver related failure resulting in another re-install: I got my Windows Home Server up and running.

It took a bit of experimenting (which resulted in that catastrophic failure I spoke of), but I was able to get every device recognized in this 6 year old Shuttle ST20G5. I only have a 200 GB drive in there working as the “OS drive”, but it is up and running.

I enabled the web access which allows me to access the home server via the web from anywhere in the world. And I tried streaming multiple SD videos simultaneously without a hitch as well. As soon as I get my Seagate LP 2TB 5900RPM 3.5″ SATA hard drive 64MB, I’ll start backing up computers and implementing Dropbox syncing and all that fun stuff.

I was thinking of implementing a RAID 1 setup, but with the age of this Shuttle hardware I didn’t think it would be a good idea. After a bit of thought, I decided to stick with a single 2TB drive for now and simply use this tiered approach for data “backup”.

  1. Local hard drive on PC
  2. Windows Home Server for data that would be a nice to have, but not too important
  3. HPMediaVault will serve as on-site backup solution for more important data
  4. DropBox or Amazon Cloud Storage for critical backups

It’s a bit much for home, but at least my data will be safe. Hopefully.

My next objective is to get a hold of a Windows Home Server 2011 license. I have 29 days to do so before this trial period ends. It costs around $110 USD, but I can’t find a North American retailer that will ship to Canada. As days tick away, I may need to call in a favor in order to get a copy of it.

1 2 3 4