I didn’t want to love Play*, but I can’t help it.  All they do it make it very easy for me to watch what I want to watch when I want to watch it.  It’s only 480p, but 480p looks surprisingly good on my 43″ 720p plasma and amazing on my Kindle Fire.  For $70, Netflix, Hulu, Food Network, and the History Channel are always on for me.

So, what is Play*?  Play* is my nickname for MediaMall’s suite of streaming media programs.  The suite consists of PlayOn, PlayLater, and PlayCast.  PlayOn is software that streams files from web servers to your television.  Channels, scripts, and plugins format files from web servers for your television.  The files include episodes from many cable programs.  For cable cutters, PlayOn is a lifeline to the Food Network, the History Channel, and other compelling programming.  PlayLater is a DVR for this programming.  PlayLater lets you store programming you would watch with PlayOn for viewing at a later time.  The stored programs are saved as MP4 files that can be viewed with any software on any platform that supports the MP4 format.  PlayCast is a browser plugin that streams whatever is playing in your browser window to a PlayOn client.

How does Play* work?  PlayOn and PlayLater are software packages that can be purchased from MediaMall and must be installed on a Windows PC running Internet Explorer.  The programs read files from your media server and/or web servers and streams the files to a device on your network that can interpret the stream and output it in a format compatible with your television.  PlayCast is a browser extension that streams files from your web browser to your PlayOn compatible device — Chromecast for *every* streaming media platform.

Why you will love Play*!  First, there is a one time charge of $70.  For this fee, you get a lifetime subscription to PlayOn plus the PlayLater DRV, and PlayCast.  You can watch content aggregated and formatted for viewing from the couch.  That’s a pretty good deal.  You can also timeshift or placeshift this content.  The shifted contented is saved as MP4 formatted files which are suitable for playing on a tablet of phone, so you can enjoy your media even when there is no internet at all or where access to the internet is restricted.  For instance…

  • Last week, I was traveling on business.  Before I left, I dragged some files from my PlayLater folder to my laptop for the plane ride.
  • When I got the the hotel, I plugged a Roku 2 XS into the television.  I had installed the Nowhere USB channel and was able to enjoy a USB drive of PlayLater content without internet access/authentication.
  • We lose our power frequently and for days at a time.  I have a generator and a tv antenna, but internet access is limited to cell phones.  PlayLater provides entertainment absent internet access.
  • We will use these files with the TV and Roku we take camping
  • When a web site removes or rotates content, I can still play it off my DVR

Why you might NOT like Play*!  For starters, it is only 480p.  I played some PlayLater recordings on a 55″ set and, with glasses from six feet, it looked fine, but it’s 480p.  A lot of recordings fail.  Sometimes you can restart and enjoy success, but some simply do not record.

Let’s get started!  Installing and using Play* is pretty straight forward, but here are the steps…

  1. Before committing to Play* consult the compatibility list and forums to make sure you have the hardware to support the software and check the channel list to make sure you will watch what PlayOn serves.
  2. Buy, download, and install PlayOn.  Hint: if, during installation, you are prompted to close a browser which is not apparently open, open task manager, look for browser processes, and close them.  For me, Chrome was running in the background.
  3. Enable PlayCast for your browser.  Open up PlayOn Settings and click on the Browsers tab. Click on the checkboxes to enable PlayOn for your favorite browsers then click the Apply button.
  4. (You may need to enable the PlayOn helper app in your browser)
  5. Open your browser to a media page and click the PlayOn icon and a window will open and play the media.  Once the video begins playing in this window, click the Next button.  Click the Record To or PlayCast To button, select your target device, and enjoy!

Remote Access  For me, accessing Playon from a cell phone was a lot like having sex for the first time. I thought I knew what I was doing, everything was a little different than I expected. In the end, I was extremely satisfied, but wasn’t sure what had happened.

First base: The auto configuration failed, so I tried to manually configure my router. Once I was in the port forwarding area I returned to Playon to read the helpful hint provided upon failure. The hint was gone, so I selected automatic and hit apply and it worked. My guess is that it would have worked had I not changed the userid and password on my router. Having logged on, it was able to do the rest.

Second base: I installed the app from the app store on the S3 phone. No problems at all.

Third base: Had no problem locating my server via WiFi and we were quickly streaming. I’m still not sure what ‘additional configuration’ is required for 3g/4g only access.

Home: Turned off WiFi and streamed some PlayLater recordings to the phone.

It does work and performance was very good. One thing you notice when browsing the Android app is that once you are presented with a PlayTo menu that allows you to play to ‘this device’ or any of your Rokus, so you can PlayTo without running back to the PC — just use your android device to manage the service from your easy chair.

Epilog  That’s all I’ve got.  I think PlayOn, PlayLater, and PlayCast are a delightful addition to to any entertainment ecosystem.  Give Play* a try.  If you don’t like it, MediaMall will refund your $70.


VideoBuzz: Open and Easy!

The popular banned Roku channel is now open source and it’s developers have automated the installation process.  Enjoy!

What is VideoBuzz?  VideoBuzz is an opensource roku channel that plays videos from popular Internet video sites.

Why Would I Want Another Roku Video Channel?  VideoBuzz is a very well written Roku channel that provides easy access to YouTube including subscriptions and search.  Roku provides no official access to YouTube and has ‘officially’ banned private YouTube channels.  While Roku ‘insiders’ have access to YouTube via SECRET features of sanctioned channels, none compare in quality to VideoBuzz.

How Do I Install VideoBuzz?  Roku allows developers to install a single channel directly on their Roku.  This ‘side-loaded’ channel is not subject to Roku oversight.  VideoBuzz is a ‘side-loaded’ channel.  The developers have created a script that automates this process for you.  You can use this script or manually put your Roku in developer mode and side-load the channel yourself.

If you are interested in developing Roku channels, VideoBuzz makes an excellent template.  The developers have made the source and scripts available for analysis and modification.

Aereo One Month Later

It’s been a little over a month since I signed up for Aereo.  My first impressions have been documented in this review.  I just wanted to let you know of two developments that have made Aereo a much more attractive product…

  1. Fox Movies! has been added to the list of Aereo channels.  Fox Movies is a 24×7 movie channel that brings classic Fox movies to broadcast television.  I cannot believe how often I stop on this channel.  The fact that this channel was added so quickly makes me confident that GetTV will be added in the fall.  Great job Aereo!
  2. Aereo is now a Playon channel.  For $50 you can purchase a lifetime subscription to Playon.  Playon streams internet programming and local files to ‘edge’ devices.  Supported devices include consoles (PS3, Xbox 360, WII U, and WII), tablets (iPad, Nook Color, and Kindle Fire), and many smart devices (televisions and Blu-Ray players).

Since both Playon and Aereo offer free trials, I urge those who have been considering cutting their cable service to try sample this dynamic duo.  Read my Playon review here and my Aereo review here.

Note:  If you are having problems with the Playon Aereo channel, make sure you have the latest version of Flash installed.  See this.

Aereo: First Impressions

I have updated this post to add some Aereo channels.  Notably, Aereo has added Movies! which is an excellent 24×7 movie channel.  I noticed that the current version of Playon adds an Aereo channel.  I’ll be reactivating my Aereo account to test this.  The results will be documented here and this entry will be linked from a new post to ensure people see it.  Great summer for cable cutters in New England! 

I received my invitation to try Aereo on May 27, 2013.  By this time, Aereo had already changed their pricing plan.  Instead of getting two antennas for $80 per year, I would get one antenna for $8/month or two antennas for $12 per month.  That’s about an 80% increase in price!

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What I Watch: Plex

In our home, we rely primarily on broadcast television for news and entertainment.  We use streaming boxes and servers as well.  Some content is available via multiple venues.  I want to love Plex, but I can’t.  It does a nice job presenting my media, but often applies the wrong meta data to my files.  There are a LOT of plugins, but the ones I want to work most work worst.  Hulu and Netflix are problematic.  Mostly I use Plex to stream files to TVs that have Rokus but not SMPs.  These are the channels I watch via my Plex server and why I watch them via PlexContinue reading

GetTV: Sony OTA Movie Channel


Sony Pictures Television is jumping into the subchannel business with the digital network GetTV, which will launch this fall on Univision stations in 24 markets, including in 17 of the top 20 DMAs. It will be available in 44% of U.S. TV homes. Sony is actively selling GetTV to other station groups.

The diginet will air old movies from Sony’s library of some 3,500 films, including Lawrence of Arabiaand The Bridge on the River Kwai.

“What Sony’s announcement really means — forget about classic movies — is that networks like Me-TV, This TV, Antenna TV and GetTV are destined to have original content,” Kokernak says. “They’re all going to go original eventually. It’s just a matter of when.” Continue reading

Fox Movies: OTAwesome!

This morning my DVR proudly presented a new station to me.  The screen was blank, but  pressing info and revealed this: WFXT DTV Movie Channel Coming Soon. Googling a bit, i found this

FOX Television Stations and Chicago-based Weigel Broadcasting have announced a deal to host a feature film network called Movies! on 17 of its local O&O stations beginning this spring.

Films will be edited mainly for inappropriate language or images, not run times, and be presented in the 16 x 9 format. The goal, Fox said, “is to create a new destination for movie fans that is fan friendly and available for free via over the air television, and in many cases via local cable carriage.”

The network will be available in the following markets: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Dallas, Boston, Washington (DC), Atlanta, Houston, Detroit, Phoenix, Tampa, Minneapolis, Orlando, Austin, Memphis and Ocala (FL).  Most of these are Aereo expansion targets and Austin has Google Fiber.

According to Chicagoloand Radio and Media, Movies! Network will make its debut this coming Memorial Day (May 27th).

Aereo, at Last!

from Aereo Press Release

Boston, Mass. (April 23, 2013) –Aereo, Inc., today announced plans to launch its groundbreaking online television technology in the Boston metropolitan area. Beginning May 15, consumers who have pre-registered with Aereo will receive a special invitation to join and be one of the first to experience Aereo’s technology. After May 30, Aereo will make membership available to all eligible consumers across the Boston designated market area (DMA), which includes more than 4.5 million consumers in 16 counties in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont.

Boston has some of the highest cable rates in the country.  In less than a month, people from Cape Cod to Southern New Hampshire will have an inexpensive alternative.  For $80 a year plus the cost of a Roku,  cord cutters will receive 28 over-the-air broadcast channels live.  Aereo also includes a DVR function.  Interested?  Preregister here.

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Solved: Youtube on Roku (Updated 8/8/2013)

VideoBuzz is now opensource and can be installed using a script.  More here.

YouTube is a popular channel on OTT streamers.  Roku has never officially supported a YouTube channel, but there are a number of private channels that support it.  One of these has been removed.  The VideoBuzz channel has been ‘voluntarily’ removed from the list of Roku channels.  VideoBuzz was unique among Roku YouTube channels in that it was simple to install, easy to use, and worked.

Why did Roku VideoBuzz Roku pull the channel?  No one knows.  Roku won’t say, but the mods and VCMs on claim that there was an IP issue…

There’s been a fair bit of speculation about VideoBuzz and the reason it is being deactivated. I want to take a moment to elaborate:

Every developer agrees to abide by the terms of the Roku developer agreement when creating a developer account. Among the requirements in the agreement, we require that every channel publisher must have the appropriate rights or permission to distribute the content within their channel through Roku. Other requirements include written authorization is required for channels with international or foreign language content. Channels that violate the developer agreement are subject to deactivation, though typically we do give them a chance to come back into compliance (or prove they are not violating it) before acting on it — we do realize that it can be a complicated world when it comes to rights for content. Sometimes we’re made aware of channels through formal notices (e.g. DMCA takedown notices or cease and desist notices) and other times we are notified more informally. Since we respect all content owners’ rights, we have to take each notification seriously and explore it for violation. Regarding VideoBuzz specifically, we don’t believe that today a Roku channel can stream from YouTube without violating YouTube’s terms of service (at least specifically section II paragraph 14 of the YouTube Developer TOS).

That’s not really true.  It can’t be.  The mods and VCMs have been promoting the use of Plex as an alternative…

Plex on Roku, out of the box, won’t receive YouTube. If the user modifies the setup to enable it, neither Plex nor Roku is at fault. They took deliberate steps to prevent YouTube on Roku through Plex, and the user subsequently took deliberate steps to enable it.

Playon also streams YouTube to a Roku (right out of the box without the user deliberately doing anything except installing server and channel) — despite the fact that mention of the channel can get you banned from the forums.

There is the issue, here is the solution…

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What I Watch: Summary

Here’s a chart that shows what kind of programming is available via the various solutions.  It should help in choosing the solution that most completely satisfies one’s programming needs.  That’s what you really wanted to know, right?  Keep in mind that Playon and Plex are servers that require a set top component and that neither of these can be used with the Sony Media Player (SMP).  Think of Playon and Plex as supplements to Roku that provide more programming but require a computer be running whenever programming is being served…

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