STV2 Simple TV DVR

It’s no secret that I am a fan of the Simple TV DVR.  I own five of the single tuner models.  Three of these are collecting shows to attached 2t disks for playback via Plex and my Simple DVR Roku app.  One is ‘on loan’ to an out-of-market friend.  I’m hoping to use the last one to swap antennas with someone in the UK.

I also have a two tuner model.  This is the model with the ventilated top.  And this is the model I want to talk about today.  While it is officially called the STV2-2ATSC, I am going to refer to it as the STV2.  Throughout this review, I will refer to the STV-1000 as an STV1.  I deliberately used my STV1 review as the basis for this review.  I wanted to make it very easy for a reader to decide between the two models since the STV1 is still available and there are very good reasons why the STV1 could be a better choice for you.

The Simple.TV DVR is a whole house Tuner/DVR for broadcast television.  According to the manufacturer, “Simple.TV is the first personal DVR that streams live and recorded TV to your favorite devices, wherever you are. Get all your broadcast TV favorites on your iPad, PC, Mac or Roku box.”  It plugs in to your antenna, ethernet, and usb drive, but not your television.  To watch the Simple DVR on your television, you need a Roku.  Up to five devices can access live or recorded programming concurrently, but there is only one tuner, so all people watching live programming must watch the same channel.

wholehouse_wide

What Does This Do?  In the most common configuration, you attach the DVR to your antenna and LAN and use a Roku to access the DVR from your television.  You can use the tuner to watch live television from your antenna or play files already stored on the DVR.  You can pause, rewind, or fast forward the programming, delete files from the DVR, and schedule recordings (one episode or all episodes) with the Roku.  If you have more than one DVR, you can switch from one DVR to another.

Remote access is excellent.  Image quality and buffer management are good enough to enjoy live and recorded programming via public wireless networks.  My mother can use my antenna to watch broadcast television via a Roku at her home which has poor reception.  There are iOS, Android/Kindle Fire, Windows 8, and Plex apps for the Simple DVR.  I cannot speak for the iOS app, but the Android app is amazing.  The Plex app only supports playback (no live tv or file management), but you can use it to watch your recordings on many devices including the Amazon Fire TV.

What Doesn’t This Do?  With the current software, you cannot watch the video as you rewind and fast forward and there is no slow motion or frame by frame review.  You cannot do time based recordings (record channel 38 from 3pm to 8pm weeknights).  I’d really like to see a ‘Play All’ and/or Play List option for recordings and it would be great if the Premier software managed all DVRs as one — choosing the next available tuner, showing all programs in a single browse window, etc.  Finally, and this is a big deal for me, it doesn’t work at all when you have no internet connection.  It will record scheduled shows, but you cannot watch live tv or your recordings.

This is NOT for cable TV.  While the STV1 officially supports Clear QAM, the STV2 does not.

A Poor Man’s TiVo  This isn’t a TiVo.  The TiVo provides more sophisticated search capability, a better rewind/fast forward experience, plus internet apps.  A lot of people are going to be very happy to buy a TiVo Premier, pay for the lifetime service, and watch television.  A two tuner Premier with 75 hours of storage with a lifetime service contract will set you back $550.  If you want to share the two tuners with another room, you can buy a Tivo Mini ($250 with lifetime) and if you want to watch your Tivo away from home, you can add a Tivo Stream for $130.  So, living room, bedroom, remote use, with 75 hours of storage for $930.

Alternatively, one could purchase a pair of Simple DVRs ($185), a pair of usb disks ($200), and two Roku 1’s ($80) for $465.  This would give you two tuners, 800 hours of storage, remote access, plus thousands of streaming media channels for 1/2 the cost of a basic TiVo installation.

For the $930 you did not spend on a TiVo, you could purchase four Simple DVRs, four Rokus, a Channel Master DVR+ for the living room, and two years subscription to Netflix.

Support I have been very disappointed with Simple support.  The documentation is sparse, the support site is inaccurate, and email support is sporadic.  Worse, they don’t seem to know any more about the product than I do.  The best help has come from the user community.  I hope this changes.  It’s easy to see how nontechnical users could become frustrated.

Installation The setup process is very straightforward.  In this area, the STV2 is much improved over the STV1.  You have to use specific browsers to configure the device.  I have used Chrome and Firefox.  Internet Explorer does not work.  It seems that security software can interfere with the process as well.

  1. Plug DVR into your network, a usb disk, and your antenna
  2. Open your browser to http://simple.tv, sign into your account (or create an account)
  3. Activate your lifetime subscription
  4. Click Activate Your DVR
  5. Select the DVR to register
  6. Prepare your disk
  7. Scan for channels

You Will Love the Simple DVR If…

  • Your home is situated such that television signals come from multiple directions.  Instead of using a rotor or combiner, you can install one or more DVRs for each market and access the antennas via a Roku.
  • Your home is not pre-wired with coax.  Run coax from the antenna to your router and install the Simple DVR(s) next to the router.
  • You have to have a television where no one thought to install coax.  A Roku brings live tv to your remote television.
  • You want to watch tv by the pool or on the deck.  Simple can stream to a laptop, a tablet, or a wireless Roku by the pool.
  • Your remote vacation home does not have television but does have internet access.
  • You travel a lot and hate infomercials.
  • All your favorite shows air when you are at work.
  • You want to share antennas with a friend in a different market

You May Not Love the Simple DVR If…

  • You have poor broadcast reception
  • You need visual cues when fast forwarding or rewinding a program
  • You have a poor network in your home

I love the Simple DVRs.  After two months with the dual tuner Simple DVR, I give it two enthusiastic thumbs up.

STV2 va STV1

Generally, the STV2 is a better device than the STV1.  It has a faster processor, two tuners, and more features.  The firmware supports bigger disks, recognizes more disks, does a better job scanning for channels.  It also changes channels faster when you are watching live television.

The STV2 runs hotter.  So hot, in fact. that the it has a fan that can be heard in a quiet room during normal operation.  Of course, there is no reason for the Simple DVR to be in a room where the sound of the fan would be an issue.

I have concerns about two tuners writing to one disk at the same time. Seems to me that is a recipe for fragmentation and all the performance issues that come with it. I harvest programs for my on-demand library using STV1s.

More STVs means support more antennas. I have two markets plus a station that is just in the wrong direction. I can point an antenna at these stations and watch them with my Roku. I can leave my market altogether by swapping one of my STVs for one one in another market. I would like to swap STVs with someone in Canada, Australia, Ireland, Scotland, or Britain.

Recommendation

Everyone should get a single tuner Simple DVR with lifetime premier subscription.  This combo is still ten bucks less than the subscription alone.  If you plan to watch live television using the Simple DVR, get a dual tuner DVR.  If you want to harvest broadcasts for on-demand viewing, get more single tuner DVRs.  If you want to share your antenna with others, get more single tuner DVRs with additional lifetime subscriptions.

 

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Sony BDP-S5100 Review

With my Roku 2 XS fleet grounded, I found myself once again in search of a device that would support my streaming needs…

  1. Netflix
  2. Amazon Instant
  3. Simple DVR
  4. Plex
  5. PlayOn

To my delight, the svelte BDP-S5100 did this — and more.   In fact, first and foremost, the BDP-S5100 is a highly regarded 3D BD player which upconverts standard DVDs, plays files off a thumb drive, and streams video.  It has both wired and wireless internet, can play files of a USB disk, and included apps from Sony Entertainment and the Opera App Store.

BDP-S5100 manufacturer refurbs can be purchased via Amazon for $54.99 and carry the same 90 day warranty as NEW Rokus.

The BDP-S5100 is a very good 3D BD player.   Review the specs here and read reviews from CNET, T3, and Trusted Reviews.  There are nearly 2000 user reviews and 1000 questions answered on Amazon.com.  The bottom line is that the BDP-S5100 is a great disc player.

The BDP-S5100 plays files off a usb device.  There is a usb port on the front and one in the back.  Supported file types include: .asf, .avi, .mkv, .mov, .mp4, .wmv, — just about anything.  One of my favorite features is that, if you start a video in a folder, when that video finishes, the next video in the same folder will play without intervention.  If you name the files properly, you can play through three or twelve parts of a series in order without intervention.  Great way to spend a rainy weekend.

We wouldn’t be talking about this device on a Roku blog if it didn’t stream.  It streams.  The BDP-S5100 streams content from Sony Entertainment as well as apps installed from the Opera app store.  Let’s start with the apps that matter most to most people…

  • Netflix: Netflix is a great source of premium programming.  The BDP-S5100’s Netflix app does not require a PC to activate.  A lot of people who are buying streamers do not own or use PCs, so this is a great feature.  The Netflix app supports profiles and Netflix Kids (unlike most Rokus).
  • Amazon Instant: Amazon Instant/Prime is another source of premium programming.  Prime registration can be completed via the streamer or a PC.  The interface is snappy and attractive, but I ALWAYS find it difficult to locate media I own.
  • Simple DVR: I have an antenna and six Simple DVRs.  These things are awesome.  They sit in my basement recording shows I like.  It’s important for me to be able to easily access the recordings.  While there is no Simple app for the BDP-S5100, there is a Plex app and this app plays files from the Simple DVR disks.  It will not, however, schedule recordings or stream live TV.
  • Plex: Plex is a free media server.  With Roku, you pay $4.99 for the client app.  With the BDP-S5100, the client is free (or included or not necessary).  The server shows up under the Video section.  When you select the server, you browse files and streaming media channels as if they were files on a computer.  Plex provides access to ‘cable’ program episodes posted to the internet.  Shows from CBS, Food Network, Fox News, HGTV, History Channel, MSNBC, MTV, NBC, Nick Jr., PBS, PBS Kids, Spike TV, The Colbert Report, The CW, The Daily Show, Vevo, The WB, and other web sites are available via Plex.  You must run Plex on a computer/server.
  • PlayOn: PlayOn is an inexpensive media server.  You pay around $80 for a lifetime subscription to PlayOn, PlayLater, HD plugins, and a Chromecast.  PlayOn provides access to ‘cable’ program episodes posted to the internet.  Shows from A&E, ABC, Adult Swim, Animal Planet, BET, Bio, Bravo, Cartoon Network, CBS, CNN, Cooking Channel, Discovery Channel, Disney, DIY, ESPN, ESPN 3, ESPN Live, Food Network, Fox, Fox News, HBO Go, HGTV, History Channel, Hulu (free), Investigation Discovery, Lifetime, Live News: BBC, Live News: Bloomberg, Live News: C-Span, Live News: NHK, Live News: RT, MLB, MTV, NBC, The CW, National Geographic, NFL Rewind, NHL, Nick, OWN, Oxygen, OBS, PBS Kids, Redbox Instant, Spike TV, SyFy Rewind, TBS, TLC, TV.com, VH1, Vevo, Vudu, WWE, and other web sites are available via PlayOn.  PlayOn also supports third party plugins.  PlayLater is a DVR for the channels that PlayOn streams.  You must run PlayOn/PlayLater on a WINDOWS computer/server.

The BDP-S5100 natively supports ACC Network (college sports), Amazon Instant, Crackle, Facebook, Huffpost Live, Hulu Plus, Netflix, MLB.TV, NBA Game Time, NHL GameCenter, TMZ, Vimeo, VUDU, WealthTV, XOS College Sports, Yupp TV, YouTube, and other content.  The Opera TV store adds games, social media apps, screen savers, and niche channels (Speed Racer).

The BDP-S5100 includes a web browser (authenticating on public WiFi is not supported on other streamers).  You can plug a keyboard into a USB port to help navigate the internet with the built in web browser.

Other areas where the BDP-S5100 distinguished itself from other streamers…

  • Sleep timer (my TV shuts itself off after the BDP-S5100 goes into sleep mode)
  • Parental Controls
  • HDMI Control with compatible televisions
  • Advanced BD settings
  • Rock solid performance
  • Snappy PS3-like user interface
  • Remote controls TV functions; has Netflix and SEN hot buttons; takes AA batteries

I highly recommend this device at any price and love it as a $55 refurb.

Amazon Fire TV Hands On

I’ve had my Fire TV (FTV) for about a week and it sits right next to a Roku 2 XS as I compare and contrast. We cut our ties with Comcast five years ago and are OTA first cable cutters — which is to say we have an antenna and most of our programming comes in via that antenna. We have had a lot of streamers and currently use six Rokus plus this Fire TV. None of these are Roku 3s because using WiFi for streaming audio+video+remote is a really bad idea — especially if you have a half dozen streamers.

The Fire TV streamer is the best streamer available at this time. It combines the most popular features of Apple TV, Roku, and Ouya in a sleek package which is much faster at the same price point. I think it is worth noting that Amazon warrants its streamer for a full year while the others only stand behind theirs for 90 days.

At launch, FTV had nearly 200 apps available including Netflix, Amazon Instant, Hulu Plus, Plex, and YouTube — the most streamed services. Within a few days, people were running XBMC on the Fire TV hardware.

The Fire TV is better hardware than Apple, Roku, or Ouya devices. A faster processor, more memory, usb, wired and wireless ethernet, and optical out all perched on a substantial heat sink ensures cool, smooth operation. During my week of comparison, the Fire TV has not yet hung or rebooted. During this same period, the Roku 2 XS sitting beside it has rebooted three times.

The USB port is a bit of a mystery. I am using it for a wired Xbox controller. Amazon claims it has no current use.

The more time I spend with this streamer, the more I appreciate the user interface. It’s elegant and well thought out. The left margin is a series of topics. As you scroll down the topics, the right side of the screen is filled with subtopics and items. These topics are ordered naturally and default to the logical destination. Press the Home button on your remote and you are taken to the main menu with the Home topic selected revealing your most recent apps and a lot of recommendations. Right click once to return to the last app used, twice to the one before that. Once you settle in with Fire TV what you do will be just a couple clicks away from your favorite apps.

There are a lot of apps for the Fire TV. Many are always free and quite a few were reduced for the launch. Apps purchased for my Kindle Fires are in my Fire TV library even if a different app is required for the FTV.

Fire TV has apps for the most popular services. The Netflix app supports profiles. The Plex app is being revised. It looks great but lacks some recent features like Play All. The YouTube app can be linked to a PC or tablet so that items selected on that device are played on the TV if the app is running. I like this a lot. There are not a lot of news apps, but I like Now This News. NTN plays news clips. On my Roku, there is a black loading screen between clips. On FTV, clips one after another. I guess this is the first application of Amazon’s smart buffering.

Conspicuously absent at launch: a web browser, an email client, social media apps, PlayOn.tv (which works in a browser on my Kindle Fires), Simple.TV DVR app, Tablo DVR app, and the top news and sports apps. I expect these to make their way to FTV as most are already on the Kindle Fire.

The Fire TV is a really decent casual game console. Fire TV launched with 136 games. Thirty of these are free. If you have already purchased an app for your android device, you get the Fire TV version for free.

There are familiar titles (Crazy Taxi, Deus Ex, Minecraft, Prince of Persia, Sonic, Rayman, and Tetris), original titles (Sev Zero), and 47 games that can be played with the included remote control.

I did not purchase a controller for Fire TV. I had hoped PS3 or Xbox controllers would work as I have these in my home. While I was unable to pair a PS3 remote with my Fire TV, I was able to plug in an Xbox USB controller. It was immediately recognized and it is a fine controller for the Fire TV. I will probably get at least one Amazon controller. At $40, it is not overprices and it includes media controls. The $40 price includes Sev Zero and $10 in coins. If you want Sev Zero and/or have your eye on some other paid apps, this will reduce your cost to $23 which is a very good price for a full fledged game controller. The controller takes AA batteries. So, $39.99 for a controller, Sev Zero, Crazy Taxi, and Air Fighters Pro seems like a pretty good deal to me.

Fire TV supports Parental Controls and Amazon’s Freetime will be on Fire TV next month. For $2.99/month, Freetime includes content from Nickelodeon, Sesame Street, PBS Kids, and more. Parents can create custom profiles for up to four kids, choosing the movies, TV shows, apps, and games they can access and limit/restrict certain types of content.

Another feature I haven’t really played with, but may be compelling for some, is a feature called Second Screen. This allows you to mirror a Fire HDX tablet to the TV. Second Screen allows a Fire HD or HDX to display additional information about media playing on the TV. Just pointing this out.

I give this streamer a big thumbs up. Fire TV is a terrific Netflix player that supports profiles. It supports other popular services and is totally integrated with Amazon Prime. FTV plays games with real controllers and plays your media using third party apps like Plex. It’s fun and safe for kids with integrated parental controls. Good job Amazon!

This review on Amazon

Simply Awesome!

I had hoped to post a follow-up to my initial review of the Simple DVR within a few weeks, but, frankly, after two weeks my enthusiasm for the device was on the wane.  This morning, I awoke to a Roku channel update, a device update, and, finally, support for multiple DVRs on the same account.  The Simple V1 is far from perfect, but, once again, I am wildly enthusiastic about this whole house DVR.  And once again, you can Woot! this DVR plus a lifetime subscription to their Premier service for less than $100.  I recommend you get three!

The Simple.TV DVR is a whole house Tuner/DVR for broadcast television.  According to the manufacturer, “Simple.TV is the first personal DVR that streams live and recorded TV to your favorite devices, wherever you are. Get all your broadcast TV favorites on your iPad, PC, Mac or Roku box.”  It plugs in to your antenna, ethernet, and usb drive, but not your television.  To watch the Simple DVR on your television, you need a Roku.  Up to five devices can access live or recorded programming concurrently, but there is only one tuner, so all people watching live programming must watch the same channel.

wholehouse_wide

What Does This Do?  In the most common configuration, you attach the DVR to your antenna and LAN and use a Roku to access the DVR from your television.  You can use the tuner to watch live television from your antenna or play files already stored on the DVR.  You can pause, rewind, or fast forward the programming, delete files from the DVR, and schedule recordings (one episode or all episodes) with the Roku.  If you have more than one DVR (I have four), you can switch from one DVR to another.

Remote access is excellent.  Image quality and buffer management are good enough to enjoy live and recorded programming via public wireless networks.  My mother can use my antenna to watch broadcast television via a Roku at her home which has poor reception.  There are iOS and Android apps for the Simple DVR.  I cannot speak for the iOS app, but the Android app is amazing.  I was able to side load it to a Fire HD and a Fire HDX and enjoy television on those tablets.

What Doesn’t This Do?  With the current software, you cannot watch the video as you rewind and fast forward and there is no slow motion or frame by frame review.  You cannot do time based recordings (record channel 38 from 3pm to 8pm weeknights).  I’d really like to see a ‘Play All’ and/or Play List option for recordings and it would be great if the Premier software managed all DVRs as one — choosing the next available tuner, showing all programs in a single browse window, etc.  Finally, and this is a big deal for me, it doesn’t work at all when you have no internet connection.  It will record scheduled shows, but you cannot watch live tv or your recordings.

This is NOT for cable TV.  While it tunes clear QAM, the cable companies are in the process of encrypting all channels.  Unless you have or plan to cut the cable, this is not the DVR for you.

A Poor Man’s TiVo  This isn’t a TiVo.  The TiVo provides more sophisticated search capability, a better rewind/fast forward experience, plus internet apps.  A lot of people are going to be very happy to buy a TiVo Premier, pay for the lifetime service, and watch television.  A two tuner Premier with 75 hours of storage will set you back $550.  If you want to share the two tuners with another room, you can buy a Tivo Mini ($250 with lifetime) and if you want to watch your Tivo away from home, you can add a Tivo Stream for $130.  So, living room, bedroom, remote use, with 75 hours of storage for $930.

Alternatively, one could purchase a pair of Simple DVRs ($185), a pair of usb disks ($200), and two Roku 1’s ($100) for $485.  This would give you two tuners, 800 hours of storage, remote access, plus thousands of streaming media channels for 1/2 the cost of a basic TiVo installation.

For the $930 you did not spend on a TiVo, you could purchase four Simple DVRs, four Rokus, a Channel Master DVR+ for the living room, and two years subscription to Netflix.

Support I have been very disappointed with Simple support.  The documentation is sparse, the support site is inaccurate, and email support is sporadic.  Worse, they don’t seem to know any more about the product than I do.  The best help has come from the user community.  I hope this changes.  It’s easy to see how nontechnical users could become frustrated.

Installation The setup process is very frustrating and almost counter intuitive.  You have to use specific browsers to configure the device.  I have used Chrome and Firefox.  Internet Explorer does not work.  It seems that security software can interfere with the process as well.  A lot of USB disks do not work with this DVR.    The documentation states that ‘virtually any’ USB disk will work, but that is not true.  Firmware only supports disks to 2t at this time.  Larger disks may format, but only to just over 2t.  Some disks will stop working after a couple days.  Attache these to a computer and they work fine.  Some disks won’t format at all.  Don’t count on the installation disk to let you know your disk is not compatible.  If the installation process detects an incompatible disk, it simply says there is no disk present.  Also, when you attach a compatible disk, it may not format unless you run the installation process from scratch.  Here is a list of disks I know to work with this DVR…

  • Iomega 1t (ldhd-up): formatted and performed perfectly. No issues to date.
  • Seagate 1t (9zc2ag-501): formatted and performed perfectly. No issues to date.
  • Western Digital 500g (WD5000H1U-00): formatted and performed perfectly. No issues to date.
  • Western Digital 2t (WDBFJK0020HBK-04): formatted and performed perfectly. No issues to date.

That 2t WD drive is routinely available at Staples for less than $100 and I recommend you go with that.  Mine has been working for more than a month and has recorded more than 200 programs.

You Will Love the Simple DVR If…

  • Your home is situated such that television signals come from multiple directions.  Instead of using a rotor or combiner, you can install one or more DVRs for each market and access the antennas via a Roku.
  • Your home is not pre-wired with coax.  Run coax from the antenna to your router and install the Simple DVR(s) next to the router.
  • You have to have a television where no one thought to install coax.  A Roku brings live tv to your remote television.
  • You want to watch tv by the pool or on the deck.  Simple can stream to a laptop, a tablet, or a wireless Roku by the pool.
  • Your remote vacation home does not have television but does have internet access.
  • You travel a lot and hate infomercials.
  • All your favorite shows air when you are at work.

Simple.TV

Woot!  Woot!  I got a Simple.TV on Woot last week for $105 (shipped).  I have been intrigued by the Simple device since it was offered on KickStarter.  At $100 including lifetime Premier Service, I jumped in.  My logic was that I was getting the tuner for free since the Premier lifetime license was $150.  This is particularly attractive since Simple has promised the license will support their v2 device and that the v2 device would be compatible with legacy hardware.  From their FAQ

Rest assured whether you buy a unit today or upgrade to a new unit a year from now, we won’t charge you extra for the subscription. Every Simple.TV subscription can accommodate new units as long as you have a valid Simple.TV subscription.

We believe in value and we don’t nickel and dime you to death. Our subscriptions are tied to you (the viewer) and you can choose to have one unit or many units on your account. As long as you’re the primary subscriber, you can have as many units as you wish.

Since our subscriptions can cover multiple units, you can get started with us today and upgrade your Simple.TV unit at anytime in the future — risk free.

What is Simple?  According to the manufacturer, “Simple.TV is the first personal DVR that streams live and recorded TV to your favorite devices, wherever you are. Get all your broadcast TV favorites on your iPad, PC, Mac or Roku box.”  That pretty much sums it up.

What they do not say, however, is that the Simple completes the Roku.  If you have a Roku and are missing local programming and/or your DVR, Simple is what you need.  Look at this…

wholehouse_small

Instead of routing your broadcast signal to each television, feed the signal into a bank of Simples and stream programming to Rokus.

You will want one Simple and one Roku for each television plus one Simple to serve as a whole house DVR since the Simple serves as a tv tuner for the Roku.    Of course, any/every Simple can be a DVR, so designating a lesser used tuner (guest room) is fine.  In this configuration, you can schedule favorite shows to record with the Premier software.  It will record only new shows or new shows plus reruns.  Either way, it will not re-record an episode already saved.  From your Roku equipped television, you can pause, rewind, fast forward, and record live television.  You can watch shows recorded on any Simple device on your network.  You can do all of this on the road as well (I haven’t tried this yet).

So, that is the concept.  How does it work?

Let’s start with the DVR.  Before connecting anything, you need to set up an account using the provided code.  Then you plug in a USB disk, an ethernet cable, an antenna, and power.  The web app will discover the DVR, prompt you for local information, and set up your guide.  It will offer to format the USB disk.  Once the disk is formatted, you are ready to begin watching live tv via the web interface and schedule recordings.

dvrScreens

DVR Screens

dvrScreens2

 

Roku Channel Screens

Setting up the Roku channel is even easier.  Install the private channel.  Open the channel, type the code into https://www.simple.tv/roku and you’re done.  The Roku channel is about an [un]impressive as any Roku channel — simple drill down navigation with 2D scrollers, limited search and programming — but it works and some of the screens like ‘upcoming’ are pretty nice.  They key missing features are…

  1. Device oriented
  2. No play all in My Shows
  3. No search for programs to record
  4. No slow motion
  5. Limited record functions

By device oriented, I mean that you have to select a DVR in the Roku menu before you can use it to tune channels or watch a show.  If you save programs on multiple DVRs, you need to know which one recorded the show you want to watch.  If you connect to a DVR that is currently recording a show or on which someone else is already watching television, your connection will interrupt the current activity.

One other shortcoming is that the Live TV list is a list of programs not channels, so if you have the same program on a strong and a weak channel, you may not be able to select the strong channel.

Some Roku channels have an option to record all programs.  The Simple pops out to the show description upon completion.  Search is limited to shows on the DVR.  Via the Roku channel, recording options are limited to record this episode and record the series.

My ideal Roku channel would be device independent.  If I wanted to watch live tv, the first available DVR would be connected.  The Live TV list should include all tuned channels even if the same show is on two channels. Recordings should start on the next available tuner.  When I choose to watch live tv, if a tuner is already in use, I should be prompted before it is disconnected (this tuner is recording the Super Bowl, do you want to interrupt the recording?)  I should be able to search programs on all local DVRs.  When I choose to watch a show, an option ought to be to watch all recorded episodes.  I’d also like to be able to start and stop recording manually or record channel 38 from 6pm to 8pm every week night.  I’d like to be able to rewind something and watch it in slow motion.  This is essential for sports and wardrobe malfunctions.

Let’s think through some use cases…

  • You cut the cable and installed an antenna and have run cable to your televisions and are enjoying broadcast programming.  You have installed a Roku for Netflix and other internet programming.  You might install one or a few Simple devices to record programs and to use to view, pause, rewind, and fast forward for some programs.
  • You want to put a tv where you have no coax and do not want to run coax.  You install a Simple DVR where there is coax and stream wirelessly to a Roku where the television is.
  • You want to watch tv by the pool or on the deck.  Simple can stream to a laptop, a tablet, or a wireless Roku by the pool.
  • I have five DTVPal DVRs scattered throughout my home.  We also have five Rokus.  We just installed our first Simple DVR.  I program it to record shows we like and we watch them using the Roku channel.  Five Rokus can stream a program at the same time.  This is a great way to intelligently record programming without spending for a Tivo.

I’ve only had this for a couple weeks and I love it.  I’ll post a followup once I have had a chance to use it for remote viewing (college boy is supposed to test this for me).  In the meantime, I strongly recommend anyone watching unencrypted cable or broadcast television grab one of these.  Watch Woot — these have been $100 with lifetime twice.  In case you missed the link in the first paragraph, here is a big on to the specs on the v2 device…

http://www.silicondust.com/images/hdhomerun/stv_sellsheet_2013USA.pdf

 

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!

Continue reading

Time to Buy a Roku?

This week, early adopters began receiving their Roku 3 streaming media players.  Already, the Roku 3 is the ‘#1 Best Seller in Multiroom Digital Music Systems’ on Amazon.com — whatever that means.  Should you buy a Roku 3?  Will a Roku 3 let you cut the cable?  In the next couple paragraphs, I’ll try to help you figure that out.

This is a blog about cutting the cable not streaming media, so any review of streaming media players has to begin with a discussion of where the media player fits into the cable cutting strategy.  Obviously, this kind of a discussion is going to be subjective — people who watch Netflix 80% of the time are going to be more excited about streaming media players than people who turn on the local news in the morning, the evening news at night, and syndicated sitcoms in between.  I fall into the latter group and am not terribly excited about streaming the internet to my television.  Just the same, I own eight streaming media players of which five are Rokus. Continue reading

Channel Spotlight: CS50

While exploring Roku content, I stumbled across a channel called CS50.  The CS stands for computer science and the channel is Harvard’s introduction to computer science.  Harvard has made this content available to other schools and the general public.  The Roku channel conjures the lectures, but there is also a web site with all the quizzes  projects, and supporting software downloads.  What I really like about this channel, is that there is no prerequisite but the course is not a class on keyboarding and Office.  From the syllabus…

Topics include abstraction, algorithms, encapsulation, data structures, databases, memory management, security, software development, virtualization, and websites. Languages include C, PHP, and JavaScript plus SQL, CSS, and HTML. Problem sets inspired by real-­‐world domains of biology, cryptography, finance, forensics, and gaming. Designed for concentrators and non-­‐concentrators alike, with or without prior programming experience.

If you do not have a Roku, the course is available in a web browser: https://www.cs50.net

Now, go get smart!

Echostar DTVPal DVR (review)

The thing we missed the most when I cut the cable was our DVR.  We did not record a lot of shows, but we did pause, rewind, fast forward, and slow down programming a lot.  I immediately set out to remedy this.  After toying with a Home Theater Personal Computer (HTPC), we decided to go with a dedicated DVR.  Once we decided on a DVR, there were only really two choices — Tivo or DTVPal.  While the Tivo has some compelling features, the monthly fee was not consistent with my cord cutting goals, so we took a chance on the DTVPal. Continue reading

By Len Mullen Posted in Review