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Roku Box Adds HD, Grows Beyond Netflix 95

DeviceGuru writes "Roku has announced two free updates to its Internet-enabled Netflix movie-streaming set-top box. The initial update adds advanced compression capable of streaming HD video over average consumer broadband connections, while the second (expected during the first quarter of 2009) will add A/V streaming from sources other than Netflix (e.g. YouTube, Hulu, Comedy Central, MSNBC, etc.). Roku faces growing competition from other providers of Internet-based video-on-demand STBs, such as Blockbuster's STB, Syabas's Popcorn Hour (aka NMT), AppleTV, and others. Roku hasn't said anything specific, but perhaps it'll partner with Boxee, which already provides a popular AppleTV hack."
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Roku Box Adds HD, Grows Beyond Netflix

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  • by Corpuscavernosa ( 996139 ) on Tuesday December 23, 2008 @04:31PM (#26215719)
    ... but seriously when is porn going to get into the streaming scene? (insert joke)
    • Try googling it and be amazed!
    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Look up FyreTV. Unfortunately, they just ended the free beta period. It's $10 for 100 minutes of streaming per month and the hardware is free.

    • by thedonger ( 1317951 ) on Tuesday December 23, 2008 @05:14PM (#26216171)

      but seriously when is porn going to get into the streaming scene? (insert joke)

      When R. Kelly starts filming again.

    • streams porn as well.
    • ... but seriously when is porn going to get into the streaming scene? (insert joke)

      There are a ton of for-pay webcam services. They seem to be intermediaries between 'independent contractors' in mostly 3rd world countries and customers in the west. They often take the lion's share of the money (usually $1/minute and up), paying the contractors 25% or less, although I've heard of one place advertising for contractors and claiming to pay 50%.

      Sorry, I don't know any URLs off-hand, but you can probably find them easily enough even with a brain-dead google search since that's kind of their

  • XBMC (Score:4, Insightful)

    by 0100010001010011 ( 652467 ) on Tuesday December 23, 2008 @04:35PM (#26215763)

    Someone just needs to build a nice small XBMC replacement. Something the size of Popcorn or Apple TV. Donate some engineers / money to the XBMC guys to get it to work with your chipset. Maybe some 1080p hardware decoding.

    My XBOX is starting to show its age, but XBMC hands down beats every single one of those players hands down.

    • by DrDitto ( 962751 )
      Can your XBMC stream movies from NetFlix? Does it occupy about 4"x4"x2" of space and is completely silent?
      • Maybe you missed the part where I said "Someone needs to build a nice small XBoxMC replacement".

        XBMC is already ported to Linux, OS X, and Windows. It's a project that's been refined over the last 4.5 years. All it needs is someone to come in and create a 4"x4"x2" device designed just to use it.

        • by DrDitto ( 962751 )
          Did you miss the part where I said "Can your XBMC stream movies from NetFlix"? Will your small XBMC stream movies from NetFlix?
      • by Belial6 ( 794905 )
        While my XBMC does not stream from NetFlix, it IS completely silent, and takes up far less than 4"x4"x2" since XBMC is a program, not hardware.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      Have you seen an AppleTV running Boxee? With the exception of Netflix capabilities (which they are working on adding) basically is XBMC with a much better interface.
      • The AppleTV is woefully underpowered and too expensive.

        And "Interface" is just a matter of what skin you have installed, my XBMC looks gorgeous as is.

        • I think you might want to eat those words... considering the Xbox is the real "woefully underpowered" device.

          The Xbox has an Intel Celeron (coppermine) 733 dating from 1999 or 2001 depending on when it was produced, by comparison the AppleTV has an Intel Crofton 1.0Ghz from the last year or so.

          There's also the RAM, 64MB of DDR SDRAM in the xbox, 256MB of DDR2 SDRAM in the AppleTV.

          As far as it being too expensive, the xbox at release was double what the AppleTV was at release... nuff said.

          • XBMC runs on most OS's and most computers.

            The GP probably was not referring to the original xbox.

          • Unless I'm completely mistaken the Xbox launched at $299. The cheapest AppleTV is $229 at Apple's website right now. It is no longer possible to purchase an Xbox brand new expect off 3rd party channels. However, used consoles can be bought from any Gamestop for $50. A purchase of the original Splinter Cell for $3 and some time will allow you to softmod your Xbox and install XBMC.

            The specs on the Xbox might look extremely underpowered right now and they are for HD playback, but the Xbox doesn't have an O

            • by HTH NE1 ( 675604 )

              The other issue with the AppleTV is that you still need to hack it just like the Xbox. There was a Boxee installer for it; however, shortly after release an update magically came out that updated the system if you had automatic updates enabled. This updated the OS, removed Boxee and closed the hole they used to install it. That's not exactly the open platform I'm looking to run as my media frontend IMO.

              I was thinking along those same lines, but I also did some searching and discovered that Boxee has a new installer [] for installation on AppleTV 2.3. It has two bugs right now, but there appear to be workarounds for them, and an updated installer is in the works to address at least one of them if not both.

              Of course, everyone running Boxee on AppleTV will be turning off automatic updates and will be watching carefully for reports if another update disables it again. How Apple responds to the workaround will de

              • I wonder though about that other AppleTV mod that added functionality only if the thumb drive was attached was affected by the 2.3 update; disconnect the USB drive and the AppleTV is back to normal. If only I could remember what mod that was...

                Ah, apparently I needed to search GeekBrief.TV with "Apple TV" instead of "AppleTV" to find reference to aTV Flash []. It too was affected and they also have an update that works with Apple TV 2.3.

                The software can be easily removed at any time, and will NOT void your warranty.

                Key Features:

                • Play additional video formats such as DivX, Xvid, AVI, WMV, RMVB & more
                • Play DVD files WITHOUT converting them (includes menu & special feature support)
                • Surf the web with a Safari based web browser
                • Create video playlists with loop and shuffle support
                • Easily enable external USB hard drive storage
                • Enable FTP, SFTP and SSH access
                • Install other Mac OS X applications like Firefox, and EyeTV
                • Restore synced media from Apple TV in the event of a hard drive failure
                • All original Apple TV features remain intact
        • by ubrgeek ( 679399 )
          Combined with the lack of cable card support and a decent Tivo-like DVR application (remember when the rumor mill was abuzz with talk that Apple would buy Tivo?) and AppleTV is still very much a niche-market device. Get both of those features and it's a contender to replace cable boxes (right now I'm stuck with Verizon's and IMO it sucks) and break out into something really useful. If it takes countless articles on how to turn it into more of a home entertainment platform, then Apple isn't using the thing
      • Have you seen an AppleTV running Boxee?

        The problem with that setup is all the frakkin' daggits. I hate daggits.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Shrubbman ( 3807 )

      FYI the aforementioned Boxee hack for AppleTV is actually an XBMC fork.

    • by grub ( 11606 )
      I have 2 PopcornHours and we love them. Non-geek friendly which is great for the rest of the family. Even with the remote control xbmc wasn't the most user friendly thing around.

      Popcornhour >> xbmc.
    • You can already install XBMC on AppleTV. I find it much more usable and snappier than Boxee, which seems...boxy on the ATV compared to XBMC. If you have the PlayOn DLNA server (one-time $30 fee) installed on a Windows PC, you can stream Hulu to XBMC on your AppleTV (or 360 or PS3, etc.).

      My number 1 gripe about insists on sharing your viewing habits with people on your "friends" list.

    • XBMC would only start showing age if folks bought into this HD malarkey. For those happily sticking with their standard definition TVs, XMBC is still the best option out there. Even on an HDTV, XBMC looks snazzy and works very well. News Flash: DVDs continue to work and look fine to spite the fancy commercials for blu-ray madness.

      Besides, what else is my Xbox going to be used for, playing games? Pfft. As if I had time.
    • by psergiu ( 67614 )
      Small PC of chioce + GeeXBoX []

      It's linux + mplayer

      PS: please tag story as geexbox
    • In true Build-It-And-They will come if we just get something like MRSS going where a "Feed" is known as a "Channel" and can link to other Channels, as well as slideshows (Channel full of png links), movies (some freeish codec), tv shows (a series would just be a Channel full of consecutive episoses) and music (an albumn would just be a Channel of consecutive songs) with nice png thumbnail support, the ability to add links to "buy plastic disc edition" and the whole thing very easy to mashup and deep link (J

  • Mythbackend ! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by 0x4a6f6e43 ( 837256 ) on Tuesday December 23, 2008 @04:39PM (#26215807)
    Just add the ability to talk to a Mythbackend and output HD at 1080p and I'll get two!
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by TubeSteak ( 669689 )

      Maybe I'm missing something, but doesn't "advanced compression" defeat the purpose of HD video?

      • Re:Mythbackend ! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Duradin ( 1261418 ) on Tuesday December 23, 2008 @05:22PM (#26216243)

        What's to miss about better picture quality for the same bit rate?

        Compare h.264 to mpeg-2.

      • by grub ( 11606 )

        Maybe I'm missing something, but doesn't "advanced compression" defeat the purpose of HD video?

        The cableco/satellite people heavily compress the HD video coming down already. You can often see blockiness in scene changes or certain colours (red & blue). x264 compresses very well.
      • doesn't "advanced compression" defeat the purpose of HD video?

        Certainly not if it was lossless compression (which I don't know if it is).

  • Anyone have any idea when/if....
    *HD* Netlfix will come to PC's (Windows, Linux, MAC) ?
    Official netflix integration into Vista MCE (unofficial exists) ?
    Official or unofficial integration of Hulu in Media Center?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Isn't HD Netflix OnDemand available already? I see a section under their OnDemand feature labeled HD with a small selection of content.

    • If they do it for the Xbox360 [], then it might stand to reason that Media Center might follow? Dunno, the whole article is nothing more than speculation at this point. But it's from someone (Shane Kim) [] who, if anyone knew if it were a possibility/in the pipeline, it would be him.
  • Hopefully one of the "additional providers of HD content" will also provide streams with Closed Captioning (or subtitles). My biggest disappointment with Roku/Netflix is no Closed Caption.
    • Doesn't this break the US Government laws [] on requiring closed captioning?
      • I'm sure Netflix can finesse this in a number of ways; for example, per this fcc page [] "Channels producing revenues of under $3,000,000" are exempt from the rule. Instant Watch is "free for Netflix subscribers."

        There are also technical issues; HDMI doesn't have a CC stream so the merge of CC or subtitle and video have to happen in the Roku box or upstream.

      • Netflix may be providing videos but I don't think they count as a video programming provider.

      • No, Netflix isn't a broadcaster. The FCC only has jurisdiction over radio waves.

        • Nope. See the FCC web site [].

          The FCC was established by the Communications Act of 1934 and is charged with regulating interstate and international communications by radio, television, wire, satellite and cable.

      • by fm6 ( 162816 )

        FCC rules about close-captioning apply to broadcast TV, period.

        • IANAL, but FCC defines a video programming distributor [] as

          (2) Video programming distributor. Any television broadcast station licensed by the Commission and any multichannel video programming distributor as defined in  76.1000(e) of this chapter, and any other distributor of video programming for residential reception that delivers such programming directly to the home and is subject to the jurisdiction of the Commission.

          and "any other distributor of video programming for residential reception tha

  • I love Roku (Score:3, Interesting)

    by WiiVault ( 1039946 ) on Tuesday December 23, 2008 @05:00PM (#26216031)
    As an AppleTV I must say I really admire Roku. They seem to understand hardware and software in a way few manufacturers do. They work really hard on compatibility with so many formats and products, its really great. I love my AppleTV as well, and it does some things better, but to get the openess of Roku it must be seriously hacked. Roku is the one pushing this segment forward.
  • "Presumably" Hulu (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MrDelSarto ( 95771 ) on Tuesday December 23, 2008 @05:03PM (#26216061) Homepage

    The article says

    "Presumably this will include sources such as YouTube, Hulu, Comedy Central, MSNBC, etc."

    I'm pretty sure this would be a licensing issue, not at technical issue about streaming formats.

    It's one thing to have to sit at your computer, or faff about with a media PC to watch content. But I imagine the networks would be very scared of a simple, cheap, no subscription, plug-in box. I'd be (pleasantly) surprised if they let Roku get to that content.

    Once Hulu comes to my Tivo (I hate having a million boxes for different things), I'd reconsider why I even pay for even the cheapest tier cable.

    If anyone wonders what the Comcast 250G caps are about, they have nothing to do with bandwidth contention and everything to do with them realising soon they will loose half (more?) of their business when cable TV dies.

    • Re:"Presumably" Hulu (Score:4, Informative)

      by exhilaration ( 587191 ) on Tuesday December 23, 2008 @05:26PM (#26216263)
      I don't see any licensing issues as long as Roku doesn't try to block commercials. After all, it's just another web client, relegated to a niche audience.
    • I use MediaMall's PlayOn media server to watch Hulu and Netflix on my PS3 and Xbox360. It also streams to my PopcornHour box. It costs $30. I am in no way affiliated with them, I just love the product. []

      • I'm another happy customer. If you run XBMC on Apple TV, you can use PlayOn to watch Hulu. Netflix technically works, but it chokes to due to Apple TV's hardware.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by powerlord ( 28156 )

      Once Hulu comes to my Tivo (I hate having a million boxes for different things), I'd reconsider why I even pay for even the cheapest tier cable.

      Cable is in for lots of rude awakenings in the coming year or two.

      Once digital TV goes live, and signal strength increases on the digital signals, a lot of people in formerly "I can get a usable signal" areas will suddenly get crystal clear reception.

      I live in the canyons of concrete and steel in NYC and went from missing a couple of channels and lots of snow (on an

  • I've been spending the past few weeks enjoying the HD streaming they recently enabled on TiVos. It's great to be able to go just watch any movie in my instant queue, all using the TiVo interface. There are nice little touches like TV series show up as a folder with one "recording" per episode instead.

    It works very well, and I can get full quality (or sometimes one mark under, according to the little display) on my 6 Mb DSL line.

    So far I've watched Meet the Robinsons, King of Kong, and a couple of other th

    • Steaming HD is good, I'll admit, but I prefer baked or pan-fried. It's not as healthy as steamed, but it tastes so much better. Basted with some chipotle sauce, and it's da bomb.

  • While all of this seems to be great, there's one problem nobody really wants to talk about: the imposition of monthy download capacity limits by Internet Service Providers.

    Indeed, even Comcast's 250 GB per month is woefully inadequate to accommodate streaming HD video over a device like Roku or Apple TV if you watch a lot of movies streamed to your device. And many ISP's are talking much smaller monthly download limits, too. The result: either you can't download as many movies and TV shows you really want,

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by dschuetz ( 10924 )

      I think it might go the other way. It's one thing for a few geeks with home-brewed media center PCs to start streaming lots of movies and run up huge bandwidth totals.

      It's a totally different thing for "Interweb" users with a cable modem and a single PC they use for online banking, when they get something like AppleTV or Roku and can start watching lots of stuff that way.

      That is, once this starts to go mainstream, when average home internet users can start using these devices, there'll be a lot more pressu

      • That is, once this starts to go mainstream, when average home internet users can start using these devices, there'll be a lot more pressure for ISPs to NOT impose those bandwidth caps.

        Actually, that's all the MORE reason for ISP's to put in download caps--with the current economic conditions, nobody is willing to put in the investment to tremendously expand the bandwidth necessary to accommodate large-scale video streaming.

        Besides, with the prices of Blu-ray players and discs now dropping rapidly, why bothe

        • Besides, with the prices of Blu-ray players and discs now dropping rapidly, why bother with a solution that could tie up your broadband connection for long periods of time and the picture quality still can't compare to a real 1080p-resolution Blu-ray disc?

          With modern codecs, excellent video quality can be had for 2-3 Mbps for a 720p video. The 1080p is about 2.25x more pixels, but since codecs scale well, you could probably do an excellent quality for 4-5 Mbps. Even 3Mbps could probably do well for the
          • While download speeds isn't an issue, the issue I mentioned here is download capacity limits. Essentially, you're limited to 250 GB or less a month, which may put a kibosh on downloading HD movies given that one movie at 720p resolution will probably take about 12-15 GB of downloads.

            ISP's are imposing download capacity limits not only because of fear of the current network infrastructure being overwhelmed, but also to discourage continuous downloading from torrent sites (torrent sites often carry illegally

            • I think the balancing act here, and the point of the OP, is that suddenly ISP complaints about a "few bad players [cough pirates cough] sucking up all the bandwidth," starts to really lose its authority. Then it becomes a balance between the loss of a PR whipping boy (file sharers) and the need to control costs. I think the first casualty in this battle will be the ISP's ability to continue to sell "unlimited" capacity. They will be forced into a little more truth in advertising. Then they will have to

"Pull the wool over your own eyes!" -- J.R. "Bob" Dobbs