A Rokurious Review
I’m starting to wonder if my Roku is going to spawn a trilogy of posts. Perhaps. Since we’ve owned one for a while now, I wish to offer a mini-review and some additional thoughts regarding our impressions so far. The first post was called Roku – A New Hope. To keep things in order, I guess this post would have to unofficially be called The Roku Strikes Back. It remains unclear at this time if the third and final installment will feature the word “return” or “revenge.” I’m still not quite sure how this story ends.
Meet the Roku. A little device that is one inch tall and less than five inches wide. It sits next to your television and home stereo and streams video and music from an internet connection to your home theater.
The Roku doesn’t have its own internal storage. Its function is to “stream” content from an internet connection. It can make use of your home’s Wi-Fi or can be connected with a standard Ethernet cable.
The Roku is currently offered in three flavors. All can provide video in standard and high definition (up to 720p), the ability to use Wi-Fi and Ethernet, remote control, and support HDMI video output.
The Roku HD is the base model at $59.99.
The Roku XD is $79.99 and adds an “enhanced” remote control, high definition video up to 1080p, and extended range wireless.
The Roku XD|S is $99.99 and adds a USB port, additional video and optical outputs, and “dual-band wireless technology,” whatever that is.
You can view a chart comparing the various models on the official Roku web site.
The three models of Roku listed above can all be purchased directly from the Roku web site.
A version of the Roku can also be purchased in select stores like Best Buy. Be advised, however, that the Roku found at Best Buy is just a little bit different. It is branded as a “NETGEAR Roku XD Player” and costs $99.99. This is the equivalent of the Roku XD player listed above which can be purchased online for only $79.99 and without the crappy NETGEAR branding. My advice: Save yourself the $20 for the same unit by shopping online. Or, if you want to spend $99.99, then you might as well upgrade to the Roku XD|S for the same price. I think it’s a rip off to buy the NETGEAR version in stores. And, in my opinion, NETGEAR is not anything I want near my electronics. I’ve had horrible experiences with their products.
We don’t have an HD television since our Panasonic 42″ plasma died just out of warranty and we were told it would cost $600 to fix. So from the back of the Roku to our television we used a yellow RCA cable for the “composite” connection. This isn’t quite as good as HD but it still provides a signal that looks just as good as standard cable. For the audio a set of red/white RCA cables went to an input on our home stereo receiver.
The thing that worried me the most about buying a Roku was the setup. I’m not very technical. When you power up the Roku the first thing you see is a boot screen, just like your home PC. Then a welcome page which promises that your Roku will be up and running in only three minutes. This turns out to be a little bit of a falsehood since your Roku will perform an update and reboot. After the reboot the welcome screen has changed its mind and now says it will take five minutes. That’s a little more accurate.
After the update, if using Wi-Fi, the Roku displays the wireless connections it has found. I’m still not sure I picked the right one, since there were two listed that had the same name as my Wi-Fi router. I picked the first one listed and it all seems to have worked out.
To use your Roku you’ll have to go to Roku.com and create a free account that is used to connect your Roku to various channels like Pandora, Netflix, Hulu Plus, and others. After you’ve created this account, you enter a code displayed on your TV screen. That’s it. You’re done with setup.
If you want to add additional paid services, you’ll repeat this process with a code that you’ll enter on that service’s web site. If you want Pandora the Roku will give you a code that you enter on the Pandora web site.
We were listening to Pandora in just about five minutes from the initial boot. Netflix was also added right away and worked like a charm.
There are lots of free channels to choose from and we’ve had fun exploring them. No doubt that much of this content is most likely already on the internet and available on your PC, but this was on our TV while sitting on our asses on the sofa. That made it seem like more fun.
On the “My Damn Channel” we found Cookin’ with Coolio, a “ghetto witchdoctor superstar chef.” It was pretty funny but he doesn’t seem to make caprise salad that looks quite the same as my wife makes.
We also found something called The Kevin Pollack Chat Show. There were a bunch of episodes (most almost two hours long) featuring the comic interviewing big name celebrities. The one with Andy Richter starts with Pollack doing a Dr. Seuss poem as Christopher Walken. It was pretty hilarious.
I’ve also found other content like lectures from professors at Harvard and Yale. Those are pretty neat. I’ve been attending Introduction to Ancient Greek History and hope to award myself an unofficial Ph.D. very soon. After that you’ll all be required to call me Doctor Shouts.
Stuff That Is Good
- Easy setup
- Good value
- Pandora has never skipped
- Netflix works great
- Free channels are fun to explore
Stuff That Isn’t So Good
Overall I really like the Roku and think it is a good value. Everything has pros and cons and here’s a few impressions regarding what might not be so good.
- Freezes – If you’ve ever owned or worked with a router, you are likely already aware of this type of thing. We’ve had our Roku about three weeks and it has frozen about five times. That’s an average of more than once a week, and I personally don’t think that’s a very good record. Even worse, one of the most annoying things a piece of electronics can ever do, is that you are forced to get off your lazy ass, walk over to the unit, pull it off the shelf, and physically remove the power cord. There is no button for restart or even an on/off switch – just like most routers I’ve ever seen. I’m glad the Roku programmers have the hubris to think their software is so perfect and too good for such menial things like switches, but the reality is, their shit can crash. It is annoying as a motherfucker. These seem to happen most when exploring free channels, so maybe flaky servers are the problem. Maybe they should have better error handling? I don’t know how the stuff inside a Roku works. I just know I absolutely friggin’ hate having to unplug the power cord to get a frozen device to restart. Period. This is unconscionable and unacceptable.
- Reboots – So there we are, watching an episode of Heroes on Hulu Plus, when the screen freezes for no reason at all. We try the remote control and get no response. We decide to give it a minute and then the screen goes blank and a moment later the Roku boot screen is displayed. Our Roku just rebooted right in the middle of a show. Not quite as annoying as a total freeze, but come on! What the hell? And after the restart the Roku did not remember our position in the show.
- Wi-Fi – For us, the wireless has worked very well with our Roku. I’d rate it far superior to something like Charter Communication’s “On Demand” service which has always been glitchy for us. But it seems like that always isn’t the case. We liked the Roku so much we bought one for our aunt as a Christmas present. She also has Wi-Fi which is provided by her landlord. Her distance to the Wi-Fi is greater than ours. She called last night and the Roku simply can’t handle it. Her computer works with the Wi-Fi internet connection but the Roku won’t even complete the setup process. For us, we’ve also experienced maybe two pauses during streaming, but I’m not sure if I can blame the Roku for those. They might have been caused by garden variety internet lag.
- Best Buy – Again, unless you like paying $20 for nothing, I recommend you don’t buy the unit at Best Buy. Get the equivalent unit online for $20 less. They say a Best Buy customer is born every minute. Don’t be that person.
- Remote Control – The response from the remote doesn’t feel very tactile. There is a bit of lag like it’s thinking about what to do about you just pushed. Not the end of the world but it is a bit annoying and disconcerting.
So, after three weeks of use, I give the Roku 4.5 out of 5 stars*. The only deduction coming from those damn freezes and the lack of button and/or power switch. That’s good enough for us to return our “On Demand” box to Charter. Yeah!
This morning the Roku froze up – again! I wanted to listen to some Pandora while I made breakfast and did the dishes. The unit appeared to be working fine but no music would play. (I could still hear the beeps when using the remote control.) Thinking the problem might be Pandora I tried a different channel. The channel never loaded and I was forced to power off the damn thing with the power cord. Argh!
Perhaps the Roku isn’t quite ready for primetime. Depending on the severity of this sort of problem I think my initial rating was a skosh too high. I’m now giving it 4 out of 5 stars. Still pretty good but not perfect. It basically plays, most of the time, Pandora and Netflix, which is all I really wanted. I’m not so sure if it is reliable enough the rest of the time.
Guest Blog: Raising the ego bar – a year in review
To help get into the spirit of the New Year celebrations, I asked Mrs. Abyss to highlight a few of her favorite blog posts of mine from 2010. You know, one of those ubiquitous “Year in Review” type of deals. This is what she came up with…
Mr. Abyss must really love me. He actually entrusted me to choose my favorite Abyss blog posts of 2010. Me! His harshest critic and fierce foe of his negativity bull crap. The task was actually much harder then I had imagined. I figured there may be one, possibly two posts I would ever consider worthy of additional praise; however I ended up with well over 30 Abyss-mal rantings that made me really laugh. It was tough, but I narrowed it down to 15.
#1. My favorite rantings are about gerbils. I personally think Abyss could start a blog strictly based on gerbil activity and FENS. As angry as I get about my son and his son, Tom’s take on our kids helps me to heal. If you are new to Abyss’s gerbil posts, I urge to search them out. They are funny, informative and terribly accurate. If you have your own gerbil at home and suffer from FENS, you are not alone!
Post: Something gerbil this way comes
#2. Ah, here is a classic! Abyss is always searching for a way to feel superior to every other human on Earth and his search is over. He did drop his status some by later giving up vegetarianism. Guess he’s not as quite as perfect as he thought?!
Post: Intelligence is a beach
#3. Tom told me to choose my favorite posts from his blog and I certainly picked this one right. His mistake in asking me to do this? He didn’t say the post had to be written by himself. Here’s one of my favs written by me! Why is it my favorite? Because it’s an accurate representation of one of my favorite people in the whole world… Mr. Abyss.
Post: Ode to Mr. Abyss
#4. I’m not much for Tom’s posts about his work woes. I hate whiny, poor me, my life is so pathetic rantings, however, I love this one because I can relate to it. Sadly, I think most of us can. Most bosses are A-1 assholes. Of all the asshole bosses I have ever had, none can compare to the one Tom had up until recently. This guy was not only a horrible excuse for a human, a loathsome liar and master manipulator; he was a also a world class fake Christian to the core.
Post: How to destroy your employees
#5. Simply one of Tom’s best creations!
Post: Hyppo and Critter – Inventions
#6. I was a vegetarian before Tom posted this, however it really helped confirm that I made the right decision. A co-worker of mine refuses to eat anything with a beak. “I only eat beef, chickens and other winged birds that eat off the ground, and it’s totally disgusting.” Guess what honey? Cows go cluck!
Post: Chicken Litter says the sky is falling
#7. This one just made me giggle.
Post: Someone’s knocking at the door
#8. What’s worse then a human dressed as a mattress? A tweaker dressed as the Statue of Liberty holding a sign for a tax business that just fell off his skateboard that rolled into a lane of traffic. Yes, I’ve seen that.
Post: Human spam at home and on the road
#9. I know, too much gerbil jargon, but this mystery is still unsolved!
Post: The Adventure of the Raspberry Bar
#10. I once worked for an orthopedic surgeon. A small bathroom was attached to our break room and it had extremely thin walls. Said surgeon would waltz into the bathroom, do his biz and walk right out. We could hear everything; from the zip of his zipper to a guess of what he had for dinner the previous night. Every single time there was one thing we NEVER heard… the sound of the surgeon washing his hands.
Post: Employees must pretend to wash hands
#11. Poop. Need I say anything more?
Post: Breaking the poop barrier
#12. Pretty sure there’s some law somewhere that says if a marriage is not consummated on the wedding night, the union is null and void. 48 hours of hiccups equals, well, no consummating. Finally a way out!!!!
Post: Five-year marriage hiatus
#13. My all time favorite. If you really want to delve into Abyss’s mind, it’s all spelled out here.
Post: Shout Abyss on America’s Got Talent
#14. The best day of my life; Tom finally saying, “Fair thee well and fuck off you fucking fuckers.”
Post: So Long, and Thanks for All the Pish
#15. Dear Charter, I was going to drop off our cable box today but I forgot that I have to have a valid driver’s license so that you can confirm I am me and that I am there to discuss my own account, you know, the one that I pay you for. Since your pathetic puss bag of an employee talked me into setting up an account with a fake name, I can’t do that now. It’s ok though. I have called your puss bag employee to come pick it up himself. Charter…. fuck you asshole.
Post: Roku – A New Hope
Drop Dead Charter
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This is a post where you all get to point and laugh at me. Go ahead, bring it on. Make my day.
So, yeah. I went and did something stupid. I broke one of my cardinal rules and got interested in a television show. A TV SHOW!!!
I know! How dumb can I be?
I’m going to admit the ugly truth right up front. I cried in Titanic. I cried in Avatar. And now I find myself tearing up over a little show called “Drop Dead Diva.” And I’m going to admit one more thing: The only reason I was curious enough to check out this show is because Brooke Elliott is adorable.
So “Drop Dead Diva” is this show on the Lifetime network about a shallow model who dies because she’s too stupid to operate a motor vehicle safely. After a little mixup at the waypoint between heaven and hell she gets sent back to Earth and inhabits the body of someone who also just died. It’s all fairly formulaic in just the same way that Avatar was, and with the same result. Somehow it works on me. Ungh.
Yeah, the dead girl was about to get proposed to, yada yada yada. And, what a coincidence, the new body she gets just happens to be a nexus for everything from her old life: boyfriend, parents, etc. What are the odds of that? It also turns out the shallow model is now a giving, intelligent lawyer. (As if television hasn’t plumbed the legal genre enough already.) And, just for good measure, they throw in some chick stuff like fashion and body image issues. Every case this attorney gets involved with dovetails nicely to her unique situation in a touching and meaningful way. Her job becomes the vehicle for helping her with her transition and making her even better and more fantastic along the way. Then pop it on the Lifetime network. You got yourself a hit!
I’m still watching, though.
Spoiler: Margaret Cho plays her assistant and that woman is just covered in tattoos. I don’t recall actually seeing any of them in the show, though.
Here’s the rub. All 13 episodes of season one are available from the Lifetime network right now on Charter Communications “On Demand” service. They are available until Jun. 6th. The new second season of “Drop Dead Diva” premiers Jun. 6th at 9:00pm. So there is a bit of a deadline in play for those of us new to the series.
This is where Charter steps in. If you are a Charter customer, then you know one thing. Charter promotes the FUCKING HELL out of their “On Demand” service. They run commercials up the friggin’ ass about “why wait for movies in the mail” and that sort of thing.
What they don’t tell you…
Charter’s “On Demand” service is a steaming pile of poopy shit.
Honestly, it would be more fun to spend evenings in the living room sitting on the sofa trying to pick out your eyeballs with a fork than watch anything using Charter’s “On Demand.”
In theory “On Demand” is a great idea. Content producers make their programming available any time you want it (with a few commercials added, of course). It’s a win-win. Content producers get a little more ad space to sell and viewers can watch shows they’ve missed any time they want. Unfortunately the technology and prowess to pull off the feat is completely beyond Charter’s grasp. Charter is one of the worst companies in the history of technology and is also horrible at customer service and they are horribly overpriced. Charter sucks.
My wife and I spent the last three nights watching “Drop Dead Diva” (two episodes a night) using Charter’s “On Demand” service. We’ve now watched 6 out of 13 episodes of season one.
What we’ve seen so far from Charter’s “On Demand” service includes:
- Random error messages rather than content
- Non-stop visual glitches (when the service is running good) like little green squares that move around the screen
- 1-2 second audio drop outs that occur about every 20 seconds or so
- Visual glitches so bad it’s like trying to watch scrambled porn (when these happen you have to stop playback and restart because the never get better)
Through experience we have learned that if you stop playback then restart, you can buy yourself a little time to watch a few more minutes of programming before the problems begin anew and ramp back up. It almost feels like we’re being deliberately tortured as part of some sinister science experiment. And these problems have happened all three nights in all six episodes.
It’s actually one of the most incredible things I’ve ever seen.
The thing that gets me: The service is literally poop. Yet Charter is selling the fuck out of it as shit tartare on a silver platter. I guess we can add “baldfaced liars” to Charter’s list of accolades and achievements.
It almost makes me wish I could hire Jane Bingum to sue the bastards! All I have to do is figure out some special angle so my case can relate back to her unique situation in a compelling plot line sort of way.
Now someone please get me a new box of tissues. I’m out and it’s almost time to cry some more…
Life with no internet
I’m not going to lie. Last night was rough.
After spending the whole day at work on the internet, I finally arrived home and was ready to get right back on the internet. That is where the shit hit the fan and my world was suddenly turned inside out.
I walked into my home and the gerbil came up to me and casually said, “The internet has been down for a while.”
It was like getting kicked in the gut. I dropped my shit and sprinted to the office. Yep, the lights on the modem looked all funny and weird. “Lights not look normal,” I gasped.
Just like the world’s biggest idiot, however, I still turned the computer on. Maybe it would somehow work. I mean, it had to. I needed it. Oh the arrogant hubris of a mind in despair.
Of course, just the act of turning on the computer didn’t magically fix anything. I mulled over my options. I could call the magnificent bastards at Charter Communications. But they’d probably ask to record my call to ensure they were screwing me hard and besides, that would take actual effort. Since I only had about an hour before I had to head downtown (which I had originally planned to use to post on my blog) I decided to organize the files on my hard drive instead.
Later that night when we finally got back home after a night on the town, my wife did the unthinkable. She called. She has fierce and amazing powers. She’s not even afraid of the phone. Charter was as concerned as ever that we were unable to use the service that we pay them for. They first tried to sell her the fucking bundle. Um, did we mention that our internet is down? Nurse, we need a lactate drip with ringers, KMG 365 – stat!!! But no, they wanted to chit chat about their bundle. Bastards.
After forcing my wife to jump through a bunch of hoops that didn’t fix anything, the Charter tech finally decided to check things on their end. He rebooted something and the problem was fixed. Heh. They must be running Microsoft Windows over there. Don’t they know that you reboot before attempting anything else?
And there you have it. The trauma and drama of my one-hour without internet. Hollywood, if you want first dibs on the rights for the trilogy – call me!
Always Be Opposing
ABC – Always Be Closing
Once I was hired for a job at a tech company. I’m a tech kind of guy. Tech is what I love to do for a living. I was interviewed and screened. Throughout the process I stressed that I didn’t want a sales position. I was told repeatedly the position was not sales. I was taken to meet the CEO. He presented the profit sharing plans and other fantastically creative benefits, stressing that these were “in the works” and something they “hoped” to offer “down the road.” Oh, and yeah, the position I was being hired for wasn’t sales. I had the CEO’s personal assurance on that.
I was subsequently hired and my first day was a Wednesday. I spent the entire day sitting in a chair by a salesman’s desk listening to him sell things on the phone. I shit you not. There was no orientation, no H.R. visit. Just go sit in a friggin’ chair.
I was told that on Monday I’d finally start training for my real job. They didn’t have what you’d call an official “training program.” So I sat there all day, bored out of my fucking skull, listening to this guy talk on the phone. It was so bad I wanted to reenact the final scene from The Deer Hunter. In his spare time, though, the salesman would actually interact with me and teach me vital “tech” things like: ABC – Always Be Closing.
Thursday and Friday my days were spent doing the exact same thing. Sitting and listening to this guy talk on the phone. Then, on Friday afternoon, they said my training would be postponed at least one full week. I was scheduled for, you guessed it, one more full week of sitting in a chair listening to a salesman talk on the phone.
I politely told them where they could stick their job and that I would not be back.
And that’s the cheerful story about how I learned all about ABC – Always Be Closing. 🙂
How many salespersons out there forget this very basic rule? And what does it mean to be “closing?”
I’m going to hazard a guess and suggest that “closing” doesn’t include things like harassment, rudeness, being pushy, not listening, automated phone calls, making the person who answers the phone wait for you to pick up the line, etc. You know, the various and assorted aspects of douchebaggery.
Keep in mind that this post is about people trying to SELL stuff to me. Not the other way around.
Lesson One: Don’t call my cell phone. Ever. This is the ultimate in rudeness. Fortunately for me, my cell phone days are numbered. I shot my TV and next I’m shooting my cell. Then I’m going to paint my face and run through the rain forest nearby screaming FREEDOM!!!
Lesson Two: Don’t call my cell phone. Ever. I’m already on the do not call list, so why the fuck are you even calling me? If you try to pull that loophole shit on me that the weak ass “do not call” act gives you permission, like I walked by your store within the last 18 months, you will not find me very receptive to the “let’s use a loophole to try to make a sale” approach. In fact, I’ll be wishing you a pleasant journey to a very warm place for attempting such a hideous thing.
Lesson Three: Don’t call my cell phone. Evar. Personally if I don’t recognize the number you can kiss my grits. I’ll never pick up. You’re just wasting my time (and yours). And I ignore all calls that come in without caller ID. In fact, I pound the reject key as fast as I possibly can to prevent you from reaching my voice mail, too, so do not try to be sneaky.
Lesson Four: Don’t harass your existing customers. I may already have the misfortune and retardation required to be doing business with you. That does not give you permission to call me daily and ask me to “upgrade” to your fucking bundle. THIS MEANS YOU, CHARTER COMMUNICATIONS!!! Being your customer (a temporary condition that will be remedied soon) is not an automatic invitation to be your phone bitch, yo.
Lesson Five: Don’t call me at work, dumb ass. This is not the time to listen to your spiel about how you want to rip me off.
Lesson Six: Learn some basic manners. Seriously. Do you really think that being rude and pushy is going to close the sale? I cannot stress this enough. Acting like a rude impatient ass is NEVER going to encourage me to give you my money. I don’t care if you have Jessica Alba herself in a box. I won’t buy from you.
It cracks me up that I actually know more about landing a sale than 90% of the idiot assholes who call me on the phone. And that concludes our little course on “salesperson things not to do” for today.
Television advertisers ask: CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW!!!
This post addresses something that has bothered me for years. In fact, I blogged about it way back in the late 1990’s. OK, I admit, I didn’t call it a “blog” back then. But I did have a section of what I called my “home page” (aka web site) where I ranted about various things. The topic of this posting was one of them.
Ever notice how television commercials are louder than regular programming? I noticed it and complained about it over 10 years ago and it still bothers me to this day. And lately I’ve been noticing it get worse. A lot worse.