Everyone say it with me now: Awwwwwwwww!
Poor, poor Hollywood.
Hollywood is feeling sad because the summer of 2011 had the lowest movie attendance since 1997. That’s so sad. So all you peeps in the industry only made thousands of times my yearly salary? Wow. I feel for you. Truly!
Because I am a benevolent guru, I’m willing to take a few previous moments out of my day to offer a little advice that just might help you out of your doldrums. Even though I know never in a million years will you listen or follow this advice. You’d rather die first, right?
The solution is simple. Make the movie going experience more fun than licking all the urinals in town.
The problem is simple. Your product is defective. Seriously. Who the fuck wants to go to a theater and sit with a bunch of rude and disgusting assholes?
Hey, I’m serious. Not once in my life has a movie theater ever given half a shit about my “experience.” Not once!
Not once have I ever seen a movie theater eject people for talking. For answering cell phone calls during the movie. (Even during United 93.) Or for any reason.
Never have I seen anyone ejected. Ever. The fact of the matter is this: Movie theaters have no system for proactively protecting the experience. Actually, I find that a bit mind boggling because that experience is their product.
In the world of business there is sometimes a principle which holds true: Don’t give a shit about your product and your bottom line just may be affected.
Fix that and maybe more people will decide to try your product again. Until then, fuck it. We’re willing to wait and watch at home.
Fix your product and they will come. I’m mostly talking to the theater chains here, but I’m also talking directly to Hollywood. They’re nitpicky about all sorts of other things, I think they should give a shit about their end users, too. They should team up with the chains to improve things. It is only to their own benefit. The reality is simple: If people find it too unpleasant to go to the movies they’ll eventually decide not to go, especially when faced with ever-growing exorbitant ticket prices.
Make going to movies fun again, dammit. Or shut yer bitching about declining attendance.
“Hey,” I said. “The movie might not be that crowded. It’s been out for what now? Six or seven weeks? Maybe we’ll get lucky.”
We were finally getting around the seeing the final chapter in the Harry Potter saga. We were on our way to an actual movie theater. Yes, I love my wife that much. She wanted it, therefore I was going. And I was feeling – dare I say – a skosh optimistic.
Oh, shit! That’s the danger sign. Get the hell out of there!!!
Too late. We were already in. Tickets in hand, we headed for the little choke point from the lobby where a TSA employee would subject us to a full body scan and verify our boarding passes before letting us onto the concourse.
Perhaps I exaggerate a bit. But it sure felt that way.
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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.
Say hello to my little friend!
Today I would like to introduce Roku. I don’t often gush about electronics but this little guy has got me all hot and bothered.
I think it was maybe a year ago when my wife and I stopped by the local home theater store. Those are always fun places for me. We were looking for a nice set of speakers.
My current home theater consists of a $5 receiver my wife found at a garage sale, a set of used speakers that were a gift from my gerbil (also from a garage sale), and an older smallish TV since our ultra-cool 42 inch plasma died a few days out of warranty. The cable box from Charter Communications is also in there somewhere but I detest the bloody thing.
At the home theater store the salesperson gave us a demo of a device that would play internet music on your home stereo and even included on-screen menus. I believe it played Shoutcast radio stations. It was love at first sight!
Since then I’ve also fallen in love with Pandora and I pay the $3 a month for “Pandora One” which includes higher-quality streaming and removes the limitation of 40 hours per month that comes with a free Pandora account.
So, when my wife recently asked what I wanted for a present, I spouted off the usual logical and responsible ideas: A remote control helicopter that would fit on my hand, a gaming keyboard that glows in the dark, and bottles of Kahlua, Baileys Irish Cream and Grand Marnier – something I have affectionately have dubbed “The B-52 Kit.”
Aside from such practical ideas, however, another thought began to tickle my brain. Perhaps, just perhaps, the time had come to find one of those little devices to play Pandora music through my home stereo. That would be the bomb. I’ve seen Pandora boom boxes and such, and something like that would be cool, but playing Pandora music through my home stereo would be so much cooler.
My search criteria was simple: It had to work through my wifi, would not require my computer to be turned on, and would absolutely not require any subscription service with monthly fees. (Like a Tivo.)
I began to scour the internet but quickly became dismayed by how complicated things seemed to be. There were too many choices and too many horror stories of products that seemed to be almost what I wanted but also difficult to work with your computer, hard to configure, etc.
So I gave up. It wasn’t long after that when, completely by chance, I heard of something called a “Roku.” (Which is also the Japanese word for “six.”)
I quickly learned more and became very excited. This is a device that hooks into your home theater system (both stereo and TV) and grabs music and video from your local wifi router. (It also has a jack for a network cable.) And your computer does not need to be left on, either.
This thing does everything I wanted and more. So we got it.
It’s so small it was easy finding a spot in the cabinet. There is a power adapter and luckily I had room on the power strip. Then two RCA cables connect the audio out to my receiver. Lastly, a yellow “composite” video cable connects the Roku to my TV. (It also supports HDMI but does not include the cable. Unfortunately my TV is too primitive for that.) Installation done!
The thing hooked up, we turned on our TV. We selected our wifi using the remote control (also provided) and setup was a breeze. I did have to go to my computer to create a Roku account, and a computer was required to connect channels, like Pandora. But there were no glitches and it went amazingly fast. Within 5 minutes of power up we were listening to Pandora through my home stereo and never had to do anything excessively geeky. It was great!
The Roku account was completely free and did not ask for credit card information. I can understand why it is required. It is how they tie channel access to your device.
I love listening to music through the Roku. Not once has it ever glitched or paused to “buffer” or anything like that. I like to listen to music when I do the dishes and switching out CDs is a pain. Now my wife says I can do even more dishes! (Curse you, Roku!)
The extra fun, though, it how much other stuff the Roku can do. We were already Netflix subscribers and now we can stream Netflix movies right to our TV. And it works way better than Charter’s “On Demand” ever did. The only bummer is that only certain movies and content are available for streaming. If you can watch something from Netflix on your computer then you can watch it with your Roku. We watched an episode of Saturday Night Live and with no commercials!
There is also something called Hulu Plus. I’d never used Hulu before, but apparently Hulu Plus (which costs $8 a month) does NOT include all of the Hulu content. I signed up for a one-week trial and found very little that I was interested in. In my opinion most of the content is pure crap. Plus, even after paying $8 a month, the content still includes commercials. Yuck! I doubt we’ll be keeping Hulu Plus at this time. I think it still needs to improve.
We also found a free channel called Vimeo, which seemed to be a lot like watching someone’s home movies. We found a video of a family riding around in a boat. I think it might be like another YouTube, but it was a little hard to find anything interesting to watch.
Even more fun – there are lots of free channels. You just select a channel you want, and it adds it to your channel bar. One of those we found is called “Chow.” It’s a channel about food and has even won a James Beard award. And it’s completely free. We watched a show called “How to eat Sushi” and it was pretty good. Something tells me that more free content may show up over time, too.
There are three different Roku devices to choose from. Roku HD is $59.99. The Roku XD is $79.99. (This is the one we got.) And there is one called the Roku XD|S for $99.99. (Which is discounted by $10.00 if you order online for the next day or so.) You can learn more here.
We’ve only had the thing for a week now but we love it. I think it is one of the coolest electronic devices I’ve ever owned. We’re even buying another to give out as a gift. If you like this sort of thing I don’t think you can go wrong with a Roku.
Roku is going to enable me to dump my cable box from Charter Communications once and for all. Yeah!
Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with Roku in any way and received no compensation in any form for writing this post. These are all just my opinions and my actual experiences with the device.
My spouse is a Harry Potter fan and so last night we did the unthinkable. We went to an actual movie theater to … gasp … watch a movie.
I know, I know. How passe.
It probably won’t surprise anyone who has read this blog that I abhor movie theaters. There is a probablity of 100 percent that during the movie some idiot in the theater will be an assmunch. It is guaranteed. It is inevitable. It is my destiny. I can’t remember a single time during the last 10 years where I didn’t have an enounter in a movie theater that left me livid.
It goes without saying that last night was no exception.