Plex Media Server

Or

How to create your own Personal Netflix!

Part I

It has been a very long time since I have posted here, I wish that it could be that it was because I was doing something noble, but the truth is that I’m a procrastinator. My love of Roku and what is has to offer isn’t diminished, if you’ve gone to the Facebook Roku Sites, you’ve most likely seen me active on there.

It’s time to get back in the Game.

Plex Media Server is one of the things that I have bragged about for quite some time. I installed it on a computer for the first time about six months after I got my first Roku to try it out and have been an avid fan since. It’s got a sleek layout, both on your computer as well as on your Roku device. It supports subtitles if you rip them from your DVD or Blu-ray, it supports Chapter marks and if you encode your movie in the MKV format it will allow you to have multiple audio tracks.

Multiple Audio?

Yep. You have the obvious like foreign languages such as Spanish, French, Portuguese but also the directors commentary. What else? Digital Audio. That superb audio track you get with surround sound 7.1 audio where it makes you feel like your in the middle of a battle while watching Fury or the sound of Darth Vader’s Tie Fighter behind your X-wing while watching Luke attack the Death Star, or the sounds of rain falling all around you while watching the Notebook. Roku 4 supports a digital audio out into your sound system now.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my movies, but I’m more concerned with picture quality while encoding my DVD’s into MP4. My TV has a left speaker and a right speaker. That’s good enough for me.

I digress. Back to Plex Media Server.

I’ve actually already have one that works okay. I could have gotten by without one, but my nephew has informed his parents that he wishes to build a computer, which is something that I’ve been wanting to do for some time. I saw the article that he wanted to use as his guide and doing some quick mental calculations I determined that he could have a significantly better build for just a few dollars more, but we were doing his build on some very high dollar equipment. I figured that if I purchased the parts for my computer, we could build mine first to get some practice.

My plan for this computer was to be budget build (read as “I wanted it to be as cheap as I could get away with”). Considering that I’m getting away with a 12 year old Dell computer as my Plex Server with very little problems, so I wanted something that will be more powerful than that. I wanted a tower that would permit me to expand with multiple hard drives (I currently have close to a TB worth of movies and TV episodes ripped from DVD’s) because video does take up a significant amount of space, and my video library is slowly growing. So doing some online shopping I ordered everything from Newegg with my total bill coming to just slightly more than $350.

Parts:

Going into this, there were a few thing that I knew up front. I was going to go with AMD because their prices are about 1/3 lower in price compared to their Intel counterparts, and I wanted more processing power than my current set up. Although I’ve not had any major issues with my current Plex Media Streamer, a Optiplex model that hasn’t been made in over 10 years, I did notice that while streaming from the CBS or CW channel I would often get buffering, most likely due to the computer having difficulty trans coding (changing the video format on the fly to a format that Roku can stream) it.

I settled on two different processors. A 2.02 GHz quad core and a 3.6 GHz dual core. The side by side testing reviews that I looked into showed that these processors perform nearly identical with the 3.6 GHz dual core performing just a tad bit better, but the 2 GHz using less electrical power. I opted for the 2 GHz quad core and when double checking the compatibility of the unit I found that, although it did have a USB 3.0 on the back of the motherboard, it had no place on the mother board to plug the USB 3.0 that was located on the front of the tower, meaning that my USB 3.0 would be either dead, or a USB 2.0. Not a huge deal mind you, but enough for me to look harder at the other motherboard and CPU combination.

I really like Newegg’s set up. You have the ability to pick a motherboard and it will give you options on what CPU and RAM will go along with that motherboard on some select combination setups. Found a motherboard that would carry the CPU that I was interested in, checked to ensure that it would allow me to use the USB 3 on the front of the tower and picked the RAM. My total cost: $207.09 for the Motherboard, Computer Chip, RAM and 2 TB HDD.

Tower:

This one was a little tricky. At first I wanted one that was slightly larger than your DVD/Bluray, but it dawned on me that if I did that there were some issues that I was going to have problems with, like, installing another HDD when the time came (note – when the time came, not IF the time came) and the possibility of doing a TV/DVR system that I’ve been wanting to do for some time too. I also knew that working in such a little case was probably not my wisest decision for my very first build, so I ruled it out. It was a shame too because there was this kit that came with a Power supply and smaller tower that I really liked too. Going to the Parts setting on Newegg search, I selected ‘Towers’ and “Most Reviews” as how I wanted them sorted out. This listing placed the Towers with the highest number of reviews at the top of the list and the average egg rating. When I saw that the average rating was high (4 or 5 eggs) and if it fell into my budget range (under $50) then I would look at the details of the case such as how many bays it had for optical drives and for hard drives. If it had more than two, I would look at the reviews and see if I noticed anything sticking out. The one that I picked had several things sticking out. It was rated at 4 eggs, it’s price was $30 (Wow… Okay) and it was reviewed by 156 people. 85 of the reviews were either 4 or 5 egg ratings (you have my undivided attention) containing 2 HDD bays and 2 optical bays (No problem, I can convert one of those optical drive bays into a hard drive, maybe both depending on what the future holds for it) and a place to put a SSD (Solid State Drive – Not likely to be put into this computer, but good to know, I can put a large laptop drive in there though). Then I started reading the reviews.

“Best tower that I ever worked with”

“I can’t believe you get this much quality for this price”

“No, it’s not as sturdy as my $150 case I purchased for my last build, but you know what? I’d pick it again because it’s a much better value.”

“It’s so easy to work with, cable management isn’t that difficult, plenty of room, and to be honest, it’s sharp looking too.”

Then I came to the one that really got my attention:

“It looked like a Lamborghini”.

… Um…. What?

I did a double read on it. Yep… The reviewer said “It looked like a Lamborghini”

Maybe I should take a closer look at this case. Sure I looked at it, it was black, I could see the drive doors so I knew that it would hold a DVD if I decided to put one in there… So I looked at it again. It.. uh… reminded me of a Lamborghini. It’s not that I wouldn’t have noticed the sharp lines, but to be honest, when I looked at it more closely, it looked more like Darth Vader’s mask with a cat head where the breather would be, but okay… Lamborghini… I see it too. Yes… It’s very sharp. It’s got a hint of red on the inside of the case with the fan, this is one very sharp case here!

Add to cart? “Hell YA!”

Power Supply

I did the same process on my power supply, set the max dollar amount that I would be willing to spend, I knew that my power usage wouldn’t be all that high, so I didn’t concern myself about it too much, just decided that I wanted something that would give me room to grow if need be. Looked at the number of reviews, the average egg readings and come across a 550 watt power supply that would do the trick. $30.

Add to cart? “Sure!”

Then I did something that I never planned on doing, I actually looked at the LED fans to install in this case, I mean, it looks so sharp, why not, right? Ultimately I decided not to do it, however, I did go back to the choices on my motherboard selections. My RAM was blue, for $1 more I could get some Red RAM instead. Silly, I know, but what the hell. Why not.

Bluray Burner

Picked this out because I need one for my Windows computer. $51.

I’m looking at my list knowing that I’m forgetting something, then realized that I’ve got no way to connect it to the internet. All of my ports are full on my router with Ethernet cables, even my Roku has to rely upon WiFi to stream, and it sits just inches away from the router too! I looked at hubs, I looked at several things, but decided that I was going to get me a WiFi card.

Now, I don’t encourage you to use WiFi for you to stream video with your Plex Server. It’s possible, I’ve done it several times with my laptop computer, but it does create some potential for problems, especially if you live in a home with several individuals using WiFi, which to be honest, I’m not in that category at all. But I do have a Linux Desktop that if it was connected to my LAN with a WiFi, it wouldn’t be that big of a deal, it’s mostly used for web surfing, some minor storage and writing documents. I do use it as a secondary Plex Server, but only because I was bored one day…. That would be the one to get the card. $18. Add to cart? Lets see…. Linux support… Yep, add to cart.

Grand total: $346.91

Plex suggests that at minimum you should have a 2 GHz dual core, with 2 GB of RAM 2.4 GHz will be enough to trans-code a full HD video of 1080p quality, I know that this will trans-code at bare minimum 2 HD videos, but seeing how my videos are in a format where trans-coding isn’t necessary with Roku, it should easily stream 3, 4 or even 5 videos if I ever need to do that many, but most important, it will have more than enough to convert that 1080p High quality video that I’m streaming from CBS.com when I watch Scorpion with no buffering!

The parts are ordered and on their way. ETA for delivery is this Friday, which means that I should be able to get to it next week. Haul everything to the south side of town and grab a 13 year old kid who thinks he knows what he’s doing, and put it together!

The Future

I’ve got plans for this computer. It’s powerful enough to do what I need it to do, and will be able to for some time I believe. If not, I can upgrade the CPU in it fairly easily.

Installing Ubuntu as my operating system gives me several options in the future, as well as the present. With Ubuntu, I’m able to easily set it up on my LAN network. This allows me to put it under a counter or in a back corner someplace where it will be out of the way. When I rip a DVD or Bluray I’ll be able to transfer the file over it as if I were putting it onto an external hard drive. With Ubuntu I can also install Mythbuntu, which is a DVR style program allowing me to record over the air TV on it just like you would with a TiVo, the only thing it needs is to have the software installed and a supported Digital TV tuner, a $120 purchase from Newegg…. Don’t think that I didn’t look hard at them, I did, but I just didn’t want to invest that much money into it right away, I’ve got my plate just a tad bit full right now, so I’ll wait till most likely this fall or even around Christmas. But once the videos are recorded onto the hard drive, all I’ll need to do is set up Plex to read that folder and I’ll be able to watch it on my Roku. Just a few minor adjustments to it.

But the thing that I’m most looking forward to trying with it is a bit torrent sync.

A concern that my brother and I have both had is that we both have a massive video library on DVD and Bluray. What we’ve always wanted to see if we could do is sync the libraries so that if his hard drive fails, which isn’t an unlikely scenario, I’ll have a back up of his videos on my server, as he would also have a backup of mine.

It’s currently a theory, but one that I think will actually work. We’ve talked about this for some time, our concerns about making backups of our videos. We’ve both worked for over two years to get our library built up, and it’s actually a very nice library, but neither one of us want to go through ripping each of them again.

I will be documenting this build and will be posting it here, but if you wish to go ahead and take one of your computers and install Plex just to play with it, may I suggest that you go to my Plex Pals Group on Facebook.  It’s got several fans of Plex who are more than willing to assist you in getting started.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/PlexPals/

Digital TV and Sub-channels

More to offer then you might remember!

The start of the 21st Century brought us some significant advancements to TV viewing.  Although digital TV had been around for some time, that is after all what DVD’s are, but the picture quality was improving vastly.

The FCC decided that they were going to require TV broadcasters to convert to a digital signal, and the result was a higher quality picture plus a new thing called ‘digital sub channels’.  With using a digital signal the broadcasters could actually put multiple digital TV channels on the same frequency that was previously used by the one analog channel…. with better picture quality.  Some of the more rural sections of the United States who carried multiple networks on the same channel (Often choosing prime time shows based on which was the most popular or which ones the majority of their viewers wanted) would now have two networks.  Some channels decided to have a 24 hour news/weather format as their digital network with replays of the local news and weather forecasts as well as Doppler radar playing, but by far the most popular was to find a commercial channel to broadcast.

In many ways some of these commercial channels would mimic the most popular cable TV channels.  MeTV, Antenna and RTV (Retro Television) would show popular programs from the 50’s-80’s in much the same way that Nick at Night or TV Land did.  Comet shows sci-fi programs, Grit is Movies and TV shows geared at men in the same manner as Spike.

There’s no real set pattern for who gets the subchannels.  In one city, the local CBS affiliate might have the MyTV, while in another it may be FOX.  Some will rebroadcast the local news on a digital sub channel after it’s been broadcast on the primary channel, some may just stick with the primary feed.  The point is, we now have a much larger selection than we had before with just analog TV channels.

Enter the DVR’s

One of the things that most people miss about their cable is the DVR, which I don’t blame them.  Having the ability to fast forward through commercials, the simple TV guide that all you needed to do was highlight the show you wanted to record, hit enter and ‘poof!  You’re done!’.

Don’t worry, you don’t need to give that up.

TiVo, the popular DVR of the 90’s is still around.  You may know them from several cable and satellite providers that used them as their DVR system, but they still continue to make devices for OTR (Over the air) recording.  Just connect an antenna and you’re set.  You do need to pay a monthly subscription fee to have the TV guide though.

Tablo is another option to choose from.  This DVR will not work on cable or satellite dishes, they have decided to specifically target the cord cutting market with providing a DVR capable of recording up to four channels at the same time with with some models.  Built in TV antennas with some select models, but they also have a ‘Roku Channel’ that you can install on your Roku.  This means that you can set up your Tablo in the living room, put a Roku in your bedroom and use your Roku to stream live TV, set up and record as well as watch any programs you have recorded.  You still need to pay a monthly fee for the TV guide support, but unlike TiVo, if you opt to not subscribe to that service, you can still use the Tablo as a DVR by manually entering in the channel, start and end times for the program you wish to record.

For the really adventurous…

MythTV and Mythbuntu is a DVR that you can build using a computer.  

You are going to find out that I use an operating system a lot called Ubuntu.  One of the things that I do is have a home server (a computer that has no other function but to hold files on) that I use to stream videos to my Roku.  Each of my DVD’s and Blurays are saved on this server and has a ‘Netflix’ like interface on it that shows what movies that I have.  Mythbuntu is a varient of the Ubuntu operating system which serves the purpose of recording video either from cable or antenna and saving them on a hard drive.  My goal is to build one of these in the next couple of years.

For most people, getting local programs can only be obtained by getting an antenna and having an antenna does not mean that you automatically give up having access to this luxury.  Yes, they are expensive, but they are also yours, so I would ask you, how long have you been paying your provider to rent their equipment?  5 years?  6? 8?  Owning a DVR will pay for itself about half of that time.  

Sling and US TV now

You mean there’s a cable-light? SWEET!

Optional Services with Roku

I’m going to be honest, I’m not much of a sling fan.  I’ve never had the service and have never really had much of a desire to get the service.  That’s not to say that I’m opposed to anyone getting it, but to me, it just seems to go contrary to what online streaming and Roku is all about.

In case you didn’t know, Sling is a streaming service that’s owned by Dish Network, it’s a service that allows you to watch the most popular cable TV Channels through Roku.


(I gotta admit, I love this commercial!)

At $20 dollars a month, it seems like a fair deal, and frankly it is, by providing a large portion of the most popular cable channels like TBS, CNN, Fox News, A&E, AMC and others.  It won’t provide you with any local TV (more on that in my next posting) but there are some limitations on it.

You can only watch it on one Roku at a time, so… if you have Mom wanting to watch a romance on her favorite channel, Dad wanting to watch the game and the kid wanting to watch Square Bob Sponge pants on Nick, we all know who’s gonna have control of the TV.

This is my opinion, and my opinion only.  It’s just to expensive for what your getting, but I won’t say it does not serve a useful purpose.  I’ve heard people say that after they have had the service for a while they just don’t watch it that much anymore, which in all honesty makes sense.  Cutting cable is for some people like getting off of drugs, you’re not only fearful of the withdraw, your fearful of experiencing the withdraw too!  (humor me, I just quit smoking a few months ago!)

So sling serves as a good partial stepping stone.  It’s a cheaper alternative to the cable that you’re used too while letting you get your feet wet with services like vudu, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and others.

I know that sling makes some special offers too, for example if you sign a three month contract to get sling,  $60 total, they will send you a free Roku stick or give you a huge discount off of a Roku 3.  So for comparison, if you were to get a Roku stick from Walmart, you’ll be paying $50 (actually, it’s 48 something plus tax but lets make this simple, shall we?) so for $10 more you get three months of Sling to try out.  When these offers come up on sling, they do get my attention.  I might be willing to buy a Roku for $10 more just to get sling for three months.

A Roku 3 costs $100 at Walmart (Okay, it’s less, but only by a couple dollars) but you can buy it from Sling for $110 and get three months of sling’s service.  Again, it’s worth considering even by me.

You can learn more about sling from here.

US TV now is a service that is intended for our military service personal who are serving in foreign countries like Germany, England and Japan.  It’s very similar to sling, but they provide local channels out of the Harrisburg, PA region.  I’ve had the service because they used to offer it to Roku customers as a free trial several years ago, but the truth was that local channels I could get in high definition while here things were in standard definition.  That’s not to say that the picture was bad, the picture quality was quite good, but why not watch it in HD on my HDTV?  Keep in mind that you may not qualify for US TV now because as I stated before it’s intended for troops overseas.

 

My Internet Costs Me More Now!

Vudu and Amazon can provide you with your currently broadcast shows!

Seeing how Roku will save you money.

In my time with Roku I’ve come to one firm conclusion.  Cable based internet providers hate online streaming with a passion.  

I don’t make this statement lightly, nor am I trying to be provocative, I’m only making an observation based on things that have occurred since I’ve began getting all my content via the internet.

Shortly after I posted my first blog on Roku, I came to a conclusion that was, in my opinion, profound.  I knew I wanted to address the fear of people giving up cable but wasn’t quite sure how I was going to go about addressing it.  There were several factors, quite intimidating to be honest, that needed to be addressed and I knew full well that some were unfounded and others that just couldn’t be overcome by any online streaming abilities, even Roku.

When I first got my Roku in 2010, I was doing some volunteer work at a PBS station, and several of the staff had mentioned that they were planning on getting rid of Cable.  I understood why, it was costing them more than $100 a month and with all the local channels having converted to digital, the number of channels that they could actually access without cable had grown exponentially.

Now instead of the regular network channels, ABC, CBS, CW, FOX, NBC and PBS, they all had several digital sub-channels to choose from as well giving them MeTV, MYTV, Antenna and others.  Even their own PBS channel had sub-channels available to them with Create and World.  Now, over the air TV was offering just as many choices as cable did back in the late 70’s and early 80’s.  That was enough to satisfy most people.  Of course, I had just recently stumbled onto this new device called Roku (it had only been out for about 4 or so years by that time) and told them that they should really look into it.

But back then, 30 Mbps download speeds were blazing fast and if you got that speed you were willing to pay a little extra to get it.  At the time I was using a DSL phone based provider getting 40 Mbps download speed with unlimited long distance and other packaged features on my home phone for $60 per month, because I wanted that fast download speed even before I heard of Roku.  Now, there’s other factors that causes online streaming services to be less appealing and the most notable of these is the dreaded “data cap“.

Don’t think that the reason why internet providers are implementing data caps on their services is because too much data going through the internet.  It’s because it’s stiff competition that’s causing them to loose cable TV subscribers.  Many places it’s not uncommon for cable companies to have more internet subscribers then it is to have Cable TV subscribers.

In 2010 when I got my first Roku I was paying $70 a month for internet and two premium subscription services, Hulu and Netflix.  This was slightly more than half of what some of my friends were paying for Cable and internet services, but I was more than satisfied with what I had available to watch while they were always commenting about not finding anything.  Now, with the implementation of data caps it requires you to make alterations to your internet service that could easily double your cost, but on the plus side, you’ll get even faster speeds.

Netflix and the amount of data it needs

I’ve heard that on average, Netflix uses about 1 GB of data per hour of video.  So that episode of that 70’s show you can watch is going to be roughly 1 half gigabyte or 500 megabyte (500 MB) of data.  That two hour long movie is going to be about 2 gigabyte (2000 MB) of data. Video uses a lot of data, and although 250 – 350 GB, where most data caps start at, seems like a lot (especially to those of us who come from the 64K RAM days of computing) when you are talking about two or three devices that’s doing online streaming in your home at the same time 350 GB of data can be used in a little over a week easily.

Don’t think that Comcast, Charter or any other cable provider does not know this.

When you combine that with some other concerns like not getting your favorite AMC show right away, there’s some hesitation on giving up cable.  But lets look at it from a different perspective and I’ll show you where the pay off is.

Crunch Time!

Lets say your paying $150 per month for cable/Internet package right now.  You study your families needs and you find out that in order to cut cable service your going to loose that bundle price your cable provider gives you, plus you’re going to need to upgrade your internet service so now it’s going to cost you $100 per month.  

So much for your savings.

Plus you will be a year behind in your favorite programs, Walking Dead and Better Call Saul.

It’s looking less appealing.  Now it seems like it just isn’t worth it.  

Lets look at the numbers and availability closer, shall we?

Old cost of Cable:

$150
X 12
$1,800 per year

New Cost
$100
X 12
$1,200
Savings = $600 per year.

Those must have shows you can get on vudu or Amazon.  Lets take the two I hear more often:  Walking Dead and Better Call Saul.

The Walking Dead season 6 is available on vudu for $41.99.  You sign up at the beginning of the season and the day after broadcast on AMC it will be available for you to watch on vudu (Amazon also has a significant number of currently broadcast programs available too so do price comparisons and look for availability).

Better Call Saul season 2 is also available at $25.99 and the same holds true for them as well, if you pay for the season up front, you get a discounted price and the day after broadcast it’s available to you on vudu.  These prices that I’ve quoted are the current price listed for today and for the High Definition 1080P quality, which if you’re watching on cable, your not getting that good of quality.  I know a lot of people who only purchase the standard definition because they cant tell the difference giving them even bigger savings.  You won’t have commercials, you can watch it at your leisure and not on AMC’s.  Even with those two programs you’re still saving over $500 a year from your cable price.

Many currently broadcast shows are available on Hulu the day after broadcast, so make sure that your favorite’s are not available anywhere else before you go and spend a whole bunch of money just to get them because it’s really easy to blow the savings your getting just from buying shows you want to see.

Gotta Luv vudu!

If you’re a big DVD/Bluray buyer here’s another reason to take a hard look at vudu.  Most bluray discs sold at Walmart and Target have what they call an Ultraviolet code.  What this code does is give you a digital copy of your movie on vudu.  You can also take your DVD and Bluray discs to Walmart to have them place a digital copy of your movie on your vudu account.  

One family member of mine loves this service so much he refuses to purchase a DVD or Bluray unless it includes the ultraviolet code and is currently attempting to get as many of his DVD’s put onto his vudu account as he can while also have it upgraded to HD for an extra dollar.  

I’ve seen his vudu account, it has almost as much to offer as Netflix does.

He also buys several movies from vudu as well making sure to purchase only movies that are on special, as an example, they will come out with a package deal of all the Pierce Bronson James Bond movies for great price so he’ll buy that.  If you are the type to buy a lot of DVD’s or Bluray movies, this is something that you should take advantage of.

I Can’t Do That!

Building Your Own Roku Channel

One of my friends, after I consulted him on my blog, made the comment “you really should tell people how to make a channel so that more people will do it”.  

{facepalm}….

I didn’t really want to take it my blog that far, this was supposed to be a “beginners guide to Roku”, something specifically designed to tell people what Roku is, tell them how it works and help convince them that if used properly they can use it to get away from the high cost of cable.  Not a “Roku Collage 201 – Build your own Channel” blog that will confuse people and scare them away!

{sigh}…

Maybe this isn’t such a bad idea after all.  Take it slow, give people an opportunity to actually see that it’s going up and watch it step by step.  Okay… I’ll give it a shot.  (Ben, if this don’t work, I’m holding you personally responsible!)

Warning and Back Story:

I had mentioned in an earlier blog that I had built a Roku channel that had over 3000 subscribers.  I was very pleased with the following to say the least.  It was merely a toy, it had been suggested that I make it a public channel submitted to Roku (at the time it was only a private channel listed on a few websites and that was it).  

I was in the process of putting it together when my video hosting service, YouTube, decided to shut down my account because I had been in violation of some copyright laws.  Believe me or not, I don’t really care, but none of the videos that I had used were in violation of copyright.  Several studios had put a claim on me stating that it was in violation, a claim that I totally deny, and several times provided court records and even proof that Google acknowledged that video’s were in the public domain, but still, a year ago, I had multiple copyright claims from major motion picture studios that my videos were in violation of copyright at the same time and due to the terms of service in guidelines my YouTube account was shut down.

It couldn’t have happened at a worse time.  I was moving so my finances were all tied up, once I got moved I got involved with other activities and didn’t really have the spare time (or frankly the mood) to deal with it.  I had made several appeals and filed counter claims against those who had placed the claim, but again, due to YouTube’s rules, and the major movie studios taking HUGE advantages of it I was unable to get re-established.

(See below video for an example of how extreme it can get!  Although a humorous example, he’s not exaggerating a single bit.)

(Special thanks to Channel Awesome for posting this!)

I knew that I wanted to get this channel back up and running, but I also knew that if I wanted it to be done in a way where I didn’t have to worry about YouTube, I was going to need to pay for it out of my pocket…  with resources that I just don’t have right now…  and that it was going to take some time to do it…  time that I just don’t have right now…

Then Benjamin tells me that he would like to see this done…

But then again… I could use this to demonstrate just how bad and corrupt the system is…  So, what I’m going to do is show you how to build a Roku Channel.  I’m going to take this slow so that you can see the process easily and I can also show you the headaches you encounter with some of the stuff going on, all stuff that I have always wanted to address in this blog.

All the movies that I’m going to use will be movies in the public domain.  That means that the copyright, for whatever reason, has expired and that they are movies owned by ‘the public’.  You and me.

First thing, create a YouTube channel.  Here is my channel right here.

I’m going to upload some movies that I know without a doubt that are in the Public Domain, and when I get enough of them to create a Roku Channel, I’ll go ahead.

This could be tedious…

 

 

Isn’t that illegal?

What private channels are and why they exsist

Private Channels on Roku

When you start getting into Roku you’ll start hearing the term “Private Channels” tossed around allot.  What is it, why do they have it.

First you need to understand a few things if you don’t have a Roku yet and that is when it comes to ‘Channels’ they are all located in the main menu of the Roku device.  When you power up your Roku all the channels you have installed are going to appear as Icons, but on the left side of your screen (see image above) you will have a menu, all the public channels are located in the ‘Streaming Channels’ category and you can install them from there.

Private channels are simply channels that you install that cannot be installed through the Roku directly, requiring you to go to your Roku account and manually enter the code to install the channel.

You would think that this creates a opportunity for piracy to run rampant with Roku, but the truth is that in my five plus years of owning one, I can count on one hand the number of pirate channels I’ve encountered.  They are very rare.

Believe me, I’ve looked for them.

I wont say that they don’t exists, I’ve seen them, I’ve spoken to people that have or have had a desire to create them, but just like every other criminal element, when you break the law, your biggest desire is to keep a low profile.  So pirate channels are difficult to find.

So why have Private Channels?

The purpose of having private channels is for multiple reasons.  If you read my posting about Religion and Roku, I said that pornography cannot be made available through the device, so all porn channels are ‘private channels’.  (Keep in mind, we’re talking legality here, not morality and like it or not, Porn is legal in most areas)

But the majority of all Roku private channels fall into one of three categories.

Test or Beta Channels

When KDOV created their own Roku channel, for about three or four months before it was made public, they had posted the code and instructions for installation on their website as well as mentioned it in their broadcast.  KDOV, in case you didn’t read about it in my previous post, is a low power Christian TV/Radio channel in Medford, Oregon.  Even in the City of Medford very few people knew about them having a TV side because the power was so weak, but advertising it gave the regular listeners and viewers an opportunity to help them ensure the channel was up and running properly before making it available to the general public.  When I spoke to the IT person a about a year after they had their channel up, he told me that some of the viewers had caught things that had been overlooked before the channel was submitted.  

You will find that this is quite common.  If you are a regular follower of a specific blogger, YouTube submitter or someone else who has decided to create a Roku channel, they will often make their channel available to their regular followers prior to making it available to the general public to ensure that everything is all up and running nice.  I myself have made several channels, one of which was created for my Church and asked people to look it over to give feedback on it’s looks, loading time and other things that could help me iron out the channel to ensure that I’m presenting the best channel possible.

Corporate Videos

I’ve read from some sources that many large multi-state and multi nation corporations make a ‘Corporate’ channel that they place training and other relevant videos on so that they can be viewed. Of course these cannot be tracked by me, but I do find it highly likely that if a corporation decides to do this, it would be done.  It’s a very cheap and efficient means to provide videos in this manner.  

Because it’s possible and fun

Some things you do just because it’s fun.  You upload your videos to YouTube (which you can use to host your videos) and you make a private channel you share with your friends and family.  MKV X Stream is a popular website to go to that you can submit your private channel to and they will share it with the Roku community.  I myself have used it and because of them a channel that I created a few years ago got up to 3000 plus subscribers.  All perfectly legal and just for an opportunity to play around with other aspects of Roku.  The things that I learned with my playing made my official submission for a public channel go much faster and smoother then it would have gone without it.  One other aspect of this is that some people just don’t wish to go through the hassle of submitting the channel to Roku to be reviewed.  They know that websites like MKV X Stream exists and that they would get nearly as many viewers from making it known there as they would by making it public.  

But if porn is available as a private channel how do I know my kid wont access it?

Two things you need to understand about Roku to understand how it works.

  1.  When you purchase a Roku, you need to go online to the Roku website and create an account.  Only then when you have created the account will it allow you to use it.
  2. Every time you go to the Roku Website you will be required to put in a password to have access to your account.  No password, no ability to install a private channel on your Roku.

The advantage of this system is that you will have control over the device and what can or cannot be put on it.  Another advantage is that if you decide to purchase multiple Roku’s then whatever channel is installed on one Roku will be found on all of them within 24 hours.  It does not matter if the Roku is in your home or not, it’s going to be available on all of them.

I own three Roku devices, my first Roku (Roku LT) I purchased over five years ago.  I liked it so much that I purchased a second one to place in my bedroom (Roku XD).  When I moved I gave my Roku LT to a friend of mine (reset to factory settings removing everything that I had installed and removing it from my Roku account) so that she wouldn’t need to connect her laptop to her television to watch Netflix anymore.

When I got all moved and settled I decided to try the Roku stick and purchased it.  When the third generation of Roku devices came out (distinguished by it’s 1, 2, 3 designation) I opted to try the Roku 2.

Having only one TV now, I have my other two Roku’s out on loan to friends so that they can try them out and let them know that it’s still attached to my account and whatever they install I will see.  They cant log onto my Roku account, so they cant install private channels without going through me.

Copyright

Even in the case of Private Channels, Roku can and has in the past, closed down channels that have been found to be in violation of any copyright laws, so if they receive a complaint about a violation they can and will close it down so if and when they do pop up they generally don’t last very long.  

Religion on Roku

I hear it a lot, “Why are their so many religious programs on the Roku?”

The simple answer is “because it’s affordable to do it.”

I get a lot of criticism for what I’m going to say next, but history has shown it to be true.  When it comes to taking advantage of modern technology, there are two different segments of all societies that advances it.  Christianity and Porn.  When the printing press was first developed, the one big major contributor to take advantage of it were people who printed the Bible, the second group to take advantage of what it had to offer was the porn industry.  Same with pictures, video and the internet.

Roku will not promote any material that provides pornography on the device, I wont say that it’s not available, but Roku wont promote it through the device.  If porn is to be had on the Roku, you can only do it if you have the access to the Roku creator account, so no kids can get access to it without your knowledge.  Religious material on the other hand is free to be placed up for the general public to be seen and have access.

I’m going to be honest, I’m a Christian, as in ‘Bible believing, attend each and every Sunday morning gave my life to the Lord and been baptized” Christian.  In fact, I got involved with TV production a few years ago and when I got involved with this Church that I attend now my pastor asked me how hard it would be to record his Sunday Sermons and put them up on the Church Website.  It’s easy.  I already had most of the tools that I needed for editing, he provided the video camera so if you go to my churches website  you will find about a years worth of sermons recorded, most of them recorded and edited by me.  If you’re a Christian I only need to say “The Great Commission” and you’ll know why I love being involved in that aspect of our ministry, but if you’re not, to say it simply, Jesus tells Christians that we are to go about spreading the message that he has left.

Our Church has a Roku channel, it was more or less implied when I began doing this that it would be my ultimate goal to see to it that a Channel was created for the Church.  Our grand total out of pocket to have this channel?  $5 per month.  I’m working at getting that down so that it won’t cost us anything.  99% of the tools and requirements that I needed to create a Roku channel the Church had long before I started attending and the Church leadership was gracious enough to grant me access to it so that I could utilize it for the ministry.  The Church Roku channel was started right around Thanksgiving and each sermon that has been recorded is available on it and the videos that we have posted has actually caused a few people to try our Church, so we know that it’s being viewed.

I bring this up because Roku has a whole category dedicated to “Religion”. As I stated in my original post, content is king on Roku and there is no shortage of content regarding Christianity.  Just as I stated in my previous post regarding what’s available, this too has caused me a great amount of grief because I don’t know what to include and what to leave out.

I’m just going to give you a few highlights:

I don’t care what your ‘religion’ is.  Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Islam, Buddhist or anything else, most likely you will find something on Roku to watch that reflects your faith.

If you are a Christian, I don’t care what your denomination is.  Catholic, Seventh Day Adventist, Baptist, non-denominational, Church of Christ or Episcopalian, again I can say with complete conviction that you will find something that reflects your faith.

Christianity on Roku

Several well known evangelical and denomination channels are available including Billy Graham Ministries and Jimmy Swaggart not to mention all of them in between.  Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) has a live channel that not only gives you access to the traditional TBN TV channel, but ones directed at Arabic and Spanish speaking people as well.  They also provide on demand videos of their more popular programs and movies, I’ve watched Fireproof, Flywheel and Facing the Giants utilizing their on demand service as well as other movies.  Gospel Broadcasting Network (GBN), Dove Network, Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) and TCT are all available to watch all of them providing live material as well as on demand programming.  TCT, for example, has a daily program called Faith in History hosted by William Federer which I watch nearly every week.

Here are a couple channels that are relatively unknown that I believe should be getting more viewers then it does.

The Dove

I’m going to highlight a particularly special channel to me that’s on Roku called “The Dove” going by the call letters KDOV based in Medford, OR.  It’s a low power TV channel that started as a radio station and Perry Atkinson, someone that I consider a dear friend, leads this small group of people that run this channel.  5 days a week they do two morning shows that gives local and national news then they do a 1 hour program immediately afterwords where they interview people regarding local or national interests.  Each of their daily programs are available on demand as well as ‘live’.  They also provide other quality Christian programs like Wretched TV and Give Me An Answer.  If you have not seen these programs, you’re missing out.

Genesis Science Network

Another channel that I think is worth some recognition is GSN.  Started by David Reeves Ministries and made available on Roku about a year ago, Genesis Science Network looks at all the Sciences through Biblical lenses with programs designed to speak to toddlers and old men and women while covering all the ages between.  I cannot say enough about the channels that are available on Roku that is geared to strengthen  your faith, and this one is a leader of the pack.  

In Conclusion.

If for no other reason, I would encourage you to get a Roku just on the quality programming to spread the Gospel and help people grow in their faith and walk as well.  If you cant find something that you believe needs to be covered, create it yourself.  There’s no excuse not to.  If your church has a website, 99% of what you need is right there at your fingertips, so contact me and I will give you some useful instructions and guidance on what to do regardless of your personal faith and religion.