We ordered a Roku box last week. If you don't know what that is, it's a little Internet connected box that lets you stream content to your TV. The funny thing about that is that if you had asked me if I wanted something like this two years ago, or five years ago, or indeed even twenty or forty years back, I would have said 'No". I would have even been mildly amused by the very idea of it because we hardly ever watched movies - so why would we want something that brought movies to our TV?
Oh, I don't mean we never watched a movie. Once in a great while we'd venture out to a movie theatre and from time to time we helped make the cable TV industry wealthier by subscribing the HBO and even though we only did that to watch The Sopranos, we'd watch a movie now and then. But we weren't "big on it". Not like my sister, for example, who seems to have seen just about anything and everything you ever heard of. Mention a movie and she has likely seen it. Mention the same movie to us and you might get a blank stare. We just aren't Movie People.
I don't know when I first noticed Hulu - probably not very long back because, well, remember? We aren't Movie People. What brought me to Hulu was a TV show that we wanted to see but missed - I don't remember now what it was, but I found it there and we watched it. The experience wasn't great, a little choppy now and then and with sound lagging behind the video sometimes, but hey, we got to see the show. Better than nothing, right? Right.
Yeah, I know: video stores have been around a long time. We had a VCR player and even rented a tape or two. But when we moved five years ago, we somehow misplaced or lost the VCR and didn't even notice that it was missing for more than a year - it was that unimportant to us.
We have a community library here. That's great, but the books are mostly fiction and we don't read fiction so that didn't attract our attention. However, there is also a community DVD and VCR tape library. There aren't many tapes (who uses VCR's today?) but just seeing them reminded us of that missing piece of equipment. Hmmm - what happened to that?
Who knows? We never did find it, but it got us thinking about all the community center DVD's sitting there free for the temporary taking. We looked through the shelves and saw a few movies we might want to watch. But - we had no DVD player.
Should we buy one? Given our movie watching habits, it didn't seem to make much sense. Sure, the darn things are dirt cheap now, but we'd probably only use it a few times a year. We hemmed and hawed a bit but finally decided it was cheap enough and I went out and bought one.
Of course we rushed right down and got a few movies, right? No - the player sat unused for a week or more before we picked out something to watch and we were in no rush to go get more movies when we were done. We still were not Movie People.
The problem was that there's a limited selection here. A pretty large selection, but measured against a video store's stock, not much. We just weren't finding enough we wanted to watch.
We knew about Netflix. Our kids and my sister and probably everyone else we know have been long time subscribers. We were not, but then wasn't that because we hadn't owned a DVD player? And now we did own one, so..
So we signed up for Netflix - just the bottom tier, one DVD at a time plan. After all, we'e not Movie People.
But something funny happened. We found we really liked watching the Netflix stuff and that made us start getting more movies from the library here - we were slowly becoming Movie People.
It was getting harder to find movies we wanted to see. Our community adds new movies regularly, but we were watching them too quickly and while Netflix is quick, we started finding ourselves movieless. We couldn't have that, could we? I noticed the Roku link on Netfilx and saw the solution.
The box arrived yesterday. It took just a few minutes to hook it up, configure it to connect to my wireless router, activate it for Netfilx and minutes later we watched our first streamed video (we watched the first episode of "Soap", an ancient TV show we had enjoyed back in the 70's).
Roku doesn't download anything - this is streaming, but we saw no jitter and no video lag. Netflix doesn't have everything available for streaming, but they do have many thousands of movies and TV shows and you can stream as many as you want - none of that activity affects your normal Netflix subscription. You just access Netflix from your computer as you normally would and add movies to your "Instant" queue. Seconds later, they are available to your Roku box.
Roku does have some other "channels" available but we haven't looked into that yet. There's no extra subscription costs; you buy the Roku outright and that's the end of that.
I've been mentioning this to people we know who have Netflix and I have been surprised by how many have never heard of it. We think it's great and highly recommend it.
Got something to add? Send me email.
More Articles by Anthony Lawrence © 2012-10-01 Anthony Lawrence
What do such machines really do? They increase the number of things we can do without thinking. Things we do without thinking — there's the real danger. (Frank Herbert)