Roku

I have spent a long time working on our network here at the house.  One of my primary purposes for doing this is media consumption.  While constantly consuming media is not something I would recommend, it helps to make things run as smoothly as possible and user friendly for the whole family.
What seems like several years ago, I purchased a WD Sharespace to use as a central storage space for our digital media (movies/television shows).  I was using XBMC on my first generation Xbox to view said data.  Up until that point, I had to copy stuff over to the internal drive, but I was getting annoyed with constantly copying the files over to it.  Using DLNA (or maybe it was SMBA), I was able to put all of the media on the Sharespace, and just browse for what I wanted, streaming the media over my network.  There were no pictures to go along with the media, so I had to rely on the names and sXXeXX to make sure I was starting the movie or television episode I wanted.  One of the annoying features of this was having a noisy Xbox running every time we wanted to watch something.
A few years ago, I purchased a WD TV Live Plus.  This silent little box ran very well… still does, actually.  Still had no pictures (metadata), although I knew how to add them at this point.  Every now and again, we would have a slight issue with it, but it was much better than the Xbox.  It also has a Netflix, Hulu, and several other apps installed with each new version of the firmware.  The only real issue I’ve had with it was on the latest firmware update, which led to not being able to transcode many of the movie files stored on the Sharespace.  I remedied that by going to the WD site and downloading an earlier version of the firmware to install on the box.
A few months ago (probably 8 months), I found a tremendous deal on the top Roku in production at the time (I think it’s the Roku 2 XS).  It was something like half-price.  It had many apps available in the Channel Store, including Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and Plex.  While it does not include DLNA accessibility, the Plex app allows you to view media from a server on a home PC (or Mac – more on that in another post).
I installed the Roku in our bedroom, since we already had the WD TV in the living room.  I was amazed at the speed of the menu, and even the response time of Netflix and Hulu.  I decided to try out Plex, and installed the server on my Mac Mini.  The server configuration screen started scanning the folders I added, and automatically added the metadata information to about 95-98% of the database of our media.  I was impressed with how easy it was to correct the files that had not been identified correctly through the automatic process.  When I went to the bedroom, and loaded the Plex app on the Roku, it was a beautiful display.  It automatically found the server, and a gorgeous showing of all of our media including all of the video posters was there.  It was like viewing Netflix but only with content that I already owned.
Imagine, if you will, that you have taken the time to rip every movie you own to digital format stored on a hard drive.  When you turn on your TV, you can look through your movie list, as if you’ve gone to your movie shelf that is designed like the video rental store.  They’re all in alphabetical order, or ordered by genre or decade.  You can also do a search.
I know this post is not typical.  I just feel like I need to tip my hat to the makers of this fantastic device, as well as the developers of Plex.
Just a little more information… The Roku 3 (2 to 3 months old in our house) is a terrific upgrade!  I love the quick response of the menu and apps.  I didn’t think they could get any better until I replaced the one in our room with that.  The headphone jack on the remote is incredibly handy.

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