Cheap Plex {Roku} client for €15

I recently saw an Ad on the TV advertising Sky’s NowTV for 10 pounds (sterling), delivered.  The box looked very familiar so a quick Google showed up that it is in fact a Roku LT re-branded.  Roku LTs retail any where from 30 – 50 pounds (Maplin) .

I thought to myself.. bargain! but wait there is a catch, while you can buy the box on the sky nowtv website they won’t ship to addresses outside the UK. This is where ParcelMotel comes in handy. It’s in the UK so I shipped it to there. 3.50 euro later and the box arrives. Total cost 15 euro. Bargain.

What’s in the box?

In the box you get the Roku LT, Roku remote control, batteries for remote control and a decent HDMI cable.

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The box
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unboxing
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Plug and batteries

It looks and feels like a Roku box. Not much on the box just power, A/V out and a HDMI port.

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Connections

The setup was straight forward – connected to the wireless network no problem.

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Setup

I signed up to Sky Now TV and from reading other blog posts I thought I could get away without having to put my credit card details. Unfortunately I had to in order to activate the account. I stuck a pin on purchases so I can’t accidentally buy sky movies/sports etc.

What apps are installed?

The box comes with Roku Store and Sky Store, BBC iPlayer. 4oD, 5 Demand, Now TV, Sky news and BBC news. All worked for me* (nod, nod, VPN wink, wink) and the quality over the wireless connection was very good. UPDATE. For connections without VPN I  can confirm 4oD, Sky News and BBC news works.  BBC iPlayer and 5 Demand don’t work due to geo-broadcasting restrictions.

As you expect from the price Sky are heavily subsidising this box.  Because of this Sky have restricted what apps you can download from their controlled app (and Roku) store.  The Sky store has a lot of it carries over satellite but everything will result in you paying Sky.

On the Roku store there is no sign of netflix, plex, youtube, plex etc.  as you would expect because it’s controlled by Sky.
Notable mentions on the store include: Spotify, Tune in, Facebook, TED talks etc.

How-and-ever…

Slide loading Plex

Having recently put my own Roku box in to developer mode I knew it is possible to ‘side load’ apps on to roku boxes. (“Side load” you ask, well it’s the technique to install apps on to the Roku with out using the usual stores.) With the Sky NowTV box is essentially a Roku LT box it’s possible to side load.

To enable developer mode use the following command on the home screen.

Home 3x, Up 2x, Right, Left, Right, Left, Right

Do this nice and slow. Press the buttons deliberately. You should then see this (your IP will be different).

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IP Address for sideloading

 

I enabled the installer and the box restarted. Once rebooted using a laptop/computer open a browser and enter the IP of the roku and then upload plex or rarflix. (UPDATE: The version of plex linked here says it needs a plex-pass subscription beyond a 30 day trial. I’ve never this before so perhaps you are better off to use the Rarflix version.

Tada!! Plex channel good to go.

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Plex on the box

AND100 Review ~ Media Android Box

I’ve been testing the AND100 Android Box from TV Trade. Dave and the guys sent me the box in December and I’m only getting around to blogging about it now (sorry guys!).

I have a Roku XS and it’s the benchmark when it comes to home media. I run a Plex client and Netflix off it. The Roku remote control is easy and simple – that’s what I like.
Any new media box challenging to sit full time under my TV must equal or surpass the Roku.

Let’s get the little niggly things out of the way first because the AND100 is a very good box in terms of flexibility and what it can do (way better than the Roku).

3 Dots

This is a version of Android that should be running on a tablet and it has 3 soft keys that are constantly displayed at the bottom of the screen. Since the TV isn’t touch screen these buttons have no purpose. They turn into 3 dots  while watching netflix etc. in full screen and there is no easy way to remove them either without rooting the box and using an APP. I decided I could live with the 3 dots.

Default Launcher

The front end launcher is terrible. It made no sense to me and I ended up going into the ‘Android’ option and browsing the apps from here. I felt the default launcher was really letting the box down so I installed the GO launcher HD (free). Once installed I added the stuff I wanted to quick access to (Plex, Netflix, RTE, BBC sport, News, etc). I increased the font size to make things a little easier to read from a distance. Once Go Launcher was installed the AND100 becomes a lot more user friendly and from here I felt the box was in its element. Compared to the Roku and how easy it is to launch apps  it’s not perfect but getting there.

Default Launcher - Android Box
Default Launcher – Android Box

The Good Stuff

You can install RTE player, Netflix, Plex, Hulu and pretty much whatever you want from the Google play store. This is where the AND100 is better than the Roku – you have full control. With Roku you are very much limited by what Roku offers (yes you can side load but that’s not for everyone!). The Roku has limited ability to play videos from a USB key whereas the AND100 had no problem at all.

The Box Itself

The box isn’t the prettiest box (black generic box)  but it’s small and well made. As you expect it is whisper quiet and the LEDs on the box are pleasant and not distracting. In terms of video-out ports it has HDMI and RCA  allowing it to be plugged into most TVs.

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The box itself
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USB Connections

I should point out I’m using the HDMI output from the box and it’s the only way to use it on big screens (+30inch). I tried the RCA cables and it was horrible to look at. It doesn’t come with a HDMI cable by default and if you forget to order one, don’t go to big name stores for HMDI cables – they will fleece you, try somewhere like Dealz and you’ll find a 1m cable for a bargain price of €1.49.

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RSA/HDMI and Ethernet

Network Options

For some reason I couldn’t get ethernet to work but the wifi was simple and very stable. (I think because most mobile device don’t have an ethernet port this version of Android OS doesn’t know how to handle the hardware correctly.)

Default programs

The box comes installed with your typically Google apps like maps, Gmail and with the wireless keyboard remote you can send/receive/read emails. You can install Twitter and Facebook and they all work great (unlike on the Roku). Since I view this is a media box, I turn off all notifications, I don’t want interruptions.  A lot of the apps that comes preinstalled with Android AND100 won’t be useful for the regular user and just adds to the clutter. This is why I think a better launcher is key.

Remote Control vs Mini Keyboard

I found myself ditching the wireless keyboard and just using the default little remote control that comes with the AND100 box. I used the wireless mini keyboard for surfing the web, entering search terms etc. but I didn’t really need a full keyboard. The little remote control is perfect for start/stopping media and up/down/left/right is all you really need to navigate Plex/Netflix.

Overall thoughts

Overall it is a good versatile box but if you have a Roku – it won’t replace it. It is very portable and I’ve brought the Andorid Box (AND100) on my travels and plugged it in to the hotel TVs. Plugging in a usb key with movies and the AND100 shows its value again over the Roku which doesn’t have a great standalone media player. Once up and running it had no problems with HD netflix or playing HD videos over plex so I was happy with it overall.

I think we’ll see more and more of these kind of boxes (not to mention chromecast).  I’m surprised not to see more dedicated free launchers on Google play for these kind of devices. There might be an opportunity for someone to come and along and put one together that covers everything. Maybe I’m missing something, I did find one that is close but it’s a paid app, (TV Launcher), which looks nice and simple.

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Alternative Launcher

Mayday!

Where does the time go? It’s absolutely flying by. Things are good  but I think I need a break.

Not so long ago the country was crippled by frost and ice – nobody could go anywhere.  Then the deadly ash cloud covered the country and again people were grounded & having to stay put. I’m just wondering what’s next to hit Ireland!? Dust storms? Locusts? Unlikely. They better stay away because I need a break. It’s been over 2 years since I went away for 10 days and switched off. (that means no laptop or blackberry) so it’s high time.

It’s hard to think this time last year I was UL worrying about lectures, students, papers, publishing etc. it’s now a distant memory. It was a tough decision to leave but I’m glad I did. Had I not, I’d still be in UL worrying about lectures, students, papers, publishing etc.

It’s been a terrific year for the Cauwill with things going from strength to strength. Just last week I was delighted to see two more hotels coming online and using the technology as part of their booking – it  made me smile.

The year has brought great challenges and we’ve been learning new (technical & business related) stuff  everyday. LEAP has been good too and I’m glad I did. The year has been a roller-coaster ride with lots of lows including sleepless nights, worrying, having minor-to-major panic attacks when something goes wrong, stressed to max, wondering when were  going to sign a customer, wondering if anyone would ever use the service. But of course on the flip side, the highs have been great including successfully delivery a quality product, securing and getting paid by customers,  receiving a thank-you note from users who love the service and of course let’s not forget InterTrade Ireland Seedcorn 😉

Since we’ve won it’s been really busy.. for sure we’ve had some knock-backs but all-in-all it’s been positive.  You need to be able to take the highs with the lows in this game.

For those entering, I’ll be posting a blog on our experience last year, what we included in the business plan & presentation.

Anyway.. that’s for a little later in the meantime I need recommendations for a vacation! Answers on a postcard please

Installing Nokia Maps 3 on a Nokia N82

Had loads of fun getting Nokia Maps on my n82. I had an original version and automatic updates would constantly give the error

Unable to Install. Component built in.

Grrr…

so after much reading around I’ve put the following together..  kudos to http://betalabs.nokia.com

DISCLAIMER:

The following will reset everything (EVERYTHING!!) and you will need to re-install apps again (ovi will help !). The following will  install Maps 3 and restore your contacts.

 

1. Sync contact list with Ovi
2. If you want – Back-up your memory card but exclude the Cities folder and qf file
3. Hard reset  – Enter  *#7370# on the standby screen (This could take up to 6 minutes to reset.. white screen for quite a bit.. be brave.. don’t remove the battery!)
4. Format memory card (you can do this via Tools>Utilities>Memory.. Options Format Card). Buhbye memory card.. THIS WILL WIPE EVERYTHING!

5. Get operator settings for network connectivity (02 will send them OTA to open use code is 1234) 
6. Open Maps and exit
7. Connect phone again via USB and Run Maps Updater. Update and wait for licence and voice navigation 
8. Open Maps after it’s updated. Make sure the application does open and it does the removal of old maps (which was created by step 6)
9. If Maps opens but shutdown by itself, remove memory card and open maps without memory card.
Then delete the cities and qf files using a PC. Put memory card back in and reopen maps.
10. Synch with OVI for contacts again 
11. Reinstall any application and settings you have previously
12. Download new maps..

 

Enjoy.

 

Voddler: Like spotify but for movies..

The blurb : With Voddler you can watch movies and TV shows the way you want, anytime. Voddler is easy, legal and available around the clock ..

Before I could it to work I had to configure the firewall correctly to allow inbound/outbound permissions but still it didn’t pass the startup test completely. It worked fine though.  The UI is a bit clunky but once you get the hang of it ..it’s fine. Enter and ESC with the nav keys pretty much do everything. You can see the UI designers have TVs in mind.. everything is BIG ! I kinda like it!

Because Voddler originates from Sweden  subtitles are on by default. You can turn them off in the settings.

The video quality of the movies is excellent as is the sound quality however the movie selection is s a bit limited at the moment but still I’d happily watch most of the movies currently listed.  Voddler also has TV series listed, I haven’t investigated them too much right now but from the first glance they looked to be a good mix of stuff.

The moves are listed as FREE and then there is a Premium section… as you would expect.

Before the movie starts you get to watch some advertisements, which is fine and understandable.  I haven’t watched a movie in it’s entirety to see if advertisements occur in the middle of it. If you exit a movie and come back in – it picks up where you left off (again with a few advertisements prior to it).

Overall – I like it! 8/10

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Spotify in Ireland Part 2

..  so I purchased spotify premium. Spotify Premium, like the free version, is awesome. So I’m thinking – “hey, let’s download Spotify to the  iPod touch and connect this to my 1930’s McMichael radio ” .. but alas not possible.  Is it because of connection problems I hear you ask? No the radio has a gramophone input I’ve re-wired for 3mm audio jack . Spotify, albeit listed in App Store, isn’t available in Ireland.. why oh why are you trying to thwart me!?

Anyone got a workaround to achieve the following.. but in Ireland?

On behalf of Gmail

Gmail is great. I love it. Use it all the time but one of the really annoying things about Gmail was the ‘On the behalf of’ message that would appear in some email clients, MS Outlook,  if I sent a message from a non-gmail account via Gmail. It looks a little unprofessional.

That in theory has been resolved with the new Settings to nominate you smtp server to send mail out other than Gmails smtp.

Finally says he! But Houston we have a problem. TLS is not supported.. so back to square one. Nice but no cigar Google! Can we now have the option to turn off TLS ??
TLS_not_supported.

BerryBuzz – What’s the buzz man!?

What’s BerryBuzz?

It’s a tiny piece of software for BlackBerry phones that lights up the LED to notify you’ve got email.. so what’s the big deal? well BerryBuzz allows you to assign colours to the various email accounts. For example one email account could be set to green, another cyan, another orange, another blue and so on. You can also change the default colour for phone calls.

So at work/home I turn off all email programs (postbox mainly) and when the BlackBerry Lights up – a quick glance and I can determine whether I should check or not.. i.e. emails have been priortised. I’m sure you can do it with other (windows) programs but hey BerryBuzz does it so well.

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Embedding Fonts into Presentations – Office 2007

If you decide to use different fonts in presentation you have to assume  other computers won’t have them installed.. so embed them.
Here is the HowTo:

  1. Click the Office Button
  2. Click Word/PowerPoint Options (bottom of the menu)
  3. Click the Save feature at the left pane
  4. Under the Preserve fidelity when sharing this document section
  5. Check Embed fonts in file and Embed only the characters used in the document options
  6. Click OK
  7. Save the documen

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New Day

Well today was first day of LEAP.. 14 new companies walked into the boardroom of  EAC in LIT at 9am this morning and we started our adventure. It was great to see quite a few of the STARTERS on LEAP and of course it was good to meet  some new faces.  As I left, I wondered  – where will we be in 12 months? What state of mind will be in? What will the be the state of our companies?  Will we have customers? Will we be standing on our own, or will we have created partnerships and be driving to the next level? Who knows.. but one thing for certain the next 12 months will be filled with  lots of highs and lows.  The road will be rocky that’s for sure but  I’m hoping to balance out the high with the lows  on all fronts. Of course there will be time for coffee to discuss the rocky road 🙂

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