Posts Tagged ‘IPTV’

One of challenges people face when deciding if they want to cut the cord is how to replicate what they have with cable TV with regards to content and ease of use. I have been using Plex for over 2 years and consider it my go to channel for a lot of my content. Paired with my Roku 3 boxes for my TV’s, I have it all. An inexpensive indoor TV antenna give me live TV all day thus I don’t miss anything from cable.

For those of you who live in areas that a TV antenna doesn’t get you live TV, there is always Sling TV through the internet.

So why do I like Plex so much? I have over 120 Roku channels that has great content like Crackle, Internet Archives, Tubi TV and more. I like the old TV shows and movies from the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s and the Roku does a great job giving it all to you. But when you add the Plex channel, you get a whole other list of channels that Roku may not have. There are channels like “Filmon, Let me Watch This & Ice Films” that have tons of movies that you didn’t even know existed. I am talking about really good movies, not something that didn’t even make it to DVD. I have over 20 Plex channels which I usually go to when I switch on my Roku box and watch TV.

Plex comes in two components, the server which can run on an old PC or laptop and apps for Android, IOS and Roku. The Plex server +is free. The apps are $5. Well worth the money. If you do a search for Plex on the internet you will find tons of information about all of the ways you can hook up and watch your content from anywhere, including your home movies and pictures. It takes a little effort to use all of Plex’s capabilities, but to start, just load the channels portion of Plex.

There are also unofficial Plex channels that offer more great content. The three channels I spoke about earlier are unsupported (unofficial) channels and work great. There are a number of ways to add channels to Plex. With the official ones, you can go to the Plex app on your Roku, or to the Plex web interface on your PC where the server is running. With unsupported channels (www.totalhtpc.com/plex-unsupported-appstore) you download the channel you want directly from the web (Github has a ton) and copy them to the Plex plugins directory. To get to the Plex plugins directory, right click on the Plex icon in the system tray and select “open plex plugins directory”. Copy your channel file to the directory and you are all set.

By the way some Plex channel file names like “unsupported library bundle-master” need to be renamed to “unsupported library bundle” without the master word in the name.

Good luck and have fun.

Homemediaguy

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I just posted a great Cord Cutting calculator published by theverge.com that shows you what channels you can get from each provider and the cost for each. One thing they did not include is the non-tangible factors that play a BIG part on who you select.

There are really only three considerations you need to take into account when deciding to cut cable. They are:

  • Do I want live streaming TV?
  • Do I want DVR (ON Demand)?
  • How easy is it to surf channels (which we all do frequently)?
  • Buffering (it happens to everybody – Why?)?

The DVR capability in the IPTV world translates to ON-DEMAND when you look for it on the web. Almost all video on web pages (live cnn.com is the exception) is on demand. Julu, HuluPlus, Snagfilms and all movie web sites are also on demand. That is great if you never have the time to chill out on the couch for an afternoon to bum out and watch TV. But if you do want to surf the channels with no particular type of content in mind; you are out of luck unless you get an HD over the air antenna and grab free Live HD programming from your local stations. Just like your parents and grandparents did years ago.

I have put together a simple chart to get you started on how you want to migrate from cable TV below.

Source Live TV View Later (DVR) Channel Surfing Comment
Cable TV Yes DVR Easy
Over the Air Antenna (OTA) Yes Tablo.tv device Easy
Roku Box No Yes Hard On demand only viewing
Web sites (Casting from device) Maybe1 Yes Hard On demand only viewing

Almost all web sites do NOT have live streaming but a limited number of sites broadcast live such as CNN.com. When you watch a show like “Scandal“, notice the web page address. Each episode has a different web page address so you cannot just lock that web page into a ”favorite” using apps such as Plexit, PlayLater, etc. You have to go to the web page with the latest episode and mark it each time. Not really user friendly.

Homemediaguy

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Theverge.com has a Cord cutting calculator they published this week (http://www.theverge.com/a/online-tv-stream-price-guide) that lets you see what channels you get and how much their respective services cost. It’s real handy to determine which provider CBS all access, HBO Now, Netflix, Amazon, Hulu Plus, Sling TV and PlayStation Vue) gives you what you really want to watch. I have included screen shots below.

Blog Amazon Services w Price 031915 Blog CBS Services w Price 031915 Blog HBO Now Services w Price 031915 Blog Hulu Plus Services w Price 031915 Blog Netflix Services w Price 031915 Blog Playstation Vue Services w Price 031915

Homemediaguy

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One of the most annoying aspects of IPTV is when you are watching a movie and all of a sudden you see a message that says “reestablishing connection” or your TV screen turns black with a progress bar showing that your movie is reloading. This terrible event is called buffering. It doesn’t matter if you are using a computer, Roku box or any other IP device to get your content. And to top it off sometimes the progress bar gets stuck and you have to restart the movie. UUUGGGHHH!!!

There are a number of factors that contribute to buffering. They can be divided into two categories. The first category includes items you can control. That is your home network. The second category includes everything that you may influence but cannot control.

What you can control – Your Network

WIFI vs. Cat 6 direct connection to your router:

WIFI has about half the speed a direct connection with a network cable has. It is recommended that you use newer router meeting the “802.11n” standard. Run a test. Using your browser go to http://www.speedtest.net/ and run a speed test if you are using a computer, which will tell you what your actual upload and download speeds are at the time of the test. Rerun this test just before you start your movie and you will see it may be different depending on the time of day and day of the week. Run this test using our WIFI connection and again with you network cable connection. If you have a Roku box, there is a speedtest channel you can get for free that will give you the same information from your Roku box (see screenshot below). Roku and Netflix offer the following as a guide for video content:

  • 0.5 Megabits per second – Required broadband connection speed
  • 1.5 Megabits per second – Recommended broadband connection speed
  • 3.0 Megabits per second – Recommended for DVD quality (Roku HD quality)
  • 5.0 Megabits per second – Recommended for HD quality
  • 7.0 Megabits per second – Recommended for Super HD quality
  • 12 Megabits per second – Recommended for 3D quality

I recommend 3.0 Megabits per second as an acceptable minimum. My test results from my wireless computer are shown below. Keep in mind that this test gives you an average over the time the test was performed. I would add a 20% safety margin onto the numbers. So my numbers would be 99.2 download and 154.4 upload. The screen below shows speeds from my laptop computer with a wireless connection. As you can see, I don’t have a speed problem.

Speedtest PC

If you are using a computer to get video to your TV directly with an HDMI cable:

  • Make sure hardware acceleration is shut off
  • Make sure no other software is using up your bandwidth. Programs such as anti virus, or background processes can eat up band width.

Now take a look at the next picture and you will see the upload and download speeds using the Speedtest channel on my Roku 3 device. Note they are significantly lower than my laptop.

Speedtest Roku Screenshot

You should also note that there are multiple results displayed. I would note the slowest download speed of 1.34 Mbytes/sec and 2.27 Mbytes/sec which may give you some buffering. However the slowest speeds were the initial ones. I should be OK with not having buffering issues due to my network or equipment.

Once you have checked your equipment and connection speeds there is not a whole lot left to adjust on your end. One thing to keep in mind though is that if you are streaming different content to you TV’s you need to understand that each stream requires the same 3.0 Mbytes/sec of bandwidth.

Also keep in mind the bandwidth tests you ran are specific to the time of day and day of week you ran the test.

You should not have to check your network or calculate movie file sizes to enjoy streaming movies at home. So the simple steps are:

  1. Check your PC to make sure no spyware, or other applications are running that use bandwidth.
  2. Run Speedtest to make sure you have at least 3.0 Mbytes/sec of bandwidth to your device (Roku, PC, etc.)
  3. Make sure no one else at home is streaming anything

Once you have done all that and you still get buffering, it is most likely coming from the source (the website providing the video). Remember that at the source end, different videos can reside on different servers. So if there are a ton of people hitting the same server your movie is on, then you may have problems.

There is no gauge, guide or indicator that shows you on screen or otherwise how hard a providers server is getting hit; and it can vary over the length of a 3 hour movie. That is why buffering is so hard to avoid. There is an alternative to streaming that most people will not run to right away. That is to host your own movies on a media server at home. Acquiring all the movies you want to watch (many only once) is not an option for everyone.

How can you stop or minimize buffering?

  1. If your network is running properly you might be able to adjust your resolution from 1080p to 720p
  2. Connect your streaming device (PC or Roku) to your router with a CAT 6 cable
  3. Watch streaming content when there is less load on the providers servers (early in the day)

By the way if you are ready to jump into 4K quality content, remember 4K consumes twice the bandwidth of 1080p HD.

Also keep in mind that video content streaming over the internet is at its infancy. Adjusting your expectations for occasional buffering vs. a ton of commercials may be a new acceptable standard. Also remember that content providers server demand and bandwidth is right now the biggest factor in causing buffering. Pick your streaming sources carefully and keep score of which content providers have more buffering than others.

How do you calculate how much bandwidth you need for video streaming?

Suppose the video you’re streaming is one hour long, and the file size for that video is 6 GB. While a broadband connection of up to 10 Mbps lets you easily stream a lot of video content online, you’ll want 15 Mbps or more for this six-gigabyte HD video. Here’s a quick look at the math:

  • Approximate megabytes: 6 GB = 6,144 MB (1 GB = 1024 MB)
  • Approximate megabits: 6,144 MB = 49,152 Mb (1 byte = 8 bits)
  • Number of seconds per hour calculation: 60 x 60 = 3,600
  • Megabits per hour calculation: 49,152 / 3,600 = 13.65 Mbps

When you’re streaming HD content, also consider whether the connection jumps over a wireless router. If so, note that the connection speed could drop over the connection if the WiFi standard isn’t fast enough. You’ll want to avoid slower 802.11b connections, and the newest 802.11n is the ideal choice to keep up with faster broadband services. I got this information from Howstuffworks.com (http://bit.ly/1A69R5I).

As the personal media and IPTV industry starts to mature, there is always hope that we can migrate away from computers that boot up and require updates to something more sexy like the Roku box solution. Seagate has just taken a major step for those who want to watch their movies, pictures, or home recorded video anywhere and share with anybody.

Seagate has just come out with a line of Personal Cloud Home Media Storage devices that include an operational Plex media server. Holy Cow Batman! That’s right. You now do not need a full blown PC to run Plex at home. The best part is the basic unit is scheduled to retail for $170 (3 TB device). Cheaper than a decent tablet. Are they nuts? No they are smart. The future for home media consumption should not require a PC or daily maintenance and having to worry about viruses. It should be simple and reliable. Like the complementary Roku and Tablo devices are designed to be.

In addition to the Plex capability, you also have your own personal “private” and “secure” cloud storage capability without having to rely on some big corporation peeking into what you store on their cloud storage services.

So click on the link (http://www.seagate.com/products/network-attached-storage/home-network/personal-cloud) to check out this really cool non-PC Plex and cloud storage solution.

Homemediaguy

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Tablo is well known as the go to company for over the air DVR solutions. They offer two devices which can allow you to record and watch up to 4 channels simultaneously. At the big consumer electronics show this year they introduced a new feature sorely missing from many solutions. Antennas. That’s right plural. The new Tablo “Metro” comes with two antennas and has the ability to pull signals from two separate broadcast antennas up to 25 miles away (http://www.cnet.com/products/nuvyyo-tablo/). The results are broadcast images better than Aereo and Simple.TV. The device sells for a little over $200. A steal to get live HD local programming with DVR capabilities. Tablo has a program guide for $5 a month but you can just knock that off the $200 a month you pay for cable.

Add a Roku box to each TV to tie into the Metro box and you are up and running. Add a number of FREE Roku movie channels like “Directors Cut”, “Archive TV” and a half a dozen others and you won’t miss cable.

homemediaguy

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Companies like DISH and Sony are looking to jump into the IPTV market and make a ton of money. That is your money. But there are options.

DISH is exploring an internet TV option geared to 18-34 year old consumers that would provide content to all devices EXCEPT TV’s for $20-$30/month. I am not sure how that will work for the rest of us. Not all local TV providers will be included based on the original Bloomberg article (http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-04-22/dish-said-to-target-summer-debut-for-internet-tv-service.html).

Sony on the other hand wants to provide IPTV service for $60-$80/month (https://gigaom.com/2014/10/06/looks-like-web-tv-is-going-to-be-as-expensive-as-cable-unless-you-use-an-antenna/). Like I want to pay more for what?

We will have to wait and see how all of this posturing by the big guys shakes out. In the meantime, buy yourself an HD antenna, subscribe to Netflix and Hulu and you won’t care what happens with the big boys.

Homemediaguy

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The FCC is actually starting to consider a new rule that would let internet content providers negotiate with TV stations just like cable and satellite companies do now. What does that mean for you and me. The government is slowly moving to give the little guy a choice. Better late than never.

There are still a bunch of ways we can still suffer, like charging a ton of money for a few stations. But guess what? For most people, you can buy an HD antenna and get local live programming for FREE. Just like you parents did decades ago.

And, you don’t have to wait for the FCC. You can buy the antenna today, install it today and get FREE live TV today.

Homemediaguy

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Why I Like Roku boxes for IPTV

Posted: October 29, 2014 in Home Media
Tags: , ,

I am somewhat of an evangelist. When I really like something, I spread the word. That is one of the reasons I write my blog.

I have had my Roku 3 boxes since they became available a few years ago. They haven’t changed at all regarding the hardware, and the automatic software updates are nice. I have friends with a lot more disposable income than I do, and they have purchased boxes like the Amazon Fire, Apple TV and other devices. They say the processors are faster, they have more fluid interfaces with their backend content provided by the companies who make the hardware.

That’s great for them. But part of the reason I write this blog is because IPTV gives people choices you don’t get from cable behemoths. So there are pluses and minuses to everything involved with making IPTV hardware and content choices.

The reason I started to look for alternatives to cable is for the choices. Roku gives me the choices regarding programs and content and the hardware really works. I use my Roku’s wirelessly in a 3 story town house and have no issues. What really gets me excited is the choices or programming or channels. Tons and tons of stuff “I like to watch and is worth watching”.

One of my favorite channels on my Roku is called PLEX. It is a media manager that runs on my home media server. I recently I installed a new channel in PLEX that almost doubles the amount of movies and shows I have available. What a deal.

I enjoy all my content with complete control and choices (unlike cable) through tons of channels with my Roku boxes. So if you are deciding if you want to dump cable, do two things:

  1. Buy an HD antenna for FREE Live HD programming.
  2. Get a Roku box to give you all the other content you want in addition to your Free live TV.

Homemediaguy

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It is so cool to be able to watch the shift from the omnipotent cable companies who control TV programming to IPTV. We are in a time similar to when the Internet first became popular in the 90’s. Free ideas, lots of choices, but Whoops, very few standards.

I certainly understand this is just the beginning and companies like Roku, Aereo, Apple and Google have jumped into this trend will both feet. But I think we are now at the time that the masses (that’s us) and not the big corporations need to step up and tell those companies along with small developers what we really want. Thus I am providing my wish list. Feel free to Tweet, Facebook and email to anyone who will listen what you really want.

One of the biggest problems IPTV needs to solve is the current “user experience”. That is hitting the guide button and surfing to find what you want to watch. So simple compared to today’s channel structure in IPTV (Roku, Apple TV, etc.). Most people don’t want to have to work to find what they want, which is what you have to do today to find a show you like; even if the shows are already categorized by channel (UFO TV, Kino Lober, etc.). You have to drill down the menus sometimes 3 or 4 times to get to the listings you want to choose from.

My list.

  1. One or two or even three types of channel guides for IPTV content. I mean a channel guide similar to cable in format (for lack of a better idea). Where the channel provider like Paranormal TV, Russia Today, Netflix, HuluPlus, and everyone who provides content will show you their content on the FIRST screen. Say the channels would be across the top (where cable companies put the time) and what is showing now along the left edge. Any new content (shows, channels, etc) would be listed at the top with a “NEW” logo. This idea means that the providers would “push” what is available to you instead of you “pulling” digging and drilling down to find what you want.
  2. Select “Favorites” from providers like Hulu on the first screen like cable so you don’t have to sort through tons of stuff you don’t care about.
  3. Finally, wouldn’t it be cool to integrate this concept with an over the air channel guide like the one Tablo provides? Right now it’s just a dream. But you have to start somewhere.

Hey, I understand all the content providers will scream NO! But like a lot of IT related issues, rarely do they think of the “user experience”. Fixing the channel lineup issue will go a long way to move from the early adopters of today to the masses.

What do you think? Help spread the word.

Homemediaguy