Per Fidem Intrepidus means "Fearless Through Faith". My courage isn't my own, it comes from the Holy Spirit, it's my faith in God and my personal savior Christ Jesus that calms my fears and allows me to move forward in this fallen world. Personally I'm afraid of a lot of stuff, but having the faith that Jesus adopted me as his little, sin filled, brother keeps me going.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Device Review: Roku

Tired of searching though 500 channels and finding nothing in the way of uplifting entertainment or serious Christian discussion? it's a complaint most of us have, but my bride found a way to get around all of that. A few months ago my darling brought home a new toy, and to our delight it's been a boon to a cold, blustery winter. Believe it or not the world has a device that connects to your TV and can actually aid in your walk with Christ. 

The device is called a Roku and for those of you looking to cut the cable and dump the dish this is what you've been waiting for. The Roku is a shockingly small box that connects to your high speed internet connection and plugs into your TV, it then takes streaming television programming from the internet and pumps it into your TV. The best part about the Roku is that the Christian entertainment and content that you wished were on your cable or dish feed is there on the Roku, much of it free of charge. First let's talk hardware: 

Compared to most devices you can plug into your TV (Cable/dish box, game console, DVD player...) the Roku is tiny and surprisingly affordable. Pictured here is the top of the line Roku 3, their most advanced device to date. The Roku box itself is slightly larger than a hockey puck, just barely large enough for the three connections: Power, HDMI and Ethernet (Roku Lt, 1, & 2 have component connections). The Roku 3 also has a slot for an SD card but I've never used the SD card option because there's easier options which I will cover later. I've also never used the Ethernet connection because what ever model Roku you have, it has wireless capability. To be honest I'm very impressed at the picture quality over the wifi connection; true 1080p HD video and crisp stereo audio. 

The remote control is just the coolest thing. On the Roku 3 it has motion sensors for games (a version of Angry Birds is included), but to me the neatest thing is the headphone jack. You can plug your headphones into the remote control and listen there, the remote has a volume control on the side for your headphones. This has two advantages that immediately become apparent: 1. I work weird hours so now without disturbing my bride's slumber I can watch TV with the volume cranked and not have a cable draped across the room. and 2. since the remote is wifi rather than IR like most remotes I can plug in and wander all over my property, as long as I'm within range of my wireless router I can hear, which is great because much of the programming you can get on Roku is strictly audio: Pandora, TuneIn Radio, Live 365, etc, and just for me - tons of old time radio programs.

Set up is quick and easy, you connect your Roku to the TV, plug in the Ethernet cable if you're going to hard wire the network, and turn the Roku on. When the Roku comes up it will launch a wizard to help you set up your network connection. Once connected to the network the Roku will restart, download any updates that may be needed, then it will display a code on your TV screen. You go to www.roku.com, create a new account then go to www.roku.com/link and type in the code that you see on your TV screen. This links your Roku to roku.com so you can add channels and services. The account and most of the channels available are free.

Once you're up and running you'll find that there's an all encompassing search engine that will look at the services offered for a title. Say you love the movie Donovan's Reef (and who doesn't?) you type Donovan's Reef into the search engine and it searches though Hulu, Netflix, and several other providers. I lucked out and found that Donovan's Reef was there in Amazon Prime Instant Video, which is part of Amazon Prime. I never used prime instant video before, we get prime for the shipping discounts, now I use prime instant video quite a bit.

In the Channel Store are most of the channels you can put on your Roku - no more having to filter through scores of channels you're forced to have by the cable/dish company - you only put on your Roku what you want to watch. Some channels have a subscription fee but plenty are free. (I've got so much classic Doctor Who to catch up on now!!!) You can even put them on your Roku from www.roku.com.

I told you all that just to tell you this:

There's programming on there for Christians! On my cable box I have just about everything my local cable provider can offer which means as a Christian there's not a whole lot worth watching. I have yet to find a single channel that one could truly call a "Christian channel". Maybe UP, on occasion, but that's about it. If it wasn't for the news and a few odd gems like Duck Dynasty and NCIS I'd cut the cable. On Roku.com there's literally over 280 channels to chose from in the religion and spirituality section, and it's growing daily.

I'll admit that not all of them will not be to your liking, that's OK it all evens out, what you end up liking will not be liked by others. God gave his diverse gaggle of subjects no end to the diverse methods of receiving His word. My wife and I enjoy Parables (a pay channel and the main reason why we got the Roku in the first place), neither of us will watch Joyce Meyer, but after that I like Gaither TV, she prefers Harvest. If you like Calvary Chapel there's a lot of Calvary Chapels with their own channel, I watched the Chuck Smith tribute live on Roku. There's Christian music of all flavors, from Country Gospel to K-Love, there's sermons, and lessons, and discussions, and Christ centered entertainment, and bible studies, there's even a bible you can read on your TV screen at your pace. (I need to ask the youversion folks why they don't have a Roku app yet.)

And if there's something you'd like to see on Roku but it's not on the channel store but you can see it on the internet, using something like Vimeo or Youtube, there's android and iOS applications that allow your phone/tablet to stream that video to your Roku. There's applications that allow your Roku to show video files stored on your computer in the next room. I find leaving a bit of audio or video on my computer then streaming to the Roku easier than transferring Pastor Notepad's teaching to an SD card then plugging that little card into a little slot on a little box hidden behind the TV.

All in all it's an awesome little toy for the price, and best of all you determine what is seen on your TV, not some suit in a glass tower. There's no chance of accidentally stumbling across inappropriate content when you build your own channel line up. When you determine what is available to view you will never have to worry about a young innocent alone in the TV room with a remote control. The top of the line Roku is $99 and my bride and I believe it's worth every penny. 

Now I'm off to ask the pastor at our local Calvary Chapel why his church doesn't have a Roku channel. 

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