tech: Back to the Future with the Roku 3 & Sony Blu Ray

Regular readers know my unbridled enthusiasm for streaming entertainment in general and specifically the Roku.  We've been Roku-only for the past five years, always with a middle of the pack unit that worked fine and generated no upgrade envy, streaming Netflix & Pandora almost exclusively.

But over the last year or so we've added several streaming channels to the mix- Hulu Plus, for their extensive archive of films from the Criterion Collection (and also current seasons of Hell's Kitchen, to keep the artistic scales in balance), Amazon Instant Video, after I signed up for Amazon Prime to get 'free' 2 day shipping on packing materials for my business, and one or two other premium sources.  And while our current box has aged gracefully, Roku has been applying gentle pressure to upgrade- certain recently added stations aren't available to older boxes (PBS & PBS Kids, which I wanted, Spotify, which I did not), their much ballyhooed new interface compatible only with newer hardware.

Not that I have the brass balls to complain.
I bought ours on sale for $50 six years ago & received a free upgrade as a warranty replacement a couple years after that.  So small a price for such an elegant conduit, safely & reliably guiding a hurtling tsunami of audiovisual entertainment into our living room.

But, these exclusions created a niggling impulse where none previously existed.

Then, a few weeks back, our CD/DVD player crapped out.
Talk about yeoman duty- it was a Sony 5 disc changer and the primary workhorse of our pre-Roku existence.  After Fuss was born it ran non-stop every night from dusk til dawn.  He'd only sleep in 30 minute chunks, but you could trick him into a longer stretch if you were awake to bounce his buzzy chair.  So while the wife passed out for a few hours I'd sit in the living room, bouncing his chair & devouring entire seasons of Project: Runway & Top Chef to keep me awake.

Again, no complaints- it was a birthday gift twenty years ago and never gave us a moment's trouble until this bout of sudden onset electronic dementia.

Streaming being what it is, disc-changing players are dinosaurs so I went shopping for a one disc replacement.  I stuck with Sony, because they've always treated me right, and after some nosing around chose this one.  I opted for the Amazon Warehouse Deals option, where they basically sell customer returns as "slightly blemished"- for ten bucks off, I can live with a previously opened box.

And while I was at it.......hmm, that Roku 3 sure looks sexy.

So I snagged both, one because we needed it, the other because we've underpaid Roku for years.
Also, I knew Fuss would flip out over being able to play Bird Game on the teevee with its motion-sensing remote.

The Roku is a dream, as they all have been.
The new front end is a galactic improvement, returning results for *all* of your streaming channels with a single search, then sending you to the appropriate destination with a click.  Gone is the era of deciding if it's a Netflix or a Hulu kind of night- they've all been piled into the same conference room, available on call.  They've well and truly tamed the problem of generally unhelpful, unfriendly channel menus, with Hulu Plus in particular insisting that you *work* for your shows.

The Blu Ray player is....interesting.
I went for the wireless option, because why not- it didn't cost much more.
I hooked it up and set up some of the channels for just in case (Netflix, Pandora), and also to do a quality comparison.  The interface is clunky, but stream quality is okay- not up Roku standards, but passable.  What it does have that I can see a use for is a direct interface for Youtube, which you can get on the Roku but only by fiddling around with the whole "private channels" can of worms.  And, unexpectedly, when I booted up my computer it sent me a pop-up window asking if I'd let it stream my Windows Media Player library.
Sure, why not!
There isn't anything in it because WMP sucks, but that's a sort of cool feature I can see finding a use for down the road.....like, say, playing some of my massive digitized archive of boxing matches on the big screen.

The only problem I encountered wasn't the fault of the hardware, but rather my own audio-visual ignorance.
All our old stuff was so old that they had slots for co-ax audio hookups.  And being the simpleminded sort that I am, that's how I'd hooked them up, using about twice as many cables as necessary, creating a veritable spider's web behind the teevee.

Neither of the new machines wanted anything to do with such old, unsexy technology- they had HDMI, they had ethernet, and to hell with all lesser forms of output.

Which makes perfect sense, unless you're me, who never figured out the right way to route teevee sound through our receiver...which is so old it still has a separate Phono jack.

So I did what anyone who can't find the manuals does- hit the internet.
And in relatively short order I'd figured it all out- run the audio from this coax slot on the teevee to this one on the receiver, pull up the teevee menu & turn off its speakers, which automatically routes the audio to the receiver, and VOILA.

People often make the mistake of assuming I'm tech literate when I'm actually as clueless as they are.
The difference is I'll look around a little bit before throwing my hands in the air- and in the internet age, if you're willing to look you're likely to find answers.

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