So, you’ve got your broadband internet access, your new cable modem, your gigabit router, your HD antenna, a dedicated PC with extra storage, and your Roku(s). Your network is up and humming along. You’ve gone through the Roku and have experienced its awesomeness – you’ve plowed through the Roku channel store and have added the ones that you like to your lineup.
But it still seems like something’s missing, right? Although there’s Hulu Plus, Netflix and Crackle, you still can’t seem to find your favorite shows you’ve been watching. And when you do find them, it’s usually long after they’ve aired. Simply put, you don’t want to be almost an entire season behind while everyone else is talking about the latest episode of “Justified”.
Or, what about your collection of movies you have gathered over time and have saved on your massive external hard drive? Sure – with the Netgear R6200 router I suggested, you could simply connect the drive to the router and access it via the My Media interface. But how about having your favorite NEW TV episodes and your movie collection in one place, accessible via one interface? Well, I’m glad you’ve asked! That brings me to the first (and perhaps most crucial) suggested piece of software – Plex
At first glance, one can’t help but note that Plex also offers its own channel store. There are many of the same channels that can be found in the Roku channel store. However, I have noted that over time as each of the official license owners of these channels launch their own official Rocku channels, the ones on Plex will stop working. Case in point – when PBS launched its official Rocku channels (PBS and PBS Kids), both of those stopped working in Plex. But alas – these channels aren’t the beauty of Plex, and not why I’ve suggested it. The 2 key sections of Plex are the My TV and My Movies “channels”.
Plex is a media server that allows you to view your locally stored movies and TV shows via Roku. I won’t go into complete detail on its setup – simple step by step instructions are on the website: http://www.plexapp.com/. As the old saying goes, it really isn’t “rocket science”!
Remember the dedicated PC I mentioned in Part 2? Now it comes into play! Download and install Plex onto that dedicated PC, and connect your external hard drive with your movie collection. On your external hard drive, create a folder called “TV” or “My TV” and if you don’t have one already, create a folder called “Movies”. If you’ve always simply downloaded movies onto that drive, move them all into the “Movies” folder. Following the simple directions on the Plex website, have it feed your movies for the My Movies channel, and your TV shows for the My TV channel. I suggest using a dedicated PC to get the most optimum experience. You can of course choose to install it on your main home-use PC. However, if you have other people at home actively using that PC you may experience some performance issues while viewing shows via Plex as that PC handles the streaming duties as well as whatever else the person using the PC is doing.
As for your TV shows, there are a couple other pieces to the puzzle you will need. The first may be all-too-familiar: BitTorrent.
Once again – download and quick and easy setup can be found via their website: http://www.bittorrent.com/bittorrent-free
But BitTorrent by itself won’t get you your TV shows. You will need to “feed” it. That is where the final, awesome piece to the puzzle comes into play: the website showRss: http://showrss.karmorra.info/?cs=feeds
I would suggest bookmarking this site in the browser of your dedicated PC. It does not automatically “feed” BitTorrent. Rather, you select the “Feed for a show” dropdown to obtain the RSS feed for the show of your liking to add to BitTorrent. You will want to add the feed link to each of your shows to BitTorrent and be sure to tell BitTorrent to save them in your “TV” or “My TV” folder on your hard drive. What I have found is that new episodes for shows are usually available on your Plex server for watching in about 15 – 30 minutes after airing. The great thing about Plex is that as all of your shows begin feeding into it, it will organize them into their own folders with show art, episode descriptions, AND theme music! No fumbling though cryptically named file types. Simply select My TV and find your shows!
One final server I will mention that you may want to download onto your dedicated PC to access via your Roku is called PlayOn. But, I only want to MENTION it and not necessarily SUGGEST it. http://www.playon.tv/playon
The reason being is that as of date, I have not found PlayOn to be living up to the claims found on their website. Many of the “live” channels they claim to have simply don’t work, or are in fact NOT “live” at all. In fact, the only “live” channel I can get to work on it is HBO Comedy This in itself may be worth it to you (I paid the $24.99 per year fee – may drop it at the end of the term). But hey – that’s YOUR call!
Now you should have all the pieces in place! I know I’ve glazed over some steps to get this all up and running, but I will address that in the 4th and final installment – Optimizing Your Experience. Of course, you may have gotten all you need to know in this installment. If so, HAPPY STREAMING and I hope I’ve helped with your decision to Cut The Cord!
Up Next – Part 4: Optimizing Your Experience