Monday, March 12, 2012

Roku Instead of Time Warner Cable

Cutting the Cable TV Cord

Time Warner Cable charges too much and provides too little service to their customers.  So I cut ties with them.
I failed to include the peasants screaming in vain at the 
gates of the evil Time Warner Cable castle.  Also, I realize
that these scissors are gigantic.

I don't like signing multi-year agreements for anything because the company I'm dealing with has less incentive to care about the service they are providing.  Years ago my nearby Gold's Gym was taken over by Bally's.  The physical location and all the equipment inside the gym remained the same but the management changed for the worse.  Instead of paying for a gym membership every month, Bally's insisted that I sign a three year membership deal.  Because the gym was close to my high school and a lot of my friends from school used that gym I decided to continue my membership.  Of course, when it came time for me to leave and go to college Bally's refused to close my membership until I could show them written proof that I was moving out of the city and away from their gym.

One of the guys I knew in high school signed an agreement with Bally's on a Friday afternoon.  On Saturday, he got a speeding ticket that cost him several hundred dollars.  He called Bally's just hours after getting the ticket to explain that because of the money he would need to spend paying the ticket, he could no longer afford to pay them.  Bally's did the classy, understanding thing: sent a collection agency after him to either get the money or ruin his credit.  Yet another reason I don't like multi-year deals.

In December, the entertainment fund was raided to purchase a new high definition TV to replace the massive, ancient standard definition 32" set that was inherited from my Grandfather.  When I took Grandad's set to the dump, I learned that it weighed 160 lbs.  Right after the guy at the dump took it and weighed it for their records he accidentally allowed it to topple over smashing the screen to bits in a gloriously loud burst of broken glass and cracking wood (yes, my previous TV was old enough that it had a wooden frame).

In December of 2011, once I got the old TV out, I needed a new cable box capable of outputting a signal in high definition to replace the existing standard definition cable box.  I packed up my cable box and drove it over to the evil Time Warner Cable store.  The three bloated and partially decomposed bodies hanging by loops of coaxial cable at the Time Warner Cable entrance were a bit of an off putting sight.  Massive black vultures pecking at the bodies flew off their perch atop a sign reading "Disgruntled Customers" no doubt startled by the sound of my car.
True Story

I found the situation inside to be even more disturbing.

A Time Warner Cable employee sat behind the counter sucking at the severed end of a femur.  "Marrow?" he offered holding up the other half of the femur to a female employee who had just returned from a backroom, which I would swear was filled with nothing but flames.

Between sucks on his bone, the guy behind the counter at the cable company told me that because I still had four months on a two year contract, I could rent a new HD cable box and but would have to keep the current standard definition cable box, which is now worthless to because it doesn't offer any connectors that match up to the new TV.  I looked at the guy in disbelief until both he and his female manager explained to me that they couldn't simply exchange cable boxes without me having to pay a $150 fee to break the contract.  I offered to give them the old box but they didn't even want to take that insisting that I would have to drive back to their office in four months when my current two year agreement expired to return it.  To explain my options more clearly she opened the door to the flame room and pointed inside.  So, the old cable box would have to take up space in my home unused and gathering dust.  None of this was explained to me when I called Time Warner Cable ahead of time to discuss the process of switching cable boxes.  In fact, the Time Warner Cable representative I spoke with over the phone said I could simply bring in the old cable box and switch it out for a new one.

Roku Comes Into My Life

Because I officially dislike the service provided by Time Warner Cable, I bought a Roku XD and canceled cable TV service.
Looks Good Enough

Connect Roku to TV
I found that setting up the Roku unit was very easy.  I plugged in an HDMI cable (which really should be supplied along with the Roku unit but, unfortunately, was not) to the Roku and the other end into the TV.  Then, I entered the password for my home WiFi network, which is *************, to connect the Roku unit to the internet.

Setup Roku Channels
Once you have your Roku unit plugged in to your TV, you have to set it up with what they call channels, which are basically feeds from video content providers that have been coded for display on a Roku player.  Netflix, Crackle, Hulu Plus, Disney, the major sports networks and a few other content providers have setup their own channels for Roku.

Netflix Comes Built In
Access to the Netflix library of content is really my goal in owning a Roku unit.  The way I see things, $7.99 a month for access to the Watch Instantly library of Netflix content beats paying more than $100 each month for hundreds of cable TV channels that somehow never have anything I would like to watch displayed on them.
A monthly charge of $8 is lighter on my wallet than $100+ for cable

The Verdict - Pros

At the time I compared prices and features in December of 2011, Roku was the only device in the greater field of internet to TV players that would output video in 1080p.  Perhaps someday Apple TV will get with the times and figure out how to output 1080p.

The Verdict - Cons

YouTube worked with Roku just fine in the past.  Sadly, sometime before I bought my Roku YouTube stopped playing nicely with Roku and now Roku refused to play YouTube content.

Roku has a MicroSD card slot on the back of the device I purchased.  Unfortunately, the unit doesn't allow me to save a video to a MicroSD card using my computer, plug it into the Roku unit and play back the video.  The slightly more expensive model of Roku, called XS I believe, has a plug that will allow one to attach an external hard drive and play back video, which I would have bought if I had to do it all over again.

TL;DR: Roku is a quality Netflix player capable of outputting video in 1080p, which is available for less than $100.  If I had to do it all over again I would buy the Roku 2 XS instead of the XD because the most expensive model can playback video from an external hard drive.


  1. Interesting things, nice post!

  2. Sounds like a positive move forward mate. I'm exactly the same with you when it comes to hating signing long term agreements.

  3. Good post. I totally agree about this gyms. In my previous apartment they had this gym which was open to outside customers too. Every member of the family had to pay 100 per month even if they wanted to use only the swimming pool once in a month. Total rip off. And on other day I saw in TV similar case in Judge Gloria, a guys signed contract and then later the gym lady didnt like him, so whenever he came in she would say that equipment is faulty and practially not allow him to use any of the equipments and wasnt ready to refund the amount too. And funny thing the jugde ruled in favor of that gym lady. Pretty inspiring to join the gyms right?
    I found this ROKU ad during christmas so annoying, looks like they arent bad afterall. I am with comcast only internet but my PS3 and LG does have this internet connection, computer connection and netflix all-auto. So I maynt go for ROKU. I choose PS3 over Xbox for same reason. In Xbox you have netflix for only 1 year after that you need to pay for that service.
    And netflix definitely needed Blockbuster now with blockbuster gone, Netflix is playing monopoly game. Good that facebook and amazon on entering the movie stream business. I need to checkout Amazon movie one though.

  4. It sucks you had such a bad time with Warner (I don't think you expressed how evil they are really either) but at least you found a good, worthy, replacement that you're happy with.

  5. I have come to the same decision. If cable wasn't free I would just use netflix via my xbox and stream youtube and have good internet.

  6. Freedom from the cable company is a wonderful thing - and that box looks pretty cool. I would buy one, but I had an old computer sitting around so I turned that into a media station. NOWHERE near as sexy as the Roku, though!

    1. I thought about using an old computer also but I don't have anything that would output in 1080p available to me. Also, when the TV is setup for viewing on a couch like mine is having a quality wireless keyboard and wireless mouse would be necessary to use the computer. I tried an inexpensive wireless combo and found the mouse worked fine 12' away from the USB nub receiver but the keyboard didn't. Rather than trying to find a more expensive wireless combo I gave up on this option.

  7. Yeah, I get my cable tv and internet in the same package, and it seems like they will never work in unison. If the internet is woking something goes haywire with the tv, and vice versa. So long story short, my cable tv hasn't worked in months, but I am afraid to get it fixed because then my internet might get screwed up. This is fine by me, because I rarely watch tv. But one day if I get a cat, the cat might wanna watch tv, so this Roku box seems like a good option.

  8. And if I didn't have a 40gb bandwidth limit, I'd be looking at this as a possible option in the future. Oh well.

  9. I've done a similar thing, got rid of cable and now stream most of what I need from the internet

  10. Hmmm...interesting. I need to find a way to get cable/internet without spending $100/month. Gonna be hard. I hate cable companies...

  11. Entertaining read. I use my ps3 or computer to stream video (netflix) more than I watch tv. Have fios with verizon rather than cable. Cheaper still than cable was.

  12. i did not know this, nice share interesting

  13. I got rid of cable about 3 years ago, signed up for Netflix and bought a Roku. We've never regretted it. We can also watch Netflix on our computers and by using our PS3.

  14. yeah, media boxes are the greatest thing.

  15. My cousin got something called a smart tv. It could hook up to youtube, go online and stuff. With that, you pretty much don't need cable tv.

  16. I've decided to cancel my cable this week as well. It's just not worth the cost anymore and I don't think I'll miss it with the warmer weather coming soon.

  17. I totally agree! I never sign up long term for anything! Way to go on ditching the old company for the new one! I hope you tell all your friends!

  18. I don't watch much tv anyway, easier to go with the cheap option as you did.

  19. NETFLIIIIIIX! Dude, this is highly informative! Methinks a homeboy of mine talked about this very thing recently...

    And yeah, I have quite the chip on my shoulder about any company who puts their desire for profits ahead of their customers. Crap customer service will always be the downfall of any company that gets too big for its' britches.

  20. Does Roku get 24 hour news stations?

    1. If it does, I haven't found a way to do so yet. I can get the NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams broadcast to stream the same night it airs using an iTunes Podcast channel for Roku. Also, I can get canned news broadcasts from the major networks using their Roku channels. The nice thing about going through the news this way is that it does not include any commercials.

  21. Nice blog posting. I'm just blogwalking and very interesting to stop here and read your post. I like this.

    But, dont forget to give us your comment into my blog ya.

    Thanks for share.

  22. I had a bad feeling about Time Warner, but i'll stick to AT&T, and thanks for the heads up on the Roku. Even though I don't watch TV as much, I need it for news and local sports.