So I got a Roku...Help me with Hulu and other options

OK, so realizing that we hadn’t been using the bigscreen TV Lady Chance bought several years ago following the move and yet the kids had been hammering Netflix on the iPads I picked up a Roku. This should allow us to see things on Netflix on the big screen. Woot.

But it also has Amazon on demand and Hulu and other services. Amazon on demand looks pretty straightforward. But tell me about Hulu and the other services. Hulu wants another $7.99 per month and I’m not going to do that unless I know we’ll get value for it.

So clue me in, Dopers. Clue me in.

As an aside, I cancelled the television part of our cable contract last week due to this. But upped the bandwidth on our broadband. So we lost TV (that we weren’t using) and moved from 6Mbps to 25Mbps and the savings comes to about $50 per month. Weird but wonderful.

We use Hulu Plus for current seasons of shows like Wipeout, Dancing with the Stars, and So you think you can dance. We’re almost caught up on 30 Rock, so we’ll start watching it there. You should be able to check and see what’s available before paying. Even though we barely watch anything on it it’s nice to have the option. Plus Roku has a ton of free channels, and Pandora doesn’t come with commercials!

IMO, as a Roku owner, the two best values are these:

  1. Netflix. I have other devices that can stream Netflix, but Roku has the best interface plus you can actually search directly from TV/Roku (as opposed to my Blu-Ray player, where I have to queue anything I want from my PC or tablet.) $7.99/month for streaming only.

  2. Roksbox. This one is less known, but it’s so great. Basically, you set up some shared folders on a PC, and make a local server. You put any files you want on that PC’s shared folder. Then, like magic, you can stream directly from your PC to your Roku. I’ve used it to rip DVDs and Blu-Rays to an external drive, set up that external drive as a shared drive, and then watch said video files, streaming from my PC to Roku. Works really well. 100x better than Windows Media Center, which still seems to claim that streaming from a PC to a TV over a wireless connection is impossible. Oh, and you can go full 1080p. I’m slowly ripping all my Blu-Rays (it takes a while!)

That said - the one-time registration fee for Roksbox is $15. And you do need to be a bit technically savvy to set it up. You may need to use Handbrake to convert your existing data video files into something Roksbox can handle. So I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone - you really need to be techy to get it working well and to get everything out of it. But if you’re a tech kinda gal/guy, Roksbox is all sorts of win.

Whoa, so current DVD and Blu-Rays can be saved online for Roku viewing later? Presuming I can figure out how to get them onto my hard drive?

Hulu intrigues me a bit but here’s something to consider:

The sum total of commercial television I watch is zero. Nada. Even the shows my family wants to see (Mythbusters and The Clone Wars) I purchase from iTunes and are watched that way. Currently television programming just isn’t in our playbook. Does that place it outside of our needs?

We do watch movies. And I’ve been walking the 11 year old through Enterprise on Netflix.

So is Hulu worth the extra $7.99 per month is the real question, I suppose.

Not really. I have Hulu Plus and Netflix and watch television shows almost exclusively through a Sony Blu-ray player on my TV. The only thing I have watched on Hulu Plus in the last month was Ugly Americans. When I first got it, I watched a few episodes of Family Guy and American Dad I had missed on original airing, and it does have the Simpsons on it (only the last 5 episodes), but there really isn’t much I want to watch on their anymore. Netflix has at least a dozen shows/movies I want to watch in my queue. I’m about to cancel Hulu Plus and my basic cable service.

I’m not a fan of Hulu Plus. If it had everything that regular Hlu had, it might be worth it, but they’re still working some legal issues out I guess. So when I had it, I still had to connect the laptop to stream the couple of shows I actually follow during the season.

I’m glad to know about Roksbox, I’ll check that out. I also recommend TED, a free channel of TEDtalks. If you don’t know what those are, find out!