1/6/2010  HAPPY NEW YEAR!

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Download Netflix to Your TV

Before Christmas, I ordered the Roku Netflix Player online for $100. Since it came gift-wrapped I put it under our Christmas tree. My oldest son warned my wife that I had put a gift to the family under the tree. It actually made the family a little nervous since the last time I did that stunt, the gift was a real dud that now sits in the back of a kitchen cabinet. (It was a bottle and can chiller that could be used to quickly chill a bottle of wine or a couple of cans of soft drinks. Unfortunately its use involved lots of ice and salt--just not worth the effort.)

My wife let out a sigh of relief when I explained the the Roku Player could download from a selection of over 17,000 movies and TV programs as part of our existing Netflix account. Some of the videos are in HD. All we had to do was sign on to our Netflix account using a PC and then create a download queue. The Roku player could also tap into other online services such as the Pandora music service and MediaFly. It can also display pictures from Facebook.

Setting Up the Roku Player

Physically setting up the Roku Player was simple. I attached an HDMI cable from it to my HDTV, plugged the Roku into the Internet, and plugged in its AC adapter. The player could also be connected to a wireless Internet connection but a wired connection is a  faster and more reliable.

I ran into a bit of a roadblock when I turned on the player. It would not connect to my network. After an hour or so searching online, I figured out that my router's firewall was blocking the Roku from connecting to the Internet. My only option was to turn off the router's firewall. I wasn't crazy about doing that, but had no choice.  I figured this out a little around 11:30 on Christmas morning. At about the same time, I realized that I'd totally forgotten to put the beef roast in the oven for dinner. Good thing we weren't having a turkey for dinner!

With the roast in the oven, I went back to the Roku. It took me step by step through the process of linking my Netflix, Pandora, MediaFly, and Facebook accounts to the device. Essentially, it generated codes for me to enter at each of those web sites. Once the link was established, I was able to view my Netflix Instant Queue on my TV via the Roku box and was easily able to watch movies and TV programs.

Very few newer releases are included in the Netflix Instant library. There are many older movies and many TV series including some that ran on Showtime or Starz. Over the holidays, I watched several episodes of Star Trek in HD, along with episodes of Showtime's This American Life that is based on an NPR radio program I like. One of my sons and I watched "The Mighty Ducks" and got very excited at seeing the New England Whalers in part of the movie.

All the episodes of Lost are available instantly as well and are in HD. Years ago I had seen the first episode of Lost. I liked it but didn't have time to get into it then. So I started watching the series from the beginning as the new year dawned.

The Roku box is a great add-on to your TV system. I think it represents how we'll view content in the future. Besides the Roku Player, some Blu-Ray players also can stream content directly from Netflix. Some game systems now include Netflix capability as well. Most fortunately for me, Windows 7 Media Center also works well with Netflix.  Fortunate for me since my HDTV literally went on the blink, blink, blink last Saturday night.

Blinking Yellow Light, No Picture on HDTV:  Not Good

On Saturday morning, I had a chance to watch a good number of episodes from the first season of Lost on my Toshiba Regza HDTV using the Roku Player.  That afternoon we watched the end of the UConn men's basketball game and then watched the women beat up on Seton Hall. We flipped over to ESPN to watch the PapaJohns.com Bowl from time to time.

That evening--no more HDTV! The only activity on the TV was a yellow light that blinked three times, paused, blinked three times, and on and on. I Googled this and the news wasn't good. There were suggestions to hold the on/off switch down for 5 seconds or to unplug the TV for an hour. Those suggestions didn't work. One online user posted that this had been an ongoing problem with Toshiba Regza TVs. Of course, this was posted by someone whose TV went bad after the one year warranty. Well, mine had done the same, but somehow we ended up with a one year service contract that went beyond that.

My first call Monday morning at 8 AM to the warranty service center went through fine and the rep took my information but was unable to schedule an appointment due to a system problem. He suggested I call back an hour later. I called an hour later, this time having to wait about ten minutes before reaching a person. Their scheduling system still was not working. I called several times throughout the afternoon until I finally got an appointment for the next day. By the way, the automated voice had told me at the beginning of the call at 6 PM that the approximate wait time was three minutes. My call got picked up about 6:30. But I did get an appointment.

Someone from Roche Service came by Tuesday afternoon and took the TV away to be repaired.  They said someone would call within a week to let us know if it will be repaired or replaced. If the repair costs over 60% of the replacement cost, it will be replaced.

Based on my experience with my TV, I think I'd recommend a service contract for any HDTV depending on the cost of the contract. I plan to extend mine if given the opportunity.  The flat screen HDTVs have great pictures, but they are not as durable as the big old CRT TVs of the past that lasted 15 or 20 years.

Happy New Year to all.