Random thoughts on a variety of subjects
by Sam Redman
In my previous posting I talked about the benefits of Roku (just scroll down to read about it). But, now Roku is even more amazing. One of the new additions is Private Channels, which should really be called “Custom” channels, because once they have been created, you may then submit them to Roku and if acceptable they will be made available to everyone right from their set-top boxes. Of course, that “set-top” box doesn’t fit on the top of a new flat screen TV or your DLP projector, so that’s another anachronistic term like “video taping,” which is no longer accurate, but will be used probably for years to come.
The private channels are quite remarkable. You can view the ones which Roku has chosen to make “public,” you can create them yourself… with their downloadable developer kit, or you can access other people’s private channels, if they provide you with the simple password code which makes a private channel selectable and viewable on your own set-top box. Of course, private channels can be kept truly private (for just you or your family), but any created channel can be offered to groups of people or even to the public on the web (by publishing the access codes for the channels which a user has has generated). This is an excellent example of “Open” architecture, which really represents the future of television (and computing in general).
I recently learned about the “nowhereman site,” hosted by a gentleman who has turned making Roku private channels into an art. I visited his page at http://thenowhereman.com/roku/ and read about the special private channels he has created, which include Youtube and others of wide interest. It is easy to add those additional channels, such as Youtube (full youtube viewing access) or Archives.org (public domain movies… with more every month as they reach copyright expiration). Both are now working great on my TV. After getting the code from his site, you have to go online to http://owner.roku.com and then on the “My Account” page just click the link labeled, “Add Private Channel.” You will be prompted to enter a code (get the codes for Youtube and Archives.org from that “nowhereman” site). Then after twenty-four hours, those will appear in your “Private Channels” selection on your TV Set-top box settings screens. Here is a trick: those new channels (like Youtube), which you entered online with codes, will appear instantly on your set, if after entering your codes online you just go to your set-top box, then newly select any existing private channel (then your coded ones appear simultaneously along with your new choice from the available list).
Plus, I also became aware of a very nice compilation of Private Channels called the “Roku Channel Database,” located here http://www.roku-channels.com/home. This is good summary of what’s known to be available now and shows the Roku available channels, plus it provides you with many codes from individually created channels, which people all over the country are adding to frequently (the “nowhereman” channels are listed there too). It is not as extensive a list as you might hope for, but similar to smartphone apps, the quantity will most likely be growing week by week.
There are many private channels which have already been added for you (which, as I mentioned previously, then makes them really “customized” channels made public). Some of their offerings are very interesting. To create your own private channel go to the Roku developer page http://www.roku.com/developer and get the developers’ kit. After you create yours, then there are two ways you can make it public. First, you can publish those special codes anywhere like “nowhereman” has done (or you can just circulate the codes to your own circle or group and thereby keep it for limited audiences). The second way is to submit your private channel to Roku for approval for their public distribution (it will then appear as a set-top box Private channels listing), but they have certain standards (regarding observing standard copyright infringement regulations, as well as reasonable propriety restrictions), which might keep many Private Channel renderings from being suitable for public distribution.
These customized channels are very reminiscent of the public access channels on early cable networks and like those, really do once more open up the world of broadcasting to just about everyone. Although those old cable public access channels certainly showed us that most people didn’t have a lot of broadcasting talent to offer. You will find that the range of quality in the “Private” channels is somewhat similar to those early cable experiences, but often you can find a little gold… somewhere amongst all the dross.