Tag Archives: playon

PlayOn Discount Time

In a previous post, I had looked at the merits of buying annual and lifetime PlayOn memberships. My wife and I continue to love the service, but we never purchased the annual. Well, now’s the time to do it. The PlayOn folks are running a discount that’s about 50% off. Annual memberships are now $19.99 (instead of $40) and lifetime memberships are $49.99 instead of $80. You can get to the sale prices from the PlayOn webpage. The sale runs until Jan 1, 2012.

I’m a PlayOn lover – it got around the annoying aspects of Hulu and allows me to get a Daily Show fix – and want to pass on a great chance for readers to get it on the cheap.

Use PlayOn To Skip Hulu Commercials

Hulu is a great service, except for the commercials. I’ve seen all the Geico commercials more times than I can count (though I still enjoy the “Pen Mightier Than the Sword” one), and my wife is downright hostile to the Chase Sapphire commercials. It turns out that there’s a simple method to use PlayOn to skip commercials. Let me break it down for you:

  1. Start the video in PlayOn
  2. Press pause
  3. Get a drink or snack, move the cat, or otherwise occupy yourself for 2 to 3 minutes
  4. Resume watching
  5. Fast-forward when a commercial comes on

The PlayOn servier (aka computer) continues recording the TV show while the client (Roku box or iPad) is still attached. This extra recording time gives room to fast forward after a few minutes buffer is built. Presumably, the commercial skipping ability should also be present in PlayLater, the first compelling argument for getting PlayLater.

The fast forward is dead simple when using an iPad. The video progress bar at the top of the iPad window constantly refreshes with the latest duration. Since the PlayOn iOS app supports AirPlay, this makes the iPad + AppleTV2 a powerfully friendly video destination for PlayOn.

With the Roku box, a bit of finesse is needed to get a perfect fast forward. We’ve gotten the 30 second jump down around our house and it’s been a wonderful improvement in Hulu watching. I will add that we still watch commercials when we haven’t seen them 10 times. But, I promise you, those Chase commercials won’t suddenly make me love their credit card. Gold paint or not.

PlayOn Now Working On Roku 2

I was traveling for work for 5 days and nearly missed that PlayOn has pushed their Roku 2 patch out to the world. From the PlayOn forums:

Hello all,

Yes, we have included the Roku 2 patch in the most recent build of PlayOn. You should not need to use a different version now.

Thank you for using PlayOn – We appreciate your support!

It appears in version 3.14.14 and later. I’ve tried it out on my Roku 2, and it works great.

PlayOn Has Roku 2 Patch

As mentioned before, something about the Roku 2 caused havoc with PlayOn. The PlayOn engineers have produced a patch and have been slipping it to people on the sly. If you’re willing to give it a try, the PlayOn support folks are happy to hook you up:

If you’d like the patch, send us a msg at support@playon.tv and we’ll be happy to get it to you. :)

If you’re attempting to hold out, they’ve indicated that it’ll be a little while (vaguely defined) before the patch hits a standard release.

The Roku 2 units will only work if you use the patch. The patch will not be a part of an actual PlayOn release for a little while.

I’m nearing a day job deadline and havn’t tried the patch. The PlayOn forums are showing good success.

Update: Patch is now in the PlayOn builds.

PlayOn Playback Broken On Roku 2

Even thought I found time to take it apart two weeks ago, I’m just now getting around to hookup up my new Roku 2 XS. My wife and I settled in for a Daily Show episode and the PlayOn plug-in throws up an error, “An unexpected problem (but not server timeout or HTTP error) has been detected”, right after the video starts. This was rather distressing. We swapped back to the old Roku XDS box and I got on the internet to see what was going on.

Into The Roku, PlayOn, and Plex Forums

What I quickly discovered is that there was some subtle shift that affected several unofficial Roku plug-ins that involve local video stream. The bigger names include PlayOn and Plex (media server software for PCs, Macs, and Linux computers).

PlayOn has indicated that they’re on it

Most people are able to use a Roku 1 without a problem, but the Roku 2 won’t work with PlayOn…yet! We’re looking into seeing what we can do, as well as we understand that Roku is looking into the problem as well, as it effects other types of streaming as well.

I’m sorry to say, but there’s no ETA yet.

Roku is looking at it as well and requesting test cases (people were happy to provide them)

HLS isn’t broken, though there may be a few outstanding corner cases. We are furiously working to address them. If you want to send me sample links, we can take a look.

If you want the nitty-gritty, you can find all the conversations on the various forums:

Waiting For a Fix

The Plex developers are pushing a potential fix out to their side and PlayOn trying their own fix out before adding it to their software build. Everything about this problem feels like a corner case that several plug-ins used that wasn’t tested by Roku. There’s lots of focus on it, so I’m hoping for a not-fast-enough-but-pretty-soon resolution.

Update: PlayOn has a patch available.

Update 2: Patch is now in the PlayOn builds.

PlayLater: Cool, But Why Do I Want It?

A little while ago, I got a chance to take MediaMall Technology’s PlayLater for a spin as part of their public Beta. PlayLater reuses the PlayOn technology (of which I’m a huge fan) to DVR online TV shows and movies, recording them on a computer for later playback. Let’s take a look at it.

PlayLater Basics

PlayLater allows users to record streaming video from a variety of internet sources like Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, and many others. Users can then watch the video at their convenience, even if the internet is down. From the PlayLater website:

PlayLater is groundbreaking new technology that gives you the freedom to record your favorite online videos and enjoy them on your schedule, even if you aren’t connected to the internet. As more and more of you are getting your favorite shows online, we felt that it was time the rest of your entertainment technology caught up. After all, the same reasons that apply to recording TV shows and movies in the old world apply to the new world, right? Convenience, access, and frankly — sometimes you don’t have an Internet connection available and that shouldn’t bar you from watching your favorite shows. The future of entertainment is online and now you can record the future.

The PlayLater installation is quite painless and went without a hitch. I was quickly hunting for the Daily Show and downloading videos. I was able get some downloading going. One thing that quickly caught my attention was that PlayLater really was a DVR platform. After living with the internet a while, it didn’t even cross my mind that PlayLater would take 30 minutes to record a 30 minute TV shows. It could download it faster, right?! Unfortunately, not so much. The technology under the hood re-encodes the video as it plays, so it’s just like my TV in that the show has to play in real-time to record it.

The 30 minutes aside, PlayLater delivered on what they claimed. I managed to record and later watch a Daily Show on my PC. At the time of my review work, PlayLater could only play back on a PC. They have since merged the technology with their PlayOn platform to allow videos to stream to any PlayOn compatible device.

Although PlayLater did deliver on the main claim, this is obviously a beta product. It seems like a lot of careful thought has been put into the DVR technology, but the user interface is less than ideal. This is definitely not a Tivo. Resizing the main window causes visual artifacts. A list view of shows where the description would seem when I hovers over the name would be great to allow fast queuing.

All little things, but Apple has shown that polish matters. These are user interface issues that can easily be squeezed out before the beta closes. The core technology appears solid and is ripe for building up upon. All of this doesn’t answer the more fundamental question: why do I want it?

But Why Would I Want PlayLater?

I have yet to understand what niche PlayLater is serving. It’s cool technology, but what problem are they solving? Their stated reason for bringing this out is summed up by:

After all, the same reasons that apply to recording TV shows and movies in the old world apply to the new world, right?

The problem is that the same reasons don’t apply. I originally got a DVR because my favorite TV shows came on at a specific time that was inconvenient for me. I was tired that night, or my daughter wasn’t going to sleep and I was in her room, or it’s a daytime show and I’m at work. None of these apply to streaming video. Daily Show episodes two weeks back are available on Hulu at my whim. I can watch them when I want. Anything on Netflix is available when I want it. The only reasons I’ve come up with to justify PlayLater are:

  1. I’m about to travel or take my computer somewhere without the internet and I want to watch a show. This seems legitimate but strikes me as a very small market.
  2. The streaming channel is about to drop the show and I want to record it for later. This requires a lot of foresight for the instant gratification crowd.

I can’t help but think that MediaMall is dangling this out there to see if something emerges.

Conclusions on PlayLater

PlayLater delivered on what they set out to do. They created a DVR system for online videos. The technology has potential once the rough edges are sanded down. What’s missing is PlayLater’s reason for existence. Streaming video is based on the “cloud” holding the videos until I’m ready to watch, and that’s in place right now.

I can’t wait to see what the PlayLater team will do as they exit beta and put a polished product into the market.