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Old 07-29-2008, 07:08 PM   #1
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We’ve been having family movie nights over the Summer using a Netflix account. I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the number of movies Netflix offers and the depth of the collection – plus the price has been working out to about 95 cents per flick and I do appreciate a bargain.

Anyway, I noticed that Netflix offers streaming video at no extra charge, which is okay, but crowding the family around a PC or laptop seemed impractical. Then, I noticed that they have worked with Roku to provide the same service to your television using a new device that Roku has developed to be used just with the Netflix streaming service.

About two years ago I bought Roku’s Soundbridge, which is a small device that will read and play digital audio files from any PC on the wireless network. Hooked up to a couple of decent speakers in the living room it is an excellent way to listen to my music collection without being near a PC. I’ve been very happy with that purchase and when I read about Roku’s Netflix player I was interested. Seeing the price was only $99 got me very interested and after reading nothing but glowing reviews about the setup convinced me to give it a try.

What you get: A small box, a remote, a power cable and a set of RGB cables with RCA connectors. The player is guaranteed to work with any television and will handle S-video, component video, HDMI, and optical audio, but you have to get your own cables. There is a Ethernet connection, but I opted to stream over my wireless network.



Setup: This took about 6 minutes, and some of that was spent looking for the flashlight so I could see what I was doing behind the TV. You hook up the cables, turn on the box and then go through a simple setup in which you select either wired or wireless and the security key for your network. The box registers with Netflix and gives you a code that you enter on the Netflix website to confirm the box goes with your account.

Watching movies: Netflix only offers a small percentage of their collection for streaming, but I found a lot of things to put in my “Watch It Now” que. The Roku sit says there are currently over 12,000 movies and TV shows available from Netflix to stream. To watch a movie on my television I just turn the set to the appropriate input and then use the Roku remote to choose which movie in my que I want to watch.

Quality: Not bad. I’ve been having some issues with the cable signal to my modem (witch doctor repair tech coming tomorrow), the signal was coming to the box over the wireless network, and the TV is non-HD, I thought the picture and sound were excellent. The Roku indicated it was receiving a “decent” signal (2 out of 5 on the signal meter), but I don’t know if I would have noticed an improvement because it looked pretty darn good.

Currently the only cons I can think of are the fact that Netflix doesn't offer all of their movies this way, and the Roku box will only work with Netflix. It would be nice to have access to the whole library of movies in the library and I would like to be able to watch non-Netflix videos.
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Old 07-29-2008, 07:17 PM   #2
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Oh thanks a bunch. I've been looking at one of these all week and just about had myself talked out of it.

What I thought was interesting with it was that it looks like they have a bunch of tv and cable series on it that I havent seen yet.

Is your network a wireless G or wireless B?

Near real time video or voice over cable/dsl can quickly identify problems that regular PC use and file downloads dont.

Streaming HD over it might be really challenging for a lot of peoples HSI connections. IIRC most of the netflix streaming stuff isnt HD but the Roku box can do it.

BTW, they let you buy the cables with the Roku for an extra fee.

Ah @$^%#@. I just bought a bunch of Lithium Ion tools and had to come up with a lame excuse to the wife as to what was wrong with my old Nicad ones that seemed to her to be working just fine.

On the other hand, she wants an ipod touch...so maybe a little quid pro quo...

Little look at the innards...

http://news.cnet.com/2300-1040_3-624...tag=ne.gall.pg
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Old 07-29-2008, 07:44 PM   #3
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I put a s-video cable on my laptop, and send the video to my DVR, recording it there (see this thread).

It's worked pretty well. I just set things up and let it record. Not much selection at hulu.com, and many of the movies aren't so good, but new one's appear weekly, and I've seen a couple that we enjoyed (current selection).
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Old 07-29-2008, 07:46 PM   #4
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Nice thing about the netflix/roku combo is that you can also get new dvd releases sent to your house along with the streaming video.

Swell. Now I have to hook a dvd player back up.
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Old 07-29-2008, 08:53 PM   #5
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How does it do streaming HD video content over the wireless network? Any latency issues? This could be exactly what I've been looking for. Sorry, didn't read the OP well enough. Off to do my own research...
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Old 07-29-2008, 08:59 PM   #6
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Theoretically shouldnt be a problem on a wireless/G network. Off the top of my head an uncompressed HD stream should take about 12-14Mb/s. An Mpeg2 or Mpeg4 compressed stream about half and one quarter that much, respectively.

I'd imagine they'd use mpeg4 to compress their HD offerings.

Another way to look at it is unless you've got FIOS or some other ridiculously fast internet connection, the HD stream had better fit within the 2-6Mb/s rate that most people have at home. The current requisite from Roku is 1.5Mb/s for the current SD data streams, so a compressed HD stream would be 2-4x that on average.

The real fun is going to happen when a lot of people start doing this and the cable companies start whining about the bandwidth consumption. You're gonna end up with bandwidth caps or having to pay extra to actually DO the video stuff the guys like Comcast have been throwing around in their advertising.

Another option for these if wireless works badly for you is one of the "HD" powerline networking products.

computer networking questions
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Old 07-29-2008, 10:14 PM   #7
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Oh thanks a bunch. I've been looking at one of these all week and just about had myself talked out of it.
That's the way it is with toys. You can convince yourself you don't want one, don't need one, etc., and then you see someone else having fun with one and the logic goes out the window and you pull out your credit card.
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What I thought was interesting with it was that it looks like they have a bunch of tv and cable series on it that I havent seen yet.
I noticed the same thing yesterday, but haven't fully explored that yet.
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Is your network a wireless G or wireless B?

Near real time video or voice over cable/dsl can quickly identify problems that regular PC use and file downloads dont.
It's a G network with a Linksys router and a Linksys extender. I added the extender when I was having problems with the old network using an older router, since I bought a newer router I probably don't need the extender anymore for inside the house, but it does provide an excellent signal in the backyard. A cocktail, a cigar and a little cruising the net with my EEEPC while laying in the hammock is a breeze.
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Streaming HD over it might be really challenging for a lot of peoples HSI connections. IIRC most of the netflix streaming stuff isnt HD but the Roku box can do it.
I thought I was going to have a problem because the Internets have not been working worth a darn lately. I thought I was having router problems and was going to run some tests when I happened to be talking to the Comcast people about a DVR problem and asked them to check the modem and router from their end. She said "the data coming out of your modem is sad" and scheduled me for a repair call. I replaced the modem this morning and am still having the same problem, so I'm guessing there is a problem with the signal. In spite of all that, the Roku played the movie excellently. The only thing I noticed is that it does take a minute or so for it to spool up once I select a flick.
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I put a s-video cable on my laptop, and send the video to my DVR, recording it there (see this thread).

It's worked pretty well. I just set things up and let it record. Not much selection at hulu.com, and many of the movies aren't so good, but new one's appear weekly, and I've seen a couple that we enjoyed (current selection).
I remember reading what you wrote about hulu, but you're right about the selection being pretty limited.

There was another device I looked at, whose name I can't remember, that suffered from the same issue. The site it connected to had almost nothing worth looking at. I gave the Roku big thumbs up for the Netflix partnership, although I do hope that they expand the available selection.

I would have done the S cable thing, but Netflix streaming to PC only works with MS IE, and I swore off that product a long time ago.
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Nice thing about the netflix/roku combo is that you can also get new dvd releases sent to your house along with the streaming video.

Swell. Now I have to hook a dvd player back up.
That's how I started on this path, the DVDs to the house have been working really well. But I know that Netflix has a profile system, and if they feel like they're spending so much to send you DVDs that it cuts into their profits, they start throttling the deliveries to slow you down.
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The real fun is going to happen when a lot of people start doing this and the cable companies start whining about the bandwidth consumption. You're gonna end up with bandwidth caps or having to pay extra to actually DO the video stuff the guys like Comcast have been throwing around in their advertising.
I have Comcast since they took over from Time Warner locally. It's been good service so far (especially if the tech can fix the signal issue tomorrow) the few problems I've experienced have been easily fixed. The price has gone up, but the internet speed has also gone up as well (TW was iffy on it's best days). But I do worry about Comcast given their history with using caps. Uncle Sugar is in the process of slapping them down for that action though, and it looks like they want to make an example of Comcast (if you say that "unlimited internet" comes for that price, by George, it means "unlimited internet").

We'll have to see how all of that works out, but I figure for a grand total of $99 to buy the box, I can get my money's worth out of it long before they could fix their legal issues and do something wicked. But I like this service and hope it works out.
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Old 07-29-2008, 10:56 PM   #8
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with my EEEPC
ARGH! #$^@%# YOU! Now I have to buy ANOTHER thing! I had myself half talked into the idea that I was buying it for my 3.5 year old since it was just his size and managed to bail out. Costco is selling the 9" screen version with 1GB and a 12 or 16GB SSD with windows XP for 399. I almost bit.

Now thanks to you, our safe withdrawal rate has been reduced by .02%. You BASTARD!!!

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She said "the data coming out of your modem is sad" and scheduled me for a repair call. In spite of all that, the Roku played the movie excellently.
Up is not the problem with these. Its down speed. And consistency. Consistency doesnt matter so much with web pages and windows update downloads...a glerk or two here or there is pretty much expected. When it happens on a voice or video call and there isnt enough ram to buffer it...icky.

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if they feel like they're spending so much to send you DVDs that it cuts into their profits, they start throttling the deliveries to slow you down.
Yes they do. A guy a while back proved that by creating three fake user accounts in the same neighborhood, all going to real-address-mailboxes he had at the local mailbox etc or whatever. They all ordered the same movies, only one was a slowpoke at returning, one was faster and one turned them around the same day. On a linear basis, Netflix slowed delivery of the new releases or reported them temporarily unavailable to the fast turnaround user.

I had them for a couple of months a few years ago on the "8 out" plan and shamelessly ripped them to an external hard drive on my laptop hooked to our Infocus projector and dolby digital receiver. I think I managed about 80 movies in a couple of months period. To assuage my guilt, we did delete them after watching them.

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But I do worry about Comcast given their history with using caps. Uncle Sugar is in the process of slapping them down for that action
What they're getting their peepee's whacked over is filtering and down throttling peer to peer music. So far the regular masses havent challenged their "download 6-8Mb/s to watch movies!!!" as a matter of course. They've already fiddled with offering a low and high usage/cost service and terminated a small single digit percentage of users who sucked up too much bandwidth. Look at your Terms Of Service. It has some vague thing in there allowing Comcast to shoot you as a customer if you use more than a reasonable amount of bandwidth.

Remember that 97% of people still use their cable/DSL connection to do web browsing and email with some occasional voice and maybe a few minutes of Youtube every now and then.

Still like you said, for $99 plus $7 tax and $14 shipping (and $19.95 if you want the cable package) plus a netflix subscription, its a good experiment. The last two times I jumped into something fun looking like this it was Directv when they had 50,000 subscribers and Tivo when they had around 5,000 people on board.

Maybe it comes in threes?
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Old 07-29-2008, 11:49 PM   #9
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Now thanks to you, our safe withdrawal rate has been reduced by .02%. You BASTARD!!!
Bwahahahaha! My evil plan to stimulate the economy is showing promise! First the bunny and then the rest of the board!
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Up is not the problem with these. Its down speed. And consistency. Consistency doesnt matter so much with web pages and windows update downloads...a glerk or two here or there is pretty much expected. When it happens on a voice or video call and there isnt enough ram to buffer it...icky.
The woman I was talking to used some strange phrases (like my sad data), but I got the impression that she was querying the performance of the modem and router and what she was talking about was what the replies were telling her. In any event, she said it was definitely not my router that was the problem.

The problem is weird, and it involves incoming data. It just stops, but the modem lights indicate data is coming in. My son, who has a part time job running some servers, says that when it happens while he is looking at server logs the data on his screen goes red indicating he's lost the connection and can't access the details, but the visible information continues to update. Strange. I have high hopes that the witch doctor will be able to dispel the evil spirits.

Is there anything else you've convinced yourself not to buy? The Princess announced at dinner tonight that she was still eyeing this certain BMW to replace her 9-year-old SUV, and "my, my, aren't they expensive?" And I was looking at a relatively inexpensive Harley Nightster, but after seeing them at the dealership I think I may have to upgrade my MC desires.
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Old 07-30-2008, 10:20 AM   #10
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Nah, the wifes still driving her 2 year old lexus and we just plowed 50k+ into the house...and I bought a lot of tool toys along the way.

Your cable modem is basically a radio, using a piece of coaxial cable instead of the airways (thats wireless...) communicating with another radio at Cable HQ. If the radios arent tuned to the exact right frequency, the cable is damaged, there is noise/interference in the cable, the radio in the cable modem is damaged, or someone else on your radio frequency (which is everyone in your neighborhood) has something broken or badly behaved...under some circumstances you can have problems.

Cable plants isolate a group of people in a neighborhood behind a router...sometimes it may be as many as several hundred households...and you all share the same wire, all sitting there with your cable modem radio's waiting for clear 'air' to transmit or receive. When that happens, one of the cable modems clicks on its transmit button, 'talks' and then says "over". Then its someone elses turn. Reception is easy...listen to the radio and if someone says your name (your cable modems MAC address) then listen to and copy down whats said next.

So besides physical media problems and broken stuff, if someone clicks on their mike and never stops or forgets to say "over", problems arise.

And its big fun when everyone gets up in the morning and comes home after school/work and everyone wants to 'talk' at the same time.

Normal web/email stuff general involves a lot of small bits of communication that has long pauses in between use. Voice and video involve large amounts of large bits of communication with no or very little pause.

Using the radio analogy, to all the other radios in the neighborhood the guy doing streaming video is the guy on the radio that barely stops talking long enough for them to get a word in edgewise.

BTW, you can access most cable modems directly and look at the signal/error levels and logs just like you can do with your router. My motorola cable modem can be accessed by accessing http://192.168.100.1
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Old 07-30-2008, 12:06 PM   #11
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A cocktail, a cigar and a little cruising the net with my EEEPC while laying in the hammock is a breeze.
We got one for DW. I can't use the darn thing. I can type on it, barely, but I have a huge problem with the touchpad and mouse buttons. I'm good if I add a mouse, keyboard, and monitor to it, but then what's the point? DW, on the other hand, loves it.

Quote:
The only thing I noticed is that it does take a minute or so for it to spool up once I select a flick.
That's the movie downloading into the ROM. They must have a pretty hefty buffer for it to stream as well as it does, what with the inconsistant download speeds across the various providers.

I don't currently have Netflix, but I think I'm going to sign up and get one of these things. I suspect by the time I get it all set up there will be some hacks available to let me play movies from my PC collection. Even if not, it sounds like a much better option than the movie channel package I got when I signed up for cable. The come-on price I got when I signed up should be running out soon.
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Old 07-30-2008, 02:38 PM   #12
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Having ham hands might make the eee a little less than good for me as well.

I forget from looking at the pictures of the innards yesterday but I think it has either 512MB or 1GB of buffer ram.

Roku has announced that they'll have a downloadable software update for the box that would allow other streaming providers to send content to the box. Might be something like youtube or amazons unbox service. Could be a media center extender for windows.

The xbox 360 fall update is also supposed to allow streaming from netflix along with microsofts service and of course the xbox and xbox 360 can act as a media center extender for any media center PC. I think mine is a little too noisy fan wise to want to use it to watch movies through. Plus you'll need the 360, a netflix subscription, and a windows live gold subscription to use it. One cool feature that'll be in that setup is that you can share the movie stream with your xbox live 'friends' whether they have netflix or not, and would be able to use the xbox live headset to talk to them while you all watch the movie in different parts of the world. Probably useless but very good on the nerd scale.

Roku has also released their source code for the product, so hacks oughta be around for it sooner or later. Netflix has also said they would have a second box made by LG at some point in the near future.
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Old 07-30-2008, 03:14 PM   #13
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Nah, the wifes still driving her 2 year old lexus and we just plowed 50k+ into the house...and I bought a lot of tool toys along the way.
Darn, I was on a roll.
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BTW, you can access most cable modems directly and look at the signal/error levels and logs just like you can do with your router. My motorola cable modem can be accessed by accessing http://192.168.100.1
Tech dude showed up and discovered it was a weak signal caused by crappy connections (made by a Time Warner contractor that did the original install). He cut all the old connections and made new ones and the internets are speedy again.

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We got one for DW. I can't use the darn thing. I can type on it, barely, but I have a huge problem with the touchpad and mouse buttons. I'm good if I add a mouse, keyboard, and monitor to it, but then what's the point? DW, on the other hand, loves it.
I bought a wireless mouse with mine because I really don't care for the touchpads. I can use the keyboard allright, but I do have to be more precise with my finger placement on the keys because they are small and close together.
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Roku has announced that they'll have a downloadable software update for the box that would allow other streaming providers to send content to the box. Might be something like youtube or amazons unbox service. Could be a media center extender for windows.
That's good news.
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The xbox 360 fall update is also supposed to allow streaming from netflix along with microsofts service and of course the xbox and xbox 360 can act as a media center extender for any media center PC.
There's another way to do it. It is a little tricky and you won't be able to use Xbox live anymore (not that we do here anyway). Just saw the link this morning at Lifehacker. Geek To Live: Transform Your Classic Xbox into a Killer Media Center

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Roku has also released their source code for the product, so hacks oughta be around for it sooner or later.
I'm really looking forward to see what people come up with.
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Old 07-31-2008, 06:54 PM   #14
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Just got it and hooked it up. Took about 3 minutes because I already had a set of component cables plugged into the tv that I wasnt using anymore.

About a minute for it to boot up and give me a netflix activation code. Since I'd already entered some movies and tv shows into my netflix queue last night they were immediately available.

Fairly typical SD picture, no jerky/twitchy stuff, remote is very simple and quick to learn, some tivo-ness to it with the menu button up top and the sound effects.

Its a keeper. Only thing I can say in the negative arena is the netflix pickings for streaming are slim. Bunch of good tv shows from the last 30 years including a lot of current stuff like The Office, 30 rock and Heroes. Lots of older movies. Nothing new.

Frankly if they brought the entire netflix library online for streaming and had HD content, I'd consider turning my directv dish into a trash can cover.

I'm still guessing that comcast is going to have a cow once 5-10% of their subscribers are all doing streaming video downloads 2-3 hours a day.
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Old 07-31-2008, 08:00 PM   #15
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Frankly if they brought the entire netflix library online for streaming and had HD content, I'd consider turning my directv dish into a trash can cover.
I have pretty eclectic tastes as evidenced by the following in my instant que:

Elpidio Valdés (1979)
The Boondock Saints (1999)
"Penn & Teller: Bullshit!" (2003)
Mi mejor enemigo (2005)
The Man from Earth (2007)
Declining By Degrees : Show Synopsis

I'm happy for the time being, but paging through the library and seeing the flics that were not available for streaming was disappointing.
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I'm still guessing that comcast is going to have a cow once 5-10% of their subscribers are all doing streaming video downloads 2-3 hours a day.
I talked with the tech while he was at the house the other day and he said that since Comcast took over from Time Warner locally, that they have been in the process of upgrading a lot of ancient equipment that TW left them. He said the word is that within the next year that they will have a "whole new plant" capable of some fantastic speeds and that they will even be offering T1 to residential customers.

I'm suspicious that all of this new breathtaking speed and capacity will come with a new and breathtaking price structure.
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Old 07-31-2008, 08:13 PM   #16
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He said the word is that within the next year that they will have a "whole new plant" capable of some fantastic speeds and that they will even be offering T1 to residential customers.

I'm suspicious that all of this new breathtaking speed and capacity will come with a new and breathtaking price structure.
I used to have FiOS 15MB service before I moved. Now I'm with Mediacom cable, the worst rated major ISP. My FiOS service was cheaper than my cable (7MB). And much faster than a T1. I wish I could get it again. Probably in 5 or 10 years, if ever, where I am now.

I'm not sure what your guy was talking about, since cable and even DSL can be faster than a T1. I don't see any reason a residential customer would need or want a channelized connection. But I'm sure whatever improvements they make will improve your speed. If VZ does come in and compete, it will possibly keep the prices down.
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Old 07-31-2008, 08:24 PM   #17
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Quote:
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I'm not sure what your guy was talking about, since cable and even DSL can be faster than a T1.
I don't know squat either, but by the way he was talking I thought I should be impressed by the T1 thing.
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Originally Posted by harley View Post
I don't see any reason a residential customer would need or want a channelized connection. But I'm sure whatever improvements they make will improve your speed. If VZ does come in and compete, it will possibly keep the prices down.
I think I'm in poor shape there. There is some Verizon service in the area, but most service in the big city is AT&T, and my understanding is that Verizon is concentrating on cities where they have a major presence already. AT&T has something called Lightspeed that is a poor cousin to Fios, but I don't even live in an AT&T service area. It used to be Bob's Phone Company when I moved here, but they got bought out by Mr. Haney Telecommunications Incorporated or some such.
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Old 07-31-2008, 09:15 PM   #18
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T1 is only ~1.5Mb/s. 20 years ago it was enough to run an entire office buildings analog voice or do a mighty fine job of connecting a whole bunch of 3745's to a mainframe.

These days, basic DSL pretty much kicks its ass.
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Old 07-31-2008, 09:44 PM   #19
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Here's a look at the LG Netflix BluRay player.

Blu-Ray: LG BD300 Is First Blu-ray Player With Built-in Netflix Streaming
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Old 08-01-2008, 07:56 AM   #20
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Hmmm...available for under $500 but you can get a blu-ray player for $300 and a roku box for $99.

I wonder if you can have more than one roku box attached to your netflix account...?
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