in which my roku experience gets even more awesome: how to set up a wireless vpn

You may recall that we switched our internet provider from Rogers to TekSavvy in order to get more bandwidth, then dumped Rogers altogether by switching from cable to streaming. We bought a Roku streaming device. And I fell in love with it.

No more paying for dozens of channels that we'll never watch. On-demand viewing without DVR'ing. And no more cable bill! We even upgraded one Roku to the model that has a USB port and a media server, so we can watch our own media directly on our TV. Awesome.

There was only one piece missing.

If you use a streaming device, and you don't live in the US, your options are very limited. For us, there's Major League Baseball, Netflix Canada, and... that's it. There is a pathetic Netflix wannabe called Crackle, and Roku hosts a zillion little homemade niche channels, but nothing that would cause you to dump cable TV. Netflix Canada has improved a lot, but it's still very limited compared with US Netflix. You also can't get Amazon Instant Video, which has a ton of movies and TV shows, or Hulu Plus, which I personally don't want, but is very popular.

You can easily get around the restrictions and watch content from those sites on your computer, by using one of the many proxies or tunnel services to change your IP address to a US location. But your Roku or streaming device work with wireless internet, and your wireless router will still be using a Canadian IP address.

Unless it's not.

You can follow these instructions, and change your wireless IP address.

We bought a new router, a specific model that supports the third-party, open-source firmware DD-WRT. We downloaded the software, followed these instructions, et voilĂ , US Netflix and anything else will now stream through Roku onto our TV.

I wasn't sure we should try it, but after getting encouragement and support from a very techy friend (partner of wmtc reader James), we decided to give it a go. We figured the worst that could happen was we'd go back to our old router and return the new wireless router to the store.

But the process wasn't too difficult, and worked the first time.*

There was some question if this would cause problems with our VoIP phone, but it didn't.

We did find one glitch. With the new IP address, MLB.com didn't stream properly on Roku, and certain websites, especially those with videos, don't load and play properly. For now, the solution is simple, if a bit clunky: we simply swap routers - one router for Baseball Season, one router for Movie Season.

The Asus RT N-16 router costs about $85 before tax, the equivalent of one or more months of cable, depending on your plan. Like the Roku, it's a one-time purchase.

You can use any VPN service. The instructions I linked to are for Hide My Ass, but we are using AceVPN. The free level of service is adequate for accessing sites on your computer. We decided to use the $6/month level for streaming.

It works and it's fun.

* Why do this instead of physically connecting a computer to the TV? Once it's set up, it's always there - no need to continually connect and re-connect. You can use your computer and the TV at the same time. You can buy a Roku device for each TV in the house, and they operate independently of each other. The picture quality is better. It's simpler, easier, and more pleasant to just pick up your remote and watch movies or shows the way you normally would, as opposed to dealing with a computer that is connected to a TV. And frankly, between baseball and movies, and the little bit of TV I like to watch before I go to sleep, I couldn't see having to deal with a computer hook-up every time.


Stephanie said...

Okay, now for the next leap into the technological realm. We also did the long overdue switch to Teksaavy and VOIP telephone (also with teksaavy) but now I am thinking a Roku (or Apple TV??) is in our future. I have long been a fan of watching some of my favourite shows on-line since the regular programming schedules on TV just don't fit my schedule. Also I need to change from my computer screen to my TV screen to break up my work day.

Either way it won't be until next year as late as autumn. Thanks for this update.

laura k said...

Yay, Steph! Another satisfied un-Rogers customer.

How are you finding TekSavvy's VoIP phone? Good call quality?

We've been using Vonage for many years, no complaints. I even recently downgraded from unlimited to 500 minutes/month, because (now that I'm not writing professionally and doing interviews) we never ever come close to 500 mins.

I think for streaming devices, Roku is the best and easiest. I looked into AppleTV and Boxee, but Roku seemed so much better. I would just be aware of what will and won't be available through it.

Jere said...

I know nothing about Crackle except for two things: They "host" (I guess) the new Seinfeld show, "Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee." This is on crackle.com, but you can also just go to the show's own web site so I don't really know why crackle is involved, unless they act as a distributor or something. And I also happened to notice on our cable's on-demand something called "Crackle mini-sodes," which are mainly 80s sitcoms cut down to 4 minutes or so each. (Which, as an 80s sitcom fan, is great, and the fact that they're cut down is better than nothing.) I don't know if either of these is available on the Roku version of Crackle.

laura k said...

Yes, they are! They seem to be very big on 80s sitcoms. If you stream Crackle, they are full episodes.

Very little (if anything) of what they stream is exclusive to Crackle, though. Most of it seems to be available through Netflix or Amazon.

laura k said...

* Although I haven't done a complete survey. For all I know, there might be lots of Crackle-only content.

Stephanie said...

Laura, the TexSaavy VOIP has been great. The only bump we had is that the adapter has only one line-out so that we can no longer use our rotary dial phone since that one line must be for the multi handset cordless and which have to be unplugged when using the fax machine. I am sure there are a couple work arounds but I haven't had the time to deal with it just yet...next year.

Otherwise I have no complaints.

As far as ROKU goes...I admit that I will have to educate myself...We definitely don't watch much whether it is cable or netflix or webisodes so I will have to consider all options carefully. I have paid for Netflix for two months now and can't say i've watched more than a single movie.

laura k said...

Doesn't sound like Roku would be worth it at all. We wanted it for baseball - the only reason we had cable.

Great that you've had no problems with VoIP. And amazing that you own a rotary phone. :)

Stephanie said...

UPDATE: I just cancelled Netflix. Just not working out for me.