Tips & Tricks: 13 Roku tricks you should try right now

Your Roku streamer can do a lot more than you might think. These are some of the coolest tips we’ve tried.

 

 

BY Rick Broida of CNet

Is there a more widely beloved tech product than the Roku streamer? Whether yours is a stick or box, it delivers virtually unparalleled video goodness to your TV: Netflix, Hulu, HBO and so on.

And, yet, it could be better. That onscreen keyboard? Bleh. The default interface theme? Room for improvement. Below I’ve rounded up 13 ways to improve your Roku experience, from organizing channels to watching iTunes movies to adding TV-control buttons to the Roku remote.

Use your phone as your Roku keyboard

Is there anything more aggravating than using a remote to operate an onscreen keyboard? Just signing in to, say, your Netflix account can be a slow, agonizing affair, to say nothing of searching for actors or movies.

Thankfully, there’s an easy fix: Use your phone instead. As you probably know, the Roku apps (iOS | Android) can take the place of your Roku remote, but they also provide a keyboard that makes data entry significantly faster and easier.

So anytime you land at your Roku’s onscreen keyboard on your TV, whether for a search or sign-in, just run the app, tap Remote and then tap the keyboard icon near the bottom of the screen. Now you can tap-type! Or, power tip, tap the keyboard’s microphone icon and “type” your entry using your voice. Speaking of which…

Use your phone for voice search

You know what’s even faster than a keyboard? The spoken word. If you’re lucky enough to have a current-generation Roku, you may have discovered the joys of voice search, which you can operate via the Roku remote.

Don’t own one of those models? No problem: The Roku app now offers voice-search capabilities of its own. So instead of tapping out, say, “Leonardo DiCaprio” to find his available movies (and risk spelling it wrong), you can just tap the Search option, then Voice, and actually say, “Leonardo DiCaprio.”

Stream media from your phone or tablet

Want to show everyone the photos and videos you took at the recent wedding, graduation, soccer game or zombie escape room? Don’t gather them around your relatively tiny phone or tablet; gather them around the TV instead. The Roku app lets you cast photos, videos and music from your mobile device to your streamer.

Just fire up the app and tap Play On Roku. Choose the kind of media you want to stream, then the specific media. Presto! Big-screen viewing from your small(er)-screen device.

Want to take this a step further? You can also mirror your smartphone or tablet to your Roku device.

Turn your Roku remote into a universal remote

I really like the design of the Roku remote, especially those that have shortcut buttons to the likes of Netflix and Amazon. What I don’t like: You can’t program a Roku remote to control your TV.

But you can program a Sideclick. Available for a variety of streamers (including Apple TV and Amazon Fire TV), this clever add-on (with the best name ever) clips to the side of your Roku remote and adds a row of handy programmable buttons: power, volume up/down, channel up/down, input and A/B (these last available for whatever functions you want).

The Sideclick starter kit for Roku sells for $30 and comes with four adapter clips to accommodate the majority of Roku remotes. It’s a pretty nice option for anyone tired of juggling remotes.

Organize your channels

 

The more channels you add to your Roku library, the bigger a jumbled mess they get. If you’re forever scrolling all over the place to find the handful of channels you visit most, you’ve probably wished for some way to reorganize them.

This is that way: Find a channel you want to relocate — let’s say HBO Now — and highlight it with your remote. (Don’t actually select it, just move the cursor over it so it’s highlighted.) Next, press the Option button on your remote (it looks like an asterisk), then choose Move Channel. Now use the direction pad to move the icon where you want it, noting how others move out of the way as you go.

Once you’ve found the perfect spot, press OK to complete the process. Repeat as necessary.

Reorganize channels in the Roku app

A recent update to the Roku app added a great feature: a Channels screen, similar to what you see on your TV. It makes for much faster access to your favorite channels.
However, it’s not immediately obvious how to organize those channels. That’s because you can’t actually do so within the app: You have to hit up your actual Roku on your TV. Then just follow the steps outlined in Organize your channels, above. Or, if you want more detail, check out How to organize your channels in the new Roku 4.0 app.

Choose a new theme

Not a fan of Roku’s default interface theme? That’s OK, not everyone loves purple. If you venture into the Settings menu and choose Themes, you’ll see a handful of other options.

Even better, select Get More Themes, which will bring you to the Roku Channel Store’s Themes collection. (You can also browse them online if you prefer.) Here you’ll find several dozen other options, everything from golf to Garfield to Star Trek. Alas, these add-ons aren’t free: <ost range from 99 cents to $2.99.

Install a screensaver

 

Tired of that Roku logo bouncing around whenever your streamer sits idle for a while? Why not choose a screensaver that’s a little more interesting?
As with selecting a theme, you can head to the Settings menu and then choose

Screensaver for a handful of other options. (If you’ve already chosen a different theme, you may see other screensaver options already. Nebula, for example, offers a digital clock in place of the bouncing Roku logo.)

And, again, you can head to the Channel Store to find lots of other screensavers: aquariums, animated fireplaces, headlines from “The Onion,” even a Nixie Clock. A handful are free; most will cost you a buck or two.

Rename your Rokus

If you have more than one Roku device, it makes sense to assign each one a name — if only to simplify things when using the Roku app. It’s a lot easier to switch between, say, “Bedroom Roku” and “Living Room Roku” than it is “Roku 2” and “Roku 3.”

Curiously, however, you can’t do this from within the app. Instead, you need to sign into my.roku.com, then head to the My Account page. Scroll down a bit to see a list of your connected devices, then click Rename next to the one you want to change. Not sure which is which? You can actually refer to the app for this; tap Settings > Switch Device for a list of connected Rokus (and their convenient accompanying pictures), then look for the serial number. Match that to what you see on the Web portal.

Install private channels

Everyone knows about Roku’s Netflix, Hulu and other mainstream channels, but your streamers also support the addition of private channels.

Is that code for “adult”? Yes and no. Although adult channels do exist for Roku, you can find a variety of family-friendly options at sources like Roku-Channels.com, RokuGuide.com, StreamFree.tv and RokuChannels.tv.

One cool option: The Silent Movie Channel, which offers selections from the likes of Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton and Rudolph Valentino.

To add it, head to Roku’s My Account page in your browser (as described in the previous tip), click Add a Channel, then enter the code ROLLEM.

The channel should get automatically added to your Roku device within the next 24 hours, but you should be able to force it by going to the Channel Store on your Roku, then exiting back out to the main menu.

Find a lost Roku remote

Much as I like the design of the Roku remote, the size can be a problem: It goes missing that much more easily. The Bermuda Triangle has nothing on my couch cushions.

Fortunately, if you own a Roku 4 ($63.99 at Amazon Marketplace) or Roku Ultra, there’s a fast way to find your remote. (Assuming, of course, you can still find the Roku itself. Gotta be somewhere near the TV.) Both models have a button on top; press it and your remote will make a sound.

Want to learn how to choose what sound it makes? Check out Quickly find a lost Roku remote with this trick.

Watch movies from your iTunes library

If you live in the Apple ecosystem, you know that owning a Roku means forgoing any movies you’ve purchased via iTunes. After all, it’s not like Apple offers a Roku channel.

Thankfully, there’s Movies Anywhere. This free tool puts all your movies under one roof, so to speak, meaning you can now use a single Roku app to access movies from your Amazon, Google, iTunes and Vudu accounts. Obviously you could already access Amazon, Google and Vudu movies on your Roku via their respective apps, but Movies Anywhere brings iTunes into that mix and saves you from having to remember which movie is located where.

Listen in private with private listening

One of Roku’s best features is private listening, which allows you to stream audio through a remote or your phone to your favorite headphones. That’s great for your half-deaf relative who would normally need to crank the TV volume to house-shattering levels, or for your elliptical workouts where you can’t hear the TV over the sound of the machinery.

The Roku 3, Roku Premiere+, Roku 4 and Roku Ultra all come with a remote that has a built-in headphone jack, by far the easiest option. (Pro tip: If you plug in, remember to unplug when you’re done. Headphones will continue to draw power even when you’re not using the Roku, making it quite likely you’ll return to a dead set of remote batteries.)

But all current-gen models, from the Roku Express to the Roku Ultra, also support private listening via the Roku app. This works with both wired and wireless headphones; just fire up the app and tap the headphones icon to switch from TV speakers to private listening.

And there you go! Thirteen cool ways to improve your Roku experience.

Hit the comments and share your favorite tips!

Amazon Echo tips and tricks: Getting a grip on Alexa

 

Ladies,

This is the coolest gadget for the home right now and Alexa is like Siri on steroids. Anyone who ones an Echo can tell you how much fun it can be and how surprisingly helpful it is to have around. If this is a preview of the “Smart Home” future, Sign.Me.Up!

By ELYSE BETTERS of Pocket lint

The Amazon Echo almost needs no introduction, that gateway to a world of connected fun. Posing as a cylindrical speaker, the Amazon Echo is likely to be one of the hottest gadgets of 2016, with Alexa getting in on the action as your new helpful AI assistant.

The Amazon Echo can make to-do lists, set alarms, stream podcasts, play audiobooks, read PDFs, provide weather forecasts, warn you of traffic, answer trivia, and serve up other information in real-time. 

We’ve been living with the Echo, Dot and Alexa for some time and here’s how to get the most out of this cool smart home accessory.

Amazon Echo: How does Echo work? 

The magic of the Amazon Echo comes from its connection. After a quick set-up process, which involves plugging it in, taking control of it via the Alexa app (Android, iPhone, Desktop) and connecting it to your home Wi-Fi network, Alexa will listen to your voice and respond accordingly, either returning information found online, or through a number of partners that work with the Amazon Echo.

You need to be online to use the Amazon Echo, but it’s simply a case of asking questions and issuing commands.

Amazon Echo: How many Echo models are there?
There are three different versions of the Amazon Echo:
Amazon Echo
Amazon Echo Dot
Amazon Echo Tap

The Echo is the full-sized speaker, the Dot provides the microphones and Bluetooth or physical connection to existing features and the Tap is a portable Bluetooth speaker (not available in the UK). 

We’ve broken down the different skills of these devices in a separate feature, explaining all the pros and cons if you need to know more.

Amazon Echo: Echo tips and tricks

Mute the “Alexa” wake word

Amazon Echo is always listening for the word “Alexa”. Whenever you say it, the Echo will listen, consider what you’re saying and respond. But if you don’t want the Echo to wake and respond, there’s a mute button on the top of the speaker that you can press to mute Alexa.
Press it again to unmute her. Simples.

Change Echo the wake word

If you happen to have someone in your house called “Alex” or similar, then you’ll find the Echo responds when you say that name too. You can choose another word, either Amazon or Echo. 

Head into the Alexa app > settings > select your Echo > Wake Word and pick a new word from the list.

How to control Amazon Echo through your browser
There are a couple ways you can control your Echo, as well as your to-do and shopping lists. The first, as we mentioned, is through the Alexa app. The second way is through the web. Just visit this site in your browser: http://echo.amazon.com and you’ll be able to log-in and control your device without needing a phone.

Change the default music service
The Echo is compatible with a range of music services, not only Amazon’s own. If you’d rather use Spotify, head into the Alexa app > Settings > Music & Media.
In this section you can link music accounts and pick the default. Then, when you say “Alexa, play Phil Collins” it will use Spotify rather than Amazon music, for example.

Add skills to Alexa

There are lots of things that the Echo will do by default, but sometimes you’ll have to enable a particular feature to get more. These are called skills, and basically give Alexa access to particular information. In the Alexa app head into Skills and you’ll find a range of compatible apps and features. It’s here you can enable control of your Hive heating or access to your BMW Connected app, for example. 

Setup Household Profiles
From the Amazon website you can link your family Prime accounts. With a feature called Household Profiles, you can add another adult to your Amazon Household to listen to either his or her content (for instance, music and audiobooks) and manage shared features (like lists).

Go to Settings, scroll down the page, and set up your Household. Shared members will have to download the Echo app and agree to join the household. You can also the app to setup your household too. More information about Household Profiles is at this support page.

Switch Amazon account profiles
Thanks to Household Profiles, Amazon Echo can be synced with more than one Amazon account. To find out which profile you’re currently using, say “Alexa, which profile am I using?” To switch profiles, say either “Alexa, switch profile” (moves to the next profile) or “Alexa, switch to David’s profile” (moves to the profile you named). More information about Household Profiles is at this support page.

Control a smart home device
You can control some smart home devices with Alexa (see a list of compatible devices here).
After you say “Discover my devices”, or use the Alexa app to discover and pair smart home devices, you can ask Alexa to do things like “Turn on/off [smart home device name]” or “Dim the light to [##] per cent” (see a list of commands here).
You can also setup groups (see here) so that saying “house lights” turns on/off several lamps. Alexa works with many common connected devices, like Philips Hue.

Force software updates
Amazon Echo has a CPU and software running it that needs updating. The speaker looks for updates every night, but if you want to force an update, just hit that same mute button we discussed earlier, then let Echo sit for at least 30 minutes, and the speaker will update.

Amazon Echo: What can you say to Alexa?
Here are some examples of things you can do with Echo/Alexa, along with links to their relevant Amazon support pages:
• Ask questions
• Check your calendar
• Control media playback on Bluetooth devices
• Control music with your voice
• Control smart home devices
• Discover and buy music
• Find local businesses and restaurants
• Find traffic information
• Get updates on the weather
• Go to the movies
• Hear the news
• Keep up with your favorite sports teams
• Keep track of important tasks and items to purchase
• Listen to audiobooks
• Listen to Prime Music
• Listen to stations, shows and more
• Read Kindle books
• Reorder products from Amazon
• Request music
• Set up alarms and timers

Amazon Echo: Are there any Easter eggs?
Alexa responds to a wide number of fun Easter eggs.
This Reddit thread aggregates several interesting commands you can issue to Alexa. We’ve picked out a few of the more interesting ones and listed them below, but not all will work in all locations:
“Simon says…”:
You can get Alexa to repeat anything you say if use the command “Alexa, Simon says…”
“Alexa, play Bingo”:
Look up and download some free printable bingo cards, and ask Alexa to start a Bingo game with you.
“Alexa, ask Word Master to play a game”:
This is like Geography. Alexa says a word, then you have to follow with a word that starts with the last letter of the word she said.
“Alexa, start Animal Game/Capital Quiz”:
This lets you play 20 questions about animals or geography.
“Alexa, start Star Wars quiz”
Self-explanatory.
“Alexa, play Jeopardy”
Trivia geeks will love these game-show style questions. Don’t forget to answer in the form of a question.
“Alexa, roll the dice”
Missing the di to your board game? She’ll roll 6-sided, 10-sided, 20-sided, and other dice as well.
“Alexa, open the Wayne Investigation”
This starts a chose-your-own-adventure game that immerses you into the world of Gotham.

Amazon Echo: What are some funny questions to ask?

Ask Alexa these questions and we promise you’ll love her responses:

“Alexa, what does WTF stand for?”
• “Alexa, Up Up, Down Down, Left Right, Left Right, B, A, Start”
• “Alexa, how much is that doggy in the window?”
• “Alexa, Is Santa real?”
• “Alexa, do you know Hal?”
• “Alexa, Who shot first?”
• “Alexa, which came first: the chicken or the egg?”
• “Alexa, what is love?”


This website
 suggests more hilarious questions you can ask. 

How to Connect wireless headphones to any TV

Ladies,

Living in the digital age means are gadgets are smarter than we are, including our TV sets. I remember when there was only one TV in the house and it had only 3 channels. Today, it seems, you need to have an engineering degree (or a child) in order to tune into your favorite show every week. And, the way we view our shows has changed drastically too. Our shows are “on demand” and rarely watched with the entire family gathered around the set at prime time. No, these days most of us catch up on our shows when it’s most convenient but, that doesn’t always coincide with the rest of your households schedules. Luckily, our smart TVs, gaming consoles, and TV gadgets have the ability to connect a variety of headphones so you can watch your shows without disturbing the rest of the house.

by Taylor Martin of CNET

Use one of these methods to connect headphones to your TV and enjoy listening at full volume without disturbing others.

So you want to watch television at night without disturbing others trying to sleep. Or maybe you prefer to block out the noise of your surroundings — like that annoying dog next door who won’t stop barking — while catching up on The Flash.
Connecting wireless headphones to your television doesn’t have to be difficult, and there are several ways you can pull it off, regardless of what TV you have.

DEDICATED WIRELESS HEADPHONES
If you’re like most people, your TV doesn’t have built-in Bluetooth. But the workaround for connecting wireless headphones is so simple and cheap, it’s not a huge deal anyways.


One the most straightforward ways to use wireless headphones with your TV is to purchase dedicated wireless headphones. These typically come with a base station that plugs into the television via 3.5mm analog jack or optical and work over radio frequency instead of Bluetooth, which comes with one main advantage: range.

Bluetooth headphones are typically limited to 30 feet, give or take. RF headphones often have a far superior range — closer to 300 feet when unobstructed.

There is a catch, however. If you do not have another audio device connected to your television through that jack, such as a sound bar, you’ll have to swap it for the headphones when you want to go wireless.

But if your sound bar is connected through either optical or digital outputs, you can leave the wireless headphones connected without interfering with normal audio playback.

You can find wireless headphones for your television for anywhere from $20 to upwards of $300 and the audio quality will vary substantially.

BLUETOOTH HEADPHONES
A dedicated set of headphones for your TV might have its advantages, but if you already have a nice pair of headphones you’d prefer to use, you might be able to make it work with things you already own or for even less.

If your headphones are Bluetooth, all you really need is a Bluetooth transmitter. Transmitters can be found online or at your local electronics retailers for as little as $15.

Basically, it takes the 3.5mm or RCA output from your television and transmits it as a Bluetooth signal. You will need a power source — usually USB — which you might be able to tap from the USB port on the television or plug into a power strip around your entertainment system. Once you pair the transmitter with your Bluetooth headphones, setup is complete and you can begin watching shows or movies with the audio streaming through your favorite headphones.

Using a Bluetooth transmitter will leave you with the same issue as a pair of dedicated wireless headphones, though. If you’re not using another 3.5mm output device, like a sound bar, you may have to disconnect the Bluetooth transmitter from the 3.5mm or RCA jacks to restore volume to the television’s internal speakers.

MEDIA STREAMERS


Some set-top boxes — such as Roku, Apple TV and Android TV boxes — allow you to connect headphones and listen to your movies and TV shows in private. This is often one of the most hassle-free ways to connect headphones to your television.

ANDROID TV
Support for Bluetooth audio devices on Android TV boxes is hit or miss. Some support Bluetooth, but only for use with a keyboard and mouse. Others, do support Bluetooth headphones, and you pair them just as you would with any other Android device. Put the headphones into pairing mode, go to Settings > Bluetooth and select the headphones when they appear.


The Nvidia Shield Controller also has a headphone jack built-in, so you can use wired headphones with the controller if you don’t have Bluetooth headphones on hand.

APPLE TV
Apple TV will allow you to connect Bluetooth headphones. Just put the headphones into pairing mode and go to Settings > Remotes and Devices > Bluetooth. Wait for the headphones to appear and select them to pair and connect.

 

AMAZON FIRE TV
You can pair Bluetooth headphones with the Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Stick. Just put your Bluetooth headphones in pairing mode and on the Fire TV or Fire TV Stick, go to Settings > Controllers and Bluetooth Devices > Other Bluetooth Devices. Once your headphones appear under Discovered Devices, select them to complete pairing.

 

ROKU
Depending on which model Roku and Roku remote you have, you can either use private listening through the Roku app or plug wired headphones into the jack on the remote.

To use private listening with the Roku app, download the Roku app to your Android or iOS device and make sure your phone is connected to the same wireless network as your Roku. Open the app and connect either wired or Bluetooth headphones to your phone and private listening will be enabled. Disconnect the headphones to disable private listening.

The Roku 3, Roku Premiere+, Roku 4 and Roku Ultra all come with remotes that feature headphones jacks.

GAMING CONSOLES

If you have a gaming console plugged into your television, you can use it for wireless audio. But there’s a catch. Bluetooth support is spotty and you’ll need wired headphones.

PLAYSTATION 4
The PlayStation 4 will only supports specific Bluetooth headsets. There is also a workaround which requires a USB Bluetooth adapter that circumvents the restriction, but it still doesn’t work with all Bluetooth headsets and headphones.
Your best bet is using wired headphones and plugging them into the 3.5mm headphone jack on the controller. Just make sure to select the proper audio device in settings, under Settings > Devices > Audio Devices > Output to headphones.


XBOX ONE
The Xbox One does not support Bluetooth, so your hopes of a truly wireless experience are dead. But, like with the PlayStation 4, you can plug your headphones into the 3.5mm jack on the controller.
Unfortunately, not all Xbox One controllers are created equal. Newer models have the 3.5mm jack built-in. With an older wireless controller, you will need to purchase the Stereo Headset Adapter, which plugs into the bottom of the controller and gives it a 3.5mm jack and volume and microphone controls.

 

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