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VLC removed from Amazon Fire TV store by VLC developers
232 points by lostmsu on April 22, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 165 comments
According to VLC devs from their mailing list, VLC 3.0 was never approved for Amazon Fire TV store. Now the 2.1.1 got removed as well, and even got uninstalled from the sticks, where it was installed previously through the store.

So, I am the one who disabled it from the Amazon Store. Not Amazon. So, the issue is not that dramatic.

The reason is that they refused to approve the 3.0 version of VLC, which meant that people were downloading a beta version from quite a long time ago, with lots of bugs. So I preferred to disable it instead of having more people load an old version.

The actual issue is that this precise version had a small database bug/issue that is very annoying to fix/work-around, and when you update, you lose the first audio playlist (video files, audio files, playlist files work fine). So, I'm not even sure that we can fix that in a correct way. But, for Amazon, they think it is a blocker. Sure, that meant that version is buggy, but that's even more the reason to not have more people download it.

Remember, we don't make any money from VLC, even if it is free, you are not the product (no ads, no spying, no telemetry).

Anyway, this is one of the reason why I dislike appstores: they make you lose a lot of time jumping through hoops, and the quality is not even there. All of those appstores have lots of crap in there. And, except the Google PlayStore (that has other issues), all the interfaces to upload/edit are very bad and buggy...

No disrespect intended, but I’d just like to point out-

“I don’t like app stores because they don’t have quality” and yet here they are trying to ensure quality, and you’re upset about it because they’re trying to stop users from having a bad experience by losing content they cared enough to curate? I’m not entirely sure the problem is in the review process here...

Exactly my point: they annoy us over a slight bug, and yet avoid upgrade to a stable version that fixes around 2000 bugs, over 2 years. So, for a small bug, they let thousands get unfixed.

And go on the appstores: how many scams, fake VLC and so on, do you see? They claim to do reviews to get quality, and yet so many apps are fake, scams, and got approved nevertheless. It's the same on Apple, Windows, Android and Amazon.

A bug that results in data loss is not “slight” or “small”. I’d honestly rather have an unstable beta app than a production release that doesn’t offer a proper data migration. I’m disappointed that the VLC team would rather remove their app from an app store (again) than fix an issue with their app. At least Google is trying to look out for their users.

Troll me once shame on you, troll me twice shame on me.

What if the older, available version, which he just claimed had 2000 bugs, had 2000 bugs that resulted in data loss? How can you legitimately argue that he's not looking out for his users?

Hard to shame the developers who donate their time to open source software.

How about we shake the App Store for trying to decide that 2,000 bugs are better for their users than losing a playlist.

If that were the case and the developers knew it, then they should have pulled it from the store long before now.

Think about it - they didn’t pull the app because of the bugs. They pulled the app because they don’t agree with Amazon (of all people) that releasing a major version update with a bug known to cause personal data loss is totally unacceptable.

They’d rather not provide an app for the platform at all than work out a solution to a “slight bug” that would cause their users on that platform from losing their playlists during an update.

It seems to me that this is a case of a diva developer getting his feelings hurt, not a reasonable decision based on an unconsistent approval process. I can’t imagine a more used-hostile attitude than that.

Edit: somehow got it in my head that they pulled VLC from the Google Play Store.

To me it sounds like you've essentialized the target of your ire, while contextualizing what you prefer.

Even google shouldnt be above your reproach in a situation like this.

VLC is one of the shining beacons of the open source community, in my opinion. Just like every successful project that retains it's core values, compromise is key. The dude is all over this thread calmly explaining everything to anyone who asked. How does any of his behavior fit into any reasonable definition of diva?

Above reproach? For what? Enforcing their quality standards?

You are placing the “shining beacon of the open source community” above approach reproach, without a hint of awareness of the irony. Having a calm demeanor when explaining that they pulled the plug on VLC for FireTV because they couldn’t be bothered with fixing a “slight bug” that causes data loss (and which Amazon views as a “blocker”) doesn’t make the decision any less diva-like.

Unless a core value of VLC’s dev team is “egos over users”, I don’t see how you could possibly argue that this is a compromise. A compromise would have been leaving the old, buggy version of the app up with a note in the description that it is no longer supported.

I find it really disheartening that this is even a contentious opinion in the HN community. If the developer had come right out and said, “we just don’t have the resources to dedicate to fixing a major issue with the way playlists are exported from the current version of our app for FireTV, so we are discontinuing the app, effective immediately”, that would have been perfectly acceptable.

Instead, he diminished the severity of the bug and blamed the removal of the app on Amazon’s uneven approval process, despite the fact that the app does not meet one of the most basic criterion of Amazon’s approval process: “Apps do not put customer data at risk once installed”.

It’s the developer equivalent of knocking the Monopoly board off the table because you lost a turn. I don’t care how highly regarded the VLC development team is, this kind of behavior should be scorned rather than excused.

As your fellow developer, if perhaps at a different level of the stack, I've found that when my runtime performs in ways I didn't expect it too, the eventual solution almost always involves me questioning my own assumptions. The microcontroller didnt get statically discharged, my power rail is pulled to ground with an incorrect resistor. I didn't discover a compiler bug, I put a semicolon after my while statement, but before the curly brace.

I've also found that my ability to acknowledge this fact is linearly proportional to the time it takes to solve the bug.

My point is that the maintainers of VLC sit atop a mountain of software, used by tons of people with oodles of different use cases. The only methodology that ever allowed them to grow to their current stature has been to do whats right by the project. At some point, the large behemoths of Amazon, Google, et al, have to make compromises as well. If they hire enough support staff to have a personal relationship with every client, at the level of service you get from your local credit union, that becomes prohibitively expensive. In lieu of providing good service, they've settled for efficient service.

VLC is Kobe Beef. If Amazon wants to carry Kobe Beef, perhaps they should provide the level of service that Kobe Beef consumers demand. Lots of other folks love to advertise Kobe Beef, but balk at all of the transparency that an authentic Kobe Beef retailer has.

Amazon loves to throw its weight around, and claim its for the greater good. But to the extent they can't get what they want, they pull their top selling products from their shelves. They've even done this with books, the one of the markets they dominate to the highest degree.

But if we all demand that we be recognized as the one true expert in our fields, compromise becomes a four letter word.

userid checks out

Just because they try to ensure it doesn’t mean they actually achieve that.

App stores really are pretty terrible, I feel like the average palm pilot app had much more quality than the average smartphone app for any platform.

They're forcing users to use an old buggy (and likely insecure) beta version of an app because a new stable version can't incorporate the old buggy beta version's playlists.

Thanks for the info, but why won't they approve v3.0??

Because when people update from 2.1.1 to 3.0.0, they would lose their custom playlists. Indeed, it is a bit annoying, but we considered that it was not worth fixing that, notably for the FireTV UI, where it is very hard to create some playlists, therefore not many people are impacted.

> they would lose their custom playlists > So, I'm not even sure that we can fix that in a correct way.

Got a link to an issue tracker for this? You're posting about a hard technical bug for an open source project to a community with "hacker" in the name. Maybe someone has a good idea.

I've gotten used to the android VLC functionality where it simply offers to play what is in storage. I'm not quite wrapping my head around what would be lost, why it matters, and why the playlist can't just be another object in storage.

I am constantly amazed that high-quality independent open-source projects like VLC are maintained so well, year after year.

> why the playlist can't just be another object in storage.

You got both: file playlists and playlists in the database.

Does that mean that VLC 3.0.0 will now be approved, since there now are no playlists to preserve?

Nope, that's the point: 3.0.0 will migrate playlists from the old stable version, but not from this beta version, because of a bug in this specific version.

And they don't want us to update it without this issue fixed.

I'm curious, why was the beta version pushed to the app store?

Good point. Because Amazon requested it, because it was solving a major issue with playback of their new device at the time.

This seems kind of moot, but is it possible to drop this type of playlist feature from VLC 3.0 and remove it from scope? If the feature has a blocking bug you could maybe just drop that feature entirely.

Maybe stupid question, but why not rename beta to VLC Beta, and release 3.0 as VLC?

3.0.0 will migrate playlists from the old stable version, but not from this beta version, because of a bug in this specific version

When you say "this specific version" as containing a bug are you referring to "this beta version" or "3.0.0"?

Well, now their VLC is gone altogether, AFAIK. I guess they can't use their incompatible playlists even if they were willing to keep 2.1.1, because 2.1.1 is gone from the store and all devices too.

Does the mobile version of VLC 3 also have the regression (from 2.x.x) of not handling [] characters in playlist paths and playlist item entries?


On desktop's at least it's generally not too terrible for the end user to manually rename things to work again. On mobile though, I'm not sure.

why not release it as vlc3, not as an upgrade to the previous release, so people could have oth installed side by side if they wanted?

Because your UI is bad and makes it difficult to create playlists, you don't want to bother fixing your bug that causes users' data to be lost, and you blame all of this on Amazon. I know you do all of this for free, but that doesn't mean you can blame all of your mistakes and problems on Amazon.

Another comment by the developer says that the new release improves the UI...

I see a whole bunch of assumptions and demands for a piece of free software that no one demanded you use.

In regards to who he can blame, and can't blame, can we all decide to blame you if he decides he's sick of ungrateful users and just stops development all together?


First of all I appreciate the work all of you put into VLC. This is my media player on desktop. I've tried lots of other players but always ended up going back.

In my respectful opinion as an outsider with no Amazon Fire device or association with Amazon, an update should not lose user bookmarks, playlists, documents, etc.

Users should feel confident clicking "update" on any software, ever.

I am sure you can empathize with your users if you consider what might happen if you updated Chrome or Firefox and lost all of your bookmarks. It is easy to see how users might feel the same way about playlists they put work into.

(Some users might even feel the same way about something much more trivial such as what page number they were on in each book in an ebook reader. If the ebook reader changes some internal structure it's easy to see how the new version might not migrate that stuff. I personally would find this okay, since I could find my old place within a few minutes.)

To try to empathize: how many hours might some of your users have spent making a custom playlist?

There is something big and important here: helping users feel confident always clicking "update" without a second thought.

Although the amount of work seems excessive in this case (and would be even more excessive in an ebook reader that has to export all of page numbers you're on, even if this is difficult technically) I think the secondary effect might be worth it.

I definitely see your point of view too, just thought I would offer this perspective.

Thanks again for all of your work, which I appreciate.

> an update should not lose user bookmarks, playlists, documents, etc.

I'm waiting for your patch. I'm very happy for your volunteering.

(You can ignore the other responses, your response to me is a challenge - you throw down the glove - but I found it fine and motivating and it made me resolve to check out the source code when I get home. I was only going to email you if I ended up being able to figure it out, and I expect maybe it really is too hard for me, if a format change or something else makes it really tricky, but your challenge had the effect I imagine it intended.)

Join us on IRC or by email.

Just because something is free/volunteer doesn't mean it doesn't have any responsibilities to its audience.

If an organization volunteers to give free food to people, they can't just give them any crap, or stale food, etc, and shun it with "hey, it's free".

That's because it would be a health issue. If I wrote a book for fun, and said you could have a free copy, it wouldn't be my responsibility to make sure you enjoy it. The VLC team does an amazing job at making their software solid anyway, so it's not even a good metaphor.

You may not like what the parent is (politely) saying, but your response is toxic.

> your response is toxic.

Oh come on. The parent is basically telling us what we should do and how we should do it. Maybe he's more skilled than us, maybe he has the time to fix, then a patch would be welcome.

VLC is a very small team, with around 10 developers, that maintain an open source B2C project, for free, on more platforms than so many (including huge teams or professional) projects, for > 10 years... Maybe, just maybe, we know how to evaluate the cost of a fix.

Amazon is being unrealistic by asking us to do a full migration of custom playlists, an option very seldomly used on Android TV (it's very hard to do in the UI of version they blocked us on, a contrario from the version we want to upgrade to), which we could not fix quickly without making sqlite crash.

But the point is: yes, there is a bug and we will get a bad vote from the people who rely on this. Sure. But that means that 99,9% of the millions of users will keep having the rest of the bugs, and there are a ton.

This is how I read it too (I said same thing in sibling response). Your response was fine! :)

No it isn't.

As with any open source volunteer project you are not a customer, you are a user, and no one has any obligation to do or correct anything for you or anyone else.

No one in such a project is beholden in any way whatsoever to meet the needs of any particular user or set of users. This particular point often causes spluttering disbelief and knee jerk reaction. Understand it carefully.

Yes, not meeting the needs of the largest set of users can cause the project to lose users or fail to grow. So what? Many open volunteer projects aren't out for glory and greatness, or millions of users. They're out just to build something _they_ need or are passionate about. All the better if others want to come along for the ride and benefit too.

There is nothing bad about telling users 'no we're not doing it' and by extension 'if you want that, build it yourself and we'll welcome it'.

It is quite staggering how many times 'users' will make demands or say 'do it this way' but feel offended when told 'do it yourself'. Users feel utterly entitled to make demands of project members and are utterly incredulous when such demands are turn back on them.

To be clear, I would not have objected to jdk saying "if you want that, build it yourself and we'll welcome it".

I completely accept that developers of open source volunteer projects have no obligation to fulfil any development request from any user, but the gp did not demand or even request any change. They gave their opinion about how software should work, and they asked a rhetorical question about data loss.

I just think that jdk could have made their point in a much more welcoming way, if they had been as polite and positive as the gp.

No actually, jbk is being honest and realistic.

The cost to fix the bug is currently too great for them to devote resources to fixing it correctly, so s/he is merely trying to economize scarce resources here. This is an open source project we are talking about here, not a paid product.

If the gp thinks they have time on their hands, then by all means, the project will gladly accept patches.

>No actually, jbk is being honest and realistic.

Nope, he was being sarcastic.

What he essentially said is: "We put in the actual work, so we can put out whatever crap, and you either chime in, or put up with it".

Which would be good, if they didn't also promote their project as good to people.

Actually, he wasn't being sarcastic. I see how you may have thought that, but his response was genuine, and the commenter took it as so.

jbk was not being honest or realistic, though. The gp was not volunteering, and jbk is not waiting for their patch.

It's fine to say "We don't have the resources to fix this", but jbk's sarcastic remark is not the best way to convey this. Of course, jbk is welcome to phrase their comments however they want, but I don't think that the way they chose was the most effective way to invite patches (and the gp presumably already knew that a valid patch would be accepted).

I think you and I mostly agree but I will try to address the possible source of your disagreement with his phrasing.

@jbk's original phrasing was: I'm waiting for your patch. I'm very happy for your volunteering.

You probably think his first sentence is sarcasm but it is not for two reasons:

1. He followed it up with a gentler "I'm very happy for your volunteering."

2. I've been online long enough to know that his phrasing is a bit odd, a hint that the commenter is likely not a native speaker.

For a bit more context regarding #2, my suspicion is not unfounded. I remember the @jbk nickname from this highly upvoted post [0] last year, where he did something in the interest of the VLC project that a lot of people would find incredibly difficult to do under similar circumstances.

[0] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=15372048

> 1. He followed it up with a gentler "I'm very happy for your volunteering."

"Gentler" seems like a euphemism to me. I read it instead as passive aggression which is generally considered rude and not a productive way of communicating with people.

Normal communication:

1. X makes an unreasonable demand of developer Y. "Users expect Z, you devs should always do Z."

2. Developer Y counters X's unreasonable demand with simple-to-follow reasoning: "I understand where you are coming from, but there are important technical reasons why we cannot do Z. Unless you have the time to dive into the code to understand those technical details (and perhaps even become a developer yourself in the process), you're just going to have to trust us on this point."

Benefits: clarity, positive example, trollproof.

Costs: several sentences, restraint.

Passive Aggressive Communication:

1. X makes an unreasonable demand of developer Y. "Users expect Z, you devs should always do Z."

2. Developer Y tries to "teach" X not to make unreasonable demands by making a similarly unreasonable demand. If devs should always do Z, and if current devs are too busy to do Z, then it should be so obvious that X must become a dev that Y will imply it in the response: "Thanks for volunteering!"

Benefit: brevity

Cost: confusion, consequent anger/humiliation in X that makes it harder for them to learn the ostensible lesson, troll food, negative example for future devs to follow, scary to potential devs, etc.

Edit: typo

Why not include a small script that backs up their playlist before upgrading, whatever the workaround? Pretend it's one of those Apollo 13 duct tape situations, I'm sure some solution would come up! I don't use Amazon fire but love VLC.

If you are willing to consider ugly, shameful kludges, could you release a 2.1.2 version to Amazon that is just like 2.1.1 except that it creates and maintains an empty sacrificial audio playlist and puts that first on the list? People could update to that, and then update to 3.0.0.

Sorry, but I don't see how that would work.

Also, same problem as lack of time as the rest.

It sounds like it would sacrifice the first playlist, which you describe is the problem, and leave all other playlists intact, which is what Amazon requires.

But such a simple solution goes up against the developer claiming that Amazon is the big bad that wouldn't let them update their buggy software...

That being said, if someone can point out to me where this code is in the source I can hack out a solution for the next week or two.

Does the publisher removing an app from the store (not just a specific version like 3.0) also uninstall the app from users' devices (like the 2.1.1 thing OP mentions)?

It should not. I'm a bit surprised, tbh.

But at the same time, the developer console is soo bad for Amazon Store, that this is possible...

I would not have noticed, if a couple a days ago I wouldn't find VLC on the stick anymore.

Seems like they're just prohibiting what can be considered a regression.

How is this any different from the majority of other software release policies? It's fairly common to block a release which fixes numerous things because it includes a fairly visible regression.

If post description is accurate and the old version has been remote-wiped from devices, does that mean the data migration issue is no longer relevant?

Maybe just remove the custom playlist feature then?

We tried that, they refused, because "removal of functionality". And if you update, you lose the playlists, but the new ones will work again, so the result would be similar.

Wow, I'm not sure, but, I think I'm impressed - Amazon are really going over things with a fine-toothed comb.

However, not allowing an update because it deprecates features seems overzealous, they're not paying for the app.

What do they do about unfixable features?

So no apps on Amazon's platform can ever remove functionality? That is every more restrictive than the App Store. Crazy!

It's actually a reasonable stance IMHO.

They are likely trying to discourage app vendors from using batch-and-switch as a growth tactic.

How about introducing VLC 3.0 under a slightly different name? or under a different publisher account?

Sorry, but no. This would just re-appear further with a different account.

Does this mean you can submit VLC 3.0 at a later time? Good luck.

    All of those appstores have lots of crap in there.
Sounds like there's one less buggy app in there now.

And more than 2 millions users that are blocked with an old beta version, with several hundred of bugs.

Amazon Fire TV is terrible. I bought one and I'd love to switch to Chromecast. It's so slow and limited. In the current state it's a meaningless product

I threw mine away after struggling with it for a week. I should have known when Amazon booted Chromecast out of their store, they knew they couldn’t compete.

Roku stick is a pretty solid option, with the remote it’s handy for travel / hotel rooms.

I'm still waiting for a hotel room where the TV isn't a postage stamp 3 miles from the bed.

What kind of fancy high end hotels are you staying at. At 90% of the hotels I've stayed at everything is right next to the bed.

So switch to Chromecast. They are so cheap why even bother complaining here?

I love my Fire TV. Great apps, and easy to add a bt keyboard and install Kodi for torrent streaming. I don't think you can do that with a Chromecast. Best media center I've ever had.

I just picked up a Chromecast (I got the Ultra). On one hand, I like the phone controls for the convenience of queueing up some random YouTube videos while I’m lounging around the apartment or doing chores. On the other hand, the phone-only controls can be inconvenient for more attentive viewing (like a movie or TV show) because all actions require unlocking my phone and opening the app that’s casting the video. This is particularly inconvenient when I receive a phone call, since there’s no way to quickly pause.

I can't see any purpose of a Chromecast over a Roku stick. You still get the ability to cast YouTube videos to it just like the Chromecast (from the iOS or Android app). I think you can mirror an Android phone to it. You can use it as a second monitor from Windows. It also has private listening where you can listen to the audio using your phone while watching on your TV.

It has native apps for almost everything.

Chromecast has better integration with the Android ecosystem on the whole. With most apps that play video (a BIG notable exception being Amazon's video service) you just hit the Chromecast button and select from the list of devices it found already on your local network. No need for "native apps" for anything, the actual Netflix app shows you the button.

That said, Roku works fine and is a good product in the space. Neither has any real killer feature the other doesn't. But if you had to pick one for a novice user as a gift or whatever, Chromecast is a much cleaner experience.

How so? With the Roku, you install the app and you use a regular remote. Most people are more accustom to using a remote to control their TV than a phone. They've also had years of using VCRs and DVD players connected to their TVs.

When someone comes over to your house with an iPhone. Would you rather hand them a remote or your phone? Even if they have an Android phone, isn't it simpler to just hand someone a remote than ask them to install the individual apps?

The killer feature of the Roku is private listening. If I am watching something on TV and my wife is trying to sleep, I can listen to the audio on my phone. Of course the other killer feature is not to have to have my phone to control the TV. Even though you can - the Roku remote app is excellent.

I bought my dad a Roku TV for his birthday, installed all of the apps he needed and signed into everything for him using either his cable providers login or my account. I can't see him messing around with his phone to watch tv. He can use one remote for everything - including volume.

The only differences between the Roku TV and the stick are volume control and power on and off from the phone.

The two most popular video apps are Netflix and YouTube and they both support casting to the Roku.

Sigh. If you insist on platform flamage... (I mean, I said the Roku was a good product! But no, you have to go prove it's better than what I picked, because this is the internet. So here's why you're wrong, and why the Chromecast is better, if only slightly.)

> I can't see him messing around with his phone to watch tv.

And yet you don't see that for some this is in fact a "killer feature" in favor of the Chromecast? All this tells me is that you've never actually tried the product. Just count how many times you've had to hunt for a remote in the couch vs. how many times you've genuinely misplaced your phone to see how wrong your thinking is here.

The whole point of the Chromecast idiom, which it does really well, is to eliminate the fiddly "TV" interface. You just select the content on your phone, using exactly the UI that you normally use to select the content on your phone, and hit the Chromecast button. The device will turn the TV on, select the input[1], and just play. No remote needed.

As far as "private listening", that's cute, but collides with equivalent features already provided by most TV's these days. You certainly don't need a Roku to get that. Most TV's will pair with a bluetooth headset.

[1] OK, as long as you have a TV that understands CEC at a minimal level. This is sadly not as universal as you'd hope. Most ones I've looked at recently do OK.

> I can't see him messing around with his phone to watch tv. And yet you don't see that for some this is in fact a "killer feature" in favor of the Chromecast? All this tells me is that you've never actually tried the product. Just count how many times you've had to hunt for a remote in the couch vs. how many times you've genuinely misplaced your phone to see how wrong your thinking is here.

With the Roku you can either use the remote or your phone with the Roku app. How is it an advantage by having only one option? You can also cast from the two most popular video apps - Netflix and YouTube. I won’t even mention that if you’re a subscriber to Amazon Prime - and there are over 100 million people who are - you can’t use Amazon Prime Video at all on the Chromecast.

Are you really going to say that a phone interface is “less fiddly” than a purpose built “10 foot interface” for watching tv with a purpose built remote for controlling the interface and having only to navigate through the compatible apps?

With private listening, you don’t need the tv to work with Bluetooth and that’s yet another “fiddly interface” you have to deal with and yet another device you have to keep charged - as opposed to using your phone you already have and either wired or wireless headphones. Depending on which Roku you have, you can plug your headphones directly into your remote.

If you really want to talk about “platform flammage”, I didn’t even mention my 4K AppleTV where you have the benefit of native apps, mirroring from Macs, Airplaying from iOS devices, and a remote app on iOS devices....

> Are you really going to say that a phone interface is “less fiddly” than a purpose built “10 foot interface” for watching tv

Uh, yes. Yes. I am really going to say that. Again, you either haven't tried a Chromecast, haven't ever played a Netflix[1] video on an Android phone, or both.

Again: yes, playing content on a phone is easier than a TV. And it isn't even close.

Did I mention the phone is easier? It's easier.

[1] Or Google Play, or Youtube, or Spotify, or pretty much anything except Apple or Amazon, which remain notable and regretful (if not unexplainable) holes in coverage.

With Roku you can do both. Netflix and YouTube both support casting from Android phones to Roku. Spotify Connect works with everything.

Casting from my phone when I sharing a TV with other people who may not have the app installed, may not have an Android phone at all isn't more convenient than just handing over a remote - I'm not going to just hand my phone over silly nilly to let someone else control the TV while I'm out.

I'm not suggesting that most people get an AppleTV 4K - they are overpriced and I got one free with my DirecTVNow subscription - but at least with it, you can airplay Google Play and you have native apps (or Airplay) with Amazon Prime.

With Roku you have native apps for everything except Apple's stuff and you can cast to it.

With the Nvidia Shield - you have access to the entire Android ecosystem, Amazon Prime, and ChromeCast support.

The ChromeCast is the least capable alternative.

This isn't even an anti Android thing. The Nvidia Shield is Android based and just much better.

> And yet you don't see that for some this is in fact a "killer feature" in favor of the Chromecast?

For me that is the feature which kills the Chromecast.

My mother's manual dexterity and mental state are degraded enough that working a smartphone is out of the question. The touchpad Apple TV remote is also too challenging.

Until this past Christmas, my girlfriend's children had no tablets of their own with which to control the television.

I want to watch something in living room but I left my phone charging in the kitchen.

The great thing about a Roku TV is that it works just like a regular TV but with a better UI. My mother could work it after a 30-second explainer -- here's your remote, there's DirectTV Now, there's Plex, press the Home button to get back here. The girlfriend, kids, and random houseguests just grab the remote and go.

Everything else the Roku can do via App / Casting is gravy and I could live without any of it. I do appreciate Private Listening tho because it works with whatever output device(s) are available to the device the app is running from -- no extra Bluetooth pairing steps and doing the Which BT device will my headphones end up connecting to when I turn them on? dance.

All this tells me is that you've never actually tried the product.

I've had a Chromecast plugged into my TV and running for probably 2 years now and for some reason it basically never gets used. Maybe it's just me, but my phone is just as likely to be charging in the kitchen as it is to be in my pocket when I want to watch something on TV. And even when I have my phone on me I've just never managed to get into the habit of using it. Also I'd rather not hand my phone to my kids or house guests every time they want to watch something.

I tried to solve this by having a dedicated Chromecast tablet, but somehow it also kept wandering off around the house.

The remote for the Playstation on the other hand is always either on the coffee table in front of the TV or lying on top of the Playstation next to the TV, so that is what gets used every time.

I'm sure the Chromecast is great for many people and I honestly thought it would be great for me when I bought it, but so far it's been a waste.

That’s true, but there are also advantages to the Chromecast phone control. Multiple people can connect to a Chromecast and queue up videos from YouTube, which can be fun for hangouts/parties.

Does the Roku literally implement the Chromecast client software, meaning any app that supports Chromecasting can cast to it? My Vizio TV, for instance, supports casting to it from YouTube apps, but not any other apps.

That said, when I decided to pick up a Chromecast device, I wasn’t aware that Roku supported it at all. I wish I would have looked into it.

It’s just YouTube and Netflix. As I posted below, they are using a different protocol. E dry streaming provider supports Roku and there are tons of private channels.

The pause and other playback control buttons on my TV remote works with the Chromecast. It somehow gets passed on through the HDMI port.

You should thank HDMI CEC [1] for that.

[1] https://support.google.com/chromecast/answer/7199917

U must be my soul buddy...

It is HDMI CEC channel (existing since 1.1) that allows the TV to control its source.


That’s a great tip! I’ll give that a try.

Google Home allows you to turn on, off the TV, pause, rewind, fast forward, and play from Youtube, Netflix, but not Plex. Also change the settings on your phone to be unlocked automatically inside your house.

Do you own a mac? I'm working on an app that'll let you control your chromecast (play/pause/volume/seek) from your mac's media keys. If you're interested, I can give you a beta in two days. Let me know :)

Try the pause button on your TV remote.

The play/pause/stop buttons on my TV work just fine with the Chromecast, and I have an old 2009 TV that was bought well before the Chromecast was a twinkle in Google’s eye.

> Amazon Fire TV is terrible.

Yet Amazon keeps raving about how they are "consumer-obsessed". It's like they don't test their own devices.

It (sadly) has nothing to do with the device, this is (again, sadly) called marketing.

If you bought a 1st Gen Firestick, those are sluggish. The FireTV square box are very snappy (I have 4 1st Gen FireTVs that are still super responsive). I also have a Chromecast and the Chromecast never gets used since the FireTVs are so good - and lets be honest, the Chromecast is much more limited feature wise.

I guess I'm not the target market for them because I don't see the point of any of these things.

I have a PS4 Pro, which provides for all my entertainment needs, including Amazon Video, Netflix, iPlayer, YouTube, and whatever else, and seems to sidestep all the annoyances and limitations. Snappy UI? Check. 4K video? Check. Frequent upgrades and ongoing support? Check. Storage, if you need it? Check.

I suppose there's a pretty large market of people who don't have current gen consoles hooked up to their TVs for whom these kinds of peripherals are more appealing.

Another case of the old internet trope "I haven't owned a TV in 10 years. Do people still watch TV?"

Its not that hard to look up the sales of consoles and imagine that not everyone has a console. Besides, most households have more than one TV. Would you suggest they buy a PS Pro for every tv in their house?

> Another case of the old internet trope "I haven't owned a TV in 10 years. Do people still watch TV?"

No, not really.

He acts as if everyone has a game console or that people should pay $300+ for a console for each of their TVs instead of buying a > $50 streaming stick.

> He acts as if everyone has a game console or that people should pay $300+ for a console for each of their TVs instead of buying a > $50 streaming stick.

Sigh. Again, no.

I guess I'm not the target market for them because I don't see the point of any of these things. I have a PS4 Pro, which provides for all my entertainment needs, including Amazon Video, Netflix, iPlayer, YouTube, and whatever else, and seems to sidestep all the annoyances and limitations. Snappy UI? Check. 4K video? Check. Frequent upgrades and ongoing support? Check. Storage, if you need it? Check.

So you “don’t see the point” of a Cheap streaming stick to stream videos over a $400 PS Pro?

What would you suggest for a cord cutter with multiple TVs - for them to spend $400 for each TV?

For perspective, for the price of PS 4 Pro for someone who only wants a streaming video solution, you can get a 55 inch 4K TCL Roku TV.

Yes there is a large market of people who don't have video game consoles hooked up to their displays.

I bought my mum a roku (she's disabled so she spends a lot of time watching TV/movies and on the Internet) and it seriously improved her life, prior to that she only had UK digital and catch up services but now with Netflix/Amazon prime and BBC iPlayer she has more high quality TV that suits her taste than she can watch.

She's also seriously addicted to Netflix's Marvel offerings which I find somewhat hilarious.

When you remove barriers surprising things happen. Being able to stream practically any genre of music with no added cost (ala spotify), watch all kinds of television through the same immediate interface (ala netflix), get decent guides into all kinds of hobbies (ala reddit) - people suddenly start branching out, because why not.

The risks are removed and the options are clearly laid bare. I feel deeply that we should look to this for how to build societal infrastructure - tax, legal, health, finance - not just entertainment.

The PS4 doesn't allow anything other than a PS4 controller to turn it on. This does not work well with my setup. Couple that with the need to logon as a user when running anny application and it makes it much less suitable for general household usage.

There are few things in my AV setup in my home that I find more infuriating than having to get out the Ps4 Controller to turn on the Ps4. I have two TVs and my devices are distributed to both of them which means I'm often fighting with HDCP being absolute garbage. Over time, I've programmed my Logitech Harmony remotes to do things in the right order and with the right timings to avoid problems. But, since the Ps4 has to be done separately, I get bit more often with that device than anything else.

> The PS4 doesn't allow anything other than a PS4 controller to turn it on.

That has changed. Both PDP Media Remotes for PS4 can turn a PS4 on. Still proprietary, but they're technically not PS4 controllers.

Reading from Amazon reviews, also the PDP PS4 IR Receiver For Logitech Harmony Remote Control Devices can turn a PS4 on. But I can't confirm this as I don't own one.

I'm going to assume it's because they lie and present themselves as legit PS4 controllers. I tried to buy the IR adapter but it was perpetually pending release and I gave up.

That is true. If I had - especially if I had - kids in the house I'd be looking at other options.

And the login requirement gets on my nerves from time to time as PSN will occasionally sign you out for no apparent reason, and of course my password isn't one that's easy to remember. (Although definitely file the latter under first world problems.)

“Snappy UI”? On the ps4?

After the recent consolidation of all the streaming video options onto a single screen, the additional clicks and loading time has basically made me envy my mom’s roku.

I have a PS4 (not pro) and I find it far less usable than Roku and Fire TV. It takes a lot longer to boot up, is much noisier, and has poor support for my Harmony remote. Even the Playstation TV app was way better on Fire TV than on PS4 (although I haven't tried it on the PS4 in over a year).

You might compare the power draw of your PS4 to alternatives. One might end up paying for itself over a couple years' time.

That's a good point. I tend to shy away from buying loads of extra devices since I have a collection of consoles old and new already hooked up but, as you say, something designed specifically for streaming might prove cheaper in the long run.

The experience with a Chromecast is very different to Amazon Fire TV and it does not provide a native set-top experience. If that's what you're after, I'd recommend trying something like the Xiaomi Mi Box which runs stock Android TV and has a cleaner, more intuitive UI than the Amazon devices.

Re: Chromecast, I found it to be buffering a lot of video. One thing that helped was buying a wired Ethernet adapter for it, and plugging it directly into my network. That made the Chromecast much more usable for me.

Why not switch to Android TV like Nvidia Shield?

And Nvidia Shield is about the only device that has the horsepower to run a native Plex server that can transcode. None of the other standalone solutions handle transcoding well.

Eh, I have the opposite opinion. The latest one (voice remote with Alexa) is pretty damn snappy, it's got all the catch up services in the UK, as well as Netflix and Amazon Prime video. I've sideloaded Kodi to stream media from my SAN and it all just works.

Sounds defective -- I've had the opposite experience. Try sending it back for a replacement, or upgrade to the latest. I've used ~7 different smart devices for my TV, and the FireTV is my favorite (I'm using the FireTV stick with the Alexa remote).

I used them on all of my TVs until they started adding ads for things other than their tv shows and movies. Now I've switch to Roku and Nvidia Shield.

Switching to Roku to avoid ads - you might be disappointed.

<shrug> To each their own I guess; it's orders of magnitude better than my TV for running Plex, which is my #1 use case.

I bought one a few years ago, specifically to root and install Kodi. It’s been working fine since.

The remote is the worst I have seen. Stops working randomly.l and drains battery.

Sounds defective. I've got 6 of them and I replace batteries once every 9-12 months or so.

> I'd love to switch to Chromecast

A Chromecast is $35...

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