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When Free is too Expensive

Posted by KL Tech Muse at 11:25 AM on April 19, 2011

I have been thinking lately about which is more important convenience or cost and when do these two things cross. I can almost guarantee you that if there is a paid version of something a free version is not far behind or someone has hacked it. The question is when does the amount of time and frustration you put into something becomes so great that it is better to pay for it. This can be different for different people. For people who don’t like to tinker like my husband the threshold is very low, For people who like to tinker the threshold maybe very high. If you put me on that line graph I would probably end up about 3/4 up the line toward the high end. However I do have my breaking point, which I reached yesterday.

I did a previous post on the Roku’s inability to stream media that is on the home network. In the comment section ArtStadium recommended an application called Roksbox, which is designed to allow you to stream your home media through the Roku. I was delighted to see that it was possible and went to the Roksbox Web site to set it up. My delight pretty quickly turned to frustration, when I started to go through the numerous steps to set it up. Around step 3 I gave up, when the cost in term’s of time and frustration crossed my breaking point. There was also the nagging thought in the back of my head that even if I got it too work Roku could block it at anytime through an update. I have no doubt that Roksbox works and for someone who is into hacking or tinkering it is a perfect option, it is just not for me. This is just one example where the cost of  a free app or method was too expensive at least for me. Do you have a high or low threshold in setting up a free application or method.

4 Comments

  1. From teemark at 2:50 pm on April 19, 2011

    If I compare the time cost of configuring Roksbox, or something similar, to setting up a dedicated HTPC w/Windows Media Center, XBMC, TVersity, or something similar, it’s probably about a draw. I guess I’ll know more after digging in to Roksbox.
    Getting video to the living room TV is still kind of the Wild West. No one has an easy to use, front to back solution.
    Between different hardware, different codecs, DRM, there’s just no way to get everything in one device yet.

  2. From ArtStadlin at 9:26 am on April 20, 2011

    Thank you for your impressions of Roksbox. I have limited time (because of my day job) so you just saved me from wasting my time. I had hoped it would be, well, straightforward. Oh well.

    On your main topic, time versus money, someone told me this a long time ago: “When you are young, money is in short supply. When you get old, time is in short supply.” That has been true for me personally. When I was 22 I seemed to have plenty of time to crawl under my car and change the oil. Now I just take it to a quick-lube place on my way home from work.

    A few years ago I started building a linux-based multimedia PC from scratch. It started taking too much time. (My “threshold” was crossed.) So I went out and bought a copy of Windows, and got it working almost immediately. I minded the time a lot more than I minded the money. Now, since getting the Roku, I have not even powered up that multi-media PC! It’s time to de-clutter my equipment rack (need to find time) and put stuff on CraigsList (need to find time). :-)

  3. From teemark at 10:44 am on April 20, 2011

    Ha, good point about the oil-changes. Twenty years ago I would have done it myself too, now, I’m happy to pay the extra and have someone else do it in the same time it would take me to drive to the store and buy the oil.
    I still want to dig into Roksbox. At worst it won’t work and I’ll learn a little. At best, I get streaming to my Roku.

  4. From Dr. Bill Bailey at 5:47 am on April 21, 2011

    I don’t know if it is any easier, because I haven’t tried it yet, but there is also:

    http://www.chaneru.com/

    as an option… I will let you know once I try it.

    - Dr. Bill