Roku boxes get USB playback, Al Jazeera English

Roku has announced a new firmware update that allows for playback of digital media off the USB port, as well as adding Al Jazeera English as a Newscaster channel.

Roku XDS's USB port.
Roku's USB port is getting a whole lot more useful. Sarah Tew/CNET

Thanks to a new firmware update, Roku HD-XR and XDS streaming-video boxes will be able to play back digital media files off a connected USB drive. That fixes one of our major complaints about the box, which has an otherwise extensive collection of streaming-video sources. Full-file format support is explained in a post on the company's forum, including MKV, MP4, and MOV video formats.

While the addition of USB playback is a step in the right direction, it's worth pointing out that the Roku line of streaming-video boxes still doesn't officially support network media streaming, which is supported by competitors like the Apple TV, the Boxee Box and the Sony SMP-N100.

Al-Jazeera English on the Roku.
Al-Jazeera English on the Roku. Joey Kaminski/CNET

Along with USB playback, Roku has also provided a step-by-step guide for getting access to Al Jazeera English on all of its streaming boxes, which is particularly timely given the recent events in Egypt and Tunisia.

A recent post on the company's forum suggests that the Al Jazeera English channel is now available as a Newscaster channel. (The Al Jazeera English Newscaster channel has already shown up on our box, but Roku says it will take time to propagate to everyone.)

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