Notes from the Online Video Underground

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7 Savvy Tips for the Web Video Underground

5. Try Browser-Based Torrent Tools

If you don't want to install a full-blown torrent client (or you're on a locked-down system such as a work PC), BitLet lets you download torrents through its Java applet. The site also allows users to stream selected MP3 and OGG music files located within a torrent, and it began experiments last week to permit the same for video. Torrent Relay is a competing site that supports the PlayStation 3's Web browser.

BitLet.org
Also available are Web interface plug-ins for desktop clients like µTorrent and Vuze. These add-ons let you control downloads using any Internet-connected device with a browser, including cell phones. µTorrent even has a specially tailored iPhone Web interface available.

Another browser-based option is FireTorrent, a Firefox extension that enables integrated torrent downloads.

6. Convert Video for Your iPhone or Games Console

Apple iPhone
Give
EncodeHD a try if you need to convert (transcode) downloaded video for playback on devices other than your PC. This free, open-source utility quickly and easily transcodes your videos for perfect playback on an iPod, iPhone, BlackBerry, Zune, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Portable, or Apple TV.

Vuze also recently added its own transcoding capability, giving you one less reason to leave its comfy confines.

7. Test Whether Your ISP Throttles BitTorrent Traffic

Broadband throttling
Artwork: Chip Taylor
If you're concerned that your broadband provider is slowing your peer-to-peer traffic, try running the
Glasnost test, now partnered with Measurement Lab (a research initiative from Google and friends). You can also check the forums at BroadbandReports.com, and a wiki list of suspected torrent-shaping ISPs around the world, courtesy of Vuze. Also, Wired has a detailed wiki with suggestions to outwit your ISP. StoptheCap.com's Phillip Dampier believes that if ISPs are still "shaping" traffic, they're doing so under the radar.

So, where to from here? The living room, of course. A made-for-TV media hard drive can store terabytes of video that you've downloaded through your PC, and allow you to watch it all on your TV. Typically they have networking (wireless or wired), HDMI output, and an on-screen menu for content navigation. Media drives can also replace your PC's role in streaming your media library to other devices on your network. This media-server ability is a key difference compared with the functions of otherwise largely similar digital media streamers.

Two of the coolest streamers are the Popcorn Hour A-110 (install your own hard disk, and it can directly download BitTorrent files) and the highly hackable Apple TV. But for many video fans, choosing a streamer comes down to those endorsed by their favored content store: Apple TV has iTunes, Roku's Digital Video Player works with Amazon Video on Demand and Netflix, and so on. See "12 Ways to Bring YouTube to the Boob Tube" for more. And as you'll read there, if you own a game console or a TiVo box, you may already own a video streamer but just not know it.

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