Substitute the Internet for Your TVWritten by Daniel Punch
I have fond memories of waking up early on Saturday mornings and softly tiptoeing out to family room to watch early morning cartoons when I was in elementary school. Then in high school I became more interested in action-oriented TV shows in evening. A little while later, I found that I just didn't have time to dedicate an hour or so a day to sitting and watching mindless entertainment at a given time slot, and so I no longer watched TV at all. Gone are my days of watching those humorous cartoons and ridiculous heroes every week.
I recently discovered online film scene, though, and it's fantastic. Short films, up to about 20mins in length, just posted online for all to download. Many of them are better than professionally produced, high-budget TV shows that stream so liberally to your TV box. Every one is a labor of love, so even when production values aren't high you know that someone has poured themselves into product, which brings satisfaction beyond that of watching some stale TV show now into it's 19th series and just churning out money makers.
Cartoons were my first port of call. It's been a long time since I've been awake and free early enough in morning to watch some animated entertainment (and besides that, cartoons on TV now are largely trash). A friend introduced me to my first online cartoon, enormously popular and hilarious Homestar Runner (http://www.homestarrunner.com). This site is fantastic. There are longish cartoons and games, with new ones being added every now and then, but main reason to visit and continue to return is a lovably vicious character named Strong Bad. The creators of web site answer roughly one email a week using this character that basically insults people in most hilarious ways possible. It's all quite family-friendly and is more than worth a bookmark.
More animated wonders and filmed entertainment can be found at Atom Films (http://www.atomfilms.com), which has become a free service recently. Also worth a look is Ifilm (http://www.ifilm.com) that offers lower-bandwidth streams of films for free. Be slightly wary here though as there is an uncensored section and occasionally some videos will show up on main page that aren't entirely family-friendly. These two sites showcase hundreds of short films, from animated to live action, from musical to martial arts. They host music clips and film festival winners as well as some non-professional but often still high quality work.
Media Player ShootoutWritten by James Kendall
Whether you call them media players, jukeboxes, mp3 apps, music managers, or whatever - we all need a proggy to listen to our digital music with sowe decided that it was time to publish Online Music Blog Media Player Shootout. For sake of this article I am only going to discuss players you can get for free and I am not going to go into p2p apps.
So with that, lets dive right in. For my money there are are only 3 choices - Winamp, iTunes, or Windows Media Players - but I'll talk a little about RealPlayer 10 as well. All of these applications share baseline features - playing various media files, cataloging digital media, etc. We'll focus on things about them that are different.
Back in day, we had Winamp, and it was good. Unfortunately the original Nullsoft team has all moved on and instead of hacker cred that Winamp used to have back when Justin Frankel et all were on job it is now just another corporate media player with a hazy future.
Winamp lost a lot of momentum that it had when it released a ( very ) bad Winamp3 - but with release of Winamp5 they seem to be back on track - it is useable, responsive, and has a lot of plugins and skins created for it.
The major problem is that for all of it's features it is not much, if any, better then two dominant media players that are tied to successful music stores iTunes and WMP. Additionally you have to pay $14.95 to get pro version that add features that iTunes and WMP include for free. One of bonuses of using Winamp is ability to tune into all of cool shoutcast radio stations.
iTunes is, of course, is digital jukebox front end for iPod and iTunes music store from apple computer. The iTunes music store was first to get pay for digital music downloads right and it still has largest legal downloadable catalog on net giving iTunes jukebox a hefty advantage.
If you are using a Mac then it is a no brainer - you should be using iTunes as you media player, but even if you are using Windows iTunes provides an attractive alternative. The iTunes store is superior ( imho ) to Windows Media based stores such as Napster and with legendary Apple ease of use in full effect iTunes makes a great Windows based Jukebox. Noteworthy is Apple Lossless codec that allows one to rip CD's to ACC format that sound as good as CD itself to our ears. On negative side, iTunes jukebox feels heavy on moderately powered PC's compared to Winamp or WMP. It runs a little slower, seems to use more resources, etc.