Browse online media: Miro

Note: This review was updated July 25, 2007.

“The only video player you need.” That is the tagline for this week’s Freeware Frenzy program: Miro. Formerly known as Democracy Player, Miro has been renamed and is nearly ready for a full version 1.0 release. Billed as your window to the online media scene, Miro plays and collects nearly any media you throw at it. Let’s take a closer look at v.0.9.8.1.  

During the install process, choose if you want Miro to handle your various files, and it includes the gamut of torrents, avi, mpg, mp3, qt, asf, wmv, ogg, flash, xvid and more. By default it only handles Miro files. I thought it was refreshing to see a program that did not force itself on you and your computer. Then simply pick a location, agree to the license and you will be on your way.

It will take a moment to fire up at first and you’ll need to complete the setup wizard. I disagreed with step one, recommending I run Miro at startup. The reasoning is sound, background downloads, but I prefer to keep my boot times short with minimal startup applications. Next, Miro will search your drive for video files to add to your collection. You can either let it search on its own or tell it a specific folder to check. Allowing Miro to search my system took only a few seconds, but found all of my videos. Then the wizard will end and Miro is ready to use. It again took a few moments to load, but considering the media richness of the program, that is probably normal.

Miro has a slick black appearance, somewhat reminiscent of Windows Media Player 11. You’ll see the Channel Guide in the center, with links to the most popular content, and categories for browsing below. Along the left are some default subscription channels, and where you will add further favorites.

The idea behind Miro and its integration with the various streaming video sites such as YouTube as well as ‘vodcasts’ like Rocketboom is that you can simply use your computer as a TV. Not a traditional television of course, but a TV for all of the various online content you’ll find in cyberspace. However, Miro uses a very interesting method to accomplish this goal. Rather than streaming videos from the provider, à la YouTube.com, Miro will download the content to your local machine in its entirety. Only when the download is finished can you watch the content. You can see now why background downloading is suggested. By default Miro will trash your videos five days later to make room for new content. Miro supposes that you will setup your favorite channels to download each night so you can watch them the next day.

To this end, Miro will accommodate you very well. The main issue I had was that most online content is terrible. Let’s face it, with a few notable exceptions for news casts from ABC, NBC, BBC, and the occasionally guilty pleasure (Ask a Ninja); most videos will not be worth your time. That being said, you can find a few gems if you hunt through the channels, there are indeed over 1000 to peruse. The best advice I can give is to have an open mind and take some time to try new things, who knows what you might like.

Miro’s ability to play dozens of media types, as well as its subscriptions to so much online content make it a very worthy addition to any media-phile’s collection of programs. You can also use Miro to download Bit Torrent files, eliminating the need for a separate client. The Preferences menu is simple but effective. Customize update frequency, playback, disk space, storage time and torrenting options. While I’m not completely sold on the “only video player you need” idea, Miro is worth a look at www.getmiro.com  

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