Entirely a propos of nothing I’ve decided to share with you some insights about a piece of software I’ve come to appreciate. It’s called Vuze, which means: ‘To be bloody fantastic’. Or at least, that’s what I assume.
The thing is, Vuze manages to do 4 things I really like, that I used to have to do with separate software and that I figured very few other people did. Not so, apparently. What is does is this:
Vuze lets you download torrents (1) with its easy to use built-in search engine (2) and then convert your download into whatever it needs to be (3) so you can play it in iTunes or, if you like, via your Xbox 360 or other mediaplayer. It’s also a media server for Xbox 360 on OSX (4), which is nice because you don’t have that option there. (In Windows, that is a feature of Mediaplayer.)
Why would you NEED that, you may ask. Though I think you don’t because you’ll have ended up here because of Google and they’re very good, you probably weren’t looking for desert recipes. Still, let us image you DID ask. Just for the hell of it.
Say you’ve seen a promo for a show you’re interested in. Something like, oh I dunno, ‘Only in America’ featuring Larry the Cable Guy. And you’d like to see that show in your living room.
1. Search for it (with Vuze). You’ll probably find a few episodes.
2. Click on them and Vuze will begin downloading. It’s a perfectly competent torrent-client, I shouldn’t be surprised if you managed to download an episode in fifteen minutes or so. This depends on the number of other people sharing though, so older stuff will take longer or may not be available.
3. Optional: drag the downloaded file to the converter (in Vuze). Say you have an Apple TV 2. They’re nice and quite inexpensive, for a mediaplayer. Vuze will convert the file (takes 10 minutes on my iMac, your results may vary) and copies the file into your iTunes directory.
4. Go downstairs, watch the show. If you have a media player that’ll play from any kind of network share you’d have skipped step 3.
My wife and I do this often. I’ll usually have a number of shows ready (we like House, Dexter, Eureka, stuff like that) that we watch whenever we feel like it, NOT whenever it pleases the TV-station to start the show. Also: no adbreaks!
Vuze even does a fifth thing: it can download torrents that come in via an RSS-feed. Via the excellent TVTorrents.com website I have arranged for an RSS-feed that features all the latest episodes of shows I like (The Daily Show, the Colbert Report, The Big Bang Theory, etc.) and Vuze monitors that feed. As soon as a new show appears, it will download it.
Granted, I’ll still have to drag it to the converter if I want to watch it via the Apple TV but I DON’T need to do that if I want to watch it via my Western Digital TV Live, a little box that connects to my network and will play all types of media files it can find on any network share it can access.
If I want to use my Xbox 360 to watch video (which CAN’T access network shares but also doesn’t need iTunes, it needs a media server and it’s quite picky about filetypes so it may need a converted file too) Vuze has got my back too: it will play the role of a media server for devices that need them. Small drawback there: it will only play files that are in its own media library. You can’t just point it to a folder on your harddisk. I dislike software that wants me to build libraries, but I forgive Vuze for that. Anyway, just drag a file to Vuze and it’s IN the library, no biggie.
So yeah, I have an Apple TV 2 in the living room (one in the bedroom, too), a WDTV Live in my office and an Xbox in my… bathroom. No, really. I have. I watch TV in the bathtub, do you have a problem with that? Good.
So, how much does Vuze cost? Well, nothing! I did, in fact, donate a few bucks because Vuze saves me so much hassle. It has changed the way I watch TV. I watch less now than I ever did before, but I don’t waste any time watching ads or having to wait for a new episode of my favorite show. (I’ll usually begin watching whenever an entire series is available and download that. Let others watch the crap that never gets past episode 3, I say.)
Converting files is just a matter of drag and drop. You merely need to indicate the type of device you’ll play the file on (anything from an Xbox to an iPhone) and Vuze will pick the best settings. It probably won’t handle everything you throw at it, but downloads for popular stuff tend to be in mainstream formats anyway.
You can also manage Vuze via a web-interface. Now I like my TV-shows, but not to the extent that I’ll want to manage my download cue from my iPhone when I’m on the road, thanksverymuch.
Here’s a list of the software I don’t need anymore because of Vuze:
1. Torrent client. (I still have uTorrent though, as it allows me to pick separate files or episodes from a torrent)
2. Connect360, a commercial (and very good) media server for the Mac, for those who use their Xbox 360 to watch video
3. iSquint, the software I used to convert video to iTunes. That was free, but it has been discontinued.
I find it’s much easier to find torrents via Vuze than via Google or a specialised site. (Though the Pirate Bay is quite good, ofcourse.) Vuze will search those sites FOR you.
Vuze is available for Windows and Mac. Downloading torrents of copyrighted files may be illegal in your country, but so most likely is waterboarding or bribing politicians and nobody minds that either. If you like Vuze, give them a few bucks for their trouble OR get the full version which also allows you to burn the files to DVD (meh… what’s so hard about that? Still, if you haven’t got something like Nero that’s a nice option to have), provides antivirus software (nice, but you’re probably already covered, right?) AND acts as a media streamer. By that they mean Vuze can start to play files that haven’t fully downloaded yet. Seems like a nice idea, but when did torrents ever download in chronological order? Also, Vuze Plus has no ads. Thing is, I don’t MIND ads. They barely even register. Vuze Plus charges $25 annually which is hardly big money but I don’t like subscription software. Still, not a bad price if you were also looking for affordable antivirus software.
So there ya go. That’s Vuze. I like it. A lot. So they’ll probably go bankrupt tomorrow…