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Software Review: Miro 1.0

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As a new and developing tech market, internet TV has a varied and fairly short history. First, there was streaming video, and the quality of what you could watch depended on your connection speed. As people moved into the world of broadband internet, the quality and ability to access video online increased as well.

Then came YouTube, which popularized the idea of social interaction with video, and finally showed that streaming video was here to stay. But many of us got tired of watching video on small little pop up windows, and the idea of having high definition video that utilized fast broadband speeds to stream content over the internet came about. Now, products like AppleTV and Joost bring the best elements of on-demand television and streaming video together, creating a whole new field of contenders in the internet TV market.

While Joost remains one of the biggest players in the internet TV market, it's certainly not the only one. Miro, an open source program devoted to high quality internet TV, is one software platform that hopes to take a large piece of the internet TV pie, and Miro is doing so through a completely open and free platform that is not controlled by content providers or advertising revenue. Earlier this month, Miro finally hit the big time by releasing Miro 1.0 and added many improvements to the interface and program itself.

What this means for consumers is that, with Miro, you get a platform that is open to anyone who packages their original videos into a standard RSS feed, much in the same way you would access blogs or podcasts on a Web site. Additionally, Miro's open source credentials mean that anyone technically minded can add to the program new plug-ins and services just like Mozilla's Firefox browser. It's like YouTube for the technically minded, offering much more flexibility than the competition.

The Miro 1.0 welcome screen.

The first noticeable difference between Miro and Joost is that Miro has an interface more in line with iTunes than a media center product, giving you an easier way to navigate programs before you watch. Miro also claims to have over 2,000 channels, where Joost has around 300 channels. But let's be clear about something: the quality of Miro's "channels" varies from major media broadcasts (NBC, Adult Swim, etc.) to some guy with a web cam, so it's often more difficult to find good entertainment. However, Miro has a larger collection of "news" channels, while Joost only has a few of the major ones like CNN and CBS.

While Miro's content quality varies, it does have nearly the same stuff that Joost offers, except commercial free. And one advantage with Miro 1.0 (or disadvantage, if you have a fast connection) is that programs are downloaded automatically to your computer instead of streaming over the internet, giving more access to those with slower computers.

Downloading a program on Miro 1.0.

Miro 1.0 also takes up fewer system resources than either Veoh and Joost. For Windows, Miro requires 128 MB of RAM and Direct X 3.0 or higher running on Vista, XP or 2000 (it also has unofficial support for Windows 95 and 98). For Macintosh, Miro requires at least OS X 10.3 and Quicktime 7 to run. And of course, there is a Linux version with official packages for Fedora, Ubuntu, Gentoo, and Debian distributions of Linux.

I tested Miro running Windows Vista and had very few problems getting started with Miro 1.0; in fact, it ran much smoother than similar tests using Joost and Veoh. The graphical interface is easy to use and had a familiarity about it while still using cutting edge technology. Within minutes, I had added all of my favorite channels, and the latest episodes started downloading to my computer immediately. To save hard drive space, Miro only keeps a copy of every show you download for five days with the option to delete or permanently keep the show. If you choose to keep the show, the file is saved in a folder, and you can upload it to any device since Miro does not use DRM to lock shows to the software platform.

Miro 1.0's provided channels are easy to use

Even though Miro 1.0 provides an easy to use software platform, it's not perfect. Some of the shows, even ones promised as High Definition quality, were choppy and had digital noise problems in full screen mode. I also found that the search bar, a feature that connects to the major video providers like YouTube and Revver, did not find many common videos on these sites. And some of the videos that it found were not full videos; many were just clips of the original content, forcing users to go to the content providers Web site to view the rest of the video.

Overall, Miro 1.0 is certainly a step forward for open source video technology, and is a contender in the lucrative internet TV market. I found Miro's easy to use interface and content quality to be better than Veoh, but not quite as good as Joost. Even though Miro promises more content and open standards, Joost still has better content with a guarantee of quality. But Miro is in a great position to surpass Joost, and with newer versions, Miro may just take the number one spot as the place to be for internet TV. To download Miro 1.0 for free, go to getmiro.com.

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About Kevin Eagan