Watching Documentaries online

By | January 15, 2012
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In the Computers newsletter this time:
  • Watching Documentaries online
  • What on earth is bloatware?
Hello 

Between spending my time writing books, playing with Alastair and trying to decorate our spare room, I don’t find much time to watch television. But now and again Julie & I like to settle down for an evening with a cup of tea (or if I’m choosing, maybe a nice single malt…) and watch an interesting documentary. Something interesting but not too demanding on the old brain cells.

The problem is that chances are when we feel like it isn’t when there’s one on the TV. Which is why watching TV online can be handy…

Online Documentaries
Oddly enough, one of the things that’s becoming more and more popular to use a PC for is to watch TV on it. It seems a bit strange – televisions themselves do the job well enough. But things like BBC’s Iplayer website mean you can watch programmes after they’ve been broadcast for a week or so – even if you didn’t remember to record them (or just didn’t know they were on). (For overseas readers, I think Iplayer only works in the UK, but most countries have similar set-ups with their own broadcasters).

But the other day I came across a website I hadn’t seem before that I found pretty interesting. It’s http://topdocumentaryfilms.com and (as the name suggests) it lets you watch various documentaries.

They don’t actually make their own documentaries. They just give you links to various documentaries you can watch elsewhere on the web – on YouTube, Google Video, MSN Videos and so on. It’s like a sort of index of hundreds of documentaries about all sorts of things.

From films about the creation of the computer to the history of ancient Greece… from psychology to Beethoven, there are all sorts of programmes on there – and as long as you have a broadband connection, you can watch them on your PC.

You can search the website or look at what they have in each category – probably the easiest way to look through what’s there is to click on “Documentary List” at the top so it shows you them unders headings of Science, Music, History and so on.

One word of warning, though. So of the documentaries listed aren’t on the web any more. It lists them, but they’ve actually now been taken down. In particular some of the BBC are like this. So don’t get your heart too set on one of them until you check it actually does play!

One more tip: although the videos start playing in a small “screen”, there’s a button, usually at the bottom right of the video “screen”, that makes it fill your screen, so you can see more clearly.

What on earth is “Bloatware”
When people say bloatware (or Bloat-software) they’re talking about all the programs a new PC comes with. Obviously most computers come with Windows ready installed, and there might be one or two other bits and pieces that are useful. Maybe you’d pay to have Microsoft Office (Word & Excel) installed. Or the manufacturer might have put a few games on there for you… or a photo editing program.

The problem is that lots of manufacturers get carried away. There’ll be a security program (probably not activated), a trial version of Microsoft Office (whether you want it or not), half a dozen internet games, various programmes for watching DVDs (why do you need more than one?) and so on.

All well and good but chances are you’ll never use most of these – and they’re cluttering up your hard drive (and possibly also slowing down something called the registry, which keeps track of everything installed on your PC).

It’s a bit frustrating. Of course, you can sit down and uninstall it all (via control panel). The problem is lots of people feel nervous doing it, in case they get rid of something important. Even if you’re confident, it can take several hours to get rid of everything you don’t want.

You could ignore it – at least until the hard drive gets full. And for most people, that’s probably what I’d recommend.

But at least you know it’s there and it could be slightly slowing down your computer. And if you really need to, you can go into control panel and uninstall the programs you’ve never used and never want to.

(By the way, there’s more on uninstalling programs you don’t want in order to make your PC faster in “Speed Up You PC”, one of the ebooks that anyone giving my PC Inner Circle a try gets. You can read more here: http://www.pcinnercircle.co.uk/readmore )

That’s all for now – better go and finish scraping the wallpaper off in the spare room…
Tim Wakeling
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