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March 02, 2005

Review: Videora

With the thousands of people who publish video from around the world using BitTorrent and RSS, wouldn't be nice if there was an application as simple to use as Tivo for monitoring and downloading shows? Videora, developed by Sajeeth Cherian, a university student at Carleton University, is just such an application, and he did a great job simplifying the complex process of finding and downloading video content.

Think of Videora as a Tivo for BitTorrent. The interface allows you to set up a simple search for finding video content and the software will automatically scan various RSS channels for new items and record any matches. Each search can fall into two categories: the Want List or Season Tickets. Want List items will find new content that are available, but will wait for you to tell it before downloading. The Season Ticket items on the other hand will not only find new content but automatically download the content as well.

Videora's appeal is its simplicity, and after installing it for the first time, you might look around the application wondering where all the menus, dialogs, and other user interface components are. The answer is that Sajeeth only added what is needed by most people, and the product shines because of it. The user interface is simple and elegant.

In just a few minutes, I created a Season Ticket to record each week's episode of Lost in HDTV quality. By the morning after each new episode is aired, my computer (attached to a DSL connection) had downloaded the episode and it was ready for viewing. The software did all the heavy lifting of sorting through RSS feeds, finding a good match given the criteria I gave it, and telling my BitTorrent client, Azureus, to download the appropriate file.

Installing Videora is a simple process, requiring very little in the way of setup. To get BitTorrent working, you may need to change your firewall to open up the appropriate ports, but I found the installation and user guide very straightforward. Videora comes bundled with BitComet for downloading shows, but it works with many different BitTorrent clients that you may prefer including BitComet, Azureus, ABC, and Shareza.

Videora works best, as does BitTorrent, on video content that is popular. The more people who want or already have the content, the faster the download becomes. Videora uses a database of titles called the Open Videora Server to help categorize video content, but it will have a difficult time finding esoteric shows that few people know. Since RSS sends out information on new content that has been published, it doesn't do a good job searching for older content that doesn't come across the RSS wire.

Leaving behind the legalities of BitTorrent and downloading television shows, I can see this product appealing to people who don't have access to cable television, who want shows unavailable in their area (eg someone living in Country X wanting a show from Country Y), or who want better quality recordings (e.g. HDTV) than currently are available with their service provider.

Besides the overall legality of downloading shows via Videora, my only knock on Videora is the free trial, which has several features removed. As with other products, I think a better hook for potential users is a full version that works long enough to get users excited before the faucet gets turned off and you're expected to pay. At $22.95, it's a good value and a fair price for the software.

Videora is an innovative product that shows the potential for this sort of technology. Time, and likely a lot of litigation, will tell if BitTorrent will be a valid technology for getting television content, but if it survives the MPAA assault, Videora is a good place for new users to start.

Posted on March 02, 2005

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Comments

You can also do this with Azureus and the RSS Importer plugin, maybe with not such a nice interface.

But this software is free.

Posted by: Paul Westbrook at March 2, 2005 05:10 PM

Paul,

I agree with you for the most part. Videora has a backend database that is supposed to help categorize titles into different categories like genre, but in the way I used it to download a specific show from a specific location, using RSS Importer would have been just as effective in the long run.

Posted by: Will at March 4, 2005 11:50 AM

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