The World, On Demand

Just as a shoemaker’s kids go barefoot and doctors makes the worst patients, us techy types are often the last ones to use newer technologies. How else to justify my delayed entrance into the wonderful world of podcasting and BitTorrents? My lame rationalization is that I wanted to be sure they got all the bugs out first; it’s not like you can call 1-800-BIT-TORRENT for help.

Both these technologies are simply different flavours of the same thing: getting the file you want and experiencing it when you want. Podcasting is mostly for audio files (although video podcasts are available) and BitTorrent is for video files such as films and TV shows. Podcasting is fairly easy, hence its popularity. You simply download the MP3 file you want to your portable player, and listen to it.

Using BitTorrent is a bit trickier, because it involves changing hardware settings and using several different types of software. Most people do not have the technical expertise to do this, thank God, because if they did, the Internet would slow to a crawl. But as the difficulty decreases and bandwidth increases, expect to see more people using this technology. In fact, software such as Vuze, an “all-in-one” BitTorrent searcher, downloader, decompresser, and viewer makes finding and viewing torrents easier than ever.

In essence, we’re seeing video availability catching up to information availability. Currently, you can locate information (text and graphics) on pretty much any subject. It is the golden age of information accessibility and variety.

Once it becomes as easy to find and view a desired program as it is to find desired information, the old broadcast model in which you have to wait for a program and watch it on the network’s schedule will disappear.

Now, personal and DVD recorders have helped, but they still can’t deliver shows that you forgot to record in the first place, or were not even aware of but might be interested in. YouTube and other websites offer streaming video on demand, but the picture quality is poor – for now, that is. Funny thing about the future – it’s hard to predict, and it never ceases to arrive and amaze.

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