Terrific Media Tools: Boxee and GrooveSelect

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Last week I gave you some great YouTube tips--and you all seemed to like them quite a bit. Let's take a look at another media-related tool this week: Boxee, a free download that streams video content from Hulu, Netflix, and TV networks. I've also run across a fun little program that lets you play any song you want, instantly.

Revive a Tuner-Challenged Media Center PC

A couple months ago, my cable provider, Comcast, pulled the plug on all analog broadcasts. Consequently, the TV tuners in several of my media-center PCs (which I use in various rooms of the house) were rendered useless.

Several companies have promised CableCARD adapters for PCs, but for now they're still vaporware. So how am I supposed to watch TV on my effectively neutered system?

Simple: I'm taking the tuner out of the equation. Boxee is a free alternative to my beloved Windows Media Center, one that's designed expressly for streaming video content from the likes of Hulu, Netflix, and various TV networks.

In other words, it's like an on-demand video server. What's more, it's designed with couch potatoes in mind, offering a gorgeous 10-foot interface you can control via mouse, remote, or even app.

Boxee does more than just stream TV shows. It lets you play the photos, videos, and music stored on your PC, set up and view RSS feeds, browse a huge library of "apps" (which are basically Web channels like Funny or Die, MTV, and Pandora), and connect with your favorite social-media sites to share what you're watching.

I won't say I love everything about Boxee's interface--learning to navigate takes a little practice--but I'm glad I can still watch most of my favorite shows even though Comcast won't let me (not with an analog tuner, anyway).

Boxee Bookmarklet Queues Videos for Later Viewing

If you use Boxee, you've gotta use the Boxee bookmarklet. Like all bookmarklets, this one resides in your browser's bookmark toolbar. When, during the course of your day-to-day surfing, you encounter a TV show or video clip you want to watch later, just click Boxee's Watch Later bookmarklet.

Presto! In a matter of seconds, the video gets added to your Boxee queue, where it's easy to find and start watching.

The bookmarklet works with dozens of sites, from Adult Swim to Comedy Central to Howcast to YouTube.

Play Any Song in an Instant

The Boxee bookmarklet got me thinking about other bookmarklets I love. The first one that popped into my head: GrooveSelect.

Suppose a Facebook friend mentions a cool new song he just heard, but doesn't provide a link to it. (Courtesy, people!) No problem: just highlight the name of the song, then click the GrooveSelect bookmarklet.

In a minute or two, the song will start playing right in your browser--no software, plug-ins, or sign-ups required. You can even continue browsing, though if you close or leave the current tab, the song will get interrupted.

As you may have guessed from the name, GrooveSelect pulls from the way-cool Grooveshark service. It's the ultimate answer to those times when you see the name of a song and think, "I sure would like to listen to that."

If that song appears as text in your browser (preferably with the artist's name alongside it), just highlight and click. How awesome is that?

If you've got a hassle that needs solving, send it my way. I can't promise a response, but I'll definitely read every e-mail I get--and do my best to address at least some of them in the PCWorld Hassle-Free PC blog . My 411: hasslefree@pcworld.com . You can also sign up to have the Hassle-Free PC newsletter e-mailed to you each week .

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