In response to a recent Hassle-Free PC about YouTube, a reader wrote me to ask about YouTube buffering. Specifically, he was wondering why YouTube sometimes starts and stops playback rather than buffering the entire video (or most of it, anyway) and then playing it.
Good question! YouTube? What do you have to say for yourself?
Nothing. I see. Well, the fact is that YouTube isn't the only video site that does a mediocre job of buffering. Even if there's network congestion or a slow connection, most video sites start playback immediately, which can result in those annoying pauses.
The solution? A free utility called SpeedBit Video Accelerator, which is expressly designed to make streaming video play without buffering interruptions.
SpeedBit relies on something called multi-connection technology to establish faster video downloads on sites ranging from AOL to Yahoo, with more than 160 others in between. (Alas, Hulu and Netflix aren't among them--though I think those two are much better at buffering.)
The free version works this magic on "normal" and "HQ" videos (those streaming at up to 200 kbps). If you want the same acceleration for "HD" videos (200Kbps and higher), you'll need to shell out $20--per year--for the Premium version.
That strikes me as a little steep, but hopefully the free version will get the job done. In my tests, SpeedBit worked as advertised, particularly when my connection was congested with other things like file downloads and VoIP phone calls.
See Image Previews in Craigslist Listings
I love Craigslist, but does the service have to be so user-unfriendly? I mean, would it kill Craig (or whoever's in charge these days) to offer some kind of image preview in the listings? As it stands, you have to click through every single item to see whatever photos lie beneath.
To paraphrase a popular slogan, there's a Firefox add-on for that. CLIP (aka CraigsList Image Prefetcher) adds thumbnail image previews to all Craigslist listings and search results. Even better, CLIP adds previews of the listings themselves. Just mouse over the little arrow to the right of any item and the underlying ad text appears in a pop-up box. That should save you a lot of unnecessary clicking.
While you're at it, be sure to check out CL Genie, a free service that sends you an e-mail whenever a new Craigslist listing matches your search term(s).
Solve Internet Explorer 8 Crashes
A reader wrote me about a problem he's having a problem with Internet Explorer 8:
"Whenever I try to access mail.yahoo.com, the page shows up and immediately IE 8 crashes. It happens with most [other] Web sites, too."
Browser crashes can be tough to troubleshoot--especially when you don't provide information about your PC, operating system, and so on. (ahem). That's something everyone should remember when asking for help with system problems: the more details you can provide, the better.
You did mention that these crashes don't happen in Firefox, meaning you already know the smart short-term workaround for any browser problem: try another browser.
Anyway, you've got two likely culprits here: a corrupted add-on or a bad Flash plug-in. I suspect the latter, so let's start with that.
You'll need to uninstall the Flash Player plug-in and its ActiveX component, which you can do with a small utility from Adobe. Reboot after you've run the utility.
Next, close Internet Explorer and reset it to its default settings (which will also remove any problematic add-ons). Now, click Start, type Internet Options, and then press Enter. Click the Advanced tab, then click the Reset button at the bottom of the window. (o not select the box marked "Delete personal settings." Click Reset to complete the process. (Note: This process works for Vista and Windows 7.)
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: email@example.com . You can also sign up to have the Hassle-Free PC newsletter e-mailed to you each week.