Don't Like RealPlayer? You've Got Options
Tuesday, March 25, 2008; 4:19 AM
I fell into the RealPlayer quagmire minutes after I sent some friends a link to thesandhill crane webcam. They were kvetching because the webcam uses RealPlayer to stream the media--and no one wanted to install the bloated, ad-encumbered program.
I don't blame them. Except for when some loopy editor asks me a question about RealPlayer, I keep it off my system.
I'm not the only one with this attitude. Tom Spring, one of our news guys, recently reported that anti-spyware groupStopBadwarehas RealPlayer in its sights. Read "RealPlayer Gets Slapped with 'Badware' Label" for details.
Instead of bothering with the official version of RealPlayer, I have an alternative--a special version that doesn't have adware or other annoyances.
Here's the skinny: You can safely download a special version of RealPlayer, one that hasn't a bit of adware, never nags you, and doesn't litter your system with icons. It's not stripped down, either; it's just missing all those annoyances.
You can get this version of RealPlayer from a perfectly legit source: the BBC. What's cool is that few people know thatthis version is different.
The unofficial story, according to one source, is that the BBC's charter prevents it from "showering their viewers with craptastic ads for random American companies," so to get the BBC to Webcast in RealPlayer format, RealNetworks had to produce an ad-free player. Whether that story is true or not, the RealPlayer that the BBC Radio site offers is the real thing, just without the adware. Go to the BBC site todownload the player; you'll eventually land on a Real.com page, but you'll be downloading the BBC version.
Want to scan across 360 degrees of landscape from the top of Mount Everest? Head forPanoramas.dkand you'll be above the cloud cover. Move your mouse side to side (or up and down) while holding down the left mouse button--and hold onto your seat. For more dizzying panoramas, zip over to thehome page. [Thanks, Sandra C.]
Want more eye candy? Can do.Charmed Labshas a gizmo that uses a standard digital camera to capture astonishingly high-resolution images. No, I mean very hi-rez. As you zoom in on an image, you'll find yourself astonished by the details. Trythis image; after it loads, click on one of the thumbnails at the bottom of the screen. There are plenty more to see on theGigipansite. Have patience, though: All of these images take forever to load, even with lots of bandwidth. [Thanks, Guido.]
I want to be sure your installation of the BBC RealPlayer is neat and clean, so here's my step-by-step:
That's it--RealPlayer's loaded and you're good to go.
Run, I say, run quickly, becauseThe 6 Cutest Animals That Can Still Destroy Youare on the loose. It's fascinating stuff, for sure, but the language in the narrative is occasionally a little crass (yet funny).
Thinking of buying a newFord Mustang? You might want to get a horse instead.
So even the BBC version of RealPlayer isn't good enough for you? No worries (and no whining); I have another option for you.
Michael M., from Dripping Springs, Texas, reminded me aboutReal Alternative, which comes with Media Player Classic. Both of the apps are free and have no known adware or spyware. In combination, they play all of the Real media files; the package includes plug-ins for Internet Explorer, Opera, Netscape, and Mozilla, so you can play music and videos right off the Web.
While you're here, you might as well think about grabbing the freeQuickTime Alternativeas well. With it installed, you won't need to have Apple's bloated QuickTime player, either.
Some of you have to spend time on the phone. When things get boring, fire upZe Frank's kaleidoscopeand cook up some colorful and dazzling patterns.
Snowball Fightis a cute and addictive Shockwave game. I got to level three. Use the cursor to position the red players and release the button to throw. Don't worry, the file the site's asking you to download is a safe plug-in. I know, you've already got Flash and Shockwave, so I haven't a clue why it's necessary.
Steve Bass writes PC World's monthly "Hassle-Free PC" column and is the author of "PC Annoyances, 2nd Edition: How to Fix the Most Annoying Things About Your Personal Computer,"available from O'Reilly. He also writes PC World's dailyTips & Tweaks blog.Sign upto have Steve's newsletter e-mailed to you each week. Comments or questions? Send Stevee-mail.