YouTube and other online video sites have become something of an international phenomenon. According to ComScore, a data service for Internet usage, 75 percent of all Internet users watch an average of nearly three hours of YouTubevideo a month, and the amount of time spent there is growing fast.

What the viewers see is not just amateur videos, which is how YouTube first got attention, but an extremely wide range of material that includes educational videos from Princeton and other well-known universities, sporting events from many countries, and movies and shorts that have moved out of copyright protection. In a recent development, a few producers of new TV shows have chosen to put them out on the Internet, rather than broadcast or cable. We’ll see more of this because the air time is free. Lion at YouTube

The largest new video source is America Online (AOL). It recently started offering a huge selection of 20 million videos from around the world. Yes, that’s “million.” Most are short, of course. Among the most-watched recently is a video of lions fighting over a kill with a crocodile at Kruger National Park in South Africa.

All of these can be viewed on a computer screen, but that means being tethered to wherever that computer is. Using a $400 box from Netgear, we moved out of the office and into the living room.

The required box is the Digital Entertainer HD EVA 8000, and after an initial struggle trying to follow Netgear’s setup instructions, we dumped those in the wastebasket and called tech support. We skipped the part where we were supposed to connect our stereo system to the Entertainer box by coaxial cable, which was not supplied. That was to give us surround sound. Forget it.

It helped that we had a wireless router connected to the Internet. The wireless router broadcasts what’s coming in from the Internet, the Netgear box receives it and the TV displays it. If your router isn’t wireless, you need a cable that stretches from the router in your office to the TV in your living room.EVA 8000

There’s a huge world of free entertainment and education out there. We saw rats that glowed in the dark (is this useful?) because jellyfish DNA had been spliced into theirs, an old movie short starring Robert Benchley (Bob’s all-time favorite humorist) and then watched a mock interview with California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Siphoning the Internet into your TV is just part of the adventure here because the Netgear box comes with software that lets you connect to

BitTorrent is a Web site for peer-to-peer file sharing, the kind of Internet service that sends shudders up and down the music and movie industries. It has 150 million users, and the content is not illegal, except once in a while.

It has thousands of movies and games, and the “Torrent” part of the name tells you these can be delivered to your computer very fast. In practice, that means the download is fast, but decompressing it takes awhile. We started BitTorrent by downloading Danny Kaye’s hilarious movie “The Inspector General,” based on a comedy by 19th-century Ukrainian playwright Nikolai Gogol. The decompression took a couple of hours.

A movie download takes up a lot of hard drive space. “The Inspector General” took up 1.3 gigabytes, and that would be typical. A small hard drive would be filled up pretty fast, but fortunately, most of the hard drives on new computers have close to 100 gigabytes or more of storage. The Inspector General

Another way to deal with the space problem would be to offload the movies onto a DVD. You could also save directly to DVD instead of the hard drive if you make that the destination drive before you start the download.

You can download TV shows as well as movies and games from BitTorrent. Current movies and shows are usually not free and have to be downloaded as rentals. Most games have a trial version.

The Netgear EVA8000 box keeps track of what you’ve watched and lets you bookmark favorites for the entertainment of your guests. Dozens of video categories have been pre-selected and are in the box, so to speak. When you do searches by topic — a name or a subject — the box saves the searches, and they can be brought back by selecting a keyword. This is a great feature. And if you like one video, you can look at others uploaded to YouTube by the same user.

You can also use the Entertainer to display photos on your TV or videos previously stored on your PC, play Internet radio, or give you the latest news reports by RSS (really simple syndication) feed.

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