(YouTube by Orcon over Christmas equals no traffic)

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Orcon users get a bonus over Christmas – until January 31 2010, traffic from YouTube will not count against your data usage, so viewing YouTube is essentially free.

As YouTube has improved its offerings significantly over the past year, it is worth making the most of this opportunity – it now has a considerable amount of HD and HQ video that is definitely worth watching, and since these files tend to be quite large, now is a good time to make the most of Orcon’s offer.

Here are a few suggestions.

“The Hunt for Gollum” is a 40 minute film that is essentially an unofficial prequel to “The Lord of the Ring” trilogy. This film was made with the help of hundreds of volunteers and a shooting budget of US$5000; in this context it is remarkable. It has the same look as the Peter Jackson trilogy, achieved at a small fraction of the cost, and although the scale is obviously much smaller, some of the visuals are just as stunning.

“Home” is an impressive production by Yann Arthus-Bertrand, financed by a French company, PPR. The film consists of aerial videography of many landscapes and scenes, accompanied by a narrative. There is some confusion over the copyright status of the film,  but it is either covered by a permissive Creative Commons license or has no copyright at all (essentially, Public Domain). This means it is legal to download and distribute copies. The film runs for 90 minutes, and is available in HD, (at 1.36GB) so now is a great time to view this video.

For those interested in science and technology documentaries, Jim Oliver points out that Nova has its own channel on YouTube, with 167 videos listed. That should keep you busy over Christmas.

The very excellent TED Talks are also available on YouTube. 564 videos are listed, and I can say from experience that almost all of these are well worth watching.

NASA has a significant presence through their YouTube channel at which has HD video of launches and landings, as well as a weekly round up of activities at NASA’s facilities. Recent videos worth watching are the STS129 launch – as well as the usual HD video there is a compilation of video from monitoring cameras that is normally never seen – this gives a very interesting perspective of the launch.

Revision3 is a publisher of tech-related video content. Regular shows in HD are available on a range of topics ranging from technically informative to comedy comment on current events or Internet memes. Tekzilla is a well produced and often informative weekly and daily program that covers computer, mobile and home entertainment hardware and software. Also worth watching if you have an interest in image editing is Bert Monroy’s regular program Pixel Perfect. The Revision3 YouTube channel is a bit disorganised and a little hard to navigate but is a good place to start. Be warned that some of the so-called “comedy” or “humour” shows may conform to American definitions of humour and aren’t always at all funny or even SFW.

Followers of popular culture and Internet memes might enjoy the YouTube Live concert held late 2008. The event included a wide range of artists and personalities (including “Will it Blend” with Chad Vader; the Mythbusters; funtwo playing a duet with Joe Satriani; and Beardyman, to name a few). Links to some of the highlights are at and the full 2 hour concert also available.

Although YouTube is really based around the streaming experience and Google would prefer that you didn’t download content, it may be appropriate to use a download manager or browser plugin to download videos that you may want to view more than once. YouTube seems to be able to disable this kind of functionality from time to time, but currently Orbit Downloader works well, is very fast and integrates well into IE.

Be aware that YouTube also has alternative interfaces. There is one for large format displays, such as HTPCs and TVs, at where a less cluttered version of YouTube is available. This version displays the bare essentials, which means that comments are not visible (a big plus, I’d say that the demographic that generally comments on YouTube would have an IQ lower than their shoe size) but unfortunately it also removes one of the most useful features of the YouTube interface, which is the Related Videos panel – a great way of discovering similar content.

A low-latency version of YouTube (“Feather”) is available at This is a beta version at present, has some features missing, and may not work for all videos. You have to specifically enable this functionality at the link above. Reports are that where this does work, it reduces system resource use and improves video playback on low end hardware.

Now, all you’ll need are a few rainy days over Christmas, and you’ll be set. If you have any favourite YouTube content or suggestions, leave a comment. We’ll end with the current “cute” meme of the week, “Surprised Kitty”


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