Technology Enters a New Sphere: Orb

If you’re like every power-wasting college student, you leave your computer on all day just so you can see what your friends write about your clever away message. The peo?ple at Orb Networks want to put your idling computer to better use. By installing the free Orb software, you can turn a Windows XP equipped box into a broadband streaming media center whose content can be accessed via any de?vice with a Web browser. That’s right, I said any device. Have a Nintendo Wii, PSP, laptop, computer at work, smartphone or PDA? Orb will stream mu?sic, movies, live TV and photos via your device’s Web browser. If you’re streaming to another com?puter, music or video will play in any supported play?er (Windows Media Player, Winamp, Quicktime, Real Player) in addition to Orb’s flash player. The genius is that Orb is browser-based, so any gadget with Internet access can access media on their home PC. To access your media, simply log on to http//:www.mycast.orb.com. There you’ll meet a straightforward and intuitive screen displaying your various media types. Click on one of the channels, and you are brought to an iTunes-esque screen organizing your me?dia. Browse through this method, or if you’re old-school like me, use the Windows Explorer-like file browser to sort through your files. In MyCasting, you can rank media by favorites, create your own playlists, and share media with other users. The Orb experience varies on how fast your Internet connection is and how much time you put into setting up an account. If you build your channels (e.g. videos, music) and create a personalized start page, you’ll be getting the full experience. However, if you’re lazy like me, you want this program for one specific purpose-streaming media- and don’t want to bother organizing or customizing anything. Luck?ily, Orb does this very well, despite its sluggish beta in?terface and overabundance of features. For example, it’s relatively easy to build a cool party mix on your home office computer, fire up your Nintendo Wii Internet brows?er, and blast your playlist over your living room speak?ers. As long as clunky, low quality video doesn’t bother you, be warned that video playback is bandwidth inten?sive and unsuitable for wireless connections. Orb is still in beta, which means there are both annoying updates and inventive new fea?tures, like the ability to watch live TV via a TV-tuner card. As the software developers hone their product and learn how to market it, Orb will become both a killer program and a community. Right now, Orb is certainly easy enough for a novice computer user to utilize and fills a lot of technology niches. Figure out how you can use Orb’s free software at http//:www.orb.com.