This is an easy pitch: imagine having an over-the-internet DVR (Tivo) on your computer for free.

This is Miro (formerly known as the Democracy Player), which combines an RSS aggregator, a Bit Torrent client and a robust media player — that’s three sweet programs in one. When they all operate together, it’s like having a bunch of little men inside your computer who do all sorts of work for you. Yes, believe it or not, even TV-watching can be made easier. Oh yeah, I almost forgot — there’s no commercials either.

For me, Miro is like iTunes, but for video. All the organizing, playing and downloading (perhaps pirating) are all in one place.

 

 

Miro will basically download a superb copy of your favorite video content (sometimes even in HD), every time it gets released. When you watch the show, it automatically expires a few days later clearing space for more shows. If you fall a few episodes behind, they’ll be waiting there for you. Or, if you miss a whole season (studying abroad) and find yourself with a bunch of free time on your hands (Christmas break), you can install a show and download all of the episodes as you like.

 

 

I’ll stick with my “rule of threes” and do the setup for one show in three steps. Repeat it with all of your favorite stuff. In fact, if you want to practice this with a podcast feed instead of a TV one, you can use the one for the splendid podcast linked here, but the following will walk you through the process for a typical cable/network television show.

 

  1. Start by Installing Miro.

     

    It’s free, open source and it works with platforms I didn’t even know existed.

    First-thing after it’s installed and running, you’ll want to remove all the clutter in the sidebar. Select all of the “channels” that come pre-installed in Miro, and it’ll give you an option in the big window to delete them all in one fell swoop. Some of the feeds are neat though, so give them a peek.

    Next, you need to setup your scratch disc — where all of the video files will be stored. A single half-hour episode will typically run you about 350MB, so take that into consideration. Go to Miro > Preferences… and under the Downloads tab, is the option to setup your downloads destination. Like iTunes, Miro will keep everything organized for you by creating separate folders for each show.

  2. Go to TVrss and find your show’s feed — though, feeds can be found elsewhere.

     

    Now comes the questionable part. You have to install RSS feeds that syndicate downloads of your TV shows. This usually involves piracy. Ideally, someday, the networks will man-up and make feeds of their TV shows regularly available — in which case you can still follow this tutorial, obtaining the feed from a legal resource.

    Until then, this method is about as legal as recording a show on VHS, but a whole hell of a lot easier. This ain’t your typical torrenting experience. No abrasive pictures promising singles in your area and no silhouettes in the audience standing up in the way of a camera smuggled into a theater. It’s clean, simple and the quality is pristine.

    At TVrss, click “Shows” and browse the index for your desired title. Clicking on the show (do it) will bring up all of the feeds — but we want to limit it to just one Distribution Group. So, in the pull down menu in the search box, select a group. I suggest VTV since they tend to update their feeds faster. Click search.

    Now, we need to get a link for this feed on to the clipboard for transport over to Miro. The URL will be linked to “Search-based RSS Feed”, which you need to copy — so either follow the link and copy it out of the location bar, right-click and select Copy Link Location or pull up the properties and write down all 6,000 characters. This is your ticket to a show’s season pass.

  3. Create a new “Channel” in Miro that refers to your new feed.

     

    First off, the jargon here is a little botched. A “Channel” in Miro is not like a television channel. So, by adding a channel, you aren’t adding everything Fox or CBS puts out, just one “feed” of one program. This works with any feed URL, including a podcast feed. They just call it a “Channel” instead.

    Hit Command N or go: Channels > Add Channel…. A window pops up and Oh my goodness Miro, has clairvoyant powers! — your clipboard-ed link will automatically appear in the field. Paste it in anyway, to be sure, and click Ok.

    Just to keep it all organized, you can change the name of the feed in the side bar by control clicking and selecting Rename Channel.

 

As awesome as that is, Miro still does more, so don’t stop there. The mysterious built-in media player is actually VLC (which Kelly covered thoroughly), if you’re running Windows. For Mac users, it’s still quite robust: Quicktime. So, you can play almost all of your video content right from here. To reduce confusion, I don’t even have another torrenting program. I just drag and drop any other torrent instructions (other movies and videos) into Miro — it’ll download the file without adding a feed or anything — and deposit the final thing into the same organized media folder where my TV shows go.

For Mac users, here’s a quickie hack to make that a bit easier. Open a Finder window and go to: View > Customize Toolbar… — with this open, you can now drag any program shortcut into your Finder toolbar. If you do that with Miro, it stays nice and available while you’re browsing for the .torrent or video files, and it only takes a mini drag to pull it up in Miro.

Get the feed for the HackCollege Podcast right here. Add it as a Channel in Miro! It’s a torrent feed, for fast and automated downloads.