NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article, December 2010
More Free Online TV but be Careful with This One!
By Ira Wilsker, APCUG Director;
Columnist, The Examiner, Beaumont, TX; Radio & TV Show Host
(click to email author)


In recent months, I have written several columns about some of the free utilities that can be used to play live TV and radio on the computer. All of the previous software products that I wrote about worked, and very few users reported any significant problems with them. One regular reader of this column has been emailing me telling me about a "fantastic" (his description) free TV utility that did not just simply offer many of the same thousands of live TV and radio stations that the others offered, but this one also offered some premium satellite and cable channels for free. We exchanged several emails as I researched the software he praised, and I started to be a little disturbed about what I found out about it. Now the author just released a new version on November 12, so I decided to try it and report back to my reader about what I found. This column is that report.

The software that this reader has been begging me to try is ChrisTV Online! Free version 5.10, available for download from online.chris-tv.com/download.html. There is also a "Premium" version that sells for $30 that has additional features. Both versions claim " ... access to more than 1800 TV channels and 600 radio stations from all over the globe (more than 100 countries)." Written in Romania by Cristian Ciplea, this software has a large following, but during the installation of the 5 MB download, I started to get suspicious about the program.

After downloading the free version of the program and agreeing to the terms of service, I was greeted by a window asking for my permission to install "RelevantKnowledge" on my computer. Cognizant that most users simply click "Agree" and move on, I decided to read the fine print before clicking on "Agree" and found that RelevantKnowledge was a program that some security websites referred to as spyware or malware, because according to one source (http://www.bleepingcomputer.com/uninstall/1054/RelevantKnowledge.html), "RelevantKnowledge is a MarketScore variant that monitors browsing habits and sends unsolicited advertisements. RelevantKnowledge is bundled in many freeware utilities." On its own website, relevantknowledge.com is self described as, " ... part of an online market research community with over 2 million members worldwide.

RelevantKnowledge relies on its members to gain valuable insight into Internet trends and behavior. In exchange for participating in periodic surveys on topics of interest to the Internet community, and for having their Internet browsing and purchasing activity monitored, RelevantKnowledge sponsors select software that its members can enjoy for free." Not wanting my surfing habits monitored, I refused to agree to have RelevantKnowledge installed on my computer, and went to the next step of the installation process. It is notable that older versions of ChrisTV Online! Free may have included several other utilities considered by others to be spyware, but besides the RelevantKnowledge mentioned above, this version 5.10 seemed to be clean of malware.

Next, I was given the option of having Chris TV install a browser toolbar on my computer, and have my default search engine changed to the one affiliated with Chris TV. I refused the toolbar and search engine, and went to the next step, which finished installing ChrisTV Online! Free. Once installed, after rejecting its toolbar, search engine, and RelevantKnowledge monitoring service, that program appeared to function as advertised. In order to receive all 1800+ TV channels, the user must have Windows Media Player, RealPlayer (or a RealPlayer alternative), Flash, and SOPfilter installed, all of which are available as free downloads linked from online.chris-tv.com/download.html.

Opening Chris TV Online!, I noticed that stations can be sorted and displayed by genre', including category (business, children's, news, etc.), station type (TV stations, radio stations webcams, video on demand), language, and alphabetically by station name. Being ethnocentric, I decided to explore the 395 U.S. based TV channels listed. The U.S. channels include network news (such as ABC news), local access channels from all over the country, home based streaming TV from several geeks and nerds, college TV stations (Brigham Young, Texas A&M, Cal Poly Pomona, George Mason, and many others), CSPAN (1, 2, and 3), CBN (Christian Broadcasting Network), city TV stations (San Diego, Rockville, Daytona Beach, Fairfax, among others), several local FOX TV and dozens of independent TV stations, shopping networks, live webcams from several cities (including Waikiki Beach), traffic cameras, religious stations, and a wide assortment of other streaming TV. If these 395 U.S. channels are not enough, over 1400 other channels are available from around the world. While all of the channels are not streaming 24/7, making them unavailable at certain times, there is always a wide selection available. I especially like the international live web cams which show real-time scenes from around the world including traffic, street scenes, beaches, resorts, harbors, airports, government buildings, and religious sites. Religious sites streaming live include the Kotel (Wailing Wall) in Jerusalem, and the Vatican. One annoyance is that every few minutes a popup which obscures part of the screen appears and advertises the Premium edition, touting that it can also record any of the streaming media displayed; clicking on the red dot in the upper-left corner of the popup will close the popup, only to have it reappear a few minutes later.

The ChrisTV Online! Free 5.10 performed as advertised, and worked fairly well, provided the proper media software was installed. For anyone considering this product, who is also willing to put up with the irritating periodic popup advertising the Premium version, and the attempt to install questionable software on the computer, Chris TV Online! FREE would be a good choice. I emphatically recommend that users do not install RelevantKnowledge or the toolbar, without which the product works fine, except for the Premium version popup ads.

There is a companion free product, ChrisPC JTV Player, which allows the user to " Watch up to 500 Live Justin.tv channels." These justin.tv channels (now offering 2019 channels) are mostly home produced channels displaying live video games, locally produced music, webcams, barnyard scenes (really!), sky scenes, bird cages, aquariums, and other varied independent content. While the free ChrisPC JTV Player works fine, I have one grave concern about some of the Justin.tv channels which it can display. Several of the channels appear to be illegally pirated feeds of live commercial network programming, a practice I strongly condemn. It appears that some video thieves are capturing live satellite or cable feeds, and illegally rebroadcasting them over the internet, a blatantly illegal and inappropriate action I will not condone. For this explicit reason, I cannot recommend ChrisPC JTV Player and its Justin.tv connection, and strongly deplore readers not to download this product.

While the Chris software itself seems to work fine, I do not trust any software publisher that tries to get its users to install questionable third-party software products, or enables the users to engage in potentially illegal activities, such as the viewing of pirated copyrighted video products. This is really not so different from the illegal music, video, and software websites and services that provide pirated intellectual property, which has in some cases has resulted in civil penalties against the users. For these reasons, I suggest that users absolutely avoid the ChrisPC JTV Player, and be very suspicious about the ChrisTV Online! Free version 5.10. There are several other competitive and free legitimate products that do not pose such risks, and I suggest that users stick to those and not these Chris products. Caveat Emptor!

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