Top 10 computer alternatives to watching the Olympics

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Here's some news you're unlikely to have missed: the 2008 Beijing Olympics are about to start. If you're an Olympics tragic or an uber-patriotic type, then your big challenge for the next fortnight is working out how many late-night broadcasts you can watch without destroying your career, using Google to locate your favourite obscure event, and adding a few #080808 tags to your Twitter feed. But if (like me) major sporting events just aren't that interesting (or your concerns about China's human rights record are rising to the fore), here's 10 cool and useful things to do with your PC while everyone else is obsessing over the medal count.(Photo by Nagyman.)

10. Organise your DVD collection

If you're trying to avoid Olympics coverage, then you'll want to take advantage of your DVD collection — but what if it's an unseemly mess? Movie collection management tools like recent Lifehacker favourite Griffith, Ant Movie or MeD's Movie Manager can help you sort through the chaos and track down your favourite title. If you've been kicked out of the lounge room, grab one of the five best desktop media players and watch in comfort on your PC.

9. Play a lot of games of Scrabulous

Increase your vocabulary and while away the hours with Scrabulous, the massively popular Facebook word game. If you're a nervous type or don't approve of Scrabulous' undeniable knock-off nature, you can use the official version of Scrabble (but note you won't be able to challenge anyone in the US). If you prefer the Scrabulous interface or want to play with cousin Millie in Cleveland, check out how to avoid the American player block.

8. Make good use of ABC iView

Of course, the Olympics aren't on every channel, but during news broadcasts you'll be forgiven for thinking otherwise, and rival networks don't tend to throw on much of worth during this one-channel ratings bonanza. So it's the perfect time to take advantage of the ABC's iView service and watch a bunch of programs on your own schedule.

7. Check out some obscure Google applications

As a Lifehacker reader, the chances are you already use Gmail, Maps and Google Reader, but there's a wealth of other goodness bubbling in Google Labs. Check out our list of the 10 Google products you forgot all about (yes, there's a flight simulator). Also, while it's hardly obscure, you could always use Google Street View to locate every home you've ever lived in.

6. Conquer those computer annoyances

PCs are great — I absolutely can't imagine my life without one — but that doesn't mean they don't annoy the living daylights out of you on a disturbingly regular basis. Work through our Top 10 Computer Annoyances and fix those minor problems that threaten your sanity more than wall-to-wall Bruce McAvaney.

5. Try out a Linux distribution

If you've always thought the concept of Linux was cool but have never quite found the time to install it on your system, having no-one to talk to because everyone's obsessed with the Olympics might be the perfect opportunity. Favoured distributions among the Lifehacker team include Ubuntu (especially the Heron version) and gOS. Puppy Linux is also a great option for test-driving, since you can run it from a CD or USB stick.

4. Read a lot of Wikipedia

With information on every topic under the sun, you won't get bored in a hurry with some Wikipedia browsing (and if you find a mistake, you can be community-minded and correct it). If the Net connection is being hogged by people looking for extra information on their new favourite swimmer, grab an offline copy with WikiTaxi.

3. Train to do 100 pushups

While the Olympics don't quite run for six weeks, you can still get well on the path to going from being a weakling to managing 100 push-ups. (OK, this isn't strictly speaking a tech tip, but wouldn't you rather be healthy than suffering from square eyes?)

2. Learn some new keyboard shortcuts

Whether you're a Windows, Mac or Linux fan, keyboard shortcuts will make you more productive and reduce your risk of getting RSI. Start by checking the online help for your favourite applications, and learn how to make Windows always shows keyboard shortcut options in its menus. Then progress to our listing of keyboard shortcut options.

1. Find your software easter eggs

No-one else is going to be productive for the next month, so why should you? The Top 10 Software Easter Eggs will provide you with a few chuckles.

Any other items on your to-do list during Olympics mania? Let us know in the comments.


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