The definitive guide to watching the Olympics onlineThe folks who are bringing you the Olympics online don't actually want you to watch their coverage. NBC and Microsoft are delaying the most popular events by three hours so that it won't interfere with more profitable TV broadcasts. And you'll have to download Microsoft's Silverlight browser plug-in to watch in your browser. But a bird's nest of geography and time-delay restrictions worthy of China's Communist Party government is in place. Thankfully, the anarchy of the Web offers plenty of options for having a crowd of curious coworkers surround your computer as you watch live handball, with varying degrees of expense and difficulty. Rather than being the coming-out party for Silverlight Microsoft hopes for, it may instead be the year sports fans learn a few new online-video tricks.Online schedules: NBC's Olympics listings takes a bit of work (you have to enter your ZIP code and select a television provider, even if you just want online listings). However, once you've done the work, it'll send you notifications when events you've selected will be broadcast. Jason Kottke has found Google and iCal calendars, which will allow you a bit more flexibility in setting up alerts, and the New York Times has a schedule as well. And of course, there's an official schedule from the organizers in China, with times listed for Beijing's time zone (16 hours ahead of San Francisco, 13 hours ahead of New York) — probably the best place to go for daily updates, as smog and weather may upset the schedule. Sling Media's Slingbox: For those with more money than time, the best solution might be a Slingbox. Then you can beam your home satellite or cable signal over the Internet to your laptop, desktop, or iPhone, and remotely switch between NBC and MSNBC. Pros: You can get great quality, even HD, if your home Internet connection is fast. There is SlingPlayer software available for a range of not just operating systems but handheld devices as well. Cons: Prices start at $129.99 and your selection of Olympics coverage is limited to what's available from your satellite or cable provider, which means missing early heats and niche events and having to put up with tape delays by the networks. International proxies: It is possible to watch live streams from other countries, such as BBC Sports from the UK or CBC Sports from Canada, by configuring your browser to run through an anonymous proxy. I recommend using Mozilla's Firefox browser with the FoxyProxy add-on installed. Xroxy has a handy list of proxies which you can sort by country to find proxies in the UK or Canada — which must be anonymous, and preferrably running the SOCKS protocol. Your best bet is to get a geeky British or Canadian friend to install a proxy on their machine for you and your Yankee friends. The latency can be frustrating, but once you get a stream started it will work fine. Pros: Quality streams from legitimate providers, and if you're accustomed to jingoistic U.S. coverage, the charming accents from the Beeb's announcers and the humble mien of the Canadians can be quite refreshing. Cons: Takes some technical know-how to set up, and proxies come and go. You might miss an event because you're too busy fiddling with your settings or a proxy fails when too many people sign on. Video on demand: If you're running Windows Vista, you can download events using TVTonic for "Olympics on the Go." Torrent client Azureus works on any system to help download events after the fact, especially the most popular ones like tennis, football, boxing and basketball — Torrentz cross-site search of multiple BitTorrent indexes should make it easy to find the Spain versus China women's basketball game you might miss tomorrow. YouTube's official channel is blocked — even using international proxies — though a reader came up with a crack that works for now. Other less thoroughly policed online video sites like Veoh, Metacafe, Dailymotion and Megavideo will also have videos. Pros: Torrents will be high quality and work for anyone, while video-sharing sites will be easiest to use. Cons: Nothing will be live, obviously, and no one knows how long video clips will remain on sharing sites. P2P Streams: The way I'll be watching online will is through MyP2P, a site that catalogs live sports and television streams from around the Web, listed by event. It helps to run Windows, though not necessarily Vista, because many streams require software downloads — check out MyP2P's beginners guide for tips, including where to find software downloads and optimization settings. I ended up finding live BBC coverage of the opening ceremonies via Justin.tv, which ran just fine in my browser. If you can't find the channel you want in the media format you prefer, check wwiTV, TV For Us, TV Channels Free, Channel Chooser or BeelineTV among others. Pros: Free and fairly easy once you've installed most of the media players listed by MyP2P. And it's fun to watch coverage from other countries — I'll be watching all my football with spanish-speaking announcers whenever possible. Cons: Quality is hit-or-miss, stream links come and go, and you have to think ahead in terms of scheduling to make sure you've got all the necessary programs installed. Also, Mac users will want to install Windows XP through Parallels or Fusion for the widest selection of channels.