Sunday, 14 March 2010

Easy YouTube Video Downloader

Would you like to be able to download videos from YouTube so you can play them offline or watch them on your iPod? Would you like to be able to download music from YouTube in MP3 format so you can put it on your iPod?

Check out this latest tutorial for full instructions...

There is a brilliant Firefox extension called Easy YouTube Video Downloader which was developed by Deepesh Agarwal and is available to download from HERE

It is one of the best extensions I have found for Firefox; I use it the whole time to download stuff to watch on my iPod and a friend uses it to download MP3 versions of rare old skool dance tunes that he can only find on YouTube. The typical sort of stuff I download is hip-hop interviews or documentaries that are posted on

YouTube in parts etc. It's a great way of quickly gathering some stuff to watch if you need something to pass the time on an upcoming bus journey or waiting for an appointment etc.

This instruction guide will cover three sections:

- Installing Easy YouTube Video Downloader
- Downloading YouTube videos
- Locating and adding downloaded videos to iPod

Anyway, let's take a look at how to get it installed and set up...

- Installing Easy YouTube Video Downloader -

Clicking this link will launch the install window in Firefox:

Click the Install Now button and when it is finished you will need to click the Restart Firefox button to complete the install:

When Firefox has restarted it should* load a summary window of your currently installed extensions:

(* If this window doesn't load simply go to the Tools menu at the top of Firefox and click Add-ons to launch it)

At this point it is important to configure the location where you want your YouTube videos to download to, so that you will be able to locate the videos on your PC or Laptop once you have downloaded them. Click on the Options button to launch this window:

I will be doing a future article about organizing the files on your computer with suggestions on the best places to store your music, films, personal items etc. but for now we will just choose to create a specific folder for these downloads in My Documents. To do this click the Browse button to launch the Browse for Folder window:

Click on the + beside My Documents to show the contents, click on My Documents to highlight it and then click the Make New Folder button to create one. The new folder will be named "New Folder" by default with the text still highlighted so that you can change the name:

Type in "YouTube Downloads" as the name of this folder. If somehow you accidentally click away from the folder before you get the chance to name it, just click on the folder called "New Folder" to highlight it again, then press F2 on your keyboard to allow you to rename it. Once it is named you need to select it as your download folder:

Click the OK button to return to the Video Save Path window, click the OK button on this window also. This will bring you back to the Firefox Add-ons window; you can click X in the top right to close this window.

- Downloading YouTube Videos -

Go to YouTube and load any video. You should now see a new set of links in the description field on the right (highlighted in red in the screenshot below):

You now have the option to download the video in 4 different formats:

FLV - You will need an FLV player to play these files on your computer. If you wish to get an FLV player I recommend Riva FLV Player which is available for FREE from (click the link to go directly to the download page)

3GP - This is a video format which is popular for use on many video phones. If your phone plays 3GP files, you can drag and drop videos onto your phones memory card and view them on your phone. I will be doing a couple of tutorials about using video and other multimedia on phones so I will go into more detail about this later.

MP4 - This is the video format that is directly compatible with iPods (as it is based on the Quicktime video format which is also owned by Apple) so you can simply drag and drop these video files onto your iPod in iTunes (see below for instructions on how to do this)

MP3 - Very useful if the YouTube clip is audio only. If someone has just uploaded a song with a still image displaying in the video window, then there is no need for you to download this as a video file if there is nothing to watch. You can simply download it as an MP3; it is then compatible with whatever you use to play MP3's just the same as all other MP3's in your music library. [Note: It is important to note that the quality of the MP3 which is downloaded from YouTube is average at best. I only ever use it when I am absolutely stuck and can't find the MP3 in better quality anywhere else. For more information about the difference in quality check out this article I wrote about MP3's]

When you click any of these options they should begin to download immediately:

The file will download to the folder you have assigned (My Documents - YouTube Downloads). A quick way to access the folder is to right click on the finished download and choose "Open Containing Folder" which will bring you directly to the YouTube Downloads folder and display the contents in a seperate window:

As I mentioned previously, the audio quality will be minimal due to the fact that when you upload something to YouTube it gets compressed it down into a streaming video. The reason for doing this is because the smaller the file the less time it will take to load when accessed in YouTube. The benefit is faster loading times for YouTube videos, the drawback is the loss of quality.

Having said that, it obviously depends on the purpose of your download as to whether you will care if there is a loss in quality. If you are just looking for some video of a TV show etc. to put on your iPod and watch on a bus journey, then it really shouldn't matter a whole lot. If you are looking for a CD quality MP3 of your favourite song of all time to put on your iPod, then YouTube is definitely not the best source. Unless of course there is no other version to be found anywhere online; in that case you might settle for a lower quality version of this obviously rare song, just so that you have it in your collection.

- Locating and adding YouTube video clips to your iPod -

Open iTunes and connect your iPod. When your iPod appears in the devices section on the left hand side of iTunes, click on the iPod itself ('MBizzle's iPod' in the screenshot, not music or movies etc.) so that you can see the summary information page. On this page you MUST have the box ticked beside the option to "Manually manage music and videos". This allows you to drag and drop items directly onto the iPod without them having to be added to your iTunes library first. [Note: there will be an article on how to manage your iTunes library in the near future] 

Once this box is ticked, all you need to do now is open the folder where your YouTube downloads are stored, drag them from there and then drop them onto the iPod in iTunes.

Left-click your chosen video to highlight it, then hold the left mouse button and drag the file over to the iPod in iTunes. When you have the file held above your iPod it should highlight the iPod name in blue (see above screenshot); once it is hightlighted in this way just let go of the left button on the mouse to drop the video onto the iPod. If you have done it correctly you should see the file being added:

And that's it...if anyone has any trouble or gets stuck at any stage feel free to ask questions in the comments section and I will reply asap (and also edit this blog with the updated extra info if necessary)...


Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Rough Guide to Converting MP3's

(Links to Wikipedia and other relevant articles are included throughout. Please note also that this is a first draft of an article about what can often be a highly debated topic so tweaking, editing and revised opinions on the information contained within are to be expected...)

Highest Quality Data Source -

- The Actual CD -
The original source of the data is on the CD itself...most music nowadays is recorded digitally in .WAV format and added to the CD in this format. There is of course mastering etc. before it reaches the CD but that is another story for another day.

Lossless Formats (formats which are EQUAL to the data on the CD

- FLAC -
This is a lossless format. That means that it takes the EXACT data from the CD without losing any data. Because of this you will notice the size of the albums to be much bigger (300-500mb) which is nearer* to the size it would be on an audio CD (which can store 700mb of data).

*They are always smaller because FLAC files are kind of like Winzip for audio; they can make the files smaller (sometimes by more than 50%) but without losing any data (how this works is too complicated to explain and again is another story for another day)...


Having a album in FLAC format is equivalent to owning the actual physical CD. There is NO loss in sound quality whatsoever. Converting to MP3 from FLAC is the same as converting from the CD itself.


FLAC files will not play thru xBox, Media Player, iTunes or on an iPod. Therefore you will probably have to convert them to MP3. They will play in VLC media player, however unless you have a good sound card and a high end stereo system connected to your PC you will not be able to hear the true quality of FLAC. In other words there is no real need to have music files at this quality unless you have a system that will give playback at this quality.

- Apple Lossless -
Apple Lossless files are the Apple equivalent to FLAC. Again there is absolutely NO loss of quality compared to the original source data on the CD.

This format WILL play in Apple iTunes or on an iPod.

UPDATE: It is now possible to stream Apple Lossless files to your xBox360 using a piece of software called Orb. The digital output on the xBox360 allows you to connect to your sound system and play theses files in true lossless.

Again, unless you have a high end system connected to your laptop you wont notice a difference. If you just play music thru standard speakers on a mid-price range laptop for example, you wouldn't notice any difference between an MP3 and a Lossless file. In fact the MP3 would be a better option because it would take up much less room on your laptop.

The other con about the Lossless format is that the playback on iPods themselves is not actually that great. I don't know about the highest priced iPods but the iPod Nano playback is definitely not good enough to hear the true quality of a Lossless file. The headphones aren't good enough either. So basically if you fill your iPod Nano with Lossless files you won't be able to store half as many albums as you could in MP3 and not only that but you won't be able to hear any difference in the quality compared to a decent MP3 version anyway.

Lossy Formats...

- MP3s -
First of all a little about MP3's. An MP3 is basically a compressed version of an original sound file. However, unlike the Lossless format of FLAC, MP3 uses Lossy Compression. The purpose of compressing it is to make it smaller in size and therefore more portable and economical.

For example, if you were in a recording studio recording a song, you would record it onto the studio PC as a .WAV file. By doing this you are basically recording the sounds that are being fed into the microphones exactly as they are. Again it is important to understand that an MP3 is a compressed version of a raw sound file such as .WAV

If the song was 3 mins long, the .WAV file you record to the hard drive might be about 70mb in size (this is just an example figure, it would depend on how much instrumentation you are recording etc.)

As you probably know, a 3 minute MP3 file would probably only be about 2-5mb (depending on the quality of the MP3 bitrate which we will talk about in a moment). 2-5mb is obviously a lot more practical for MP3 players etc. because you could fit about 200 MP3s on a 1GB MP3 player compared to about 15 .WAV's on the same size player.

So how do you compress a 70mb sound file down into a 3mb sound file?

There is only one way and that is to DISCARD some of the information. Now that doesn't mean that the MP3 format of the song will have no drum track or no guitar solo in the middle LOL. In reality the majority of these are high and low end frequencies that are out of range to the human ear so you won't even notice unless you have super human hearing.

However...there are many different types of MP3 quality that you WOULD be able to notice the difference with:

Bit Rates

- MP3 @ 64kbps -
This is about the lowest rate you can create an MP3 at. It is acceptable for human speech only (a podcast or an audio book etc) but for music it is absolutely fucking AWFUL. It will sound like the song has no EQ and the better the system you play it on the more you will notice how tinny and hissy and shitty it sounds.

- MP3 @ 128kpbs -
This is ok for shitty laptop speakers and MP3 players but on a decent system it will sound sub par. You would definitely notice if you played the same music from the original CD on the same system.

- MP3 @ 192kbps -
This is what I would consider an acceptable MP3. It is listed as "CD Quality" on a lot of converters (iTunes etc.) and to be honest it is acceptable to most people with average hearing and average sound player equipment. If you are just a casual music listener and you don't concentrate on things like the EQ of a snare drum or the clarity of bass etc. then this is usually sufficient. MP3s at this bitrate are usually a nice small size and perfect for people who want quantity rather than quality of music on their systems. Again tho like I said, this quality is quite acceptable and calling it otherwise is just snobbery :)

- MP3 @ 256kbps -
This is getting closer to the quality of a FLAC or LOSSLESS file. At this bit rate, very little information is discarded. 256 kbps MP3's will be a bit bigger compared to the 192 kbps versions for this very reason.

- MP3 @ 320kbps -
This is the closest you can get to the quality of a FLAC file but in MP3 format. Only the most non-essential information is discarded when converting into MP3 and therefore the file retains as much of the original information as possible. As a result, these will be the biggest sized MP3 files.

*** To let you judge for yourself, I will take a FLAC music file soon and convert it into each of these formats, then I will post a link to every version including the original FLAC so that you can download and listen to each one to see if you can notice any difference on whatever your system of choice is.

And now just to make things MORE confusing:

There are two different methods for converting a file into MP3: CBR or VBR. There is a third called ABR but I'm going to leave that one out for the moment.

CBR is CONSTANT BIT RATE. This means that if you convert to MP3 at 320kbps CBR then the MP3 will be 320kbps for the ENTIRE song. Every second of the song will be at 320kbps.

Now here is the thing...does every single second of the song NEED to be at 320kbps? Some parts of it might definitely need to be, and some songs in their entirity might need to be. But if for example there is silence in the song, how could you possibly notice the difference between silence at 320kbps or silence at 192kbps. You are listening to SILENCE!!

So whereas 320kbps is definitely the ideal bit rate for an MP3, the fact is that not every song (e.g. songs with minimal instrumentation and sound) needs to be at 320kbps. As I mentioned before, the 320kbps MP3 files are the largest in size, but if the song doesn't need to 320kbps for every single second of the song, then you could be creating an MP3 which is larger in size than it needs to be. The sound quality will be perfect of course, but like I said it may make the file larger than it needs to be. Unless you do need to listen to silence @ 320kbps of course...

VBR is VARIABLE BIT RATE. This is self explanatory; the bit rate varies based on the how much it can be compressed without compromising data.

There are 9 different quality settings for VBR:

-V 9 - POOR - Estimated Bit Rate: 70kbps
-V 8 - POOR - Estimated Bit Rate: 80kbps
-V 7 - POOR - Estimated Bit Rate: 100kbps
-V 6 - POOR - Estimated Bit Rate: 120kbps
-V 5 - POOR - Estimated Bit Rate: 130kbps
-V 4 - MEDIUM - Estimated Bit Rate: 100kbps
-V 3 - MEDIUM - Estimated Bit Rate: 170kbps
-V 2 - STANDARD - Estimated Bit Rate: 190kbps
-V 1 - HIGH - Estimated Bit Rate: 220kbps
-V 0 - EXTREME - Estimated Bit Rate: 240kbps

-V 0 would be the ideal setting to get the best possible quality MP3 but at a smaller size than a 320 CBR. In other words, if it NEEDS to be 320kbps then it will be but if it can be less then it will be.


Converting "The Long & Winding Road" from FLAC to MP3
[FLAC filesize is 19.3 MB]

1. FLAC to MP3 using 320kbps CBR

Result: The MP3 file is 8.16 MB in size with a bit rate of 320kbps

2. FLAC to MP3 using -V 0 VBR

Result: The MP3 file is 5.44 MB in size with a bit rate of 213kbps

So as you can see, you could rip the track at 320kbps if you want absolutely consistent high quality, but the song only needs to be at 213kbps and as a result it is about 3MB smaller. Also, it is HIGHLY UNLIKELY that you would be able to hear any difference in the two versions with 90% of music systems and 90% of human ears.

How do I convert my MP3's?
So my own personal preference is to either download albums in FLAC format or convert them to FLAC from my own CD collection and then convert them to MP3 in -V 0 VBR format. This means my MP3 collection has probably the best balance between having the highest possible quality of sound with the smallest possible size of MP3 (without compromising quality to achieve that small size)

However, the majority of my MP3 collection (20,000+ songs) is NOT at this quality and won't be until I like the album enough and listen to it enough to go and get a better quality version. A lot of my collection is reference material or things I listen to purely to check out a certain genre of music and maybe learn something from. The stuff that I listen to a lot is all I am interested in hearing at this level of quality because I know the music so well that I would hear the difference on a decent system*

*I store my MP3's on a laptop which is wirelessly connected to the XBox360 using Windows Media Player Sharing. The xBox is connected to a Logitech 5.1 surround system using a fibre optical digital cable (TOSLINK). You NEED to be using this sort of equipment and cabling to be able to hear the quality of higher bit rate MP3's, if you are using a standard AUX audio cable (left and right red/white cables) then you won't hear the difference in quality (maybe between a 64kbps and a 220kbps or something extreme like that).


As long as the MP3 is at LEAST 192kbps it will sound fine on pretty much any system.

For lower quality systems you could probably even go as low as 128kbps but NO LOWER with music.

If you have a good sound system and want your MP3's to be as close to the quality of sound that you would get on a CD then you should convert either the CD itself of the FLAC version into MP3 using -V 0 VBR. You could also use 320kbps CBR but as I mentioned before you will have larger sized MP3 files when they might not need to be. (Note: The best program to use for converting to MP3 is dBpoweramp)

If you want to make a virtual backup of your CD collection then you should convert them to FLAC format and store them on an external hard drive. That way, if anything should happen to your CD collection in the future, you will have EXACT virtual replicas of them on your hard drive and you can then use this as your root source for converting to MP3. Because of the huge size of FLAC files, I would only use them in this scenario. If I am just looking for one album online then I will download it in FLAC format, convert it to MP3 and then delete the original FLAC version to save space on the laptop hard drive. The reason I download it in FLAC format instead of just looking for the MP3 version is because most MP3 versions are ripped badly using poor converters. There is an online group called DarksideRG which have strict quality standards for ripping so if I saw an album with DarksideRG in the filename or details I would trust it but the majority of everything else out there is sub standard.

There are a couple of other things related to creating and maintaining your MP3 library which I will post articles about soon:

ID3 Meta Data - The information embedded into the MP3 (Song Name, Track Number, Artist etc.) that displays in your media player of digital screen on your MP3 player.

C2 Error Correction - To avoid hissing and popping transfer and to rip scratched CD's.

Useful Links
Hydrogen Audio - The be all and end all of audio info - The meeting place for audiophiles
What the hell is an "audiophile"?
7 Facts Audiophiles Need to Know About Digital Music
The World's 15 Sexiest Speakers Put Your Girlfriend to Shame
ABR (left out of article)
How MP3 works


Google Reader

I created a profile for my Google account because I have so many different Google related sites (Blogger, YouTube etc.) and things tied into each other that I thought I might as well have a main page to link from...more for myself than anything really but I did want to share my Google Reader page which is how I ended up getting to the create profile page...

...I've be banging on about Google Reader to a few people lately and if your wondering what all the fuss is then I will explain it in a nutshell...

There's about 20 different sites that I visit daily. Instead of having to visit each one individually Google Reader lets me view them all on a single page in this format:

All the sites I subscribe to are listed on the left hand side and then when I click each one I get a list of every new story published on that site since I last clicked in here and read the articles.

The layout of just the title of the article and the first 3-4 lines of the story is so handy because you can just scroll down quickly through all the articles and when you click on the one you want to read it opens the article in a new window on it's actual website page. So for example although there might be 300 new articles in The Telegraph today I might only want to read 10-20 of them so instead of going to their website and searching through the site for articles of interest, I can just scroll straight down through them in Reader and click what I want. Or add a "Star" to the article and then go to my Starred Items section at the top right later on and read a personal pick of the days news.

BTW, to "Subscribe" to a website you just have to look for this RSS logo listed somewhere on that site:

Click on that and you will get asked which RSS Reader you would like to add it this case it's the Google Reader...

I would recommend this to anyone with a google email address but if you are too lazy to set it up then here are links to my shared reader pages:

Click "View All" to open them in their Google Reader window

And that's about it really...I gotta hand it to them because I'm loving all the integration possible with the Google stuff (enough to rave about it here when I'm not on their payroll) when you share something on your shared page it will post it to Twitter also, or when you upload a pic in Twitter it will show on your Google profile etc.

Another of my personal favourites is having my Firefox homepage set to iGoogle:

So when I open Firefox the homepages lets me Google Chat with my friends on the left, I have the weather for Waterford, a search box for Wikipedia, a currency converter and the days headlines from a couple of sites...beautiful eh?

I'll save the talk about Google Wave for another day but if your on it you can add if you like tho to be completely honest I don't have any particular use for it at the moment so I have no idea what we will do together on it that we couldn't do on normal Google Chat...


FoxyProxy & iPlayer

FoxyProxy is a Firefox extension which allows you to connect to websites via a Proxy Server.

This tutorial will show you how to download and install FoxyProxy and then configure it to access online TV iPlayers outside of the country they are broadcast from...

Installing FoxyProxy

First of all you will need to have Firefox installed. If you don't already have it; get it HERE

Next you will need to install FoxyProxy. If you are already familiar with Firefox Extensions then click HERE to download it or else you can follow these instructions on how to locate a new extension and install it:

Click on the Tools menu at the top of your Firefox browser window and select Add-ons:

In the Add-ons window click on the Get Add-ons button at the top of the window and then type FoxyProxy into the 'Search All Add-ons' field and hit the Enter key on your keyboard:

Click the Add to Firefox button on the right which will open the following window:

Click the Install Now button to return to the previous window:

Click the Restart Firefox button to complete the install.

Configuring Foxy Proxy

Once Firefox has restarted go back to the Tools menu and this time highlight FoxyProxy Standard then click Options on the menu to the right:

This will load the FoxyProxy Standard Options window:

Click the Add New Proxy button on the right to open this window:

There are 3 tabs at the top of this window, choose the General Tab first and give your Proxy a name (e.g. iPlayer):

Once you've done this click the Proxy Details tab to return and enter the IP adress and Port details:

In order to obtain the IP and Port details you will need to search online for Free UK Proxy IP's (or whatever country the iPlayer you are trying to access is located in). An example site is

Click on one of the detailed list links (e.g. detailed list #4)

Here you will see a list of available Proxy IP Addresses and Port Numbers. The ones that work best are the ones with the Port listed as 3128 and the HTTPS listed as "true"

Note the disclaimer at the top: This paper is intended for informational purpose only. We are not responsible for the the Use and/or potential effects of these advisories. Read this at your own risk or not at all.

The same disclaimer applies to this tutorial (i.e. informational purposes only and the use of proxy servers for illegal activities is not recommended or advisable).

Once you have obtained the proxy details you can then enter them into the Proxy Details tab:

Enter the IP, the Port number and make sure SOCKS v5 is selected underneath.

Now at this point you have two options: you can set FoxyProxy to only work when you visit certain websites or you can set it to work for ALL websites you visit in Firefox.

If you choose the first option then you will need to add the URL's of each of the iPlayers/websites that you will need FoxyProxy to access. Every other site will connect as normal without FoxyProxy. This is useful because if the Proxy IP you have entered stops allowing connections then you will still be able to access all your other websites as normal without disabling FoxyProxy.

The alternative is that you can just turn FoxyProxy on for all websites when you wish to use an iPlayer and then turn it off again when you are finished. To do this you just need to click OK on the window shown above and you will receive the following message:

Just click OK on this and then Close on the following window to return to Firefox.

Now, to turn on Foxyproxy with your new iPlayer settings just go to the Tools menu again, highlight FoxyProxy Standard and then select "Use Proxy iPlayer for all URLs"

To turn it off again simply go back to the same menu and choose "Completely Disable FoxyProxy"

You can also turn it on and off from your Status Bar at the bottom of Firefox (click the View menu bar at the top of Firefox and make sure "Status Bar" is ticked if you can't see it at the bottom of Firefox). At the bottom right of Firefox you should see "FoxyProxy: Disabled" in red text. Right click on this and you will see the same menu that you can access via the Tools menu bar.