Tag: internet

Entries for tag "internet", ordered from most recent. Entry count: 2.

Warning! Some information on this page is older than 6 years now. I keep it for reference, but it probably doesn't reflect my current knowledge and beliefs.

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# There are Too Many Messaging Apps

Apr 2017

I can remember time when Internet was still young and the basic mean of communication was e-mail. Real-time chat was possible through IRC protocol. Later, changes came with the appearance of Instant Messaging (IM) apps, from which ICQ was probably the first. There were many of them, all having similar, basic functionality - list of contacts, seeing their status (available, away, offline) and chat. Gadu-Gadu (renamed later to GG) was local one very popular in Poland, but others were also in use, like AOL, MSN, Jabber.

Over time clients for those networks became bloated with more or less useful features, fancy skins and emoticons, and of course lots of ads - which all consumed additional RAM and CPU time, not to mention just being annoying. Then, something wonderful happened - alternative clients started to appear. Whether based on open protocols (like Jabber) or reverse-engineering others, these multi-communicators were often lightweight, supported alternative platforms (like Pidgin working on Linux) and integrated support for many protocols in a single app, with single list of contacts and unified user interface. My favorite one was Konnekt and later AQQ.

New era started probably with Skype, which for most of us was an introduction to new features like audio- and videochat. Next generation communication apps became more complex, provide more useful features, but at the same time they are even more resource-heavy and (in case of smartphones) drain battery. For some reasons they have no alternative clients (probably because their protocols are more complex, proprietary, and encrypted). And there are many of them. So here I am today, having multiple messaging apps installed on my smartphone. I do most of chatting with my friends via Facebook Messenger these days, but some of them prefer other program, so I ocasionally use also: Skype, Telegram, WhatsApp, Signal, Slack, Google Talk and Hangouts, plus of course the old good phone calls, SMS, and e-mail. What a mess!

At the same time I can see they all start to converge. They look similar as it becomes more and more clear what's the optimal user interface for such app. Features added to some of them quickly appear in others, like end-to-end encryption or (most recently) commenting others' messages with a smiley. So I think the future is once again to have a single messaging app. I only hope it will be just a GUI supporting multiple protocols, and not one of those "Big Brother" corporations (who already know everything about as) dominating all the messaging, just like Gmail dominated market of e-mail servers and readers.

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# How to download videos from YouTube and other sites in Full HD (1080p)?

Feb 2017

If you, just like me, don't like to rely on data stored in the "cloud" (i.e. someone else's computer) and prefer to have it available offline on your hard drive, you probably tried to find a way to download video and music from YouTube and other similar services. There are web pages for that, but they are full of ads, malware and fake "Download" buttons. That's why my favorite way is to use youtube-dl. It works perfectly, is constantly updated and maintained, is open source and supports downloading from almost 1000 (!) different websites, including YouTube, Vimeo, Facebook videos, Soundcloud, Mixcloud and even XXX websites. The only drawback: it's a command line program, so you have to download it and then run it from console with correct parameters. But it's actually quite simple, as you can see below. (If you want to see a simpler, window-based solution, go to the end of this post.)

To use it, first go to the youtube-dl website and download "Windows executable". It's a single file - youtube-dl.exe, which doesn't need any installation. Just put it in some directory on your hard disk, like I did in F:\Programs.

Next, browse to YouTube or other website, find the video you want to download and copy its URL (link) from address bar to the clipboard. Example: "https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9bZkp7q19f0".

Finally, open command prompt. In Windows 10 you can do it e.g. by opening Start menu and searching for "Command Prompt". In the console, issue following commands:

The video is downloaded to the same directory where you've put the program. Its file name contains title of the video, its YouTube identifier and correct extension, depending on particular video format. For example, mine was: "PSY - GANGNAM STYLE() M_V-9bZkp7q19f0.mp4".

That's all basically, but please keep reading if you want to avoid unpleasant suprises, because there are still two important things to know.

First is that sometimes downloading doesn't work. It happens probably because YouTube changes the way the video is served on their website, like the details of their HTML code. Fortunately youtube-dl is quickly adjusted to it, so if you encounter any download error, you probably just need to update the program to the latest version. You don't even need to go to their website - the program has a feature to update itself. All you need to do is to issue command:

youtube-dl.exe -U


Second problem is that youtube-dl only downloads YouTube videos in HD (720p) quality, not Full HD (1080p). That's because YouTube provides Full HD video and audio streams separately so they need to be merged on the client side. Good news is that youtube-dl can do it for you. Bad news: it needs additional program for that, called FFmpeg. So to be able to download videos in FullHD quality, you should additionally:

Now, to download Full HD video, issue following console commands:

Now youtube-dl will download the video stream, audio stream and merge them into final file using FFmpeg, so you can enjoy best quality video and audio, downloaded on your hard drive.

Update: There is also a simpler, window-based solution: DLNow Video Downloader. It's a commercial program with 30-day free trial that is actually a GUI overlay on top of youtube-dl, ffmpeg, and rtmpdump. I recommend it, because it supports all these video websites and is very easy to use. I think that charging $19 is fair, comparing to all the other programs that claim to be "free" while they install some adware or show you ads. This one doesn't.

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