Friday, September 12, 2008

How to download music or videos online. (Without RealPlayer)

How to download music/video from websites which will just not let you save their contents on your computer using the menu File->Save as...

Ever wonderer how to download a funny video you're watching online? Well there's a solution called “Real Player” but before I discovered that I always had suspecions concerning internet streams.

Last year I asked a friend to download a video on YouTube for me. His answer was shoking but interesting. He told me: “The computer boffin is out of his mind. He thinks that it's possible to download stuff off YouTube”

This answer shocked me. It revealed my ignorance concerning these streaming flash videos. Still I answered with an arrogant tone: “Sure you can, all you need is to write a little program that captures the stream”.

Here's my theoretical solution which works with Internet Explorer 6 and 7. I still have to explore Firefox – I just don't have enough freedom, bandwidth and time to write a program that automates this but it shouldn't be hard to write.
All you need is patience.

Step 1: Know your browser. IE stores temporary files in a super hidden folder which accumulates lots of junk as you make your way through the net. I presume these files accelerate things like refresh. The mysterious folder is under YOURUSERNAME\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\Temporary Internet Files\Low\Content.IE5 or YOURUSERNAME\Local Settings\temporary internet files\content.ie5
Firefox (on my compter at least) stores its cache at YOURUSERNAME\AppData\Local\Mozilla\Firefox\Profiles\ejomzlqb.default\Cache
For the sake of simplicity I'll call content.ie5 Cache

Step 2: Clear the cache. As you surf the net this folder only gets larger. It can reach a Gig or more without you noticing so I recommand clearing all temporary internet files and manually deleting all the subfolders/files in Cache before doing your thing.

Step 3: Go to the page you wanna download the video from and let the video play until it reaches the end

Step 4: Close your webbrowser immediately and search for the largest file in all of Cache's child folders. This largest file should normally be the video file which is generally encoded in FLV format. In case of music files it's often .MP3 files. So to make it play on your computer just add the appropriate extension to your file (i.e .FLV for videos, .mp3 for music) et Voila! this method works for almost anything for me be it video or audio. When it doesn't work there's a probability the file is encoded differently so just play with common media formats like .swf, .wmv, .mp4 etc... or simply open the file with something like notepad++ and check the header.

My friend's challenge was a good one! He helped me download more internet streams than I ever imagined. Fortunately Real Media released a plugin for IE users which allows them to download any FLV video. But this plugin doesn't always appear when you want it...

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