Recording YouTube videos using YOUTUBE-DL for free

November 18, 2020

imageRecently the RIAA made a big stink about an open source tool called “YOUTUBE-DL” which provides people with a free means of downloading YouTube videos.

Google has gone through great lengths to prevent people from downloading videos from YouTube, going so far as to lock out apps posted in the Google App Store that recorded YouTube videos.

Personally, I’d never even heard of this app.  I only learned about it when the RIAA filed their cease & desist notice to GitHub, the service where the app and it’s codebase are hosted.  So imagine my delight when I found the tool (reposted to GitHub after GitHub concluded that the request had no merit) and discovered it works BEAUTIFULLY.

HOW DO YOU USE IT?

First of all, it’s a command line tool, so if you’re not comfortable with using the command line (CMD.EXE)then you probably won’t want to use this.  On the other hand, it might be an opportunity to learn, right?

The main page for YOUTUBE-DL is:
https://github.com/ytdl-org/youtube-dl

Here you’ll find all the details however for the Cliff’s Notes on how to get started:

DOWNLOADING YOUTUBE-DL

  • If you’re using Windows you can download the Windows app here:
    https://yt-dl.org/latest/youtube-dl.exe
      • Note: Your browser will likely try to prevent you from downloading the raw executable because downloading .EXE files is usually not a safe thing.  In this case, it’s fine and millions of people use this tool.  You can sidestep any warnings in downloading the .EXE.  How you do that will depend on what browser you use.
  • Move the .EXE to somewhere in your path to make it easy to call from a command prompt.  I moved it to C:\Users\[username]\AppData\Local\Microsoft\WindowsApps

USING YOUTUBE-DL

  • Open a CMD.EXE prompt.
  • Change to the directory you want to save the video/MP4 file to.
  • Type youtube-dl [URL]
    Ex: youtube-dl https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x-Db_AFKCzM
      • The program will pull in the video, identify the title, and save the video as [titlename].mp4 in the directory you’re in
      • The video quality will be the best available by default. If you wish to get a lower quality, see Options.

OPTIONS FOR YOUTUBE-DL
There are hundreds of advanced options available that can be applied at run time.  Here’s a few interesting ones:

  • Bypass geographic restrictions
    Ex: youtube-dl –geo-bypass [URL]
  • Record playlist from 5 to 49
    Ex: youtub-dl –playlist-start 5 –playlist-end 49 [PLAYLIST]
  • Update to newest version
    Ex: youtube-dl –U
  • Download at a lower quality format
    Ex: youtube-dl –f worst [URL
    (https://github.com/ytdl-org/youtube-dl#format-selection)

FAQ
There is a very important FAQ published at:
https://github.com/ytdl-org/youtube-dl#faq

It lists answers to questions like slow performance or other commonly asked questions.


HOWTO: Return stuff or get a Refund from Amazon

November 3, 2020

I’m writing this up more for my own memory as I keep forgetting how to get to the customer contact site when the refund process fails.

GETTING RETURNS/REFUNDS ON THE WEB

Easiest way to return stuff with Amazon is through the “Order History” portal:

  1. Go to https://www.amazon.com/gp/css/order-history
  2. Find the item you ordered & click the button “Return or Replace Items”

CHATTING WITH CUSTOMER SERVICE

If however after trying this, you find that the web site says, “This item is ineligible for returns” or something like that, just go to the Customer Service site and chat with someone.  Or you can ask to be called by someone through this portal.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/contact-us

If you chat online, there’s a good chance that if the item is under $100, they will just refund the money outright.  I received the wrong item and they refunded my money and let me keep the “wrong item”.  Even if you never received the order, they will refund your money.  I had a $250 package that was never received and on the chat, the person got authorization to simply send another the next day.


Optimizing my home network for Remote Work

November 3, 2020

Recently, I completely revamped our home network and the performance for everything has skyrocketed.  Ping times, bandwidth/speed, network reach/range, responsiveness… everything.

These are the steps I took:

UPGRADE INTERNET SERVICE
I upgraded our cable Internet plan from “100Mbps/10Mbps” to “400Mbps/20Mbps”.  Most days I see 480Mbps (!) which leads me to believe that that bandwidth is actually 500Mbps but they only guarantee 400) Total cost: $10/mo increase.

IMPLEMENT PERFORMANCE-BASED MESH NETWORK ROUTER
I replaced the Asus single hub router, with a 3-module, Eero Pro Wifi Router.  Beside having “5 bar” coverage across my entire home, performance against the 400Mbps connection is literally perfect as I usually see a ~480Mbps. This is because the Eero Pro, designed for performance, has one channel for communicating with PCs/tablets/endpoints & a SEPARATE channel that it uses for hub-to-hub mesh network communications.  This was about $270 but well worth it.

DEPLOY MICROSOFT EDGE
I installed this on every machine on my network.  This browser is soooo much faster than Chrome and Internet Explorer.  Edge leverages the same HTML rendering & Javascript engines as Chrome does so it’s 100% compatible with Chrome web site but the “Google Analytics tracking” services that monitor your browsing have all been removed, leaving a faster browsing experience.

IMPLEMENT “OPEN DNS”
Replacing the lousy DNS server that the cable company uses with OpenDNS makes browsing so much snappier and immediate.  Click on links is now almost instantaneous compared to the 1-2 second pauses per click.  Everything is “snappier”:  It’s crazy that a free service can improve your overall browsing speed so much.

OPTIMIZE FOR VOICE/CONFERENCE CALLS & BAND STEERING
Modern network devices have modes that will do a few nice things to maintain a good network connection:

  • Prioritize (also known as QoS or Quality of Service) voice and video conference call communications.  The Eero Pro has this capability they call Eero Labs “Optimize for Conferencing and Gamiing”.
  • Encourage devices on the network to use 5Ghz instead of 2.4Ghz.  2.4Ghz is easily interrupted by microwave ovens, appliances, and other devices disrupting phone calls.  The Eero Pro has a capability called “Band Steering” which tells devices to use the 5Ghz band instead if they can.

RESETPLUG
This is something I’ve actually had for a while but it’s worth mentioning:  When Cable Internet goes down, it’s usually because something has gone wrong with the cable modem’s connection, but sometimes’s it’s the router as well and they need a reboot.

The ResetPlug is a simple device that plugs into a AC power outlet, and you connect your mode+WiFi router into it for power.  You program it and it pings a web site every 5min:  If it can reach the site, it shuts off power, waits 30 seconds, then powers everything back on and tries again in 5min.  It repeats this process until a solid Internet connection is established.