Wednesday, October 20, 2010

4 Ways To Convert YouTube Videos Into MP3 Files

Just several years ago, it would have been impossible to imagine a one-stop solution for all our media needs; and yet today, YouTube practically fulfils every part of it – from searching for our favourite music videos, to catching up with the latest media gossip.

But what if there was a certain song you wanted to listen to on your portable music player, or a business podcast you wanted to carry around in audio format – instead of watching it as a video online? Fret not, for here are a few magical ways to transform that YouTube video into an audio mp3 file for your convenience:
1. How To Convert Youtube Videos Online And Download Them Instantly

By far the easiest way to obtain an MP3 file from a Youtube video is to have all the work done for you beforehand, so that you can use it instantly with no extra hassle. This is probably the preferred method for most laymen, since it’s as simple as click-and-go in most cases.

Video2MP3 is personally my favourite site for online video conversion. All you have to do is copy and paste the Youtube URL of the video you want to convert into the text bar, select whether you want the MP3 file in standard or high quality (higher quality usually takes longer to download), and press the convert button. You’ll have to wait awhile for it to convert and download, but it’s mostly an automated process in which you don’t have to lift a finger otherwise.

If you like this kind of instant conversion, other sites to consider include VidtoMP3, FromVideo (which also supports Vimeo!) and YoutubetoMP3.
2. How To Convert Videos Locally On Your Computer Straight From YouTube

The first method converts the YouTube videos into MP3 files on a third party’s computer, then allows you to download them; but what if you wanted to skip the download and head straight to the conversion step? One reason you may want to do this is perhaps for security reasons, so here’s a way to bypass the third party and keep the process strictly between your computer and YouTube.

DVDVideoSoft provides a large warehouse of free conversion software, but by far their most useful offering is their free Youtube To MP3 Converter. As the name implies, the software extracts and converts Youtube videos directly on your computer, so you’re assured of a safe MP3 file if you’re cautious about viruses. The interface may not be as pretty as more recent software, but the entire process is easy to understand and user-friendly, with a straightforward guide to help you out in case you need some hand-holding.
3. How To Download Videos First, And Then Convert Them At Your Convenience

If you’re like me, then you probably won’t want to just convert the videos into songs, but would like to store a collection of the videos themselves as well. To do this, you’ll have to take two steps: firstly, to download the videos to your computer, then convert them into MP3s yourself.

To download the videos to your computer, you can either choose to download them via online downloaders, or use local software to do the job. Some of the online video downloaders include KeepVid and SaveVid, while the free Youtube Video Downloader is installable onto your computer. If you use Mozilla Firefox, you’ll be happy to know that Download Youtube Videos + offers a secure solution for downloading Youtube videos right from within your browser.

Next, you’ll want to convert the videos you’ve downloaded into MP3 files. If you’re using Windows, the free Freez Flv to Mp3 Converter works well to convert the downloaded Youtube videos (.flv) into MP3 files.

And there you have it, your untouched downloaded Youtube videos and converted MP3 audio files, all in one setup!
4. How To Download Videos & Convert Them Into MP3s On a Mac

If you’re on a Mac, then you’ll have to use slightly different software to perform the above steps, but the process is mostly the same. The reason behind this is because Macs are unable to run the FLV codec natively, so you have to download them as H.264 videos instead and use the appropriate software to convert them into MP3s.

Videobox offers a nifty solution for downloading Youtube videos to your Mac. In tech speak, it downloads Flash videos and converts them into H.264 format so that you can play them on Quicktime – but for the layman, it downloads them so that it just works on your Mac.

After you’ve downloaded the video, the next step is to convert it into an MP3 file. FfmpegX is an amazing conversion software which works exceedingly well and has independently amassed glowing reviews, and is by far the best conversion software I would recommend. In fact, codec fans will be happy to note that FfmpegX handles a wide variety of formats, so its conversion capabilities are not confined to merely converting videos into MP3 files.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Traveling Internet

Looking for free or cheap Wi-Fi while traveling? Thankfully there are a number of ways to get it now. And while cheap wireless Internet isn’t available everywhere, it is easier than ever to plan ahead for your connectivity needs.

Let’s start with airports. Several airports offer free Wi-Fi some or all of the time. (Just don’t be fooled by, or sign in to, a network with the SSID “Free Public WiFi”)

The Zombie Network: Beware 'Free Public WiFi'
It's in your airports, your coffee shops and your libraries: "Free Public WiFi."

Despite its enticing name, the network, available in thousands of locations across the United States, does not actually provide access to the Internet. But like a virus, it has spread — and may even be lurking on your computer right now.

Wireless security expert Joshua Wright first noticed it about four years ago at an airport.

"I went to connect to an available wireless network and I saw this option, Free Public WiFi," he remembers. "As I looked more and more, I saw this in more and more locations. And I was aware from my job and analysis in the field that this wasn't a sanctioned, provisioned wireless network, but it was actually something rogue."

Free Public WiFi isn't set up like most wireless networks people use to get to the Internet. Instead, it's an "ad hoc" network — meaning when a user selects it, he or she isn't connecting to a router or hot spot, but rather directly to someone else's computer in the area.

Though it doesn't actually provide Internet access, the network has spread across the country thanks to an old Windows XP bug.

How It Works

When a computer running an older version of XP can't find any of its "favorite" wireless networks, it will automatically create an ad hoc network with the same name as the last one it connected to -– in this case, "Free Public WiFi." Other computers within range of that new ad hoc network can see it, luring other users to connect. And who can resist the word "free?"

Not a lot of people, judging from the spread of Free Public WiFi. Computers with the XP bug that try to connect to the Internet will remember the name, create their own ad hoc networks and entice other users wherever they go.

Microsoft is aware of the issue and says it has eliminated the network in more recent versions of Windows. It also created a fix to the problem for the older version of Windows XP — Windows XP Service Pack 3 — but many people still haven't updated their computers.
How To Protect Yourself

"Free Public WiFi" isn't inherently harmful, but if you connect or unintentionally create the ad hoc network you could expose yourself to hackers. Here are two steps you can take:

Step One: Regardless of whether you're on a Mac or PC, or which version of Windows you're running, resist the urge to connect to "Free Public WiFi" or other unknown wireless networks.

Step Two: If you're still running Windows XP, make sure your computer is up to date so that you won't unintentionally broadcast the ad hoc network in the future. Here's a statement from Microsoft:

"This issue was fixed in Windows XP SP3, Windows Vista, and Windows 7. Customers who wish to install Windows XP Service Pack 3 can do so by visiting this site.
Learn More At

That means, Wright says, the network continues to spread across the country like something from a horror movie — the kind "where a zombie takes a hold of one person, bites them and they become infected by this zombie virus."

It's not the only zombie network out there, either. Others you may have seen go by such alluring names as "linksys," "hpsetup," "tmobile" or "default."

A Trick That's A Treat For Hackers

No one knows for sure where Free Public WiFi began. One theory, Wright says, is that someone may have set it up as a joke. It might have been created to trick a friend into connecting "so he would get a Web page with some kind of a gross image or childish prank."

Unintentionally creating or connecting to the ad hoc network isn't inherently harmful, despite its virus-like spread. It does, however, provide an access point for hackers to come in and check out the user's files.

Part of Wright's job is to hack into a company's wireless network in order to expose vulnerabilities. When he sees Free Public WiFi, he says, "we break out the champagne."

"Because I know at that point I will be able to get unlimited access to internal resources just from that one starting point."

The site Wi-Fi FreeSpot offers a directory showing airports with free access around the country. Don’t see your airport on there? Remember that last year Google and others sponsored free airport Wi-Fi at several locations for the holiday season. I wouldn’t be surprised to see that happen again this year starting some time in November.

What about on the plane? A ZNF friend recently posted on the travel site Upgrd about a deal from Gogo on in-flight Internet access. While Gogo normally charges a fee of $12.95, if you’re heading across the country on a red-eye, the company offers a “FlightNite Pass” for only $5.95. You know, in case you’re not planning to sleep anyway.

Once you’re grounded, there are the standard free hotspot locations to look for, and the options are expanding all the time. Starbucks is always a good bet. You can also cozy up to a Cosi, a Panera, or even (in many cases) a McDonalds. Several ISPs also offer free access to their own hotspots while you’re on the go. On the east coast, Comcast just radically expanded available Xfinity hotspots in the New Jersey and Philadelphia regions.

If all else fails, and you still need connectivity, there’s always that credit card in your wallet and a hotel lobby nearby. Or you can plan ahead and get a USB modem with a 3G or WiMAX subscription. Clearwire is launching 4G WiMAX service in several new cities (New York, LA, San Francisco) before the end of the year.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Roku box developer has a sixth sense about video

In the late 1990s, Anthony Wood created one of the first DVRs. Now, with a device that streams movies and television shows to TV sets via the Internet, he's banking on a continuing shift away from DVDs.

Michael Hiltzik

October 13, 2010

As the last century waned, scarcely a day passed without someone showing up in our newsroom offering a demonstration of a new dot-com service or consumer device. ECommerce sites for T-shirts and sandals, search sites paying jackpots to lucky users, you name it.

One day a team from a company called ReplayTV wheeled in a television set wired to a box with a hard drive inside. They hooked it up to our cable jack to show how we could use it to pause, rewind and fast-forward live TV.

I still remember that day because it was the only time I ever left one of those pitch meetings thinking, "That will change my life, and I must have it." Today such devices, known as digital video recorders, are commonplace — a survey last year estimated that 36% of all U.S. homes have at least one, many provided by their cable or satellite company.

The man who conceived the ReplayTV device was Anthony Wood. Now 44, he is also the man behind the Roku box. This device, the size of a couple of decks of cards, is one of several allowing Netflix subscribers to stream movies and television episodes directly to their TV sets via a home Internet connection, without waiting for a DVD to arrive in the mail.

That makes Wood possibly the only man alive to have placed two digital inventions in my house — a historical footnote, to be sure (if that), but one that hints at his remarkable instinct for the consumer market.

A serial entrepreneur, Wood has experienced almost everything that can happen in the high-tech business since he founded his first company in high school in Houston to sell software: He made almost $1 million with one company, got turned down by dozens of venture firms with another, then landed backing from a big firm and got shouldered into the background by his investors. He's been bought out and spun off, and he's still here to tell the tale.

Privately held Roku Inc. is Wood's sixth startup company (the name means "six" in Japanese) and its working environment is right out of the form book: offices in a Silicon Valley industrial strip, no receptionist in sight, packing materials stacked here and there, whiteboards in the conference rooms covered with inscrutable flowcharts. Wood met me at Roku's Saratoga headquarters not long ago dressed in baggy jeans held up with suspenders.

Wood started ReplayTV in 1997 after leaving Macromedia Inc., to which he had sold a precursor to the leading Web authoring program Dreamweaver. (Macromedia later was acquired by Adobe Systems Inc.)

"I'd had the idea for the DVR for a long time," he told me. "But I'd look at the prices for hard drives and at compression technology and it was not practical." Initially, no venture firms would back his proposal for a consumer TV player, so he funded ReplayTV from his own pocket and money from private angel investors, and started hiring engineers to make his idea a reality.

ReplayTV found itself in competition with TiVo, which was employing a different business plan to market a similar device. Where ReadyTV charged full price for its box — as much as $1,000 in the early days — TiVo sold its unit for less upfront but charged a monthly or annual subscription fee to make up the difference.

Both companies cut deals with entertainment companies, but TiVo was more "industry-friendly," as Wood puts it. For example, ReplayTV had a 30-second skip-ahead function, which drove broadcasters nuts because it allowed users to avoid seeing commercials; with your TiVo box you could only fast-forward through the ads, not miss them completely.

ReplayTV bested TiVo for video best in show honors at the Consumer Electronics Show in 1999. But TiVo beat ReplayTV to the IPO stage, raising $88 million that same year. By the time ReplayTV was ready to go public, the market had crashed and the IPO window shut tight. ReplayTV was eventually acquired by DirecTV for its patents. TiVo still exists, but it has lost money in nine of the last 10 years.

Wood launched Roku in 2002 to market home digital devices. Its first products included a unit to display photos and art images on HDTVs, which were still novel, and Soundbridge, which allowed you to stream your digital music files or Internet radio stations to speakers around your house.

Meanwhile, Netflix was trying to figure out how to sell video via the Internet. In 2007 it brought Wood into the fold as vice president of Internet TV. He built the team that developed what became the Roku box as well as applications allowing PC users to stream Netflix movies onto their computers. Differences of approach soon surfaced — for example, Wood wanted to offer streaming services to video distributors such as Amazon, which he says made Netflix uneasy. Netflix didn't see itself as a hardware company, so it spun Wood's engineering team back out to Roku, retaining the rights to license the technology to others.

Roku duly signed up Amazon — for a fee you can rent or buy movies and TV episodes from Amazon to view via the box — along with other partners such as Major League Baseball. Roku's Channel Store also offers 75 channels developed by outsiders, much as Apple's App store offers third-party apps for the iPhone and iPad.

Sales have soared as consumers get used to the idea of streaming TV and to the technology. This year Wood expects revenue to reach $50 million to $60 million, up from $33 million last year and $17 million the year before that.

Yet Roku is the kind of company that may never be out of the woods (so to speak). Netflix has licensed its streaming technology to makers of Blu-ray DVD players and for game players such as Microsoft's Xbox and Nintendo Co.'s Wii, all of which compete with Roku.

The device Wood says he worries about the most, however, is Apple TV, introduced by Steve Jobs last month. That device also affords access to Netflix, as well as to movie and TV episode rentals. On the other hand, it sells for $99; Roku's two cheapest units offer similar if not superior services for $59 and $79. On the horizon is Google TV, which will roll out later this year but will be available, at first, only in a $300 box.

Wood says he's counting on video distribution continuing to move away from cable transmission and the DVD and toward Internet delivery. "That trend is what will make Roku successful," he told me. "We think the one box to rule them all will be the Roku box."

Considering that video is the most rapidly evolving entertainment market, that's an audacious prediction. Still, given Wood's track record, whatever he thinks about the future, I'm willing to listen.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Google Search Tricks

Google is an amazing search engine. Most of us use it to find websites with information, but Google is so much more than a search engine. There are hundreds of built in features and these are 10 of the most useful ways to get common information directly from Google.

Movies Times

Enter “movies” followed by your town/city/postal or zip code and you’ll see some movie times for a couple popular movies along with a link to get the full list of movie times for your area.

Track Packages

Just type in a FedEx, UPS or USPS tracking number and Google will give you a link to see the shipping details.

Track Flights

Enter the airline and flight number and search. No more clicks, the info will be right there.

Find the Best Price

Enter the model name or number of a product you’d like to buy. Then click the “shopping” link at the top and Google will show prices at online retailers. To ensure you get the lowest price, you can sort by price (including shipping). There will likely be some retailers that you’ve never heard, so you can sort by reviews as well.

Define a Word

Lets say some fancy pants uses a big word and you don’t know what it means, you could go to your favorite dictionary site, or you could type “define simple” into Google search.

Unit Conversion

Whether you need to convert cups to gallons or you need to go between metric and imperial units, Google’s conversion engine can help.

Currency Conversion

Just type in the value and the currency to convert from and to, example: 100 Euros in Australian dollars


You think you’re doing a nice thing, calling somebody far away to make sure they’re well and give them a familiar voice to talk to. Then they answer the phone as if you woke them up in the middle of the afternoon, but you forgot that’s 4am in Tokyo. You can easily avoid this by checking the local time before calling.


Should you pack shorts or pants for your weekend getaway? Get a 5 day forecast in seconds.

Stock Quotes

Just enter the stock symbol and click search.

There are many more of these features and I’ll be sure to share more. In fact, I discovered an undocumented one tonight too.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

How to Watch Blocked Internet Videos

By Chad Upton | Editor

The internet is a great place to catch TV shows and clips that you or your PVR missed.

Unfortunately, a lot of websites only allow their video content to be viewed in their service area. It’s not because they’re mean, it’s for legal and cost savings reasons.

That’s right, it’s expensive to stream video over the internet to thousands or hundreds of thousands of people in a reliable way. You need a lot of servers and bandwidth, both of which are expensive, especially in large quantities. If a broadcaster only services one country, they’re not likely going to speed money to reach customers outside of their service area, although they may allow it if there are no legal restrictions and the advertisers are willing to pay to reach those users.

Secondly, they may not be legally allowed to broadcast outside of their broadcast area. Broadcasters buy distribution rights for the shows and other content that they air. These distribution rights are usually sold by country. That means a broadcaster who airs a show in the US is not allowed to distribute that show over the internet to another country since they have not bought the distribution rights required to broadcast in that country. In fact, another broadcaster in that country likely has paid for the rights to broadcast that same show there.

There are also legal agreements with members of various guilds and unions that may prevent content from being distributed in certain areas or for a finite time after the original air date.

Broadcasters can identify which country you’re in when you access their website. They use various methods to determine your location, but the most popular is something called Geo-IP look up. Basically, when you navigate to their website, the network address of your computer is sent to the web server. They can look up that address in a database to see the country that address is registered to. This method is accurate most of the time and in some cases they can actually narrow down the part the city that you live in.

Although there may be legal and ethical issues with it, there are ways to circumvent some of the methods that are used, potentially allowing you to view content from outside their intended region of distribution. These methods may be illegal in your country, so verify the legality of doing this before attempting them.

I think there is at least one ethical use for circumventing regional lockouts. For example, I was in Canada a couple weeks ago and I wanted to catch up on one of my favorite shows. I normally watch the show on network TV and all of the advertising is relevant to me. I wasn’t able to watch videos on the broadcaster’s website from Canada, so I employed the following method to make it work:

1. Install this Firefox plugin: (requires Firefox browser)
2. In Firefox, Go to “tools” > “modify headers”
3. From the drop down box on the left select add
4. Then enter: “X-Forwarded-For” in the first input box without the quotation marks
5. Enter one of the following IP addresses in the second input box without the quotation marks (choose the country where the content is accessible from)
Canada –
UK –
6. Leave the last input box empty, save the filter, and enable it (should look like this: )
7. Click the “Configuration” button on the bottom right then proceed to check the “always on” button.
8. Close the Modify Headers box, restart the Firefox browser and visit the intended website.

I should note some websites that the above method does not work for:

* (the CW)
* (showtime)

There are at least four times that many sites that DO work, although I’d rather not single them out for legal reasons. There are also a few other methods, but this is by far the easiest to setup and use. If you have IP addresses for other countries, let me know and I’ll add them.

Also, it takes a lot of people and money to make these great shows, be sure to support them by purchasing them when they come out on disc and renting them from iTunes, Netflix, etc.