Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Vicks VapoRub abuse

Tuesday, March 31, 2015 0
In case you're not into hardcore drugs, or quite as rock 'n' roll as myself, "Vicks VapoRub is an ointment which is used to relieve nasal catarrh (inflammation of mucous membranes in the nose and throat), congestion (a blocked nose), sore throat and coughs due to colds".

What I use it for is to alleviate all the twitching, itching and general sniffiness I suffer from due to being allergic to everything; we're talking about sensitivities on a scale that make Millhouse look Unbreakable. Sometimes snorting a dab of Vicks from a tissue isn't enough so I stuff the Vaseline-like gunk up my nose and squelch it together to make sure it coats the lining thoroughly. This numbs the spasming blighter and gives me some relief for a few hours.

You've not heard the weird bit yet, hold onto your hats! After a few hours up there, the substance's pungent anaesthetic properties begin to wane, the clean, fresh, aromatic vapour dissipates and is supplanted with an entirely different odour. The resemblance to stale, gym-sweaty socks is uncanny. If you actually bunged month-old tramp socks up your nostrils the smell wouldn't be any more intense.

I bet you're all nodding your heads in unison reading this now, on the bus, walking the streets, heads bowed, engrossed in your mobile phones, on your couches at home cradling a tablet. You all know what I'm talking about of course. This must be a daily occurrence the world over.

What I'm less certain about is the chemical process responsible for turning a glistening pine forest on a summer's day into an olfactory train wreck. Come on all you alchemists, this is a call to arms. What gives?

Friday, March 13, 2015

Bookmarklets work in Android too

Friday, March 13, 2015 0
As a follow-up to my previous post regarding snagging YouTube videos via an Android phone, I wanted to point out that you can simplify the process even further by taking advantage of KeepVid's bookmarklet. You'd be forgiven for thinking these aren't compatible with mobile device web browsers because they don't feature a traditional bookmarks bar to select from, but as it turns out, they are, providing you know how to launch them.

The trick is to add the javascript code above as a new bookmark, and 'click' it when viewing a YouTube video page to gain access to the source files. Once you have the page open in your browser, start typing into the address bar the name you've given the bookmarklet until the relevant entry is suggested. Poke the javascript link when it appears and you will be transported to the KeepVid web site where a download link in all its various formats will be presented for your selection.

If you name your bookmarklet something short and snappy like 'KV', you'll only have to type two letters each time to trigger the process. Offline YouTubin' can't possibly get any easier than this, can it?

Friday, February 13, 2015

The most reliable way to download YouTube videos on an Android phone

Friday, February 13, 2015 0
There are a plethora of Android apps that claim to be able to 'manage' your YouTube downloads. I must have tried the vast majority of them, and all they've managed to do for me so far is slice decades off my lifespan!

Google, who - news flash! - own YouTube, don't approve of you snagging their videos for offline playback, which is why you won't find any apps in their store that are specifically engaged with expediting this. Sure there are generic video-grabbing tools that allegedly work with YouTube, but they don't make a big song and dance about it so sail by under the radar. To install the likes of TubeMate or YouTube Downloader from Dentex you have to go rogue; by downloading an .apk file from a 'scary', non-Google source and installing it - eek! - manually using an app-installing gizmo (which, ironically, you can find in the Google store).

I wouldn't waste your time. TubeMate comes bundled with the infuriating 'MP3 Video Converter', and won't function without it. Every time a video finishes being transferred, it undergoes a mandatory conversion process via said 'helper' app and throws an FYI dialogue message in your face to inform you of its progress. Rather than work silently in the background, it rudely interrupts whatever you happen to be doing at the time, forcing you to revert back to your running-tasks screen to pick up where you left off. It's like an attention-seeking RADA brat desperately trying to justify its own existence. Why it's even necessary in the first place I can't fathom because other apps of this ilk don't insist on it; they appear to download files from Google's servers 'as-is'. Their goal is to bypass the obfuscation of the YouTube interface, allowing you to access the contents directly, nothing more.

The next best (or least worst!) alternative to TubeMate is the app from Dentex. In comparison, it comes equipped with a sleek, user-friendly and much more polite interface. Problem is, it doesn't friggin' work! It tells you downloads are queued, and then doesn't bother starting them once the previous transfer has finished. It pauses downloads and then won't awaken them even if you beg and plead with it. It flounders when asked to re-download failed videos that have stalled. There's a 'clear dashboard' option, that supposedly wipes the slate clean if items have become stuck in the queue. Guess what? That doesn't achieve anything either. Completely waste of bytes.

My solution? Forget the apps-for-apps'-sake detritus and copy URLs into a YouTube video-raiding web service like SaveFrom or KeepVid instead. It's all a bit manual of course, but it does get the job done simply and efficiently without all the false status-reporting.

If you want to make use of the resume feature should your downloads be interrupted, try pairing your URL-forager site with a reputable download manager like ADM Downloader. Either copy and paste the links into the app manually, or open your web sites in the integrated browser rather than Chrome, enabling ADM to capture the movie or audio files from your clipboard.

Reinventing the wheel is pointless if it ends up square!

Friday, January 23, 2015

YouTube in Spectro-vision

Friday, January 23, 2015 0
I appreciate this is all a bit 'first-world problems', but what is it with the recent trend for people to upload to YouTube full episodes of TV shows and have them play back in a diminished rectangle, making space for a perennial title surrounded by a worthless vacuum? It's like playing a Spectrum game where the coders had to compromise on the size of the game-play window because the little 8-bit computers didn't have the processing muscle to interpret and re-draw a full screen array of animation. All that's missing here is a status console/HUD displaying our high score, remaining lives and energy bar.

The finale of ZX Spectrum game, Shadow Warriors. Look Ma, no 'colour clash'!

Take Channel 4's The Undateables, pictured below, for instance. This is exactly what you see if you maximise the screen. It's painful to watch on a decent-sized LCD monitor, so imagine what an endurance test it is on a 4 inch phone screen.

It's not entirely clear if this is being done by the programme's producers, or third parties, though as these are the only episodes to survive Google's copyright infringement cull, it suggests the owners of the channel also own the rights to rebroadcast the show on YouTube.

Either way, what precisely does it achieve? Is it to deter people from inserting shows into their own web sites, pretending they're called 'Differently-abled Dudes Struggle to Find Love' and claiming they produced them? Maybe it's a disability-inclusion, box-ticking exercise catering for viewers with Alzeimer's. I know I often forget entirely what I'm watching so this kind of perpetual reminder is really helpful, and surely it must save carers up and down the country countless minutes of elucidation.

But wait, it gets worse! The screen shot below is taken from the BBC 1 show, 'Waterloo Road'; an overly sanitised, politically correct school drama in the Grange Hill mould, only with all the edgy bits sanded off and wrapped in cotton wool.

Instead of the title of the show, we now have a static image of some of its 'stars', which takes up even more screen real estate. If perma-titles are for viewers with Alzeimer's, this abortion of a YouTube presentation must be for those of us who are illiterate as well as having Alzeimer's.

I'd be fascinated to know what went through the mind of whoever thought this would be a good idea. Answers on a dinner ticket to....

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Is that a thing?

Thursday, December 11, 2014 1

I really wish it wasn't!

All of a sudden, everywhere I go I keep hearing the trying-too-hard-to-be-droll phrase, "is that even a thing?" or "apparently that's a thing now". In grown-up, human-talk it equates to, "I didn't know that existed" or "is that real?".

I Googled it and learnt that this irritating memes' earliest outing is thought to date back to a 2001 episode of the American sitcom, 'That '70s Show'. In which case, why has it taken so long for this Valley Girl argot to cross the pond and infect our UK shores? Where's it been hiding all this time, and can it be shipped back on the next boat please?
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