Jun 10 2012

Downloading YouTube Videos with Safari – An Update for 2012

Years ago, while trying to figure out how to download YouTube videos, I ran across an article that explained how to use Apple’s ‘Safari’ web browser to do just that. I’ve a preference for doing things simply and without cost, where I can, and this appealed to me, so I tried it. It worked well and I’ve been using it ever since.

After the last revision of YouTube’s player interface, however, this technique stopped working for me but after some experimentation I figured out what the problem was and how to solve it with only one extra mouse-click. For those unfamiliar with this technique, I’ll explain the basic method that I have been able to use until recently and then the extra click you may have to use now.

Be sure and read to the end of the article to see what (I think) has happened and how to fix it.

YouTube’s videos are not meant (by YouTube) to be downloaded and no readily apparent way to do so is provided on YouTube’s site. Nor is there any built-in tool in Internet Explorer or Firefox that allows you to do so, though there are plugins for Firefox that will let you do so. YouTube videos are downloaded as hidden temporary files, played and then purged from the system, preventing you from playing the video you downloaded to your machine without going back to YouTube to replay it..

Safari, however, has a special, ‘Activity’ window, that you can invoke from the ‘Tools’ menu or by pressing Command-Option-A on a Mac (or Control-Option-A on a Windows PC). This window shows all the files being downloaded to your machine in order to display the web page(s) you are viewing … including the hidden temporary files that contain the YouTube video. Once having located this, it is simplicity itself to download the video. The basic technique is:

  1. Go to the YouTube page containing the video you want to download.
  2. Press Command-Option-A on a Mac (or Control-Option-A on a Windows PC) to invoke the ‘Activity’ window.
  3. Look down the list of files that are being downloaded to your browser to display the page(s) you’re looking at. The list will contain the name of each page or window followed by all the files being loaded for that page. Most of these files will be script files, small graphic images and other files, usually measuring only a few ‘k’ (kilobytes) in size. One, though, will typically be 1MB or larger; this is typically the one containing the video. This file will almost invariably be the largest file in the list (see the screen-shot below). It may have a long, convoluted name; do not worry about this.

    Safari's 'Activity' window - This screen shot shows the list of files being downloaded.        Note the small size of all but the video file which is about 20MB

    Safari's 'Activity' window - This screen shot shows the list of files being downloaded.Note the small size of all but the video file which is about 20MB

  4. Double-click that largest file; when you do, the ‘Downloads’ window will appear and the file will be downloaded, usually with the name ‘videoplayback’ or ‘videoplayback.flv’.
  5. When the file has finished downloading, if its name is ‘videoplayback’, right-click on it and change its name to ‘videoplayback.flv’ which lets the system know that this is a Flash video file. Then you should be able to play it using the free and excellent VLC video player from videolan.org or any of a number of other free video players. Of course, if you are going to download many such video files, it’s a good idea to rename them with descriptive file names like ‘George Carlin on Dogs.flv’ or whatever; just be sure the ‘.flv‘ is at the end of the name so your system knows how to handle the file when you try to open it.

As I said, this technique has worked speedily and well for me but after YouTube’s shift to the new player version, I found that downloading the largest file invariably resulted in a file that looked like it would open … but wouldn’t. This was true for me on both my Mac and on my custom-built PC. After playing around with this for some time I began to realize what was happening (I believe) and what to do about it.

I noticed that when viewing the files in the ‘Activity’ window, the largest file was almost invariably 1.7MB in size, no matter how long or short the video or what its resolution was. I also noticed that it seemed to ‘refresh’ itself fairly often, appearing as another file with an identical or near-identical name and the same size … 1.7MB … with the previous one disappearing after a few moments.

This seemed odd to me but upon reflection it suggests to me (though I may be wrong) that the player is now basically streaming the video in a series of file segments that are about 1.5MB in size and then removing the played segments after they have been played. That would explain why none of the files play when downloaded; they are just chunks of the file and are interpreted by the player as they are loaded and then

One response so far

Jan 18 2010

Spam, Phishing and Hoax Email

Published by Byron under Up & Running TechBlog

This morning, a client forwarded an email to me, thinking it might be a fraudulent message (as, indeed, it was):

Attention: PROAXIS.COM Email User

PROAXIS.COM is upgrading database Servers from the
old Servers (Nol06769) to the new Servers (No521766).
You are to fill the details below to enable us upgrade and
verify from the old server.


Email Address:

Attention:Account owners who do not update his or
her account immediately you receive this Notification
will have problems using our online facilities effectively.

Notification Code:CZX1G13ABJ

The ” PROAXIS.COM ” Upgrade Team
Thanks for your co-operation.
Copyright (c) 2010.All rights reserved.

Of course, this is a fake; responding to it would be dangerous and very probably disastrous. I’m asked questions like this with some frequency, so I thought I’d share some thoughts on the subject. First a few general principles:

1) No legitimate company, service provider or merchant will EVER ask you for this information by email or at a website; you should assume that any request for your identifying information is fraudulent until proven otherwise.

2) Never use the links in an email like this; it’s possible to place a link on the page that states an address but takes you somewhere else. For example clicking on the following link: www.google.com will NOT take you to Google; try it … I’ll wait …

This is a fairly simple use of hyperlink misdirection; I did it with a webpage but it is just as easy in an email. The same principle holds true for email address links in emails and on websites. And if I can do it in 30 seconds using the most primitive of techniques, believe me, there are slicker methods out there.

3) My rule of thumb is that if my bank, internet service provider, credit card company, or anyone else with whom I do business ever wants something that badly, they can call me and authenticate themselves by telling ME information that only they and I would know.

4) If I ever think that a request like this may be legitimate, I call the firm directly, using the number in the phone book, NOT one given in the email (which, in the case of a spam or hoax, might well be fraudulent anyway) and ask them.

Or I go to the firm’s website using their web address, if I already know it, or Googling it to make sure that I’m going to the legitimate site for this firm; then if there’s information on that site that corroborates the information I originally got, I can proceed with some confidence, again, using the website I looked up; as I said above, never use the links in the email, which may be false.

5) I also look for grammar and usage in the email that may betray the sender as someone for whom English is not a native language, which is often a good indicator. The phrases:

You are to fill the details below to enable us upgrade and
verify from the old server.


Account owners who do not update his or
her account immediately you receive this Notification …

as well as the quotes around the company name certainly convey the idea that the writer is not familiar with the grammar, syntax and level of professionalism that a technical writer or content professional would use. You cannot, of course, use this is a primary criterion because there will be hoax-sters with more sophistication and greater grasp of English than others, but this can be a significant piece of corroborating evidence.

You can also look at the email “header”. The header is a section of the email, usually invisible under normal conditions, that contains all kinds of information about the email such as the address it originated at, a list of the servers or computers it passed through on its way to you and various other bits of information. You can usually find an option in your email message’s ‘Edit’ or ‘View’ menu that will display this header information. Here’s part of the header information in the email my client got this morning:


One response so far

Jan 14 2010

The Key to the MacBook Pro

Published by Byron under Up & Running TechBlog

Today I got to work on a MacBook Pro, Apple’s top-flight laptop. Working on a Mac is a rare experience for me because they very seldom have problems. Of my 450+ clients, between 70 and 90 have Macs but I rarely get to work on more than one or two per year.

This laptop had a broken ‘return’ key; a victim of physical abuse involving a cat who wanted to compute and an anxious owner who didn’t want her to. It is surprising how complex a laptop key is; it usually has a small but complicated scissors-action undercarriage that holds the key up and parallel to the keyboard, so they can be tricky (and in some cases very difficult or even impossible) to install. And MacBook keys are special in that they are backlit in dim light; that’s right, in a dim or dark room, the keys actually light up so that you can more easily see what you’re doing.

Upon examination, I found that the undercarriage of the key in question (the ‘return’ key) had been slightly damaged and would need replacement. Knowing that I was driving to a nearby town where there was a Mac store and thinking that I might just pick up a key while I was there (if I was lucky), I called the local Mac dealer and asked to talk to the technician. I know her and trust her and it’s almost invariably better to go to the source; the sales people may know a good deal but the tech knows just how the process works and what its attendant hazards may be. (Having said that, I should point out, from personal experience, that every minute a tech is on the phone is one less minute they have to work on a client’s computer, so be warned and understand if they don’t want to spend much time on the phone.)

Unfortunately, I got a likely lad who ran interference and told me that I ‘would have to bring it in’ as there were several models of MacBookPro and the key’s availability and the feasibility of replacing it could only be determined by a visual inspection of the particular laptop in question. This may have been well-meant and sincere, but the idea was ridiculous. I have repaired hundreds of laptops, by almost every major manufacturer (including Apple) and I can tell you that, for a given laptop model, keys are either replaceable or not replaceable and the keys are available or not.

Abandoning the idea of trying to push my way through to the technician, I did a quick bit of research and found this excellent site which has service parts for most Apple laptops. At this site, keys for the MacBookPro 15″ (the model I was working with) cost $8.95 each. I ordered the ‘return’ key immediately and will add a postscript to this article to let you know how it turned out.

Comments Off

Aug 16 2009

Get the New Firefox Browser

Published by Byron under Cool Tech & Tools

Firefox was recently updated and I urge all of you to upgrade to Firefox 3.5.7 for a faster, safer and more secure Web experience.

Firefox logo

Comments Off

Aug 16 2009

Adventures with Migwiz

Published by Byron under Up & Running TechBlog

The need to transfer a user

Comments Off

Aug 16 2009

Wandering Around Our New Webspace

Published by Byron under Up & Running News

I feel like a new homeowner walking around my new house for the first time! My web designer, Janet, owner of

3 responses so far