Stuff that occurs to me

All of my 'how to' posts are tagged here. The most popular posts are about blocking and private accounts on Twitter, also the science communication jobs list. None of the science or medical information I might post to this blog should be taken as medical advice (I'm not medically trained).

Think of this blog as a sort of nursery for my half-baked ideas hence 'stuff that occurs to me'.

Contact: @JoBrodie Email: jo DOT brodie AT gmx DOT com

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Sunday, 10 January 2010

Downloading files via mild geeky skills

Every now and again I remember a song I heard years ago via 3wk.com (http://www.3wk.com) - I don't get to listen to music radio in the background these days as much as I'd like but sometimes I remember that I enjoyed hearing a particular song, and want to hear it again.

Generally I go straight to YouTube as most stuff's there, or Last.fm, or imeem.com (before it was bought by MySpace and shut down - I'm afraid that regardless of what Cory Doctorow has to say about MySpace it's not going to convince me to assault my eyeballs and visit it) or one of the other places. You can nearly always hear a snippet of a tune at amazon.COM although not so often at amazon.CO.UK and iTunes is usually worth a visit.

The track I was after is from - Antarctica - a band that apparently lasted a year, releasing one EP and an album and were last heard from in about 1998. I'm not a particular fan but I really liked the beginning of the song, Hallucinus, which was this electronic synth thing that then went a bit indie. Quite annoying whiny vocals come in a bit later too.

Anyway, bit of googling later and I found that I could listen to it here http://pizza.saur.us/ but what I really wanted to do was to download it. The format of the 'mp3 listening bar' on that page is used on plenty of other pages and usually lends itself quite well to downloading an mp3 with a 'right-click, save as' manoeuvre. However on this occasion I was thwarted by Flash.

More generally some pages don't make the downloading (or 'playing in another window') link obvious - perhaps deliberately but probably not - but you can usually uncover the file's real, individual URL by clicking VIEW / VIEW SOURCE - this usually gives you the full html coded text for the entire page you're looking at, including all the links and sources of files.

I was quite pleased that I managed to download the track by searching within this 'source code' for the word 'Hallucinus', which appears a handful of times, then selecting the relevant string of text that looked most like an URL or filepath, which was this:-
http%3A%2F%2Fpizza.saur.us%2Fdelivery%2F%3Ff%3DAntarctica%20-%20Hallucinus%26e%3D1

Punting this over to a fresh browser window didn't work because all of the %xyz stuff - I don't really understand what this is all about, and notice it only as an annoyance that crops up every now and again that needs trimming out.

I think it's pretty obvious that %3A is going to be : and that the two %2F strings are going to be // but I wasn't too sure about the rest, so I googled %2F and found http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Percent-encoding which told me what should replace the %bits. Quite a lot like code really, as I just looked up %3D and found that it should be the = sign.

That gave me this:-
http://pizza.saur.us/delivery/?f=Antarctica+-+Hallucinus&e=1

Once the URL was reconstituted correctly I put that in a new window and it automatically downloaded as the mp3, and is saved to my desktop - listening to it now.

Another thing to be aware of is that the filepath might include only the bit after the domain name, eg /deliver/?f=... in which case you need to manually add in the domain name yourself (http://....) so it'll work.

I've collected a few files in this way, although websites that hide much of their code in Flash etc make this a bit harder.

Probably the only reason I know this stuff is that I played around under the bonnet of html code a bit in the early 90s and picked up / absorbed some helpful skills from doing so, while creating basic web pages. It had really never occurred to me that everyone else didn't tweak URLs to suit themselves until I read this article by Snyder Consulting, called "Seven tricks that web users don't know" http://www.snyderconsulting.net/article_7tricks.htm

Anyway, like Ray Mears I'm hoping to keep the old skills alive :)

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