Saturday, March 20, 2010

Watching Youtube on a Slow Connection

WARNING: It's about to get nerdy up in here.

At best, the internet at my house is like a fast 56k connection, and at worst (when it's working at all) I could probably get faster download speeds from my cell phone. I have been using the wget utility to download important files, which works, but wget uses the command line prompt and could never be called user-friendly.

But wget does not work on youtube videos, so I've been totally lost on pop culture. I didn't discover The Rock Obama* until a month ago, and spent probably 45 minutes watching the status bar load (even less fun than watching water boil). You can often view youtube videos by pausing it and waiting for the whole video to load before watching it, but if internet connection drops out while it's loading, you can't resume loading it without completely restarting. This happened probably 5 times while I was trying to watch the This Too Shall Pass* video -- incredibly frustrating!

I think I have found a solution using Firefox plug ins. I had, like Owen Barder, recently switched to Chrome, but might have to switch back now -- these pluggins are great!

The first thing to do is to add the Firefox Downloadhelper plug-in. This lets you download flash videos from Youtube at the click of a button, and is a good solution in and of itself.

Unfortunately, Firefox's download utility isn't made for African connectivity. When the download fails, you can manually restart it and it will actually resume where it left off, but if your internet is bouncing up and down, this is a real pain.

What we need to do is use wget to download the downloadhelper files. If you right click the file in Firefox's download manager, you can select "Copy Link Location" and then paste that into the command line to use with wget... but it's the year 2010, we must be able to do better than that!

Enter VisualWget, a user interface that lets you use wget in a much more friendly environment. And, VisualWget can work with a Firefox pluggin called FlashGot to let you download files from Firefox using wget at the click of a button. This works great for downloading .pdf articles and other links, but I still need to copy and paste the downloadhelper url in to download youtube videos. Also, it can take FOREVER to download, but at least it works!

Steps to Watching Youtube in Sub-Sarahan Africa, Northern New Hampshire, Or Anywhere Else with Bad Connectivity
  1. Add the Downloadhelper Firefox plug in
  2. Download and install VisualWget
  3. Add the Flashgot Firefox plug in
  4. Follow the instructions on the VisualWget website (near the bottom) to add VisualWget as the default FlashGot download utility.
  5. Click the annoying spinning Downloadhelper thinger to start downloading a youtube video

  6. Right click on the file in the downloads box to copy the link location, then cancel the download

  7. Go to Tools > FlashGot > FlashGot All to launch VisualWget

  8. Press control + v in the url box to paste in the link and press OK to start downloading the file
  9. Get back to work. It will download, don't worry!
  10. Once the file downloaded, you may have to edit the file name and delete anything after .flv. You can view it in VLC media player, or use something like Youtube Downloader to convert the file so you can watch it on an ipod.

Now it's time to watch some South Park!

* You can't actually watch either of these from Ghana anymore... Anyone know how to mask your IP address?


  1. wow, good thing you posted the nerd disclaimer. that really was nerdy... love you, nerd. -me

  2. Don't tell me you actually went through all that to watch South Park !!!!