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Bookcrossing.com – set your books free

I’ve been a member for a while of the site bookcrossing.com, but today I set my first book free! Bookcrossing is an online database of books that have been read, logged, and then placed in release spots in your area to find another reader. It’s international and release spots can be anywhere from a cafe, a supermarket or a dentist’s waiting room. If all goes well, and about 25% of the released books get found, then the next reader can enter a journal entry on the book, and pass it on.

book pictureI chose H.G. Wells’ The First Men in the Moon and released it on Western Road at the bus stop outside the Nero. I felt a bit suspicious, like I was planting a bomb but hopefully someone will pick it up, read the note on the inside cover and take it home. I’ve also signed up for alerts for other books released in Brighton and Hove so hopefully I shall be able to catch a new one soon! It’s free to sign up and participate and I feel it’s a perfect way to make sure books don’t sit around languishing on your shelves but get read more than once.

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How to download DRM-free video from BBC iPlayer

Updated 29th April 2010: The below will no longer work for iPlayer downloads.  With scripting – perhaps iPlayer behaviour can still be mimicked to get the goodies. Read to the bottom of the comments for links to alternative methods. I cannot verify what will work now.

Updated 9th March: Have corrected the bookmarklet which seemed to be getting cut short when you dragged it to your toolbar. Also tested with the Mac OS X and works for me using VLC as the player.

Yes it’s true. The new version of iPlayer for the iPhone delivers mpeg4’s without the “You have 4 more hours to watch this show”, self-destructing DRM of the Windows Media version. They are 480×272 which is decent, and a 45 minute show comes in around 160MB.

You have to jump through a few hoops to download these, but once it’s set up it’s easy to download whenever you want, so bear with me.

  1. First you’ll want to make your browser appear as if it’s an iPhone. I’m working with Firefox, so sorry if this isn’t your browser. Download one of the many handy Firefox plugins, The User Agent Switcher.
  2. After installation and browser restart, add a new User Agent and supply the following information (Tools > User Agent Switcher > Options > Options)
    • Description: iPhone
    • User Agent: Mozilla/5.0 (iPhone; U; CPU like Mac OS X; en)
    • App Name: AppleWebKit/420+ (KHTML, like Gecko)
    • App Version: Version/3.0
    • Platform: Mobile/1A542a Safari/419.3

    The add user agent dialog box - image

  3. Now switch to having your browser masquerading as the iphone (Tools > User Agent Switcher -> iphone)
  4. Fire up an iPlayer page of choice.
  5. Find out the URL that links to the video by dragging this handy bookmarklet to your Bookmarks Toolbar Folder.
    iPlayerURL2
  6. Click the bookmarklet and the the URL you want should appear under the title of the video on the iPlayer page.
    Where to look for the URL - image
  7. Paste this into a new Firefox tab, the iPlayer site will respond and it will begin to download in your browser. This is a pain, so hit the stop button (“X” in a circle), and instead save the page (File > Save page as..)
  8. Bingo, your Downloads window should now pop open to show you the progress of the download, and the mpeg4 is yours forever to keep! You will want to download and play them in VLC which is by far the most accommodating of all the players, and is free.

Don’t forget to reset your user agent back to default, otherwise you may find you’re viewing iPhone mobile versions of web pages.

Also, not all the iPlayer content is yet available yet as the service was only launched Friday 7th March. I’m not sure if the BBC was meaning to release DRM free files, so this information may not be useful forever.

Thanks to PainInTheTech for the User Agent info, and Irregular Shed for his discovery of this iPlayer “feature”.

Here’s The Sky at Night playing in VLC on a Mac

Sky at Night playing on a Mac