Download videos from Youtube, Google Video and others using Linux [Update]

Many online video sites such as Youtube, Google Video, Dailymotion, Metacafe, and others only provide limited or inconvenient access to the videos; either they require you to install the proprietary Flash player (and I surely won't do that), and/or you can only view them online (but not download them).

There are some solutions, each with advantages and disadvantages:

  • youtube-dl, a command line script to download Youtube videos.
  • metacafe-dl, same as above but for Metacafe videos.
  • clive, a command line tool (with optional newt UI) for Youtube, Google Video (seems defunct at the moment) and Dailymotion.
  • VideoDownloader, a Firefox plugin which is supposed to work with more than 60 video sites (Youtube and Google Video are among them). The only disadvantage compared to the other solutions: you need to start Firefox + X11 (no pure command line usage).
  • UnPlug, a Firefox plugin similar to VideoDownloader, but with the advantage that it doesn't use the VideoDownloader web service (but rather figures out the video URLs itself).
  • Gnash, a free software Flash video player is another option, but AFAICS it's not yet ready for daily usage (but it's getting there).
  • swfdec, another Free Software Flash player, is actually working quite nice with Youtube already.

After the download, you can either view the videos using (e.g.) mplayer, or recode them into a more sane format. For all of the above programs there are Debian packages available, except for VideoDownloader/UnPlug (but you can easily install those from within Firefox).

Update 2007-07-26: Added UnPlug and swfdec (thanks Joe Buck and Josh Triplet for the comments).

Retiring the sparc32 Debian port... or not?

According to Jurij Smakov's announcement, the Debian port for 32bit SPARC machines is about to be retired.

This is really sad in my opinion, as we should rather support more architectures instead of less architectures. After all, Debian is "The Universal Operating System" [1].

Now, I know that my opinion doesn't matter much in this case, but many other people who own sparc32 boxes seem to feel the same, judging from the thread which was started by the announcement.

Also, I do realize that nobody wants to retire the port just for fun. To my understanding there is one major problem which needs to be sorted out in order to "save" the sparc32 support in Debian (and also in Linux!):

There is no Linux kernel maintainer for the sparc32 Linux code at the moment!

This seems to be the root of the whole problem. It makes maintaining a Debian port for sparc32 really hard, as you can surely imagine. Also, there seem to be too few people who actively work on the surrounding toolchain stuff (gcc, binutils, etc) which is also very important.

My suggestion would be to not drop the Debian support for now, but rather set the status to "needs help" or something and actively search for contributors and/or maintainers. Heck, list it on Unmaintained Free Software, or write a "call for help" Slashdot article, post the issue on all Linux-/Debian-/SPARC-related mailing lists etc. etc. (or write funny blog posts, heh).

I guess if two or three experienced SPARC developers would step up and take care of the kernel and toolchain maintenance for sparc32, there would be no reason to drop it anytime soon.

Anyone?

Flashing a BIOS the Linux Way (tm) using flashrom

There are a gazillion HOWTOs out there for flashing a BIOS image without having to resort to ugly "boot DOS from floppy" or "run Windows *.exe file from BIOS vendor" and other ugly stuff. Unfortunately, the proposed solutions are equally ugly (e.g. creating custom CD-ROMs which contain the "floppy" with DOS/Windows flash tools).

Folks, this is so much simpler than you think:

The flashrom tool (GPL'd, written for LinuxBIOS purposes, but works perfectly fine with proprietary BIOSes, too) will easily do what you want, on a running Linux system. No floppy crap, no CD-ROM crap, no DOS/Windows crap, no rebooting crap.

Install it:

  $ apt-get install flashrom

Detect whether flashrom knows about your chipset/mainboard/BIOS chip:

  $ flashrom

Read the BIOS image into a file:

  $ flashrom -r backup.bin

Write a BIOS image (proprietary or LinuxBIOS) on the ROM chip:

  $ flashrom -wv newbios.bin

WARNING: This will overwrite your current BIOS! Make sure you know what you're doing!

For the Debian-challenged, flashrom is available in source form too, of course:

  $ svn co svn://linuxbios.org/repos/trunk/util/flashrom
  $ cd flashrom
  $ make

The list of supported chipsets, mainboards, and ROM chips is limited of course, but it's constantly expanding. Contact us on the LinuxBIOS mailing list if you want other hardware supported (or even better: if you have patches!). In many cases adding support for new hardware is pretty easy...

Tracking GPLv3 projects

GPLv3 logo

As you probably already heard, the GPL, version 3 has been released, together with the LGPL, version 3.

I haven't yet read the licenses in detail, so I cannot say much about them, but more information is available in the (updated) GPL FAQ. The compatibility table from the GPLv3 Discussion Draft FAQ can be pretty helpful, too. There's a Why Upgrade to GPLv3? text and even a video of Richard Stallman (Ogg Theora, transcript available) introducing the GPLv3, the rationale behind it and some of the changes in this new version.

(One nice advantage of the GPLv3 I like is that it's compatible with the Apache license now, btw.)

Probably the most interesting GPLv3 resource at the moment is Palamida's list of projects which already switched to the GPLv3, which includes a number of GNU tools (sed, tar, ed, bison, texinfo, cpio, coreutils) and some other major projects such as Samba. Currently the page lists ca. 140 projects which switched.

It'll be interesting to see how the adoption proceeeds. My guess is that in a few months it'll be hard to build distributions or embedded (GNU/Linux-based) hardware devices without GPLv3 code...

LinuxBIOS at LinuxTag 2007

LinuxBIOS ROM Chip Logo

If you're coming to LinuxTag 2007 in Berlin (May 30 - June 2), you might want to also visit the LinuxBIOS booth (Hall 12, Stand 80).

We will be showing a couple of different systems all using LinuxBIOS to boot. There is a boot time competition in the booth (nice T-shirts to win!).

On Saturday there's a hands-on LinuxBIOS workshop by Peter Stuge titled "Bring your EPIA, EPIA-M or EPIA-MII board and make it run LinuxBIOS!". Please register in advance at LinuxBIOS booth (Hall 12, Stand 80).

If you always wanted to know what this LinuxBIOS stuff is all about — here's your chance to find out!

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