history, technology, cyberculture and nostalgia find a place to meet and mix

Lesson 34 - How to extract audio from YouTube / any flv file

In the course of my last post, I was confronted with a video which had the sound I wished but a useless image I had no need for. (Not so useless. Depends on how you look at it. It was a picture of Bill Nye, The Science Guy. Childhood science experiments. Good memories revisited.)

Download this free tool called flv extractor. (FLV Extractor Download Link). Drag the downloaded flv file onto it and watch as the software magically creates a video .avi file and a sound .mp3 file.

(Digression - How to download the flv file?
Orbit Downloader seems ok.
For Mozilla, get a plug-in.)

Now enjoy the (often) copyrighted average-quality music without the annoying video mash ups.

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Modems and Getsmart

Remember the old days?

With those phone-based dial-up modems, which made a lot of noise and worked at annoyingly low speeds. I have extracted the sound for the listening pleasure of the few who sit around pretending to miss the good ol' days, when things were simpler and the stars were brighter.

The sound of the internet -

(Audio file ripped from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qtqz0bdq30Q)

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The rise and fall of Netscape has been well documented. A little too well. Its kind of passé now. Yes. I know that Netscape was a thought leader on the internet. It created all things good. It was the reason why people stayed glued to their computers, navigating through the world wide web. Its IPO is considered the official start to the dotcom era. It was the reason the internet got popular and became what it became (an orgy of porn and meaningless rants). All before it was unethically crushed by Microsoft and a lethargic AOL.

In 2007, support for Netscape web browsers was officially discontinued. But no one really cared. Mozilla (which was a result of Netscape's efforts) was here. Opera was here. Hell! Even Internet Explorer was good enough. I felt no tinge of nostalgia for a software that by 2002 had become a garbled piece of one-upmanship (against Microsoft's IE). It was a symbol of failure. A symbol of Schumpeter's process of creative destruction.

The internet has changed over the past decade. The cause has been the intense competition that accompanied every single new idea. Netscape's failure only made me believe, like other trendsetters, you are only as good as your current product. History counts for nothing in the cut-throat, constantly innovating software industry. (Of course I hated Microsoft and capitalism for a little while, but life goes on.)

The Documentary

Code Rush is a 1998 documentary following the lives of a group of Netscape engineers in Silicon Valley. (Just prior to the AOL Merger.)


 Internet Wars -- Microsoft Vs. Netscape: Goliath Takes On David -- Navigator Still Ahead - But Losing Ground (Year 1997)
ZDnet - The Rise and Fall of Netscape
Berkeley - Strategic Computing and Communications Technology Project - Rise and Fall of Netscape Browsers
Living Internet - Netscape History
A Visual Browser History, from Netscape 4 to Mozilla Firefox
Andrew Turnbull Network - Netscape Navigator Version 1
Killer Products : Netscape Navigator 1.0

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ICQ was amongst the first instant messengers I ever used. Right along with AIM. It was weird twist of fate that led me to use these 2 softwares. They were the only chat softwares at the time which supported HTTP proxy servers, and I was stuck behind an oppressive firewall. (Academic firewalls on a dial-up connection. Those were the days.) My quest back in those days was to find softwares that could log me through those pesky firewalls. The late 20th century was a hard place to be. Yeah, we did have Sock2HTTP (the only way I could use IRC) and a HTTP tunneling software that I just couldn't get to work, but nevertheless ICQ was discovered.

Since its inception, ICQ had spread via word of mouth. And had gone on to become really popular. It was filled with features. A million of them. It supported offline messages, had a searchable people's directory. Multiplayer games. Multi-user chats. And many others I cannot recall. It seemed cute at the time. Cluttered, overloaded but it worked. It already had a large user base when I joined. You got to chat with people. With strangers. Hell, even with spambots.

You got a UIN (a sequential number) when you registered, and henceforth you could give yourself any chatname you wished. It was  a flexible idea. I do find it tiring to keep having to choose a unique username, which eventually becomes a mix of numbers and symbols that mean nothing to you or anybody.

ICQ was a homonym for 'I Seek You'. It was started way back in 1996 by a company called Mirabilis, a small startup from Israel. In 1998, it was bought over by the great AOL. The company that seems to buy a LOT of good things for a LOT of money and then push them slowly off the edge in an act of induced tough love.


I could blame its takeover by AOL as the reason why it failed. But that wouldn't be true. Because even at its height of popularity, it was still an AOL product. AOL, of course was on a mission to takeover the chatting world, with a combination of AIM, ICQ and techniques to prevent other chat softwares for communicating with them.(See AOL's Proposal Fails To Placate Messaging Rivals). During the takeover, ICQ had 11.4 million users, AIM had a 20 million users. ICQ was growing at a rate of 57000 users a day. A large advertising base for AOL. Now during the takeover of ICQ, there was a lot of discontentment. (See ICQ Fans Rage Against AOL), but AOL did keep ICQ a separate brand for quite some time. Only in 2002 did the 2 networks meet. That was around the time ICQ stopped being advertisement-free.

The rivals were working there way into the IM market. Microsoft did what it always does, a quiet-slow-stuffing-down-the-throat-of-newbies approach to getting its own messenger popular. And while AOL resisted the attempts at universal chat clients, the bandwagon effect couldn't hold people to AOL and ICQ for too long. Not when you had a lot of efficient and simpler softwares out there.

I think the failure of ICQ was the reason why it got famous in the first place. There were way too many features. And they went on a crazed rampage, adding new features every version, but not removing the bugs from before. The tool was soon bloated and took a good amount of memory. Spammers found the perfect tool with its offline directory list to target. (AOL really has no clue how to take care of good pieces of software.)

So with all the features that ICQ seemed to boast off, the future of the internet has always seemed to be minimalist, or so I think. (Think of all the new trends out there.)

A Take on the ICQ vs AIM debate, and a look at chat culture itself - Instantaneity - A Brief and Uninformed History
People do wonder - What happened to ICQ?
Time Magazine looks at the controversy of universal chat clients - All Together Now
David Lawrence talks why the merger makes sense to the music industry - ICQ vs. AIM vs. AIMster
The fears of an ICQ takeover revisited - AOL/ICQ Acquisition Revisited

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Winamp was the first music player I ever used, way back in 1998. It took very little system resources and it was free. Excellent sound reproduction, a variety of skins and a great visualization plugin . (As uncool teenage geeks, skins were definitely a way for us to feel cooler. Winamp also allowed the creation of plugins, which resonated with all the programmer geeks out there.) The mp3 culture was just starting and this product was right in the middle of it all.

Nullsoft was the company. It reflected the culture at the time. They seemed rebellious and independent. Unlike all the humongous monolithic companies out there which produced products like the dry and boring Windows Media Player, or advertisement loaded Real Player.

Just to give you an idea about how the product felt at that time, the credits in the Winamp 2 player included -
Stunt coordinator, Stunts, Puppeteer, Llama wrangler, Animal trainer, Assistant to Fifi, Watching anime, Karate scene coordinator, Topless dancer, Prime numbers, Pyrotechnics, Beer, Catering, Elevator music, Gaffer, Often annoying public manipulation, Genetic engineering, Breast examination, Translator, Warfare tech, Shipbuilding, Bad humor, Plasterer, Carpentry, Extras, Stand-ins, etc.

They ended it by thanking Dallas Square-dancing Hall of fame and San Diego Zoo amongst others.
Filmed in amazing Technicolor.
Soundtrack available on Fuckit Records

Btw, Elevator music was credited to 'The Robies'. They are an obscure band about which I could get no information but for this youtube video - Superman - The Robies. Sounds like Greenday.

The Sellout
It has changed a lot over the years including the one time it decided to sell itself out to the cold evil corporate world. 80 Million $ is A LOT of money. It made Justin Frankel, the creator of Winamp and Nullsoft a rich man but all of us moaned at the prospect of Winamp losing its independence. The free creative world which spawned all good things on the internet replaced by the cold corporate world, passionless, where innovation would be replaced by plain old manipulation, and we would soon have bad products stuffed down our throat till we puked and moved over to the next new thing.
(This article is just after the sellout happened - Winamp wins big )

I did come across articles which talked about how the old Winamp team could not gel with the new corporate culture and slowly left, one by one. (Read Death Knell Sounds for Nullsoft, Winamp)
The last of the original team left by 2004, disillusioned by the AOL work culture (Steve Gedekian to Apple. See Nullsoft's future in a void).

Winamp3 was released in August 2002. It was to be the next best thing in music. But it was bad for those day's standards. It took a lot of system resources and just wasn't worth the effort of switching. It forced Winamp to continue developing the Winamp 2 series. A step back during the height of media player competition. (See AOL admits failure of Winamp revamp)

It soon fused the Winamp 2 and Winamp3 branches of development to create the Winamp 5. (2 + 3 = 5). This was in December 2003. It was around now that I moved on from Winamp to other alternatives. It just wasn't the same old simple player. It had become into a complete media suite, and was now just like any other product out there. Nothing new or unique. People had feared that it might go the Sonique way and completely vanish but it seems to have held on.

After years of infidelity and sleeping around, I moved back to Winamp this year. Maybe it was the nostalgia or the familiar interface which they have retained even after so many years. Its still a pretty good product, though not revolutionary or cool any more. I now use it to catalog my music while using VLC Media Player or Media Player Classic for quickly playing files.


Winamp always had a llama story about it. (Picture on the left is from the Winamp site. Its says "Justin Frankel (right), in mid 1997, in his hometown of Sedona, AZ."
In the faqs, they answer about the llama :
What's up with the Llama?

There have been many rumors and myths about Mike the Llama. This is just one of the universe's questions that will never get answered... ;)

The iconic Wesley Willis inspired "Winamp - it really whips the Llama's ass."

The Transition

To download old versions of Winamp, head over to A Winamp Heaven or Oldversions - Winamp

How to make two llamas headbang to the beats in Winamp 5 :

With the default (Modern) skin chosen, stretch the main window until the Beat Analyzer appears; it says "BEAT" under it. Hold down Ctrl+Alt+Shift and click exactly at the center of the Beat Analyzer, then play a song with fast beats and loud bass.

The fall of Winamp - Google Trends - Winamp
Winamp - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Experience Festival - Winamp History
A Brief Look at the history Winamp | Webby's World

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