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Apple takes a shortcut, costs me $30

By Brian | March 22, 2006 | Share on Facebook

After some good advice from friends, I finally decided to bite the bullet and buy a Video Ipod (the rationale that finally won out among the many offerred was this: What the hell – just buy the damn thing already.) I also minimized on accessories, which was my concern here, by not buying a car charger or a radio transmitter (we’ll use the old iPod whenever we’re in the car with the kids. The new one is MINE, ALL MINE!!!! BWAH, HA, HA, HA, HA. Sorry…)

At any rate, the iPod lived up to Apple’s typical standard of easy to configure, easy to use, etc. I had it up & running in a few minutes (not counting the several hours it took to upload 3,000 songs from my iTunes library, of course). But then, I went in search of video.

Much of the video available on the web is in one of several formats: Quicktime (.MOV), Windows Media (.wmv), MPEG (.mpg), or Real Media (.ram). The iPod only supports H.264 video (.m4v) and MPEG-4 (.mp4). This page from the QuickTimePro tutorial, however, explains how QuicktimePro will effortlessly convert videos into the proper format. Seemed simple enough, so I shelled out my $30 and downloaded the upgrade.

I found a QuickTime video on the web, and followed the steps in the tutorial. Everything went swimmingly, except when I tried to watch the video on the iPod itself. Actually, that’s not entirely accurate. I could watch it just fine. I couldn’t listen to it. The video had transferred without any audio. To the web, Batman!

A quick Google search of Apple’s site yields this surprising page, which basically says, “Yeah, sorry, but that doesn’t really work all that well…” It, in turn, refers you to this page, which contains this priceless line:

You may want to consider using a third-party utility to convert the muxed file to a format that does allow you to edit or export.

Again, not entirely accurate. It’s not a priceless line: it’s price is $30 (for the QuickTimePro software that doesn’t do what I bought it to do), plus the cost of the third party software that does perform that function.

So, it’s back to Google, this time in search of software that will properly export video to the iPod. It turns out there are two generally accepted standards: iSquint and Podner. Here’s a quote from the iSquint FAQ page:

Q: Windows version? Please?

A: Sorry, can’t help you there. Doesn’t feel very good to want a piece of software you can’t have, does it? iSquint is a reflection of the type of software that is created for – and expected from – the Mac. Simple and powerful. I’m sure someone out there can make a .NET frontend to ffmpeg.exe, but it won’t be me.

So much for cross platform compatability, huh? On to the other option, Podner. Here’s what their FAQ says:

Q: Is Podner available for Windows?
A: No. Podner is very dependent on the Mac OS X operating system and cannot easily be made to work on Windows.

Dependent on the Mac OS X? But I thought OS X was all about open standards, and what could run there could run anywhere. No? Well, thanks for nothing folks.

The happy conclusion to all this is a group of software packages I was told about that accomplish the job:

HiDownload: Downloads streaming video from the web and stores it in its native file format, including support for multiplexed (“muxed”) files like MPEG1 and MPEG2. (Cost: $35)

URL Helper: A very neat little program that scans your internet connection looking for streaming video and displays the URL of the source file (even files hidden behind ActiveX or Javascripts). I can play a video, wait for URL Helper to find the source file, then right-click on the URL and select “Download with HiDownload.” (Cost: $20)

Videora IPod Converter: A more robust “Export to IPod” tool than QuickTimePro – it allows you to queue multiple files and convert them all in batch mode. Also, it runs a little faster than QuickTimePro. And best of all, it’s freeware, so you don’t have to spend the $30 unless you want to (assuming, of course, that you haven’t spent it yet, as I have…)

So, I’m all set now – multiple videos of all kinds (well, not all kinds, although I couldn’t resist downloading Janet Jackson’s “Wardrobe Malfunction” just for posterity’s sake, so I guess that sort of fulfills the pr0n requirement), working well on the iPod, sound and all.

Now if only there were a way to get my $30 back from Apple…

Topics: Tech Talk | 6 Comments »

6 Responses to “Apple takes a shortcut, costs me $30”

  1. Jeff Porten says at March 22nd, 2006 at 10:38 pm :
    Hey, Brian, are you sitting down? Because I’m about to agree with you 100%. Apple’s positioning of QTP just sucks eggs.

    I don’t know how it is on the Windows side, but on the Mac side, your $30 doesn’t even buy you new software. I can access every QTP function programmatically via AppleScript. What the $30 buys you is the unlocking of the GUI functions that makes this process less of a pain in the ass.

    And when you upgrade to QT8, your $30 will dissipate — the pro functions are locked to the version, and will go away. That’s why my 6 license is no longer functional, and why you’re never going to see me running QTP again. AFAIK, it’s the only piece of crippleware that Apple ships.

    That being said — where I can defend Apple (grudgingly) is that some of this is deemed necessary because the video market is so borked at the moment. Apple has to be somewhat evil in order to stay in cahoots with the MPAA and RIAA. I think it’s also safe to say that Apple chooses to be evil to get part of that sweet, sweet DRM revenue stream. Apple, by and large, is less evil than some others I could mention — but I’m still not going to give them a pass.

    Okay, we can now resume our usual level of rancor and argument.

  2. Brian says at March 23rd, 2006 at 1:29 pm :
    Wow, I’m impressed. Just for that, I will admit that you guys have nicer fonts. Square?


  3. Anonymous says at April 11th, 2006 at 11:07 am :
    I wanted to thank you for your post. I too am new to the video ipod and was getting frustrated beyond belief with all attempts at transfering “muxed” videos to my ipod. I came across the same priceless line on the Apple web site and decided to google it and found your web site!
    I have since downloaded Videora and as of this morning, all problem videos are working perfectly.
    Thnaks again!!

  4. Brian says at April 11th, 2006 at 11:04 pm :
    Now, THAT’S great news. It’s good to know that one person’s pain & suffering can help another to avoid the same fate.

    I’ve said it before & I’ll say it again – God Bless Google. ;-)

  5. Anonymous says at April 22nd, 2006 at 3:06 pm :

    Thanks so much for posting! My feelings exactly! However, I haven’t been too successful with Videora so I think I’m doing something wrong… All of my files are MPEG1 Muxed, but when I convert them with Videora they still come out soundless. What settings are you using? Thanks!

  6. Brian says at April 22nd, 2006 at 4:10 pm :

    If the files are Muxed, Videora isn’t going to help you. The trick is to get them on your hard drive in a non-muxed (un-muxed? de-muxed?) format. That’s what HiDownload/URL Helper is doing for me.

    When I find a Muxed file on the web (including most Quicktime files), I use URL Helper to identify the source URL, then download it with HiDownload. The resulting file is NOT muxed, so the Videora conversion works properly.

    Good luck…


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