// Internet Duct Tape

How to Play Downloaded Videos on Your iPod, Xbox 360, or DVD Player

Posted in Group Writing Projects, How I Use, Software, Technology by engtech on January 27, 2008


I’ve been slumming through the support forums at answers.yahoo.com lately and this is a question I see come up often: how do I download a video and put it on my electronic device? More and more consumer electronics devices that can play videos, but that means we have to learn more about the big, bad scary world of video codecs.

The steps are simple:

  1. Find a video source (source)
    • video from your camera/phone, off the Internet, or from a DVD you own
  2. Get the video on to your computer (source/download)
  3. Convert the format of the video to something your portable media player can play (convert)
  4. Copy the video to your portable media player (destination)

…but the devil is in the details.

What is a Codec?

Codec stands for coder-decoder. It’s a mathematical algorithm that stores the video into a file. It’s like VHS vs beta or HD-DVD vs Blu-ray — different codecs have different formats and they aren’t interchangeable. There are many different video codecs, and that’s where the headache with downloaded content comes from. Your computer can play many more codec formats that your iPod, Xbox 360 or DVD player.

What Codecs Can My iPod, Xbox 360 or DVD Player Play?

This is the hardest part, especially when you aren’t familiar with video codecs. You’re going to have to do some research and find out what your portable media player supports. This is how I find information for any electronic device I’m having problems with:

Once you’ve found the information make sure to save it somewhere you can find it again. I keep a folder on my computer with PDFs of the manuals for all my electronic devices so that I can quickly find the information again later.

Here’s a list of codecs for popular devices to get you started.

Sample of documentation on supported video codecs
From my DVD player manual

How to Copy a DVD to Your Computer

These guides will show you how to copy a DVD to your computer’s hard drive so that you can work on it with other software to change the format to something you can play on your portable media device.

How to Download Videos

I’m not going to go into detail because of the questionable legality. There are videos out there that you can legitimately download but there are even more where you would be breaking the law if you downloaded them. I’ll let my friends at Lifehacker give you the skinny on downloading videos instead:

How to Watch Any Video Format on your Computer

If you’re downloading videos from unknown sources, quite often you’re going to end up with a file that your computer doesn’t know how to play back. The solution is to use the free VLC Media Player that is available for Windows, Mac, Linux and a million other operating systems you’ve never heard of.

Quick tip: always test playing a file with VLC before you do anything else with it. If it doesn’t play in VLC, chances are you won’t be able to convert it to work with your portable media player.

When VLC doesn’t work, there’s the Combined Community Codec Pack to the rescue.

How to Tell Which Codec Format the Video Uses

The best advice I can give anyone who is downloading content from unknown sources is do not trust the file extension. Just because the file says .divx or .mp4 doesn’t mean it’s is. Use the free GSpot software to find out the real details of what codec format the file you downloaded is.

I’m not going to lie to you — GSpot isn’t the most userfriendly application I’ve ever seen. But it gives you the two pieces of essential information you need: the video codec and audio codec the file is using.

Using GSpot to analyze video codec information

How to Convert Codec Formats

The world of video codecs is very confusing, with lots of formats that sound similar but have minor differences that will prevent them with playing on different devices. I use Any Video Converter when I need to change codec formats of a file. It has a very simple interface that requires only three clicks to convert a file:

  1. Add a file
  2. Choose the profile for the output format I want
  3. Encode

Any Video ConverterAny Video Converter also has pay versions with added features like easy converting to iPod, Zune, PSP. But the free version works well for converting if you set up the profile for the output file format correctly. The free version also supports YouTube.

It is often easier to find specialty software that supports the electronic device you want to play videos on. When looking for how to specific software for converting video the first thing I do is go to lifehacker.com and do a search. They often discuss free software for video converting, and the comments are full of excellent information.

Specialty Software for Converting Video

Here are some examples of software that converts specifically to the file formats you need. I haven’t tried all of them, and some of them are pay software with trial versions while others are freeware and available for multiple operating systems.

This was written as part of the Daily Blog Tips tutorials group writing project.

Only Two Days Left to Win Graphic Design Services for Your Blog

Posted in Asides, Contests, Group Writing Projects, Technology by engtech on September 24, 2007

In 3 Surefire Ways to Advertise Your Blog on a Shoestring I recommended running a blog contest as a great way to create buzz, build links, and get the attention of potential new readers. It sounds like David Airey Graphic Design was listening because he is running what has to be the biggest blog giveaway contest I’ve ever seen (click to see rules). The prize pool is large enough that I thought it was a Problogger contest at first glance.

Running through the contest sponsors is a good list of blogs I already subscribe to: David himself, DoshDosh, I Love Typography, ProBlogger, Daily Blog Tips, InstigatorBlog, Business Blogwire, Andy Beard Niche Marketing, Make It Great! and Lorelle on WordPress (where I am sometimes a guest blogger).

This is a great idea and I’m very impressed with how he has managed to rally a community around him to provide prizes. If you run a blog yourself then you should enter the contest in the next two days.

You could be a winner. I got my new logo from a contest on Daily Blog Tips.

Canadian Marketing, Media, and Digital Blogs Tournament

Posted in Group Writing Projects, Internet Duct Tape News by engtech on August 27, 2007

Internet Duct Tape is proud to be a part of the 1% Army Canadian Blogging Tournament. I’m part of division A: Online/Digital/Tech/Web 2.0. The other divisions are B: Media/Social Media/PR/Culture, C: Marketing/Communications/Research/Design, and D: Quebec. Yes, they’re that distinct! You can read more about it on the 1% Army Facebook Group.

Photo by sookie

I have to submit three posts written in 2007 that will be judged on:

– overall impact (20%)
– clarity of thought (20%)
– did it make me want to think/act differently (20%)
– did it want me to comment/participate (20%)
– originality (20%)

What Do You Think?

I’m going to rip a page from Ben, co-founder of Standout Jobs — a Montreal-based job search start-up, and ask my readers what they think my three best posts were under the criteria of overall impact, clarity of thought, call to action and originality. Name your three favorites in the comments section, or write about them on your blog and leave a trackback. I have to submit my three best by September 8th.

Something New

One of the posts has to be written since August 11th.

Something Old

The other two posts can be from later in the year.

Thank you in advance for your participation.

My Favorite Posts from DailyBlogTip’s Project3

Posted in Group Writing Projects, Technology by engtech on July 13, 2007

As part of Project3, Daniel from Daily Blog Tips has asked us to read and rate each other’s entries. I went through the big list of 115 entries and here is my (much shortened) list of favorites. They are mostly about blog advice or health tips. You can read my entry for Project 3 here: 3 Surefire Ways to Advertise Your Blog on a Shoe String

This list was put together using my delicious2blog tool that I will be making freely available by September 1st. If you would like to receive an announcement when the program is available then please subscribe to a new blog I’ve created purely for announcements of new software/tools/themes I’ve created at IDT Labs. Not only does it post a list of links from del.icio.us based on specific tags, but it also sorts them by the number of times they’ve been saved on del.icio.us, dugg or linked by other blogs.

My Favorites


  • saves – number of people who bookmarked on http://del.icio.us
  • inbound links – number of blogs who linked to it (max 100)
  • diggs – number of people who dugg on http://digg.com

3 Surefire Ways to Advertise Your Blog on a Shoe String

People always talk about how to sell ads on your blog, but it seems that no one talks about how to buy ads for your blog.

time is money
(photo by riccardo)

Time is money.

Trite, but true. One of the handiest “life hacks” is to figure out how much money your time is worth (after taxes) and use that to as a basis for deciding if a time saving service is worth it’s cost (assuming you have disposable income). The classic example is to hire help for around the home or to go out for dinner. Compare the spent time doing it yourself to the money you’d spend paying someone to do it for you and find an acceptable ratio.

One of the greatest lies told in the blogosphere is “write better content to get more readers and more traffic.” Great content without promotion will always fail to reach wide audience. Some form of promotion is always necessarily, usually by getting links from a more popular site, or by having a reader base that promotes your content for you.

This is how I know that I’m not a writer: the best writing comes because you have something to say, not because you’re trying to achieve some level of popularity. I know I have thought “why write if no one is reading?” Obviously, I have some deep-seated issues involving being unpopular in elementary school and trying to find validation on the Internet instead of finding my own happiness inside me; consider this my cry for help.

time is money - playground nerd
(photo by peregrino)

Writing content takes time and so does marketing. I would estimate I spend more time promoting my site, networking and building relationships with other bloggers than I do writing content. My combined focusing on writing and promotion is the only reason why anyone has every read my site — not because my content attracts readers like bees to honey.

Writing and promoting leads to lost hours, but time is money. Is it possible to replace time spent on marketing with money spent on advertising?

My time is worth around $20/hour to me. Blogging is my hobby, not a money making venture. This would be purely to reduce time I already spend — not an attempt to “grow my business.” Can a small monetary investment replace my own time building links?

In an hour I can probably drive around a guaranteed minimum of 100-300 hits to a blog post by prepping it for search engines, submitting it to social networks, contacting other bloggers and plugging it in forums and blog comments.

The sums of money are small because 1) I’m not doing this as a business investment and because 2) it is harder to compare time to money with larger sums of money. I also feel that small sums are more realistic to what a blogger can afford. This is my first time trying to buy advertising so the results may be laughable — please give better advice in the comments.

Three Good Ways to Buy Blog Ads (and Two Bad Ways)

BAD: Strange Schemes – RentMyChest – $50/life

Everyone has heard of the Million Dollar Homepage due to the massive main stream media coverage it garnered. Lots (and lots) of similar ideas sprung up. Chris Pirillo came up with the oh-so-strange RentMyChest.com. Buy a linked word on his chest for $50 for life. Result: the traffic is low — less than three hits a day. Ratio has been less than 10 hits/dollar so far.

AVERAGE: Social Networks – StumbleUpon Advertising Campaign – $10/once

Any blogger who has had a post stumbled has seen the how they turn the referrer url into an ad for StumbleUpon (genius). They are the most straightforward with a direct cost per vistor of $0.05 a hit. $10 got me 200 hits, although my stats software only said 130 (my fault for having too long of a landing page). There were only three positive stumbles, which didn’t lead to any increased SU traffic once the campaign was over. Ratio is 13 hits/dollar. (It should have been 20 hits/dollar but I want to keep the metrics even with the rest.)

GOOD: Blog Advertising – Adbrite – $12/month

I chose to buy an ad on the popular blogger Violent Acres’ site because the cost was so low. I chose the “I support Violent Acres” text which made me the second most popular ad on the site with around 7-9 hits a day. When the author wrote a post directly about her advertisers that lead to an increase of around 100-180 hits for two days. Ratio was about 40 hits/dollar.

GOOD: Social Networks – StumbleUpon Sponsorship – $20/year

It is harder to measure the results of this. By becoming a sponsored StumbleUpon community member an account gets featured more often. But being a solid well-networked member of the StumbleUpon community seems to be a much bigger factor than whether or not you are a sponsor. I’ve seen StumbleUpon block users from submitting articles from certain blogs, but when contacted SU never responded.

GREAT: Group Writing Project with Prize / Contest – $15/contest

Group writing projects are a great way to get links and interactive community participation. The downside is that their success is largely a factor of how well they are promoted – Probloggers like Darren Rowse can get over 300 links in a group writing project. I got 23 links, 1000 hits and more importantly new readers because of my first contest. I consider it a resounding success. Ratio was 67 hits/dollar.

My second contest did 49 links and 1450 hits, and my third contest did 19 links and 860 hits.

Is it worth spending money to promote your blog?

I’m still divided on it. The results aren’t going to be any better than what you can build naturally through promotion, but it can be a good way to give support to other bloggers/sites you enjoy. Contests seem to be a great way to engage your readers and help build a community around your blog — but there isn’t any time savings compared to how you would normally promote a post. Running a contest is worth it for building up your community but it isn’t a short-cut (and too much self-promotion can drive away readers). Spending the same time and energy on something else other than a contest would likely get similar results.

buy and sell blog ads promotion links
(photo by greefus)

Ways to Advertise Your Blog (That I Didn’t Try)

Directory Listing

More info on SEOMoz: ” I think that this is a ton of bull. I think that you can blow a load of dough and a lot of time chasing these links – which are mostly going to be low quality – and bring you very little real traffic.”

Blog Advertising – Text Link Ads

The ads are served as part of the web content so they pass ad-blocking software and are counted by search engines. It’s like buying your way on to the blogroll. Text Link Ads would charge $69 to $83 per month for a single link on my blog — so it’s out of my “on a shoestring” price range. One thing I’ve noticed from being on many blog rolls is that they don’t usually lead to many hits. More info at SEOMoz.

Blog Advertising – Direct

Some blog owners who sell ads will allow you to negotiate direct prices. This is a better deal for both parties because there is no middle man. DailyBlogTips writes about direct sale from the seller’s point of view.

Blog Advertising – Networks

“Most blog networks allow users to purchase credits with money, and the price is really convenient. You should be able receive hundreds of visitors or to get thousands of banner impressions for less than 10 dollars. Some blog networks that sell credits include Blog Explosion, Blog Soldiers and Blog Advance.” More info at DailyBlogTips.

Blog Advertising – Sponsored Reviews

PayPerPost, ReviewMe and SponsoredReviews all let you find bloggers who are will to write about your site if you give them some cash. It could be a good way to target blogs that have the same niche, although there is no guarantee they’ll have anything nice to say about you. Blogging Tips talks about his experience buying reviews. Buying paid reviews can be a great way to promote a contest.

RSS Advertising – FeedBurner

FeedBurner has been selling ads in RSS feeds for a while, and that’s only going to increase now that they’ve been bought by Google. You are targeting people who read blogs and people who subscribe to RSS feeds. They have detailed demographics on the audiences. aVC talks about buying Feedburner ads, and how each subscriber makes him around $0.60/month on the ads he sells through FeedBurner.

Search Engines – Google AdWords

” Adwords is probably the most efficient method to generated raw traffic for your website. In order to get started you should create an account, add lots (by lots I mean hundreds if not thousands) of keywords that are related your site and set the maximum Pay-per-Click rate at $0.01. After that raise the rate by $0.01 every week or so until you start getting the desired amount of daily clicks.” More info at DailyBlogTips. You can also directly target a specific site using Google AdWords.

Social Networks – YouTube

This is like direct blog advertising, but instead you contact the creators of popular videos on YouTube and ask them to embed a watermark with your blog url for a small price. WebLogHits talks about their experience.

Social Networks – Facebook

Facebook lets you create flyers with 5000 impressions for $10. This sounds like a great ratio, except that so few of those impressions click on the ads.

Social Networks – Digg and User/Submitter

There are several underground sites that will “vote” for your site on social link sharing networks. This can lead to you getting banned from those networks, and isn’t like to be worth it in the long term. Digg seems to bring less hits and less links then it ever did before.

7 tips for buying advertising for your blog
(photo by thoth92)

7 Tips for Buying Advertising for Your Blog

  1. Niche
    • Buy ads from sites that would have a similar audience who would also appreciate your content.
  2. Deep Link
    • Instead of linking to the front page of your blog, link to a particular page that gives the reader value. Try to convert them into a regular reader.
  3. Other Blogs
    • By buying ads on other blogs not only do you support other bloggers but you are targeting an audience that already reads blogs.
  4. Choose Sites that Directly Mention Their Sponsors
    • A link in the sidebar only gets a fraction of the hits compared to a blog that directly thanks the people who have sponsored them.
  5. Mention the Site You Are Advertising On
    • Ads that mention the site they are advertising on cut through the blinders people have when reading websites.
  6. Avoid Pyramid Schemes and Pay Directories
    • They don’t work. When was the last time you clicked on a link on a million dollar homepage or on from a blog directory?
  7. Ad-blocking
    • If the ad would be blocked by ad blocking software then you might think twice about using it if you have an audience that uses ad-blocking software.

This was written as part of Daily Blog Tips “Project 3” contest. Vote for it by linking to this article from your blog!

5 Reasons Blogging Leads to the Unemployment Line (You’re Fired!)

Posted in Group Writing Projects, Technology by engtech on May 11, 2007

We wait with excitement for Trump to say “You’re Fired” on TV, but it isn’t nearly as entertaining in real life. Building a blog with a large audience is hard work. It can be like moonlighting with a second career. It takes attention away from other aspects of your life, like your primary career. It can have negative consequences.

Mainstream media has documented several cases of people being fired for blogging. Here are five of the reasons why.


The Biggest Mistake a Blog Can Make is Not Owning Its Own Name

Posted in Group Writing Projects, Technology by engtech on April 02, 2007

Daniel of DailyBlogTips is doing a group writing project on mistakes bloggers make. Four months ago I wrote a post outlining all of the mistakes I’ve made in blogging and there’s one that still sticks with me: not buying my own domain name.

There are many reasons why you’d want your own domain name:

  • Ability to move with no hassles.
  • More professional to have your own name.
  • Building a recognizable brand identity.


Website Analysis – Phil Gerbyshak’s Make It Great

Posted in Group Writing Projects, Technology by engtech on March 31, 2007

SOAP stands for Scratch One Another Program for bloggers to help other bloggers improve their blogs by the same guy who brought us Blogtipping.

For SOAP I’ll be reviewing Phil Gerbyshak’s Make It Great! I have to apologize in advance for my brevity. I’m up to my eyeballs in stuff to do. If anyone would like more explanation for some of the advice I’ve given then please leave a comment and I’ll expand that section. If I focused on the room for improvement suggestions more than on what was done right it was only because of my time constraints — sorry. I focused on technical issues rather than the content of blog posts for the same reason.

Disclaimer: I am not a copywriter, SEO expert, web designer or even a software user interface expert. I do read a lot about those subjects though, and where possible tried to drop quick links to better advice. YMMV.


Building an Audience – DailyBlogTip’s Traffic Generation Tips Project

Posted in Building a Community, Group Writing Projects, Technology by engtech on February 06, 2007

Daniel at DailyBlogTips ran a group blogging project for tips on how to increase traffic to your site. I participated, and here are the group results as ordered by the Blogomatron 5000.

Even Einstein wanted to increase blog traffic

Strangely enough, the Blogomatron 5000 put my contribution first. There must be a problem with the algorithm.

Community – engtech

  • Community.It’s one word but it is the most important one when it comes to blogging. The only “blog metric” that makes sense is the vibrant community of readers it has. Building a community around your blog will bring you increased traffic, but how do you start? The boilerplate response to building traffic is always “SEO, social networking sites, and commenting on blogs” but it can be simplified to “be part of a community”. The easiest way to seed your blog is with an already existing community. But the only way to do that is to be part of the community yourself.

Communities/MySpace – Kat

  • I’ve recently gotten involved with several “MySpace-like” community sites that focus on my target audience. I share my thoughts in their forums, post intros to my real blog on their system blog and I’ve even created a group for my specific niche. It’s been very, very successful for me.

Communities/Newsgroups – Ramen Junkie

  • Newsgroups. I always see a spike when I post a review to a newsgroup.

Communities/Answers – Mark Alves

  • Participate in Yahoo Answers and LinkedIn Answers where you can demonstrate your expertise, get associated with relevant keywords and put your URL out there.

Communities/Squidoo – Chris

  • Squidoo Lenses are a good way to generate traffic. By using a lense, you can generate your own custom “community” of webpages, including some of the more popular pages in your “neighborhood.” Including your own
    webpage in such a list is a good way of generating traffic.

Give Value – Ian Delaney

  • Nothing creates long-term traffic more than value. Making a post along the lines of ‘Evaluated resources for XYZ’ is useful. Useful things get linked to and they get onto del.icio.us, which is far better long-term than a digg front page.

Add Value Through Simplification – Kyle

  • Simplify. Pay attention to complex issues in your field of work. It may be a big long publication that is hard to wade through or a concept that is hard to grasp. Reference it and make a shorter “for dummies” version with your own lessons learned and relevant tips. When doing this, I have been surprised to find that the simplified post will appear before the more complex version in search results. Perhaps this is why it results in increased traffic; people looking for more help or clarification on the subject will land on your blog.

Offline Traffic – Andrew Timberlake

  • A great tip for generating traffic is off-line by including your url in all your off-line liturature from business cards, letterheads, pamphlets, adverts through in-store signage if applicable. I even have our website on my vehicle.

CSS Galleries – Eric Atkins

  • Create a new design for your website. Not only will it be more attractive to your regular readers, but you can submit it to some CSS gallery showcase sites that feature great designs. This will give you exposure on those sites while generating a lot of traffic and backlinks from those types of sites.

CSS Galleries – Jen Gordon

  • I came upon some unexpected traffic when my blog popped up on some css design portals like http://www.cssmania.com and http://www.webcreme.com. If you can put some time into the concept behind and design for your blog, I’d recommend submitting your site to a design portal not only for additional traffic but to build an additional community around your site.

Translation – Daniel

  • A simple tip that will probably boost your page views: install a translator plugin. I decided to use a paid plugin for this, but if I am not wrong there are some free ones as well. The translation is not very good, as you can imagine, but it helps to attract readers that are not fluent in English.

Deep Archives – Alan Thomas

  • Don’t forget your archives. I just posted a roundup of all interviews I did over the past seven months. One of them generated a new link and a big traffic spike from a group of users that look like they will be loyal readers now.

Be Opinionated – Grant Gerver

  • Try to be polemic. I write obsessively about all-things political from the left-wing perspective in the form of humorous, sarcastic one-liners.

Controversy – KWiz

  • Write something controversial. I don’t think it’s good to write something controversial just for the purpose of getting traffic necessarily (especially if it’s only for that purpose and you’re being disingenuous), but it works.

Group Writing Projects – Brandon Wood

  • A simple trick I’ve used to increase traffic to my blog is participate in group writing projects. In fact, that’s what I’m doing right now.

Group Writing Projects/Blog Carnivals – Rory

  • Submit articles to blog carnivals (http://blogcarnival.com). Your article almost always gets posted, and it must generate a handful of visitors, at least.

Networking – Dennis Coughlin

  • Find the best blogs on your niche and contact the authors. Introduce yourself and send a link of your blog. This might help them to discover your blog, read it and possibly link to it.

Social Bookmarking/Blog-buzz – Inspirationbit

  • Well, obviously everyone knows that social bookmarking sites like Digg, del.icio.us, etc. bring lots of traffic. But I’m now submitting some of my articles to blogg-buzz.com (a digg like site for bloggers), and I always get not a bad traffic from there.

Post Frequencies and Reader Engagement – Goerge Manty

  • Post 3-5 times a day. Use ping services like pingomatic or setting up wordpress to ping some of the ping services. Engage your readers. Put up polls, ask them questions, give them quizes, free tools, etc. Make them want to come back and tell their friends about you.

Article Directories – Splork

  • I’ve had good success writing articles and submitting them to EzineArticles. Articles that have been written from well-researched keyword phrases and accepted by EzineArticles tend to rank very high in Google for that search term. Placing anchor text in the footer of those articles so the reader can visit my relevant website has always increased my site traffic.

Comments – Megan Taylor

  • Participate in conversations on related blogs. Start conversations on your own blog. Don’t just post about a story and leave it at that, engage your audience.

Comments – Brian Auer

  • According to my Google Analytics, about 35% of my traffic comes from other people’s blogs and 25% comes from the forums I’m active with, while search engines provide about 15%. I post comments on other blogs that are related to mine, and I post my site link in my signature at the forums.

Comments – Nick

  • Participating in forums is a great way to get loyal readers. Either link baiting people in your signature or posting great advice and tips will give you high quality traffic, which will result in return visitors.

Comments – Guido

  • Comment on blogs, write useful content and make good friends on forums.

Comments – Jester

  • Leave comments on other blogs. If you’re already reading them, it takes just a couple of seconds to leave a message agreeing or disagreeing with the author, you get to leave a link to your site, and you will almost ALWAYS get traffic from your comments.

Trackbacks – Cory OBrien

  • Read lots of other blogs. Leave trackbacks. Make sure your blog is optimized for search engines. Leverage social bookmarking sites like digg (both for new ideas and for traffic).

MyBlogLog – Sridhar Katakam

  • Keep track of blogs and leave comments on them. How do you know which blogs to keep track of in the first place? Add the MyBlogLog widget/code to your blog. When you notice a MyBlogLog user visiting your blog, visit that person’s in turn.

MyBlogLog – Shankar Ganesh

  • Just browse around MyBlogLog.com and you will surely get visitors to your blog.

Ping Aggregators – Scott Townsend

  • Inform search engines and aggregators like Technorati (using the ping functionality) when your blog is updated, this should ensure maximum traffic coming from those sources.

Linking – Tillerman

  • Be the first to write a post about the ‘Top Ten Blogs’ in your niche. The post will rank highly in any general search for blogs in your niche and other bloggers in your niche write about the post and link to it.

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