Monday, November 1, 2010

How to Download an MP3 from a Hyperlink (or Facebook)

Some people have run into problems downloading some of the MP3 demos that I've publicized. If this is the case with you, hopefully this page will give you some useful information. Other people (probably many of you) might think that this is a ridiculous topic for a post. I mean after all, to download a link, you just right-click and save, right? Well, that's what I thought, until Facebook started messing with my well-laid plans.

I was having problems with blog posts that were imported into my Facebook notes feed. Readers were confused about how to download mp3's. I did a bit of quick digging, and quickly learned that the topic is pretty complicated. So don't feel bad if you're confused too: hopefully this post will help clear things up a bit.

For starters, there are three common areas from which people are downloading mixes associated with this site: the main website, the blogs, and from the facebook feeds. It is easy to download from some areas, and quite tricky to download from others. I'll touch on each of these pages below, and also talk about differences between Mac vs. PC, and common browsers. I won't be covering everything, but hopefully there will be enough info here to give you the clues you need to make things work on your own system.



Downloading from a Regular Web Page, or from a Blog

Windows, using Chrome: Left-click starts the MP3 playing in your browser. Right-click give you a menu, and you can chose the "save link as" option to download the file to your local computer. If you left-clicked and the file immediately starts playing within the browser, you can right-click anywhere in the blank areas of the screen and chose the "save as" option to download the file. If you right-click while your mouse is positioned over the small player in the center of the screen, the menu changes and you will see an option that says "save video as." That is misleading, but you can actually take that option and it will download the file you are looking for as an MP3, not as a video. Incidentally, I've listed Chrome first because it is the browser that I use the most.

Windows, using Internet Explorer: Left-click brings up a dialogue window that asks if you want to open the file or save it to your local computer. This is smart. Right-click gives you a menu, and you can chose the "save target as" option to download the file to your local computer. If you left-clicked on the file to "open" it, the browser will probably download the entire file first before playing it in an external player (such as Winamp or Windows Media Player), rather than starting to play a streamed copy directly within your browser window. This is not smart. You have to download the whole thing before you can play it, regardless of whether you chose "open" or "save," so you may as well choose "save" from the start so you know where your file is.

Windows, using Mozilla Firefox: Yes, we see completely different behaviour here too. Left-click starts the MP3 playing in your browser, sort of like Chrome. However, on my computer, while Chrome uses its own simple proprietary plug-in, Firefox is using a Quick-Time plug-in. This is bad, because if you've started to play the file and then want to right-click to have access to the "save as source" option, you are only allowed to save the file if you have Quick-Time Pro, which is a for-purchase option that many people do not have. So you have to go back in your browser to the page that shows the link to the file, and do a right-click instead. Right-clicking on a link in Firefox brings up a menu with one choice that says "save link as." Imagine that, yet another different way of saying the same thing. You'd think the browsers would get their standard dialogue together. I like Firefox's terminology best.

Mac, using Safari: Click directly on the link, and the demo will start playing in your browser (but not download). If you want to listen to the demo but still keep surfing the net, press the "ctrl" button at the same time as clicking on the link, this will give you a drop down menu. Choose "Open link in new tab." To download the demo, hold the "ctrl" button at the same time as clicking on the link, and this will give you a drop down menu. From this menu, choose the "Download Linked File" option.

Mac, using Firefox: Click directly on the link, and the demo will start playing in your browser (but not download). If you want to listen to the demo but still keep surfing the net, press the "ctrl" button at the same time as clicking on the link, this will give you a drop down menu. Choose "Open link in new tab." To download the mp3, hold the "option" button, and click on the link, and the demo will automatically begin downloading instead of playing.


Downloading from a Facebook Note

Facebook has two types of notes. The first, and far less common nowadays, is the note that is authored from directly within Facebook. The second, which is extremely popular now due to the ability to import external blogs is, you guessed it, a note imported from an external blog. Thankfully, Facebook has limited this feature so each person/page can only import from one external blog. Perhaps a bit inconvenient for people (such as myself) who administrate both a personal page and a fan page, but whatever, there are workarounds. Anyway, a note created from within Facebook is immediately visible on the page that it is posted on. However, it takes a bit of time for Facebook to notice new posts on external blogs and bring them in. Facebook claims 1-3 hours, but I've experienced periods of up to a week. I am pretty sure that it depends on the frequency of new content on the blog - the posts appear in Facebook more quickly during periods when the blog is pretty active, and if I ignore it for a few months, the import time increases dramatically. Anyway, luckily for the purpose of this little tutorial, both types of posts are treated them same when it comes to links.

If you see a normal hyperlink within a Facebook note, usually you can just click on it regularly and it takes you to the page that the hyperlink refers to.

If you see a media hyperlink within a Facebook note, it gets more confusing. A media link might be obvious, such as something that specifies a full URL to a media file on the internet. An example would be this:

http://www.chma.fm/DJ_Bolivia_-_Workout_Mix_01.mp3

However, you can also have a link where the "target" is the URL like you just saw, but there is an "alias" that tries to describe the target of the hyperlink. Perhaps something like "click here to get the file," or whatever the post's author felt like typing. If you try to download a media hyperlink within a Facebook note, you will instead see that your browser is trying to download a PHP file. That's a tiny little computer script, for those of you who are curious. That's no good. You want the music, not the computer script.

The solution is to do a regular left-click on the link first, and then follow the same instructions that I gave up at the top for downloading. Of course, if you paid attention to the Firefox instructions, you'll suddenly realize that you're out of luck, because once you're into the Quick-Time plug-in, you do NOT have an option to download if you don't have QT Pro. Really annoying.

Mac users may have a slight advantage here: through Facebook, it might be possible for them to do the regular "control-click" and download the file. You'll have to experiment to be sure.


That's about all the useful info that I can think of now. If anyone has any clarifications or corrections on information presented here, email me at djbolivia@gmail.com and I'll update this post. I'll try to find some info about iPads shortly too.