// why am I so n00b?

Heh, I guess there are already plenty of tools out there which do this sort of thing already (never seen them personally, but then I’ve never looked either, heh), but this only took me half an evening to throw together anyway.

Basically, it’s a Python (uses youtube-dl) and PHP-powered web-based YouTube video downloader and converter, you just stick in the URL to a YouTube clip you want to save, and it will download it and offer it for download as an MPEG which you can save on your PC and play in all it’s low-quality glory whenever you want.

Basically it automates the following, which can be run on any Linux PC:

# youtube-dl.py -o myvid.flv http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=123abc # ffmpeg -i myvid.flv -ab 56 -ar 22050 -b 500 -s 320x240 myvid.mpeg

As an added benefit, it stores a complete history of downloaded clips, so you and others can re-download them at any time without having to do the whole fetch/convert process over again. Plus it uses a nifty fake AJAX waiting effect :P.

Requires Linux with ffmpeg, Python 2.4+, and PHP 4.3+.

Update: DynaBar 2 is available, the download link below is out of date.

Finally got around to making a proper release of something :).

Presenting DynaBar, a PHP script which can create dynamic images through the use of plugins, inspired by the Userbars.com website.

I thought it would be cool to be able to have userbars with dynamic data in them, stuff like game server status, stats, etc., etc. to make them a little more exciting. I also wanted to learn a bit more about PHP’s image manipulation, so this proved a good oppertunity for that.

Basically, the whole thing works off a plugin system, which lets you drop in a PHP script (the plugin), set up a config file (the userbar), and link to an image. DynaBar then goes about loading the plugin, requesting it’s data (so it goes off and collects stats, or whatever), and building the final image (putting on the [optional] scanline effect, glossy shine, and layering the text data from the plugin on all of that).

I’ve also created a small designer script, which allows you or any users to create new userbars using plugins or whatever, with their own images and content, in a simple wizard-like interface. The end result is ready-to-use forum or HTML code. :).

Here are some examples, using plugins included in the package:

Image lost in time Simple, plain text (nothing dynamic about it).

Image lost in time This one queries LastFM for which song I’ve played most recently in my media player.

Image lost in time Finally, here we have Battlefield 2 stats, coming from BF2Tracker’s clan XML feed.

Grab the download from the bottom of this post. Please read the README in the doc/ directory.

(Wanted to reply to this NewsForge article, since some other seemingly know-it-all n00bs were ranting in the comments about Smarty being a waste of time, however their comments system won’t let me post [most likely a problem on SAIX’s side])

After having used Smarty for around 2 years now, I don’t think I could ever go back to writing PHP applications without it.

It’s brilliant to be able to spend some time working out your code, logic, etc all nicely in a PHP script, assigning the variables and values you want to present on the final page, then go and throw together a plain HTML page with some smarty tags to display that information.

Bug in your HTML? No need to dig through PHP scripts bloated with loads of HTML searching for problems, just whip out the template and correct it easily. Same goes for debugging the PHP code, it’s not all mixed in with the HTML so it’s millions of time easier to debug.

Overall, there’s no faster, cleaner way of writing PHP applications.

I’ve had a couple of questions regarding my Battlefield 2 Stats in Python post, and how it may be possible to do the same in PHP, so I thought I’d add an update for that.

Simple PHP code for Battlefield 2 Stats retrieval:


    $info = "per*,cmb*,twsc,cpcp,cacp,dfcp,kila,heal,rviv,rsup,rpar,tgte,dkas,dsab,cdsc,rank,cmsc,kick,kill,deth,suic,ospm,klpm,klpr,dtpr,bksk,wdsk,bbrs,tcdr,ban,dtpm,lbtl,osaa,vrk,tsql,tsqm,tlwf,mvks,vmks,mvn*,vmr*,fkit,fmap,fveh,fwea,wtm-,wkl-,wdt-,wac-,wkd-,vtm-,vkl-,vdt-,vkd-,vkr-,atm-,awn-,alo-,abr-,ktm-,kkl-,kdt-,kkd-";

    $pid = '43595724';
    $data = file("http://bf2web.gamespy.com/ASP/getplayerinfo.aspx?pid=".$pid."&info=".$info);

    $stats = array_combine(explode("\t", $data[3]), explode("\t", $data[4]));

    printf("%s has %s kills and %s deaths and a score of %s", $stats['nick'], $stats['kill'], $stats['deth'], $stats['scor']);

Note that if you’re not using PHP5, you’ll need to add the following drop-in replacement for the “array_combine” function:

    function array_combine($keys, $vals) {
        $i = 0;
        foreach ($keys as $key) {
            $newarray[trim($key)] = trim($vals[$i++]);
        return $newarray;

It’s also important to note that while at the time of writing this, this method of retrieving stats works, EA, DICE and GameSpy are supposedly working on a new XML-based stats system for BF2.

Updated: Since this was written, some things changed with the stats system, and the GameSpy application requires you to pass a bunch of columns you want info for. This can help customise the data you get back, so you only request what you need. I’ve included all the columns in the $info variable, which you can customise. Make sure it contains only valid columns, or you won’t get any data back at all.

For info on what to do with the stats, and what all the columns etc. mean, check out the BF2 Technical Wiki.

I decided it might be a good idea, from a debugging and administrative point of view, to save the reports people were viewing in my application at work. Since users are distributed all over the country, and I have to communicate with them over the phone with on-the-spot problems, it’s hard and very time consuming to get them to tell me all the parameters etc they’re using to generate a report which they are having problems with (mostly, the data looks like something they weren’t expecting).

Anyway, I thought saving the exact report they are viewing is much easier for me to simply call up while someone’s on the phone, than doing the whole ‘which options did you use?’ thing.

Option one was saving each report to a PDF file on the server, but, that’s pretty inflexible, and also, people can view more than just PDF files with my reporting options (emails can be send direct, zip files can be downloaded, and data can be downloaded in csv format), so that wouldn’t always work out.

So I looked into serializing the actual report object used to generate any of the above report types, since that object contains absolutely all data, totals, titles, info, etc.. Unfortunately, PHP’s built-in serialize() and unserialize() functions don’t work too well with complex data structures (arrays within classes, multi-dimensional arrays, etc, etc), and I couldn’t really work around all that without writing a few GBs of code onto my report class.

SO, I turned to XML. As it turns out, the PEAR ‘suite’ of scripts contains a rather useful XML serialization class -XML_Serializer, which can turn any data structure into an XML string, and for reading those strings back to usable PHP variables and objects.

It’s really quite simple:

$object = new SomeClass();
$object->var1 = "Hello World";

$serializer = &new XML_Serializer(array("indent" => "  ", "typeHints" => true));
$xml = $serializer->getSerializedData();

$xml now contains the full definition of $object in XML. You can write $xml to a file, save it in a database, whatever you like.

You can then come back later, and load the file/database record/etc into a string, and deserialize it…

$unserializer = &new XML_Unserializer();
$object2 = $unserializer->getUnserializedData();

echo $object2->var1;

Quite fun actually :D. You can obviously do a lot of error checking, and other things, but that’s just the basics.