I don't want to start out by bitching about yet another crappy Internet thing, but I think I have to. YouTube Red is this play from YouTube to try to get into the paid streaming business and one of the 'features' they tout is the ability to play videos in the background on mobile devices... something that totally worked before JUST FINE before.
Over the last year or so I figured out a rather complex work-around for this on the iPad.
- go to 'desktop mode' in the browser,
- hit the PiP button, slide the video off the screen
- wait a few seconds
- lock the device.
- playback will pause a few seconds later
- hit play from the lock screen
Doing this dance is annoying and yet from time to time I like to listen to random music mixes as I'm falling asleep so I have put up with it this far. (As an aside lately I've been listening to Mike Duncan's Revolutions podcast before bed. He did The History of Rome which I also loved, so check it out). Always on the look-out for reasons to wield a big hammer at these kinds of problems I started thinking about potential solutions and realized that I had been doing a different manual dance to get tracks loaded on my phone.
That dance looks like:
- youtubedown the video.
- ffmpeg to strip the video track out and leave the audio.
- copy into iTunes, cry, flail, gnash teeth
- have audio on my phone... somewhere
There has to be a better way... right? Obv.
It turns out tossing ffmpeg and youtubedown into a Docker container was stupidly easy. So that gives me a nice way to automatically do 1 and 2 above. Cool. Now, the trick was how to make this all just happen from the phone so I need some sort of interface. I just happen to have a bunch of boilerplate Flask code laying around from other projects that leans on Bootstrap so I dusted that off and started plugging away.
To take a quick step back, it is useful to know that most of my Internet facing infrastructure runs in a colocation facility. All of my internal stuff then connects to the colo via VPN and through the magic of OSPF and BGP it ensures that all the IPv4 and IPv6 traffic for 'my things' crosses only those VPN links. Almost all of the time this is a good thing. In fact this is the basis of how I ad-block and content filter all my devices including my iPhone and iPad. In this case though having to traverse the VPN and therefore my colocation provider's uplink twice isn't really useful for streaming audio that originally came from the Internet. I do have some servers at home though so I tossed Docker on one of the VMs with the idea that external requests can proxy over the VPN but if I am in bed I just have to traverse my WiFi. Sweet.
After a weekend of what felt like mostly
How this now works:
- find video I want to listen to.
- copy URL
- paste URL
- press start
Being able to launch the worker containers with respect to the locality of the usage of the output is a win for me. It solved both problems without the typical 'you now have n+1 problems' fallout. The Flask app uses a worker thread to watch the container and if it finishes successfully it stores the metadata so I can listen to previously downloaded tracks with the click of a link. It would be trivial to detect the location of the user request and launch the container at any of my sites letting me keep the data closest to the user that is requesting it. It would also be pretty trivial to extend this model to basically anything that I can shove into a container that I might want to trigger from the web. Next though, I think I'll start earnestly looking at the dumpster fire that is Apple iOS development to see if I can put together a share extension to eliminate #2, #3 and #4 in the list. 🍺 🐋