mobile-dl is a roll-your-own Instapaper for rich media.
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mobile-dl is a roll-your-own Instapaper for rich media.

I've also created a Mac app, NoteTote, that has basically the same premise. If you're on a Mac, NoteTote is the better choice.

So you're out and about and you see on your iPhone (maybe on Twitter, maybe somewhere on the internet) that someone made a video you want to watch. You can't watch it right now, but you want to save it for later.

All you do is paste the URL of the video file (or audio file, or anything -- any valid URL is fine) into a specific note in Simplenote -- when you get home, your video is there on your computer for you to watch.


I made a screencast showing how to set mobile-dl up.

If you know a little Unix, setting mobile-dl up will be super-easy. First, here's what you need. Most people who are going to see this project already have this stuff, but I just want to be clear. You need:

  • a home computer with a Unix-y environment (Cygwin will do if you're on Windows)
  • Python 2.6+ (or an earlier version of Python with json installed)
  • curl
  • A Simplenote account
  • an iPhone with Simplenote installed (the iPhone is optional, but it's kinda the whole reason I built mobile-dl)

OK, so here's how to set mobile-dl up. There's two parts -- the "client" and the "server."

###The "Client" (Your iPhone)

  1. Choose a unique word or phrase you want to identify your note. This should be something quick to type, as well as something that isn't going to appear in any of your other notes. I use "qqqq" as my unique phrase because it's a great hack.
  2. In Simplenote, make a new note and type your unique phrase into the note. Let Simplenote sync.

###The "Server" (Your Home Computer)

  1. Download the source onto your home computer.
  2. Edit the user-specific values at the top of (your Simplenote credentials, your unique phrase, the directory you want your files to be downloaded to, and how often you want your home computer to check for new files).
  3. Run Your home computer is now watching your note for changes.

By default, mobile-dl runs silently -- it won't print anything. This is so you can run it in the background and not have it disturb you. If you want mobile-dl to print to the terminal when it does anything, run with the -noisy switch (-v and -verbose also work). Alternatively, running with the -log <log_filename> switch will make mobile-dl print a log to the file <log_filename>.

##Adding a File

On your iPhone, copy the URL of the file you want to download.

Open up Simplenote on your iPhone.

Open the note that contains your unique phrase.

Paste the URL into a blank line in note.

Now, if is running on your home computer, it will check your note and download any URLs you put in there. Once it's started downloading the files, it will clear the note, leaving only your unique phrase so you can use the note again.

##That's it. Well, almost.

There's one rule you have to follow:

##One URL per line.

URLs have to be separated by newlines. It can be as many newlines as you like, but you can't have two URLs on the same line.

Put simply, a single line can be [nothing (so, just a newline) | a URL | your unique phrase].


I used samuel's python-simplenote wrapper for the Simplenote API, though I had to tweak his code a little bit. Doing a diff on his and my will show you the changes.