15 Awesome Things You Probably Shouldn't Do
11. Download YouTube Videos
For reasons beyond all human understanding, my 11-year-old daughter loves Rick Astley videos. She likes being rickrolled. But rather than sitting idly by and grinding my teeth as she streamed "Never Gonna Give You Up" on YouTube for the 27th time, I used KeepVid to put a copy of it on her hard drive--so she could transfer it to her portable media player, go into her room, and watch the damned thing by herself.
Downloading YouTube videos to your hard drive is easy. Just plug in the URL of the video you want, and KeepVid will convert it to 3GP, FLV, or MP4 format in a range of sizes. My daughter can fill up an entire flash drive with these inane videos (dancing cats are also a favorite) without sucking up precious bandwidth or driving dad insane. All for free.
Why this is awesome: Portable Rick Astley? Say no more.
Why you shouldn't do it: You're violating YouTube's prohibitions against accessing content "through any technology or means other than the video playback pages of the Service itself [or] the Embeddable Player." And if you distribute the videos, you may be violating the content owner's copyright. But we're never gonna give you up.
12. Ditch That DRM
In the bad old days, every song you bought legally on iTunes, Napster, or the Zune Marketplace had icky digital rights management stuff all over it, preventing you from playing it on "unapproved" devices or sharing it with friends. Though music DRM is mostly just an unpleasant memory, you may still have a library of old tunes that you want to convert to an unprotected format.
That is why God and Steve Jobs created the "analog hole"--a way to circumvent DRM by burning songs to a CD and then reripping the music by converting the CD's DRM-free WAV files into MP3s. Or you can avoid this tedious process by using software such as Tunebite or NoteBurner (both $40) to create a "virtual CD" shortcut on your hard drive for the WAV files.
Why this is awesome: It's your music, you paid for it, you should be able to do with it as you please.
Why you shouldn't do it: Efforts to circumvent copy protection could conceivably be construed as violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, though the odds that anyone will prosecute you for taking these steps merely to convert music you've already paid for are almost nil, Ezor says. If you try to sell or distribute the stuff you just de-DRMed, though, all bets are off.
13. Root Android
So you bought a groovy new Android phone six or nine months ago, but you're still waiting for your wireless carrier to upgrade the OS from one of the pitiful early versions? (T-Mobile, we're talking to you.) Or maybe you just hate all the useless extra "features" your telecom dumped in there. (MotoBlur, anyone?) It may be time to take matters into your own hands and install a custom version of the Android OS.
First you'll need to find an Android ROM (or build) that works with your handset. Then you'll need to carefully follow the instructions laid out by helpful Android hackers (like RyeBrye, The Unlockr, or Hack-A-Day) on how to "root" your phone. But beware: Even the "one-click" upgrades can get pretty gnarly.
Why this is awesome: No more crapware, plus the ability to get certain subscription features (like tethering and Wi-Fi hotspot access) for free. Your phone may also be faster and more stable.
Why you shouldn't do it: You will surely void your warranty, says Android Power blogger JR Raphael, and if you're not careful you might brick your phone. (That'll show em.) Like Apple, Google is constantly tweaking Android to make this sort of corrective surgery harder to pull off.
14. Play DOS Games for Free
Looking to turn back the clock? Long for the days of shoulder pads and Duran Duran? Sadly, there is no Internet Hot Tub Time Machine (yet). But you can still play old MS-DOS games that let you party like it's 1989.
Abandonia distributes games whose owners have stopped making, selling, or supporting them. Its abandonware collection features hundreds of titles, from "A Nightmare on Elm Street" (a 2D shooter loosely based on the film) to the original text adventure "Zork"--all free to download.
Why this is awesome: Chunky two-dimensional graphics and cheesy eight-bit sound effects in a DOS window? Bring it on.
Why you shouldn't do it: Technically, many of these titles are still owned by the original absentee copyright holders, making downloads illegal. Let us know if anyone decides to sue you over it.
15. Create Your Own Torrent TV
Okay, you're a file-swapping deviant with no moral center. We get that. Now here's something that will make your life easier: a free service that alerts you when your favorite TV torrents are ready for download.
Karmorra's ShowRSS lets you add a feed to any RSS reader that gives the lowdown on the downloads and lets you grab torrents with a single click. You can choose from hundreds of popular programs--from 30 Rock to Warehouse 13 and most shows in between, and watch them on free media players like Miro or Vuze.
Why this is awesome: No more scouring torrent search sites waiting for HBO's Boardwalk Empire to show up.
Why you shouldn't do it: You do realize that downloading and sharing copyrighted materials is illegal, right? Just checking.
Contributing editor Dan Tynan's contract forbids him from condoning illegal activities, so you didn't hear any of this stuff from him. Catch his perfectly legal but immoral and fattening geek humor site, eSarcasm , or follow (but don't impersonate) him on Twitter: @tynan_on_tech .