Sunday, December 17, 2006

Copying DVD's

My son added a program to my iMac that would rip a DVD so that he could
play it on his iPod. I was playing with it the other day and realized
that it can also rip DVD's and make .avi files from them. Since both our
DVD players will also play .avi files I decided to test it out. One of
the features is a choice of methods to constrain the size (and
ultimately the quality). One of those choices was to keep the final file
to a certain size, it defaults to 700 mb (CD size). So I chose that
option, popped in one of my son's DVD's that I hadn't watched, and
waited. The movie was 1:33 and it took roughly 4.5 hours to re-encode
the film as an .avi. I popped it in the DVD player and am happy to
report that it works just fine on a 25" set. So I popped it in the other
player connected to a 36" set, and there I can detect, when looking
extremely closely, some minute artifacting. My suspicion is that it
might be a little more noticable on some of the really big screens, but
hey! If you can afford a huge plasma screen, you can probably afford to
BUY a backup copy, eh? ;-)

If you're still reading this, I suspect that you're intriqued. The name
of the program is Handbrake and its available for free at:

Now I realize that I'm among the small percentage of folks that use a
Mac and this information might be of help to most, except that the
creator of Handbrake is creating a version for Windows and its in the
beta version, also available on the same site. There's a link that will
take you to a forum style page that has downloads for the various steps
in his progress. My advice would be to download the latest version (part
way down the page) as the first version has no GUI and I don't know
anyone that prefers command line interfaces (although, no doubt, there
are some!). Checking the responses I see that most folks are having good
luck with the beta.

If you Windows users choose to test the program, please let us know!

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Friday, December 15, 2006

Buying toys, at my age?

Yeah, I admit it...

Last christmas as we shopped for my nephews at Toys R Us, I noticed a
three pack of JLU (Justice League Unlimited) action figures. If I recall
correctly, the pack had Batman, Metamorpho, and Wildcat. I lusted after
it, and Deb even offered to buy it for me but I resisted temptation
because I knew that I'd want them all.

So, six months later Deb asks me to stop at the Target near where I work
to look for a Sponge Bob Lego set for one of the nephews (remeber when
you had to use your imagination when playing with your Legos?). Once
again I saw the JLU three packs, but this time I could buy two of the
sets and have several core JLU members. They also had a single pack with
Supergirl. Next thing I knew, I was at the register shelling out $25
plus tax. The fever kept up for a few days as I systematically hit all
the Target, Toys R Us, and Wal-marts (the latter did not carry the
figures as far as I can tell).

Finally I had all the characters that I really wanted except the Flash.
I mentioned it on my Podcast and next thing I knew, one of the other
podcasters sent it to me for my birthday. The only other character I
would have liked to have had (but wasn't compelled to buy) was Elongated

So the other day we're in Target shopping for, yes you guessed it, my
nephews and there are several new sets of figures on the shelf. This
time its a three pack of the "Justice Lords" which are Superman, Batman,
and Wonder Woman from an alternate future where they decide to take over
the world "for its own good." Once again Deb tells me to get them, and
once again I fight temptation and say no. I do however notice that one
of the three packs is various Green Lanterns, two of whom I don't know,
and the third being Kyle Rayner, the newest Green Lantern after Hal
Jordan died (Hal's been ressurected so don't feel too bad), and I know
my son Cory's a big fan. But I also know that he might not forgive me if
I get him started on a new thing to collect, so I ask Deb to remind me
to tell him about them, the store's on my way home and I can always stop
for him.

So a little while later, still trying to figure out what to buy the
nephews, Deb calls me over to look at something. Its a six pack of
figures including the big three (Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman) as
well as Bizarro, the big dude who "killed" Superman (sorry, I've
forgotten the name) and some other villian that I can't think of. Mad
thoughts rush through my head as I actually consider buying the $20 set.
Why? Because I want that Bizarro figure! Deb even says that I should go
ahead and get it, but once again, I fight the urge and rationalize that
it would be a stupid thing to do since I already have three of the
figures and don't care one way or the other about two of the others. We
left the store with none of them, phew...

So today, my son Cory calls me to say that he's at the Toys R Us in
Alentown looking for the set with Kyle and are there any figures that I
still need? I tell him about the Elongated Man and he says he'll look
for it. Five minutes later he calls back to say that they have Elongated
Man and that the three packs are on sale, two for one, and that they
have the Justice Lords. So I tell him to go ahead and get it as well as
the older Green Lantern pack with Killowog (another Green Lantern for
those not in the know, although I imagine most folks not in the know
have bailed out of this missive a long time ago!). He calls back a third
time to say there is a variant pack that has Hawkgirl as the third
Justice Lord, do I want that and the Martian Manhunter three pack for my
free one, as well.

Aarrgghh! But they were half price, right?

So I stopped at Target and picked up the three pack with Kyle Rayner,
for Cory. Least I could do, right?

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