A Day in Boston
I don’t know why anyone would take a bus that goes on a vapid tour from suburban mall to suburban mall, but it takes all kinds, right?
If you’re “lucky” enough to find an MBTA (unisex) bathroom that works, this is what you’ll be confronted with. Toilet paper on a gigantic, oxidized chain and a milk-crate trash basket. You can’t get any toilet paper without every centimeter of it scraping against the chain. I hope it doesn’t cause Iron-Butt or Rusty Vulva.
An old building is being taken apart alongside the Zakim Bridge (seen in the background). The people who work those machines are incredibly precise. All the different materials are segregated for recycling. It’s not as spectacular as an implosion, but it’s just as interesting.
The Apple store stands out in an old city like Boston. I had no agenda yesterday besides getting to Bella Luna by 5:30, so I went to the Apple store to recharge my phone. I told a couple of the employees how great Waze is and discovered a couple of good apps myself before I moved on.
Unbeknownst to me, the Apple store is close to where the marathon bombs exploded. The street was crowded, as thousands of people came out to pay their respects at the memorial. Predictably, conspiracy theories are running rampant about the bombing, and this guy was there to get the word out. I’m happy we live in a country where anyone who wants to can be heard. Plus, “BALLS DEEP!!!”
Many windows are still boarded up from the bombs.
Walkin’ Margarita: One strawberry Coolatta. Add tequila to taste.
Like Nicky, I am also ripping my DVDs to the computer. I thought I’d share some interesting things about it.
I’m using a Mac Mini for the conversion. It’s really fast (using a dual-core, hyperthreaded 2.3 GHz i5), but it has no DVD drive. No problem, I thought. Apple took care of us with Remote Disc, which co-opts the optical drive of another computer on the network to behave like it’s in the local Mac.
After I tried it with a very frustrating lack of success, I did some research. It turns out that Remote Disc won’t work with commercial, copy-protected DVDs. (FYI, it won’t write to a remote drive, either.) You can’t even watch a remote DVD, never mind rip it.
***WARNING: Anti-Hollywood Rant Ahead***
Undoubtedly, this is a restriction put on Apple by the Hollywood studios in a misguided anti-piracy effort. The problem with that “logic” is that they are eliminating a legitimate use of the DVDs that a consumer, playing by the rules, actually purchased.
Now the law-abiding consumer is faced with a choice:
- Don’t watch your DVDs at your convenience
- Re-purchase or rent in a digital format the movie you already own in order to watch it on your computer
- Find a way to obtain a digital copy for free through non-legitimate means
Some people will give up and go with the first choice. To Hollywood’s way of thinking, that’s a middling outcome. They already got your money. In the long-term, it’s still a bad outcome for them, though. A portion of these people are unlikely to buy more DVDs, so Hollywood loses some revenue.
But they will gain revenue from the people who decide to purchase or rent titles that they already own. Hollywood gets to double-dip into your wallet this way. They must think this “free money” is worth making consumers resent them for being forced to make this choice.
In fact, some of these people will resent being squeezed for more money enough to learn how to “pirate” movies. (I put that in quotes because I believe it’s fair use to have a digital copy of a DVD you own, and therefore not piracy.) These people would have been perfectly happy working within the system if the system served their perfectly reasonable needs, but now they have an incentive to explore the dark underbelly of computing.
The dark side comes in two forms: Downloads and ripping. Broadband internet connections are getting faster all the time. A well-seeded bit torrent movie can be downloaded in a few minutes these days. The frustrated consumer who figures out how to bit torrent that one DVD they wanted to watch on their big computer screen has a whole new world of free movies (plus music and software) suddenly available to them. A world they were previously satisfied not even knowing about until the film industry burned them. Many people in this position would feel justified in downloading everything they can get their hands on. Good going, Hollywood! You just lost lots of paying customers for life!
Bit torrenting has made some big news, though, and some people won’t download movies for fear of getting into legal trouble. For that reason (and others), the previously law-abiding consumer can learn to rip their own DVDs. There are plenty of easily-obtainable instructions and applications online.
There have always been technically-oriented, morally-questionable people who have pirated as soon as they had the opportunity. That is a certain type of person who will never go away. In focusing on this group with their stupid policies, Hollywood is creating a whole new class of “pirates” who have an emotional motivation to go against them because they feel betrayed and used. The kicker is that the anti-piracy measures Hollywood takes are not even a speed-bump for the people they are targeting.
OK, this is where we rejoin my project, already in progress…
***NOTICE: Anti-Hollywood Rant Complete***
I got around the Remote Disc problem with an application called FairMount. It runs on the optical-drive-containing Mac Mini upstairs to turn the copy-protected DVD into a non-protected virtual hard drive containing all the files on the DVD. This virtual hard drive can be accessed over the network in order to rip the DVD using the fast, non-optical-drive Mac Mini. The system works great. I actually like that I have to go upstairs every half hour (or hour, depending on the quality of the ripping I choose) to switch discs. I call it geexercise.
HandBrake is the application that does the ripping. It has lots of presets for the level of quality and the playback device you intend to use. It does a great job and has a lot of options if you care to delve into them.
One thing that annoys me about HandBrake is that you have to go into the settings every time to choose “deinterlace.” It seems like that should be included in the preset conditions for iPhone, iPad, AppleTV, and the like, which are progressive displays.
HANDY TIP: I made it easier by creating my own preset whose only condition is “fast deinterlace” so it inherits all the resolution and quality conditions previously chosen, and simply adds the deinterlacing.
HandBrake’s authors also have a good sense of humor. The application’s icon is a tropical drink and a pineapple and when a conversion is complete, the popup notification says “Put down that cocktail…”
As part of the project, I wanted to be able to keep track of everything. There are lots of iPhone apps that will do that (IMAGINE!). They scan the bar code on the DVD package and load the information and cover art into a database. Some have a free version that has certain restrictions, like only doing 20 DVDs, and if you like how it works, you can pay for it (most are $2.99) to unlock full functionality. Some of these DVD cataloging apps have sister-apps (also paid) that catalog other things: One for CDs, one for video games, and so on.
I found a free app called ItemShelf (pictured above) that is not restricted in the number of DVDs it catalogs. It’s not even restricted to just DVDs, although that’s all I’m using it for. It has “Smart Shelves” which organize your items based on the tags you give them. That’s useful for keeping track of which DVDs have been ripped as well as characteristics like widescreen and fullscreen (blech!).
Another great feature is the Dropbox integration. You can back up the database to your Dropbox at the tap of a button. If you don’t have Dropbox (or if you’re a belt-and-suspenders type), you can back up the database to your local computer as well.
You should definitely back up early and often. Learn from my mistake: When I had about 20 DVDs cataloged, I decided to change my Smart Shelf system. I deleted both of my Smart Shelves and all the DVDs I had scanned in were deleted, too. If I had backed up, I could have simply restored the database and rearranged my system differently by renaming the shelves and changing the tags they collect. Instead, I had to re-scan and re-tag them.
In conclusion, you know what they say:
"When the computer’s a-rippin’, keep on sippin’!" *
* No one says that
Harumph, I say!
Indeed! And, might I add, tut-tut,
Numbers have been last alphabetically in iTunes for a while now. Unless I’m missing a way to change that.
I had smart playlists named 3+, 4+, and 5 Star that were always first in the playlist list. Now suddenly they’re last on the phone, but still first in iTunes.
Holographic goat porn.
You promised you’d never tell!
It’s part of Steve Jobs’ consciousness.
I guess that’s what we all agreed to in that 86-page User Agreement. They know no one reads those things, dammit!
Mine did that and then readjusted.
Me too. Heh.