dvd ripping scripts

I was lucky enough to catch Martin’s post on Planet Larry today about undvd, a script he’s working on — very cool, Martin, I love it.  I’m actually working on one of my own, or have been for a while, and I’ve been toying with the idea of cleaning it up and releasing it for public consumption.

I actually started writing my own because, as Martin says, all the other ones out there are too complex, and I prefer a simple command-line app that does exactly what I need it to do.  I call mine dvd2mkv, since I extract everything I want (video, audio, subtitles, chapters) and dump it straight into a Matroska file.

In fact, the script is already done, and it works great.  It automates the entire process — selects the longest video track, the widescreen one if there if full frame is on there as well, grabs the English (or preferred language track) with the highest number of channels (Dolby or DTS), plus the English subtitles if they exist, and finally the chapters.  All I have to do is put in the title of the movie, and even then if the disc ID is the title, then you can skip past that as well.

In fact, here’s the output of a movie I just ripped a few minutes ago, Return to Me.  Great movie, btw.

steve@charlie ~/dvd $ dvd2mkv
[DVD] Disc title: RETURN_TO_ME
Enter a movie title: [Return To Me]
[Video] Track number: 5
[Video] Aspect ratio: 16/9
[Video] Length: 115.79
[Audio] Track: 128
[Audio] Format: Dolby Digital
[Audio] Channels: 6
[DVD] Subtitles: None
[DVD] Ripping MPEG-2
[DVD] Ripping chapters
[MKV] Creating Matroska file

And that’s it!  Pretty simple. :)  Mine doesn’t have support (right now) for re-encoding the movies, since I’ve already gone into quite a bit of length on why I don’t like doing that, but it would be simple to add.  In fact, my shortcut method would just be to have the user setup mencoder profiles in the config file and call those directly.

Anyway, I like the idea of cleaning it up and throwing it out there, so I’ll probably be doing that fairly soon here.  If it works good enough for me (picky as I am), it’s sure to help out someone.  :)

from samba to nfs

Well, the honeymoon is over.  Samba is great and all, but it’s not gonna work with my simple little network setup.  The main reason is just that it’s too painful to configure just right.  I’ll take “slightly crippling transfer rates when using Konqueror” versus “ignores my settings” any day.

The problems I’m having with Samba are mostly nitpicks, but who cares … it’s my network and I can do whatever I want.  I’m sure most of them could be solved by a little research, but at this point, if I don’t need it, I really don’t wanna invest too much time into it right now.  I just want things to work, I can always screw around later.

Three things that are annoying me: First, I can’t get CIFS to work, but SMBFS works fine.  Naturally, that’s not a killer deal, but I just gotta have the faster, shinier and better protocol or it’ll haunt me forever.  The second is that getting just plain anonymous share mounting isn’t working.  I can do it if I put the username and password options in the fstab file, or point to a credentials file, but it’s still easier if I want to do it manually, I don’t have to add all the options.  The third thing is that Samba is ignoring my preferences for forcing the username to write to and the permissions to use.  Ugh.

All slightly annoying, but I never had the issues with NFS.  In fact, the crippling copy speeds were about it, and even that I could probably figure out if I tried.  I’d rather take one issue than three.  Besides, I really should roll up my sleeves and give NFSv4 a try.  Maybe it’ll be less flaky for me.  Who knows.

steve's small hdtv buying guide

Well, it’s Christmas, and what makes a better gift than a TV that’s bigger than your wall? I was talking to my boss last night who just recently bought an HDTV, and we were chatting about it, so I got the idea to post my tips on what to look for in an HDTV if you’re considering a purchase.

HDTVs is actually one area where I have done a TON of research. When you’re buying something that costs over $1k and you plan on having it for 10 years, you should too.

First, get a good brand. There are only three brands worth buying: Sony, Samsung and Sharp. The rest are crap. In fact, most manufacturers will buy their stuff from Samsung. Personally, I prefer Sony, but whatever floats your boat.

Second, rear projection TVs are the way to go — the picture is better and the TVs are much, much, much cheaper than LCD flatpanels. Also, don’t even think about buying plasma (they are getting phased out anyway) as they’ll burn your screen out.

If you can stand having an extra 5 inches sticking out from the back of your TV, rear projection sets are the way to go. Check this out … Circuit City is selling a Sony 1080p 55″ rear projection TV for $1800. A Samsung 46″ LCD HDTV is also on sale for $1950. Whee! (I couldn’t find a good comparision online, but go in the store and you’ll quickly see what I’m saying is true).

Third, protect your investment with a decent power supply — get something with stage 1 or up filtering. You’re gonna pay a lot for the TV, don’t get a $12 power supply from Wal-Mart to keep it running. Expect to spend at least $150 for something decent.

Fourth, HDMI is the way to go for DVDs. Blu-Ray and HD-DVD players are insanely expensive, and not worth the price (yet). Go get a nice upconverting DVD player if you don’t already have one. You can easily snag one for under $100. The HDMI cables are more expensive, but again they are worth the picture quality. Personally I think they look better than Component. I’d recommend buying your cables online instead of spending $60 for a Monster cable that is 3 feet long in the store.

Fifth, you don’t need to get a huge cable deal to get some HDTV channels. Comcast, even with their most basic cable plan ($12/month) will give you the local channels in HDTV (ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX). The picture will blow your eyeballs out of the water. Sure, go ahead and spend $$$ if you want on Dish Network and get a lot more HD channels (in fact, from what I’ve gathered … they are the best deal. Its about the same price for lots of HD channels as it is for Comcast’s basic cable), but you don’t need it.

Sixth, look for online coupon codes. It’s worth waiting a month if you can snag a 10% off coupon somewhere. Or, just watch the weekly circulars and see how low the price on your TV will go. If you missed the opportunity, just wait, and it will eventually go back to that same price. If you can’t get some coupons, then be sure to buy from a store that will match the price for up to 30 days *after* the sale. That way, if they do sell it cheaper later, you can get the price difference back in your pocket.

Seventh, and as much as I hate to recommend this, if you are responsible enough to manage your money, open a store credit card and take advantage of their no interest for x amount of months deal. Put the cash that is going to go towards the purchase and put it in the bank, and float it so you can earn interest on it. Then, be sure to pay off the balance in full before you hit the due date, otherwise you’ll get hit with nasty back fees and insanely high interest rates. I really don’t recommend this route unless you *know* you can do it safely.

Eighth, don’t worry if its not “full” HDTV or not. Make sure that it is at least 720p though. Some smaller TVs will tout themselves as HDTV compatible or some crap like that, but they look poopy. The 720p pictures still look amazingly gorgeous. There’s nothing wrong with future-proofing though, and going with the best possible picture, and if it’s a difference of only a few hundred dollars, go for it. In three years you won’t remember if you saved $200 or not going for the cheaper price, but you’ll remember that you stuck yourself with the lower quality.

That’s about all I can think of … just be sure to do a lot of research. Check the connectors on the back. Play with the remote. Look at the features the TV has. Ask lots of questions. And for heaven’s sake, don’t buy on impulse. TVs are heavy and hard to lug back to the store. Especially in the snow. And then the cashiers sneer at you when you want to return stuff.

Have fun, though. HDTVs certainly live up to the hype. :)

from nfs to samba

I never thought I’d be doing this, but I’m migrating from using NFS on my home network to Samba instead. Ironically, the reason is because Samba is simpler. Well, simpler to setup at least, and I like the idea of having at least *some* basic authentication scheme in place.

What happened is that at work we’ve been using NFS to share files, which works well, but for something that everyone needs to read and write to, I chown all the files to nobody, which is a security nightmare. Samba, however, lets me force the user to read and write to, as well as permit only certain users to access the shares after logging in. I have to admit ignorance here, since I don’t know if NFS 3 or 4 actually supports any kind of authentication schemes, but that’s okay … I still think Samba is simpler to setup.

Generally speaking, in the past, I’ve always had problems getting it working because I’d either have to deal with a host of Windows boxes or Active Directory. This time it’s mostly just been a bunch of Linux boxes, and the whole thing was completely seamless. I’ve learned long ago that anytime you’re having trouble on a network and there is any Windows box involved in any point of the scenario, you can with full certainty blame the problem on Windows. Getting Samba to work with it can be pretty flaky, but between two Linux boxes, it’s the simplest thing in the world.

And, it could be my imagination, but the file transfers seem to be a lot smoother than using NFS so far. NFS would blip now and then and the transfer speed would slow down then speed back up for no real obvious reasons … Last night I was copying files from one box to another and got a nice constant speed all the time. Plus it seemed like anytime I’d copy over NFS it would somehow just slow things down, but this didn’t affect performance at all. Samba is just a lot smoother.

Another thing I like is the cool little tool that come with Samba, like smbget. Using that, you don’t have to mount the drives to get what you need from another share. It’s nice.

If you’re looking to set it up as well, I’d recommend just using Webmin to configure the shares on the server. That’s the only box you’ll need to run the samba daemons on as well, the other ones you just need to have Samba installed. I like installing kde-kioslaves (or kdebase) with samba support as well, so that with Konqueror I can just open smb://server and browse the shares. It’s great.