ripping blu-ray discs on linux … and windows, and ps3

I’ve finally found a way to rip some of my Blu-Ray discs, kinda.  I’ve had to manage a few workarounds because I’m missing a pretty common piece of hardware in the setup: a BD-ROM drive.  I do have a PS3, though, that I’m running Linux on, and I can get to the media just fine that way.  I also have to use shareware, both on Windows and Linux … but, it works, and the files look great. :)

So, the backstory is that the other day I was making a note of all the projects I have to do,  creating what I call my project tree.  It’s basically an ordered list of general projects (Gentoo, home theater system, etc.), and then abstract projects underneath that.  It’s nice because I can get a birds eye view of all the stuff I’m working on without going into specifics about any of them.  One of the home theater ones was to get at least ISO disc rips of the Blu-Ray movies I already have, even if I can’t decrypt them yet, so I can at least play around with my options as they become available.

Well, I had moved my server setup around not too long ago, so I had two 750 GB harddrives just collecting dust.  I put one of them in an external USB drive, and plugged it into my PS3, which was already running Linux (see this pervious post for all the fun details).

I formatted my external USB drive as NTFS, so that I could read/write to it with Windows as well, and then I would insert a disc and just dump it to an ISO file.  That’s easy enough:

$ cat /dev/sr0 > KFP.iso

I grabbed a couple of them (which took awhile, don’t let me kid you on that part) so that I could get a good sampling in case I had more luck with one than another.

Once that was done, I trotted the little drive and plugged it into my netbook, running Windows XP, and installed both Virtual CloneDrive and AnyDVDHD.  The first one lets me mount an ISO as an actual disc drive, and the second actually decrypts the disc for me and dumps the contents back to the harddrive.  So, that’s two passes now on all the data, which is making this take a long time.  But that’s okay, it’s fun.

Now that I have the actual contents, the MPEG2 transport streams, I can play it back with MPlayer, ffplay or whatever.  I’m having limited success with latest MPlayer on the files with VDPAU playback support, but it could just be my video card (GeForce 8600 GTS).  On my HTPC frontend, it works almost perfectly on there, with a nicer video card (GeForce 9300).  My desktop just craps out, though.  I can still watch it with Xv video out, though.

mkvtoolnix doesn’t support m2ts files right now, so I don’t have many options if I wanna change things around.  I’m still in a proof-of-concept stage, so I don’t really care all that much.  Plus, my options are already limited.  AnyDVDHD is shareware that will expire in 21 days, and while it’s amazing and works great, it’s really expensive — something like $200 for a lifetime license.  Eek.  With that, I’ll keep trying my options on Linux.

The second piece of shareware I ran into (which also has a limited evaluation license, though this time for 30 days) is MakeMKV.  The Linux port is always a little more difficult to find, so here’s a direct link to the details on the lastest version.  Boy, I never thought I’d be talking about shareware on my blog.

MakeMKV works really nice, too.  It’s supposed to be able to do the same job as AnyDVDHD, I believe, but since I don’t have the actual Blu-Ray drive, everything I’ve tried has never worked when just mounting the ISO direcly and trying to access that.  I believe that part of cracking the key involves having access to the drive.  I’m really not sure.  I’ve read a bit about the whole process, but it’s still really confusing to me still.

Anyway, the software will let you access it directly through the decrypted contents, and that’s what I did.  The interface is actually really simple and nice, and I would actually consider buying this one (it’s much cheaper, at $50 for a lifetime license).  I’m trying to remember the last time I paid for a software license.  One that comes to mind, is that I actually have a valid registration key for Legend of the Red Dragon, the *really* old BBS door game.  Wow.  I think it cost me something like $15.

MakeMKV is pretty nice, though.  It snags the subtitles I select, and already includes the chapters as well as the HD audio formats.

So, that’s it.  The whole process is pretty tedious, but it works, and I’m happy.  I don’t really care about decrypting it *too* much right now, since I don’t wanna go through the pain of trying to play them back over my HTPC just yet.  I’d need to do a lot of tweaks and upgrades to my system, and I really don’t care that much.  It’s not worth the hassle.  Especially, uh, since I just bought a new Blu-Ray player last month. :D

Really, though, I’m just doing this for the exercise since when I get bored, often times I’ll want to play around with media files and formats and see what I can do with them.

Eventually I’ll buy a BD-ROM drive and see what I can do, but for now I’m trying to save some $$$ and the whole point of this was to see if I could rip some discs with just the hardware available, and I could. :)  Woots.

On a sidenote, I posted aacskeys to the portage tree today, which is one of the tools users need to decrypt the keys on their discs.  Hopefully we can get some more hackers interested in poking at it.  That’s always good.

Last but not least, here’s an actual screenshot from the final rip. :)

I love TMNT. :D  Boy that’s a post for another day … which reminds me, I should get a copy of my home-made videos some day, that I made with my action figures.  Oh man, that’d be awesome.

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narnia 2: whatever the title is

So, I watched the second Narnia movie tonight (whatever the name is .. I thought the book went by the name the Silver Chair, but maybe that was the third one.  I don’t remember.  Anyway .. ), and it was really good!  I was more than pleasantly surprised.

I had put off watching it for a looong time, pretty much completely until a friend recommended it in passing and I was like “Hmm, it’s on Netflix Watch it Now, meaning it’s probably not that great, so I’ll go watch it.”  Yah.  Don’t ever expect me to explain my logic to you.

I was really excited when the first one came out, and I was sorely disappointed by how much I thought it didn’t live up to the book.  I thought it was good, but I was really bothered by the fact that the “epic” battle scene at the end was seriously less than 5 minutes long, and I don’t think you ever saw *one* person do anything battlerific.

The second one, though, was awesome.  Probably about half the movie was one big battle or another one, and well done for the most part.  I especially liked the duel.  Oh yah, spoiler alerts.  Whoops.

The movie was interesting, though.  I don’t remember the book *at all*, so that could be why I enjoyed it a bit more.  I thought there was a lot of interesting touches.  There was just one thing that kept nagging me a bit, though.  I kept thinking that, no matter how good the movie was, it seems like they focused on making it a spectacle movie more than a really good story.  It wasn’t poorly done, but it wasn’t excellent, either.  I often wonder why movies with really gripping stories and dialogue are so few and far apart.  This one went both ways.  At times it had some class and grit and character all its own, and then at other times it took things a little less seriously.  I suppose that’s not too bad considering it’s a film for kids, and I have to say that, overall, they did a really good job.  I think that the sequel was far better done than the first — although I will admit it’s been a *long* time since I saw the original Narnia, and I should probably give it a nod again.

pole position

Yay, cartoons!

So, I happened to stumble upon this one cartoon not long ago, that I had completely forgotten about … Pole Position.  I think I saw a video about it YouTube or something, I don’t remember.  80s cartoons is a popular subject in #uphpu.

Watching the video though, I was like, “meh, another old-school Japanese-styled animation show” until I saw the little computer face in the dashboard … then all kinds of memories came back to me and I was like, “dude, I totally remember this show!”

pp10

I managed to snag a copy on Amazon, even though it’s been out of print.  I didn’t even know it was on DVD.  Since then, I’ve been totally obsessed with this show.  The theme song, in particular.  I can’t get it out of my head.  Probably because I sing it to myself every 30 seconds.

pp12

Sadly enough, there were only 13 cartoons produced.  It looks like it could have done well.  I don’t know why this one triggered such a response in me — especially since I didn’t even remember the title — but I think I may have clued in on it a bit.  It features cool cars with electronic devices.  As a little kid, I’m sure I was totally enchanted by that.  Heck, I’ve always found computers extremely fascinating.  Just that they work how they do amazes me.

pp6

I don’t remember the show, but I do remember the old Atari video game.  It was fun.  I also remember playing E.T. though, and wondering what the heck the point of the game was.

pp13

I’ve been watching the show since I got it last week, and I love it.  It’s really cool, actually.  The first few I’ve seen so far start out with them (whatever their names are, on the secret Pole Position team) doing a live stunt show, and, it seems like, with totally random moves made up on the fly.  It’s pretty hilarious now.  But man I love how old cartoons just do random stuff and don’t even bother trying to explain it.  Good times.  I really miss shows like that.

the princess and the frog

So, I went and saw “The Princess and the Frog” last night, mostly out of desperation to find something to do for the night.  I had heard it was good, but I wasn’t expecting much … it was Disney, after all, and their latest animation hasn’t been anything to write about.  This movie, however, was amazing.  I haven’t seen anything like this put out from the studio since Walt Disney himself produced it — in fact, if he were alive today, this is the exact movie I could see him making.

You seriously have to forget the past twelve or so releases that Disney has had that does any animation (not counting Pixar, of course), and go see this movie, because it is a serious throwback to the Walt Disney animation pictures of old.  The animation was top-notch, mixing art styles both old and new, and I could see influences from a *lot* of classic Walt Disney films, like Pete’s Dragon, The Rescuers, Sleeping Beauty, Robin Hood, and more.

pfrog3

Everything about the film just blew me away.  It was hilariously funny with original characters and stories — I won’t spoil it for you, though.  The story was great and it deeply used the local culture to a completeness that, again, I haven’t seen since Walt himself made the movies.

pfrog1

I cringed every time a song started up (and there were a *lot* of them, even for a Disney animated film) since I was afraid it would suck, but they were all really good.  I found myself tapping along to them in the theater, I was getting into them so much, which *never* happens with me.

pfrog2

The art style was incredible.  There were some really, really cool sequences with the songs and some of the scenes.  The ones with the Shadow Man just totally made the movie.  And this movie was *not* nubbed down for little kids, either.  It was authentically creepy and scary in parts, just as it should have been.  Extremely well done.

pfrog4

If I had to rank this thing, I’d say it would probably fit in the top five or so of animated films I’ve ever seen.  I’d say it rated up there with Beauty and the Beast, for me.  That seems like a pretty accurate rating — not my #1 favorite, but pretty darn close.

pfrog5

So, suffice it to say, I was incredibly surprised … and the best movies are always ones where you’re totally blown away by your limited expectations, I think.  This movie is an animated film in a class all by itself.  Just an awesome treat, to see Disney put out something good again.  From the very opening title sequence, with the Walt Disney Animation Studios opening, I figured I was in for a good treat, and I was right. :)

dragon age

Right before Thanksgiving, I picked up a copy of Dragon Age on Amazon so I’d have something to do during the holiday weekend.  At first I wasn’t sure whether to get it for the PS3 or for Windows.  I’m trying to phase out my gaming on Windows boxes so I don’t have to dual-boot as much, and it’s so nice having a console system dedicated just to playing games where I don’t have to worry about patches randomly breaking old games.

Buying it for PS3 had me a bit unsure of what to expect though, because this was a full-blown RPG, and I’d only ever played those on my computer.  One thing I know about them is that there are a *lot* of commands you can issue, and I couldn’t imagine not having a keyboard to do that.  Still, I decided to go with the PS3, and hope for the best.

dragon_age_ps3

When trying to describe this game, the first word that comes to mind is bloody.  Man, do these guys love absolutely destroying people and making blood splatter everywhere.  Even the backgrounds and maps use blood with an artistic effect.  It’s pretty crazy in that regard.  Generally speaking, I hold off on the M-rated titles, because I’m somewhat sensitive to gore and violence.  Not to mention I’m not a big fan of nudity and swearing in games.  In fact, I think this is probably the only M-rated game I have.  There’s probably another one, but I can’t remember what it is.  Generally speaking, though, I usually make wide reservations for fantasy RPGs because I love them so much.

Anyway, I’ve been playing this game for a while, and it’s taken me a while to understand what the heck is going on.  At first I totally expected something more along the lines of old school RPGs, where they just dump you in an area and you clear it out of monsters (a la gold box games).  That’s not the case here at all.  There is tons and tons of dialogue and story to go through.  It had me surprised and confused, really, until I realized that’s how the game is *supposed* to be.  It’s more like Knights of the Old Republic where the fun in the game is the character interactions and the story.  I made it through 20% of the game already before I figured that, out, though.  Before now, all I kept thinking to myself was, “man, there’s too much talking in this game.”  Like I said, I’ve never had a real RPG on the console before — I’m used to general hack and slash games.

The controls aren’t as annoying as I thought they’d be, either, which I’m glad to report.  In fact, it’s quite easy to use and I never get stuck.  Sometimes I forget which button to push to change characters in which menu, but most of the time I’m okay, and that’s seriously my biggest complaint anyway.  There is so much info available to you, but the menus allow you to easily access it quickly.

Another thing I really like is how it lets you save the game anywhere you’re at.  This has always been a nitpick of mine in console games, and one reason I was always slow to adopt to using them — I hate the idea of having to reach a checkpoint or kill a boss before you can save your progress.  Thankfully, with consoles having harddrives in them now, it makes them much simpler to use that space liberally so save points is becoming less of an issue.

As to the game itself, it’s really interesting.  I buzzed through the first part of it so fast, expecting to just run out and kill things endlessly, that I totally didn’t pay any attention to the storyline, and so now I’m a bit confused as to what’s going on and why it’s important.  That’s okay, though, since it’ll just make my second run pretty fun. :)

I’m just *now* starting to get really addicted to the game.  The story is starting to pull me in as I pay attention, and I really love the simple controls when it comes to fighting.  And battles on the big screen TV are a lot more fun than on my comparatively tiny computer monitor.  I think I made the right move getting it for PS3.

There’s a lot about the game I don’t understand yet that I’ve been kind of ignoring.  Things like crafting and weapon … specializations or whatever they are.  I’ll figure it out later.  As is, when I usually start a new RPG, I’ll just create a dumb-as-bricks fighter and pound my way through the adventure as a method of trying it out.  My favorite character to play, though, is always an incredibly annoying and fun thief that can just do whatever he wants, generally roleplaying as chaotic neutral.

One really cool thing about this game is that there are very real consequences to the game depending on your decisions.  I’ve heard about this, but I’m not sure how deep that vein runs.  For instance, there was one town I visited that was getting slaughtered by creatures at night.  They wanted my help, and I decided to come back later.  Well, once I left, they got attacked again at night, and the town is wiped out.  Whoops.  Now I can’t go back there.

That is actually a really cool feature that I like — your actions have actual consequences in the game.  You can’t just say, “Uh, I’ll be back later in the game when I’m stronger.”  You either do it right then or not at all.  Craziness.

I do have one small caveat about the game — levelling.  They give you so many points to attribute when you level, that it makes it kind of hard to know what to do with them.  And for a fighter that is just sword and shield, I’m not interested in a whole half of the skills they offer since they have to do with archery and two-handed weapon fighting.  I haven’t really seen any penalties for lack of attributes, either, other than strength, so that’s what I’ve mostly been dumping my points in, and spreading them across other ones that look low otherwise.  With the other characters, I usually just auto-level them up since I really don’t see much advantage to picking them myself.  Still a bit lost in that area.

Fun game, though.  I think there’s also some DLC, I’m not sure, which could really add some potential for add-ons.  I can see myself getting really hooked on this game.

ratchet and clank: a crack in time

One thing I will readily admit is that I’m not a veteran gamer.  Not having a video game console for most of my life will kind of do that to you.  Thankfully, though, to an abundance of free time, a large HDTV and no pesky girlfriend to spend money on, I can resolve that issue gradually.  Not knowing what the heck kind of games is out there has its drawbacks now and then (I have a really small library of games), but it does have it’s positive upswings too, for instance, when I “discover” something new quite by accident.

Ratchet_&_Clank_Future-_A_Crack_in_Time

This weekend while puttering around, I decided to check out the latest demos on the Playstation Network, and downloaded one for Ratchet and Clank Future: A Crack in Time.  There were two demos, interestingly enough, one for Ratchet and one for Clank.  I got Ratchet’s.  As is with most demos, I wasn’t expecting much (it’s a pretty high failure rate when it comes to interest), but I fired it up to give it a whir.

The game dropped me in a weird landscape with a gun, and I kind of groaned to myself .. not another shooter.  I suck at shooters, which is one reason I’ve been avoiding console gaming a lot.  But, as I started playing it, here’s the sequence of thoughts that went through my head:

  1. How the heck do I shoot my gun?
  2. How do I shoot my special weapon?
  3. Holy crap, I have hoverboots?
  4. Oh my gosh, this game is fun!
  5. Repeat last step, about 500 times.

Heh.  It was awesome.  So much, in fact, that when I finished, it said that the game came out last Tuesday!?  Well, you know what that means to a man who has spent his whole life evolving a careful sense of patience and self-mastery …  I paid full price for it at Best Buy 15 minutes later.

I’ve since played through probably a third of the game, and I’m just now starting to lose steam.  Wow, it is fun.

First of all, the graphics are absolutely amazing.  It’s just eye-popping nice.  I’m actually surprised that they’d put so much effort into the artwork for a game that is mainly for an audience much younger.  But the quality shines through in every aspect so far.

The game has one of my favorite features of all time, too — no penalty for deaths.  It just starts  you back up where you left off.  I love that.  I’m sure one of the reasons I never had a console growing up was because I realized early on that it was an issue-aggragator rather than a calming, enjoyable experience.  Let’s just say it’s a good thing that those Nintendo controllers were hard plastic — they could take a lot of damage at high velocity speeds.

Another really nice touch about the game is it has a degree of free-range movement.  There are lots of different places you can go, and while the storyline is linear, you can take breaks from it and go back to where you were before to finish things up or just screw around.  Its fun.  It gives you enough freedom to screw around if you want, or get into a serious adventure if you’re up for the run.

The only thing I don’t like about it is playing as Clank.  So far, it’s just a chore.

The storyline is great, too, and there is some great dialogue / writing in there.  Really original and funny.  Something else I really enjoy too is the ability for the character to upgrade himself and his weapons.  I grew up with the gold-box of AD&D gaming, and I always loved levelling my guys.  This isn’t the same level of complexity, but still I think it’s a nice touch that your character’s abilities improve as the guys get harder in the game.  It only seems fair.

All around, a really awesome game.  And it turns out, as I discovered, that there’s apparently a whole series of Ratchet and Clank games, too.  I’m really skeptical that any of the others would be nearly as good as this one, but who knows.  At least they’re not as expensive by now.

pixar blu-ray

Reading the Blu-Ray review for Up, I would take this statement and drop in Wall-E for the movie, and the same would be true:

Up brushes against the stratosphere with a dazzling, picture-perfect … transfer that boasts more breathtaking spectacle and stunning scenery in a single shot than many high definition presentations deliver in two hours.”

I can’t comment on Up since I don’t own a copy, but I can say the same holds for Wall-E.

Watching a Pixar movie on Blu-Ray made every single hedge I ever had about the format completely disappear.