Archive for January, 2007

Matusiak in Serie A!!

January 30th, 2007
  • We're from the same city.
  • We're the same age (actually I'm 6 months older).
  • We have the same name.
  • We both love to score goals.

The difference?

  • He's a much better player than me.

That's right, and I'm thrilled to acknowledge Radosław Matusiak has just signed for US Palermo.

radoslaw_matusiak.jpg

He's the latest up and coming young Polish player, making waves in the national team. We were never a nation to have a lot of stars. Żurawski was looking really hot, but he's stagnated. Boruc is another name, but well at the end of the day, it is Scotland, isn't it. Everyone remembers Dudek, from years ago rather than last week. And finally there's Kuszczak, who signed for Man U to sit on the bench. The biggest success is no doubt Smolarek, who unfortunately plays in Germany. In Serie A we only have Kosowski, who sits on the bench for Chievo.

But so far Matusiak is the only one to get a chance to play at the highest level. He scored an awesome goal to sink Serbia in the qualifiers and here's some more highlights for you. Well, that is assuming he will get a chance to play. At least he was signed on a full 3-year transfer.

undvd: dvd ripping made easy

January 29th, 2007

I always found ripping dvds to be a huge pain, because of how complex the process is. There is a million ways to convert a dvd into avi format, a myriad of settings to play with, options to tune for performance, for size etc. That's great if you want to tinker. But it's much more difficult to give a straight answer to the question "how do I rip a dvd?" without going into all these details. I for one would like a simple way that would work on any dvd everytime.

So that's what I set out to do. It took me *a lot* of testing and playing with the settings to find a recipe that both gives great quality and doesn't take too long. And still there may be, and probably will be, cases where the results aren't great. But for my own use, it works very well. My main goal was to hide as many details as possible from the user, turning the complicated maze that is mencoder into a single button to push. As it turns out, however, it's really hard to abstract away everything completely, so even with undvd there is a (hopefully modest) learning curve.

undvd is a collection of a couple bash scripts, which I decided to base on lsdvd and mencoder, part of mplayer. In doing so, I wanted to use the disc as little as possible, considering all the problems I've had with reading dvds in the past. I also found out that by extracting the vob, some of the information about audio/subtitles is lost, so I first clone the disc with dd, and then go to work on it. The script starts off by making an image of the disc, whereupon the disc is no longer needed.

First, to see what's on the disc, run scandvd.sh.

scandvd.png

At this point, you have to decide on which title(s) to rip. If you don't know what they are, scandvd.sh suggests using mplayer to find out. Once you know what to rip, you run undvd.sh with the chosen options. Just keep in mind that the files will be created in the directory you run undvd.sh from, so make sure you have enough disk space.

undvd.png

What is worth noting here is everything that you don't see. mencoder is run in the background, with a host of complicated settings, but you don't see the horrifying output. You only see the status of what is happening, the settings you chose, and mencoder's estimated time to completion. Sure, the full log is there if you want it, just say the word. But unless something goes wrong, you don't need to see it, this will do just fine.

undvd_result.png

After ripping is finished, what you'll have is the files shown. 01.avi and 02.avi are the titles. disc.iso is the image of the dvd, which you can use to rip more titles still, or just delete. And then there's logs that you won't bother even looking at unless something went haywire.

And that is dvd ripping reduced to one line of output for every title. Simple, isn't it?

Get undvd from opendesktop.org.

A technical note

Make sure you have lsdvd and mplayer installed (with support for encoding, x264, xvid, and mp3/mad).

is 2 pass encoding really worth it?

January 26th, 2007

I'm trying to figure out how to rip dvds in near perfect quality, because I can't stand them. Dvds are such a pain in the ass, with their idiotic menus for kids, how the discs so often can't be read properly by the dvd drive, how they will play on one device but not another etc. As far as I'm concerned, the whole thing is broken.

So not really having done this before (I've tried in the past with meager results), there's a lot of angles to cover. Most docs seem to recommend 2 pass encoding, whatever the format. I've experimented with x264 and xvid, and I can't really see a difference between 1 pass and 2 pass encoding when running at 900kbps bitrate. Probably at higher compression it becomes more apparent, but I'm satisfied with that ratio.

iTunes illegal in Norway

January 26th, 2007

bwahahahahahahaha!

Apple was dealt a blow in Europe on Wednesday when Norway’s powerful consumer ombudsman ruled that its iTunes online music store was illegal because it did not allow downloaded songs to be played on rival technology companies’ devices.

The decision is the first time any jurisdiction has concluded iTunes breaks its consumer protection laws and could prompt other European countries to review the situation.

The ombudsman has set a deadline of October 1 for the Apple to make its codes available to other technology companies so that it abides by Norwegian law. If it fails to do so, it will be taken to court, fined and eventually closed down.

So says the Financial Times. I am greatly amused by this, because it's no surprise at all. The issue was raised a long time ago, and there has been a lot of back and forth with the authorities. Apple would not budge and so it was bound to come to this eventually. It's poetic that Apple's strong arm tactics have failed completely.

Technology pundits are saying the writing is on the wall for DRM, I'm not so sure myself. But this is a nice and clear sign that some actually do take offense to consumer rights being trampled on. Countries where the government isn't in the pocket of the industry perhaps (or at least not to that extent)?

Bring it on, Europe!

geek podcasts are lame

January 25th, 2007

So there are some podcasts that deal specifically in technology, and let's face it, linux, the computer geek's favorite topic. And well, they aren't very good. I'm not claiming I've listened to each and every one, but there is a common pattern to them. It's enthusiasts sounding very hyper about what they're talking about, but not in an especially cool or interesting way. It's more the kind of thing you would tune out after a while.

The reason is probably that they're trying to be something they're not. At the start of the show you're likely to have some ill conceived "cool" rock music that isn't very well chosen. Then you have the host, usually two of them, ranting about whatever is the latest fad. So they bring up a few topics and then immediately launch into the kind of monologue that you would have with your friend when talking about some cool new thing. And that doesn't make very interesting "radio". Because that's what it aims to be - radio. Only there isn't anyone responsible for the quality, and so whatever the host decides is done.

Now I may say that radio isn't really that interesting to begin with. Sure enough, these shows have more interesting content. But radio (and I mean the kind of nationwide radio that holds some standard, not random local radio) has a certain quality of form, you don't rant for 10 minutes non-stop on radio, you keep a certain pace, you pause etc. It's also about the host. A radio host is usually a person people like to listen to. A podcaster can be just anyone. Let's face it, not everyone is interesting to listen to, people are different after all.

These are shows I've listened to and they all fit the above description.