From the monthly archives:

December 2010

I use HandBrake to convert DVD’s to m4v’s for use on our iPods and Apple TV. It’s handy because you protect your DVD’s from scratches (since you aren’t using the DVD directly), and it eliminates the commercials, copy warnings, and the menu. It also eliminates the “extra” content, but I rarely care about it. PUP’s (prohibited user operations) are no longer an issue – that’s where you press menu or skip and the player refuses with a message like “not allowed”. You still have to navigate to the movie on your device, but consider that an even trade for not having to do the case-player-case shuffle (i.e. when you put the disk into the drive).
Handbrake makes the conversion very easy. The “Universal” preset results in a file that is full resolution and works on all my devices (from iPod Touch to Apple TV. I like to type the chapter titles in. I set the chapter selection range to exclude the unnecessary intro’s and credits to save space and time. I use DVD Player or VLC Player to determine which title, and chapters to include.
One hitch, multi-title disks. Most movies have one main title with several chapters. However, some disks, and particularly kids shows that contain multiple episodes, like Handy Manny, have several titles. Handbrake will not combine them and I don’t want to end up with 5 separate tiny episodes on my devices.
Enter MPEG StreamClip. Both softwares are free – thank you! Use DVD Player or VLC as described above to determine which Titles/Chapters you need, name the output file so the files sort in the proper order, Queue them up in Handbrake, and let it rip (pun intended). Next, “open files” in MPEG StreamClip and choose Save As. It forced me to choose MOV; didn’t allow mp4. Presto, a single movie file with all the episodes in one. Based on the short amount of time it takes, I’m confident it isn’t re-encoding anything, just physically combining/copying the files.
Unfortunately you loose all chapter markers/titles past the first title. If it matters enough to spend some time, you can put them back with Metadata Hootenanny. The “read from DVD” features doesn’t appear useful on multi-title disks, so manually adding them appears to be the only way. If you find a shortcut please let me know.

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Find Peace with Electrical Tape

by Bruce on December 12, 2010

With Christmas right around the corner I though this post might make a few people smile. Too bad nobody reads my blog…
Ever get tired of loud, noisy, obnoxious toys with no volume control? Does it seem like the volume was “calibrated” inside of a noisy factory in China? Have you ever thrown one of these toys away? Or even just thrown one? I have a solution…
Put black electrical tape over the speaker openings. You may need to cover multiple openings, all or part of an opening, or use multiple layers of tape to achieve the desired volume level. For kids that might peel the tape off open the toy and put the tape on the inside, or even clip the wire to the speaker all together.
I’ve been doing this for a few years now and am pleased with the results. Don’t leave dead batteries in the toy, yes, it’s an effective mute, but batteries are likely to leak battery acid when they are totally drained.

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Treasure or Crock Pot

by Bruce on December 1, 2010

I’m in WalMart on black Friday and witness this conversation…
Husband walks up to his Wife with a crock pot in hand that has a ten dollar sign hanging off the side and exclaims “look what I got honey!”
Wife, looking baffled, replies “why did you get that?”
Husband pauses, “well, they were going so fast I had to grab one.”
Wife, obviously annoyed, “we don’t need one of those, go put it back.”
Husband turns defensively, “no, it’s my money and I’m keeping it.”

If you aren’t shaking your head or laughing then I guess you had to be there and/or you’ve never experienced an American black Friday. I won’t be returning to WalMart on a black Friday. Cyber Monday, which starts on Thanksgiving day, is more of my style.

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