Archives for category: Media

I needed to generate graphics of some Write.as screenshots on the various devices it’s available on today, and had to hunt for the quickest way to do it.

Google made an awesome tool for Android, the Device Art Generator. No Photoshop needed.

Finding a tool to do this for iOS wasn’t so straightforward, but I eventually stumbled upon iPhone Screenshot Maker (which also does iPad and Mac screenshots). Again no Photoshop.

Finally, the ones for Chrome OS required some Photoshop work after I found a Google+ post with the PSD for the Chromebook Pixel.

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I have a ton of movies. When I first got a Raspberry Pi late last year, my first thought was to use it as a media center. So I hooked it up to my high-def TV and a hard drive with some very old pirated Simpsons episodes (from the days of Napster), and installed Raspbmc on an SD card. It worked great, and despite the need to get up and plug it in, and the $10 wired keyboard I used to control it, it worked great. If I had more money at the time, I would’ve gone with a Wi-Fi dongle so I could use my phone as a remote, or at least gotten a wireless keyboard.

A few months went by before my parents came up with a spare Blu-ray player that also happened to support DLNA— finally, I could be lazy again. I hooked the Pi straight into my router upstairs, plugged in the harddrive, and installed MiniDLNA. Downstairs, the Blu-ray player picked it up and instantly I had access to all of my digital video.

But soon, I craved more. So I decided to convert my DVD collection.

Converting

HandBrake turned out to be the best software for the task, both for its abilities and propensity for any OS you’re using (like Ubuntu). Ripping is pretty straightforward:

  1. Insert the DVD, click Source
  2. I used the dropdown to select my DVD drive (/dev/sr0)
  3. Hit okay, it starts scanning
  4. Select the title with what should be the duration of the movie. If you’re having trouble, check out When HandBrake won’t rip your DVDs.
  5. I’m happy with my 90-minute movies taking up around 1 GB– my 1 TB harddrive can handle it. So I started with the High Profile preset, and made the following changes:
    1. Format: MKV
    2. Video
      1. Framerate: Constant
      2. Constant Quality: RF: 16
    3. Audio
      1. English Track – Mix: Dolby Surround
  6. Press Start and let it run in the background.

These settings were perfect for a high quality video of moderate size in a format supported by my Blu-ray player. Experiment to see what works best for you.

On my machine, it takes about 25 minutes to transcode a 90 minute movie, with my CPU load hovering around 9 or 10. I couldn’t get my 5 year old Dell with an Intel Core 2 Duo processor to complete a whole rip, though it does like to overheat a lot these days. Enjoy!

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DRM is a common theme in the Internet Age’s story. Like watermarks on currency or microprint on checks, there are many reasons to prevent people from copying things, especially when you remove tangibility.

But sometimes it goes too far. I never bought music off the iTunes store again after I downloaded an album and found it wouldn’t abscond with me to another player. After I bought my first ebook today, I can’t say I’ll readily do it again.

I found an interesting technology book that I wanted to read on Amazon, ready for purchase in Kindle’s format. I own a Nook because it supports open formats (and PDFs), so I started looking around for a compatible version. Barnes & Noble only sold hard copies and the publisher only offered it in iPad format. I thought maybe I can convert it and I found out about a site that does just this. So I bought the book, and was told conversion wasn’t possible due to DRM. Ah, it’s so nice of Amazon to protect me from myself.

  1. So the first step was getting the book out of the cloud. For this I downloaded Kindle for my OS; I was on my work computer so I downloaded the Mac version. If I was at home, I would’ve had to get the Windows version and use wine to get it on Ubuntu.
  2. I found the AZW file for my book in the file system and copied it into a more visible location. It was located in:
    1. Windows: C:\Users\<username>\Documents\My Kindle Content\
    2. Mac: /home/<username>/Library/Application Support/Kindle/My Kindle Content/
  3. After reading a superuser question, I found a DRM removal tool for this exact situation. The standalone app didn’t work for me, so I downloaded calibre (cross-platform, nice!) and installed the DeDRM plugin from the previously downloaded tool, following the README instructions.
  4. Restarted calibre, opened up my book for conversion to ePub, and had a free and open copy in less than a minute.

I don’t believe in an era of innovation and free-flowing information ushered in by overprotective rights owners. From my reality, I’ve already given you my money–and for a mere $5 less than a physical copy, which is outrageous in itself. The least you could do is give me a quality product that will work with my gadget of preference.

So I can’t say I’ll be anxiously looking for my next ebook purchase. But it’s comforting to know that there are always ways to shake off the fetters of myopic companies and their ill-founded mechanics.