Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Another win for Linux

Here's my tale...

I was down in Chattanooga visting my sister and brother in law the other weekend and I did not have my trusty open source laptop in tow. My sister recently had a baby and so they were give a camcorder to record the little girls beginnings. This camcorder is of the type that burns its movies to little mini dvds.

As the families resident Computer Guy (my dad's been in management for years so he has no pratical skillz left), I was asked to help move some movies off the mini dvds onto regular dvds so the mini dvds could be reused. With a sigh I sat down at the windows box to get to work.

Since the computer came with a dvd burner, I was lucky to find some version of Nero which claimed to let me copy dvds. Except when I clicked copy dvd, it openend a popup telling me how to buy the full version. *Sigh* Strike one. So I grabbed my trusty google and set off over the intarwebs, knowing there must be some open source program that would let me copy a friggin non-commercial dvd.

After wading waste-deep through crapware for a couple hours (synaptic long ago ruined my windows freeware searching skillz), I found a program that would do what I wanted. Or at least start to.  This program would start to copy the dvd to some proprietary disc image format on the hard 
drive, but then it would fail with some sort of io error. I noticed it would always fail at the same percentage so I figured I'd try to watch it and see if it looked ok.  I loaded up the crappy bundled dvd player software (which took so long to load, I thought it wasnt working) and it too would sieze up at one particular part about 8 minutes in. It would sieze up so hard that I'd have to eject the disc and kill the process to get it to stop. Then I tried it in VLC  (and set it as the default player for dvds). It froze just as hard in the same spot, so I figured it must be a bad spot on the disc. I decided to bring it home with me and try to copy it using Linux.

This is where the story gets awesome. I popped the disc in and up came totem, which played right past the bad spot without a glitch. So 
I was about to go off looking for some high quality open source dvd copying software when I noticed that the right click menu on the dvd icon on the desktop had a copy dist option. 30 seconds later, the lappy was happily copying the disc to an iso on my desktop, which tool another right click to burn to a blank disc. It was almost too easy. Way to go Ubuntu!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Flash Update

Well I tried upgrading to the latest flash (and I dont even have to post a how to, cause adobe made it really easy to install, you can even install it just for your user without escalating privledges, which is nice). It definitely has HD support, I could watch the HD trailer for Horton Hears a Who and it looks amazing, as is to be expected, except for a small amount of horizontal tearing. On scenes with a pan, it was very noticeable. Then I went to watch a regular video and it was really choppy, all full of pauses. Same thing on youtube. So I uninstalled it (and since it was only installed for my user, fell right back to the older one thats installed for everyone). No HD for me, yet.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Flash, Video, Music, and Linux!

This post is gonna be kind of all over the place, but here it goes:

  • First, I recently read that Adobe released a new version of their flash player with H.264 support. This isn't so amazing in itself, but what's really amazing is that they released the Linux version at the same time they released the Windows and OSX versions! I think this displays that Adobe is pretty dedicated to supporting Linux. I know there are plenty of people out there who won't be happy until Flash is open sourced, but for the time being, I'll take what I can get. I haven't installed the new version yet, but I will soon, and I'll probably try to post a quick how to for Ubuntu here. (Strangely, Adobe has an rpm package and a YUM repo definition available but no .deb).
  • Secondly, I've been a user of NPR's podcasts and streams for a while now. They even list an xmms option when choosing a stream method! The xmms streams open fine with rhythmbox, which remembers them for easy access later. I also recently stumbled across NPR's nprmusic, which has all sorts of great content available all free, using a nifty flash player. They have concerts, random songs and studio sessions with some pretty mainstream artists all available on demand. So thats a lot of really good content available in a DRM-free medium easily accessible from Linux, thanks to Adobe's Linux support. Granted, I haven't been able to see a way to download (without hijinks...) any of the music available through their flash player, but I take what I can get.
  • Finally, I was just invited to join Hulu's private beta. If you don't know what Hulu is, its a site where a bunch of Studios and Networks have joined up to put a bunch of their content online for free. It has a bunch of full episodes of shows I like (Simpsons and Family guy in particular). I think it puts up something like the last 5 new episodes in their entirety and then a bunch of random clips. Upon signing up, I saw several episodes of the Simpsons I must have missed what with being so busy over the holidays and not having a TV. There are short (3@~10sec) commercials during an episode, much less then you would encounter on a TV. You might be able to skip pass them or something, but I didn't bother trying because they are so short. Its an easy price to pay for all this content. Another cool feature is they let you share or embed complete shows like this: (did you notice the Sox shout out?) The video on the site is the same size as that embedded clip, they have a fullscreen option, which doesn't seem to work for me, but compiz's zoom makes it easy to watch from across the room on my 24"ws monitor. They are also offering up som HD content, which I've got to get the new version of flash installed to see.
So anyways, looks like theres some pretty good alternatives to buying cable and a tv coming up, even for us linux users. ABC and their windows only player can eat it!