Backing up/Ripping and Transcoding DVDs in Linux

Ripping and transcoding DVDs in Linux is very easy, but there are many ways of doing it. Personally, I prefer combining the command line tool dvdbackup with Handbrake. The reason I why I do this is to be able to rip a number of DVDs to my hard drive, and then to transcode them over night, or while I am at work. Moreover, both dvdbackup and Handbrake are open source software.

Step 1. Installation

First, dvdbackup may be installed through Synaptic, or by typing the following into the command line: sudo apt-get install dvdbackup

Second, you most likely have to install a CSS library to remove the copy protection. This may be done by adding the following unofficial repositories to your list of repositories (System->Administration->Synaptic Package Manager, then Settings->Repositories, and them on the “Other Software” pane):

deb http://unofficial.debian-maintainers.org/ lenny main contrib non-free restricted
deb-src http://unofficial.debian-maintainers.org/ lenny main contrib non-free restricted

You will most likely get an error message because of a missing key. Ignore this error message, or get the missing key through installing the package dmo-archive-keyring. Then you need to add the package libdvdcss2.

Third, Handbrake does not have an official stable release for Ubuntu at the moment. However, the nightly build has been working very well on my computer. To install this build follow these instructions. In short, add the following two repositories, and install the package handbrake-gtk.
deb http://ppa.launchpad.net/stebbins/handbrake-snapshots/ubuntu lucid main
deb-src http://ppa.launchpad.net/stebbins/handbrake-snapshots/ubuntu lucid main

Step 2. Ripping with dvdbackup

I use the command line tool dvdback up to make a copy of the DVD on the hard drive. The copy does not have any copy protection. To do this, start the command line, and go to the folder where you want the image to be stored. Then, type: dvdbackup -i /dev/dvd -M

dvdbackup - screenshot

dvdbackup – screenshot

I have experienced some problems with the name of the dvd drive, but /dev/dvd/ usually works. If not, find the right name under /dev or /media. As you might see from the image above, you could receive some error messages. Do not worry about these. They are ignored sectors that are part of the copy protection. Ripping a full DVD usually takes about 15 to 20 minutes on my computer.

3. Transcoding with Handbrake

Transcoding the movies and series from the DVD format (usually a VIDEO_TS folder with several VTS_**_*.VOB files) to a single video file is very simple. First, set up Handbrake the way you want. Personally, I do not include subtitles, select the MP4 file format, and use the “High quality” preset. However, you may play around with the settings any way you like.

 

HandBrake - Screenshot

 

Second, Select “Source” in Handbrake (see the screenshot above), browse to the source folder of one DVD, and click “OK”.

Third, Pick the “Title” you want to encode. give it a sensible name, select the folder where you want to store the transcoded file, and click “Add to Queue”. The longest title is automatically selected. For DVDs with movies, the longest title is usually the movie itself. For TV series, make sure that you add all the episodes on the disc to the queue.

Fourth, when you have added all the movies you want to transcode, simply click “Start” and let your computer do the job. On my machine (AMD Phenom II X4 965 Black with 4 GB RAM), transcoding a movie takes about 45 min to an hour with the hiqh quality settings. On an AMD Athlon X2 4850e with 4 GB RAM, it takes significantly longer.

The next step

When Handbrake finishes you will have a collection of transcoded movies and series. In future post, I will show how I manage these using another set of open source software.

Disclaimer

Ripping and transcoding (copyrighted) DVDs may be illegal in some countries. In Norway, where I live it is not illegal to break “weak” copy protections like CSS (the copy protection used on DVDs). Distribution of copyrighted material is still illegal in Norway and most other countries, so please don’t do it.



Most anticipated games of the second half of 2010

I have previously written about the games I have the highest expectations for, for instance, last fall. Even though many of the games I had high hopes for are set for releases in 2011 (e.g. Rage, Deus Ex, and Brink), there are still a number of games worth keeping an eye on. The following games are my most anticipated games for the fall 2010.

Call of Duty: Black Ops - Treyarch

Call of Duty: Black Ops – Treyarch

I must admit that Call of Duty: Black Ops (Nov 9, 2010) is probably the game I am waiting for the most. Not so much because I believe it is going to be the greatest game ever, but mainly because I have become “totally addicted” to Modern Warfare 2. I will most likely play Black Ops quite a lot too, and I am very curious about what Treyarch is able to bring to the table this time around. Dedicated servers are said to be back, and I hope they do something to counter all those cheaters the we see in Modern Warfare 2.

Then there are a few games that most likely will have a story (as opposed to the last few Call of Duty games). We have Mafia II (Aug 24, 2010), Fallout: New Vegas (Oct 19, 2010), and Fable III (Oct 26, 2010). All of these are sequels to great games. Mafia looks quite good, and the previews I have seen are quite positive. Fallout does unfortunately look a bit dated, but I still have high hopes (Note to self: still need to complete Fallout 3). Fable, don’t know yet. I am not sure if I want it to become even less RPG than the previous. However, Fable 2 was a good and cute game. I really love that they have British voice actors.

Civilization 5 - Firaxis Games

Civilization 5 – Firaxis Games

The final tittle that I have high hopes for is the return of the undisputed strategy champion, Sid Meier’s Civilization V (Sep 21, 2010). I have unfortunately not played the last game as much as I should, but I am very much looking forward to this new game. It will most likely be great! I just hope that I have the patience to play strategy games, after way too many hours of online multi player FPS.

Worth watching

There are also a few other games that I am a bit uncertain about. However, I will be tracking them closely as they are released. First up is Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days (Aug 17, 2010). The first game was not very good, and I don’t really expect the second to be an epic game either. Nevertheless, I am found of the two player, this and the likes of Army of Two, offer. Moreover, I really enjoyed the Hitman series from IO Interactive (the developer of Kane & Lynch). Who knows, maybe they’ll get it right this time around.

Medal of Honor - EA

Medal of Honor – EA

Then we have Halo: Reach (Sep 14, 2010). Halo will without doubt be a big game, but I am not really a hard core Halo fan boy. I prefer more realistic shooters and the game engine looks a bit dated to me. Next up is Dead Rising 2 (Sep 28, 2010). Zombie killing is always fun, but I am not 100% convinced yet. Medal of Honor (Oct 12, 2010) falls into the same category. I love modern first person shooters, but I am not sure what MoH adds to the table. We have already seen Battlefield Bad Company 2 this year (from DICE – the developer of  the multi player component of MoH), and Call of Duty Black Ops is due just a few weeks later. I have already tried the Beta, and I was unfortunately not blown away. Well actually, I was blown away in a one hour spawn rape before returning to Modern Warfare.

In addition we have Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood (Nov 16, 2010), and  Fifa 11 (Sep 28, 2010). I guess these will be just more of the same, which is a good thing as their predecessors were very good games. However, what about a bir more innovation? Finally, there is Stracraft 2 (already released). I am not really a big Starcraft fan either. I do not really have the patience to play real time strategy against people over the Internet (I would probably get pwned). However, for those who like it Starcraft is a dream come true (at least so I’ve understood).

Unrealistic dreams

 

Duek Nukem Forever - who knows??

Recently, rumours surfaced that Gearbox had picked up Duke Nukem Forever. I don’t believe it until the game ships, but as long as there is some hope I’ll be waiting for the duke to return. Moreover, I would also love to see a new game from Egosoft (the creators of the X3 series). Nothing has been announced yet, so I won’t hold my breath. However, X3 Terran Conflict was released about two years ago and in my eyes it is about time for something new. What are your wishes for Christmas?



Game of the year so far – 2010

In the latest episode of the Bonus Round over at Gametrailers.com they discussed the best games of 2010 so far. I did something similar last year, and I thought it was about time to do the same for 2010. The year of 2010 has already seen several very good games. My pick for the game of the year (so far) is as follows:

The game of the year so far

Read Dead Redeption - Rockstar Games

Read Dead Redeption - Rockstar Games

My choice for game of the year so far is not very controversial. Red Dead Redemption stands out from the crowd as an outstanding game in my eyes. I guess I have a weakness for games from Rockstar, but I must say I love the story telling, the characters, and the settings the guys at Rockstar are able to create. The game has a few weaknesses like aiming in close quarters, boring gatling gun sequences, and a bit too much aim assistance at longer ranges (making the game a bit too easy). However, it is very fun to gun down a lot of guys in quick succession. Moreover, the cell phone was not yet invented and one does not have annoying friends calling you all the time like in GTA 4.

Runner up

Mass Effect 2 - Bioware

Mass Effect 2 - Bioware

Read Dead Redemption is not the only great game released so far this year. Even though I enjoyed the first game more than the second, Mass Effect 2 is still a very very solid game. Great voice acting, graphics, and storytelling. However, I did not fancy the dumbing down of the RPG elements, the horrible scanning of planets to find metals, and the *SPOILER* silly chose-the-right-squad-members-at-the-end-or-else-they-will-die.

The other games I played

Modern Warfare 2 - Infinity Ward

Modern Warfare 2 - Infinity Ward

I have also played several other games. The one I have played the most (by far) is without doubt Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2. Even though it has a lot of problems (cheaters, lack of dedicated servers, no user mods, IW.net, and so on), it is a highly addictive game (just ask my girlfriend). Getting all those challenges is very hard 🙂 Battlefield: Bad Company 2 tried to dethrone Modern Warfare. Even though it was a decent game, I stopped playing it and returned to Modern Warfare. I guess I preferred being able to “win” the game by myself in Modern Warfare over having to rely on a squad as in Bad Company. Since I do not have a squad, I frequently got frustrated at all the n00bs playing to get high kill/death ratios instead of succeeding with the mission objectives.

Borderlands - Gearbox

Borderlands - Gearbox

In addition to Modern Warfare and Battlefield: Bad Company 2, I have also played a bit of Left 4 Dead 2, Anno 1404 (Dawn of Discovery), Borderlands, Fable 2, Assassins Creed 2, and Fallout 3. I think all of these games are very good, but they do not reach the same level as Red Dead Redemption and Mass Effect. Moreover, almost all of them were released in 2009. On one hand, Left 4 Dead and Assassins creed are better games than their predecessors, but they are basically more of the same. On the other hand, what I would like to see more of the same from is Borderlands. Even though the game world felt a bit empty and the quests were a bit repetitive, I very much enjoyed the game’s basic principles of having a lot of different guns, plenty of missions, and a quite open world.

Still in the back log

Splinter Cell Conviction - UBISOFT

Splinter Cell Conviction - UBISOFT

The amount of  new games being released (and the amount of game time with Modern Warfare 2) has prevented me from playing all the games I would have wanted. I have still to (start and) finish the following games:  Fallout 3, Dragon Age Origins, Splinter Cell Double Agent, Splinter Cell Double Conviction, Army of Two 40th Day, Batman Arkham Asylum, and Bioshock 2. I am in particular looking forward to Splinter Cell Conviction and Batman Arkham Asylum. I would also like to get my hands on Just Cause 2, Alan Wake, and perhaps also Crackdown 2.

In addition to these games, there are a few games on the PS3 (which I do not have) that have received a lot of attention, in particular, God of War 3 and Heavy Rain. Honestly, I must admit that neither of those appeal to me at all. I do not fancy hack and slash/fighting that much, and Heavy Rain is not even a game.





The gaming of 2009 – Seriously delayed

Another great year for computer games has passed and I should really have written a game-of-the year for 2009. However, for several reasons I was unable to decide on the best game of 2009. Due to finishing my PhD, I am also half a year too late with this post. Nevertheless, spreading the word about good games is never too late 🙂

Why not a game of the year 2009?

Borderlands (Gearbox)

First, there are a lot of the great games that were released in 2009 that I have not played yet. (1) I do not own a PS3 and I have therefore not been able to play for instance Uncharted 2, Killzone, Demon Souls, and so on. (2) I have not been able to buy all the great games from 2009. I still do not have Batman: Arkham Asylum, Forza Motorsport 3, Fifa 10, and Empire: Total War. (3) Of the great games I do own, there were several that I was unable to try in 2009, like for instance Assassin’s Creed 2, Left 4 Dead 2, Anno 1404 (Dawn of Discovery), Dragon Age: Origins, Men of War, and Borderlands.

Second, I can’t really decide between the games I did play. I guess the problem is that there are so many good games that it is a bit difficult to find a game that  really stands out from the crowd.

What I played

Lately, I have played a lot of Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 and it is quite fun. However, for the way Infinity Ward and Activision have ignored us PC-games, I cannot say Modern Warfare 2 is even a contender for GotY. The game is pretty much Call of Duty 4.5 as the single player is short and uninteresting. I agree with Michael Pachter who said that the four hour story of MW 2 was “as lame as any story I’ve seen in any game” (Bonus Round @ 17.00). The multi player is more of the same (still great fun though), but it lacks dedicated servers, has a lot of cheaters, allows only 12 or 16 players per game, and does not allow user mods.

X3 Terran Conflict (Egosoft)

Next up is X3: Terran Conflict. I played this quite a lot during the summer, but I have not played it in a long time. However, watching Star Trek made me want to fire it up again. Even though the game is very interesting and made me remember the depth of PC-games, it does have a few to many small problems to be a game of the year. It was furthermore released in 2008. In addition to being a great game, I must applaude the developers at Egosoft for constantly updating the game, and releasing new content for FREE (the money-hungry suckers at Activision should take note).

I also played quite a lot of Left 4 Dead, Call of Duty 5: World at War, and Fallout 3, and a bit of Far Cry 2, World of Goo, and Red Alert 3. All these were good games, but all of them were released in 2008. I guess I played more CoD 5 than anything, but Fallout 3 was probably the best game. On the Xbox I played Resident Evil 5, Guitar Hero: Metallica, and Red Faction: Guerrilla. Then of course, I also played through Saints Row 2, Dead Space, and Mirror’s Edge from 2008. All of these were quite good but perhaps not really game of the year material.

Mirrors Edge (Dice)

Mirrors Edge (Dice)

Finally, I would like to dedicate a thumbs up for all the new intellectual property we have seen in 2009. Batman, Borderlands, Mirrors Edge, Dead Space, and (to some extent) Dragon Age Origins were new intellectual properties released during the last year or so. Even though Mirrors Edge and Dead Space did not sell as much as EA anticipated, I really encourage them to make another. I really enjoyed them!





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