Archive for June, 2011

How to rip a DVD to m4v (mp4) or mkv using HandBrake in Ubuntu, Windows, or Mac

After writing my previous post about ripping DVD to avi using k9copy (and the ddrescue workaround), I found HandBrake. After doing a little reading on it, the general consensus is it does a better job at reading DVDs, even those with some issues. I was able to get HandBrake to completely convert my DVD easily and, although it is a little slower than k9copy, it is quite capable. Another nice thing about HandBrake is it’s cross-platofrm support — it’s available for Windows (exe), Mac (dmg), Ubuntu (PPA/deb), and Fedora (rpm).

This comes with the same general disclaimer as the previous post: Notice: This walk-through is not intended to encourage or facilitate piracy. It is the user’s responsibility to observe all applicable licensing and copyright laws.

That said, on with the how-to.

Installing HandBrake

You can either install HandBrake via the HandBrake Releases PPA (Ubuntu) or the HandBrake download page (Windows, Mac, Fedora).

PPA for Ubuntu 9.10 (Karmic) or newer (Recommended): Open a terminal and enter the following three commands:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:stebbins/handbrake-releases
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install handbrake-gtk

Direct downloaders: Download your installation file from the download link above and follow the installation procedure for your operating system.

Using HandBrake – Ubuntu Linux

HandBrake has a lot more flexibility (and therefore a lot more options) but only a few need to be changed to get the best rip possible. You can find HandBrake in the launcher after installing it.

After starting up HandBrake, click the Source button in the top left.

In the new window that opens, go to the bottom and find the “Detected DVD devices” drop-down box. Select the device appropriate for your system and click the Ok button.

After a few moments of scanning your DVD, the summary tab will populate with information.

On the video tab, click the “Target Size (MB)” radio button. The default value of 700 is correct.

Go to the chapters tab and uncheck “Chapter Markers”

Click Start to begin the ripping process.

Using HandBrake – Windows

Windows usage is similar to the above, but with some slight modifications. Also, the below is based on the latest version (0.9.8).

First, go to Tools > Options > Output Files and make sure a directory is selected for Default Path.


Next, insert your disc and click the Source drop-down, and select the disc.

After a few moments, select your preset on the right (based on the intended playback device — if unsure, use Regular > Normal).

Then, click Chapters and uncheck Create chapter markers.

Now, click Start to rip the DVD.

For more information, see the HandBrake Users Guide.

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Is the digital age threatening the history of our society?

The culture shift of paper books to e-books is just the tip of the iceberg. It’s not just books, but our entire collective record-keeping mentality. So why do I say our society’s history may be in danger?

Back up, back up, back up

Odds are you’re reading this on a personal computer. Take a moment to stop and think about the last time you had a hard drive crash, your OS got corrupted, or something else happened to cause you to lose your data.

Think of the last time you went somewhere or called somewhere only to get “Our systems are down and we can’t help you right now, try again tomorrow.”

Now think of that taken to a much larger scale. What would happen if, by some epic disaster (we’ve had a few of those recently, right?) data centers and/or infrastructure were destroyed. Those places that safeguard finances, medical records, whatever digital data you can think of. Gone in moments.

In 2007, Google built two new data centers at a cost of $600 million. That’s $300 million a piece for strictly capital investment (construction, infrastructure, computers, etc.). In that same year Microsoft spent $500 million to build a 550,000 square foot data center in Northlake, IL.

This is money spent simply on physical structure alone, no doubt to disaster-proof the buildings and the technology. However, there’s a mathematical certainty — disaster will happen, it’s simply a matter of when.

The Next Generation

Books — more specifically the printed word — is the prime record-keeping system of a society. Books tell stories and document fact and theory, and that’s how information is passed down to the next generation. But what happens when that system gets replaced by a fragile digital system?

What happens when the inevitable does occur? Who will have records of our generation 50 years from now? 100 years from now? Do you think a few dozen hard drives sitting in a data center, which get found a dozen years or so after some completely unplanned-for calamity are really going to be able to pass along any information about us?

In 1999, archaeologists discovered a stone tablet that dated to 900 BC, making it just over 2900 years old now. A few weeks ago, a friend brought me her laptop that wouldn’t boot up. It had a bad hard drive. Her daughter’s birthday pictures were on there. No backups. They’re gone forever now.

Am I on to something here, or simply being hyper-paranoid? Your thoughts?


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