Monthly Archives: October 2009

pixar blu-ray

Reading the Blu-Ray review for Up, I would take this statement and drop in Wall-E for the movie, and the same would be true:

Up brushes against the stratosphere with a dazzling, picture-perfect … transfer that boasts more breathtaking spectacle and stunning scenery in a single shot than many high definition presentations deliver in two hours.”

I can’t comment on Up since I don’t own a copy, but I can say the same holds for Wall-E.

Watching a Pixar movie on Blu-Ray made every single hedge I ever had about the format completely disappear.

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my blu-ray ripping trial run

Yesterday, I wanted to see if I could rip a Blu-Ray disc using my PS3.  I really want to get a BD-ROM drive, but they are so expensive still, and since I can install Linux on my PS3, I figured maybe I’d try and save myself some money and see if I could manage to get one ripped and decrypted.  It actually worked, which surprised me.  Ripping the disc was the simplest thing in the world, but the key on the movie I tried (Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory) was too new, and currently only AnyDVD has support for it.  I’d love to buy a copy of that, but it only runs in Windows, and it’s really expensive.  Instead, I’ll just have to wait for the keys to pop up eventually on the doom9 forums.

The first step, though, was getting the PS3 to run Linux.  I took the shamelessly easy way out (and I don’t regret it either) and installed Xubuntu.  I won’t go into details about how I got Linux on my PS3 since that’s well documented.  I will say that I remember quite vividly now why I can’t stand binary distros.  Bleh.

The BD filesystem is UDF.  Providing you have a recent kernel (2.6.20, I think) with UDF v2.5 support, you are good to go.  I mounted a remote share and just dumped the disc to an ISO file onto my desktop.

$ cat /media/cdrom0 > wonka.iso

That was the easy part.

The hard part was trying to get it decrypted.  I had to use Java tools (bleh) to get to the source.  There are three applications you need.  And if you hate digging through forums and using download services, then I’ve got direct links for yah:

For Gentoo, you’ll need to install the JDK to build the aacskeys library and binary.  I just emerged dev-java/sun-jdk and it worked for me (I know absolutely nothing about Java, but my stabbing in the dark miraculously worked).  You’ll also need a runtime environment to actually execute the stuff, and I emerged dev-java/sun-jre-bin and that worked fine, too on my amd64 box.

For aacskeys and Gentoo, you’ll need to apply this patch that I cobbled together from what I found on the doom9 forums to get it to compile.  It just fixes the Java include directorys for the Makefile.

Now, I’m still a bit fuzzy about what each program does, and whether you need all of them or not, so I won’t go into a lot of detail.  What you want to use, though, is the dumphd program.  But to use it, you’ll need to copy the aacskeys library and a file from the bdvmdbg package as well into the path or same directory as the dumphd program.

Once you have that, you can just run dumphd.sh and it’ll fire up a simple little GUI telling you if it has all the libraries it needs.  Then you just specify the source and destination, and aacskeys will see if it has a working key to access the disc.

I can’t really give much more detail than that, since I’m so new to this.  Suffice it to say, if you read the accompanying README doc that comes with each one, you’ll get along just fine.

It took me a long time last night to get just one disc ripped and transferred over my subnet to try it out, and by the time I managed to get it mounted (mount -o loop -t udf wonka.iso /mnt/udf) and access it, it was pretty late.  The keys I had didn’t work for my disc, and I didn’t want to try the whole procedure over to try another disc.

Anyway, good luck if you try it.  One thing that impressed me is how much simpler it was than I thought it’d be, but what a pain it was trying to figure out where things went wrong.  The doom9 forums are a good resource, but not exactly the best place to find clear, concise information for a beginner.  That part was frustrating.

Personally, I don’t think it’s worth the hassle right now, the way I did it.  I’ll get a BD-ROM sooner or later so I don’t have to transfer the content over the network and can instead just test it directly.  But, I started out to see if I could at least get a copy of the ISO and get the tools running all without Windows, and I can.  So, that’s progress right there.

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new feeds

I’ve been having a slew of issues running Apache on my Linode VPS, which I’m still trying to pin down, so in an attempt to offload some of the usage, I’m now going to use Feedburner to provide the RSS feed for Planet Larry.

I know I’ve played with Feedburner in the past, and kind of flip-flopped on whether to use it or not, but this time I’m sure I’m gonna stick with it.  It’s better for users, since they will always have a feed available (whether I have issues or not), and it’s better for me since I can offload that part of the network traffic, which is actually quite a lot.

I’ve already updated the feeds and my apache config to do a permanent redirect, but if you want the feed URLs directly, here they are:

Sorry for the inconvenience.  It seems like everytime I post about Planet it’s bad news or maintenance.  Believe me when I say that it aggravates me far more than it does you.

Specifically, the issues I’m having is that Apache is sucking up all the available RAM, of which I only have 360 megs on my account.  It’s then rolling over to using all the swap space as well, which only slows things down even more.  I’ve just started playing with tweaking the MPM configuration a bit, and I’m still trying to find a reasonable solution for my configuration.

In the past, the Linode had been seizing up occassionally, and I’d normally just reboot it and get on with my life.  Recently, I installed monit (an awesome app), and pinpointed that the issue seems to always be with apache.  Now, I’m just trying to narrow it down even  more from there, but offloading the RSS feeds seems like a good step to take anyway … I get gigabytes of traffic per month just on that, believe it or not.

I’m toying with the idea of setting up lighthttpd instead, but I really prefer apache, and would rather set it up to behave in a low memory environment instead.  So, for any downtime in the near future, chances are it’s just me tweaking something.  At least now, thanks to monit, I have a much better idea of when something goes wrong.

Oh, one other tweak I’ve made is that the planet script itself is more robust as well.  That thing used to run out of control, but I’ve made some changes that will ensure that if it runs away, at least it won’t bring down the system.  I also started playing around with the idea of writing my own feed parser to replace the Planet software completely, and it looks like it’s going to be much simpler than I imagine.  I haven’t actually started down that path yet, since I have bigger projects to complete, but I’m actually enthusiastic that it’d be far, far simpler than I imagined.

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netflix on ps3

Okay, so you’re going to be able to stream Netflix on your PS3 soon, blah blah blah, that’s all in the news right now.  However, I’m skeptical as to the connection here, and the way this is being deployed.  Namely, why is this add-on feature provided through a disc instead of being integrated into the PS3 firmware?  I have a simple theory: Sony doesn’t want to kill it’s little baby, the Playstation Store, that sells and rents movies, and is instead making getting Netflix a bit of a speed bump.

Of course, this is all theory since the actual product isn’t out yet, but hey, I like a good mystery.

Before I go on, though, here’s the sources of the actual news that everyone is feeding off of.  I know when I’m looking for details I hate reading everyone’s interpretation of it in an attempt to get a spin on what it means — which, of course, is exactly what I’m doing.  At least I’m linking back to the source.

Okay, so, there’s three things I find suspicious here about the whole thing:

  1. The Playstation blog entry is written by Netflix, not Sony.
  2. You need a disc to use it.
  3. Sony said back December of ’08 that it was focusing on its download service.

My take on the whole thing is that Sony doesn’t like it, but they are allowing it, albeit grudgingly.  Using the Playstation Store is a ridiculous experience in DRM that only makes renting movies easier by being able to download them instead of going to the store.  It manages to duplicate the nasty elements of high prices, limited availablity, and poor choice of selections.  Netflix’s library isn’t that great *right now*, but I’d still rather pay $9 a month to stream as much as I want for one month, versus $5 for one movie limited to a 24-hour viewing period.

Anyway, my big question is, why isn’t it part of the PS3 firmware, similar to how it works on the Xbox 360?  Dunno.  Again, I don’t know if the disc is a one-time install, or if you need it everytime you want to use the service.  The press release leaves out those details.  In fact, all it says about it is that “Initially, watching movies instantly streamed from Netflix via the PS3 system will be enabled by a free, instant streaming Blu-ray disc that is being made available to all Netflix members.”  When they say “initially”, I imagine that means that it’s not going to be that way forever.

They also say, “Netflix members simply slide the disc into their PS3 systems to reveal movies and TV episodes that can be watched instantly” so I assume that you do have to have it in the box to watch it.

Either way, I guess I’ll find out next month if I get my own disc to play with.

The reason I’m watching this so closely though, is because short of the Roku, nothing has come close to delivering a worthy UI to watching Netflix on the TV (that I own … No 360 for me).  I’ve written about the Netflix plugin on Tivo before, which is downright embarrassing, so I’m really hoping that the PS3 one will more than make up for that.  I would really hate to have to use the disc every single time, though, since that would really make me lose interest in using it on a regular basis … and the conspiracy theorist in me thinks that that is exactly what Sony is hoping for.

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what i'm watching, part three

I’m starting to notice a curious trend, that I enjoy writing a lot of my blog entries on a Monday morning.  For some reason, that’s the time I’m most interested in writing anything at all, and I generally have a slew of topics to pick from.  Today’s no different, it seems.

I haven’t written one of my posts about recent watching habits in a long time, so I thought it’d be a nice revisit since I’ve seen a few things again that aren’t really deserving of posts in of themselves.  I’ll ramble them off in whatever manner I even remember them.

Astro Boy

I ended up seeing Astro Boy, unexpectedly, on opening night even, at the theater … and I loved it.  The more I think about it, the more I realize how much I liked it.

I was *extremely* skeptical about seeing this one, because of it’s manga background … something that has proven time and time and time again, that I just don’t have a passing interest in.  I just don’t have the brain for it, I guess, which in some ways is keeping me from becoming a first-class art / entertainment geek.  Ah, well.  My tastes are in a world all their own, that’s for sure.

But I remember seeing the trailer, again, about a week or so before the movie came out, and I thought, “Huh, this actually looks pretty good!”  And I liked it.

The story was really simple, and, the best way I can describe it … almost … well, simple is the best way to put it.  The story doesn’t take any weird, random tangents, instead almost following a direct storyline of the events without any diversion or discussion.  It was actually quite refreshing to see the story neither dumbed down or trussed up.  With one exception, each of the characters was consistent all the way through.  It was just good.  I wanna go see it again.

Oh yah, and every scene with the RRF is just hilarious. :)

Surrogates

I had been waiting to see this movie for a long time, ever since I saw the trailer for the first time.  I just knew I was gonna enjoy it, regardless of how bad it might turn out to be.  I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, since it was a sci-fi action / thriller with Bruce Willis, which could go all kinds of directions.  As far as action movies go, it was rather tame … hard questions about society aside.  That surprised me.

The story itself was weak, which would probably explain why I haven’t heard much about it, good or bad, or in reviews and what-not, but the concept it portrayed — people living their lives artificially — struck me on a number of levels.  I kept thinking about the many analogies of how our society does that anyway, through the Internet, through virtual escapes of any kind (video games came to mind).  It was just really, really cool.  It also raised a lot of points of you never know who is behind the artifical mask, either.  For someone who gets really sucked into the virtuality of second lives sometimes, and suffers from the after-shocks of trying to use it as an escape during hard times, the film really hit me, and I enjoyed it quite a lot.  It’s definitely not going to be a popular theme with the masses, but I liked it a lot.  I wish the story was better, though.

Calling Philo Vance

Now this is an old movie (1940).  I recorded a bunch of Philo Vance movies on my Tivo when TCM aired them a while ago, and I just now got the urge to watch some old movies this weekend, and I found this one.  It was a little odd.

I had a little hard time following it because, apparently, this is a staple character of movies back in the day, and this was the first film I saw him in after he’d already starred in quite a few films and radio shows.  I imagine it would be like stepping in to watch the 14th of 20 Sherlock Holmes films, never have knowing the man or his methods before, and wondering what the heck is going on and why it’s interesting.  That’s exactly how it was for me, here.

I’d heard of Philo Vance, only in passing, since I’ve seen his name before in my attempts to collect old time radio shows.

The movie itself moved at a really clipped pace, and Philo solved the murder almost as quickly as he found the details.  Anyway, it was a bit strange, but I love watching old movies so it was still fun.

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playing with x264

There’s a couple of reasons I don’t encode my video.  One of them being that, everything I encode myself, I can just notice the drop in quality.  However, with the right parameters and the right codec (x264) I can get it looking really nice, and I can hardly notice a difference.  It comes at a bit of a tradeoff, though.

Here’s a snip of a sample ffmpeg output I generated last night:

$ time ffmpeg -y -i movie.vob -r 30000/1001 -acodec copy -croptop 60 -cropbottom 60 -s 720×480 -aspect 16:9 -deinterlace -vcodec libx264 -vpre hq -crf 15 -threads 0 movie.mp4

FFmpeg version SVN-r20371, Copyright (c) 2000-2009 Fabrice Bellard, et al.
built on Oct 25 2009 14:09:56 with gcc 4.3.3

Input #0, mpeg, from ‘movie.vob':
Duration: 00:29:43.93, start: 0.280633, bitrate: 6492 kb/s
Stream #0.0[0x1e0]: Video: mpeg2video, yuv420p, 720×480 [PAR 8:9 DAR 4:3], 9000 kb/s, 59.94 tbr, 90k tbn, 59.94 tbc
Stream #0.1[0x80]: Audio: ac3, 48000 Hz, 5.1, s16, 448 kb/s
[libx264 @ 0x1c64530]using SAR=32/27
[libx264 @ 0x1c64530]using cpu capabilities: MMX2 SSE2Slow
[libx264 @ 0x1c64530]profile High, level 3.0
Output #0, mp4, to ‘movie.mp4′:
Stream #0.0: Video: libx264, yuv420p, 720×480 [PAR 32:27 DAR 16:9], q=10-51, 200 kb/s, 30k tbn, 29.97 tbc
Stream #0.1: Audio: ac3, 48000 Hz, 5.1, s16, 448 kb/s

Stream mapping:
Stream #0.0 -> #0.0
Stream #0.1 -> #0.1
Press [q] to stop encoding
frame=43411 fps=  7 q=-1.0 Lsize=  767982kB time=1783.95 bitrate=3526.6kbits/s

real    103m29.692s
user    155m46.121s
sys     8m0.649s

Which brings me to the second reason I don’t encode stuff … time.  Seven frames per second, on my fastest box at home, heh.  For a 30 minute video, it took a very long time.  The video looks great, though.  I can still notice a drop in quality when there is text or titles on the screen, but that’s the exception.  The size was almost exactly 50% the original (1.4 GB to 750 MB).

The backstory for this particular video though, was that it was presented in letterbox, and I wanted to re-encode it so I didn’t have to make a pan & scan config for just that file on my box.  So, I cropped the black bars off the top and bottom and resized it.

One small annoyance I have, is that all DVD source video always shows up as 59.94 frames per second when being probed by ffmpeg, and I have no idea why …. every single one of them does that, and it drives me nuts, since all the NTSC DVDs are going to be 29.97 or variable frame rate.  So, I have to specify to encode the new video to 29.97, otherwise, it will encode it to 59.94 by default and nearly double the size.

Also, I’m only doing a one-pass video encoding, ironically because I don’t like waiting.

I have little interest in encoding my video, because my boxes are so slow, but at a savings of 50% in storage space, the idea always keeps me curious.  Unfortunately, because I’m so picky about quality, it takes a long time to find something that I like, and even longer to encode everything.  On top of that, I have little to no interest in buying a faster computer right now, so I just kind of shrug the whole thing off.

I can’t deny that the video looks very nice, though.  Kudos to x264 and ffmpeg. :)

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star trek on blu-ray: the voyage home

I just got finished watching The Voyage Home on Blu-Ray.  It was nice.  I haven’t seen that movie in too long, that I can remember.  I think my interest is fading though.  I stopped the movie at least four times that I can recall to go and do something else.  That’s actually pretty common for me, to leave a movie and come back later (which is why I loathe Blu-Ray’s lack of universal resume play), but for a movie I like so much, it’s a little odd.  Comparatively, I think I watched all of Star Trek III through non-stop.  Oh, well.

The movie was good.  I wasn’t really paying attention the video this time though.  It was nicer, though, than the DVD.  One thing I managed to notice this time around is that while they did a good transfer, they didn’t bother cleaning up the material at all.  That is, the age of the special effects really shine through when it is shown in such clarity (and in fact, I can remember noticing some of them when I watched it in the theater as a kid … that’s one thing I’m proud of, I got to see all the Star Trek movies since IV on the big screen when they were originally released).  They could have cleaned it up a bit, but didn’t bother.  Again, I’m gonna gamble and say that they will probably have an “improved” release version in a few years or so.

I think I need to give the Star Trek movies a break for a bit.  I’m running out of steam.  Well, that, and I hate watching movies knowing I’m gonna review them later.  Sometimes it makes me watch them more critically instead of being able to enjoy it.  That wasn’t the case this time though.

Alright, I’m tired, and it shows, so I’ll just end it there.  It may be a while til the next Star Trek movie though.  I just checked my queue, and it’s Insurrection.  I actually liked that one, too.

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