Monday, July 14, 2008

100 miles and counting

Several weeks ago Nikkala bought me a Nike+ for my half marathon training...

well, I've finally reached the 100 mile marker.

I really like the Nike+. It is funny how a silly (yet quite techie) little pedometer motivates you to run when you don't want to. Between the actual Nike+ and the Nike+ website, I hate missing any days because I'll miss my goals and challenges.

It comes HIGHLY recommended from me and keeps me running... and I really don't like to run.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Painfully true...

I liked this a lot. Funny... (click on to see the last frame)

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Memorial Day Madness

I don't usually like to post videos, but this one made it to the front page of Slashdot the other day and I had to share it with everyone that doesn't read slashdot. If it doesn't take you back to your days in calculus, maybe it will remind you why you never wanted to take it in the first place. Oh yeah, and the dancing would win the dance off competition for sure.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Chod's Guide to Free DVD Ripping Software -- or -- The Spring 2008 Software Guide on How to Fill your iPod up Very Quickly

This guide is for all those who want to be able to take their DVDs and exercise their Fair-Use Right to convert the movies they legally own to other formats that can be played in either portable devices (iPod, PocketPC, PSP, etc) or on computer/media centers such as AppleTV or a home-built MythTV system.

I get asked from time to time to help others decrypt their movies and this has motivated me to make this guide. Most of these requests are from people who are like me and want to use free tools, yet also want easy and high quality encodes of their movies (easy-free-quality aren't qualities you see together very often). They are also busy and don't have time to read through the countless forum entries from the great resources available from places such as Doom-9 and AfterDawn.

Now, there are many other guides out there. Several of the popular ones are getting old and the software they link to is either out-dated or it has disappeared from the interweb. This guide will try and focus on the very best software available as of today, realizing that in 6-12 months people will look back on this guide with 20/20 hindsight and see all of its flaws and lack of forward-thinking.

I work with Windows and Mac OSX most often. I do play around and use various Linux (GNU) operating systems from time to time, but that is not my specialty. Ironically, some of the best tools available (and the libraries upon which others are based) for both the Mac and Windows machines come straight from the many open source tools initially developed for Linux (FFMPEG, libdvdcss, libavcodec, XviD, Mencoder, Mplayer, VLC, etc).

So without further blabbering... Here is the list of software I use and love (LOSIUAL).

DVDFab HD Decrypter (Currently at version - PC Only

This is a free decrypter that will copy the DVD to a hard drive. There is a commercial version from the same company called DVDFab Gold (or Platinum) that will shrink the DVD down or copy it all to a Dual-layer DVD. The Platinum version says it will also convert the movie to a MPEG4/h.264 format for an iPod or Divx format for an iPaq. This software may be all that is needed if the Au or Pt versions are purchased. I've never tried the Gold or Platinum version, so I don't know how well it works. The reason is because of other free software listed below. (The free decrypter would be considered Cheap and Effective... but adds the step of saving the whole 5+ GB of DVD to your hard drive)

Handbrake 0.9.2- GUI and CLI for both Mac and PC 

This software is my favorite on the Mac... but the PC version still leaves a little to be desired. It will re-encode an encrypted (only unencrypted DVD in Windows...sorry) DVD into many different Mpeg4 formats (including h.264 for the iPod). Probably the best FREE converter for the iPod anywhere! (Cheap and Easy... the Mac version really is better)

DVDshrink - PC Only (free)

This will shrink the decrypted DVD so it will fit on a single sided DVD. It works well, but I happen to know that the new Roxio and Nero both will do this step as well. Many people have either Roxio or Nero software on their machines already, so using the commercial software if you have it may be a good option. In fact, Roxio Easy DVD Copy® 4 Premier (~$49 I think) will both shrink and convert your unencrypted DVDs for backup and portable devices like the iPod. (Cheap and Effective... but adds another step)

Commercial decrypter

AnyDVD (~$77... it is really 49 euros).

Very good decrypter (even better at times than DVDFab HD Decrypter). From the Website:
"AnyDVD works in the background to automatically remove the copy protection of a DVD movie as soon as it's inserted into the drive, allowing you then to backup the movie using a DVD backup tool..." (Easy and Effective... not cheap)

Honorable Mention:

MacTheRipper - Mac Only DVD decrypter/ripper (The good version is in Beta, v.3... a "donation" is required to gain access to this file!)

iSquint - Mac Only H.265/MPEG4 encoder (that is what the iPod needs)... I use Handbrake to do this and find better quality and more options, but iSquint is certainly easy and free.

OK... here is my advice on using these tools:

  1. Decrypt the DVD using either DVDFab HD Decrypter (PC) or MacTheRipper (Mac) first. I know a lot of people just want one step, and I can feel their pain... but by ripping the DVD first, they save the wear on their DVD reader/burner AND it makes the re-encoding step much faster. Besides, they won't get halfway through the next step and have an error from the encoder and end up wasting a whole night trying to figure out what went wrong.  Just trust me on this one.
  2. Use Handbrake and select the preset on the right for the device the movie is being encoded for. Did I mention to use the presets... yeah, I know... where is the adventure. Actually, I usually change the settings around a bit depending on what my source is (animation, action movie, slow boring drama...) but most people should just trust the presets and then begin to change one thing at a time to see what it does. Change too much and the movie won't play on the iPod... trust me.
  3. Drag the movie file that was just made to iTunes and sync with the iPod. It's really that easy!

I may make another guide describing some of the settings I would change for different devices, but I want people to experiment and then let me know how these tools work for them.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Geo is finally Cool!!!

The Day of Redemption has Come!!!

For years you have been the recipient of many jokes. Movies have been made showing your car smashed like a pop can. All of your friends stopped asking for rides years ago. Your family asks you to stop coming over in your car. Yes, this is the day of redemption. Yes, this is the day that your Geo has finally become cool.

This CNN article made me laugh... 

Seriously, I could have never seen the day that the Geo Metro would be sought after with such tenacity. And for someone to pay $7000+ for a 1996 model car that cost very little more than that when it was NEW is beyond me.

I was "talking" back and forth with Nikkala over Gmail earlier today and we couldn't pencil the car out as a good deal...  Here is the situation (in case you don't want to read the article):

  • A lady bought a 1996 Geo Metro on Ebay for $7300. 
  • A Metro XFI is powered by an anemic 1.0L three-cylinder engine producing just 49 hp, but it returns between 40-55 MPG.
  • Her current car (before the purchase) is a Honda Element that gets 28 MPG.
  • She has a 100 mile commute each day to work. 

So the question is, how long before she sees a financial benefit from having the Geo. I quickly ran and did some spreadsheet calculations and this is what I came up with for cost recovery (fuel ONLY)...

As you can see, I was only looking at fuel costs. I also gave the car the benefit of the doubt and gave it the whole 55 MPG (even though it will probably be less since it is over 11 years old). The time it would take to recover the cost of the Geo on fuel savings alone would be around 4 years, assuming gasoline stays around $4 a gallon. If fuel prices jump to $5, the time shortens to 3.2 years. If prices were to go even higher to $10/gallon, the time is even shorter at a little over 1.5 years.  

However, the true cost of any vehicle is much more than just fuel. The Honda will probably run for 10+ years without having any major mechanical problems. I'm not sure the Geo is going to make it 10+ years without some major mechanical problem (not because it is a bad car, but it is already 11 years old!)  There is also the problem of safety. Anyone who has risked their lives in one of these cars (or a comparable car like the Ford Festiva) knows there is very little metal between them and the 18-wheeler driving down the road next to them.

I'm all about saving money and fuel, but I think some people are a bit too quick to buy into higher MPG without looking at the real costs involved and the economics of the purchase. I'm going to bet my $1 that this lady never saves a dime with this car... you are free to wager me with your dollar if you think she has a chance.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Windiest City

Jolyn recently posted on her blog about how much she enjoyed Logan weather. I agreed with her but it got me to thinking... What is the average wind in Logan compared to other cities. Well, after doing some climate research I concluded that Logan does have less wind in the winter than Idaho and other areas, but it has much more than average wind in the summer. Take a look at these graphs and compare them to your own city by going to Citi-data and entering your city.

Logan, Utah (Where I will be living and working in the near future)

Aberdeen, Idaho (Where I work today)

Burley, Idaho (Where Nikkala grew up)

Rigby, Idaho (Where I grew up)

Rexburg, Idaho (BYU-Idaho -- the students would swear on the Bible that this is the windiest city in the US)

Chicago, Illinois (The Windy City -- for good reason)

Laramie, Wyoming (Just for comparison -- and to count your blessings)

Monday, December 10, 2007

May I suggest a "Free" Spell Checker

Today I went to lunch with Harold, Chad, and Shane. We traveled south to Am. Falls and ate at a Chinese place called Chinese City (I Think). Anyway, I asked for some chopsticks and this is the packaging the sticks came in:

If you click on the image it will become legible... well, legible doesn't mean readable. A quick read through shows no fewer than 7 spelling and/or grammar mistakes. I'm not even counting the lack of punctuation. Seriously people... how hard is it to run something through an online spell checker? I would hate to think it was on purpose to make me believe it was truly from China (I mean, it's pretty exotic to see Chinese goods in this country--"OMH, this is really from China"). So if that was the point to all the errors, it worked. I don't think anyone from this country could have made it look any worse than they did.

So here is my point:

  • 1: Always use a spell checker on commercial (or anything for that matter) product with instructions

  • 3: Stick to fortunes from nasty cookies that don't make sense... don't try and confuse us with chopstick instructions that leave us all scratching our heads... the foods getting cold.