HandBrake

Say you have one of those nifty iPod thingies that play video and stuff. Say you’ve got a bunch of DVDs that you’d like to watch on said iPod thingy, but you’re not hip on buying another copy of the movie through iTunes. Movie studios have even resorted to “value-adding” with special features on DVDs these days by including an extra DVD that contains a digital version of the movie “For your iPod or PSP!”

Well, folks. I’m here to tell you that you don’t need either of those things. If you already own the DVD, there’s a software right under your fingertips that will enable you to rip those DVDs into a handy iTunes/iPod/iPhone friendly MP4 format. It’s called HandBrake.

HandBrake is this nice little open source program that converts those bulky discs into nice, compact digital files. It’s available for Mac OS X, Windows and Linux and has presets for all video-playing portables from early video iPods to PSPs and some I’ve never heard of. So for example, I would like to be able to watch old episodes of Friends on my computer or iPod video. Even though it’s taken me a while, I’ve been able to successfully rip 10 seasons (at about 23 episodes per season) of Friends for digital consumption using HandBrake.

Sure, it’s time-consuming (particularly naming all the episodes, using this nice OS X-only tool called Lostify), but the work is mindless and the reward is massive.

Apple Special Event

Apple had a special event today to announce the new versions of all 3 of its somewhat popular iPod (shuffle, nano, video). Apple has almost always impressed with these events, releasing newer, better versions of the world’s most popular MP3 player.

Today, I’m not so sure.

There wasn’t much of an update to the shuffle…a color refresh and an additional (Product) RED version. Ho hum.

Then they went and updated the world’s most popular MP3-player, the iPod nano. The new nano throws away its old skinny form factor for something more squat in order to provide it with a screen large enough for video.

the new Apple ipod nano

I’m not sure how I feel about it. The form looks strange compared to the sleekness of predecessors dating back to the iPod mini. However, they pushed up the battery life to 24 hours for audio and 5 hours for video, which is quite impressive. The fact that they added these enhancements (and increased the sizes from 2GB and 4GB to 4GB and 8GB) while managing to keep the price the same ($149 for the 4GB and $199 for the 8GB) is awesome. You can now have a video iPod for less than $200. That’s amazing.

Obviously Apple couldn’t do anything without updating the standard iPod, which they are now calling the iPod Classic. They increased the size on it and added metal enclosures as well, pushing the smaller models to 80GB for $249 and 160GB for $349. Consider this: when I got my first iPod, the original 20GB version, it cost $500. You can now get 8 times the storage for $150 LESS. And battery life is now 40 hours for audio and 7 hours for video.

And the reason for the name change? A new iPod – the iPod Touch, which is basically an iPhone without the phone capability. This is the Big One. There is now finally an iPod with a touchscreen, widescreen capability and Freaking. Wi-Fi. That’s right. This is exactly an iPhone without the phone. Very VERY cool. I would have liked to see it in larger sizes than 8GB ($299) and 16GB ($399) – videos take up lots of space, both on hard drives and on iPods. Very cool that they added a Wi-Fi version of the iTunes store so you can buy stuff on the fly now and it syncs to your computer.

iPod Touch and iPhone

There is a feature where if you are at Starbucks and you are listening to a song, you can buy it. I don’t know why he saved it for last…pretty underwhelming.

No wait…they dropped the price on the iPhone. Only one model. $200 less. 8GB for $399. Morons who bought early.

It’s a good day to be an iPod fan and just another example of why Apple should be responsible for ALL hardware design. I bet NBC is kicking themselves now.

So what do you think? Do you want one? Are you upset about a recent purchase? Sound off.

Special thanks to Engadget for their live blog of the event.

End of the Year Post

I haven’t posted in what seems like forever.

So I had an awesome Christmas. My wife, who rules all, got me a beautiful black ipod nano. I am having so much fun with it, especially since I lost my ipod shuffle about 2 months ago.

It is so stinking small.

Our parents went way above and beyond what we ever thought. We got enough money so that we can tile our kitchen (can’t wait for that) and I got 2 pairs of shoes. And I love me some shoes. My parents got me some custom Nikes (or gave me money to do so) and my brother gave me some retro sneaks. I also got Season 1 & 2 of Scrubs…can’t wait to watch. Awesome show.

And now, our friends are here for the new year…good times. I have made a decision this year (similar to last year’s new year’s resolution) that I am going to read 2 books a month + 1 this year. This will go from Christmas to Christmas. I have the list and I’ve actually already read my first book, A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby. I’ve been waiting to read this for a while and I liked it a lot. More than How to be Good at least.

Next on the list is How to Lose Friends and Alienate People by Toby Young, a memior about the rise and fall of a British journalist on the New York and Hollywood social scene while he worked as a contributing editor to Vanity Fair. I’m about 1/3 of the way through it and it is pretty funny. I’ll be blogging all my books so stay tuned.

Happy New Year and all that. Good times.

WITFV14: Technology

I feel a little like Kip with this post.

*singing*
I…love technology. But not as much as you, you see. Still, I love technology….

I’ve already lauded the praises of my computer and my ipod. But I’m going to need to devote another post to the genius that is…TECHNOLOGY.

I’m a gadget geek. I got it from my dad…it’s not just because of my generation. Each new thing that comes out, I want to try it, to have it. I don’t really know why…I just have an appreciation for things that make life a little easier (although do they really do that, or are they just really cool?).

Scott Adams in his Dilbert Blog had a funny post about this the other day. I won’t even try to summarize because I’m not nearly as funny as that guy, but I will say this:

I like software.
I like hardware.
I like to upgrade things that don’t really need upgrading. I think

WITFV11/12: Music and my iPod

I want to give thanks today (and yesterday) for music. Music is an important part of who I am. I don’t know what I would do without it.

From the time I was very small, I’ve always loved music. I’m pretty sure that I inherited this from my parents, even if I didn’t inherit the taste in music that they would have liked me to at the time. But now, I think that they like to know what I’m listening to because my tastes have certainly changed and matured over the last 28 years. Not only that, but I have a strong appreciation for where the music of today has evolved from and over time, I’ve come to appreciate the work of early musical pioneers.

I’ve extolled the virtues of Apple’s products before, but I don’t know if there’s anything that has helped me to realize my adoration for music quite like my iPod. I can carry almost all of my music with me on my 20GB 1st generation iPod brick OR I can use complex algorithms to fill my ipod shuffle randomly and just see what comes up. Sometimes I really like that randomness. It’s like I have my own radio station that only plays the songs that I like, but doesn’t discriminate styles like a normal radio station would.

You see, I want a soundtrack to my life. Woudn’t it be totally cool to have a soundtrack that played in your head and helped to indicate when you should be happy, sad, melancholy, scared, etc.? I would love that.

Soundtracks are important, particularly in movies. Sometimes, they can have a dramatic effect on whether I really like a movie or not. And when I love a movie, there’s a high likelihood that I’ll buy the soundtrack too, just to re-live those moments captured on film. One of the most poignant I can remember in recent years is from the movie Almost Famous when Billy Crudup’s character gets back on the bus with his band and Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer” comes over the bus radio. It serves as a cleansing reminder to those on the bus that life is too short to hold on to grudges or to harbor ill will. Such a great scene.

What’s so great about music is that it can serve so many purposes. Not only can it entertain on its own, but it can further enhance an existing situation if the music fits the moment. That’s what music is to me. It’s a seasoning that further enhances the flavor of life.

And for that seasoning, I’m thankful.