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NXE: Encouraging used games?

Posted by anjilslaire on December 14, 2008

OK, I’ve installed the  NXE for my Xbox 360 Elite. While the new navigation system and Marketplace layout is nice, and the Avatars are , well, Mii-like, my favorite new feature by far is the ability to install games to the hard drive. Some of the benefits include:
improved load times (in most cases)
less heat generated (arguably)
much quieter operation without the DVD drive spinning.

I’ve installed several games to my 120gig drive, making me really appreciate my choosing the Elite when I bought it last year. Recently I had been wondering if dropping the extra cash was worth it, since I don’t plan on buying stuff from the Marketplace (too much DRM, thanks), making the extra $100 or so essentially cosmetic for the black case.

So, when the new hard drive installation became an option, I was overjoyed. I have a softmodded Xbox with a 120gig drive that I load all of my (legally purchased) games on, in addition to streaming all of my movies that I rip from the DVD to xvid from my linux server to XBMC. So suffice it to say I’m not fond of digging my discs out to use the content, but I digress…

The new feature works great. Insert disc, select it from the Dashboard and select Install to Hard drive. This essentially rips an ISO of th game disc to the hard drive to be read during play. After this, you select the game, and it prompts you to insert the original disc for authentication. You didn’t think MS would allow disc-free play, did you?
In any event, I find this acceptable as the disc drive screeches for about 1 second, then goes absolutely silent, and the game loads.
And loads well. In fact, I never hear the fans kick in at all during gameplay, so the system obviously does stay cooler to some extent.

Now, to the point of this post.
While shopping for gifts this past week, I saw a few games I would like to have myself, but not enough to pay full retail price. Now when I see these games, I would normally just think, “I’ll wait a few months and pick them up new after the price drop”. I don’t normally participate in th used games market, as it’s essentially a ripoff:
Gamestop is selling Force Unleashed used for $55 in my neck of the woods. That’s a whole $5 less than retail. For a used disc. For a used disc that who knows whats been done to it, and what condition it’s in, specifically. Not to mention the developer sees none of that money, but thats another post I’m not going to get into now. ( Yes, 1st right of sale, I agree that’s a good right, etc)

However, I saw another game thats maybe a year old, still selling for $40 retail that I saw in the bin for $15 used. Now that’s a bargain. And I thought, “hmm, used. It only needs 1 really good rip to the hard drive, and then a validation check at load time.”

I don’t know if I’m the only weirdo that thinks this way, but in a strange way it seems to me that loading to drive and the less intensive verification check would be an encouragement to buy used, as it takes some of the fear out of getting an abused game disc.
I’m personally going to continue to buy new when possible, but I think it will be interesting to see what kinds of changes to the used game market will be seen now that the consoles allow hard drive-based play.

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Posted in gaming, media, rants, stuff, xbox 360 | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Blog of Helios

Posted by anjilslaire on December 12, 2008

There’s been a ruckus this week about a teacher confiscating a  student’s linux CDs. While I feel there was confusion on both sides, I think everyone should read Part II (assuming this interchange is legitimate):
http://linuxlock.blogspot.com/

UPDATE:

A week later I’m not to sure this is even legitmate, however. There has been zero confirmation or proof that this event even occurred. I’m ashamed that I jumped to the assumption that this is fact, regardless of which side of the fence I’m sitting on, on this one.

Posted in internetz, linux, media, rants, stuff | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

DVD Ripping, Linux-Style

Posted by anjilslaire on August 21, 2008

Yeah, I’m a slacker. been 2 weeks since last post. That’s a problem with Linux: Things don’t often break when you get it up  running 🙂

OK, today I’m going to give a rundown on how to rip & encode your precious DVD movie collection from the original disc to xvid format (.avi) which is playable and convenient to stream across your LAN to your display of choice, therefore removing the need to keep using (and potentially scratching) your discs.. In my case, that’s a TV with an XBMC-enabled xbox.

1. Ripping from the original media
Most DVDs are encrypted with some scheme to prevent your backing up of your own purchased media. Now, truth be told, the decrypting tools native to Linux are not on par with those available to Windows. Sony’s ARccOS protection is pretty crafty, and frankly does a rough job to the dvd standard spec. Luckily, there are relatively few discs with this garbage on them.

In many cases, the now-defunct DVDShrink works great to rip the vast majority of titles, and works perfectly under wine. Just install it, and set the Windows version to XP. I have mfc420.dll, quartz.dll & riched20.dll set to native/builtin. Yes, K9Copy in Linux does this, but I’m a fan of DVDShrink, and I know it has great quality. Your choice.

However, for more stubborn titles, DVDFAB HD Decrypter works great under wine as well, and is even ilsted as supported under Linux via wine by it’s developers. I run it under wine as Windows 2000 with mfc42.dll in the library as native.built-in

Use one of these 2 apps to rip the main movie only, including the single language track of your choice (English 5.1 personally) to your hard drive. DVDFAB does this with no compression, and you need to manually override it in Shrink, unless you’re looking to put it back on a single layer dvd. But that’s another post 🙂

2.Encoding
After you have the decrypted files on your harddrive, (they are in a VIDEO_TS directory, comprised of several .VOBs, .BUPs, and IFOs), you’ll want to re-encode them into a cohesive single high quality file for playback. My preference is XVID, because its open source, and high great quality. For encoding, enter Acidrip. It’s in the Ubuntu repositories, and is simply a sudo apt-get install acidrip away.

Launch Acidrip, go to the Video tab, and configure it as follows:
Codec: lavc
Passes: 2
Options: vcodec=mpeg4:vhq:v4mv:vqmin=2

Now, the tricky part. Well, not really. You want the bits/Px to sit at .200, which the hint on this window tells you is a great ratio and the picture will be good. Not too high (wasteful) and not too low (blocky/pixelated). So, go to the Path window and point it at your source directory (where your .vob files are) and hit Load.
Change the bitrate until the bits/px reach .200, and it should change to a grey color. You may need to enable the Lock box to change the bits. On most movies, this ends up with a bitrate of 2067, or somewhere abouts. You can now save your settings, although I prefer to save it without the final destination listed in the Load field, as it changes depending on the film title.

Oh, enable Crop, and hit Detect. This will detect th formatting and avoid processing the blank black bard on a widescreen movie. Saves on quality, and video size. Why waste time & size on blank space?

OK, with all that set, flip over to the General tab, name the movie, and input the destination in th File name field. I prefer this:
/home/username/movies/%T. This puts them in my movies folder, with a filename the same as the Track Title. Handy, huh?

In Audio, I prefer the following:
Codec: mp3lame
Options: abr:br=128
Leave Gain a 0

I don’t include extra subtitle racks, so the rest is empty.

Whern you’re ready, click Start, and away it goes. On my Athlon 3200+ 2gigs ram, the average 2 hour movie takes a couple hours. YMMV. I suggest not doing anything else remotely intensive with the CPU in the meantime.

When it completes (remember, 2 Passes. It improves the quality), be sure to delete the original DVD files to save space, unless you want them for something else, or to burn a backup. I’ve discovered that most movies processed this way have a great picture (on a 31″ standard TV, as well as a monitor) and good sound (through a 100watt receiver) with a file size between 1.2 – 2 gig each.

When I’m done, I store them on a share on my server, and stream them to my XBMC systems connected to each TV in my house (living room and bedroom) It works awesome, and I never have to see the annoying spam & adverts on a movie, or search for my discs stored away in a box or a shelf somewhere.

Enjoy 🙂

Posted in dvd, kubuntu, linux, media, stuff, xbox | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

XMMS missing in Hardy, resolved

Posted by anjilslaire on April 30, 2008

I discovered that xmms is missing from hardy, and not even present in the repositories. It’s been replaced by XMMS2. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work out of th box with Streamtuner, throwing an error of some kind (I forget what it was).

Anyway, there is a deb released, as I found out from a post on the ubuntu forums. Get it, if you are looking for it in Hardy. I like Amarok, but I also like choice. It’s why we run linux, eh?

Thank me later 😉

Otherwise, Kubuntu Hardy is treating me well.

UPDATE:
It seems that the launchpad url for this package has changed. The correct link above has been updated.

Posted in linux, media, ubuntu | Tagged: , , , , , , | 7 Comments »