Mission Complete (minus nine)…

The great heroic project of our age is more or less finished. For all practical purposes, I’m calling the effort to transfer my DVD collection to hard disk mission complete. With the exception of nine disks that I’ll need other software to rip and encode effectively, I managed to bring down the curtain three weeks ahead of my self-imposed deadline of the end of the year. As far as those couple of outliers go, well, I’ll get to them when I Screen Shot 2012-12-11 at 5.12.24 PMget to them. For the most those few disks are fairly oddball titles that you’d really only want to watch once or twice in a lifetime anyway. Still, I have them, and it would be nice to go from finished to really finished eventually.

So, you’re asking, what’s the tale of the tape? Weighing in at a grand total of 1.21 TB (1210 GB), I’ve got 123 movies and 1380 separate television episodes, and 1185 songs available for streaming to every television and iDevice in the house across my own network. Put another way, that’s 10.5 days of back-to-back movies, 44 days of television, and about 3 days of uninterrupted music. That’s certainly not the biggest personal audio-visual library out there, but I’m proud of my little collection. That should prove to be more than enough to keep me entertained during the impending apocalypse.

It’s alot like having a 24/7 commercial free television station that plays only content that you know you’re going to like. I had a real geek-out moment there when I realized just how awesome it really is. Using the Apple TV interface makes it very similar experience to actual channel surfing. When you get bored with one show you can switch immediately to another and then back again even on a TV in a different room. Basically, it’s what TV would be if television wasn’t just an avenue to put eyeballs on advertisements. It’s possible that I’m in love.

In the interest of keeping things safe and sound, I’ve got a redundant copy on site and an offsite backup ready to go into rotation. It might seem like overkill, but iTunes, as we all know, sometimes does funny things and this isn’t a process that I want to go through a second time. I’m not there yet, but I think I’ve taken a big step towards making cable television pretty irrelevant in my life.

Sadly there are still several large boxes of CDs stashed in the basement that need to be ripped since I seem to have lost alot of content dragging it from computer to computer over the last five or six years. Since I seem to have finally stumbled on a solution that’s is going to stick, it might just be time to go ahead and rebuild my audio library while I’m at it… but that’s a project for a later date. I don’t think I can stomach seeing any more shiny plastic discs just yet.

All digital…

From the OCD projects file, I’m happy to report that I’m well on my way to ripping, and converting my 400+ disk movie and TV series collection. In fact the bookshelf where those disks live is actually starting to look a little bare, with about half the shelf space cleared off. Let me say up front, that while I’m very pleased with how this effort is turning out, getting it done has become a giant pain in the ass.

I’ve got two DVD drives, one in my laptop and the other acquired specifically for this purpose, running pretty much full time whenever I’m home. The conversion software lets off a distinctive “ding” when each disk is finished converting at which point I dash off like one of Pavlov’s dogs to load a new disk and repeat the process. On the average Sunday, I’m averaging eight disks a day between the two computers. That’s more or less one season of a TV show to give you a little perspective. Weekdays seem net about 4 or 5 disks. That doesn’t seem like much until you start really thinking about volume of data I’m slinging around the house wirelessly.

As of this afternoon, there are 687 GB of video sitting on 2TB external hard drive that’s running as my media server. By the time the conversion is finished, I’m expecting to need a 3TB drive (and another as a local backup), because most of what’s left are high definition movies rather than standard definition TV shows. The future might be in the cloud, but I’m old school enough to want a physical copy of all of my data, even if that doesn’t mean hundreds of DVD’s sitting displayed on a shelf.

By the time you add in metadata, cover images, and deal with the occasional other conversion issue that jumps up, I guess this isn’t an undertaking that most people would want to bother with. I’m doing it mostly because I’m a dork and like the idea of being able to access all my media all the time from any device in the house. If you’re the kind of person who’s already inclined to go give up on disks and go fully digital, the effort may well be worth it to you too. After all, who wants to be bothered by such old fashioned tasks as finding a disk, putting it in the DVD player, and waiting for it to load, when the alternative is just finding a comfortable spot, scrolling through the playlist, and hitting the select button?

Money well spent…

Since I’ve gotten serious about converting my DVD collection over to an all digital format, I’ve been trying to limp along using the DVD player on my 2008 laptop to do the ripping and converting. Lets just say that it was not as efficient as one might like. Since Apple has decreed that no one using one of their Minis needs an optical drive, that pretty much left the option of picking up an external DVD/RW and doing the ripping and compression on the much more powerful Mini. In the space of a couple of hours this afternoon, I ripped and loaded into itunes five movies using the new drive… while at the same time ripping three TV episodes using the laptop. That’s not exactly a 1-to-1 speed comparison, but it’s a pretty good indicator that the external drive will prove to be money well spent.

If I can do one or two disks a day – usually one before I leave for work in the morning and another before I go to bed – I can have this done sometime in the early part of the new year, instead of sometime about a year from now using just the laptop. Sure, I could use the laptop to get the job done, but why put an otherwise reliable and perfectly serviceable machine through a year long stress test when I can use the faster option for $40? So far, I’ve converted hald a doze random movies, all four seasons of The Tudors, and the first three seasons of Buffy (Yeah, I know. Stop smirking out there.). When I get this little project finished, I promise I’ll envite everyone over for movie night. Based on early estimates, we should have about 200 days of interrupted viewing ready to stream to every TV in the house.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

Presented for your approval, a mélange of topics that have made me want to alternately gouge out my own eyes, bludgeon others to death where they stood, and curl up in the fetal position and just have a good cry…

1. Being a whore. I sell my body for money, well, the brain part of my body anyway. I don’t usually give any particular thought to how my John wants to use me for the eight hours he pays for, but sometimes it’s just damned hard to ignore. I’ve run across very few things in my professional life that are more annoying that spending hours, days, or months working on something only to get told “woops, looks like we won’t need that now.” Whether what I’m working on ever sees the light of day or not, my time is reasonably well compensated. Still, it would be nice to know you’re whoring yourself out for something that’s actually going somewhere. You’d think a decade on, I’d be use to just lying back, opening my brain, and thinking of England, but I don’t seem to quite have the hang of it yet.

2. DVDs. Between movies and TV show season, I’m guessing that I have something like 500 disks that spend 99.999% of their time doing nothing but taking up shelf space. For all but a few favored movies or shows, they might only see the light of day once a year or less. The logical solution to no longer wanting these DVDs sitting around occupying limited storage space is to rip them to several large hard drives and serve them up through iTunes. That would be the logical solution except, of course, for the part where no one in the world offers a convenient method of extracting large amounts of data from DVD and converting it to an iTunes-ready file… and no, I don’t consider ripping and encoding one or two at a time to be a convenient method. Sadly, a quick cost/benifit analysis telles me that with the vast amount of time and effort involved in getting my movies from Point A to Point B the hard way, it might legitimately be more cost effective to just put all my DVDs into long term storage and build a new collection from scratch when I want to watch something. Just the thought of having to go that route annoys me to no end when there’s a far far less expensive, but ponderously over complicated solution to be had.

3. Walmart Pharmacy. I don’t know who gave these jokers my office phone number, but rest assured, I will not be coming in to pick up “my” two prescriptions no matter how many messages you leave. Even if they were my prescriptions, when you told me the bill was $510.64, I’d point at you, laugh, and walk away.