Tuesday, May 29, 2007

My New Hotness! The RCA DRC247N DivX Capable DVD Player Reviewed

I am a Big, Big fan of dirt cheap DVD players. I've been using Apex playes for a few years now. They were one of the first companies for use standard PC drive components in their players, which, as a result, supported burned DVDs and VCDs/KVCDs.

But time has gone by and the format of the day is DivX. I've accumulated a whole bunch of DivX files over the last year or so. And while I already have a D-Link Media Player, that only satisfies the need in one room of the house, and frankly, it's not cheap enough to buy 4 more of them.

Along comes a sub $50 solution! In fact sub $20 in this case.

I just picked up 3 RCA DRC247N DivX capable DVD players. Yes, they're basic. Yes, they're cheap. And Yes! They play DivX encoded files ad do so handily.

Got (6) 700MB video files? Throw em on a DVD and pop it in your RCA DVD player, and up they pop in the menu. Scroll through the menu of files, find one you like, and press the play button. Voila! DivX/xVid on your TV.

Office Depot had these this past Memorial Day weekend for $20 after $30 MIR. Too Sweet.

The summary of my review is this: If you want an inexpensive DVD player that can handle DivX, the RCA DRC247N is a more than capable player that solves your DivX needs.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Sometimes I just want to smash a computer with a sledgehammer!

If you're a geek, you've been where I am. Sometimes you've been there with other people's PCs. Right now, I'm there with mine. And I'm not happy.

My main PC had 2 hard drives. 1 for the OS and software. And one for the data/MP3s/Docs/Videos/etc. That way I can move that drive to a new PC and voila!

Well, the data drive crapped out a while back. It started with a few unreadable sectors. That started to spread like a cancer. That really screwed my system up.

So, time to save that data and take this opportunity to blow out Windows and start from scratch on a bigger primary drive. Ah, a fresh Windows install on the horizon. Like fresh laundry, right?

Well, not so fast.

So I've got a fancy, big, fast new Maxtor 320GB drive. Just PATA. It's an older system. I'm thinking I'll just make that my main drive and scrap the idea of a 2 drive system. Maybe a partition or 2 for data.

So I set the jumpers and slap that new drive in and fish for my Windows XP CD. A few blue screens later (not the bad blue screens) and I'm to the drive partition selection. Oh, right 137GB limitation. Now what?

Drive came with software. MaxBlast. OK, great. Reboot to Maxblast.

No go. MaxBlast finds the drive but then gets caught in a weird loop looking for something else. Scratched head and checked a few things and repeated the process a few times just to feel a bit more confused and helpless.

OK, let's try something else. Add the new drive as the secondary drive and go into Windows. Windows has a snap in for drive management. Whee! It sees the drive and lets me quick format it to 320GB with NTFS. Yippee!

Make it the primary drive again and try Windows XP CD setup again. Surely this time the drive that's already formatted to 320GB will show up as a 320GB partition, right? Wrong. 137GB limitation.

OK, fine. Install it on the 137GB partition and onceI get into Windows I can use the utility to merge the partitions.

An hour of loading later and I have a corrupt new Windows load. Argh!

I have work to do - I don't have time for this nonsense!

So, back to the 40GB primary drive for now. You read that right, 40GB!

Sometimes I just hate computers.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Interesting Blogs

Just a couple of interesting places I've bumped into lately:





Sunday, May 20, 2007

How to Upgrade Your Replay TV Hard Drive

OK, sure, it's now the age of HDTV and the aging and no longer available ReplayTV may seem like a dinosaur to some, but I still have 4 of these boxes and they're doing the job for me.

But in stock capacity, they just don't have enough space to really satisfy the content-loving couch potato in me. (OK, desk potato lately.)

But where there's a need, geeks provide. So, a screw driver, a new super-sized IDE (PATA) hard drive, some pixie dust, a spare PC you don't mind fiddling with, and these instructions and you're on your way to keeping a month's worth of Bob Barker goodness for random replaying whenever the mood strikes you.

Happy Time Shifting!

Tom Merritt (maybe) responds to my bitch about the lousy BOL URL

Eureka! Shazam! Heavens to Mergatroid! AHA! Proof that people do read this blog! I'm on my way to becoming another one of the countless Google Adsense one-thousandairres! Hottttdigittyy! YeeHaw! OK, get ahold of yourself boy.

(If only you could hear my cartoon voices for all of the above. Think Yosemite Sam. If you don't know who that is, you're too young, and you need to get back on over to MySpace or FaceBook or some other social-related hook-up site where you can waste countless hours doing nothing at all productive.)

So, Tom Merritt (wikipedia, website), or at least someone named Tom, or at least someone named Tom for posting purposes, replied to my complaint about the ridiculous URL for the Buzz Out Loud webpage. (I suspect it really is Tom and that he has a favorite search feed that looks for anything that refers to BOL... Why? No one reads this blog....)

Well, it turns out that I stand corrected about the URL. I suggested in my post that they should at the very least be using buzzoutload.cnet.com.

Well, they are! I had never actually tried it. It redirects to the nonsense URL, but it works nonetheless. So, I stand corrected.

And for posting and straightening my silly-ass out, I'm going to send Tom an Addicted 2 Tech T-Shirt. Just as soon as there's enough demand for there to actually be t-shirts that is. Don't hold your breath Tom. Say hi to Veronica, Molly, and Cylon Baby for me. Just so you can hear them say, "Who said to say Hi? Who's that?"

DVD to iPod


Sorry, this post is a bit of a personal bookmark. Why? Cause I'm the king. And it's good to be the king, baby.

Friday, May 18, 2007

How to Copy Almost Any Movie DVD

Here's a step by step process for doing what geeks have done for years, but now that I have a child, I see the value of for the masses. Movie Studios don't want you to be able to make copies of DVDs for fear of piracy. But here's the thing: I have NEVER, and I mean NEVER, been offered a copy of a movie from anyone I know. Nor have I ever seen a bootleg copy of a DVD for sale at a local store. Now this may be a different story in different parts of the country or the world, but in my domain, it just isn't an issue.

Now I grant you that the process I am about to detail can be used for less than technically legal purposes, but I am all for fair use, and an owner should be able to backup their property for safekeeping. Until the studios offer a free (S&H only let's say) or ultra-low-cost replacement plan for scratched or damaged discs, users should be able to backup their discs to protect their investment.

You will need the following programs:

1. DVD Shrink 3.1 - Though no longer actively available on the net from the developers, you should be able to find this program through Google or Bit Torrent.
2. DVD Decrypter - Ditto for this software.
3. Nero Burning ROM - Even a trial version will do.

You will also need a DVD-ROM drive and a DVD Burner and a blank DVD-R or +R disc (depending on what format your DVD Burner uses.) If you only have one drive in your system (A burner I hope), just use your head when reading the instructions - you're going to be swapping discs.

Here goes:

1. Insert the Source DVD into your DVD Drive
2. Insert a Blank DVD into your DVD Burner
3. Launch DVD Shrink 3.1
4. Click on the Open Disc Icon at the Top Left
5. The title of the disc you wish to copy should appear in the dialog box. Click OK. If you don't see the title, try clicking on the dropdown box to see if it's in the other drive. If it's not there at all, is the disc in? If it is and the title doesn't show up, something is wrong.
6. I recommend new users not make any changes for this next step. As you gain confidence, you can begin removing foregin languages by unchecking them. This will free up space and lower the compression rate, providing slightly better picture quality. (Though telling the difference is difficult.)
7. Click on the Backup button at the top. A dialogue box will open.
8. Under 'Select Target Device' you should see your DVD Burner. If you don't, click on the drop down to find it. If it's not there, something is wrong. 1st option is to reboot. (This sometimes works.) Next option is to reinstall Nero, then DVD Shrink, in that order. Sometimes for new installations you need to run Nero all by itself one time. Then DVD Shrink will see the Burner.
9. You can make the Temporary folder anything you like. This is where the files get parked during the process. It takes up a good chunk of space. Make sure you don't end up with these files littered all over your hard drive in various places or it will fill up your drive fast. If you use the default folder, Shrink will warn you that files are left from your last copy and ask you if you want to delete them. Once you've made a copy successfully, they're of no use to you, so definitely delete them.
10. The only Backup options of any use to you might be on the Backup options Tab. There is an option to shutdown the computer when the backup is complete. This is great for bedtime copying. Start the process before bed and it will shutdown when it's done.
11. Click on 'OK' and the backup process will start.
12. Step one is encoding the video/audio. DVD Shrink is compressing the video to fit on a blank DVD. It's during this process that the copy can fail. The most common issue today is what's called a CRC error. Studios purposely put errors on the disc that fool Shrink. If the encrypting process fails you'll need to turn to DVD Decrypter next. This is happening with more and more DVDs. Skip to step 14.
13. If all goes well, in 15-60 minutes (depending on the level of compression, your computer's speed, the rating on your blank DVDs, etc.) you will have a duplicate DVD.
14. If the Shrink encryption fails for a CRC (Cycle Redundancy Check) error, you'll need to exit Shrink and launch DVD Decrypter. Decrypter is simple. It copies the contents of the entire DVD into an image file on your hard drive. In the process it removes all copy protection.
15. Setting up DVD Decrypter correctly the first time is key. Launch DVD Decrypter
16. Click on Mode on the File Menu. Highlight 'ISO' and the Click on 'Read' You will never change this setting.
17. Click on Tools - Settings
18. On the 'I/O' Tab, make sure that the box next to 'Ignore Read Errors' toward the bottom right is checked. Click OK.
19. If you have a source DVD inserted, you should now see a picture that looks like a DVD Disc and a green arrow pointing to a hard drive. Click on it.
20. The decryption process has begun. Time to completion is again dependent on your sytem and the copy protection method used.
21. Pay attention to the destination path of the output file. You'll need to find this file later in DVD Shrink.
22. When the decrypting is done, close Decrypter and open Shrink again.
23. Instead of opening a disc, you're now opening a disc image. Do this from the file menu. (FILE - OPEN DISC IMAGE) Find the file you created with DVD Decrypter and double click on it.
24. The rest of the process is identical to a physical disc. Go back to step 6.

Words of Warning:

1. Don't pirate movies. I know copying a movie is technically illegal because it requires you to break the encryption scheme of the DVD, which violates the DMCA. But what's the damage there? It's fair use to back it up for yourself, isn't it? Well, that's still under debate and will probably be debated forever. However, pirating for the sake of personal gain/monetary gain is crossing the line a bit. Don't do it.

2. Sony is notorious for making their discs hard to copy. They use every new, pain in the ass protection method they can get. If you get a disc with lots of CRC errors that makes your drive go nuts while using DVD Decrypter, give up! I've had discs spin for hours trying to ignore all the errors. It will burn up your DVD-ROM eventually. And there's no point in killing a drive for a DVD.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Die Hard 4 Coming Soon

Bruce Willis is back. If the trailers are an indication, it's going to be a nice summer for Bruce.

I remember going to the movie theater to see Die Hard (
imdb) on opening night and being blown away by it. It's hard to beleive it's been 19 years though. Wow, I'm getting old.

Every once in a while a movie comes along and just shakes things up. Star Wars, The Matrix, Toy Story. Movies that remind us just how special a movie can be. A movie that clearly differentiates the medium of film and reminds us that TV is pretty good, but the big screen can be awfully special when it all comes together. Die Hard was a movie that did that for the audience.

Die Hard 2 (
imdb) was a valiant effort and had it's moments. (OK, I watched it over and over on cable.)

Die Hard 3 (I'll spare you the imdb link) was DOA. Decent story in retrospect, but it all seemed so forced and formulaic when you watched it.

Here comes Die Hard 4. Apple always has the cleanest trailers

Smartly titled Live Free or Die Hard (website), with no mention of being a sequel. Why? Well, I was a teenager when Die Hard came out. There are teenagers who this film will be marketed to who weren't even born when the original came out. (Fox hopes they didn't see DH3.) After all, if you're over 30, you don't go to the movies enough for Tinseltown to stay afloat.

I also suspect that there's some political undertones in the title. It's no secret that Fox (owned by Rupert "bajillionaire" Murdoch) has a bit of a lean to the right. So they throw a little political jab, and at the same time appeal to the patriotism of Americans headed to the cinema turnstiles. (Are there theaters that still have those?)

If you go to the Internation site for the movie, you'll see that it's being titled Die Hard 4.0 in other countries. Interesting huh? Maybe the title that appeals to test audiences here doesn't play well elsewhere? Or did they all just love Die Hard 3 overseas? Will the Director's Cut International DVD be titled Die Hard 4.1.2? I digress.

I heard some rumblings that Bruce Willis was upset that Fox planned to gut the film a bit to get a coveted PG-13 rating. Of course they want a teenie rating, R films have a lower chance of box-office success. It's kind of funny how everyone involved in a film project wants it to succeed financially, but cannot understand that excluding a huge portion of the movie-going public might hinder that goal somehow. The suits are in charge now Bruce. (They have been since day 1 Bruce. It's their $200M world you got to play make-believe in. Be nice to them, they write the checks.)

But I can appreciate the desire to have a gritty, realistic action picture where the lead is free to utter Yippee-Kaye-Motherfucker whenever he feels the urge. So, why doesn't Fox do the public (and the R-teests) a favor and release 2 versions simultaneously and see which does better? For the unchaperoned underage teen, the PG-13 version sans ultra-violence and fake breast shots (if any), and a little foul-mouthed action and silicone for us old timers.

A word of advice: Get the original Die Hard in your Netflix queue now. When 4 comes out it will be on the extremely long wait list. (Hear that
Reed Hastings? Spring for some extra copies.)

I see from the movie site that the dude that plays the MAC on the
Apple commercials is sort of the side kick in the movie. It would be a hoot if PC made a cameo. (If he got killed in some crazy way like a malfunctioning elevator run by Windows software the Apple fanboys would cream in their shorts.)

Blast from the Past Alert: I think they need to bring back Argyle for a cameo. (You have to see the first one to appreciate this.) Hard to find a decent image of Argyle on the web. Check out this crazy shit though:
http://www.cornerstorecomics.com/af_diehard_palz.html (People will make and buy anything!)

Side note: I was searching for Argyle references on GOOG and ran across imdb) appears to play the villain.

There's also an appearance from Kevin Smith (
imdb), who continues to prove to me and every other schlub that he is indeed the luckiest SOB on the freakin planet. If you don't know what I mean, check out his blog and especially his flickr posts. I'll let you find pics of his wife for yourselves. Suffice it to say, as I did, he married up in the looks department. God Bless women for having a soft spot in their hearts for the clearly uglier gender. If they were unable to see into our hearts, the species would have died out long ago.

Anyway, I hope DH4 brings the sizzle back. I'm looking forward to the end of June now.

Die Hard 4 Teaser Trailer

CNET's Buzz Out Loud Podcast

My workday is spent in front of and around a PC. So podcasts are a welcome bit of entertainment. At this moment in time, podcasts are available by the thousands. Unfortuantely, most of the good ones are primarily tech related or they're ports of broadcasts you can see or hear elsewhere (TV, radio).

One of my daily listens is Buzz Out Loud, from the folks at CNET. A mildly entertaining show, it's strong suit is that it's a daily show. So unlike TWiT or Digg, you're getting the lowdown on the quick.

But, I have a complaint for CNET. Did you really have to make the URL for the website for the show this: http://reviews.cnet.com/4520-11455_7-6457370-1.html?tag=img

I mean, are you kidding me? How do I send people to that? Even if somebody screwed you guys out of www.buzzoutloud.com, the least you could do would be to make the URL buzzoutloud.cnet.com or something like that. I mean, clue in.

Anyway, it's a pretty good show, and if you're the least bit interested in tech-related stuff, you should subscribe to the podcast. It's free after all and you can always delete it with malice if you don't like it. (The delete with malice key is to the right of the regular delete key on your keyboard.)

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Gameznflix Game Rental Service Reviewed

Ok, so there are 2 main players in the mail-it-to-your-lazy-ass game rental business. GameFly and Gameznflix. Clearly Gamefly wins the name contest and they have a good reputation. Gameznflix, not so much.

But a while back I spotted an offer for a 3-out-at-a-time membership to gameznflix for $12 or so. Bababouya! I'm all over that. I'm sure I have a spare $12 here somewhere.

Now I have a PSP and a Wii and I'm pining for a 360 (see last post). So, I loaded up my queue with titles from the 2 systems I had and all was good.

Fast forward 4 months or so, and the folks at this brain-dead company have dropped PSP games and UMD movies entirely because of the new postal service rate increase. So, half the queue wiped out. (Hello? Give us a choice to pay more to keep PSP games as an option you morons.)

Side note: What ass came up with the spelling of queue? What was wrong with que? Is the double -ue- really necessary, you prick you? But I digress.

So, I have a queue filled with 20+ Wii games. They are all on you'll-get-it-after-you-die status apparently because even though I only have 1-2 titles in my possession, they NEVER ship me a new Wii title. If I wasn't still holding onto a PSP game (it's my hostage you bitches!) and if I hadn't experimented with adding a DVD movie to my queue, I'd have no discs out on a 3-at-a-time plan.

Hey, Boneheads! Pile your asses into a car and point it at a Gamestop and buy some more copies of the Wii games and send me one. Earn your pay you freeloaders!

End of impartial, unbiased review.

Gamefly here I come.

Are you a GameznFlix employee? CEO? Suck it.

Xbox 360 Elite is Nowhere to be Found

Can it really be this hard for game console makers to correctly project/gauge (why doesn't that word look like it's spelled right no matter which order you put the letters in...) demand?

I bought a Premium 360 a couple of months ago after holding out for a long time to see if it was going to be a
Gates world or a Sunny Boy World. But then there were strong rumors that an upgraded unit was coming that would play a key role in Microsoft's plan to control the living room. Hey, I'm down with more Media Center stuff on my game console. So, I sold the Premium 360 and sat on my cash.

Now the Elite is out, and it's nowhere to be found. Sure, some stors have it in a $700+ bundle, but I want the console, not console+mugging.

Hey, geniouses! Make more! Duh!

Saturday, May 05, 2007


Microsoft talking to Yahoo about a buyout/merger/partnership to take on Google. Who cares? Buying Yahoo will not help topple Google in search/paid ads. Yahoo is no better at it and the new Panama or whatever the hell it is, is unproven. It would be $50B wasted, and Mr. Softy would just kill all the cool shit that Yahoo has gobbled up in the last few years.

HD DVD code is out in the wild and the owners of that nifty little hex string are going apeshit to protect it and get it removed from the web entirely. Happy hunting folks. You've picked a fight with geeks millions strong and worldwide. They're hiding on servers all over the world in countries that could care less about your IP. You're screwed. Spend your time coming up with a new system that isn't so easily cracked. (It's important to be able to recognized when you're beaten, and you got your ass whooped.)

I still don't care about the iPhone. So far it's just a geek's wet dream.

When the hell is Apple going to update the hardware on the Mini, and when are they ever going to introduce a reasonably priced PC between the mini and the Pro or G5 or whatever the hell the silver mesh tower that costs $5K is called?

Why does it take the hardware makers 3+ years to ratify a standard for Wireless N? Is this shit that hard? Haven't we had pre-N and draft-N products forever now?

TiVo and ReplayTV were both really cool. When will someone else step up and fill in all the missing features we all really want at an attractive price point? (And no, I'm not talking about Myth TV - I want a dedicated piece of CE to do the job - they always work better.)

Paul Wolfowitz did a dumb thing. He knows he did a dumb thing. When will he get it that resigning is the right call?

Is it bad that I could care less about Spiderman 3? Does that make me officially old? I liked the first 2. I just have a feeling it's all a money grab now.

End of random ramblings.

Tech on.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Adam Curry's Daily Source Code

I've been listening to podcasts and watching vidcasts (are we or aren't we going to call these something other than video podcasts?) for what seems like a couple of years now. iTunes makes this simple and easy and it's been a bit of a replacement for radio.

But strangely I had never listed to Adam Curry's Daily Source Code until just a couple of months ago. I was driving a rental car in Las Vegas of all places and it had a Sirius satellite radio in it.

And let me rant about that for a second. There is nothing more useless than giving a satellite radio to someone who's never listened to satellite radio and not providing them with any sort of guide to just what the hell is on the 150+ channels that are available to them. Especially since there is a 3 second delay changing channels and since unlike TV, you can't really get a sense of a channel until you listen for a while. Can they not make this super-advanced digital radio system with a display that shows you the channel name and genre? Hello? Hey Sirius or Dodge (it was a Magnum) clue in!

Anyway back to Adam Curry's show. So I caught it on the radio and he mentioned his podcast. So I subscribed through iTunes when I got home and I've been listening a few times a week since then.

I have mixed feelings. I like Adam. No nostalgia for the MTV days involved. I am old enough to remember him as a VJ, but I didn't miss those days really.

I like some of the content. The calls from the freak fans (savants) are funny and Adam and I share some common ideals. (Everyone is looking for validation, right?)


The show suffers from what many podcasts suffer from. Constant discussion about the medium itself. OK, I get it, this is the flagship show for Adam's PodShow network of podcasts, so that's what's on his mind; building the podcasting empire and converting people to his way of thinking.

But that gets old really fast. Really fast.

He's also preoccupied with sex and has no profanity filter. The problem with that is the inability to listen to this show in the presence of others for fear that they'll take offense.

For the moment, I'm still listening, and hoping Adam gets tired of talking about the medium.