Finally digitised

Posted by Ub3rG33k on Oct 31, 2010 in Apple, Films

Many many moons ago, I spent the best part of 3 months, ripping all my CD’s to mp3, ensuring all the meta tag info was correct, and the album artwork was present.

This year, it’s time for my DVD collection.

As some of you may know, I’ve recently bought an Apple TV (well 2 actually), and a 4TB Raid Storage device to store all my media.

After playing around with the Apple TV, I noticed the feature of “Computers”, and how this would stream anything from my iTunes library on my MacMini. As a test, I added a few more items (as I only had the “Digital Copies” from some of my recent DVD purchases), and these streamed fine, so decided to work on ripping my entire collection.

So, about a 2 months ago, I set to work using Handbrake to start ripping all my DVD’s to a “iTunes happy” format. Handbrake comes with a number of default settings, and I found using the default “Apple TV” format gave a good balance between quaility and file size. Another great feature of this default setting is that not only does it rip the 5.1 audio stream (allowing this to be played via the Apple TV), it also took the 5.1 track and down sampled this to 2 channels, allowing this to be played on any other device that can read mp4 format.

So two painful month have passed, and I’ve finally ripped all my DVD movies, meta tagged them, and added them to the iTunes library on the MacMini.

To get all 276 DVD Movies, and multiple TV boxsets ripped into iTunes I had 5 Macs all running Handbrake 0.94 and spent every spare moment at home switching disks as they finished. I had no problem with 95% of the disk, as they ripped first time. I did however find problems with some of the newer disks, and had to use either MacTheRipper to rip them to my hard drive, or if that didn’t work Ripit seemed to get it done. Once on my hard drive, I was able to then covert them.

As you can imagine, the disks were all finishing at different times, and initially found myself checking the progress every hour or so. If a disk had finished, I then started the next disk going. After the first 50 disks or so, I decided there had to be a smarter way. After a little research, I found I could redirect the growl messages (for when the encoding was complete), to my iPhone. The software I used on my iPhone was Boxcar, this combined with a plugin for growl would then send me a push notification upon completion.

I noticed after I’d ripped them all, the some of the media looks a little “jaggy” (namely the animation, and some older films), after reading the forums, people suggested turning on the Detelecine setting in the Picture setting, and this worked a treat. I did have to re-rip a handful of disks, but it was no biggy.

Once I’d ripped a film, I used a piece of software called iDentify, this searches TheMovieDB, tagChimp and TheTVDB and fill in all the meta information, including chapter names (if available), actors, rating, artwork etc.

I soon realised that if I named the film by it’s IMDB name, eg tt0092610, as in http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0092610/, this would allow the software to instantly find the correct film. With the TV episodes, I learnt to look on TheTVDB.com first, and made sure the episodes I was ripping matched the naming on there, eg “Battlestar Galactica (2003)”, and then adding s01e01…and continued this throughout the boxsets. The result of this was the files renamed to either the IMDB name or TVDB name.

1 slight bugbear I had, was the TV boxsets that didn’t run in order. An example of this was the run order of Star Trek TNG, on one of the disks I believe it went 108, 116, 115, 117, or something like that. This meant I had to fire up the disk, and check the episode list before ripping, so I could name the files correctly, ensuring when the meta data was applied, it was correct for that episode.

All in all, a worthwhile task, I now have instant access to all my music, TV and movies from either the bedroom or front room.

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Is 8.75TB too much storage ?

Posted by Ub3rG33k on Oct 16, 2010 in Apple, Tech

First of all, this little story is made of fail, however I’m happy with the outcome 🙂

First of all, let me take you back a couple of years. As myself and C tend to have a lot of shared content, eg Movies, Music, Photos, we used to use the good old shared folders on our Windows PC’s. The downside of this was if a machine was off, you had no access to the shared folder !. So I went with plan B, build a cheap server out of old parts I had kicking around, and have all our content on that. This way neither of the 2 main machines would need to be on, and we could still access shared content.

After 6 month or so running like this, I just found it used far too much power, and went for plan C…a NAS drive. I bought a 500GB Western Digital MyBook World, plugged it into the network, and bobs your uncle, storage that didn’t need a PC to be on. My only issue with the drive was it was very slow, I even upgraded my entire network to gigabit to try and improve the speed, but to no avail. About a year later, I decided to upgrade the firmware on the device, which somehow repartition the drive, meaning I’d lost everything ! ARGH !…it took a piece of software nearly 3 days to recover the content !

So onto plan D, a NAS drive with redundancy….so a forked out a lot of money for a 2TB NAS drive with that hard RAID so if the worse case happens, I just plonk in a new drive, and I’m back up and running again. I went with the Acer Aspire easyStore, which at the time was perfect, I had multiple RAID options, gigabit network, wireless, iTunes server, and media server. I went with RAID5, as I felt this would give a decent amount of performance and would only lose 500Gb to redundancy.

As hard drive do die, I set up a piece of software on both mine and Cs machines called SyncBack. This would mirror our chosen folder to the NAS drive, to ensure we could recover our data. This worked great on the PC’s and can highly recommend it, however when we moved to Mac, I planned on using the Time Machine software build into the OS.

Now for plan E, No matter what I tried, I couldn’t get the Macs to see the NAS drive as a Time Capsule, so went with the real deal. I bought the 1TB Time Capsule back in March of this year, and does the job perfect !. Currently I have 2 x iMacs (with 1TB hard drives), 2 x MacBook Pros (with 250GB hard drives) and a MacMini with a 160GB hard drive. Now I know that if you add all that up, that is a lot more than a terabyte, however I was happy that I only had around 500GB of data across all machines at the time, and would address the space issues at a later date when it became an issue.

So about a month ago, the space became an issue, and I bought an external caddy to house a couple of drives I had kicking around. This external caddy allowed 2 drives to be plugged in via USB giving the Time Capsule an additional 750GB to play with.

So early this month, I got the new Apple TV, and got into my head, that I should digitise my entire DVD collection. As it stands, I’ve ripped 72 movies, and 7 boxsets….guess what ?…I’m running out of space on the 2TB NAS drive ! ARGH !…so onto plan F !

I was in 2 minds, I could either upgrade the hard drives in the NAS drive, or get another NAS drive, or get an external hard drive and plug this directly into the MacMini. As you can probably tell from the above, redundancy is key, so the drive would have to have some kind of RAID to ensure the data was safe.

I spend the weekend looking around, and found a decent little 4 drive caddy which had USB, Firewire 400/800 and eSATA connectors, and a variety of RAID options !. After spending what seemed like hours looking, I found a site which seemed to do them for £60 less than everyone else. The model they were selling didn’t have the firewire, however I thought “For £60, I don’t really need firewire”. I ordered this on Wednesday, as well as 4 x Samsung 1TB hard drives, knowing I would lose 1TB with RAID5.

On Thursday, all turned up, I went to the PDF manual I’d downloaded in preparation, but couldn’t find the RAID dip switches ?!?……then it occurred to me, for £60 you don’t only get Firewire, you also get RAID !!! ARGH ! I’d ordered the StarTech SAT3540U2E instead of the S354UFER I’d been looking at and downloaded the manual for !

So Thursday in a panic, I ordered the S354UFER, so now I have both. I could have sent the original one back, but thought I’d keep it and plug this into the back of the Time Capsule giving me the option of having another 2 drives as additional storage. Currently the Time Capsule has it’s own 1TB drive, plus a 500GB, and 3 x 250GB, giving it a total of 2.25TB

Now for the final fail….the S354UFER turned up yesterday, plugged it in via firewire, but I was getting a red light on one of the drive (suggesting it was broken), I moved it up and down the bays, but still got the same !. So….in a panic at 5pm yesterday, I rang the place where the hard drives came from and ordered another drive on Saturday delivery so I could finally build this box.

Today, as expected, the 2nd drive turned up, I put it in the caddy, to only be told another drive had failed !….NO !!!…..I went, had a coffee, double checked the manual, only to find that I hadn’t set the dip switches correctly, and the box was only expecting 3 drives. I flicked them to the right position, and both the old, and the new hard drives work fine ! DOH !

However, all is not bad, it does mean if the worse case happens, I have a spare 1TB drive to slot straight in.

This gives me my total of 8.75TB of storage, the Startech S354UFER with 4 x 1TB hard drives, 2.25TB on the Time Caspule, a 2TB NAS drive, and finally my 500GB MyBook World. Now granted I lose 1.5TB to redundancy however it’s a small price to pay knowing my data is safe 🙂

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Apple TV 2nd Generation

Posted by Ub3rG33k on Oct 4, 2010 in Apple, Films, Tech

So today my Apple TV (2nd Generation) turned up, and I have to say I’m pretty impressed.

Anybody who knows me or has been reading these my post, will know that over the last couple of years, I’ve become an Apple fan boy I’ve gradually replaced my MP3 player, my phone, my PCs and even my entire network with Apple products, and as time has gone by, I’ve organised my entire music collection to be “iTunes friendly”.

I’ve been toying with the idea of an Apple TV for a while now, and very nearly bought one of the 1 generation ones about 2 months ago.

I’ve been using a piece of software on my MacMini called MediaLink, to stream my iTunes content to my PS3, which to be honest has been working pretty well, apart from the fact that it won’t play DRM media.

So the announcement was made early in September that a new Apple TV would be out shortly, so me being me ordered one.

So what’s it like ?

Now this is the first time I’ve used an Apple TV, so some of the features I’m raving about, might have been in the first generation.

First of all, it’s size, this thing is tiny, it literally fits in the palm of my hand.

The device has a very small white light on the front, the flashes with the remote press. The rear has a USB port, a HDMI port, power port and an optical output.

Setup, as with any Apple product was painless, plugged it in, selected my language, added my apple ID and that was it, good to go.

So what is an Apple TV ?

Basically, it’s a device which allows you to stream content from the web, and a PC or Mac which is running iTunes home sharing (please note, you have to have iTunes 10 installed for it to be picked up)

The main menu gives you a few options.

Movies, and then the sub menu of Top Movies, Genres, Search and in Theaters.

The movie collection is huge, and everything I searched for came back with a result (kinda like the movie selection in iTunes)

The “in Theaters” option was essentially what you get on Apples trailer site, all the trailers for whats in the cinema right now.

The next tab is Internet, with the option of YouTube, Podcasts, MobileMe, Flickr and Radio.

The Youtube option will allow you to sign in and see your subscriptions.

The podcast option does what it says on the tin, it opens up the content as found in the iTunes store and splits them into Audio, Video or all. You can then “add to favourites”, which will let you know how many unwatched episodes you have, it also remembers your position which I thought was a good feature.

I don’t have a MobileMe account, but assume if I had, I would be able to stream from this.

The Flickr allows you to subscribe to public users and view their content. I can’t see a way of signing in, as this would be perfect as I’m a Flickr pro subscriber and have my entire photo collection hidden online, it would be nice to be able to access these.

Finally there’s the radio, which is the same content as the Radio tab in iTunes.

The next tab is Computers. Basically any machine that you have iTunes on (version 10 or above) with Home Sharing enabled, you can stream all you content from them.

Finally you have the settings tab, which you can…..well change the settings 🙂

2 interesting features in the settings are the AirPlay, and Remotes.

The Airplay allows you to use the Apple TV as an Airport Express, and the Remote option allows you to use you iPhone as a remote control. As your probably aware, the iPhone remote app has recently been upgraded to support the Apple TV. The app works with gesture controls, swipe left and right for fast forward and backward, tap to pause and play, and the godsend was being able to type in when searching. There is also flick up to get to chapter, and 2 finger left swipe to roll back 10 seconds, you can even move the onscreen content using this !

The AirPlay is pretty cool too, now granted, to play media from my Mac by selecting Computers > Mac Mini > Music > Album > Play or I also have the option to connect to my MacMini via the Apple Remote app, select the Album > Play > select the Apple TV as the speakers. This will not only output the audio to the Apple TV, but it will also display the album art and ID tag of the track being played.

Now I subscribe to a lot of podcasts, and it’s nice to see that if I’m looking at my Computers library, I then watch or listen to a podcast, this syncs back to the library. There was nothing more annoying than watching something using MediaLink, then having to Screenshare onto my MacMini to mark them as watched. This seems to be the same for Movies and TV too.

So far I’ve very happy with this device, and I guess I’ll be spending the next couple of months converting all my DVD’s to mp4 format and adding these to my iTunes library.

For anyone who uses iTunes for their media content, and if you have a spare £99, I suggest getting one of these.

As always, unboxing photos are below.

Apple TV Unboxing

Apple TV Unboxing

Apple TV Unboxing

Apple TV Unboxing

Apple TV Unboxing

Apple TV Unboxing

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