Wednesday, October 31, 2007

HandBrake -multiplatform, multithreaded DVD to MPEG-4 converter

HandBrake is an open-source, GPL-licensed, multiplatform, multithreaded DVD to MPEG-4 converter, available for MacOS X, Linux and Windows.

Installed Size on Hard Drive: 10MB
Memory Footprint while running(not ripping): 22,256KB
User friendliness/ease of use: Pretty Straightforward. The presets cover most output formats.
Similar to: many closed source variants, but did not find them any better than this

Can be used (and is famous for the same) to rip audio/video from a DVD for the iPod. Obviously can also be used for ripping a DVD to the hard drive in a different format. This will enable us to save the dvd copy at a smaller size on the disk and also archive the same.

Links with steps for using HandBrake for iPods:
The-complete-guide-to-converting-dvds-to-ipod-format-mac
Rip_DVDs_for_iPod
iPod-dvd-ripping-guide

Latest release as we speak: HandBrake 0.9.1
Direct Download Link: Windows GUI
The command Line Version: Windows CLI (i386 Binary)

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

RockBox -Open Source Jukebox Firmware

Rockbox is an open source firmware for mp3 players, written from scratch. It runs on a wide range of players:

* Apple: 1st through 5.5th generation iPod, iPod Mini and 1st generation iPod Nano
(not the Shuffle, 2nd/3rd gen Nano, Classic or Touch)
* Archos: Jukebox 5000, 6000, Studio, Recorder, FM Recorder, Recorder V2 and Ondio
* Cowon: iAudio X5, X5V, X5L, M5 and M5L
* iriver: H100, H300 and H10 series
* SanDisk: Sansa c200, e200 and e200R series
* Toshiba: Gigabeat X and F series (not the S series)
* More players are in development


One of the most undervalued software of our times RockBox can really make an iPod rock. Kudos to team of RockBox to hack through closed firmwares and come up with an excellent replacement for many known music player software (in layman terms). RockBox to a music player is like Linux for a computer. RockBox understands the machine and helps play music in various file formats on your electronic music player. It can completely replace the proprietary (and time times completely lackluster) software running on your player.

Check out why RockBox is better than the original: http://www.rockbox.org/twiki/bin/view/Main/WhyRockbox

Other than supporting larger number of file formats which it can play on a player, it also significantly improves the player efficiency. Other than a host of benefits you also have the ability to give a unique face lift to your player through its themes and display options.

I have personally installed RockBox on my 80GB iPod (which also frequents as my USB drive). With RockBox I dont need iTunes or a separate manager for managing my songs on the iPod. I just copy the songs directly from my Windows box to the iPod drive. This has immense benefits as I can now share the songs with anyone I want just as I would do from a portable drive and also play the same songs on my ipod. RockBox also has its own video player which means I don't have to convert the videos (.avi) to see them on the iPod, I can directly play them without any conversion.

My remorse with RockBox and iPod has been its hunger for power. The battery life seems to be much less than what I would get from Apple's firmware. The RockBox team seems to be working on it and I more hopeful about them resolving the problem than Apple freeing up the player from their proprietary format.

Installation might seem a bit difficult but if you follow the simple and excellent procedure as mentioned in the documentation I am sure you will be able to start RockBox in a few minutes.

If you are concerned about the warranty I would suggest that you don't try RockBox. But if you are brave enough I will say that you can always reformat the iPod later with its original software to get it back as new (on the software front atleast). So go ahead and have a rocking time with RockBox on your MP3 player or iPod.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

ASuite - A simple application launcher


ASuite is a simple application launcher to manage an unlimited number of files, folders and webpage for quick access. It is designed to work with removable storage (uses relative paths) media like USB sticks, hard drives, iPods, etc.

I found ASuite while reading about Launchy(now at V1.25) in Wikipedia. This was the only other open source application Launcher which worked on Windows other than Launchy of course. Its a tiny piece of program which sits on your system tray and has a indexed and sorted list of files/folders/shortcuts/executables listed in it. The initial setup is as simple as adding a folder from the drive and scanning it for files (of any types). Once indexed we can traverse and execute the item from ASuite. There is a feature of searching through the indexed data (it is not Search As You Type!) and finding the required item and initializing it from the same window.

Though not as wonderful and easy as Launchy it is a simple program, which has been supposedly made to carry your links on a removable drive. But I am not very sure if it would be able to execute the indexed program or link when used in a different machine, even if it says that it indexes items relative to the system (and hence is portable). Anyways if you prefer a system tray icon and a mouse based quick launcher ASuite should suffice very well. Much better than many similar bloated and thick apps available at a price.

ASuite Features
* Manage list, organized in categories and subcategories
* Execute (one or more at once) software, folder or url
* Execute software on ASuite's startup or shutdown
* Trayicon Menu
* Lightweight: only 460KB
* Import lists of: winPenPack Launcher 1.x, PStart 2.0x e ASuite 1.x
* Most Recently Used (MRU)
* Can be used on any support
* Multilanguage (italian and english
* Restore session after crash
* Cache function (speed up asuite's startup)
* Software relased under GPL license