Well, it's been quite a while since I last wrote an entry of my weblog. Anyway, much has happened since then.

One of the most interesting things was that I spent some 18 hours just trying to grab a rare video in VHS format to a digital file. It was a very special show from my favorite band's appearance in July 28th of 2000, at the Milwaukee Metalfest festival.

I borrowed a bt878a-based capture from my uncle and used it to grab the video. After much strugles with the computer and programs to save the video, I finally ended up with the job done. I compressed the video in an amazing fast-motion DivX ;-) 3.11 stream of high bitrate. Unfortunately, I couldn't get the sound better than mono, 11kHz, 8bit, but since the VHS was already a bootleg, it sounds almost the same as the original tape that I have (indeed, it is actually quite hard to tell them apart just by the sound). So, I'm now happier with a 500MB file of the whole concert (which lasts for 54:59).

I have also bought myself an Asus DVD-ROM E608, which is an RPC-1 drive that reads up to 8x. It is cool to have a DVD drive that ignores all the region cruft established by the MPAA. Thus, now I can play all DVDs of my preferred bands... Almost!

DVD support under Linux is way behind DVD support under Windows. Cyberlink's PowerDVD generates quite smooth movies with the hardware that I have (and I don't even know if it uses the Matrox in any way to accelerate the output).

On the other hand, there are many programs to play DVDs under Linux, with some of them bein Xine, Videolan and Ogle. All of them quite immature as the time of this writing and there's also the whole problem with CSS.

Xine is packaged for Debian, but the package is quite old in the Debian repository. It also does not incorportate DeCSS. It does not interpret DVD menus. And subtitles bring the player down to its knees (is it disabling overlay mode?). It can play the subtitles using the little controls at the side of the "off" word. A command line option to use subtitles is available on version 0.4.3.

On the other hand, only Videolan supports DeCSS out of the box, has Debian packages on its site, but also has problems with subtitles (they are not available in overlay mode -- only usable using command line switches --vout x11 or or --vout sdl). Videolan's subtitles are ugly. Overall, it seems to be a player with a good potential and better user interface than xine.

Last, ogle is the only player that supports DVD menus. I haven't used it as much as the other ones, but not all DVD menus are usable (ogle sometimes skips menus). It seems that the future of this player is just to serve to other players as a source for menu-handling.

The DVD output on Linux is also quite bad: the video shows clear signs of being interlaced, with, say, odd lines shifted to the right some 10-20 pixels in relation to even lines. This artifact is especially bad on fast-moving scenes. Since this is a problem with all players under Linux, is there any library that is doing something wrong? PowerDVD for Windows is also not perfect: the image is not as crisp as I'd expect from a DVD: while it doesn't show the effects just mentioned above, its image is a bit blurred, like if someone used a "gaussian blur" filter on the image.

Anyway, I still don't know how things are handled with regions under Linux: are region codes simply ignored by both the drive and the application? Is the application (say, xine) responsible for setting it/lying to the drive? Shouldn't I care? It seems that I'll have to use that dreaded trial-and-error again to discover. Humpft.

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