Drone

home-from-droneThis weekend Matt stopped by with his new drone!  Wow, what a piece of technology!  I was a little curious at the start, but much more so once he was flying it and showing us the features.  He bought a rather expensive model (at least in my book), and it has some pretty sweet features and specs, including a nice gimble & camera.  The gimble allows for beautifully smooth movement of the camera while shooting up to 4K video or 12-megapixel snapshots.

He started it up in the driveway, got up between 200 and 300 feet to clear everything tall in the neighborhood, then flew it around.  I must say, it scared me a bit knowing how much that little toy costed, and watching it zoom out of sight over the neighborhood.  It has a decent range, but I still found it scary.  It probably would have felt even worse, had I been the one who paid for it!  He mentioned getting to a certain point where the video starts to cut out…sheesh, now THAT could give me heart issues… but there’s a nifty little “Go Home” feature and calls it back and it comes right back to your location.

After some flying around and recording (both from my cell phone and from the 4K camera on the drone) until the drone’s battery was nearly dead and getting pretty chilly in the 32-degree weather, we came back inside to warm up and figure out how to view the footage as quickly as possible.

I transferred the videos to my PC and could view them there, but we wanted to watch them on the big TV.  It’s 1080p though, so we couldn’t actually view them in full 4K quality.  I used my laptop, which already has a dock connected to the TV, and the video looked awesome!

The video on a MicroSD card is limited to 4GB file sizes, so our footage was split into two files – one about 8 minutes (4GB in size), and the other about 6 minutes (about 3GB in size).  I wanted to use ShareStudio, an app on the PS4, to edit the video, but unfortunately, the PS4 didn’t recognize the video file format that the drone used.

After we finished ogling the fine footage, I dropped the videos into my YouTube channel to start uploading them to the internet.  After a few hours they completed, and the footage still looks quite impressive there, and now we can share them with everyone easily.  Take a look if you want.  Here’s Part 1 and Part 2 from the drone, and my cell phone footage.

I want to be able to edit those three videos into one nice one, complete with cuts back and forth between be shooting the drone, and the drone shooting me, when we were playing with the “Follow Me” feature of the drone, but I tried doing so in Corel VideoStudio, but it didn’t work out so well.  The resulting video, which I wanted to save as a 4K video, was horrible with dropped frames throughout and full choppiness, rendering it unwatchable.  I might try it again at 1080p, just to see if it’s the 4K it can’t handle, or if my PC’s just not powerful enough to handle the job.

 

I’m not old, I’m “classic”

xbox-360-elite-wcontrollerWe recently dug out our old X-Box 360.  We hadn’t used it in a few years, though it was still hooked up to a TV.  Again, like our PS3, the hard drive had gotten full, so things started getting difficult, and it ended up just going unused as we moved on to other things.  I considered selling the console, and even went as far as to gather up all of the info about it, including the 26 games for it that we have on discs, and I posted it on our Slack Team’s site.

But after a day with no response–during which time Kevin discovered about 11 or 12 more games on discs that I had missed–I also found that I have about 70 more games that I purchased as digital downloads from X-Box Live that were on the hard drive!  I should have considered this before posting the ad I guess.

So I took the X-Box 360 and moved it out to the living room and set it up again so I could thoroughly go through the system and catalog its entire contents.  After doing this, and actually finding many “lost treasures” in the form of classic games from my youth, I decided to promptly pull the ad and keep the X-Box 360.  The 70+ digital games alone would be quite a chunk of cash (at least for me) to throw away, let alone the 30+ disc-based games that we had purchased.

I loaded up a few of my classic favorites yesterday, just to try them out, and quickly found myself enjoying them all over again, not wanting to close them until finishing “just one more level.”  The hard drive did start sounding pretty loud after the system was on awhile though.  It’s the system’s original 120GB hard drive.  It’s pretty maxed out with everything I purchased back in the day, leaving 2.2GB of free space on it… barely enough to hold another decent game.   And of course, you know me… I immediately jumped on the interwebs and found a replacement internal hard drive.  The largest internal drive I could find, that matched the older X-Box 360 model I have, was 500GB for $40.  So I grabbed it.  In a few days I should be able to upgrade and then have plenty of breathing room to work with on my “refurbished” X-Box 360.

Just like with the PS3, I justify it by stressing how cheap the games, parts and accessories are for these old systems… And they play all the good old classic games I love.  I hope the 360, as well as the PS3, last for many more years.  I’ll probably try to keep my youth alive as long as possible!  Let the old-times roll!

Geeky Christmas Things

For the Christmas season, I’ve been playing with my options for using the living room TV for background entertainment when we don’t want to watch actual TV.  Here’s what I’ve settling on using.  Since I have a laptop (Windows 7) connected to the TV (LG 55″) via HDMI, I set it to having the TV as its main display.  I use Google Plus Images to download my albums “Christmas 2008”, 2009, etc., up to 2013.  This is extremely easy on G+, but next to impossible on Flickr.  Once those were downloaded, I renamed each photo (an entire folder at a time) to “Christmas 2013 – Photo xxx” (it auto-numbers them).  Then I created an executable slideshow using Slide Show Builder in FastStone Image Viewer, adding all of the photos from each year, set the transitions, and added caption text to the bottom left corner, which I set to include the photo’s filename and timestamp.  I set each photo for 15 seconds, and built the exe file.  There were a total of just over 600 photos.  I can optionally add music to the slideshow as well, but I left this out, since I prefer to just play an Amazon Music Station or my own music instead.  This turned out really nice.  Amazon has several different “Christmas” channels to choose from, as well as many other channels for whatever type of music I’m in the mood for, or I can easily play any of my own music, which Amazon has stored for me.  Amazon with hold up to 200,000 songs, I believe, which is certainly plenty for me.  And with Amazon Prime, all of the free music and stations is just a bonus.

I must say, it did take most of this month’s spare time (when I wasn’t playing Ingress) to find the best options for each of these tasks.  For example, I had no easy way of controlling the mouse and starting the music and slideshow without standing 6 inches from the TV until I found a decent “air remote” to use.  I needed an easy way to start and stop the slideshow and music on the computer in the living room. Eventually I found this. It has some great reviews and sounded perfect, so I went with it. It works great, exactly what I needed.

I also tried to find all my Christmas photos on Flickr and download them, which is ridiculously difficult to do, for some reason.  I tried using DisplayFusion first to simply randomly show Christmas photos straight from the web (using either G+ photos or Flickr), but as it turns out, there’s a limit to how many photos you can stream in an hour.  If I set it to only switch photos every minute, it works ok, but the other problem (with both photo services) is they both only seem to go back a couple hundred photos or so in my photostream.  This results in only being able to view recent photos, pretty much showing only this year’s photos and a few of last year’s.  This is when I decided to do everything local and just download exactly which photos I wanted to display.

So there you have it, my geeky Christmas slideshow.  We’re enjoying all of the old memories now, and look forward to this year’s festivities, which are starting today.  Now on with the holidaze!

Mayhem at it’s finiest…er funniest

Minions of Anarchy

Jay sent me this image recently, and with Sons of Anarchy finally over now, I thought I’d post it here (click it-or here-for the full-sized image).  This was one of my favorite TV shows of all time, no doubt.  Right up there with the Sopranos.  In case you never watched it, it has nothing to do with minions or Hostess Twinkies… It’s about a gang of outlaw bikers that run guns in California.  It was created by Kurt Sutter, who is now married to Katie Sagal.  There are 7 Seasons of the show, and it all wraps up with a very awesome final episode, which just aired this week.

Monday Night Features

Watched two things last night:

The Wil Wheaton Project: A wacky little talk show hosted by Wil that I enjoyed. Probably not for everyone though. Of course, I’m a TMZ fan as well, so I like the off-the-wall wacky humor, making light of current events. Wil’s new show is kinda like “TMZ for geeks”, in which he highlights everything current in the geek world–mostly in TV and movies this week, but I’m sure he’ll be all-inclusive, geek-wise, throughout the season. Yesterday was his first episode. I hope it does well. I’ve followed him for years, since he was in Stephen King’s “Stand By Me” in 1986.

Non-Stop: Very exciting movie that takes place in-flight as an unidentified terrorist threatens to kill a passenger every 20 minutes until $150 million is transferred to his bank account by the Air Marshal on the flight. They communicate through the entire movie by text messaging, with the texts appearing in popup bubbles on-screen as they are received. Unique approach. Especially when the air marshal ends up viewing a phone with a cracked screen–the on-screen text message bubbles were shown with cracks, I guess to show how difficult it was to read the screen. Some parts were a bit over-the-top, but it was still a great Monday-night feature for us.

The New Roku Stick…it up your arse!

The new Roku Stick just came out.  The Roku 2 & 3 are better than the stick though, so I don’t get it.  I guess it’s just for people that don’t want the extra little box, and don’t mind a sluggish Roku.  Now, if it were as good or better than the Roku 3, I’d drool over it.  I could plug it into any TV as easy as a flash drive and it’d be fairly portable! But it’s just not there yet.  Plus, they hide the fact that it still needs POWER.  You either have to run a wire from the Roku stick to a USB port on your TV (if your TV has USB ports) or run it to a USB-to-AC adapter and plug it into the wall.  So, when you get right down to it, they just scrunched it down to a smaller package without the HDMI cable–sorta–you still need the same two connections to it–HDMI and power.  It’s the same as gluing a sluggish “Roku 1” to the back of your TV!  Yeah, now there’s an idea!  Don’t get me wrong though, I love Roku–I have several.  I just don’t see the point in releasing something NEW that’s–according to their own website–5 times slower than their best model!

Subscriptions. A rant.

I am so frustrated with how things are these days with tech, services, and just about everything else.  For one example video games.  Back in the day, you could buy a video game and that was it–you could play it normally, privately, or play it online, if the game offered that feature.  There was no fee to play online, no “online pass” you had to own, and no other fees other than the purchase of the game itself.  It was the same with movies.  Buy a DVD, and you could play it anywhere, on any DVD player, on any TV.

Today, things are quickly changing.  Luckily, you can still buy DVDs, but I know that’s going to go away eventually.  The same with video games.  Everything is “going digital” and you’ll eventually only be able to obtain games, movies, and music digitally.  All of your purchases will only be for a “license to download” things, so you’ll never really “own” anything.  Stop paying a subscription fee, and you lose access to everything you had access to with that subscription.   We will soon “own” none of our media, and we’ll only have a temporary license to play it.

Whether that’s a good thing or bad, I guess, is up to you.  Maybe I’m “old school”, but I prefer to have something physical for what I pay for.  Whether that’s a DVD, a Blu-Ray, a Music CD, or a game disc.  As far as I’m concerned, I own that disc, music, or game, and I can install or play it wherever and whenever I want, and not have to pay anything for it ever again.  At this point in this “revolution”, however, I’m a bit stuck in the middle with this stuff.  By that, I mean I now prefer the convenience that comes with having everything digital, but I hate the idea of having to pay a constant monthly fee for the right to access them.  To this end, I have found an efficient way to extract–or, as they call it these days, “rip”–all of my CDs, DVDs, and BluRay discs to media files, so I have everything readily-available, all the time, from my computer, and I can move any of them to any of my portable devices as I want to, without having any extra fees to pay. Ever.

I took this convenience one step further recently after discovering “Plex”, an awesome media platform that allows me to have ALL of this media on a “server” of my own, then stream it, totally free, to any device or other computer I want–even to my TV.  Plex works great, supports all the major formats for music and movies, has apps for all of the smartphone types, and even has apps for all of the set-top boxes like Roku, Google TV, etc.

The latest generation of game consoles (Playstation 4, X-Box One) recently took a very bold step into the fee-based cesspool:  They released both systems as non-backward-compatible!  This means that everyone who has a Playstation 3, or X-Box 360 (the generation of consoles that came out right before them) will no longer be able to play their previously-purchased games on the new consoles.  All of the money that I–and hundreds of thousands of other people–spent buying great PS3 games before, will basically be wasted when our PS3 consoles eventually die or break down.  If we’re lucky, when that happens we might be able to dig up an old, working PS3 somewhere just to keep our came collection viable.  But we know, soon enough, it’ll all be gone.

Now, if a particular game you like was popular enough on the PS3, and the developer is still around and developing for the PS4, you might see a PS4 version of your game made available, but you can sure bet you’ll be paying for it again if you want to play it!  It might have a “cheap $9.99 UPGRADE fee”, but you’ll be paying for it again, regardless.  Games of this type can be found in the “PS3/PS4” section of the Playstation Store on the PS4…And this is a very small section.  The titles here are games that are PS4 versions with equivalent PS3 titles.  If you own one of the PS3 versions and upgraded to the PS4, you’re lucky enough to be allowed to pay for your game again!  I guess we’re supposed to feel good about having to pay for our games a second time…?  You bought the game once though, why should you have to pay ANYTHING for it again?!?!  I know, I know, the developers worked hard to provide the new version, and they have to get paid, etc., etc., But don’t they get enough from the users who buy the game new, who obviously pay double or triple the price of the “upgrade”?  Obviously, the “upgraders” are getting the same version of the game, so the developers can afford to sell a copy of the game for the lower price if they want to.  Ah, but remember now, that “upgraded” copy of the game is now only a “license” to the game… it’s not a physical disc copy of the game.  So you can never re-sell it to anyone else, and I’m sure, by the time the NEXT generation of consoles comes out, it’ll be completely worthless.

Movies are also moving quickly toward this path.  Services like Netflix, Hulu and Redbox already off vast collections of thousands of great movies and TV shows, with everything they offer available to you all at once, for just a low monthly subscription fee.  It’s like having your very own Plex server, except with thousands more movies (but no music–those would be another, completely different subscription service), except that, as soon as you stop paying the monthly fee, it’s snatched away from you completely, and you have nothing.  You own nothing.  I know, I’m old-school.  I’m just ranting.

So these days, as we work hard to earn the money to pay down and eliminate all of our debt, finally getting financially stable, and able to pay our mortgage, gas & electric, cell phone and property taxes to keep living normally, we can add to that a half dozen or even a dozen perpetual subscription fees that will never end, for all kinds of things that we’ll never own.  For me, I’m trying to get by with as few subscription services as I can, as most other people probably are, but as the new game consoles prove, it’s only going more and more–quickly– in that direction.

If you do the math for the subscription scenario, then compare it to the math to actually buy all of the DVD, BluRays, and Music CDs as well as the hardware required to build your own streaming server, sure, you’re going to find that paying the monthly subscription fee will end up costing you thousands of dollars less in the long run, and will take tons less time to build, maintain, and keep up than your own server would.  But then again, I’m a geek who enjoys such things, so taking that time and extra effort is something I’d rather do with a chunk of my time instead of just being twice the couch potato and watch movies for two-thirds of my day.

Rant complete.

Jerry Smith’s Pumpkin Farm

Evil TyWell, Halloween is almost here already.  So Sunday we went to Jerry Smith’s Pumpkin Farm.  Wow, was it busy!  I really didn’t think that many people still went to pumpkin farms.  I guess because we always went during non-busy days and times before, we never ran into the crowds.  The prices were high for most things, as we figured–like $5.50 just for a decent caramel apple–so we skipped most everything and just looked around.  (Sandy later found a 3-pack of “Affy Tapples” for $2.39–less than a dollar a piece–at a grocery store, which were great!)

Ty said the last time he came to this pumpkin farm, a llama spit in his face!  So we looked around, found the llama, and tried to talk him into a repeat performance, but he wasn’t buying it.  He did check us out, as well as everyone else around us, but he kept his saliva to himself.  No chance of a viral You-Tube video on this visit I guess.

As usual, there were plenty of pumpkin displays as well as some neat shed displays, setup somewhat like a peep show, side-by-side.  Some were so dark, I kept taking photos just to use the flash to see what was in them.  You can take a look at the photos in the Halloween 2013 set if you’d like.  Ty (IGN: TrotsLikeHorse), shown in the thumbnail above, nearly got ill trying to walk through a dark tunnel that was lit only by a spinning black tube of orange glowing lights which surrounded it, making it feel like you were walking through a rotating tunnel.  It was pretty weird, and with his recent head injuries, he didn’t last long in there.  That photo was taken when he was in there, and right before he ran back out again.  After Jerry Smith’s we stopped at Culver’s and picked up a great lunch to complete the outing, then it was back to GTA5 for the kids, and back to the TV for us.  Sheesh, are we getting old, or what?!

Sopranos beginning-to-end

SopranosShortly after I found out that James Gandolfini had passed away, which was at the beginning of July, I started watching the entire series from episode 1 to episode 86. Unfortunately I somehow missed this tragic event in the news when it actually happened on June 19th, 2013, but as I discussed TV shows with a co-worker in early July, Tony Soprano came up and he enlightened me. I was totally shocked.

I had already had every episode of every season on my Plex server, and had watched a few episodes in the past–including a few at Hans’ house in Mequon, “back in the day,” so I was all set to dig in and commit. I watched two or three episodes a day, sometimes, and had a great time. There were a few “issues” along the way–like trying to keep Kevin out of the living room whenever a “Bada Bing” scene came on (which never failed to show full frontal nudity) or when the language got extremely “French”… or should I say “Italian?”

But I made it through them all, and came away with a few things. For one, this recipe for Lincoln Log Sandwiches.  I haven’t tried it yet, but I will, very soon.

Another thing I learned is that the episode titles seem to always be just a random phrase or a few words mentioned in that episode, but that seems to work nicely. I can pretty much remember what was in many episodes just by reading those titles. Like “Irregular Around The Margins”– this was when Tony found out he had skin cancer on his head–he explained to Adriana that the spot on his head looked irregular around the margins. And more observations: A “gumar” is Italian for “mistress”, “Gobagoo” is Italian-American for “copacola”, which is a type of ham cold-cut used for sandwiches, “Va fungool!” means “go f*** yourself”, and “gavone” means “idiot”.  Lastly, Tony’s boat was called “The Stugots”, which means “this dick” in Italian.  After that sank, he got another one and named it “Stugots II”.  And see the gun in The Sopranos logo?  HBO put that in there so viewers wouldn’t think it was a show about musicians.

So I learned a lot. Including the fact that some people can become WAY too obsessed with analyzing each and every detail of every single episode of a TV series! I don’t think I did, but I’m referring to the likes of the people on these sites:

Master of Sopranos – Definitive Explanation of “The End”
Eureka!  Solving the Sopranos

The explanation of “The End” gets into just the last scene of the last episode way deeper than I could ever even imagine going! But, after reading that and the “Eureka” article from the Washington Post–which each explain completely different aspects of the exact same episode–I’m fascinated enough to want to go back and watch the entire six seasons again, at a later date… which is one reason I’m posting it here… I’m sure, with my “CRS”, I’ll forget most of the show soon enough, so this post will help me quickly remember what I need to, in order to prepare me for another marathon.

So that’s it. All in all, I enjoyed the series immensely, but I must admit I was pretty disappointed (and a bit confused at first–as it seems most of the rest of the viewers were as well) with the final ending, but after further research (primarily in the links posted above) I now understand what it means and why it was done the way it was done, and it was done perfectly.

So sad to lose such a great actor though.

Tonight is also the series finale of Breaking Bad, another awesome series that I really hate to see go. But, as they say, “All good things…”

Oh, and if you look at the photo more closely (click on it) and you might notice a pinball logo.  I will find this machine and I will play it.

Plex

plex

After over a year of using Plex, I checked my website and found no mention of it! Man, am I just not updating this site, or what!?! Again, apologies. Nuff said. So, Plex. Plex is a home media server. You’ll find all the details (and the download for it) at http://plexapp.com/.  Jay and I tried using several applications to handle our movie collections as well as our music collections, and just to stick to the topic at hand, I’ll just say that we kept coming back to Plex for various reasons.  It seems to handle the most formats of music and video out of all of the options we looked at, and handles them all better than the others as far as transcoding for the various platforms and for whatever streaming bandwidths we need.

We settled on the following solution for extracting (“ripping”) our DVD and Blu-Ray collections to standard video files: AnyDVD HD (Slysoft) and Handbrake (PC version). AnyDVD is a commercial product, so it will cost some money, but it does a fine job at enabling you to successfully rip your entire collection to regular video files for streaming. AnyDVD doesn’t actually do the extraction of the video, it simply ENABLES the ability to do it by removing any encryption that may be on the DVD or Blu-Ray disc you’re ripping. The app runs in your system tray and goes to work any time you insert a Blu-Ray or DVD into your DVD drive. Handbrake is the app we actually use to do the ripping. It has tons of options, and we settled on a few solid settings that work nicely across both Blu-Ray and DVD movies to provide a nice, consistent quality for all of our movies. Most, I must admit, are not “HD Quality” (1080p). Going with this quality for every movie would just fill up our drives way too quickly. And since standard DVDs aren’t 1080p anyway, it was pointless to go that route when we extracted our entire collections. We settled on a very good quality resolution that results in each standard movie taking about 1GB of space, more or less, depending on the actual length of the movie. Handbrake will also let us extract full HD 1080p videos if we want to, from Blu-Ray discs, but the resulting files are pretty enourmous, so they’re also that much harder to work with.

Finding those two solutions that work together so well–AnyDVD HD and Handbrake–was no small task either. We tested a lot of different applications before settling on these options, so trust me, they do work, and AnyDVD HD is updated very frequently to keep up with the latest protections added to new DVDs and Blu-Rays. Many solutions for doing the same things these two applications do have come and gone over the years too, but most have been eliminated due to lawsuits or the inability to stay updated. AnyDVD HD is the only one we’ve found to be consistently updated and just always works. How they can do it and stay in business, I don’t have a clue. I do know that it’s located in a foreign country though, which may have something to do with how they avoid being shut down, and another big factor is that the application doesn’t actually do the ripping of the data itself. In legal terms, “enabling” the ability to copy a movie and actually “performing” the act of copying a movie are two distinctly different things, so only enabling the ability for a user to copy content that they legally purchased (a DVD-based movie) apparently isn’t as bad as products that provided the “whole package”–something that “DVD-X Copy” and others did.

When you have AnyDVD HD installed, you can then use just about any “video extraction” application to copy your movies, since the disc is now unprotected and the movie is available to be copied using standard methods. We settled on Handbrake because it’s free, and, much like Plex, it just consistently works right. It does have a TON of options and settings, but once set properly, it does a fine job with both Blu-Ray movies as well as standard DVDs.

So once those options were settled upon, our movie collections began to build. When you configure Plex, you simply set it up with “Sections” for your media. For example, you could have a “Movies” section, “TV Shows” section, a “Music” section, etc., or anything you like. I even have a “Kids” section with just animated and children’s movies, which Kevin uses quite a bit. For each Section you add one of more folders from your computer. I have a “Movies” folder on my PC as well as a “Kids” folder for Kevin’s movies, so I pointed those Plex sections to their respective folders.

That’s pretty much all that’s required for setup! Seriously. Plex automatically goes out to the web and finds the cover art (called “posters” in Plex) and even adds several optional covers for every movie it finds. It also adds all of the movie’s details to its database, and all of this info is displayed whenever you browse your Plex movies or their details. It ends up looking pretty much like Netflix or Hulu, and it’s just as easy to use. Of course, if a cover poster isn’t right, was incorrectly matched, or the movie wasn’t found at all, you can manually edit it to your liking and/or add your own cover art to make it appear exactly as you like.

As I mentioned earlier, Plex is available on pretty much every device you might have with a screen. On the PC, smartphone, or tablet you can use the “PlexWeb” interface to do movie database editing or just for watching movies. Or, on your smartphone or tablet you can use the Plex app for that platform to stream movies ever easier and smoother. Plex on a “real” TV is awesome though. I researched streaming TV devices shortly after starting to use Plex, and found, to my delight, that most of them have a natvie Plex app! After some careful consideration, I ended up purchasing a “Roku” box. This is a hockey puck-sized black box that connects to your TV via HDMI. It can connect to your home network via wireless or wired network (the particular model I got offered a wired option, but some of them only offer wireless). Either way, I use mine wirelessly, even though it’s a little slower that what a wired connection would offer, and it still performs very nicely.

Roku boxes offer hundreds of free (and some paid) “channels”, which are the apps that control whatever streaming service you’d like to do. For example, Hulu and Netflix are optional channels on Roku, as well as Plex and other media streaming apps. Most are free (even Hulu and Netflix, though once you open them you have to sign into your paid account to actually USE them) so don’t be fooled. There are plenty of REALLY FREE streaming apps too though. The content can get pretty obscure, but I guess it’s pretty easy for almost anyone to create an app for these systems and offer streaming content. I love my TWiT Network app now too–This is the “This Week in Tech” network that Leo LaPorte (formerly of TechTV fame) built and it offers some great web-only streaming tech shows.

So the Plex app on Roku is excellent and I use it almost daily to watch my ripped movies and TV shows now. I can’t even remember the last time I had to take a DVD or Blu-Ray out of its box to watch a movie! It’s been many months. Whenever I buy a new movie, it gets opened once, inserted into the PC, and ripped to my server, then it goes back in the box. I only go back to the disc if I want to watch a “behind the scenes” feature or special feature other than the movie that was included on another disc or on the original DVD or Blu-Ray. These smaller videos can also be ripped from the discs as well, and you can even have them added to the end of the movie in Plex if you want, but I leave them on the disc normally, and use Plex just for the movies. It’s fairly rare that I want to view special features, so I don’t mind pulling out the discs for just these times.

Plex is free, and is technically still in “beta”, which means it’s not quite “done” yet. It’s quite complete compared to a lot of other options we’ve tried though, so don’t hesitate to start using it! Handbrake, as I mentioned earlier, is free as well, and is in about the same state–neither of these applications have reached version “1.0” yet, but they’re both still top-notch at what they do. You’d only have to shell out a little money for AnyDVD HD, but it’s well worth it. Oh, and you’d probably have to also purchase a large external hard drive to hold all of your movies and music, depending on how large your collection is. But hard drive prices are always dropping these days, so even that isn’t bad any more.

So that’s basically it, in a nutshell. It’s a great solution to make watching all of your home DVDs, Blu-Rays, Music CDs, and even Home Movies as simple as possible, to the point where you never have to get out of your chair to put in another disc! Of course, some of us could actually USE this little bit of extra exercise these days though… I make up for it by walking during lunchtime at work and taking the dog for extra walks at home.