Tag Archives: one-click

Rip Your Commercial DVDs With Free MakeMKV Beta

imageCDs and DVDs are not indestructible – they seem to attract scratches, cracks and sticky fingers – at least around here. As a result, I’ve developed the habit of backing-up my DVDs by ripping them to a Hard Drive – and often, to additional storage devices. This, despite the fact that it’s generally prohibited by laws that protect the “Greed Is Us”  entertainment industry. An industry which has been slow to react to changing technologies.

As I see it – it’s my Disc – I paid for it. If I buy something, it becomes mine. As for the law – I don’t give a rat’s ass what this particular law says. I will not be coerced by a government that holds a clumsy club over my head to protect an industry which continually shows little regard for the paying customer.

Since the majority of commercial DVDs are protected by a digital lock – CSS, CPRM, or AACS – should you decide, that it’s appropriate to safeguard your investment in commercial media – you’ll need a format converter capable of decrypting, and preserving, the media content.

MakeMKV is the best one-click free solution to convert owned video that I’ve found, to date. This is a very impressive application – straightforward, and easy to run –  even for a relatively new computer user.

A quick walkthrough:

For this post, I’ve chosen to backup one Disc from my collection of the HBO series – The Pacific – a 10 part series which cost me $90 – including tax. So yes, given the cost involved, I feel more than justified in protecting my investment.

Any of the following screen captures can be expanded to the original, by clicking.

On application launch, you’ll see the following. Be sure to expand the menu from which you’ll have an opportunity to select a variety of customizing options. Then click on “Make MKV” and……

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sit back and relax.

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Converting video is time intensive and your CPU will get a real workout. In this test, the job took approximately 30 minutes to complete.

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The following screen shot shows the save location, and the relative sizes of the files. The first title – “00” represents the first episode. Similarly, the second title “01” represents the second episode from the DVD. Title “02” represents both episodes combined. Additional content from the DVD is also noted.

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Finally, I’ve included the following screen captures in order to give you an idea of the just how perfectly MakeMKV has completed the task. BTW, VLC Media Player is my preferred application for running media on a PC. It is an outstanding application which offers a huge range of control functions. For example – if, I had forgotten to uncheck “Subtitles” while processing this test task – no big deal. VLC Media Player provides an option to “not show” subtitles while running.

Running in a Window.

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Running in full screen

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MKV File Format Fast Facts:

MKV is open and free. No one holds patents or licenses and anyone can implement it freely. As a result nearly every software player and many hardware devices support it. The best software players out there ( VLC, MPlayer ) have full MKV support and are absolutely free.

MKV files do not have evil features attached.

You can play them on any capable hardware. No need for HDCP-certified video card or any “trusted” environment.

You can copy them to your laptop and watch anytime, even if your laptop lacks DVD or Blu-ray drive, or any drive whatsoever.

One file is one title. If you don’t want to watch dozen trailers before the movie, you don’t have to. And fast forward button always works, too.

There are no restrictions where to play the file. There are no region-based restrictions. You have control over the content you’ve paid for.

MKV files are easy to change. Want to remove unneeded audio track from the file? Thought about converting MPEG-2 video into H264 to make the file 5 times smaller? All of it can be easily done with free software.

MKV files are compact. For exactly the same content MKV files are about 10% smaller than DVD files and roughly 40% smaller than Blu-ray files.

System requirements: Windows Vista, XP, Win 7 (tested here on Win 8), Intel-based Mac OS X 10.5 and above, and Linux.

Download at: MakeMKV

Restrictions you need to know:

Program is time-limited — it will stop functioning after 60 days. You can always download the latest version from makemkv.com that will reset the expiration date.

MakeMKV is currently still in beta and during the beta phase it will rip both DVD and Blu-ray for free. However, the DVD ripping functionality will always remain free.

After 30 days if you want to continue ripping Blu-ray discs, you’ll need to purchase a license.

HD-DVD support is limited – some discs may fail to open and not all audio and subtitle tracks will be preserved.

Blu-ray and DVD discs are fully supported.

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Filed under Beta Software, Digital Media, downloads, Freeware, Linux, Mac OS X

TuneTune – YouTube To MP3 Converter Browser Add-on

imageSt. Patrick’s Day is over for another year – and, thank goodness for that. Along with New Years Eve, St. Paddy’s Day, it seems to me, brings out the worst in the non-drinking drinkers who load-up well past their capacity to handle the juice of the barley. As an Irishman (of some renown   Smile ), I do celebrate St. Patrick’s Day – but, in comfort – at home – with good friends – and, a boatload of Guinness.

Traditional Irish music, along with good craic (conversation), plays an essential role in properly celebrating Ireland’s patron saint. So, this year, as in previous years, I turned to YouTube audio ripping to augment my collection of  traditional Irish music (no, not Danny Boy, When Irish Eyes Are Smiling, or the like).

Ripping music from YouTube videos is a quarrelsome question. There are those who consider anything downloaded for personal use to be legal. There are those who consider downloading anything that is copyrighted to be illegal – under any circumstances.

The YouTube audio ripping situation presents a different set of legal issues though, it seems to me. I’m not sure I see the difference between saving a YouTube video to disk (which loads of people do), for later playback – and, simply ripping the audio portion for later playback.

There are any number of ways to extract audio from YouTube videos, but many are cumbersome and time consuming. There is a solution thought, that’s neither cumbersome, or  time consuming – TuneTune, a freeware YouTube to MP3 converter. Once this browser add-on is configured, it’s one click simple – more or less.

Following installation, the add-on will append an icon to the toolbar or status bar. This icon will go from gray to color (as shown in the following screen captures), when you’re visiting a YouTube page.

Non YouTube page:

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YouTube page:

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Clicking on the icon will convert the video from YouTube, to MP3, in one click.

Additional choices are available in the options menu – as shown below.

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Here’s a quick walkthrough which will illustrate how quick and convenient this browser add-0n is.

First up – a visit to a YouTube page hosting the Neil Diamond tune – “Hello Again.”

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Since I obviously have the add-on installed, you’ll notice the TuneTune icon displayed (in the screen capture above), directly on the YouTube page. A simple click on the icon begins the conversion process – as shown below. BTW, pasting the YouTube link is not necessary.

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Following the file conversion, users have the opportunity to customize the converted file, in a limited way – as shown below.

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The following screen shot shows the converted file in the directory which I created specifically for this test.

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Elapsed time (clicking on the icon to file download completion) – under 15 seconds. That’s fast!

Supported browsers:

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TuneTune is available in multiple languages. The current language is changeable by clicking on your language of choice in the footer.

Visit the author’s site – here (TuneTune.net).

8 Comments

Filed under Audio Software, Browser add-ons, downloads, Freeware, Software, YouTube

Not Using Google Shortcuts? Here’s What You’re Missing

The following article was originally posted September 6, 2010.

Comments from readers:

I have to say that is such a great plugin. It is so customizable and puts all the Google services at one place. I can even remove the separate plugins I have for Gmail and reader.

Great find, Bill. I’m going to be putting this to good use!

Looks fabulous Bill. I removed the Google Toolbar from Firefox as it refused to untick some checkboxes, so this could be a great substitute.

imageDespite my personal view that Google trashes personal privacy rights, I continue to use a fairly large number of Google services, including Gmail, Google Reader, Maps, Calendar, and so on.

Until now, I’ve used my Bookmarks menu in Firefox to access these services, since this method is very convenient. But, when I came across the Google Shortcuts extension for Firefox, all that changed.

An  add-on that can display over 160 Google services as buttons next to the address bar, or in a one-click popup menu, is a sure fire winner with me. And Google Shortcuts for Firefox, or Chrome, can do that – and more.

Adding this extension to either Firefox, or Chrome, is accomplished in the usual manner that most of us are familiar with (you’ll find the download links at the end of this article).

Following installation, I jumped right in – setting up the extension to best serve my particular needs.

You can place your most commonly used Google services as buttons beside the address bar in Firefox, as the following screen capture indicates. This seems like an awkward way to display – eats up a lot of screen real estate.

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The option of using a dropdown menu option instead, as I’ve done here, is a better alternative – at least for me.

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The number of services available is really astonishing. In fact, there are services listed here that I was completely unaware of. Hopefully, G+ will be added shortly.

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Additional control options are available on the advanced options setting screen.

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Requirements: Firefox 2.0 – 6.*, or Chrome

Download at: Mozilla or Google Chrome Extensions

For super convenience, this is one of the better Firefox add-ons I’ve come across – I highly recommend it.

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

6 Comments

Filed under Browser add-ons, Chrome, Chrome Add-ons, Cloud Computing Applications, downloads, Firefox, Firefox Add-ons, Freeware, Google, Google Chrome, Google Software, Interconnectivity, Software, Windows Tips and Tools

Google Shortcuts – Access Google Services With One Click From Firefox and Chrome

Despite my personal view that Google trashes personal privacy rights, I continue to use a fairly large number of Google services, including Gmail, Google Reader, Maps, Calendar, and so on.

Until now, I’ve used my Bookmarks menu in Firefox to access these services, since this method is very convenient. But, when I came across the Google Shortcuts extension for Firefox, all that changed.

An  add-on that can display over 100 Google services as buttons next to the address bar, or in a one-click popup menu, is a sure fire winner with me. And Google Shortcuts for Firefox, or Chrome, can do that – and more.

Adding this extension to either Firefox, or Chrome, is accomplished in the usual manner that most of us are familiar with (you’ll find the download links at the end of this article).

Following installation, I jumped right in – setting up the extension to best serve my particular needs.

For the moment, I’ve placed my most commonly used Google services as buttons beside the address bar in Firefox, as the following screen capture indicates.

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Alternatively, I had the option of using a dropdown menu instead, as I’ve done here, for illustrative purposes.

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The number of services available is really astonishing. In fact, there are services listed here that I was completely unaware of.

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Additional control options are available on the advanced options setting screen.

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Requirements: Firefox 2.0a1 – 4.0b4, or Chrome

Download at: Mozilla or Google Chrome Extensions

For super convenience, this is one of the better Firefox add-ons I’ve come across – I highly recommend it.

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

6 Comments

Filed under Browser add-ons, Browser Plug-ins, Chrome Add-ons, downloads, Firefox Add-ons, Freeware, Google Chrome, Software, Windows Tips and Tools

Adobe Photoshop Express Online Beta Launched

adobe-photoshop-express.jpgPhotoshop Express Beta is a new, just launched, free online service from Adobe which combines 2GB of photo storage space with Adobe quality image editing. Since this an online service there is no need for you to download any software to your computer.

According to Doug Mack, vice president of Consumer and Hosted Solutions at Adobe “Photoshop Express is a convenient, single destination where you can store, edit and share photos whether you’re at home, school or on the road.”

I have used Adobe Photoshop in one flavor or another for 10-12 years, with one degree of success or another, and it has long been the tool of choice for professionals and high-end users, but with Photoshop Express Adobe has brought its digital image-editing expertise to the masses.

Although it carries the Adobe tag, Photoshop Express is distinctly unlike Adobe’s other editing software, thank goodness, in that it is simple for beginners to operate.

In keeping with its one-click approach, a range of standard edits can easily be performed such as cropping, resizing, muting background and removing blemishes and red-eye. One of the most attractive features of Photoshop Express is its easy to understand interface, but the real bonus is that 2GB of free storage.

“This is a consumer-oriented product,” said Geoff Baum, director of Express Products at Adobe. “It’s designed to be very easy to use, very self discoverable, so if I’m a new user and I’ve never had experience doing image editing it should be very quick to figure out how to use the tool.”

To begin using the service, you will first need to sign up and create an account.

Go to: Photoshop Express

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Filed under Freeware, Graphic Software, Image Editors, Integrated Photo Applications, Multimedia Tools, Online Photo Editing, Online Photo Storage, Productivity Software, Software, Windows Tips and Tools