How I Rip Blu-Ray Discs to My Mac for Use on My Apple TV2

Let me first start with this: I presume that any work that you do with MakeMKV to make the data visible to your Mac and your Apple TV is done by you on discs that you own. I consider what I do with the method I describe here to be fair use. Don’t use these methods to share these files with others who have not paid for them. In short, don’t be a dick and pirate things.

I had my initial doubts about the second version of the Apple TV, given how lame the first one was. My bad experience kept me from getting one until the time that MLB.TV streaming came to the device. ((I paid for a year of MLB.TV with the idea that I’d watch. Even though I was unemployed and had free time to watch, I did not do so. That was when I knew that I was done watching baseball. RIP Geof’s love affair with the Reds, 1985-2011.)) The NBA and NHL have followed suit, and that combined with Netflix has made it an essential in my home theater use. In fact, my Apple TV gets more use now than my TiVo does. ((If I did not have steeply-discounted cable pricing, I would have gone OTA only using an Elgato device by now.))

The Apple TV is also a great device for using the content you already own. In 2009, I started pursuing a Mac mini-based home theater setup. I have a mini from that era slaved to an original Drobo with 6.5TB of raw storage in it. I am forever in the process of ripping CDs to it in Apple Lossless, moving from an MP3/AAC collection on my iMac. I also put DVDs through the wringer to have ready for the Apple TV’s use. I have an ever-growing iTunes catalog, store on that Drobo, all of which is available to the Apple TV via the Computers section.

The issue I’m tackling here, of course, is Blu-Ray. Steve Jobs famously called Blu-Ray “a bag of hurt” in explaining why it’s never made it into the Mac line. I think that it’s also safe to say that Steve believed that we would be in a post-physical-disc world very soon. ((This world, in a marketplace where his company sat between producers and consumers, was going to make him a shitpile of money. Compare that to the royalties he’d have to pay to put a Blu-Ray device in his computers, and clearly it wasn’t worth it.)) This brings us to third-party hardware and software that we can use to make it work.

[blackbirdpie id=”173878602822197249″]

Without further introduction, here’s my setup:

Continue reading How I Rip Blu-Ray Discs to My Mac for Use on My Apple TV2

DIY Wedding Photobooth

Yesterday, two of my friends got married, and it was wonderful. Back a couple months ago, Brandon and I were into our second Whiskerino [known to some as the Colorado Bulldog] when one of us, I think Brandon, mentioned something about having a photobooth at the wedding. I said, “I know I can pull that off.” Predictably, I procrastinated on actually testing it until 10:45 Friday night. I figured out how to get the images onto the machine, but I hadn’t fully figured out how to project them in a dual-monitor setup. But hey, I’m improvisational. Here’s a little on the setup and how I pulled it off.

The Setup

Here’s my equipment list:

  • Canon EOS-5D Mk II for my camera. I ended up using an EF 28mm f/2.8 lens, given the location I had to shoot. If my EF 50mm f/1.4 wasn’t still busted, I would have used that; my EF 85mm f/1.8 was just a touch too long.
  • Mac mini (early 2009, I believe), hooked up to the 5DMkII with a simple USB cable.
  • 20″ widescreen LCD for the primary monitor. This was used to house the software windows for the image capture and review.
  • Mitsubishi HC5500 LCD projector for the secondary monitor. This is my home theater projector, and yes, I was willing to partially dismantle my home theater for this wedding.
  • EOS Utility and their Digital Photo Review or whatever it’s called software. EOS Utility is what lets you run the camera from the computer.

EOS Utility would do image capture, pulling data through USB to the local hard drive. This kept me from having to use cards to do this. Also, I could use Live View to make sure the shot that I was looking for was there without having to check the viewfinder. This worked great when I would rotate the camera around to take shots from the dance floor. I set EOS Utility to dump photos to a specific folder. All this work happened on the primary monitor.

Over on the secondary monitor, I used System Preferences to change the desktop background picture every five seconds, randomly, pulling from the directory in which EOS Utility was storing photos. This gave us an instant photobooth slideshow without having to use Automator or AppleScript to automagically move JPGs [I was shooting RAW+JPG] into iPhoto and then do the slideshow there. That was a potential option, but iPhoto frustratingly wants to push its slideshow on both monitors. Dumb. Come on, Apple.

The bridge and groom loved it. My only sadness with it was that more of the attendees didn’t come by to have candid photos taken.

Current Dock / Side on my iMac

How Geof's iMac Sidebar Looks in July 2010 So this is how the left side of my Mac screen looks these days. Dock on the left—the bottom, with the 3D shelving, is for sheep—with is shifted up to the left, with hidden dock items transparent. At a glance, I know my system state. Here’s how it’s done and what’s there:

Dock shifting and transparency: TinkerTool is how I pull that one off. As new programs are opened, the Dock lengthens towards the bottom of the screen.

Dock apps: Finder, Drobo Dashboard, Mail, iTunes, Safari, Seasonality, TweetDeck [sigh], and a Fluid instance for Fever. If my machine is up and running, that’s what’s booted.

That shiny thing next to the Dock: that would be iPulse, which despite not being updated for a couple of years now still works great. It beats the hell out of any other “What’s my Mac doing?” apps that I’ve found. The only thing that I haven’t been able to consistently do is live in that spot on the Desktop, but not exist as a window, like …

That album art thingy at the bottom left: CoverSutra. That shows me, at a glance, what song is playing in iTunes. Also, it pushes data to for me.

The blank space in between is stocked, during the workday, with a slide-out Adium instance: if I hover over the left edge halfway between the Dock and CoverSutra, I get my Contact List for Adium. I mainly use Adium as a status awareness tool for Matt and Nathan using my on-the-phone AppleScript. The co-workers all look at my IM status to know if I’m on the phone or not before calling me, transferring people to me, or deciding to take the incoming phonecall themselves. It’s pretty fun.

What’s in your Dock? How do you manage it? Windows (l)users need not respond.

Could Time Machine Make Loaner Machines a Reality for AppleCare?

My Intel Mac mini—which was originally a refurbished model, so please don’t let my apparent lemon overly color your opinion of the model—needs to go back to the shop. The random shutdown issue that I took it in for back in early February has come back with a vengeance, and the machine is largely unusable. This is sad for me, because this new machine has become my primary Mac—it’s my only Intel-based Mac, and it has the most horsepower of any of my machines. [I said I’d be getting a MacBook Pro in March, but I’ve held off for a variety of reasons that I won’t get into here. And besides, the longer I wait, the more likely I am to go with a MacBook Air. That’s another post entirely.]

I did get it to stay up and running for a bit earlier this evening, so I forced a Time Machine backup. As I did so, I considered this: what if, when I took my mini in to my local Apple reseller tomorrow, they handed me back an equal or lesser mini to replace it? I could take it, load my Leopard DVD, and restore from my most recent Time Machine backup. BOOM! I’d be up and running while my other machine was in the shop.

Consider this: I’d not have any downtime while I worked on a loaner. I’m at no more risk of data privacy with the loaner than I am with the machine being in the shop in the first place. If someone at my Apple reseller wants to fuck with my personal data, he can do it with the loaner that I return just as easily as he could with the machine I’ve given him. There’s nothing that says they can’t power up the in-for-repair machine, clone the HDD, and then try to buy some sweet rims for their souped-up Chevy Cavalier.

I was inspired for this concept by two things: 1) Time Machine, with regular full backups, makes this a feasible option in my mind, and 2) this is functionally what Apple does with AppleCare fixes for iPhones. Have an iPhone problem? They loan you a spare handset while they fix yours. After the repair’s complete, you return the loaner, which they wipe in preparation for handing it to the next guy.

Think about the win that Apple [and its resellers; my nearest Apple store is almost two hours away, either north or south] gets from this:

  1. Customers don’t have downtime. If your PC is in the shop, do you have that option? No, you’re up a creek without a paddle.
  2. The repair folks don’t have to work as tight of a schedule. Just ask the repair guys at Mac Resource about how much I was up their ass about the AppleCare repair they did of this last time. [I’m giving them one more shot in doing this, and I will be paying their reasonable expediting fee to get it back if they tell me how deep their queue is tomorrow. If they burn me this time, I’m never using them again.] This is a win for resellers as much as it is for Apple, because they look like heroes.
  3. You’re validating the strength of your Time Machine platform, which is a big selling point over Windows these days.

Seems like a no-brainer to me, but you may disagree. I’d love to hear what you have to think in the comments.