Monday, September 22, 2008

Going Less Proprietary with Multimedia...

Up until now, I've kept my CDs on an iPod, and carted along a DVD drive and a case of DVDs with me when I travelled, playing them back on my laptop. I had a really interesting experience on my flight from San Francisco to New York last week, which (along with some other fortuitous timing) has encouraged me to replace the iPod.

I managed to snag a seat in business class, and discovered that United has been playing around with the Archos 7xx line: they're handing them out, preloaded with a couple of dozen movies, to folks sitting in business for the duration of the flight. Aside from some minor screen calibration problems (it was difficult to fast-forward reliably using the movie's timeline), I thought it was an excellent experience.

The Archos 7xx are pretty big units, though. Happily, Archos is just releasing the new Archos 5 line, which comes in at about the size of a 3x5 card and only half an inch thick. I ordered one from Amazon, with a 250 GB hard disk yesterday, I expect to receive it within the next month.

I also started playing around with solutions for converting DVDs to MP4, and was pleased to discover that AnyDVD from Slysoft will not only allow me to get past the flavor-of-the-week copy protection they slap on DVDs (and it's worked in every single case except one), but it also gets around the regionality of the DVD drive so I can now use non-region-1 DVDs without the driver complaining.

I'm using Nero 8 recode to do the conversion. Movies take a little less than real-time to convert, but the size (for cinema quality) is excellent: they seem to come in at around 3/4 of a gig, or less.

With the 250 GB on the Archos, that means I get get my entire CD and podcast collection, as well as a selection of as many as a hundred or so movies at any given time, onto the Archos (once I've managed to convert that many, of course.) Frequent-flying-horror-movie-enthusiast heaven!

While a 3x5 screen sounds small, holding an actual 3x5 card (well, a Moleskine notebook, which happens to have almost exactly the same form factor as the Archos) up at arms length completely covers the 32-inch monitor in my living room, and then some, so that winds up being effectively a larger screen than the one I watch at home.

And, oh yeah: the Archos runs Linux (Qtopia, to be specific). Not that it does me much good--you can hack the older Archos devices (at a cost of some loss of functionality, something Archos should help the community to correct, if they're wise), but not this one so far.

So, adios, Apple. My last G4 Cube blew up a while back (necessitating a significant amount of inconvenience in reconstructing my MP3 collection, which I had to back-synch from the iPod), and now it looks as though the iPod's days are numbered, too...


Anonymous said...

MP4 is not less proprietary. That stuff is patented up the wazoo. Switch to Ogg, FLAC, Vorbis, Theora, Speex and Dirac. Support free media and free software!

Lefty said...

Well, everything's relative, isn't it, whoever-or-whatever-you-may-be...? I was referring more to the underlying operating system than to the media formats.

Anyone got recommendations on a good PMP that plays Ogg, FLAC, Vorbis, Theora, Speex and Dirac?

Me, neither. Hopefully that'll change at some point, but as the president of Black and Decker pointed out, people aren't interested in drills, they're interested in holes.

Curtman said...

I took some pictures of my AV700's insides one day incase other people are curious too.

I wish we could get the avlo bootloader on one of these things.