NetFlix for Free . . . Plus a DVD-Copying Tip
Man, are public libraries a fantastic resource! In addition to the expected books and magazines, my local library has a surprisingly good collection of CDs and DVDs. Because the discs are in such great demand, though, finding ones I wanted to try had been an exercise in serendipity.
Then I discovered that by entering my library card number and PIN on the library’s site, I could search for and reserve materials from the entire county library system. The items I request are shipped to my local library, which sends me an e-mail when they arrive. I then have a week to pick them up. It’s like getting NetFlix or Amazon for free, although you have to return the materials after three weeks. (Actually, in many cases, you can renew the materials online as well, so you get more time.)
Today, I checked the site to see when my books and discs were due, and discovered that two DVDs I’d borrowed last week had already expired. Apparently they’re so popular that they only lend for seven days. Because you can’t renew overdue materials and I didn’t know when they’d show up again, I decided to copy them to my Mac. That will save the library the time and expense of reshipping and storing the discs for me. It will also allow other library patrons to see the discs sooner.
After I watch the movies, I’ll delete the copied files; I have no interest in piracy, just time-shifting. As Matthew Russell pointed out in “How Intellectual Property Laws Can Drain Your Battery's Juice,” watching a DVD from your laptop hard drive saves energy as well.
Copying the commercial DVD was free and simple. I fired up MacTheRipper, selected “RCE 1” from the RCE Region menu, and hit Go. (Even though the program creates files that will play in any region, you need to specify the disc’s native region if it exists already.) Fifty-seven minutes later, the DVD and all its bonus features were converted to files in a 4.36GB folder called VIDEO_TS on my hard drive.
Those files were unplayable, so I used another freeware program, DVD Imager, to package them as a disk image. When I subsequently double-clicked the disk image, Apple DVD Player launched and played the movie. Had I wanted, I could have burned the image to a blank DVD-R, but as I said, I wasn’t interested in pirating the disc, just watching it once at a convenient time. However, I’m sure I’ll be using this simple two-step system to make backup copies of my own discs. Many of the library DVDs I check out are so scratched they’re barely playable.
David Battino is the audio editor for O’Reilly’s Digital Media site, the co-author of The Art of Digital Music, and on the steering committee for the Interactive Audio Special Interest Group (IASIG). He also writes, publishes, and performs Japanese kamishibai storycards.
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