December 22, 2002
Please stop splashing

I'm in the bathroom watching the girls take a bath. I'm sitting with the laptop on a small stool while the girls jabber on.

Yesterday while at Fry's I saw two pieces of software that I had to have. The first was a copy of Railroad Tycoon for linux. It was $4.99. $4.99. Even though WinXP is my main gaming platform, I couldn't resist having the game for five bucks. There were several other games there for linux, all cheap, but I thought this one would be the most fun.

The second thing I saw was DVD X Copy. Supposedly, this software can make a duplicate of a DVD, even if it is a dual layer disc. All you need is a DVD-ROM and a DVD burner.

It's no big secret that my employer doesn't like this type of thing. They have filed many, many lawsuits to stop this kind of software.

A while ago, I played with various DVD rippers to see exactly how easy of difficult it was to rip a DVD. The process generally was three parts. First was the actual rip where the MPEG data was pulled of the disc and placed on a hard drive. At the time, the 4-10 GB of space needed to store a DVD was costly. You had to devote a significant portion of your hard drive to storing the files.

The next part was converting the high quality MPEG to a lower quality MPEG for storage purposes. A program like TPMG could crush a full DVD into two 600 MB files. 600 MB files would fit on a CD-R or be used to create a VCD. The conversion process was long, usually several hours long. In my tests, I'd start the conversion at night, leave the computer on, and by morning the conversion was complete.

The visual quality was a little less than a VHS tape. The final step of burning the file to a CD-R as a VCD took time and resulted in two discs for each movie. All in all, you were probably talking about a 6-10 hour process to go from a DVD to a workable low quality duplicate. I felt that the general public wouldn't take to this. It simply took too long and required several technical choices. I could tell that someday, the process would be simple.

[break while I get the kids out of the bath]

It appears that someday is today. The DVD X Copy software says that they can *copy* a DVD in less than an hour. Technically, all the pieces are there and it should work that quickly. With DVD burners now going for < $200 and blank DVDs going for around a dollar the opportunity for individuals to copy DVDs is here.

I haven't tried a burn yet since I don't have a DVD burner yet. I'm waiting for the post-Xmas sales. I'll post here when I give it a try.

My industry is going to have to deal with the reality of this situation. The genie is out of the bottle.

For years, people have been able to copy VHS tapes, but it hasn't killed the VHS market, because most people don't want to take the trouble to copy something. I don't think this will lead to widespread copying either, but there are some people that will do it.

I read somewhere else a comment about the idea that people won't buy things they can get for free, the writer says that if this was true then public libraries would have killed off book publishing long ago.

Enough for now. I have work tomorrow and I've got a few things to do tonight.

Posted by michael at December 22, 2002 07:32 PM