Sunday, March 19, 2006

What I did on my winter (blog) vacation

When it comes to DVDs, we've always been a bit behind the times in my house, and just after I started my blog in December we bought our first DVD recorder (a Pioneer DVR-633H-S).

And now, with the next generation of DVDs poised to change the world, we've gone from from having zero first-gen DVD writers to having three in about two months, with the subsequent addition of two DVD-writing drives.

So I've been drowning in the arcane world of DVD recording. Learning about VOB and MPEG and DVR-MS (Microsoft's pointless MPEG replacement) and VRO (Pioneer's MPEG replacement) -- and all the esoteric elements of DVD authoring that I've been missing out on.

I soon learned that the Pioneer appliance had spoiled me. The longest it takes to create a finished DVD that can be played on any standard player is about 11 minutes (single layer).

When I got a new computer with Windows XP Media Center Edition and hit the button to create a DVD, a pop-up let me know that this could take "several hours." Even after upgrading the software, it can still take over an hour to create a DVD. I wasn't ready for how slow and inefficient it is to create DVDs on a computer.

I could avoid the whole mess and just keep everything as MPEGs -- I keep all my music as MP3s and WMAs -- but the software I have for playing them is too limited (no fast-forward or rewind in WMP10, for example) and our TV screens are still much bigger and better placed for family viewing than our computer monitors, so that's not really an option now. Some day everything will be integrated ... and I'm sure I'll be behind the curve when that happens too.

So that's where I've been over the winter -- converting videotapes to DVDs, moving files from my hundreds of data CDs to DVDs, recording video with Windows MCE, converting MPEGs to DVDs, configuring my new computer, and learning more than I ever wanted to know about DVD authoring.

I'm sure I've created more coasters in the last two months than I did in the previous five years with my CD writer.

Now I just have two months' worth of untouched weekly magazines and unread blogs to catch up on.

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