TV on the Go

The iPod video is pretty neat because you can take videos with you on the iPod just like with songs. But it has a pretty tiny screen. The Palm TX has a much larger screen (3.8 inches diagonally vs. 2.5 inches for the iPod) that offers more detail (480×320 vs. 340×320). So there was promise there.

The problem was I couldn’t move my DVD’s to the Palm. I found two great pieces of software. One is DVD Decrypter (so glad I live in Denmark) and the other is PocketDivXEncoder. DVD Decrypter lets you move the DVD to your hard drive and PocketDivXEncoder then makes it pretty easy to convert the files to the right resolution. I was able to convert a 25 minute episode of Seinfeld (I now own seasons 1, 2, 4, 5, and 6) to a file that was 180 MB. Once I get it on the SD card, I then used a nice media player called TCPMP (with codecs for MP4 video and MP3 audio installed) to watch the show, full screen (landscape). It looks really good as long as you are in the right light conditions (the screen picks up a lot of glare on the Copenhagen Metro train).

The process is kind of slow. Ripping takes a couple of minutes per episode and translating takes another 20 minutes or so. Then it takes a few minutes to move the file over to an SD card, but a lot of this can be done away from the computer. PocketDivXEncoder lets you queue multiple episodes and will even shut down the computer when it is done if you want to go to bed or leave the house. By doing that, I can get the 5 or 6 episodes that might be on a DVD of the 4 DVD season set up in about 15 minutes, then let it crank away for about an hour.

Some guidelines for PocketDivxEncoder: The default audio quality of 7 is fine, but video quality can be dropped down to 60 (instead of 80) and still get good quality (images get jpeggy lower than that). I had one series of shows that was widescreen, but did this by using black bars at the top and bottom. This caused the program to default to a resolution 426×320 (a ratio of 1.33:1 like regular TV) instead of using the full width availabe (480×320 for the Palm TX), so I had to manually change it to 480 and let the back bands overrun the top and bottom. Under advanced options, I selected 2-pass encoding and B-lines which slow down encoding time, but increase quality without increasing file size.

For DVD Decrypter: Make sure you are in IFO Mode and you will see a tree of content divided by folders named VTS and in those are PGC subfolders which in turn contain the episodes of a show with the minutes in parentheses (these are net minutes after the commercials are taken out; even the disclaimers are removed). Pick one of those and a folder on your hard drive to store it in. Half-hour shows are usually around 23 minutes and hour-long shows are 46. Short things are menus or extras.

4 thoughts on “TV on the Go

  1. I’m amazed at how small / poor the video of a show can be if the sound is good. I routinely watch Steve Job’s keynotes in a small window on a computer screen, but the sound is really good. It is enjoyable. I’m considering the iPod 80 meg only because I’d like to subscribe to a couple of current TV episodes and watch on the fly. And I’m only doing that so I can join in work conversation that I know nothing about. (Like what’s the deal with three different CSI shows in 3 cities… do I have the letters right?) So if I place the iPod 80Gig order, I may be glad I live in Denmark too… ahem…

  2. The new iPhone is a little narrower than the TX, with the same screen resolution of 480×320 (meaning the movies I’m converting will be the right resolution).

    Of course, it’s also a phone, a Mac, etc. And most importantly, not available until June and only for Cingular customers. My guess would be Apple will come out with an iPod that does the same thing but isn’t a phone either before or by June. I mean why not?

  3. I think the iPhone is all about redefining the word phone. This is a handheld computer that does phone / e-mail / music / video / photos / contacts / calendar etc. Gesture has been moved to the fingertips only (no stylus.) It is the difference between John Sculley thinking of a PDA (a Newton) and Steve Jobs thinking of a PDA. Because it builds on things that are working today like iTunes, OS X, synch-and-go, competitors will have a hard time following.

    I just am having a hard time believing it will be what they show. There are engineers sweating bullets trying to meet Steve’s deadline.

  4. Still, it’s kind of familiar. PDA’s have Windows Lite and this will have Mac OS Lite. Really the iPhone isn’t all that different than my Palm TX except they added a phone. I don’t think they’ll have trouble meeting the deadline for the hardware. The had to announce it early because the FCC needs time to approve any phone. They could potentially sell these overseas before in the US. More than the hardware is probably getting all of the software ready in time. I would think there will be less variety than Palm has available but better quality. The web browser on the Palm crashes too often and some web pages are just unreadable. The music and movie player are kind of limited as well, though they work and there are alternatives available (there won’t be alternatives with Apple).

    One key thing is how the keyboard will work. I saw something where there was a QWERTY keyboard with expanding letters, so I guess if you finger gets close to the screen it magnifies the nearest letter (like the Mac OS toolbar) and then you tap for that key. Text entry is a challenge on anything that small and the little keyboards on today’s smart phones definitely seem clunky.

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