Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Frappr! DS Friend Code Map

I found a Frappr map listing DS friend codes this morning. I was the fifth person to join and I plan on telling more friends. The site is located at:

Frappr uses Google maps to show a visual directory of group members. Not too many others in Spokane yet, but there is someone from Redmond!

Nintendo WFC: Mario Kart

I've been eagerly awaiting the release of Mario Kart DS since E3 in May where I stood in line after line just to play a few minutes of wifi head-to-head action. The game was released on 11.15 and with moderate success I was up and running in a matter of minutes.

I've now set up my DS to work on two separate wifi networks. My office connection was cake, all I had to do was have the DS find the network, then I typed in our office WEP security key which is 325gi8... just kidding. After that I was able to play against opponents across the region via wifi.

My home network was a bit tougher. I tried to follow the same procedures as at work, but when I went to test the connection I got an error code. The process went something like this:

  1. Typed in the wrong WEP security code. 2 min
  2. Couldn't remember my WEP key for home. 3 min
  3. Had to access my wifi router's admin page to find out WEP key. Couldn't remember the url for that. 2 min
  4. Found the URL, couldn't remember username and password. Figured it out after 5 tries. 2 min
  5. Found WEP key, still got error (invalid IP number). Thought it would be great if the DS had a "renew IP address" option like my PC. Often times it helps when the PC gets a bad IP number. 5 min
  6. Scratched my head. 1 min
  7. Hopped on Nintendo's wifi site to enter in the error code, which was tough to understand and didn't help me out. 2 min
  8. Found the "Router Config Support" page on Nintendo Wifi and easily located my router and found that it doesn't support Dynamic IP. Bummer since it's a pretty common Netgear. 1 min
  9. Manually configured the DS to grab a static IP address. Also added a static IP to my router table for the MAC address of the DS. 1 min
  10. Still errors, "settings are not complete"... Struggled, and discovered that I also needed to include a primary DNS. Where can I find that? Struggled some more and finally found it on my PC. 10 min
  11. Success!! Total time was: 29 minutes, but now I'm set.
Now, I'm playing Mario Kart DS way too much. It's a blast and easy to play against friends directly or against any regional opponents. This is the best Mario Kart yet!

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

MPEG-2 to iPod Video on a PC + ReplayTV Stuff

QuickTime on a PC sucks bad. I've been trying to get TV shows that have been recorded on my ReplayTV transferred over to my video iPod. The ReplayTV records shows in MPEG-2 format, but the iPod video needs to be in H.264 format, which is M4V, or MP4 (I think they are either the same or very similar).

Let me step back for a second. ReplayTV is the Betamax of the DVR world. I've had the ReplayTV for about 3 years now and love it. The features are very advanced and TIVO is just now catching up. Of course, I'm a realist and I know ReplayTV is dying, if not dead already.

The best features of my ReplayTV are:

1. Being able to download shows directly to your computer: There are applications (DV Archive) that work on both the Mac and the PC that easily allow you to do this. The downloaded file is in the MPEG-2 format which plays via most video players, but not automatically within QuickTime.

2. Being able to share shows with friends: I can share every recorded show up to 10 times with other Replay TV owners. A great web site called "Poopli" lets me search the recorded shows of other ReplayTV users and then request a download from them. It's great, free and the users are very generous.

3. Being able to add photos to my ReplayTV: I can upload pictures to my ReplayTV and have the images available as a slideshow. This works great when family comes over. We can all sit on the couch and take a look at the digital pictures on the big screen without having to crowd around the computer monitor. These pictures are also displayed as screen saver on the TV while we're pausing the program we are watching.

4. Being able to set recordings from a web page: ReplayTV has always had an online interface that allows the users to access their recording schedule while away from home. I can set shows to record, look at upcoming TV schedules and see what shows I have recorded.

Back to the iPod Video conversion...

Once you have an MPEG movie file on your computer that you would like to convert to watch on your iPod, go and download Videora iPod Converter. Videora is completely free and runs on Windows XP.

Prior to learning about Videora, I had to either open my video file in a video conversion program like Roxio and save it into a format QuickTime would understand, or spend $20 to get the right codec that would allow QuickTime to open the MPEG-2 file. Once QuickTime could open the file, I had to (first buy QT Pro for $30 then) select "export" and choose "Video to iPod". This would generate the correct file for my iPod.

The problem is that on the PC it seriously took 48 hours to convert a 30 minute video spot. Again, QuickTime sucks on a PC. My friends on a Mac could convert the file in about 2 hours. Still crazy for a 30 minute show.

Videora can instead open the original ReplayTV MPEG-2 file, and with one click convert the file right into the correct MP4 format. I tried this on a 90 minutes show last night, and within 2 hours the file was converted and ready to go on my iPod video.

To get the converted video onto my iPod, I simply drag the movie file into iTunes and drop it on the "library" item in the top left. It takes a second to come in, but next time I plug in my iPod, the video is instantly moved over. The quality is so good I can almost read the credits.

DVD to iPod Video on a Mac

I'm predominately a PC user, but I still have an old Mac Cube I use at home to listen to internet radio. While searching for an easy way to transfer some of my favorite DVD's to my new iPod Video, I came across this powerful free software that would allow you to rip a DVD directly into the QuickTime mp4 format needed to play the movie on an iPod.

This video format is also known as H.264 - It allows for very small file size and great image quality.

The software is called "Handbrake" and it only runs on a Mac. I've never use software that was so easy to use. Literally one click to rip the DVD to iPod Video. Handbrake can be found at:

On my old Mac Cube it took about 4 hours to rip the DVD (Batman Beyond). The resulting file was about 680 MB. The image quality is great and it only takes a couple minutes to transfer it to my iPod via iTunes.