OS X hacks: how to solve Leopard problems with firewire and external hard drives

OS X Tiger hacks

Tip: you might be interested in my DVD ripping guide ^_^

Upgrading to Leopard has not been an audacious move to me. I'm typically a little bit skeptical of new OSs, the best thing to do is usually to wait until it's been properly tested, check that all your components are supported, that all the major issues are solved and then proceed with the so long desired upgrade.

With Leopard my choice was very different though. I just upgraded. Unlike many others I did not encounter major problems, on the contrary, I've solved most of the issues I had with Tiger, so overall I consider the move quite beneficial. There is, however, one big problem that most of Leopard users seem to have stumbled upon. Apparently any external hard drive or device connected through firewire stopped working after a Leopard installation. To be precise, the drives still work with other machines, but they have a big issue with Leopard.


MPlayer and OS X - getting the best out of subtitltes


Tip: you might be interested in my DVD ripping guide ^_^

OS X gives you a pretty wide choice of video players and enconders, most of which are base on the ffmpeg project. Quicktime sucks. The last version improved a lot in terms of usability, exporting videos and other features, but it's all Apple centric. You can't play 90% of the video formats unless you install external plugins that integrate the ffmpeg library into it.

Now, let's focus on the real video players, those that support a LOT of formats. The most popular is by far VLC. It's easy to use, it has many features integrated and it's basically ubiquitous, though it's not the best one. The best choice is undoubtedly MPlayer. I won't even spend my time debating on how MPlayer is better, it' just better.

Here's what you need to do: download either MPlayer OSX or compile it yourself (SVN or MacPorts) and install it. Suppose you have downloaded the precompiled OSX version you have now a nice MPlayer icon that opens up a GUI, but also a binary file that you can use for advanced features on the command line.

sudo ln -s /Applications/MPlayer\ OSX.app/Contents/Resources/External_Binaries/\
mplayer_intel.app/Contents/MacOS/mplayer /usr/local/bin/mplayer

It may change if you have a PPC machine in that case mplayer_intel.app will be mplayer_ppc.app instead. Make sure /usr/local/bin is in your $PATH. Now open up the ~/.mplayer/config file and add the following:

# =====================
# VobSubs
# =====================
# Align VobSubs (-1: as they want to align themselves)
# Anti-alias VobSubs (4: best and slowest)
# Default VobSub language to select

# =====================
# Text-based subtitles
# =====================
# Find subtitle files (1: load all subs containing movie name)
# Font
# Font encoding
# Subtitle file encoding
# Resample the font alphamap (10: bold black outline)
# Subtitle position (100: as low as possible)
# Subtitle alignment at its position (2: bottom)
# Font size (2: proportional to movie width)
# Font blur radius (default: 2)
# font outline thickness (default: 2)
# Autoscale coefficient of the subtitle (default: 5)

# =====================
# =====================
# Autoscale coefficient of the OSD elements (default: 6)

I attached the file for convenience. As you can see from the comments there are tons of customisations possible. I will take an MKV from the original BluRay of the Film "The lives of others." MPlayer will provide me a verbose information of the container, audio, video tracks and subtitles available, along with many other useful information, such as audio/video codecs, bitrate et cetera.. Let's have a look:

Playing The.Lives.of.Others.mkv.
[mkv] Track ID 1: video (V_MPEG4/ISO/AVC), -vid 0
[mkv] Track ID 2: audio (A_AC3), -aid 0, -alang ita
[mkv] Track ID 3: audio (A_AC3), -aid 1, -alang ger
[mkv] Track ID 4: subtitles (S_TEXT/SSA) "Scritte", -sid 0, -slang ita
[mkv] Track ID 5: subtitles (S_TEXT/SSA) "Sottotitoli", -sid 1, -slang ita
[mkv] Track ID 6: subtitles (S_TEXT/ASS), -sid 2, -slang eng
[mkv] Track ID 7: subtitles (S_TEXT/ASS), -sid 3, -slang rum
[mkv] Track ID 8: subtitles (S_TEXT/ASS), -sid 4, -slang swe
[mkv] Track ID 9: subtitles (S_TEXT/ASS), -sid 5, -slang dan
[mkv] Track ID 10: subtitles (S_TEXT/ASS), -sid 6, -slang spa
[mkv] Track ID 11: subtitles (S_TEXT/ASS), -sid 7, -slang hun
[mkv] Will play video track 1.
[mkv] Will display subtitle track 6.

I've got video track, two audio tracks (Italian and German) and 8 subtitles in various european languages. Using the convenient key j i can switch between subtitles, every key on the keyboard has a purpose, which makes it very easy and immediate to interact with the video, especially when it's a complex container format, such as MKV. This command will start the video in German and English subtitles.

mplayer -alang ger -slang eng The.Lives.of.Others.mkv 

The video quality is stunning, I can adjust the audio/video/subtitles delay on the fly, move the subtitles around, fox the brightness and contrast, change subtitles and much more instantly.

MPlayer rocks!


DVD ripping with Linux/*BSD/OS X



Hi, this short tutorial aims to be a guide for those who would like to back up a DVD using Linux. If you like nice and clear GUIs I suggest you to use the excellent Handbrake, but if you are interested in understanding what really happens when ripping a DVD and have complete control over the operation you will find this guide quite useful.

At first I will start with a general overview to clarify the situation about DVDs, then I'll switch to a description of the script I made, along with its usage. Remember that this does not pretend to be an exhaustive study about DVD encoding, it is a simple introduction to this beautiful World, for further information I suggest you to follow these links:

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