Live Radio from anywhere, on your phone

I’m not even going to say I’m late to this party, but I had to talk about one particular app this week. I’ve fallen further in love with iHeartRadio. In particular? I love it on my Windows Phone. With Windows Phone 7.8, I can shrink individual tiles. With iHeartRadio for Windows Phone, I can make individual radio stations their own tiles. I can have my favorite morning show from Harrisburg, PA just one tap away, even though I live in Rochester, NY. It’s not that iHeartRadio is anything new, but it’s so convenient to be able to listen from anywhere, and at a quick tap. Sports talk radio from Rochester, some local radio from back in Erie, PA, and “everything that rocks” out of Harrisburg, where I lived for only about a year.

I’m not telling you anything you don’t know, so just go get the app. It’s convenient, what are you waiting for? I resisted, for a while, because most radio stations have their own streams on their own websites. But partnering with iHeartRadio saves them the bandwidth costs, and you can listen to live radio, no matter where you go. Check out the site, at iHeart.com.

Several free programs for ripping and burning movies and CDs

As many of you know, I’ve Gone Legal with my digital content. But some things aren’t easily attainable. Say, for instance, you wanted the entire series of Space Above and Beyond – it’s just not out there digitally, not that I’ve found anyway. But you can rip your own! So today I’m just going to provide you a few names of programs that I’ve used in the past. You’ll have to figure out how to use them. But the good news is, most of them make it fairly simple, and in the coming weeks I may post a guide or two for some of them. But today? Just the need-to-know information.

Before we begin: KNOW YOUR TERMINOLOGY. To rip something is to make digital copy from the source media. i.e. making a DivX/Xvid AVI file from a DVD, or an MP3 from a CD. If you want to simply make a copy, or duplicate a DVD or a CD, you typically do not need to rip the contents first.

Decrypting a DVD / splitting up episodes of a TV series: DVD Shrink (I don’t know if the current program at DVDShrink.org is affiliated with this classic, so I still grab the freeware edition from Afterdawn).

Ripping a DVD Movie to an AVI file: Once the decrypted files are on your drive, point AutoGK to them, specify an output file size, and let AutoGK or Auto Gordian Knot do the rest. Geek info: from my days on the download scene, I can tell you that “the people on the internet” have worked around the limitations of their media and come up with, basically, standards, for ripping your content. Target file size of an average ~90 minute movie should be between 700MB and 1.5GB, depending on the desired quality. An average 30 minute episode of a TV show is around 175MB (4:3). This of course increases slightly for “widescreen” 16:9 TV shows. These are rules of thumb, not hard and fast rules – play around to find what quality works best for you.

One click DVD & BluRay ripping to MKV file: Handbrake gets a lot of talk around the web. I didn’t like it in the past, but I recently gave it another shot and like it more than I used to. It takes a lot of the work out of the combination of programs above, like using DVD Shrink then AutoGK. Rumors are Handbrake works with BluRay, though I haven’t tried it, yet, myself. I plan to give it a shot in the very near future.

Convert an AVI to a DVD ISO: If you have a movie you ripped, and you want to burn it as a playable DVD, you’ll need to start with AVI2DVD.

Burn any ISO to a DVD: once you have an ISO file, you’ll need to burn it to a disc. Whether it’s a CD, DVD, VCD, whatever, let IMGBurn take the guess work out and burn the DVD for you. Quick, simple, free. It’s one of the first applications I install on any new computer.

Rip MP3s from a CD: Yeah, iTunes made it popular, but CDex was there first… and it’s still a go-to, for me, because it has all of the features I need, and allows for much more customization.

Burn MP3s to a Music CD: InfraRecorder can do that for you. It can also burn an ISO, make a VCD, or just clone from disc-to-disc.

Decrypt a BluRay movie: The only paid-app on my list is one that has been working hard for years. While I do like their entire suite of software, you can get by using most of the freeware I’ve listed above. But the one tool you need is AnyDVD HD. I don’t know how they make their software, but there are frequent updates, and they keep it legal by keeping it out of the US. It’s a questionable product by some people’s standards of legality, but a must if you’re ripping your own content, and well worth the investment, as it does seem that SlySoft is going to be around for a while, still.

2008 – Wristcutters – A Love Story

A few years ago, longer now than I had even realized, I saw a small indie film. Then one day, at a friend’s house, we were flipping through the guide on his cable box, looking for something to watch ‘on demand’ – and there it was: Wristcutters – A Love Story.

I told him to press play. By the end, I remembered why I loved that movie, and my friend had a new favorite that he was going to add to his collection as well. Wristcutters is a movie about the afterlife. An afterlife where you can’t smile, even if you want to, where everything is a constant dull, blue tint. A purgatory, of sorts, where you still have to find a job, pay rent, and if you think that you’re in the wrong place, you need to bring it up with the People In Charge. Unfortunately for all involved, the “PIC” is an endless bureaucracy. So you deal with life, as it is. Eternally. At least, you’re supposed to.

The protagonist of the movie hears a rumor that somebody he knew when he was alive may be a new arrival. On his journey, he meets someone who wants to take their case to the “People In Charge” and find a way out. A cast of interesting characters, events, and a beautifully entertaining story all unfold through a story told in a unique setting and perspective. Interesting discussions of what the afterlife might be like often evolve after viewing this movie in the right company. Enjoy Wristcutters – A Love Story.

Xbox Live's "Ultimate Game Sale" starts this week

This week’s Xbox Tip of the Week isn’t your average tip – it’s a limited time deal. Xbox Live’s Major Nelson announced that several Games on Demand (full versions of retail Xbox 360 games, available for download via Xbox Live) will be on sale. The down side? We don’t yet know what the prices are going to be like. Everyone is hoping for something jaw dropping, but some people are already expecting to be able to find better deals in the Sunday paper. So right now it’s a wait and see, but the list of games is so long, we’re bound to get a few good deals!

From Major Nelson’s blog (linked above), here are some of the titles you can expect to see on sale:

Assassins Creed
Assassins Creed 2
Batman Arkham Asylum
Batman Arkham city
Bioshock
Borderlands
Borderlands 2
Brotherhood (Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood)
Call of Juarez
Call of Duty 2
Call of Duty 3
Call of Duty: Black Ops
Call of Duty: Black Ops 2
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3
Code Veronica
Dark Messiah of Might and Magic: Elements
Dead Island
Dirt 2
Dishonored
El Shaddai Ascension of the Metatron
Fable III
Fallout 3
Fallout 3 New Vegas
GRID
Halo 3
Halo 4
Halo Reach
Halo Wars
Kane & Lynch Dead Men
Left for Dead 2
Max Payne 3
Metal Gear Solid HD
Metal Gear Solid Peacewalker
Mortal Kombat
Mortal Kombat vs. DCU
Orange Box
Portal 2
Raccoon City
Rainbow Six Vegas
Rayman Raving Rabbids
Resident Evil 4
Resident Evil 5
Resident Evil 6
Red Dead Redemption
Revelations (Assassin’s Creed Revelations)
Sid Meier’s Civilization Revolution
Street Fighter IV
Street Fighter X Tekken
Super Streetfighter IV Arcade Edition
TC’s H.A.W.X.
Tekken 6
Tekken Tag Tournament 2
The Darkness
The King of Fighters XIII
Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter
Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2
Tomb Raider Legend
Virtua Fighter 5
World at War (Call of Duty: World at War)

*Content availability and pricing may vary by region

Although I haven’t seen it confirmed, yet, I do believe the deals will be limited to current Xbox Live members with active Gold subscriptions. Hence the picture above, from 2008.