Thoughts

A very stupid thing - burning a Video CD in 2024

A while ago jhx and I hijacked a mastodon post by Solene (sorry ;) ) and started talking about Video CDs. Because, you know, why not. And I was wondering, if I compressed a movie from 4K down to Video CD resolution and burned it on a CD, would my DVD player be able to play it? And how would it look?

Do you ever find yourself thinking “that would be a pretty useless and stupid thing to do”, and then you go and do it?

Well… to answer my initial questions right away: Yes, it works. And yes, it looks terrible :)

I’m not going to write up a detailed tutorial on how to do this, because I don’t think anyone would actually try for real, but here’s the steps I took (and I’ll put links to some resources at the bottom):

  1. First I had to compress the movie down to a lower resolution and mpeg-2 audio and video codec. I did this with ffmpeg.
  2. Next I installed TMPGEnc Plus together with some Video CD templates in a Windows XP virtual machine. This program can not read modern audio/video codecs, which is why the previous step was necessary.
  3. I opened the mpeg-2 video file in TMPGEnc Plus and selected an appropriate template with a gigantic resolution of 352x288 pixels for the output video file, set a few other options about quality and file size and let it do its thing.
  4. Once this was finished, I opened a CD burning program that can burn Video CDs (I used k3b on Linux), loaded the file that TMPGEnc Plus created and burned the CD.
  5. I put the CD in my DVD Player, pressed play… and YOU WON’T BELIEVE WHAT HAPPENED NEXT!!!

Actually, you probably will, because I already told you. It worked, just like that. The player recognized the CD as a Video CD and started playing it without a hitch. I was actually really surprised, I hadn’t expected it to just work first try! But I guess sometimes you’re lucky and things just work.

So how does it look? Well, not great of course. It’s blocky, it’s blurry, there’s lots of color banding going on, and I set the wrong aspect ratio somewhere along the way, so the image is squashed together and distorted… In short, it looks as if it was downloaded from the internet in the late 90s. Glorious!

Here it is playing on my TV:


I must say though that the quality is not as bad as I had anticipated, given the resolution and the file size (and the codec!). On my tiny 14’’ CRT TV I had in my bedroom back in the day it would have probably been fine and not looked much different in terms of quality than a VHS tape.

But just to get a sense of the difference in terms of quality, here is the VCD version next to the Full HD (1080p) version:

And here at roughly the same size:

4k of course is even bigger, but my screen isn’t big enough to show a full 4k window ;)

As a sidenote, one of the first movies I got as a pirated digital copy before the official DVD release from a friend in school was The Matrix, so as a flashback to this, that’s the movie I chose to burn on the VCD. The quality of that copy back then was even worse than what I created here, because if I recall correctly it was filmed off a cinema screen…

So would I recommend you do this? Absolutely not of course! But it was fun figuring this out, and seeing that my DVD player actually played the CD was still very satisfying.

Ressoures

Linkdump No 5

I collect a lot of links to great articles and software projects, and this is my attempt to sort through them and share them with the rest of you.

Software/Services

Hardware-Projects

Videos

And that’s all for this week’s linkdump! If you have any cool links you’d like to share, feel free to send them my way via e-mail or hit me up on Mastodon! My contact details are in the footer of this page.

Cars are insane

Adamsdesk posted an article yesterday titled “Living Life Without Owning A Car”. And my immediate thought was “yes - because cars are insane!”

Why do I think that? Well first of all, if you’re using a car because you have to move heavy construction equipment around or you take your whole family to visit Grandma on a Sunday afternoon, that’s fine. I have no issue with that.

But most people use their cars primarily to drive themselves around, and nothing else. Maybe their purse.

A typical car that someone like me without a family might buy would be a Volkswagen Golf or something similiar (of course I had to pick a German brand, and Golf has been one of the most popular cars for literally decades at this point in Germany).

A quick look at Wikipedia tells me that this car in its bare minimum base configuration weighs 1255kg. My current weight is around 80kg.

So let’s do a bit of math here. If we take the numbers above, we can calculate that my weight is around 6,4% of the weight of the car (80kg/1255kg * 100), or put the other way round, this (small) car weighs almost 16 times as much as I do (1255kg/80kg).

In other words, If I get in this car to drive somewhere, more than 93% of the total mass that gets moved around is the car! And of course 93% of the energy that gets used for this (in the form of gasoline) is used to move the car around, not me. It’s not me who’s moving from place A to B and back, it’s a gigantic pile of glass and plastic and metal, and I’m just kind of along for the ride.

And keep in mind, these are calculations for a small car. If we get into the territory of sports cars, SUVs or Pickup Trucks, which are easily twice as heavy as a Golf, the numbers get even crazier. And we could do the same calculation for how much room a car takes up vs. how much room a person takes up and arrive at similar results.

And I haven’t even started talking about the fact that almost all public space available outside (in the city at least) is reserved for cars of course, and cars everywhere are parked on the sidewalk of course, because where else would you park your car? On the street? Don’t be ridiculous, that would block the way for other cars. Can’t have that!

Thinking about it, maybe my headline is not entirely correct. Maybe it’s not the cars that are insane. Maybe it’s our relationship with them.

Linkdump No 4

I collect a lot of links to great articles and software projects, and this is my attempt to sort through them and share them with the rest of you.

Articles

Videos

  • Everything is a Remix (Complete Updated 2023 Edition)
    One of my alltime favourite Video essays on Youtube, about how virtually every piece of art, whether it’s movies, music, software, is base on some prior piece of art. Grab a cup of coffee, lean back and enjoy!

  • MKBHD - Rabbit R1: Barely Reviewable
    I mentioned the Rabbit R1 above, and here’s MKBHD’s review of it, with a really interesting reflection on the state of tech these days in the second half.

Personal Homepages

I found two new personal homepages this week that I really like, both in terms of design and content, so if you like people’s personal homepages as much as I do, pay them a visit!

Apple is like the Matrix, Version 1

I just had a quick look at the Apple event from earlier today, where they introduced the latest incredibly expensive exciting iPads. And boy… each of these events seems to be more stilted, more overproduced, more plastic and unreal looking than the last.

Which somehow reminded me of Agent Smith from the Matrix, when he describes the first version of the Matrix to Morpheus in this scene:

“Did you know that the first Matrix was designed to be a perfect human world world where none suffered, where everyone would be happy? It was a disaster! No one would accept the program…”

These presentations feel to me like that first iteration of the Matrix. Everything is perfect, everyone is constantly happy and smiling, everything is clean and polished and beautiful and perfectly produced, lit and set in scene… but it doesn’t feel real. It doesn’t feel human. In fact, it feels like a grotesque nightmare to me.

Anyone else get that feeling?

Linkdump No 3

I collect a ton of links to great articles and software projects, and this is my attempt to sort through them and share them with the rest of you.

Articles

  • Miniature Macintosh Plus Build
    A great post by Codingcipher about how he built a miniature version of a 1980s Macintosh Plus. He goes into a lot of detail, and the end result looks pheonomenal! One day, I’ll build something like this too.
  • Pluralistic: Boeing’s deliberately defective fleet of flying sky-wreckage (01 May 2024)
    Cory Doctorow is at it again and rips into the messed up work culture at Boeing. More relevant than ever now that the second whistleblower has mysteriously died… if you haven’t already voved to never set foot on a Boeing airplane again, you will after reading this. Truly horrfying…
  • Heat Death of the Internet
    A satirical and yet completely accurate description of what using the modern web/tech world feels like. Will leave you in tears, but you won’t be sure if they’re tears of laughter or tears of sadness.
  • Google Search results polluted by buggy AI-written code frustrate coders
    The headline says it all… enshittification marches on. Pretty soon all we’ll be able to find through Google is AI generated nonsense. Which makes it more relevant than ever to build up a personal archive of good content on the web, because we might not be able to find it again in the future. So let’s get some software for that:

Software/Services

Linkdump No 2

Here are some interesting things I came across this week. I might make this into a regular series, if for nobody else than me so I can look back a year from now at the things that fascinated and interested me right now.

Articles

Software/Services

Linkdump No 1

I constantly collect links and dump them into my bookmarking system, so I thought I’d share some of the more interesting ones I came across in the last couple of weeks.

  • Debugging Python code from the command line via Python debugger ‘pdb’.
    I recently needed to debug some Python code and had no idea how (I rarely write anything in Python), but a short search away I found this question on StackOverflow, and the first answer provided everything I needed to know.

  • Send RSS/Atom feeds to Mastodon
    A pretty simple Python script that can consume an RSS feed and post new feed items to Mastodon. Simple, easy to understand and debug, and does exactly what I need. I’m using it now to automatically post links to new blog posts on this site on my Mastodon profile.

  • Google search is becoming worse
    Google is sending more and more traffic towards places like Reddit and Quora, and honestly I’m not sure if that’s a loss or a win for the small web and people with personal homepages…

  • Ever wanted to install Windows 2000 on an old Core2Duo Macbook?
    The Windows 2000 installation disk doesn’t boot on these types of Macbooks, but by exchanging a file on the disc with the equivalent from a Windows XP installation disk, you can make it work. If you want to is an entirely different question of course.

  • A CLI note taking and bookmarking system. I’ve been using this for the past few weeks to store bookmarks, and I really like the simplicity of it. You just call nb <URL> and it stores the site as a bookmark and downloads a (text only) snapshot of it too, if possible.

Testing automatic reposting to Mastodon

This is a test entry to see if automatically reposting new posts on Mastodon works. If it does, I’ll write a longer post about it. If not, there might be more tests, but hopefully not.

Stadtautobahn

The city I live in is going to invest about a billion (1.000.000.000) Euros into building an Autobahn through the middle of the city. The Autobahn (highway, motorway…) already exists, but inside the city it’s a normal street with crossings etc., and now it’s supposed to become a proper Autobahn where you can speed right through the city without any traffic lights or crossings.

Just a reminder, this is a current thing from the 2020s, not the 1960s.

And what do you get if you build more and better roads into the city? More cars inside the city of course. In a city that’s already suffocating under the current amount of traffic.

I think I need a better place to live in. This is just too depressing.

Entitled people

I didn’t really know what to title this post, and I think the title doesn’t really capture what I’m trying to say, but I couldn’t think of anything better either, so please bear with me.

A few days ago Marques Brownlee (MKBHD) posted a not very flattering review of an AI controlled gadget on Youtube which apparently created a controversy online where several people accused him of bankrupting the company by giving their product a negative review.

That’s complete and utter bullshit of course, and he posted a response video where he defended his review and also stated the more than obvious fact “bad reviews don’t kill companies, bad products kill companies”. Duh.

This reminded me of a post on Mastodon from Youtuber Not Just Bikes from a few weeks ago, where he mentioned that he released a video about a bridge in Amsterdam and people demanded that he take the video down because it was “inappropriate” since a few days prior a bridge in Baltimore had collapsed.

And I can’t help but wonder, what the hell is going on in these peoples minds? A tech reviewer isn’t allowed to state that a product is bad anymore? Somewhere a bridge collapses and now the entire world isn’t supposed to talk about bridges anymore because it’s “inappropriate”? What’s going on here? What kind of world do these people want to live in?

PhysicsGirl and Long COVID

Yesterday I found out by chance that Youtuber Dianna Cowern aka PhysicsGirl is suffering from the most severe case of Long COVID… she’s bedridden 24/7 and incapable of doing even the most basic things like reading or even just having a conversation as that immediately worsens her symptoms.

There’s many more like her, millions probably, who are suffering from Long COVID or ME/CFS and who are pretty much forgotten by society because the disease renders them all but invisible to the public.

And yet they’re still there, and they’re quietly suffering at home. The acute pandemic may be over, but the long term consequences that some of the afflicted are suffering are still very real and substantial.

On the positive side, scientists are working hard at figuring out the cause of the illness and are working on potential treatments, and slowly but steadily progress is being made. So there is hope that these people may some day, hopefully soon, be able to live their lives again.

Summer time

Not time for summer, but switching the clock from winter time to summer time, or daylight saving time.

We had this switch yesterday, and I hate this time shift with a passion. It’s just so unneccessary. And apparently completely impossible now to get rid of, even though it was totally possible to introduce it 45 years ago.

Anyway, this year I noticed something… I seem to live my life by the clock. And not my internal clock, the external one. I get up when it’s time to get up, I have lunch when it’s lunchtime, I go to bed when it’s bedtime. And for all these things I use the actual time as a reference, and not my internal clock or how I’m actually feeling.

I was kind of aware of this, but not really, but this year I really noticed it. Having a consistent daily rhythm is a good thing I think, at least for me, but being a slave to the clock definitely is not.

So this is something to be more aware of… how am I feeling, am I actually ready to get up, or tired, or hungry, or do I just do something because it’s time for it.

Fixed RSS feeds

Dustin notified me that my thoughts posts also showed up in the RSS feed for the posts posts (okay, I need better names for this), so I had a look and fixed it. So now this should only show up once in your feed reader if you are subscribed to both my feeds. Thanks Dustin!

Antisocial Behaviour

I’m sitting in a café right now, just watching the people around me… and three tables from me is a guy constantly on his phone, the other side on speakerphone at full volume, “entertaining” the entire place with his private conversations. Now he’s talking in a foreign language I don’t understand, but it’s distracting and annoying nevertheless.

Then I look outside the window at a busy street, and another guy just casually parks his car in the second lane (in the middle of the street in other words), gets out and calmly walks away. A minute later an entire bus full of people has to stop behind this car and wait until it can pass by, making everybody on the bus late because one person can’t be bothered to find a suitable parking spot and walk a few meters.

It’s little behaviours like these that the people doing them don’t think twice about, but that make life for other people just a little more unpleasant or annoying. And I’m taking it as a reminder for myself to consider the impact of my behaviour on other people.

Black Sabbath finally re-releases the Tony Martin era Albums

Most people are at least somewhat familiar with Black Sabbath because of the popularity of Ozzy Osbourne, but fewer people know that they had a decades long career with about a million lineup changes and a lot of different singers in the 80s and 90s.

The most famous one is of course Ronnie James Dio, but one singer hardly anyone is familiar with is Tony Martin, who recorded a few albums with Sabbath in the late 80s/early 90s, which are in my opinion incredibly overlooked and underrated. The albums were The Eternal Idol, Headless Cross, Tyr, Cross Purposes and Forbidden, and especially Headless Cross and Tyr are two of my favourite Sabbath albums, if not some my favourite metal albums of all time, period.

They haven’t been available on Spotify or on CD for a long time, but now finally they’re being reissued in form of a remastered box set, and I couldn’t be happier to finally see these albums being given the respect and love they deserve.

If you are a Sabbath fan, but don’t know this era of the band, I highly recommend checking it out. It’s completely different from the Ozzy material, more similar to the Ronnie James Dio albums with a heavy 80s touch (with lots and lots of reverb!), which means great epic songs and simply fantastic vocals. I can’t recommend these albums enough, I hope you’ll give them a listen!

https://blabbermouth.net/news/black-sabbath-box-set-of-tony-martin-era-recordings-anno-domini-1989-1995-to-arrive-in-may

More Context for Links

Inspired by a post by Simone on his Minutes to Midnight blog, which to my horror I discovered is already three months old (it felt more like three weeks to me), I decided to add a few words of description to the blogs I have linked on my links page. It’s a work in progress, and I’m not entirely happy yet with all the descriptions I wrote, but it’s a start.

Dark Mode

I implemented a (pretty rudimentary) dark mode for the website. It’s set to follow the operating system preferences for light or dark mode. I considered adding a switch to the website to toggle between light and dark, but I don’t know if this is really necessary…

Feedback is of course welcome, as well as bug reports if something isn’t working right.

Testpost

Hier kommen Gedanken rein.