February 25th, 2021

children of dune - leto 1

flashing drives and ripping things

So among my accomplishments this year, I have successfully flashed my new bluray drive back to older firmware to gain unlimited read/write speed and also to rip 4Ks. My old drive is starting to be quirky, and as my pandemic sanity project is ripping and encoding movies, I went ahead and did some budget magic to upgrade it. Now I did not--at the time--realize that the winter storm had quite literally killed all my refrigerated/freezer food, granted, but I can't say that would have actually mattered; in fact, it getting here for me to play with is kind of helping me deal with replacing everything.

(Note: I still haven't cleaned out the fridge and refrigerator, but that's because until yesterday afternoon, all the dumpsters in my complex were overflowing as no one had done pickup in a week and change and I will not, not, not make the horror worse by putting two trash bags of dairy, meat, and assorted to the nightmare when temperatures are normalizing into the sixties--a week ago single digits, that really happened--and make everyone live with that kind of hellscape. I don't blame people who did--their power was completely out and stayed out longer than mine--but I would have been a lot less prissy if I had to deal with that smell in my apartment, too.)

MakeMKV added speed control to their software, but it has to be set in the settings, not GUI. This drive isn't quite getting the same speeds, but a.) it's a new drive, b.) I just flashed it so I may need to do some finagling, and c.) every disc is different, even accounting for DVD/Blu-Ray/4K Blu-Ray. I tested Ant-Man and the Wasp 4K yesterday and got the rip up to 6.2X, but today with The Stand 1994 bluray (not 4K) it only went up to 5X (at best). And yes, there is a difference in speed reading toward the edge (faster) and the interior (slower).

Notes on Movies

It occurs to me that I haven't actively watched a disc in over a year, but that's only an escalation. Before that, a disc was removed virgin from the case and ripped first; only then did Child or I put it in the X-Box for watching. This is because discs are goddamn fragile and I've had to replace them way too many times (hi, Iron Man II and III and X-Men Apocalypse and Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, you fuckers).

And not just fragile as in "looked at it too hard'; I mean, invisible errors that are there when I get them out of the box. Catching one of those in rip means a 75% chance it's going to be a problem watching and a 25% chance of an unplayable disc, as in, it will not play movie at all. If the rip starts debugging weirdly, it's a warning--not necessarily 'here be dragons', but something I need to watch for in the main movie. If the rip stops dead--and to make sure, I have retry set to 51 times when MakeMKV is running, so it will keep trying past sanity--it's either Error That I Will See When Watching Disc or Unplayable. Sometimes--sometimes--it's in the extras, but not often.

Yes, I know that some ripping software can be caught on errors that don't show when playing, but I've used MakeMKV for roughly a decade--and paid for it this year when I realized that while yes, they provide it for free, this is literally the best ripping software in the world--and I made it as sensitive as possible to errors for that reason. If MakeMKV can't read it (and usually correct it) we're talking losing five/ten minutes of a movie to unplayable. If it can't even image it, it's a return; that's a manufacturing error.

Say what you want about VHS, short of throwing it in an acid bath, they were very hard to entirely kill. The ribbon might get messed up--you just skip through it. Ribbon torn? Tape. If you got desperate to save the X-Files episode "Never Again", you could find a way. Even if the tape got twisted and it looked messed up, you could usually fix even that; a few (careful) fast forwards and rewinds to use the weight of the rest of the tape would flatten the tape and smooth it.

Discs? There are workarounds, yeah. If you know someone who has the thing that can resurface? Yes. Toothpaste when you're really desperate? Yes. I do know many (some horrifying) methods, but there are stop points where nothing can be done, and then there's invisible errors that make you want to die that kill an entire disk. A tiny fuckup on the edge can kill an entire disc. Not 5:10 to 5:20 but the entire goddamn movie. In theory you can image it and use a program to fix the image, and I did get that to work a few times, but a.) depending on the software it was incredibly difficult, b.) there was no guarantees even if you did fix it (you think?) it would work, c.) and that's only when it would image, which with invisible flaws it would not, and d.) I say this as someone who enjoys that kind of thing: it was not worth it. I sat on the floor with scissors and tape hand-piecing VHS tape together for $10 X-Files episodes; I do not say 'not worth it' lightly. It was first season with the tapeworm guy; I loved that episode.

VHS? Acid bath or (maybe?????) a nuke. I was sitting here trying to think if I ever had an unrecoverable, and no. There were a few I threw away back in the day and replaced but usually Wal-Mart had a sale and it was like, $5. They were still watchable if you ff'd through that bit at 5:13 that was messed up.

For Your Ripping Needs: MakeMKV

This is my semi-annual shill for MakeMKV, which is as of 2021 still the single best ripping software I've ever used. If it is possible for the disc to be read, it can read it; if it can be ripped, it can rip it;if it can be imaged, it can image it. It works on Windows, Macs, and Linux (I primarily use it on Ubuntu but I keep a copy on my laptop now for testing). It's incredibly simple to use, the settings are straightforward.

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If you read the above, now I explain.

Okay But What About that Thing You Said About Bluray Drives and Unlimited Speed

To rip a movie, you need an optical drive that can do that. This is not as easy as it used to be--assuming it was ever easy--and we're at a place where it requires active effort.

First: I never recommend what I haven't done myself when it comes to sketchy shit like flashing your drives. SO I would not be posting this at all if this wasn't both successful and almost anticlimactically easy to the point I was almost disappointed.

I did it yesterday, it was both anticlimactic and easy to the point of almost disappointed.

Until this week, this wasn't a problem for me; the bluray drive I used was the LG WH14NS40, and when I bought it in 2017, it was still running the 1.02 firmware (I got in under the wire), which allows MakeMKV (and other programs) to rip 4K movies. It's actually the second time I got that drive; by sheer chance, back in 2010ish when I first got my server, that's the drive I chose and it turned out it was the best for sketchy ripping things. Even better, LibreDrive--which MakeMKV uses--finally unlocked unlimited read/write speeds and as my firmware was 1.02 (the old firmware), I got that and lets just say whoooaaaa.

However, all good things become slow and quirky, and my LG WH14NS40 was getting to that. So I needed to get a new drive, and as one does, I went to MakeMKV forums to get the list of drives that are compatible with ripping 4K/UHD movies and decide which to buy.

Ultimate UHD Drives Flashing Guide Updated 2021

When you read that, it looks terrifying. It's not--I'm going to break it down in this entry.

It's now 2021, not 2017, and manufacturers patched their firmware on all drives now being sold to stop people ripping their own movies from their own discs because that's--bad? So this was now a two-step process: I needed to pick a drive and then flash it to downgrade the firmware to the latest unpatched--and also, unencrypted, thanks for that shit--firmware. And while yes, I am comfortable flashing my routers (perhaps too much so) to DD-WRT and back again, the routers I flashed were either old ones I don't use or ones I bought used on Amazon for under $20 and also for fun. This I'd be investing a minimum of $60ish plus external USB enclosure to hold them because my new server case doesn't have space for an optical drive (I knew that when I bought it, so that's on me).

Being me, I decided instead of getting the LG WH14NS40 again, since I'd be flashing anyway, I'd try something new. The slim drives were tempting, but their max speed would always be slower than a 5.25 drive; after reading the forums, the ASUS BW-16D1HT was actually in my cart when I stumbled over the fact that you could get the LG WH14NS60 up to 16X read/write on blurays and sure, it was twice the price of the Asus, but potential 16X read speed.

From the list of enclosures, I picked the OWC Mercury Pro 5.25 case. My LG WH14NS40 is actually using the Vantec NST-536S3-BK 5.25 case, but it was a pain fitting everything correctly and fought me; the OWC Mercury was effortless.

I got it yesterday, put it gently into the enclosure, connected it to Windows, opened MakeMKV, and checked the settings to assure the drive hit all the criteria, carefully read the requirements, downloaded the zip file with all the firmware and unzipped it, then opened youtube and watched the video how to flash it. Twice.

Note: the youtube video is incredibly reassuring. What you see there is literally exactly what happens, especially since it was done with a LG WH14NS60, which was also somewhat influential in me choosing that drive. It also walks you through double checking that your drive meets requirements.

The actual process of flashing took about three minutes. To wit:

1.) Open Windows Powershell in Admin Mode (Start Menu, Windows Powershell folder, right click on Windows Powershell, under Tasks click Run as Adminstrator)
2.) Enter C: and hit enter to make sure you're in C
3.) Enter cd.. and hit enter, then repeat to get to root of C as needed.
4.) Enter cd "C:\Program Files (x86)\MakeMKV" to get to the MakeMKV program folder (if you're in a 64 bit system, otherwise you can leave off the (x86))
5.) Paste .\makemkvcon64.exe f --all-yes -d [Drive Letter of Bluray Drive]: rawflash enc -i "[Drive Letter]:\[Path To Firmware]\HL-DT-ST-BD-RE_WH16NS60-1.02-NM00100-211810291936.bin" and hit enter.
6.) Watch the entire less than thirty second process.

Yeah, it was pretty low-drama.

7.) Opened MakeMKV and verified settings. Everything was fine.

Now, about flashing a drive and that terrifying page.

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I hope for those who were interested this demystified the process for you. I've ripped one 4K and one bluray with the new drive and no complaints at all. Posted at Dreamwidth: https://seperis.dreamwidth.org/1086425.html. | You can reply here or there. | comment count unavailable comments