Without Parallel

By all rights, today should’ve been my last day of class… ever. All my classes (ignoring the CERIAS Security Seminar, which doesn’t count) are Tuesday/Thursday, and this is the last week of class of the last semester of my college career.

Except it isn’t, technically. There’s a bonus session of CS 690C scheduled for Friday morning for those of us who haven’t had a chance to do our final project presentations yet to, well, do our final project presentations.

Which is a shame, because my last regulation time class ever would’ve made a better last class ever.

Today was the last day of project presentations in CS 525 (Parallel Computing) and, as luck would have it, I was scheduled for the final slot. (Lucky indeed, as I changed my project topic about two weeks ago.) I talked about BOINC, and you can find the slides here.

So I’m giving the presentation, and it’s going pretty well. Then someone’s cell phone rings. I keep going. The professor answers his phone. I keep going. He talks into it. While I’m giving the presentation. I can’t make out what he’s saying, since he’s trying to be quiet, but he’s still talking on his cell phone while I’m presenting.

OK, so The Show Must Go On, right? I keep going. A couple minutes later, a pizza delivery girl walks into the room. I’m a bit taken aback by this, and I ask, “Did someone order pizza?” I figure she just walked into the wrong room, and I’m kind of trying to play it off. But no. The professor had ordered pizza. I say, “I guess I’ll keep going,” and continue the presentation.

As it turns out, it’s the professor’s last class as Purdue as well, and he ordered pizza for everyone to celebrate. So hey, free pizza. He also hands out the teacher evaluations for the class, and announces he doesn’t care what we put down on them, since he’s leaving anyway.

So here’s what I write on the comments section on the back (which, let’s be honest, no one actually reads anyway):

I guess it doesn’t matter what I write here, since you’re leaving after this semester, and I am too.

I just lost the game.

I can only hope he takes The Game back to Greece with him.

And after that, the pizza delivery girl comes back in. Apparently, when she had first come into the room, somehow she had whacked her ring on the door, and the diamond in it popped out. So we looked for a while on the floor for it, but I don’t think anyone found it.

So yeah, that would’ve been my last class at Purdue ever and would’ve made at least a moderately amusing story, if not for the overtime session tomorrow morning, which [as of this writing] I still need to finish up the paper for.

How To Try And Fail To Rip And Edit Video In Linux

The problem seems deceptively simple: rip a minute of video from a DVD and encode it into an MPEG file.

Oh, wait, you’re using Linux. Good luck with that. You get your choice of three types of programs:

Type 1: Anything Related to MPlayer: Despite the fact that MPlayer’s interface is designed to prove your inferiority to The Great And Knowledgable MPlayer Developers, Experts Of All Video, you have to admit that it is able to handle just about any video file you throw at it. One might think that its video encoding tool, cleverly titled mencoder, would be equally capable. After all, it does require approximately 50 different command-line options in order for it to do anything.

However, there’s one minor flaw in the documentation. According to the man page, the -ss option lets you specify at what time index to start encoding from. That’s a typo. It should actually say, the -ss option tells mencoder to dump core immediately. So much for ripping only that minute you wanted half an hour in.

Also, lest you think using a graphical mencoder graphical front-end like AcidRip can at least protect you from mencoder’s cancer-causing command line, be warned that it crashes more readily than Evolution, and that takes some effort.

Type 2: GStreamer-Based Tools: The exact opposite of the first type, these are actually designed to be usable by people other than the developers. Alas, they are textbook examples of the GNOME stereotype of “we removed all the features to make the interface easier.” Thoggen is clean-looking and straightforward, but it only lets you rip entire titles. Not only can you not specify a range of time indexes, you can’t even specify chapters. Just entire titles. No, I don’t want to rip 50 minutes of video and then find a way to delete 49 of them. Plus, Thoggen only supports encoding into Ogg Theora which, while it makes my inner open-source bigot happy, means it probably won’t play on Windows without having to go codec hunting.

Then there’s PiTiVi, a self-described “non-linear video editor.” That’s another typo. It should read “non-linear video non-editor,” for the actual video editing part hasn’t yet been implemented. That’s right, the version packaged for Debian is nothing more than a UI mockup. Seriously.

Type 3: Obscure Command-Line Tools You’ve Never Heard Of, But Are Packaged For Your Distribution: These tools have two defining characteristics. First, their names are completely devoid of vowels (long live Unix!), with no discernable connection between name and function. Second, even if you can somehow figure out which one you want, the documentation lies about how to invoke it, and they just spend 100% of your CPU time without actually doing any productive work. I’m looking at you, mpgtx and MJPEG Tools (the name of the suite may have vowels, but the programs included in it don’t).