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Let’s Get Organized

The HTPC / Windows 7 Chronicles: You Asked, We Answer!

As hard drives get bigger, you would think it’d become easier to collect all of your digital information without running out of room. The trouble is that the size of media files is growing right alongside of the hard drives—an .iso of Transformers consumes more than 42 GB of space!

Nevertheless, it’d be ideal to store all of your entertainment in one place, right? Reader ravenware asked about eliminating the stack of DVDs that most people have to manage, and this is a project that I considered integral in my own HTPC endeavors. Not having to touch another disc (read: scratch another $30 Blu-ray) would be a huge convenience, at the very least. The problem itself is straightforward enough. The solution, it turns out, is not so simple.

While there is software available to read a Blu-ray disc, circumvent its AACS copyright protection, and copy the file structure (or create an .iso), that middle step is legally looked down upon, even if the copyright protection is put back into place. You see, it has to be side-stepped in order for the copy to take place—a no-no.

Nevertheless, the AACS LA has made it difficult to do this any other way. Managed Copy, a requirement of the Blu-ray format facilitating a backup of a disc you purchase, is still in the works. When it is enabled, you’ll likely have the distinct pleasure of paying to make a copy of the disc you’ve already purchased. Now, call it a difference in philosophy (and I certainly understand the concept of licensing versus ownership—that’s another can of worms entirely), but this still sounds like a bum rap.

Making A Media Server

So, we’re going to operate under the assumption that you want to do this now, rather than wait, and that you want to archive full discs rather than audio/video transcoded to save space. Naturally, you’ll need to start with plenty of storage, and it’d probably be best if it wasn’t localized to your HTPC. In our hypothetical environment, we’re going to use a five-drive Thecus N5200 Pro set up in a RAID 5 configuration with four 1 TB disks. Gigabit Ethernet is a necessity. We’ve experimented with streaming Blu-ray quality content over an 802.11n wireless network, and it’s just not quick enough.

From there, you’re looking at a relatively simply process involving SlySoft’s AnyDVD HD software (79 €), a PC with Windows Media Center functionality, Daemon Tools (a free download), and the My Movies 2 movie collection management software (a free download). In essence, My Movies 2 is able to recognize AnyDVD HD and Daemon Tools and use the former to write an .iso of the disc while the latter automatically mounts the Blu-ray images when you click “Watch” in Windows Media Center.

My Movies, with the MCE interface in a windowMy Movies, with the MCE interface in a window

Of course, this is all in theory, as the legality of going this route is debatable. However, I have read a number of first-hand cases where configurations set up as described are working well.

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