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I’m soon to be headed off for a family vacation involving lengthy plane flights, airport layovers, and hotel rooms. I’ve also got a PowerBook with a DVD drive. In other words, I’ve got a number of opportunities to watch some movies on my laptop’s wide screen. But bringing DVDs means more things to carry in my travel bag. Not to mention that I don’t want to damage, or lose, my new $40 Director’s Cut. Then there’s the fact that laptop DVD drives suck up a lot of battery power.

The solution to my dilemma is to copy (“rip”) my DVDs—meaning movies I personally own—to my PowerBook’s hard drive. And the best tool I’ve found for this task is the free MacTheRipper 2.6.6 (   ). You just insert a DVD, launch MacTheRipper, choose your settings, and then click the GO! button.

OK, so it’s not quite that easy, but it’s close. There are a few options you may need to set, but they’re all described clearly in the MacTheRipper manual. For example, you’ll need to check the DISC RCE display after inserting your DVD, and then set the RCE Region setting to the appropriate value. And on the Mode screen, you can choose whether to rip the entire DVD, just the feature presentation (leaving out all the “bonus” material to reduce the size of the resulting folder on your hard drive), or just specific sections of the movie. So be sure to browse through the included manual before your first rip.

MacTheRipper screenshot

The actual process of ripping a DVD takes about 30 to 40 minutes; when it’s finished, your movie will be sitting on your hard drive in a folder called VIDEO_TS , inside another folder bearing the name of the movie. To play a ripped movie, you simply launch Apple’s DVD Player application, choose File -> Open VIDEO_TS Folder, and then navigate to the VIDEO_TS folder for the movie you want to watch. This “loads” the movie just as if you had inserted the DVD; press Play in DVD Player to watch it. While there are apparently some movies MacTheRipper won’t be able to rip, I’ve had very good luck—it’s worked successfully with all but one film I’ve tried so far from my own library.

The number of movies you can bring with you is of course limited by how much free space you have on your hard drive—in my experience, the average film takes up 5GB to 7GB if you include all the extras, or 3GB to 6GB for just the main feature. I plan on taking four or five movies on my vacation; that should last me both flights, a layover, and maybe a couple rainy evenings indoors with the family. Now if only my PowerBook’s battery lasted that long.

[End note: I know that some people will use an application like MacTheRipper for nefarious purposes. However, that doesn't mean it doesn't have legitimate purposes, my on-the-go watching of my own DVDs among them.]

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