How to play back Blu-ray video on a Mac OS

For many individuals, Blu-ray presents the ideal format for backing up their cherished video, music, photos and other invaluable files. Mac users, however, may still be missing out on some basic features that could increase their enjoyment of Blu-ray media. Most notably, consumers who utilize the format for data archiving purposes, may not have the software in place to enable video playback. Why not capitalize on the presence of a Blu-ray burner and play high-definition videos with crystal-clear transfers?

Because the current Mac operating systems do not natively support Blu-ray playback, users will have to get a little creative in order to achieve this feature. Luckily, they have a few options available to them to effectively turn their archiving Blu-ray drive into a video player, including:

The Mac Observer co-founder Dave Hamilton highlighted one workaround involving the open source video transcoder, Handbrake. When used in conjunction with a VLC player, the free-to-use program enables Mac users to read optical discs, copy their content and convert the data into a viewable format. However, even the combination of VLC and Handbrake isn't enough to achieve video playback with Blu-ray discs. Mac users will need to add another program to the mix: MakeMKV. According to Hamilton, this program enables consumers to copy Blu-ray content from the disc and convert it into a usable file.

There are some points to consider when going this route. First, deploying Handbrake, VLC and Make MKV in this manner is not a simple plug-and-play process. Individuals will have to manually change some code in the Terminal to add the command lines needed to make the three programs work harmoniously. Second, Make MKV is not free-to-use software. To get the full version, Mac users will need to buy the app.

Another method that consumers may find easier to carry out is to simply install the Macgo program. The software was specifically designed to allow for Blu-ray video playback on a Mac OS. Like Make MKV, Macgo is not a free-to-use application. Given the convenience offered by Macgo, however, it provides far greater benefits. The program supports playback both directly off of the disc itself or from an ISO file. This flexibility gives Mac users more options when managing their high-definition video files.

The only requirement for utilizing Macgo is having a Blu-ray drive in place to read the discs. A high-quality external Blu-ray burner from DIGISTOR presents the final piece of the puzzle, enabling Mac users to watch HD videos on their computers. In addition, DIGISTOR customers can take advantage of the REWIND archiving software that comes packaged with many of the company's external drives. With this program, individuals can safely and reliably archive their important files for later use. This means that in the event of a hard drive failure, these consumers will have access to backups of all of their data on durable Blu-ray discs.

When comparing the various options for enabling Blu-ray playback on a Mac OS, the benefits of a Macgo/DIGISTOR Blu-ray burner combination are too plentiful to ignore. Other methods present a number of hoops for users to jump through, resulting in far too many headaches for what should be a relatively simple process. Pair DIGISTOR's unparalleled external Blu-ray burners with Macgo software to begin watching high-definition videos on your Mac computer today.

Optical storage receives praise at Creative Storage Conference

In most organizations, information is becoming a highly valued commodity as it can help decision-makers make educated choices and drive business advancement. With this level of importance, it should be no surprise that companies are doing all they can to back up their files and ensure that they have an iteration available at all times. This will help support continuity efforts and enable management to guarantee that sensitive data is not lost. Resoundingly, optical storage has risen to meet these demands and has been adopted by numerous firms for its capabilities.

The benefits of optical storage
While CDs, DVDs and USB devices have mostly disappeared from the storage market, Blu-ray discs have become the media of choice for a number of businesses. Among these supporters are Sony and Mitsubishi who recently spoke at the Creative Storage Conference about the quality and applications of Blu-ray storage, Hollywood IT Society reported. Both organizations noted the amount of quality control they have with Blu-ray, stating that the media can stand up to their rigorous testing and continues to output optimal performance. The high-quality materials also help Blu-ray media withstand harsh conditions without losing stored data or harming the disc itself, saving significant costs in the long run. As these benefits become more apparent, more companies will look to adopt it for their own advantages.

"Long-term offline archive preservation is one of the most important usages of optical disc storage," industry expert Ikuo Matsumoto told the source. "In addition, the new usage of optical storage, near-line storage for huge amount of data of data centers, have empowered companies like Facebook."

Using optical media for long-term archival
When thinking of storing data, it's important to consider what factors might be at play in the future. Could the media be destroyed by natural disasters or affected by malware? Forbes contributor Tom Coughlin noted that while long-term archival can be a challenge, by choosing the right storage system, decision-makers can ensure that their media lasts even under adverse environmental conditions. Sony, for example, sends their discs through testing in high temperatures, salt water, UV radiation and corrosive gas, but the products still last a minimum of 50 years, demonstrating the resilience of optical media. This means that even if a fire or flood may hit the company, data stored on Blu-ray discs will likely be recoverable.

In addition, Blu-ray media is more accessible than traditional tape. Tape-based storage can end up costing a lot after accounting for maintenance and media provisioning. Blu-ray can save money in the long-run as it has a considerably longer shelf-life than other options and requires less upkeep. With these benefits and the overall optimal performance, Blu-ray discs are expected to be around for the foreseeable future.

"I've been surprised at how often the term comes up during the discussion regarding professional optical disc," Sony director of B2B media marketing William Cubelli​s said, speaking at the recent Creative Storage Conference. "It blows me away because we've seen optical disc storage work for a long time now."

Ultrabooks and SSD defragmentation

Ultrabooks are quickly becoming popular choices for consumer PCs. Although they sport the traditional clamshell design and keyboard/trackpad input of a laptop, they also have speedy SSD drives and extended battery life, meaning that they combine some of the best features of both PCs and mobile devices. However, procuring and working with an SSD-enabled Ultrabook can be a tricky process. Consumers may be better off avoiding inexpensive but slow models with HDD, as well as the potential fragmentation headaches that those drives can cause.

In terms of specifications, Ultrabooks typically feature an HD display and instant wake from sleep. Although they lack optical drives, their USB ports can support a DIGISTOR External Drive that provides self-powered disc read/write capabilities for additional storage.

According to IndiaTVNews' Aseem Gaurav, the next generation of Ultrabooks will feature touch screens and wireless display technology to allow for easier video streaming. They will also be required by Intel, which dictates Ultrabook specs, to wake from sleep in fewer than three seconds, underscoring the centrality of speedy SSD technology to the Ultrabook line.

Should an SSD drive ever be defragmented?
As opposed to traditional HDD-based computers, Ultrabooks should never need to have their SSDs defragmented. In the early days of NAND flash technology, drives postponed cell erasures until they had exhausted their supplies of unwritten cells. Cells whose storage had been written and then erased were simply marked as used, and performance could arise once the drive had to finally clean up old cells.

However, the TRIM command, which performs regular garbage collection on cells, addressed this issue and enhanced SSD performance. This feature is supported on the two most recent versions of Windows.

"Conventional logic dictates that you should never defrag an SSD, because the SSD controller writes data in a scattershot-fashion to multiple NAND chips and locations, using algorithms that only the controller understands," explained PCWorld contributor Jon Jacobi. "The operating system sees it as a hard drive with sectors, but the data is spread all over the drive by the controller. "

Nevertheless, some SSD defragmentation tools have come to market, promising drive optimization. Jacobi stated that such tools are likely only useful if an individual is working with an operating system that does not natively support TRIM. Additionally, defragmentation tools may force the SSD to expend valuable write cycles that could be better used for handling files.

Correctly backing up data when moving from HDD to SSD

Users like SSD drives because they offer speedy, reliable storage that fits comfortably into a PC, Mac, camera or mobile device. With no moving mechanical parts or fragmented storage blocks, SSDs enable quick boot times and improve the performance of even complex applications like desktop video editors, which launch almost instantly and can copy and read files with ease.

"Overall, the feeling is that the system [on an SSD] is faster and much more responsive than with just a SATA drive," wrote the editors of KitGuru, about their testing of a 64 GB SSD. "You can actually tell when you hit a task that is CPU-dependent rather than data-flow driven."

Some SSDs have smaller capacities and higher costs per gigabyte than commodity HDDs, but flash storage has become gradually more affordable and roomier in recent times, widening their appeal. However, the daunting prospect of reinstalling the operating system and moving applications from an HDD to an SSD may still discourage some individuals from procuring SSDs for their PCs. Luckily, data archiving tools and optical accessories, such as a Blu-ray burner, can make this process easier.

Making backups and consolidating data
Since an SSD may have less capacity than an old HDD, efficiently moving data requires focus on essential applications. According to Lifehacker's Adam Dachis, it is advisable to move the operating system first, followed by critical system files. What about items such as MP3s, videos and documents, which can fill up a sizable portion of the new drive but are not essential to the system?

One option is to retain the old HDD for occasional access to those files, which may be most feasible in the case of laptops that have room for two hard drives. On these PCs, users can swap out the optical drive for a new SSD, and then use an external DVD drive both to restore optical functionality and facilitate disc-based backup. Non Retina MacBook Pro models also support this optical/SSD drive switch. However, users may need to use a caddy or similar device to slot the new drive into the optical bay.

Alternatively,data archiving solutions can simplify matters by securing the data in other storage, so that it is safe if and when users decide to return to it. Used in conjunction with cloud-based options, this approach may be more realistic for individuals or small business owners who routinely handle large volumes of high-density files.

Consumers, professionals increasingly favor SSD drives

The market for SSDs is varied, encompassing SSD drives for video that are popular among professional videographers, server-side SSDs that power data centers and consumer SSDs that are either shipped with a mobile device or added aftermarket to a Mac or PC. Moving forward, SSD growth appears set to benefit most from the accelerating adoption of slimline laptops, also known as Ultrabooks. These computers offer speedy performance and storage, and since they generally lack internal optical drives, they may also boost demand for external drives that add back disc-reading ability.

The PC market has struggled recently due to competition from increasingly capable and affordable mobile devices. The price of SSDs vis-a-vis HDDs may also have contributed to its troubles by discouraging consumers from adding efficient SSDs to their PCs or buying entirely new machines.

However, with greater affordability, SSD drives are likely to make Ultrabooks more appealing. These slender laptops typically have long battery life and they instantly wake from sleep, meaning that they combine the power of a traditional PC with the speed and portability that users have come to expect from SSD-powered mobile devices.

SSD shipments strong with room for improvement
Writing for Xbit Laboratories, Anton Shilo​v cited an IHS iSuppli study that found that SSD shipments for 2013 should total nearly 65 million units, a substantial 87 percent year-over-year increase. Furthermore, the market could quadruple in size by 2017.

Ultrabooks are leading the way, set to constitute nearly 70 percent of 2013 SSD shipments. An Evertiq editor, also commenting on the IHS report, observed that refinements to Windows 8 and lower average selling prices for NAND flash may also attract additional consumer interest.

"The fate of the SSD business is closely tied to the market for Ultrabooks and other ultrathin PCs that use cache drives," said IHS analyst Ryan Chien, according to Evertiq. "While SSD shipments rose by 124 percent last year, growth actually fell short of expectations. However, if sales of the new generation of Ultrabooks take off this year as expected, the SSD market is set for robust growth."

Ultrabooks may use SSDs as their primary drive or as a supplementary cache drive alongside an HDD. To save space, these laptops exclude optical drives and their SSDs may have relatively low capacities. Accordingly, users with high needs for storage may opt for an external DVD drive to view disc media or create file backups.

Optimizing SSD drive space and performance on MacBooks and PCs

Whether working with a high-capacity SSD drive or a smaller consumer model used in addition to an HDD or as part of a hybrid drive, getting the most speed and endurance out of flash-based storage requires careful management of space. Archiving tools can provide efficient ways to backup data other than core programs and operating systems, so that SSD storage and resources are reserved for essential processes and files. If using a MacBook Pro, individuals have the option to install an SSD into one of the laptop's standard SATA ports and employing the original HDD as a repository for less-used applications.

Clearing up space for easier migration and better performance
Whether facing tight space constraints or simply seeking to free up storage, PC users can usually benefit from cleaning up their temporary files, which can take up several GB of valuable SSD space, and disabling Windows' hibernation process, which stores system states directly on the drive.

"You would be surprised how much you can fit on a small SSD," explained Lifehacker's Whitson Gordon in a column on the subject. "I'm using an 80 GB SSD in my machine, and its housing Windows plus all my programs without a problem. That said, I do have to clean up the drive from time to time, since Windows can often put some pretty big files on the C drive for no reason."

Similarly, users should move Windows' critical pagefile.sys file, which triages apps into a hidden location in order to free up additional RAM but is itself extremely large, to an HDD if possible. Additional space savings may be achieved through data archiving solutions for large and/or less frequently accessed files.

Using multiple drives on a MacBook Pro
Most laptops with an internal optical drive and standard SATA ports can accommodate additional SSDs, which can solve the storage crunch that sometimes result from using a small-capacity standalone SSD.

In a separate column, Gordon explained that MacBook Pros can be heavily modified with extra drives under the hood. Doing so usually entails letting the machine cool down after being powered-off and then removing the battery if applicable. An extra SSD drive can be loaded into the disc drive's previous location, using an optical bay to hold it.

If swapping out the optical drive in this way, a user can procure an external DVD drive to retain disc-reading functionality while still upgrading internal storage and performance.

High-density optical discs may change data backup

The next generation of high-density optical media may store as much as 300 GB on a single disc, allowing it to accommodate 4K video and movies and complex video games. Additionally, this higher capacity, coupled with the relatively low price of individual discs, will make optical storage an increasingly feasible option for persons and companies who already use a Blu-ray burner or USB optical drive to create backups. For parties that opt for other backup and archiving solutions, the internal optical drives on their laptops can often easily be replaced with additional  SSD drives.

Right now, a standard single-layer Blu-ray disc can hold 25 GB of data, with multi-layered discs featuring greater capacities, and it is excellent for storing uncompressed and HD video, as well as simpler photos and files. By 2015, professionals may have additional storage options once Sony and Panasonic introduce a new higher density standard, according to a report from IDG Creative Lab's Carter McCoy.

These new discs may be useful for small businesses with surging data needs. Alongside cloud solutions, optical media can provide cost-effective storage whose contents can be easily distributed and shared.

"Optical discs are also a good medium for distributing applications or information to users, or sharing data with others," wrote McCoy. "They provide a disposable, one-time option for sharing data, making it so that you don't have to let go of your hard drive in the process."

However, he noted that the price for next-generation discs would be a key determinant of their success in business. Organizations may instead focus most of their energy on data archiving solutions that can handle large volumes of information and ensure operational continuity.

Installing an additional SSD
PCs that can read and write to 300 GB discs are still a ways off. On current hardware, users can diversify their storage options by swapping out the optical drive for an SSD and then attaching an external DVD drive in order to retain disc-reading functionality.

Typically, an optical drive connects to the computer via a SATA, meaning that its slot can be filled by an aftermarket SSD, according to Notebook​Review's Charles Jefferies. Adding the new drive may require the use of a supplemental conversion tool, as SSD and optical drive SATA connectors often differ in size and cannot be aligned as is. If users go this route, however, they will be able to bolster the performance of their workstations considerably.

Optical and SSD drives essential to business continuity, data protection

The costs of data backup and recovery are steadily rising as consumers and IT departments handle increasingly large volumes of information. While many rely almost exclusively on server-based solutions to store backups, they may be able to improve flexibility and reliability by diversifying into local and disc-based storage. To that end, a Blu-ray burner can create high-density backups for small businesses and individuals. At the same time, upgrading all machines to SSD drives may result in long-lasting and speedy storage, ultimately driving down costs and overhead by helping to ensure the safety and accessibility of data.

IT executives are under increasing pressure to reduce their division costs. According to an Enterprise Strategy Group survey cited by eWeek's Nathan Eddy, roughly two-thirds of IT departments reported that they have been urged to find ways to cut expenditures, mostly by improving efficiencies in backing-up and storing their company data. As organizations see growth in revenue, this impetus to find cost-effective storage and efficient data archiving solutions is magnified.

Seventy-five percent of ESG's respondents expected data volume growth of up to 20 percent, but more than half of them expressed some level of dissatisfaction with their current server-based backup models, which are often licensed and priced based on overall capacity rather than actual usage rates.

"[V]endors base their pricing on the volume of data protected," said ESG senior analyst Jason Buffington. "For IT users, this means that more data requires more backup servers, more licenses and increasing costs."

Discs and SSDs
In tandem with revised licensing models, disc-based backups, and usage of accessories like an external DVD drive on a slimline laptop or hybrid device, can provide alternative backup media for businesses and especially for consumers. In addition to serving as local storage that does not incur ongoing expenses, optical drives can also provide insurance against possible drive failure.

Writing for Gizmodo India, Andrew Tarantola noted that many PC OEMs no longer ship system restore discs with new machines, meaning that the user has to rely on Windows' built-in features. However, these safeguards cannot protect against common issues like data-destroying malware or HDD failure, meaning that users should probably opt for both an SSD and an extra optical drive to create backup discs of their own.

"[M]ost PC OEMs don't want to pay for it [a system restore disc] anymore," wrote Tarantola, later adding that  "burning the disc before your drive blows a motivator is the proper course of action."

External backups can guard against new hard drive exploit

A recent high-profile exploitation of cloud storage service Dropbox and blogging platform WordPress has made it possible for hackers to hijack a person's hard drive for malware delivery. Users must be diligent and procure a backup medium such as a high-volume optical disc, as well as an external DVD drive to burn data to it, in order to protect their stored data from similar issues. Along the way, data archiving tools may also help to move old items to another location so that the PC ultimately runs more smoothly.

The attack is initiated by a Word document that tricks a user by masquerading as an important business file, according to TechNewsDaily contributor Paul Wagenseil. This tactic, known as spear-phishing, takes advantage of the security and ease-of-use that some consumers associate with Dropbox, which has marketed itself as a virtual hard drive.

"[T]he attackers could mask themselves behind the trusted Dropbox brand, increasing credibility and the likelihood of victim interaction with the malicious file from either personal or corporate Dropbox users," wrote the authors of a Cyber Square report that originally identified the hack.

After opening the document, a user is directed to download a similar embedded PDF. However, the latter file contains malware that exploits a vulnerability in Adobe Flash Player. The malware is downloaded to the user's hard drive, which then becomes a staging ground for remotely controlled communications with a WordPress blog.

In response, the WordPress site would then return complex strings directing the malware to other IP addresses and ports. Although it is unclear what the fully instructed malware can do, Cyber Squared pointed out that similar attacks from the same group of hackers often steal data and intellectual property from hard drives. Creating redundant disc-based backups with tools like a Blu-ray burner can lessen the impact of data theft.

Keeping a computer safe and speedy
In addition to accumulating secretive malware, hard drives can also become bogged down by extraneous  files that can pose similar issues by making a computer nearly unusable. Speedy SSD drives and data archiving solutions are efficient remedies for these issues.

Writing for The Economic Times, Karan Bajaj examined some of the common causes of PC slowness, including unsorted registry items and an excessive number of desktop shortcuts. Similarly, duplicate and out-of-date files should be deleted or moved to another medium using an archive tool. Like HDD fragmentation, these items result in inefficient, overcrowded drive storage. SSD drives can eliminate the fragmentation issue entirely and improve performance.

Slim laptop usage increases need for external optical disk drives

The PC's days as the unquestioned consumer computer market leader are quickly fading away, with tablets, laptops, smartphones and netbooks becoming more popular. While PCs can never offer the mobility that these options do, they do provide consumers with an unparalleled comprehensive set of features. The ease with which users can upgrade their machine's internal components has always been one of the PC's strong points. Not only do mobile options usually lack this capability, but they typically are devoid of such accessories as optical disk drives to upgrade. As the laptop market moves toward slimmer models, these longstanding features are being dumped in favor of sleek and lightweight designs.

However, there are moments where that lack of functionality can adversely affect consumers. For instance, an individual who recently purchased a newer model laptop may, like many other users, find that he or she has difficulty using the Windows 8 operating system. According to ZDNet, the OS has demonstrated a lower adoption rate than even Windows Vista at this point in its lifespan. The unwieldiness of Windows 8 has driven consumers to consider alternative options as drastic as switching to Mac products or downgrading to the OS's predecessor, Windows 7. However, as PCWorld recently explained, this is no easy task and may not even be possible on some systems without a boot disc.

For users who have invested in a slim laptop lacking an internal optical drive, this presents even further challenges. Without the capacity to read a boot disc, they will be stuck using Windows 8's interface. However, consumers can connect an external DVD drive through the USB port to add disc-reading capabilities to their machine. This way, users can install their Windows-based operating system of choice without purchasing an entirely new solution.