As part of my preparation for the Hackers conference, I decided to use open source software to make a nice presentation, and instead of presenting it on a laptop, use a DVD player as my presentation medium.
I’ve been experimenting a bit with
vcdimager, a VCD authoring system, and have made a couple of nice demo CDs that incorporate MPEG-1 video, sound files and high resolution MPEG stills. Overall, I was quite pleased with the result, and was looking forward to presenting some of this at Hackers.
I then began to wonder just how compatible this VCD would be with other DVD players. Most of my tests had been done with the Apex AD600A (widely revered in hacking circles because of its hidden menu that allows you to disable Macrovision and region coding). The VCDs that I made played just
fine in my son’s Apex player, but failed in my old (but still very good) Panasonic 5 disc changer (I’m not certain that it could read CD-R media).
So I became nervous that perhaps I wouldn’t be able to show this off at the conference, if by some quirk of fate their DVD player wasn’t compatible. And I began to look for some insurance (but not too expensive).
I found it at Walmart, in the form of a $58 DVD player, the Apex AD1100W (the W stands for Walmart presumably). It’s a cheap DVD player, but has a number of interesting quirks, err.. features.
- There exist at least three different versions of hardware all which ship with the same model number. These are:
- the old 1M version
- The old 512kb version
- The new 512kb version
- You can upgrade the program memory by creating a special data disc that contains a new
ROM image and booting it.
- You can use the DVD player to show JPEG files burned onto an ordinary data disk.
You have to be careful in buying one of these, the new 512kb player will not play VCDs,
which is truly annoying. The boxes are nearly identical: when I went to Walmart there were stacks
of boxes of the new version, and a single one which bore the necessary Compact Disc Video
icon which told me it was an old 512kb machine.
The older 1M machines are ideal: they have patch roms available off the internet to disable both
region encoding and Macrovision. The 512kb machines only have patches which disable region
encoding, as yet the disabling of Macrovision seems to be unavailable.
Overall the unit feels really cheap. When I first hooked it up, I just had the video cabled in,
and verified that it worked by insertiing my Aliens DVD. Once I saw that it was playing, I tilted the
machine up a bit to hook the audio cables in, and the DVD that was playing slid out the front of
the drive. Not so good.
It also appears to have at least one problem from the viewpoint of VideoCDs, it doesn’t appear to
have any key on the remote mapped to the
returnfunction. This makes it more
difficult to make an interface which navigates simply via nested menus: only linear sequences are
I just have to remind myself it was very cheap. Still, it does have DTS and all that, I’ll probably
use it to replace one of my older units, at least until the tin foil case that it has crumbles and
falls to dust.
Oh, almost forgot the mandatory link to information about hacking Apex DVD players.