Software Review: Thoggen

by Stephen Fluin 2011.01.01

Thoggen DVD Backup

Thoggen is a tool for making backup copies of physical DVDs, ISOs, or folders using the DVD format. This tool has one of the simplest interfaces I have seen, attempting to take the Gnome philosophy of removing choice and complexity for the benefit of the users.

What Matters in a DVD Backup Tool

For me there are two pieces that really matter in a DVD backup tool, besides the obvious requirement of running on Linux. The first requirement is that I am able to make an encoded copy of my videos. The second requirement is that the output format is portable, usable, and as future-proof as possible. The first requirement eliminates a direct copy from the disk, as well as another tool that I used to use called K9Copy. K9Copy was a great tool, but had very sensitive settings, and I only had about a 30% success rate while using it. In the other cases it would generate unplayable copies of the DVD, that sometimes expanded to 8-10GB (bigger than the original disk!).

The second criteria has to do with the quality of the output. I've read many things about other tools, and I may end up switching to one of them, but Thoggen's biggest strength is that it outputs reasonably sized Ogg Vorbis/Theora encoded video. Ogg Vorbis is a great audio codec that maintains quality while achieving a smaller size than codecs like .mp3. The Ogg Theora and Vorbis codecs are also free in theory. The companies that have produced them have released them with a license that they can never revoke, and that means that anyone can change, use, or distribute them without any restrictions. This is important because the future of .h264 is uncertain, as the licensing bodies controlling it will likely attempt to start charging for it at some point in the future. Ogg Theora isn't as good of a video codec as .h264 in terms of output size, but it's good enough to use without accidentally filling up my harddrive.

I may someday wish to re-encode my videos, so I attempt to save them with "ok" quality that could survive a small bit of further degradation. To achieve this, I always choose Large as my output size, and it use fixed quality and leave it at the default of 50. Doing this outputs a DVD that is about 1.0 GB, 608x320 (depending on cropping), 29.97fps.

Conclusions on Thoggen

Overall, this is a very solid tool that I will be using for the foreseeable future. This tool align's well with my willingness to trade convenience (in the form of 30-40% smaller filesize) for freedom.