USB-mounted Blu-ray drive
for use on my Linux Mint desktop

Table of Contents

Computer specifications

For a bit over $40, I purchased a Blu-ray drive:

Pioneer, BD-ROM BDC-TD03
Serial number JDDL181720WL
USB 2.0

Addendum: I began having trouble transcoding Blu-rays the last couple of years. MakeMKV was getting errors that the software author claimed could only be the result of a bad disk or bad drive. So in June 2019, I purchased what appears to be more or less the same drive, if white instead of black. I paid $60 this time.

Panasonic/Matsushita UJ-120 Blu-Ray Super Multi DVD+/-R/RW BD-R Dual Layer Burner
USB 2.0

There seems no way to play a Blu-ray on my desktop. I've read everyone has this problem. Still, I'm more interested in ripping them for use on my Plex Media server. This appears to be a sort of bane on Linux, one of the extreme fringe areas where it's clear that the Linux desktop is never going to compete with Windows (let alone Macintosh). However, the Macintosh suffers from the same problem supporting Blu-ray as Linux.

I tried Handbrake, which seemed to recognize all the files on the disk and it tried to grind through them doing its preview step, but ultimated once it quieted down, there was nothing to rip. So I'm trying MakeMKV.


"Well, sir, the data support no conclusions as yet. The absense of activity in the Pacific suggests this could just be an exercise."1

Actually, I have drawn a conclusion with the help of my nephew. And, I did put an end to my first attempt at ripping a Blu-ray title. See this example below in the appendix.

This is a perfect example of some Blu-ray discs scrambling their titles to prevent "pirating." MakeMKV was told to rip every title in this first trial. It found (perhaps literally) hundreds of titles which indicates that the Blu-ray's content is scrambled, that is, the disk has the movie stored in scrambled assemblies across hundreds of files and trying to copy all of them will take an eternity.

This leads to three possible explanations:

  1. For whatever reason, MakeMKV (on Linux only?) cannot decode the disk properly (as maybe it can on Windows).
  2. MakeMKV cannot fully decode the disk regardless of OS.
  3. There's nothing to decode—that's how disks are normally and it requires a special internet-downloadable key to decipher, which most Blu-ray discs have.

It is not clear from the above which case this is. If the first, then running it on a Windows machine should work just fine.

However, this is likely not the case.

Rather, it's the second or third case and therefore the only thing to be done is to dig through the titles checking the information for each one, then choose whichever is closets to what shows up for this Blu-ray in VLC. A tedious and richly unrewarding prospect.

VLC can decode most Blu-ray discs and it finds the proper title (sometimes, the exact title even), make sure it's playing in the proper order, and then you can check the total run length and other such information (each Blu-ray/DVD contains different amounts of data you can check against) and try to sniff out manually the correct title.

That this problem is quite rare, though. In all the time my nephew's ripped DVDs and Blu-rays (6 years at this writing), only 4 or 5 have exhibited this problem and they were almost always Disney titles.

Last, the fact that MakeMKV listed the titles and, by the looks of it, already ripped 7 of them properly by the time this exercise was terminated, demonstrates that MakeMKV is working properly on my Linux host.

Ultimately, from my Linux Mint (Ubuntu) desktop, I can...

  1. watch movies on DVD,
  2. not watch movies on Blu-ray,
  3. transcode movies from Blu-ray or DVD using MakeMKV,
  4. retranscode movies to smaller sizes, high-quality, with subtitles using HandBrake.

...and this is precisely what I do.

1 Admiral Greer, The Hunt for Red October.


Computer specifications

Let's remind ourselves of what sort of host we're trying to do this on.

Intel(R) Core™ i5 CPU 750 @ 2.67GHz
L3 cache: 8Mb
L2 cache: 256Kb
L1 cache: 32Kb
Intel DP55WB Mobo
System memory: 8Gb
System disk: 1 Tb
Linux Mint 13 LTS (Ubuntu Precise Pangolin 12.04 LTS)


Relevant links as we go forward.

At this point, please continue by reading MakeMKV on Linux.