Today's experiments were on DVD to DivX with (English) subtitles encoded into the video.
GMencoder looked promising, but the subtitles part was greyed out - maybe some dependency not fulfilled.
transcode was simply too much work for my click-happy self.
dvd::ripper failed some Perl module dependency - Locale::TextDomain
So, finally went back to Windows. Poking around in Videohelp.com came across this nice tool based on VirtualDubMod, I believe, FairUse Wizard. The resolutions it chooses etc are quite nifty. Free version limited to 700 MB files, but can have batches and can choose individual titles or parts of them... On the whole I'm happy.