I found a way to add meta information to .mp4/.m4v [h.264] files, so it is now my mission to comb through the entire collection and add in covers, ratings, dates, chapter names [for my rips (other people's rips seem to be missing chapters)] and other miscellany. All thanks to Jay's insight, spurred by his desire to see such information on his AppleTV.
Who knew? Apple did something good.
Thankfully this issue has come up when the collection is still moderately small so I don't anticipate any large difficulty in accomplishing the task. I just have to find a place to squeeze it into my life. Sadly, Windows Media Center doesn't know how to read .mp4 meta information, but perhaps they will add this capability in a future release.
And while I am talking... but on an unrelated subject... I know I can tether my phone to my (Art's) laptop and have internet access on the laptop. However, I can't figure out how to do it. I always get stuck on the window where the laptop asks for a pin for the phone or the phone asks for a pin for the laptop. Neither has one. Neither appears to have any means by which I could set one. It is all very confusing. Also, online guides to accomplishing this task are too matter-of-fact and vague to be helpful.
"so what you do is, you turn on the bluetooth on your phone and then you turn on the bluetooth on your laptop and then you surf the web."