visit freshmeat.net and do a search for dvd recording software.
dvdrecord is one of the burning apps used it is a slight rettoling of cdrecord.
transcode is a common dvd ripper and dvd::rip is apparently a nice frontend for it.
there are others. freshmeat.net searching (or even on sourceforge) should give you all sorts of options.
as for a computer science major to install.....well you don't need a computer science major to install anything just a concept of satisfying depends. there are lots of sites, homepages, package managers to handle depends these days.