From the Kenosha News on 3-2-08

Free software can help to play DVDs on a computer

      If you have a DVD drive on your desktop or laptop computer, you should be able to play and watch DVD movies on that computer.  In the best of all worlds, you put in the DVD and soon a window opens and plays your movie.  However, this can be less than reliable.  When I put a DVD into my laptop recently, absolutely nothing happened.  Even double-clicking on the DVD in "My Computer" didn’t launch anything. 

      If you have problems playing DVDs on your computer, it's more than likely a software problem.  One way around these issues is to download and install a free piece of software called VLC Media Player.  To do so:

  1. Connect to the internet and point your web browser to videolan.org/vlc
  2. From the Download VLC list, select the appropriate operating system – probably Windows but possibly MacOS or even Linux.
  3. On the Latest Packages list, locate the closest site – probably University of Wisconsin-Madison with the little US Flag next to it.  Click the Download link to its right.
  4. Click the Run button (or click Save to save the installer, then double-click the installer from the location where you save it.)  Wait while the installer runs.  If warned that they can't recognize the publisher, click Run to override.
  5. Select the appropriate language and press Enter
  6. Click Next
  7. Click I Agree to accept the terms and conditions
  8. On the Choose Components screen, you can take the default options, BUT you may not want to.  For example, I know that I don’t want this software to play my audio files be default, so I expanded the "file associations" item and unchecked "audio files."  I left the other items as they were.
  9. Leave the destination folder as the default and click Install.  Wait while files are copied and expanded.
  10. If you want to launch the program right after install, leave the box checked labeled "Run VideoLan VLC".  If not, uncheck it.  Click Finish.

      Now when I put in a DVD, I get a dialog box that prompts me what to do with the DVD.  I select "Play movie using VideoLan VLC media player" and click OK.  A window opens and I get the opening menu for my DVD or it begins to play.

      Some advantages of this player are:  A) It's free, B) It can run on a Mac, PC, or various versions of Linux and other operating systems, C) It is friendlier and more tolerant of DVDs that are home-made or encoded for other countries.  The disadvantage is that there isn’t a 1-800 number to call if you need help and the menus to get the program can be a little daunting for novices.

      Thanks to a work colleague – Matt – and an article by "Tech Mechanic" Rob Pegoraro for telling me about this software.

By Carol Sabbar from the Kenosha News on 3-2-08