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Help File: Playing DVDs From Abroad; Strange Downloads in Safari 4

By Rob Pegoraro
Sunday, July 12, 2009

QI've got some DVDs I picked up overseas that don't work in my DVD player. What's my cheapest fix for this problem?

AIf you haven't tried VLC media player, you should now. This open-source program -- a free download at http://videolan.org for Windows, Mac OS X, Linux and other operating systems -- has long been a useful video tool, and last week its developers shipped its 1.0 version.

Among its other features, VLC will attempt to bypass the region codes embedded in most commercial DVDs, which allow them to work only in DVD players and computers sold in the same geographic region. But its success at this task may depend on the computer you use.

In tests with British and German DVDs, VLC played both discs without complaint on two computers out of four, an old Dell desktop and a new Apple Mac mini. On the other machines, it couldn't get past their title screens.

VLC also worked with a Korean disc that was not a regulation DVD. This "miniDVD" would only run on a Windows PC, but on a Mac, VLC played its footage after I selected the disc's "VIDEO_TS" folder.

Even if you don't have a stash of DVDs from overseas, VLC is a handy program to keep around; if nothing else, it can be a good, free substitute for missing or malfunctioning DVD-playback software.

My Mac's copy of Safari 4 kept downloading random "sc.aspx" files last week. What was that about?

Mac users who had installed Citrix remote-access software could have seen this happen at sites running ads placed by ContextWeb, an online ad agency. Jay Sears, a vice president with the New York firm, said Thursday that it had fixed a glitch in its servers; since then, these harmless files have stopped reappearing.

Rob Pegoraro attempts to untangle computing conundrums and errant electronics each week. Send questions to The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071 or robp@washpost.com. Visit http://voices.washingtonpost.com/fasterforward for his Faster Forward blog.

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