Play any video with VLC
Sure, QuickTime is a great system, but it's a bit limited. It doesn't come with every codec, and you have to purchase QuickTime Pro to get the features you really need to work with video. This isn't a big limitation, but it can be a pain if all you want is to play some files.
A friend of mine in the video codec business set me straight. The best all-purpose video playback tool that he could find came from a group of open source programmers in Europe, not from the professional developers working for the codec creators. He was so baffled when he saw how well VLC could handle everything he threw its way that he started calling it the Swiss Army Knife for video. VLC displays almost every video format known on all of the major operating systems and even some long-forgotten favorites like BeOS. I often reach for it instinctively because it knows how to deal with some of the Ogg Vorbis files I have laying around.
My friend went on to offer a theory about VLC that seems entirely plausible to me, although I often wonder whether it could really be true. VLC, he said, was written by people who never went to the industry conferences and meetings. They never made friends with the big players, and they never had tight relationships. The only information they had were the public specs for the standard, so they followed them scrupulously. The arm's-length relationships kept their code free of the kind of assumptions that come when a programmer hears another programmer say, "Ah, we're only using integers. I don't know why floating-point is in the spec." So when the next revision comes along with floating-point numbers, VLC is ready while the codecs from the insiders never bothered to anticipate that possibility.
Maybe he's right. VLC has never given me a reason to doubt him.
Money for nothing
In the great tradition of open source, there's no charge for using any of these packages. Just download and go. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't be sensitive to economic realities. The best open source has a sponsor, and sometimes that sponsor should be you. Some packages like Firefox make their money selling advertising through Google. Others don't have that option -- so give when you can. Most of the packages have donation buttons, and some even make it possible to give to the developer of a plug-in (for instance, ScrapBook for Firefox). That's innovation.
- Apple versus Microsoft: The top 20 stolen ideas of the OS wars
- Top 10 features that Apple stole from Windows
- Top 10 features that Microsoft stole from Mac OS X
- Mac OS X Snow Leopard vs. Windows 7
- The UI challenge: Windows 7 vs Mac OS X
- Mac OS X Snow Leopard: What's new for all users
- Mac OS X Snow Leopard: Perfection, refined
- What's wrong with Mac OS X Snow Leopard
Having trouble installing and setting up Win10? You aren’t alone. Here are many of the most common...
Picking an Android phone can be difficult, but we're here to help. These are the top Android phones you...
Confidence in our power over machines also makes us guilty of hoping to bend reality to our code
FCC head Ajit Pai spins a tale where net neutrality rules ruined the internet, and he's the savior who...
Oracle's coming experimental technology could make some apps start faster, but it could slow other ones...
The world of cloud storage has many facets to consider. Here's a comparison of block, object, and file...
We all have missteps, but there’s no need to repeat the common errors of others when you do your own...