For Windows, getting home videos to iPod is a task

Ask Jim

Plugged In

March 29, 2007|By Jim Coates | Jim Coates,Chicago Tribune

I just bought my wife a new 30-gigabyte video iPod for her birthday. We have converted all of her CDs using iTunes, and she loves it. We have some old videos of our kids playing in the high school marching band, and we would love to also load them on the iPod. I have converted the videotapes to DVDs using a ConvertX PXM402U hooked up to my Dell Dimension 4700 running InterVideo WinDVD Creator. Do you have any suggestions on software to use to convert these DVDs to use on the iPod?

-- Bob Emberger

You've got a lot of company. The iPod/iTV phenomenon is producing large numbers of people who would like to load and play their homemade videos in the popular machines. For Macintosh owners, this is a no-brainer: Just use the iMovie and iDVD programs built into the Mac OS X operating system. But it's not that simple in the Windows world.

The latest version of that InterVideo software you used to make those DVDs includes a tool that will output to iPods, and just about any other video-editing and video-burning software does the same thing. The trick is to use the Output feature in the software to create a file on your hard drive in the format known as MPEG-4.

Just about all of the Windows video software includes MP4 output, but sometimes finding the way to make it work can be daunting. Another way to do this is to acquire specialty software, such as Videora iPod Converter, which is free (although a donation is requested) from Videora Holdings Inc. Check out

Let me add that the smoothest way for Windows users to work their video iPods is Apple's QuickTime Pro for Windows software, available for $29.95 at as an upgrade to the QuickTime movie viewer that most browser users have acquired to view Web video.

I have a Gateway computer, and every time I power my system up, the hard drive is blinking as if it is going crazy. Is there any way I can see just what the hard drive is doing? I have Windows XP.

-- Clyde L. Downs Sr.

Don't fret yet. Bewildering behavior of hard drive lights usually is caused by the Windows operating system performing all kinds of hard drive maintenance, including writing System Restore files, monitoring disk defragmenting and maintaining a so-called swap file, which is used to work as a virtual hard drive if your system's memory becomes overloaded.

Another possibility is that a program you have installed, such as one of the "desktops" from Google, Yahoo and Microsoft, etc., is indexing the content of the drive. So, these flashing lights often can be ignored.

But because this is bothering you, it will contribute to your peace of mind if you can find out what's going on to make that drive flash repeatedly.

Let's start with the most dire case: There's always a chance that some kind of malware (virus, trojan, worm, etc.) has taken over part of your computer and is causing it to do something such as fire off large numbers of e-mails or perhaps send copies of the virus itself.

So, scan your hard drive, using whatever anti-virus software came with your computer. If you're among the throngs who have let these programs expire, you might reconsider. Or check out the new anti-virus package from Microsoft Corp. called Windows Live OneCare that can be downloaded for a 90-day trial, which will let you do that scan.

Another step is to check for adware and spyware that antivirus programs might overlook. Check out Spybot Search and Destroy at, which is free even as the site's creators urge folks to donate something to keep them going.

You also can get a pretty good picture about what's happening -- or not happening -- using the Task Manager that appears when Windows users type the Control, Alt and Delete keys simultaneously, then click Task Manager.

In the display that summons, open the tab called Processes. Click on the View option in the menu bar at the top of the display and choose Select Columns tool. That brings up a list of check boxes that will let you create real-time reports of hard drive input and output. Check the ones with "I/O" in the name and watch the numbers change as the hard drive flashes to see what process is responsible.

Finally, if you want to dig deep into the possibilities, check out Microsoft's comprehensive tools to detect drive activity at

This is complex stuff designed for IT pros, but if nothing else the discussions there should show that for the most part, these flashing drive lights aren't problems.

askjimcoates@gmail. com

Jim Coates writes for the Chicago Tribune.

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