Mossberg’s Mailbox

Converting Videos To Play on an iPod

Published on February 23, 2006
by Walt Mossberg

There’s no other major item most of us own that is as confusing, unpredictable and unreliable as our personal computers. Everybody has questions about them, and we aim to help.

Here are a few questions about computers I’ve received recently from people like you, and my answers. I have edited and restated the questions a bit, for readability. This week my mailbox contained questions about converting videos to play on a video iPod, opening multiple Web sites with a single click and power adaptors for using a laptop overseas.

If you have a question, send it to me at, and I may select it to be answered here in Mossberg’s Mailbox.

Q: Can I convert my home videos so they will play on a video iPod? If so, how?

Probably, though it depends on whether they are in one of the formats that can be easily converted, and it can be hard to tell in advance. You’ll need conversion software to do it. One option, for both Windows and Mac users, is to spend $30 to upgrade Apple’s free QuickTime media player to the pro version, which can convert numerous video file types to an iPod-compatible format.

Another option is to download one of many free conversion utilities that appeared on the Web after the video-capable iPod was released. For Windows users, there are numerous choices. One example is Free iPod Video Converter, at If you use a Mac, one such program is iSquint, at I haven’t tested either.

I like to visit about 50 news sites every morning but don’t want an RSS feed only. I like to see the entire site. Is there a way to open all of them at the same time, without having to click on each bookmark one by one?

Certainly. All you need to do is switch to a tabbed Web browser, like Firefox or Opera for Windows or Mac; or Safari or Camino, for the Mac only. These browsers can open multiple Web sites, in the same window, marking each site with a tab bearing its name. And they allow users to open these multiple sites with a single click. Though each differs slightly, all have a command — usually called “Open in Tabs” — that will open a list or folder full of bookmarks with one click. For instance, every morning I open about 20 technology-related Web sites in Firefox or Safari with one click.

I would like to purchase a laptop computer in the U.S. but use it for extended periods in Europe. Is there anything I have to modify because of the difference in the electrical power supply?

Most laptops I have tested in recent years have power adaptors that can handle both U.S. and European electrical standards. Just make sure the one you choose is similarly equipped. The only thing you’d have to buy is a cheap plug adapter — not a transformer — to physically fit the plug into the sockets used in the European countries where the laptop will be used.

Write to Walter S. Mossberg at

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