Jewish World Review June 19, 2003 / 19 Sivan, 5763

Can't open Zip files; RealPlayer won't play .avi files; step-by-step process to "burn" digital images | (KRT) Q. Why can't I open Zip files on my computer? Do I need a special program? I am using Windows Millennium. Thanks for any help.

A. Zip is a compression technique that uses mathematical tricks to duplicate all of the data in a file while using just a fraction of the space it consumes when displayed for actual human consumption. So lots of people use the technique to squeeze down files before sending them as e-mail attachments, thus causing a great deal of confusion because those at the other end need their own Zip program to unzip them into useable form.

Zip was created in a Milwaukee suburb years ago by the late Phil Katz, so I am partial to going to the site he founded ( and downloading PKZip for Windows, software that costs $29.95. But in candor I must tell you that if you're only going to open those recent Zip files, you can do it for no cost by going to the competing, which offers an evaluation copy of the WinZip software that will show you the ins and outs of this tool and take care of your modest needs.

If you decide to use it regularly, you can buy a copy of WinZip for $29. A pre-release or Beta version of the new WinZip 9.0 software just was released, and I was impressed with its new encryption/compression features that can be used not only to squeeze e-mail and attachments by up to 90 percent, but also to cloak them with security powers equivalent to those used by the CIA and the Pentagon.

Q. I have downloaded a video file in the format of an .avi file and when I use RealPlayer to open it I get a message saying "suitable decompressor not available." It won't open with Microsoft Windows Media Player either. Can you offer a suggestion on how to open this file? I have Windows XP Pro.

A. Sometimes video files get corrupted when moving from computer to computer over the Internet and just won't run ever again. That may be your problem.

But there is a subset of .avi video created in an open-source format called DivX that usually fails to open in either the Microsoft Media Player or the RealPlayer. These files require a special movie-display program to run, and if you care to explore this, a whole new world of Internet movie watching and filmmaking will open to you.

Check out and you will find a large collection of wannabe moviemakers and movie sellers who offer DivX files in a highly compressed version of the MPEG 4 format used by corporate outfits like Microsoft and Real Networks. The DivX site is anchored by DivX Networks (, and it has become a hot spot for participants in the always-evolving Web computer movie scene.

There you will find a download for the basic DivX movie player that probably will play your file. If so, I think you will be amazed at the quality of the pictures. Because of the powerful DivX compression technique, which is called a codec, these files can be relatively small and yet contain high-resolution movies that play in full digital grandeur on a PC or Mac monitor.

Q. I read your column about taking digital photos on your recent vacation, and I noted that you talked about how you burned each day's picture files onto a CD each evening, but you didn't elaborate.

I have been worried about a solid repeatable archiving procedure for digital for sometime, with no solution. So I need a reliable procedure with documentation that leads the user through a step-by-step process to archive digital images. Is there a book, article, Web site or a "Coates" solution to which I might refer?

A. The best way to get guided step-by-step through the process of burning a collection of photo files onto a blank CD-ROM is your own computer, Mr. S.

It's this simple: Slip a blank CD into your machine running Windows XP, and something pretty unusual happens. The operating system recognizes you have inserted a blank disc and pops up with a menu of choices to show you the ways to use it.

At the top of the list is a command to make the CD drive a writeable disc just as your floppy drive is a writeable disk. You just click on the My Computer icon on the desktop and a window pops up, just as one does with the familiar floppy disk. If your photos are in the default My Pictures directory, simply click the My Documents icon then use the mouse button to highlight the My Pictures folder.

With the mouse button still pressed down, drag the folder holding the pictures to the CD window. The computer will prepare the CD to receive those My Pictures files in a matter of seconds. Drag and drop other folders as desired.

When you are ready to finish your CD, click on the command in the upper-left corner of the window that says "write these files to CD." This summons the Windows wizard software designed to walk you through the burning. The first wizard window lets you type in a name for the disc. I use dates the photos were made or the subject.

The software checks to make certain there is enough space on the blank CD (usually 702 megabytes) to hold the files you have dragged aboard. It then burns your CD. The finished CD gets ejected automatically.

You don't need a "book, article, Web site or a `Coates' solution," you just need a blank disc to stick into the machine.

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James Coates is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune. Let us know what you think of rthis column by clicking here.


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