The TV was taken up by a show we'll say is shooting for viewers younger than me today, so I took a new DVD I'd received (at Burger King, no less) and popped it into the Vostro 1400. No dice. What does the "Web Help" button tell me?

DVD Playback Options for Windows
If you are running the Windows Vista Home Basic, Windows Vista Business, Windows Vista Enterprise, or Windows XP operating system on your computer, you might need to install a compatible DVD decoder (also known as a MPEG-2 decoder) before continuing with the following activities.

* Playing a DVD
* Playing a recorded TV show
* Playing video files that were encoded with the MPEG-2 codec (.mpeg, .mpg, and some .avi files)

To purchase a compatible DVD decoder, visit Plug-ins for Windows Media Player.

Nice. This nickel and diming drives me crazy. It's my fault for not having downloaded VLC yet, yet isn't this something that someone like Microsoft or someone like Dell should have fixed before the laptop hit my door? I'll assume the random Vista tax system is also why my integrated webcam can't utilize all the compression choices in ye olde DELL [sic] Webcam Center.

In any event, we have three options at the Plug-ins for Windows Media Player, which are just humourous enough to capture here. They are, in brief, two to pay $15 to watch movies or, number three, shell out for a more expensive version of Windows Vista. Sure, Apple had a little egg-on-face when they made some users pay $5 to use 802.11n a while back, but at least their freakin OS allows DVD players to play DVDs. Crazy idea, that. *sigh* Having just ridden on the train for about 20 hours over the last 36 and seeing everyone and their brother watching DVDs on laptops, I can't imagine how aggravated I'd've been if I'd tried to do the same with mine and no way to fix the issue.

Microsoft's "Web Help"/"Merciless Mercantilism" system options for watching DVDs:

1.) $14.99: CinePlayer DVD Decoder for Windows Vista. The description cracks me up. Emphasis mine. The description is what's on the plugins page at Microsoft. Wonder how much it costs to adverti... ur, helpfully suggest someone use your software on this page?

CinePlayer DVD Decoder for Windows Vista enables instant DVD playback within Windows Media Player and delivers cinema-quality performance for your Windows Vista-based computer. The Roxio CinePlayer DVD Decoder is noticeably superior to other DVD decoders and DVD software products, showing full frame rate video with no frame drops — all in amazing clarity and detail.

Noticeably, eh? Yeah, on my 15" screen, I bet so.

2.) $14.95: Cyberlink PowerDVD SE. Not quite as humorous a description, which I'll omit.

3.) Lots: Upgrade your edition of Windows Vista. Nice. Here's the description.

If you want to take Windows Vista to the next level, you can upgrade to either Windows Vista Home Premium or Windows Vista Ultimate. DVD playback capabilities are included along with many other features.

Such "other features" include...

Have more fun on your PC with three new premium games: Chess Titans, Mahjong Titans, and Inkball

Sign me up. For a Linux distribution. Wonder if any support my webcam? Just as importantly, how many Titans versions of games are available?

Well, Microsoft's no marketing genius. There's even the suggestion on a linked page that you "Buy a new PC" if you're considering upgrading Vista. Not exactly the obvious move from being unable to watch DVDs...