you are right about conversion! the free ones i've tried don't work, and taking up any issue with handbrake is a bit of a mare. I tried a simple conversion of a DVD to MP4 on handbrake, and it converted just 1 minute of film, then said encoding finished.
I'd be willing to buy conversion software if i knew it would work, but i'm not convinced.
i did try to buy the codecs from archos but i bought this m/c second hand and the previous owner (who i now can't get in touch with) has registered it in his name so although i can create my own account with archos, it won't let me buy anything until i register the archos, and i can't because it's already registered! I've contacted archos about this, but they don't seem to understand.
re vob files - i'm using a W7 laptop to convert.. but if i try to just open the DVD it says there is no program associated with it, and asks me to create an association. I'm not sure which program to associate so i can see the vob files.
i'm thinking it's going to be far simpler just to take my laptop (with dvd drive) away with me!