For some bizarre reason, you've probably never used Handbrake, arguably the world's best video transcoder. Maybe you're too young to have ever used a DVD ("Grandpa, tell me about the time when Netflix sent those DVD things via that thing called 'the mail'"). But more likely you just didn't know that there was a free, open-source tool that you could use to rip your DVDs to your computer, your Android device or whatever you happen to own.

Now, you do. You can thank me later.

Don't worry about being late to the party. You're not alone. I'm always surprised by how few mainstream computer users have heard of Handbrake.

But if you've missed up until now, you're in luck: it just got even better. Handbrake just shipped version 0.9.9 of powerful video conversion tool. While 0.9.9 comes with a slew of new features, including improved conversion presets and better audio remixing support, anyone who remembers earlier versions of Handbrake will be most impressed by one thing: blistering speed.

I've been using Handbrake for years, and while I've long appreciated its simplicity and the sheer usefulness of being able to rip a DVD to my hard drive, Handbrake used to be somewhat slow. To help speed it up, I'd generally shut down all other applications and devote my CPU to Handbrake's transcoding.

Not anymore. Today to test it I ripped Napoleon Dynamite (a movie roughly an hour and a half in duration) to my hard drive of my MacBook Air. It took less than 15 minutes to rip a movie that previous versions would have taken an hour or more to convert.

Not that Handbrake is truly a DVD/Blu-ray ripping tool. It's not, as its developers are quick to point out. It doesn't strip out copy protections that the movie studios might include on a DVD or Blu-ray disc. That said, I think I've only ever had one DVD that Handbrake couldn't handle.

Instead, Handbrake is a super-easy video conversion tool. Have a video in MPEG-2 format and want to optimize it for your iPad or Android phone? Handbrake is your tool. In fact, you can feed it just about any video format and it will transcode it into a modern format perfect for your Android or iOS device, or to play on any number of other devices.

In the olden days, I'd use Handbrake to rip DVDs (sorry, I can't think of a better word) to my hard drive so as to save battery life and luggage space while traveling. Today, given that you may not actually ever own any physical media, but instead download movie files, Handbrake is still your best friend, helping to convert these files and optimize them for different devices.

If you've never used it, download it now and give it a try. It's 100% awesome, and yet 100% free. Enjoy.