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Saturday, December 02, 2006

Invaders Flag

From the flickr stream of we make money not art on their coverage of Next2006.

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Spam Poetry And Other Things

Currently my project list consists of three things: 1) Figure out if there is any way to make an entertaining game within iTunes. 2) Continue the Carter style framework to see if there's any way to make an entertaining game with that.

and 3) Spam Poetry. As many a geek already knows, to avoid filters spams will utilize random phrases and snippets of text to try and make it seem like they were having a normal conversation. This would be a bit like trying to pass a lie detector test by faking schizophrenia. Interestingly, it even works sometimes.

Now spam poetry isn't exactly new. If you google it you'll find a few examples out there on the net. My take on it is that spam is poetic - it just needs editing. Lots and lots and lots of editing. And new words and phrases to tie it together. Most people rely on spam to be interesting by being completely nonsensical. I think it could be interesting by trying to string together something sensical from the nonsense.

Here's three haiku's as an example:

Exclude Minus Haiku
meta word unique
so narrow your search's field
century not old

Male Enhancement Haiku
to love her like war
but soon had she departed
leaving him standing

Existential Diane Haiku
two days life went on
for Diane that she might see
she never happened

Damn good thing I have a dayjob since all three of my projects have about zero chance of ever being anything resembling profitable. Did you know virtually no poet out there makes a living off their poetry?

So I guess fourth thing on the list is - keep a dayjob...

The Brother On Veronica Mars

I put this into the sidebar, but I'm not exactly going to be writing much on my own today, so I thought I would shout out to The Brother's take on Veronica Mars, Season Three. Basically he's saying it better than I could. I'm sure The Girl and I will keep up with Veronica until season's end - but I can't deny that we're wishing for the magic that was Season One back. I think Season Three's getting progressively better - but that's sadly not saying much right now.

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Friday, December 01, 2006

For Sunday: Return Of Burger King

More mini red satan for the weekend.

MPAA Would Like To Con You

Congress is passing on a bill to protect citizens from being "pre-texted" - that being the technique used by con men, HP board investigations and Veronica Mars to fool people into think they're talking to someone else in the hopes of gaining private information.


Legislature records confirm that the MPAA's paid lobbyists worked on the measure. An aide to Bowen, who was forced out of the legislature by term limits and was elected Secretary of State, said the MPAA made its displeasure with the bill clear to lawmakers.

"The MPAA told some members the bill would interfere with piracy investigations," the aide said. The association "doesn't want to hamstring investigators."
-- MPAA Kills Anti-Pretexting Bill

Way to do the people's work. So when someone calls your ISP as you - but it's not you ... the MPAA would like to keep doing that, essentially.

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Windows Vista Ad Emerges

First "official" ad is out, I guess. New Launches has the YouTube version, as I'm sure a few other people have. It reminds me of an iPod ad without decent dancers, interesting special effects or, well, iPods. It mentions "better security" about four times - I'm guessing they want us to believe it will have better security. The ad mostly seems to cater to IT professionals caught by some mysterious backbeat.

There is an interesting flash of a 360 controller. I was playing Hollow Ground for the Mac briefly and the only thing that drags the game down is the keyboard controls. Course, I'm not convinced that Microsoft is actually going to put Vista ahead of it's 360 interests at this point.

Wonder how hard it would be to recognize the PS3 controller via Bluetooth...

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The PS3 Grill

"When the final case design of the Playstation 3 was released, it was widely critsised as looking exactly like a George Foreman Grill ... we decided this would be a great project and challenge to actually build the Real PS3 Grill."
-- MAKE: PS3 Grill

No, Kotaku, this isn't based on the PS3 PSU alone. So stop typing. Check out for more.

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Thursday, November 30, 2006


Some nasty bug has sprung out from the holidays and bitten me on the head. I won't go into a symptom list - but if I were to post anything today it would read "chicken soup, chicken soup, chicken soup."

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Note To Slamdance [Updated]

Funny. Hours (if that) after I knock Slamdance for not posting the finalist ... it posts the finalists. One work of IF, Book and Volume made it (Carter did not). My only disappointment there is that it's a straight up Infocom style adventure game. I wasn't happy with how Carter turned out - it was short, lacked compelling play and was dull on replays - but I was hoping there'd be something more innovative represented.

Course, as you can read below - I don't even know if they got the application.

Super Columbine Massacre RPG made it's way into the final - a fact which Danny should thank Patrick for coaxing him into submitting. And I'm glad he did - it looks to be easily the most edgy thing on the list.

All Independent and Student Gamemakers are invited to submit their original games before October 6, 2006. In November, the finalists will be announced on Slamdance's website. The finalists will be invited to the 2007 Slamdance Guerilla Gamemaker Competition in Park City to showcase their games to the public and meet other independent designers and industry professionals.
-- The 2007 Slamdance Guerilla Gamemaker Competition Call for Entries

It's now November 29th. Tomorrow is the last day to make your own deadline ... and it's rude to miss your own deadline when you've placed one on others.

Honestly, I've been pretty disappointed by the way Slamdance has handled the Gamemaker competition. No online forms for registration. You had to have three hard copies of your game - which in my instance was kinda idiotic since Randolph Carter weighs in at less than a meg. When I tried to ask them if they really needed three CD's for interactive fiction - I never got a response. In fact, I've never gotten any communication from them - even to insure that my application was accepted. For all I know, it's sitting in some dead letter office in San Jose right now. I would email them for insurance that they at least have it - but right now I don't have any confidence that someone is minding the phone, so to speak.

Kinda sad for a competition with a $45 entry fee.

OK - so now I've gotten word from Slamdance that not only was Carter received, but also some constructive feedback on it as well. Which I have to say - more than I've really gotten from most any contest - including Make Something Unreal ... which I actually did make some wins in.

Oh well. I should really just re-title this "the most use of strikethrough ever on Cathode Tan". Slamdance's critique was:

The interface is novel and fun, but we would have liked to have more options
as to which path we could choose. We would also like to see a greater
connection between a player¹s actions and the ensuing consequences.

Which I would have to completely agree with. And with that ... I shall return to my chicken soup.

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TV Watch: What Did Lost Do To Television?

Lost's gift to TV was to return "high concept" shows to the mainstream. Idea shows like The Prisoner or heavy plot shows like The Fugitive were suddenly back on the table. You could have large casts with complex backgrounds and toy with the interactions between them. You could put polar bears on a tropical island.

So what the hell happened? Why have shows gotten so ... dumb?

Seriously, Heroes is quite lovable but you just can't be allowed to think about it for very long. How did Hiro go back six months and seduce Diner Girl ... and then not be remembered by her months later? Did she acknowledge that at all and I just missed it? She still had the Japanese phrase book - so they must have met. And how does Flying Politician go from being Flying Lawyer who will take down his father's mob tie to nearly completing a successful political campaign financed by father's mob tie in just six months?

And our girl Veronica - who wiffed on figuring out a suspect in an ATM photo ... her show has had a fair share of Olympic plot holes. Like who was really slipping mickeys (because the plot would seem to indicate both which defies the explanation) and how did Mercer slip out of his radio show so well? When did Mac get back anyway and how can we get to stop leaving?

Or take House. A detective is allowed - on the basis of a questionably legal search of someone's home that uncovered a stash of prescription drugs the size of a small garbage sack - to essentially shut down a critical oncology practice and target key physicians for similar treatment ... leading to hospital wide panic. All because ... that's his job? First thing Cuddy needs to do is fire the law firm of Shyster, Shylock and Shyster and get real legal representation.

How did this happen? Television is supposed to be getting smarter and acknowledging our smartness in return? On the bright side - every episode of Veronica is better than the last (though still pales to Season One) and they just got the greenlight for a full season ... so maybe as The Brother put it ... they can stop worrying and write a decent show. House is ... well, it's House. Trigger is just the necessary foil to keep the show from being a monster of the week marathon. And I'm guessing Heroes will decry a "it's like a comic book" sensibility to explain away why it ...doesn't make sense.

So no - not every show needs to have elaborate plots. Lost doesn't even seem capable of actually maintaining elaborate plots - it just strings clues in the disguise of a mystery. The bright points are, oddly, my Friday night sci fi shows. Doctor Who maintains a certain absurdist principal, sure, but it does it with a kind of vigor that begs to be taken seriously (and makes me rather excited to see Torchwood, I might add). And Battlestar is fairly hardcore emotional drama that pretty carefully dots the i's and crosses the t's to make their points.

Maybe Lost will redeem itself when it returns. Before then, we'll get Jack Bauer saving the world in what will undoubtably be an increasingly implausible manner from the last time.

Also, The Boondocks - quite possibly the smartest animated comedy on the planet - returns next March. The first season is on DVD and I highly recommend.


Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Scientists Agree - Games Excite Children

After playing the games, the children completed tasks requiring concentration and processing of emotional stimuli while their brain activity was scanned. Alterations in brainfunction reflecting changes in blood flow appeared as brightly colored areas on the magnetic resonance images.

"What we showed is there is an increase in emotional arousal. The fight or flight response is activated after playing a violent video game," Mathews said.
-- Violent video game effects linger in brain [Yahoo News]

All I can say is this:

I want these scientists to do these exact same test on football fans after a victory. Pro or college, dealer's choice.

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PSP Chess

Via whatmeworry101's photostream

tagged: , recounts tales of woe from Wii users who have damaged windows, laptops and of course - high end televisions - by flinging their wiimotes into the air. Is this a serious design issue? Well, there's more video footage than that whole "UMD ejection" fear ... but of course that was bogus out of the gate. Broken appliances and sore shoulders? Maybe we now know why the joystick was designed the way it was in the first place...

Via VG Cats.

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Mac Gaming Malaise

I don't get to use "malaise" often. And it's such a fine word. Malaise.

TUAW points to a MacWorld article on gaming which examines Mac gaming in a post next-gen console world.

It goes along predictable lines. Mac gaming feels like an oxymoron, but - as I've said before - there's real potential to be had in simple, more casual, games that don't require upgradeable graphics cards. My problem with gaming on the Mac is - I'm not sure Apple is taking it seriously. Moves like snubbing Mac game developers on iPod game development and shifting the low end Macs to shabby integrated graphics cards just makes a guy like me shake his head.

I want great games on the Mac, for the Mac, by Mac users. I'm just not sure Apple does. I mean, I'm toying with making a game in iTunes ... and iTunes doesn't even support key up. I want it and I think other people do as well ... but Apple has to be a leader here. And they simply aren't.

There are, of course, some bright points in the Mac game development sky. I'll be trying to highlight some I've found in an upcoming post.

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PlayStation 3 Wishlist

Reading from Wired's review of the PlayStation 3 which notes its "lack of punch" and rounding up the opinions I've seen from other reports - here's a list of things it seems it could use before being able to meet the success of the earlier models:

Universal Friends List
These days, it's just so much better to play games with the same group of chums rather than the random griefer on the street. Get your posse and keep them gaming. Sony should be making this social networking as easy as possible. The Wii and Nintendo DS could learn a few things on this as well.

Background Downloading
There's no reason why you shouldn't be able to play a little Resistance while waiting for that download to finish.

Better PSP Integration
Sony's missing a real opportunity to treat the PSP as a true satellite product. Look at Apple and the iPod. The PSP is a media machine. The PS3 is a media machine. The PS3 should be the PSP's bigass remote storage bay and the PSP should browse PS3 contents and capabilities without worrying about what the PS3 itself is doing. Not a remote display - a remote browser.

Next-Generation Title
It won't be Killzone. Sony needs something other than a Halo killer ... they need something which makes people think differently about gaming in general. An excellent co-op title or something as novel as Katamari. Perhaps a title which emphasizes using the PSP for gameplay or takes full advantage of the storage capacity of the Blu Ray. Think about how PS1 titles ushered in a shift by having serious cinematics and times it by a thousand and ... oh wait, sorry, that's Meet Joe Black.

More Media Downloads
Apple has movies and shows. Microsoft has shows. Sony has Talledega Nights. You're Sony. Show us some studio love.

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Why The NaNoWriMo Hate?

I stumbled on this while googling articles on wuxia, of all things:

The thing that made McCloud's challenge interesting is that it stemmed exactly from a deep and abiding love of the medium and a desire to see more work in it. As for National Novel Writing Month, they seem to care more about making you feel good than about anything having remotely to do with storytelling. And you'll excuse me if I find that just a little depressing.
-- Why I Hate National Novel Writing Month, and Why You Should Too [Wet Asphalt]

Regulars should know already that NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. It's a challenge to people to try and write a 50,000 word novel in one month. Some people apparently get offended by this. Eric is one of those people.

Later on, after some bashing on being elitist, he rephrases his statement as "NaNoWriMo trivializes novel writing" and later "'Trying your hand' at writing fiction and writing a whole novel (in a month, no less) are not quite the same thing. I stand by what I've already said."

What's sad about this anti-NaNoism is how completely ignorant it really is of NaNo and the people who participate in it. Guys like Eric (and I ranted about another similar one on the Sunset blog) just hear about the contest and read the FAQ and dismiss it as belittling the art form. They are almost universally English geeks of some variety and generally lit snobs at that.

Thing is - Eric's "clarifications" on his points make it so obvious that he himself misses the point of NaNoWriMo almost completely. There's little comparison to NaNo and say - actually writing a novel. NaNoers are generally quite aware of this. If Eric would just dig a little deeper into the FAQ, he'd see:

How do you define "novel?" Does fan fiction count? What if I want to write interconnected short stories rather than a novel? What if my story is largely autobiographical, or is based on a real person? Can I still write it in November?
We define a novel as "a lengthy work of fiction." Beyond that, we let you decide whether what you're writing falls under the heading of "novel." In short: If you believe you're writing a novel, we believe you're writing a novel too.

In other words - NaNo defines "novel" as "that thing you're trying to write." A lot of people engage in lengthy works of fan fiction. Some are trying first drafts. And yes, some are trying to actually get a novel done. The construct of "writing a novel" in NaNo terms isn't supposed to be a microcosmic version of professional novel writing - it's just a way of encaspulating one month of writing in a generic way. You want to write a "novel" of poetry? Go at it.

So to clarify for guys like Eric - they could have called it National Write 50,000 Words Month ... but it just doesn't sell as well. However, nobody is threatening your cherished notion of a novel or it's lofty place as a literary form. They're just trying to get people to have an excuse to write.

Simply put - anything that gets a large group of people writing anything is a good thing. Especially in this day and age of e-mails and instant messaging ... writing is getting to be taken for granted. The best advice I've ever gotten from both of the best writing teachers I've ever known is ... just write. Writing is an exercise and if you don't keep up a regiment ... you'll loose it. If NaNoWriMo is that month long fitness exercise non-writers need to keep their pen muscles in shape ... all power to it.


Monday, November 27, 2006

Game Boy = Military Grade Hardware

This Game Boy was damaged during the Gulf War. Despite the carnage laid to it - it still works. Now that's craftsmanship. Via Plaid Ninja's photostream

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Use Keyboard And Mouse On A 360

Apparently someone finally figured out how to get a keyboard and mouse on the 360. The device from modders XCM includes ports for PS/2 and USB devices as well as a PS2 port ... for some reason.

I don't know why Microsoft continues to make this difficult on people. Sony is going the complete opposite way and will try and make bluetooth devices as compatible with the PS3 as possible. Both the Wii and PS3 acknowledge that the console is good for downloading things other than just games, demos and movies - they're equipping their users with a web browser and everything ... and a Wii keyboard wouldn't surprise me one bit.

It's grand and all that Microsoft doesn't want to appear to be cutting into the PC gaming market. Course, if they were serious about that - they'd get better games on the PC. Gears of War for the PC? I wouldn't hold my breath.

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Zune Hates Firefox

Anyway, as I said, I have an up to date box but the Zune software refused to install. Guess why? Because I tried to download it using Firefox, my browser of choice. Luckily for me an iTWire reader had the same problem. So Microsoft wants to alienate about 13% of browser users - actually about 40% in Germany and more than 20% in Australia - who use Firefox and force them to use IE 7 just so they can download the Zune software.
-- Why consumers are angry with Microsoft over Zune

Yeesh. That's just bad form. A good example of Microsoft using its own monopoly to hurt itself and consumers. Apparently the hardware requirements are oddly high as well. Does Microsoft want people to use this player or not?

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Amazon's $100 360's Slammed

I got a friend to try and get in on one of those Amazonian $100 360 deals. His luck turned out to be exemplary of the process. He got in early - refreshed a few times ... and then got nothing but server errors until the 360's were all sold out. A few other reports from the gamesphere claimed similar problems. Boo to Amazon to not being able to support the deal properly. If you're going to offer something which is clearly designed to maximize the number of users rushing to your site at the same time - grab a couple extra servers ... you're gonna need 'em.

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The Big Questions

Gaming is rolling into new turf now - we've got the Wii, 360 and PlayStation 3 all out and running. Each of them pose some interesting questions for their specific manufacturers, gamers and the future of gaming. And it's odd - I know nobody personally who actually started to join this generation yet. Perhaps post holidays, I or The Brother may be a Wii owner. Or maybe we just get my Dad one and let him be a guinea pig. It's odd - most of my friends are young, affluent and tech-savvy ... several dinks with plenty of disposable income. Most own at least one "current gen" console or will at least play if you shove a controller in their hand. But for the most part, they're unconcerned with Blu-Ray and some didn't even get the memo that Nintendo was mounting a "revolution". A few have shown interest in getting a new console - but other worries like HDTV's, impending babies and paving driveways take precedent.

So I'm definately in trouble of becoming a complete armchair commentator here. Play Gears Of War? I don't have a 360, HDTV or anyone I know to play with Xbox Live. About three degrees of seperation from the current frontline of the next generation.

But I like my armchair. It's warm and comfy. So here's a bit of pondering to go with your Monday coffee.

Will the Wii be a revolution or a novelty?
Most people would brush this off as near buffonry ... only non-gamers would question the Wii right now. Right? The mainstream media has been hugging the Wii like a big stuffed bunny. It's the fan friendly alternative to a launch - meaning a launch unlike Sony's and Microsoft's where fans actually get to buy the product instead of be part of some media hype about they're so hard to get.

Who wouldn't love the Wii? It's just too darn cute to hate, right?

Except that reports from people who have bought the thing have just been bizarre. A small fraction of people have ruined their televisions by flinging the wiimote into them. People are finding that - even though I'm pretty certain you don't have to play the Wii this way - they are getting quite the workout. And not everyone powers up that game to get a workout - I played Marvel Alliance for much of yesterday basically because I was too tired to move. Would I want to play the same game using hand motions to activate the powers that I can currently do with two buttons?

The DS is clearly a triumph of Nintendo design. Right now the Wii, though, is getting headlines because of being so different than anything else. Will the Wii survive after it's honeymoon period has worn off?

Will the real PlayStation 3 please stand up?
The only person I've been able actually hear talk about the PS3 firsthand was one of the guys around the office who declared, "It's not worth the $600" and "pretty much looks like the 360" and "of the four games I got, one was good." That game, of course, was Resistance, which he called, "a pretty fun shooter." The PS3's lack of true next-gen appeal isn't going to escape the notice of eagle-eyed early adopters. While the aftermarket crowd has been cashing in hand over fist (despite some blogs declaring it's ... ahem ... tanked) ... the people who really want to actually play the thing are beginning to wonder what all the fuss was about.

The PS3 is the polar opposite of the Wii. Luke warm media reception (except the gameblogs which outright hate it) with a high cost ... it's not the best guidepost for success. Worse - as I've been saying for months now - Sony is doing nothing to smooth over the situation. They refuse to talk details about the console to trumpet any kind of feature set that Microsoft and Nintendo don't already have an answer. On the flip side - Sony's MSRP gives them an instant talking point ... cost ... that Sony can't beat.

Resistance may be a great game ... but it's clearly no Halo. It's not going to be the game that launches 1 million PS3's. Sony will have to carry that water themselves ... and they better start hauling.

Can The 360 Keep Pace?
Microsoft's biggest concern must be that when the field was clear ... the 360 still didn't sell that great. Not that it sold terribly, but the launch lacked that glean of success the original Xbox carried. Microsoft won't admit this publically, of course, and they even have fudged numbers to back themselve up. Fact remains - the PlayStation 2 continued to rock the 360's world pretty much since the day it launched. Despite their MTV style launch specials and game blog hugging ways ... the 360 isn't taking the world by storm.

Now that they aren't the only toy in the next-gen toychest ... will they sell the numbers they want to reduce the bleeding dollars Microsoft saw with the first Xbox? Microsoft lost loads of cash on the original release - a fact that they can write off as both a tax relief and marketshare investment. If the 360 doesn't improve those margins ... what will that mean for the Xbox III 720++? (or whatever they call it ... Xbox Vista? who knows).

A rumor was floated around the Microsoft might go beyond simply revamping the 360 into a cooler, smaller and cheaper version of it's current self (with probably more hard drive options to boot). A more powerful 360 II might be in the works at the same price point instead. I scoffed at the notion then and I scoff at it now ... but if the Wii and PS3 eat into the 360's lackluster sales ... I might start thinking otherwise.

Where will we high def from here?
High Definition continues to be a scary sea of components and standards ... and let's face - the HDTV proponents aren't helping. Sony released the PS3 with some 1080i unfriendliness. Microsoft had issues with their 1080P upscaling. Most consumers don't know what HDMI is and I'm willing to bet that several aren't aware of the current format war.

Eventually, high definition will take hold. The industry won't let it go any other way. It's proving to a long and bump road, however, and it's hard to underscore how central this is for the next generation living room. Largely - next gen is high def. Even Nintendo shows the Wii off with fancy widescreen TV's ... and it's merely a child of "EDTV" design. Sony might be stumbling with PS3 details ... but until HDTV becomes common - that can probably ride on PS2 sales for a while.

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Sunday, November 26, 2006

Did Console Kill The PC Gaming Star? (TAKE 302)

The future does not look good either: Gabe Newell declared once that he does not find in Vista anything that might help him in any way possible. Coming from a guy like him, that’s just awful. But what is Windows Vista doing for gamers is really not that spectacular: an automated detection system that chooses the right settings for a game, based on the installed hardware; improved parental control, for games rated “M”; the possibility to access games from a separate menu (now that’s just like a useless appendix…); the possibility to search for upgrades automatically (no thanks, games have that too…); Direct X 10 (yeah, I’ll need to buy a new graphics card to have Aero work…). And only a single famous title that will fully use Vista’s capabilities for 64-bit computing and its DX 10 feature: Crysis, produced by Crytek. Of course, to be able to play it you’ll need to totally renew your PC, which might just make you think a PS3 or an Xbox 360 or even a Wii is not that bad…
- Analysis: Did Consoles Kill the PC as a Gaming Platform? [Playfuls]

The article makes many of the same points as before - piracy and hardware complications make the PC less and less desirable for developers who are getting increasingly better development tools and more mature consumers from consoles. Course, I've been up like 40 hours out of the last two days - so maybe it doesn't.

"Kill" is of course the problematic term here. "Greatly diminish" just doesn't sound the same in headline, though. The PlayStation 3 is more of a wildcard than ever before as well - with Linux support out of the box and broad compatibility with Bluetooth keyboards and mice in the pipeline as well (some devices may already work). As HDTV's bring the living room's viewing resolution to the same graces that PC owners have kept secret in the second bedroom for so long, as the Wii tries to bring you weather and news at the flick of a wrist ... consoles are making inroads in more ways than just cheap ways to get powerful, customized hardware.

Course, PC's still have the World of Warcraft. So there will probably still be sales for some time.

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