WinInfo Short Takes: Week of November 29

I GAVE APPLE Computer a hard time for its retarded "Mission Impossible" tie-in a couple of summers ago and I still feel the same way about this topic now that Microsoft is basically sponsoring the new James Bond movie, "The World Is Not Enough." (Sounds like the title of the Microsoft antitrust case, doesn't it?) This sort of corporate tie-in is stupid, with villains and heroes alike using Windows CE and Windows 2000 computers to save and/or destroy the world. In an earlier Bond movie ("Goldeneye," I believe), IBM actually showed up with some sponsorship and we were treated to villains using OS/2 Warp, if you can stop laughing long enough to believe that. (Talk about bang for your sponsorship buck! No wonder they couldn't beat Bond.) But this is getting tiring: I don't want to see the new BMW in every Bond movie (he deserves an Aston Martin for crying out loud) and I certainly don't want to see Bond standing there hawking watches, soft drinks, or Windows 2000. Enough already.

IN TYPICAL MICROSOFT fashion, the recent release of DirectX 7.0 was not, shall we say, without its share of bugs. So the DirectX team is revving up an interim release that will be dubbed DirectX 7.0a, due sometime in the next two weeks. Apparently, some existing game titles were having fits interacting with USB input devices while running under DirectX 7.0, a situation that "dismayed" the DirectX team (their words, not mine).

BACK IN JULY, I took a look at a freeware word processor called AbiWord that plans to provide the functionality of Microsoft Word, while running on several platforms, including Windows, BeOS, Linux, FreeBSD, and Solaris. And did I mention it was free? Well, this wonderful little program has been improving steadily since I last looked at it and while it's still not there yet, you can tell that it will be soon. And you can't beat the 773 KB download, or the price: It's free! (OK, sorry). Anyway, head on over to the AbiSource Web site and check it out.

ACCORDING TO PC Data, Apple's winsome iBook is the best-selling portable computer at retail outlets, which is interesting, I suppose, if you're an Apple fan that will believe anything. (Isn't that all Apple fans?) However, once you figure in the way that people actually buy portable computers--from direct marketers such as Dell--the iBook quickly falls to fourth place where it belongs, shedding new light on yet another Apple myth. (Head's up: Retail sales account for only 30% of total portable sales in the United States and 10% worldwide.) This is like saying that a certain device is the best selling handheld sold through Bob's store. You know, the one in Cleveland. In other words, it's not a relevant statistic. I had a chance to look over an iBook at Comdex (no, Apple wasn't at the show, a fellow reporter--and dare I say it, yes, it was a woman--had one in the media room at the LVCC) and it's not as shabby as the iMac, though it's very big and heavy and has a small screen. It looks like it's designed for children, but its too bulky for most grown women and I don't know a man on this planet that would be comfortable walking around with this thing. For guys, it's like walking into Victoria's Secret at the mall: You're not necessarily doing anything wrong but it makes you feel self-conscious. So I'm not quite sure I understand the target market for this thing. Maybe they should try the slogan "strong enough for a man, but made for a woman." Or is that taken?

AFTER MY MENTION last week that Id Software's Quake III Arena had gone gold, I received a number of emails from fans of Unreal Tournament, a similar title from Epic Megagames. I had played the original Unreal all the way through in single player mode and had enjoyed it a lot, especially the incredible graphics, but I always felt that the multiplayer version was under-developed. Well, no more: Unreal Tournament (UT), like Quake III Arena (Q3A) is designed specifically for multiplayer and, like Q3A, features a cool "single-player multiplayer" mode where you deathmatch against intelligent bots that look and act like real human opponents. It's a great way to hone your multiplayer skills without looking like a newbie. I'll reserve judgment on which is the better title, but suffice to say that both games offer incredible graphics and great gameplay. I recommend you check them both out, though you're going to need a nice system and 3D for the full effect. For a free download of the Unreal Tournament demo (like Q3A, a hefty 53 MB), check out the Planet Unreal Web site

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