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January 2005

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Apple today released two products that, while not entirely surprising to people who read the rumor sites, promise to solidify Apple's position as... well... the only innovative PC company.

First you have probably the single coolest looking computer ever made, the Mac Mini. My friends, it's half the size of the Mac Cube and umpteen times more powerful, not to mention that at a price of $500 it's the cheapest Mac... ever?

Next is a USB flash memory based iPod, dubbed the iPod Shuffle. Since it's lacking a display and has been simplified to do just one thing - play through a list of songs, either in order or randomly - this device is, um, way cheap, with the 512 MB version going for only $99. Even the low end portable music market now has an iPod, and those of us who already have big daddy iPods will likely pick up one of these babies for when that "pack of playing cards" sized behemoth just isn't going to cut it (going jogging, anyone?)

So, you have two products that both smash the #1 anti-Apple sentiment: "I'd get an Apple product, but they're just too expensive!"

Now, these products should ROCK, assuming they aren't lemons for some reason. As of right now, I predict that Jobs has sealed Apple's fate as the personal computer company of the next decade. The timing just couldn't be any better, with the Windows XP/IE "one-two" punch leading to vast armies of zombied, spyware-infested machines that run like crap and are just impossible to deal with.

$500 for no viruses, no malware, for something that looks cool, is tiny, undoubtedly uses less energy, and matches perfectly that kickass iPod everybody's been talking about? Um, yeah?

Use the iPod as bait, get them on your line, and reel them in with the Mac Mini. Oh yes, it's going to happen. Jobs is a true genius, even if he himself is not behind the designs - he at least knows how to recognize genius, and he knows how and when to deliver a brilliant product.

My friends, it's the beginning of the end for Windows as the dominant personal computer OS, and I for one couldn't be happier.

Ah, at last, the nightly builds of Firefox have been fixed to allow for middle mouse click in OS X. It's good to see this 2+ year old Mozilla issue finally resolved, and I'm sure my friends on IRC will be glad as well - every few months, I'd point out how pissed off the bug made me.

Thanks go to the guys who put the effort into this, I'm really glad to have my favorite browser working properly in OS X.

I have enabled the authimage mod for WordPress, which requires you to input a sequence of characters that are displayed in an image when you wish to comment on a post.

This effectively prevents spambots from hosing the comment system, and has allowed me to remove moderation and re-enable comments on the weblog. Feel free to leave your mark, and go down in history as having contributed to something that's completely useless.

A testament to open source - if there's a problem, *somebody* will be able to adapt and overcome it without having to wait for a vendor to make things do what you want them to.

It's probably no wonder that it's such a frequent occurance for male persons to play female characters in MMORPGs. There's a sort of "Lara Croft" effect, in that it's nice to have a hot chick on your screen whom you can manipulate at will. Sure, it's only polygons, but they're shapely polygons all the same.

In my EQ days I would play several female characters, in part because that game's male models looked decidedly unimpressive and in part because I, at first at least, assumed it would be a roleplaying game in which people would maintain a degree of seperation between reality and characters (nevermind that the second assumption was utterly incorrect, this was my first MMORPG and such misconceptions should be understandable). However, there are undesirable side effects to playing females - in fact, there are so many that I've resolved as of late to never play a female character except as an "alt" or a diversion, never as a character I wish to play for the long haul.

WoW is probably better than most, due in part to the influx of bnet players who are used to forced crossdressing from Diablo2, and in part to people having a better understanding of demographics as the genre matures. But in EQ, you'd run into problems as I'll describe here:

1) Incorrect assumptions, and/or hopes. This is an odd occurance you would notice if you played a female character. Sure, a lot of people knew to go in and default their gender perceptions to "male," but there were a hell of a lot of people who were simply too dense to grasp the concept. They would either assume or hope that every female avatar was played by a female player.

2) Reality check. It would invariably come up that you need to expressly reveal your own gender, either due to people obviously operating under incorrect assumptions, or as a result of people directly asking you. At this point they get a classic reality check - no, that's no supermodel behind that hot elf chick, it's just some guy on the internet.

3) Liar. The people who make assumptions can feel betrayed by the reality check, when they learn that the reality of who you are does not match up with their own perceptions. Once you reveal to them that their assumptions are out of line, they may act miffed or disappointed.

4) Derision. This is another common reaction after the reality check, frequently made by some hyper-sensitive and/or homophobic individuals who are really freaked out/offended by seeing a female avatar and knowing there's a male player behind it.

A lot of this can be countered by choosing a leet, inappropriate, or otherwise bizarre name, but then you're just instantly viewed as a fucktard. I know when I see a name like "Tigolbitties" I'm given a generally negative impression of the player.

Now WoW is a bit different due to the things I mentioned earlier, but the fact of the matter is that crossdressing can still lead to confusion. Nobody is ever really sure of your gender until you expressly reveal it, either by obviously gender-specific discussion or by a simple statement of fact, things that may never come up in the course of a normal pickup group and may seem awkward to come out and state pre-emptively.

Women do play this game, after all, and while the assumption that a female character is played by a male player is certainly logical given the odds, you cannot be guaranteed of that fact without either asking or observing gender-specific behavior or discussion.

So, what's left? Give it up entirely, or at least go light. Otherwise it'll be a pain later, if you ever plan on playing a character seriously in the high end game. You'll be accepting social awkwardness in exchange for a digital pair to gawk at, and ultimately that's probably a bad deal.