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The best of 2004

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This month PC World magazine (www.pcworld.com) released a list of the Best of 2004. With more than five months left in the year, this is a little like putting up the Christmas decorations in August, but it’s a good place to go to find out about the latest innovations.

The Product of the Year was the AMD Athlon 64 FX processor series, the first 64-bit processors to reach the PC market. Although software companies still have to upgrade most of their lines to work with 64-bit architectures, these chips are smooth, fast and better at rendering 3D games and videos.

The IBM Thinkpad series of laptops was entered into the Hall of Fame for consistently providing good quality and value. This year the ThinkPad X40 was crowned the "best ultraportable notebook", which means that it’s small, light, durable and powerful.

Smart watches were the Loser of the Year for a number of reasons, the first being dismal sales. Other problems include the interface, the fact that the batteries have to be recharged every few days, a lack of features and software, and the fact that you continually had to be in touch with MSN to get the thing updated.

The Software Newcomer of the Year award went to iTunes for Windows, a free application from Apple that has revolutionized the way we use our computers to listen to, organize and purchase music.

The Hardware Newcomer of the Year award went to the Palmone Treo 600, a combination cell phone, PDA, digital camera, game console, and cheese grater.

In the Bare Necessities category, PC World gave Apple Mac OS X Panther the award for best Operating System. The top Web Browser was, surprisingly, the little known Opera 7.23, which is a new take on Web browsers that offers a variety of different ways to view, analyze and store Web pages. Microsoft Outlook 2003 won for best E-Mail, with literally dozens of new features and spam filters that are close to perfect. Google was the top Search Engine, again.

In the Security department, newcomer Trend Micro PC-cillin Internet Security took the honours as the top antivirus software. ZoneAlarm Pro was the top firewall, SpamNet the top spam filter, Privacy Bird the top privacy software, and Search & Destroy the top antivirus software.

In the Digital Image, the top digital SLR camera was the Canon Eos Digital Rebel, the top Advance Digital Camera was the Olympic C-8080 Wide Zoom and the top Point-and-Shoot Digital Camera was the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W1.

Adobe Photoshop Album 2 was voted the best Photo-Management Software and Adobe Photoshop CS the best Image Editing Software.

The top Photo Printer was the Canon i960, which allows you to print on 4X6 inch photo paper, and the best scanner was the Canon CanoScan 9900F.

The other categories covered in PC World’s review include Computers, Storage, Printing and Publishing, Sound and Video and Mobile Tools. Visit www.pcworld.com to get the complete list.

Web of Hate

The fine line between free speech and hate speech is often difficult to draw in the sand, but – like the U.S. Supreme Court’s famous attempt to define obscenity – "I know it when I see it."

There’s no question that hate groups are loving the Internet. It’s easy to get your message out, it’s anonymous, Web sites are notoriously hard to track, and International laws governing the Web are a messy, incomplete jumble to say the least.

Representatives from American and European governments met in Paris last week to discuss different methods for dealing with hate materials that have been found online.

The Europeans were in favour of tough regulations and laws, while the U.S. argued that that approach was in contradiction with free speech laws. As a result of the impasse nothing was resolved in the two-day summit.

According to reports, the number of Web sites promoting hate and violence has nearly quadrupled since 2000.

New game takes Sims to bed

The goal in a new download-only game from Eidos Interactive is not to kill all of your opponents, be first across the finish line or score the most points. The main objective in Singles: Flirt Up Your Life is to get your character coupled with another character.

The basic plot is reminiscent of a reality TV show like Real Life, with 10 different good-looking caucasian male and female characters sharing the same house. Players select one of the characters, then attempt to befriend the other characters in the house. You must feed your character, decorate your space, follow a series of objectives, advance your career and develop relationships with other characters.

While not as rich and textured as a Sims game, it makes up for that with some full-frontal nudity.

You can download your copy at www.singles-thegame.com. The first hour is free and after that time players will have to give up their credit card number if they want to see how everything works out.

It’s rated AO – Adults Only – if you were wondering.

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