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Cybernaut

Playstation turns 15

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After you hit 35 you encounter almost daily reminders out there of how old you are, everything from hearing music from your prom on the oldies station to watching horrendous fashion trends like furry boots come back into vogue.

Lately the biggest reminders have been anniversaries of events I'm more than old enough to remember - such as the 30 th anniversary of Pac Man earlier this year, the 25 th anniversary of Back to the Future . The Goonies ? Also 25 years old this year.

All this nostalgia is enough to make me understand why people pay top dollar for action figures, comic books and hockey cards from their youth, so desperate are we old-timers to relive those years. Or, if we can't relive them, to at least pretend they were somehow significant.

That said, I've seen a lot of technology in my time. The first home video game consoles, the first home computers and laptops, the first cell phones, VCRs, CDs, DVDs, MP3s, laser printers... even touch tone phones, for Pete's sake! My first phone had a rotary dial.

Some of these innovations were more significant to me than others - such as the first Playstation (PSOne) consoles, which celebrated their 15 th year this week.

This little grey console was a game-changer in the video game industry and gave Sony the power to dominate the industry for the next dozen years. More than 100 million units were sold around the world - a number only bested by the 140 million PS2 units that were sold a few years later. The life of the PSOne was actually cut short by the PS2, which had almost 10 good years on the market to the PSOne's five.

I still own my Playstation, and a little while ago I even hooked it up to a television so I could try out the hockey (NHL 95) and play a little Earthworm Jim. I rode a stationary bike at home one winter a few years ago, staying in shape while playing Final Fantasy Tactics - still one of the most compelling strategy titles I've ever played. Syphon Filter is the third-person shooter that I still judge other games by, Final Fantasy VII remains one of the greatest role playing games conceived and Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2 is one of the most entertaining sports games, bar none. I have an early Madden that you could enjoy without mastering more controls and buttons than an F-22 pilot. Metal Gear Solid? Resident Evil 2? Still amazing.

I don't know why I still have it - with 100 million consoles out there it's not likely to gain any real value, and it's not exactly in mint condition either. There's apparently a market out there for audiophiles who believe that the sound quality of the CD player is on par with high-end systems that cost thousands of dollars (there's an interesting review to that effect at www.stereophile.com/cdplayers/708play/), but that's not it, either.

I guess the real reason I'm keeping it is because that Playstation represents a lot of good memories. I played with my friends. I played alone, in those rare moments I had the house to myself. Against all odds I finished games and missions that seemed impossible, and went to bed extremely late with a vague sense of accomplishment.

While it may seem like I wasted a good part of my youth playing games, I should probably point out that I don't watch a whole lot of TV (e.g. never seen one episode of The Sopranos, 24, Grey's Anatomy, Survivor Season II onward, Bachelor, etc.). Thanks to the Playstation, I really don't think I've missed all that much.

 

Windows 7 comes through in virus crisis

I had a small crisis last week clicking links on Reddit.com when a window popped up and proclaimed that I had a virus on my computer, and that I had to activate a program called Antimalware Doctor to remove it. Having removed a similar virus from my father-in-law's computer a few months ago I knew that I was in for a battle.

There are all kinds of varieties of viruses out there and the fake virus protection software scam is one of them. My advice is first to know what software you have running on your system at all times, and visit the Task Manager from time to time so you have an idea of what should be running at any given time. Google anything you don't recognize.

This particular virus somehow got around Windows Security Essentials, which has been effective for me in the past. I couldn't use the Task Manager (ctrl+alt+delete) to "End Task," or CCleaner (available at Piriform.com) to do an uninstall.

That left me with a few options. I did some research, and based on what I read at Bleeping Computer (www.bleepingcomputer.com) it was going to be a challenging process. I had to download a program called Rkill (which can kill any application or process), another Malware program (that only apparently works some of the time on this particular virus, depending on the version), rename some things, delete some things, save some things onto a thumbnail drive, do a safe start and go through about a dozen other steps.

It seemed like a huge process, and I wasn't eager to do any of it. So I decided to do a System Restore, essentially going back to my computer as it was two days earlier using a registry snapshot. I generally save my important stuff to the cloud anyway (thanks partly to Dropbox, which you can get at www.dropbox.com), and wasn't worried I'd lose anything.

Fifteen minutes later I was virus free. I might have lost a few bookmarks and my browser history, but it was so simple. Viruses were my big concern switching to PC from Mac, and in eighth months I've had exactly one problem that took less than 30 minutes to solve.