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An office app usability rant leading up to an iWork tip

A few days ago, I was listening to episode 36 of the MacBreak Weekly podcast. After a very good discussion of the usefulness of 256kbps audio encoding, the panel sunk its teeth into the pros and cons of Microsoft Office's new ribbon user interface. The idea behind the ribbon is that icons on the screen represent various actions, and as you click on the ribbon, more related icons/actions are revealed. So at any one time, only a subset of the possible actions is visible. This is supposed to be easier to work with than the standard menus and toolbars that we're used to. I'm highly skeptical, because I've always disliked the way that toolbars take up half the screen in Microsoft Office, especially under Windows, and I have no idea what most of the icons are supposed to mean anyway. HangZhou Night Net

But I'm reserving final judgment until I get the chance to work with the ribbon for a bit. I can't blame Microsoft for trying something new, though. When writing some text in the new NeoOffice, I was plagued by the little squiggly red lines under many words. Usually, I turn spellcheck-as-you-type off; after all, I am a Published Author and no computer—not even a Mac—is going to tell me how I can and can't spell words in the English language. That's what editors are for.

However, in this case, NeoOffice didn't just flag names and unusual words as spelled incorrectly, but also a lot of very common words. It's entirely possible that I don't spell as well as I think I do, but I'm pretty sure I know how to spell "and." Could it be that NeoOffice was using a different language than English to spell check my document? But where on Earth do I get to set the language for my text? It took me several minutes to find out that it's under the "character" menu. The logic behind this is probably that you may have a word or a sentence in a different language than the rest of a paragraph or the rest of the document, so it can't be a document or paragraph setting. But I'm pretty sure many people aren't going to look under the character menu when their spell checking is out of whack. Interestingly, in the old version of Word for Mac that resides on my system, this setting is easily found under the tools/language menu.

Apple's take, on the other hand, is slightly different: they use an inspector. For those of you unfamiliar with inspectors: they're little windows containing various settings that you can bring up and close as required. Inspectors are used in iWork, along with separate inspector-like windows for fonts and colors. After getting used to this system, I always found it to work well. The different inspector modes are accessible using icons—but only a few of them, so it's humanly possible to remember their function—there's no artificial difference between paragraph and character settings: everything is simply found under the big T for text.

There's just one little thing that always bugged me about the inspector: often, it's necessary to switch between different inspector modes frequently, which can get annoying. Turns out that as of Keynote version 1, which I've had since 2003, you can bring up multiple inspectors (under the "view" menu), so you can have immediate access to two or more different modes without the need to switch.

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Diplomats force IPCC to water down report on climate change

More climate-change politics this morning, I'm afraid. As you might be aware, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the multinational UN organization that is tasked with the problem of climate change, is in the process of releasing its fourth assessment report on the "global present state of knowledge on climate change." HangZhou Night Net

The IPCC has three working groups, that deal with "The Physical Science Basis," "Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability," and "Mitigation of Climate Change." These three groups can be summed up as "How is it happening," "What happens when it happens," and "How the hell do we stop it or deal with it?" Working Group I has already released its outline, and there are draft copies of their part of the report that have leaked onto the internet. Working Group III meets at the end of this month in Bangkok, and Working Group II, who have been meeting in Brussels, released their summary this morning. This summary is intended to distill the contents of the 1,500-page scientific report down to the point where it can be easily read and understood by policymakers.

But the release of that summary has not been without incident. Although the scientists behind the document were happy with their effort, they encountered fierce diplomatic pressure from a number of countries to tone down their language. The problem arises from the use of common language to describe scientific certainty. If one were speaking to another scientist, then they might describe certainty of outcome as a percentage; a 90 percent certainty, for example, or a 99 percent certainty. As the IPCC summaries are meant for politicians, very few of whom appear to have anything more than rudimentary scientific knowledge, these percentages are translated into plainer English.

The heart of the problem has been the successful efforts by delegates from China and Saudi Arabia to change language describing how many natural ecosystems around the world are already being affected. Originally, it was reported that there was "a very high confidence" that areas around the globe "are being affected by regional climate changes, particularly temperature increases." "A very high confidence" translates as a 90 percent certainty, but under political pressure, this was downgraded to "a high certainty," meaning only 80 percent. Other parts of the report were also watered down, causing outrage amongst the scientists who authored the report.

It would be naive of me to expect that such a thing would not or could not happen, but I can't get away from the feeling that this is more than a little shortsighted on the parts of those nations that are downplaying the problems we face. Editing a word or graph out of the report is not going to stop the Himalayan glaciers from melting, leaving China with a freshwater shortage. It's not going to stop the northward spread of tropical diseases into Europe, and it's not stopping the Gulf region of the US from being battered by tropical storms of increasing intensity. You can lie to yourself that your shoes are on fire all you like, but when the flames start licking at your navel, did it really matter?

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Bill may require call center employees to disclose location

"Hello, my name is John, and I'm speaking to you from Bangalore, India, today. How can I help you?" That's a phrase that we may start hearing when we make calls to customer service centers, if a recently-proposed bill by House Representative Jason Altmire (D-PA) goes into effect. The bill, HR 1776, is titled "Call Center Consumers Right to Know Act" and would require call center employees to state their physical location when a customer calls in. HangZhou Night Net

As the title indicates, the bill is designed to make customers aware of the widespread nature of call-center outsourcing. Once discovering that a large majority of their calls are being redirected overseas, customers would theoretically be more willing to take action and let companies know how they feel about the hot issue of call center outsourcing that is often blamed for a portion of lost jobs in the US.

The bill's introduction undoubtedly comes from good intentions, but seem like a roundabout way of addressing an issue that is clearly important to certain members of Congress. Many Americans are already painfully aware that their calls are being directed overseas, and such a requirement would only confirm this knowledge. However, the bill might encourage customer pressure on companies to change their outsourcing ways or risk losing business. But it's not clear how many Americans would actually use this knowledge to alter their own buying habits—how many consumers say they'd like to support American clothing businesses but completely ignore "Made in [Country]" tags when it comes down to saving money?

Similar bills were introduced by Senator John Kerry (D-MA) in 2003 and again in 2004 by Representative Ted Strickland (D-OH), but both stagnated in Congress. Altmire's bill is still in the very early stages of the process and has not yet been scheduled for debate in the House.

Apple bumps Mac Pro to 8 cores at 3 GHz

The Mac Pro, Apple's flagship desktop Mac, is now available in an 8-core configuration, sporting two quad-core Intel Clovertown CPUs clocked at 3 GHz. It seems I was wrong in an earlier article after all. HangZhou Night Net

According to performance tests done by Apple, the new octo is about 50 percent faster than the 3GHz quad at modo 203 and Maya 8.5 3D rendering and the Cinebench 9.5 rendering test. It's also between a factor 2 and a factor 3.1 faster than the 2.5GHz quad G5. However, the octo is suspiciously missing in action in the Final Cut Pro rendering and encoding tests, suggesting that it doesn't perform significantly faster than the earlier models here. The 3GHz quad is only at most 40 percent faster than the 2.5GHz G5 quad, anyway. On the other hand, the octo isn't listed in many of the other tests either, so it's of course possible that Apple didn't manage to perform the full range of tests yet.

Apple boasts that the Mac Pro is available in no less than 33 million different configurations. For the CPUs, the other choices are two dual-core Woodcrests at 2, 2.66, or 3GHz, with all configurations having a 1.33GHz 64-bit front side bus. Memory can be 1, 2, 4, 8 or 16GB in FB-DIMMs. The four drive bays accommodate between 250GB and 3TB worth of storage, with individual 3Gbps SATA channels per bay. The default GPU is a NVIDIA GeForce 7300 GT with 256MB RAM, but other choices are the ATI Radeon X1900 XT or the the NVIDIA Quadro FX 4500, both with 512MB RAM, or two, three or four GeForce 7300s.

You may want to sit down before clicking the "buy now" button. The base configuration for a dual 2.66GHz model with 1GB RAM isn't too bad at $2499, but the 8-core model is $3997. I'd say that 4GB is the minimum amount of RAM for such a beast, which brings the total to $4696. Did I mention that it's rated to draw as much as 1300 watts?

More colors, marketing, features can’t come Zune enough

Reports are flying around that Microsoft is preparing for a new offensive on the portable media player front. Coming, er, Zune, are new colors—including pink—as well as rumors of new functionality and possibly even a flash-based version. "We will add features to the device, and by the upcoming holidays we will have news around TV, video and podcasting support," said Jason Reindorp, Microsoft's marketing director for Zune. HangZhou Night Net

Microsoft is planning on bumping up the advertising for the Zune as well. "We have a second wave of marketing and advertising coming out next month," Reindorp said. "We had spiked over the holiday period but naturally tapered out."

The Redmond-based company did not reveal exactly how much they were planning to spend to advertise the Zune this time, but it won't be earth-shattering. "It is not as much as the launch spend, but it is still a good sum," said Reindorp. Considering that the only time I ever saw any mention of the Zune in the mainstream media was when Conan O'Brien briefly made fun of it on an Actual Items piece, it seems that Microsoft may have to try a little harder if they want to put a dent in the iPod juggernaut.

Microsoft has a 10 percent share of the hard drive-based media player market according to research firm NPD, and the company says it is on track to ship one million Zunes by June of this year. Apple, in comparison, routinely sells over ten million iPods per quarter. But Microsoft's isn't ready to throw in the towel just yet. "We are developing Zune as an 'entertainment' brand, which means it will include music, video and games," Reindorp says. "But will there be XBox-like games on the device? We don't know yet. We are still thinking through our games strategy."

Large-scale movie and music piracy operation busted in Brazil

Police in São Paolo, Brazil conducted a raid today on four locations used to manufacture counterfeit CDs and DVDs. According to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry and the MPAA, which supported the police action, over 30,000 pirated CDs and DVDs were seized, along with 200 burners. HangZhou Night Net

The raids came as part of an investigation into counterfeiting rings in metropolitan São Paolo, and more arrests are expected in the days to come.

Counterfeit DVDs along with music and software CDs are commonplace in developing nations, due in no small part to the relatively high prices of legal versions of the media there. The movie studios seem to be well aware of this problem, although they are conflicted as to what their long-term strategy to combat it should be.

Large-scale piracy of music, movies, and software is a well-founded concern for content creators, and offering support to law enforcement types are a better use of their time and money than filing lawsuits against individual file-sharers around the world. Two movie studios have realized that the only way to fight the massive number of pirates in these countries is to compete with them, and have therefore made efforts to offer extremely low-priced DVDs of theatrical releases in China. Time Warner offers DVDs for about $1.25 apiece and Fox sells theirs on the street for about $3 per disc. Microsoft also offers a no-frills, inexpensive version of Windows in some countries, giving the company a shot at a revenue stream that they had previously missed out on completely. It's a lesson the content creation industries should take note of.

Microsoft accused of deceptive marketing, bait-and-switch tactics over Vista

A lawsuit filed in US District Court yesterday alleges that Microsoft unfairly and incorrectly labeled machines as "Windows Vista Capable" when said systems were only capable of running Vista Home Basic. According to the complaint: HangZhou Night Net

"[The PCs in question] cannot run, or run poorly, with Vista Home Premium… the least expensive version of Vista that includes Vista's heavily marketed and most popular features. The enhanced graphics, media center, and remote control that have been marketed and advertised by Microsoft as 'Vista' are available only on Home Premium and more expensive versions of the software… In sum, Microsoft engaged in bait and switch‚assuring consumers they were purchasing 'Vista Capable' machines when, in fact, they could obtain only a stripped-down operating system lacking the functionality and features that Microsoft advertised as 'Vista.'"

Microsoft, unsurprisingly, takes some issue with these claims, and has noted that it provides comprehensive information regarding the features of various Vista versions. One could argue that Microsoft helped create this problem by seeding the market with so many different versions of the operating system, but that's almost beside the point; the interesting question this lawsuit raises is what, exactly, makes Windows Vista "Windows Vista"?

My gut feeling on this one is that it'll go precisely nowhere. Microsoft is hardly the first company to offer the same basic product with variations or features at different price points, and while there may be a handful of marketing-friendly features lacking from Vista Home Basic compared to Vista Home Premium, there are a thousand or more underlying technology advances and upgrades that Microsoft can point to and say "this makes it Vista." In the end, this lawsuit says more about the inherent problems of marketing a new OS to the large segment of the population that is not technology-savvy than it does about any alleged bait-and-switch tactics.

Surprise: Radio-funded report says satellite broadcasters should not merge

The Carmel Group, a California consulting firm with expertise in satellite radio, has issued a brief white paper (PDF) regarding the proposed merger between Sirius and XM. The paper did not mince words: "with all due respect, this proposed merger should not be approved—under any conditions—by the US government," it concluded. Who funded the study? The National Association of Broadcasters, the trade group representing terrestrial radio broadcasters who are bitterly opposed to the merger going forward. HangZhou Night Net

While the NAB funded the report, Carmel's work is taken seriously; it produced a similar report opposing the proposed merger between EchoStar and DirecTV in 2002-03 that was credited (in part) with preventing that merger from occurring. The new paper reuses the key feature from the earlier report, a "ping pong chart" showing the competitive responses that the two competitors made to each other's actions over the last few years. The goal is to show that the two companies do compete with each other, and that losing that competition would be detrimental to consumers.

Back in January, before producing the report, Carmel's senior analyst Jimmy Schaeffler noted that the NAB "does not like satellite radio" and pointed out that the group doesn't particularly care what party is in power; it is happy to lobby either side in the service of its goals. "Even if the 2008 presidential elections bring in a new administration, most doubt whether that would make much difference," Schaeffler said at the time. "That is because the real lobbying force in Washington, the National Association of Broadcasters, is as equally positioned to support Democrats as it is Republicans."

Since then, Schaeffler has publicly worked against the merger, publishing an editorial in USA Today about the issue and authoring the new NAB-funded report on the merger. In the paper, he repeatedly attacks the key position that Sirius and XM executives took in recent Congressional hearings: the idea that the merger is not anticompetitive because satellite radio competes against terrestrial broadcasters, Internet radio stations, and even iPods.

"This position is ludicrous," writes Schaeffler. "At best, satellite radio competes against a sphere of competitors now broader than today's analog AM and FM broadcasters." But even those broadcasters are in a different situation because they don't compete in the national market (this argument is weakened somewhat by the radio dominance of massive firms like ClearChannel which often pump the same programming across the country).

The report also points out that, although both satellite broadcasters continue to lose money, both have substantial cash reserves and are in no danger of going under. Schaeffler points out that other industries that rely on satellites, such as television, took much longer to turn a profit but eventually did so. The proposed merger between XM and Sirius simply shows "their impatience—and greed—by offering this merger proposal today."

The NAB is certainly mobilizing their publicity machine against the merger. Last week, they made sure to publicize a preliminary FCC ruling that neither terrestrial radio nor iPods were actual competitors for satellite radio. XM and Sirius, as part of their initial license agreements with the FCC, did agree not to merge with one another, so the presumption is on them to show that the move would not stifle competition. The two companies trotted out the dog-and-pony show before Congress two weeks ago, making all sorts of promises, but it's clear that the merger will face some significant scrutiny from regulators, along with the constant carping from competitors. Which raises an interesting question: if satellite radio does not compete with terrestrial stations, why is the NAB funding reports against the merger?

SCO accuses IBM of colluding with Groklaw in new filing

SCO's latest legal filing reveals the evidence on which the company bases its allegations that IBM is colluding with Groklaw blogger Pamela Jones, a claim she vigorously denies. The filing comes several months after Forbes reported that SCO was actively attempting to subpoena the Groklaw blogger. According to the filing, "the content and commentary of [Groklaw] (and other evidence) show that Ms. Jones is not an objective commentator, but rather a vehicle through which opponents of SCO have conducted their case against SCO in the court of public opinion, where no gate-keeper monitors the reliability of content."HangZhou Night Net

In the past, SCO executives have used highly speculative and circumstantial evidence to support the perception that a relationship exists between Groklaw and IBM. SCO's director of corporate communications once pointed that that a PO Box address used by Jones is "less than ten miles from IBM's global headquarters."

In an attempt to support allegations of financial ties, SCO points out that Groklaw is hosted by ibiblio, which uses server hardware and funding contributed by IBM. IBM's loose affiliation with Groklaw's web host is hardly a smoking gun. Ibiblio is a massive project which receives funding from countless sources and hosts over 1,600 data collections including the Project Gutenberg public domain literature repository, open-source software developer Eric S. Raymond's personal blog, and the web site of the Tibetan Center for Conflict Resolution. There is no evidence in SCO's filing to indicate that IBM is in any way responsible for determining how ibiblio allocates its resources, and IBM's contributions to ibiblio through the University of North Carolina significantly predate Groklaw's existence.

The SCO filing also cites a blog entry written by Daniel Lyons on his own personal web site, which claims that OSDL (which counts IBM and Novell among its own financial supporters) provided considerable funding to Groklaw. Lyons, who has been accused of partisanship towards SCO and has been criticized by the Internet Press Guild and Pamela Jones herself for various journalistic deficiencies in articles about Groklaw, based his claims on information from an anonymous source, and provided no additional substantiation. To this date, there is no evidence to confirm that Groklaw received funding from OSDL.

Finally, the filing claims that "Ms. Jones has neither accepted services of the subpoena nor agreed to appear for deposition, but rather appears to have fled and evaded service of the subpeona," an allegation that Jones also denies. SCO also claims that "Ms. Jones's allegiance and financial connection to Novell and IBM… underscores her motivation to avoid having to testify in this matter."

As usual, SCO is heavy on rhetoric and short on real evidence. SCO's personal attack on Pamela Jones, which is only tangentially relevant to the ongoing litigation, appears to be little more than a cynical attempt to silence and intimidate critics by undermining the anonymity of a vocal blogger. SCO's conspiracy theories have long since started to wear thin, and the company has been scraping the bottom of the barrel for some time. If SCO wasn't in such dire straits, it might be tempting to try and turn the tables on the company's conspiracy theories.

Stop being clever! The most annoying game titles to type out

Evey morning I get up, make some coffee, and start writing about games. Most of the time it's a good day, but wheni see news about certaingames, I just want to run into the corner and weep. Why? Because there are a few games that have completely inexplicable schemes for how you spell their name. This doesn't seem like a big deal, but when you're typing the name of a game a dozen or so times in a post and there is a random capitalized letter in there… it becomes maddening. Don't believe me? Figure these out: HangZhou Night Net

flOw

You don't capitalize the first letter, you add a big "O" in there, and if you go by most of the comments when I discuss the game, you probably don't have fun playing it. This way of spelling out the game doesn't make anything seem arty, it's just annoying.

S.T.A.L.K.E.R.

The period after every letter means this is an acronym, but can you tell how many players know the game stands for Scavengers, Trespassers, Adventurers, Loners, Killers, Explorers, and Robbers? Of course not, because they just call it "Stalker" and move on. If you're writing about the game, you have no such luxury. While I've never passed up interesting stories about S.T.A.L.K.E.R. because of how long it takes to type it out, I've been tempted.

beatmania IIDX

Ugh. Another one of those "don't capitalize the first letter" games. Wikipedia even apologizes for the listing, saying they had to call it "Beatmania" as a technical restriction. That second part? Apparently you say that "two deluxe," or "two dee-ex." This is all a little much. I just call it "that rhythm game that's too damn hard."

NiGHTS into Dreams

Mocking the other silly names, NiGHTS decided to go with the "capitalize everything but the 'i' approach." Great game on the Saturn, we're skeptical of the remake, but the name is pure headache.

WipEout

This link popped up yesterday in comments, leading to even more confusion on this topic. Is it a typeface issue? I see it both ways, but at this point I think I'm just going to pretend the game series never happened. When the press release says WipEout and Sony says Wipeout elsewhere… it's time to just pick one and move on.

PLAYSTATION®3

Just looking at that gives me hives. This is one I just roundly ignore, because it's stupid. I know, I know, professionalism, but I feel like I'm yelling at you guys. The same with the SIXAXIS. Just calm down Sony, no need to be so loud. I don't want to type "PLAYSTATION®3" all in caps for that system. We're all going to have to learn to get by with PlayStation 3, because sometimes when I get upset about these crazy names I drink, and when I wake up and see PLAYSTATION®3, my head hurts.

It hurts a lot.

So stop it! It's not clever, and while it takes you a second to decide to make your name goofy it means hours and hours of making my life harder when I have to stop my hands from typing something that makes no sense.

This post brought to you by .hack. Growl.

iPhone + Rogers Wireless = squashed. What happened?

Excited Canadians may remember back in January when Rogers Wireless allegedly sent out an e-mail to customers, saying pretty confidently at that time that they would be the exclusive provider for the iPhone in Canada. Two of the bullet points in the e-mail read like this: HangZhou Night Net

Rogers is actively working with Apple to launch the iPhone in Canada as soon as possible and will be the exclusive provider of the iPhone in Canada Please be advised that Rogers will be offering the iPhone exclusively in Canada

Seeing as Rogers is the only GSM carrier in Canada, it would make sense. Previous to this "confirmation" e-mail, however, it was only rumored that Rogers would be the exclusive carrier for the iPhone.

Well, it seems like suddenly it's flip flop season in more than one way. Rogers Wireless manager of corporate communications Odette Coleman told CBC News in Canada that it was all "speculation," and that the company had not announced anything about whether or not they would carry the iPhone. What? "Everything in the media has been speculations to this point. The only fact is that we are the only GSM carrier in Canada. That's the only fact."

What could be the reason for this backpedaling?

Theory #1: The e-mail from January was not in fact from Rogers Wireless

Theory #2: Apple was displeased by Rogers' apparent confirmation before the companies were ready to announce together, and Steve unleashed his wrath upon the company. So now they are unsure.

Theory #3: The e-mail was real but they got wrath unleashed from Steve anyway, so they are now going back to being ambiguous about an official announcement. An official announcement has not happened yet, after all.

If I were a betting (wo)man, I would put my money somewhere between #1 and #3. Either way, it's still relatively safe to assume that Rogers will be the carrier in Canada for that whole GSM-only nonsense. But do any Canadians here feel disappointed that it's no longer "OMG CONFIRMED!!1!11"?

A first look at Dolphin, the KDE 4 file manager

The Linux-based Dolphin file manager is now scheduled for official inclusion in KDE 4, the next major release of the KDE desktop environment. Dolphin includes several unique usability enhancements that aren't available in Konqueror, KDE's current file manager. In particular, Dolphin features a navigation bar inspired by Thunar and Windows Vista, a bookmark system built around file management rather than web browsing, a more flexible sidebar system, and a less-invasive notification system that doesn't interrupt user work flow. HangZhou Night Net

Dolphin in action

Although Konqueror is one of the most powerful file-management applications available on the Linux platform, the broad scope of its functionality creates some usability problems that aren't easily resolved. Konqueror's elaborate profile system and support for KParts-based document viewing add complexity to file management and intimidate users who are accustomed to less sophisticated file managers. By focusing exclusively on file management, Dolphin avoids many of the pitfalls inherent in Konqueror's approach. Although Dolphin is still under development and lacks a number of critical features, early releases illuminate the significant potential of the application. Dolphin appears to be a well-thought compromise that will provide a more reasonable balance of versatility and usability.

In many respects, Dolphin is reminiscent of the Nautilus file browser from the GNOME desktop environment. Dolphin's navigation bar is a lot like the Thunar-inspired path bar found in the Nautilus browser, and Dolphin's bookmark system is a lot like the Nautilus Places sidebar. Like Nautilus, Dolphin also has icon and detail views as well as support for thumbnail previews. In some ways, Dolphin exceeds Nautilus and provides advanced features that simplify navigation and file management. The individual path elements in Dolphin's navigation bar act as menus that enable users to switch to sibling directories. This feature, which is also found in Windows Vista, is unfortunately absent in Nautilus. Dolphin also inherits a few nice advanced features from Konqueror, like split window panes.

Although Konqueror will no longer be the default file manager in KDE 4, it will still be available for users who rely on its advanced features and extreme flexibility. It is likely that the Konqueror developers will focus more on web browsing functionality now that Konqueror is no longer the default file manager, but the change could also give Konqueror's developers the freedom to experiment with file management features intended specifically for an audience of advanced users. Although some Konqueror enthusiasts are skeptical about the potential benefits of the transition to Dolphin, I think it's important to keep an open mind and wait until Dolphin is complete before passing judgment.

An open letter to devs: enough with the minigame games

I briefly and discreetly mentioned a while back that I was really looking forward to Sqaure-Enix's latest DS title, Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo Tales. I've begun playing through the game in anticipation of tomorrow's full review, and I've got to say so far that I'm enjoying myself. The game is essentially a compilation of a variety of Chocobo-based micro- and minigames that correlate with various Aesop's tales. I'll save the true critique for tomorrow. In the meantime, I thought it was worth a few words to talk about the biggest problem I have not only with this game, but also with a lot of the recent content on all Nintendo consoles. HangZhou Night Net

Minigame compilations. How many of these games can we possibly be expected to buy? On my Wii alone, I've already gone through Rayman Raving Rabbids, Super Monkey Ball, Warioware and Sonic, with Mario Party and who knows what else on the horizon. As for the DS, just about every other game I own has some kind of mini-game compilation. Though I do enjoy some light-hearted, easy-going gameplay now and then, I can't help but feel that this genre has quickly gone from being a rare guilty pleasure to being a worn-out fad meant to cash in on brand and character loyalty.

Some of these compilations have taken interesting approaches, such as the board-game element of the Mario Party franchise, or the online multiplayer worked into Fusion Frenzy. For the most part, though, the hastily thrown-together collections of extremely simple and reused games are poorly done and shallow, yet sell nonetheless.

Though the other consoles have had compilation titles, Nintendo has quickly become the main offender. Many naysayers have used these typically shallow games to berate the software line-up of Nintendo's products, and they're right to do so. While early titles like Rayman Raving Rabbids managed to use the Wii Remote in new ways, offering a relatively fresh experience, most of the motions have now become standard fare for the Wii and the continual flow of minigame games get more generic with each passing release. The same holds for the DS.

Final Fantasy Fables is no exception. The approach is unique in the sense that the game presents a charming collection of familiar stories with familiar characters as a framework around the minigame collection, but ultimately, nothing can mask the fact that you're getting bite-sized gameplay at full meal prices. Many of the games—be it the simple mountain-side races, drawing leaves to launch my Chocobo upwards, or what have you—have been done before, and though the newfound Final Fantasy charm helps to mask the truth, I'm not completely blind to the regurgitation of old ideas.

Frankly, I think it's time for developers to ease up on these types of games. I've focused on Nintendo, but all the platforms are guilty of the criminal overuse of this genre. Unless the collection is going to give us a completely diverse set of revolutionary new minigames, please don't bother.