Interesting Resolution to the IEs4Linux on Mac Problem

Well, I never could get IEs4Linux to work on Intel Mac. Never could find the right files. My mind was all jumbled up with x11, Darwine, Wine, apt-get, Fink, ./configure, Apple Developer Tools, and dead links.

Stupid solution staring me right in the face the whole time (or should have been staring me in the face!)—Opera! Opera did the trick. The newest version of Opera has not only a user agent switcher but also a user agent masker, which, as far as I can tell, tries to render the site as IE would (not just pretend to the site as if the browser is IE).

I don’t know for certain it’ll work fully with my mother-in-law’s IE-only website, but it looks like it might. We’ll see what happens when she logs in.

Opera, you’ve come a long way, baby.

Edit: Nope. No go. It appears to work but then hangs indefinitely on login. I did a bit more research and found that the site she uses calls on ActiveX. Weird that it works on IEs4Linux on Ubuntu, then.

Back to the drawing board…

Computers Linux

Gaining Perspective on PC Gaming

The skewed perspective on gaming
In the world of Linux, there are many who believe PC gaming is bigger than it really is. Don’t get me wrong—it’s a big business. If it weren’t, it wouldn’t exist. Gaming companies would have otherwise long abandoned making PC games. It is not, however, as big as many Linux users believe it is—not by a long shot.

Take, for example, this blog entry, published on ZDnet 2 November, 2006, in which the author tries to make the case that the lack of PC games is a major barrier to Linux desktop adoption:

Let’s face it, for your average home PC user, gaming is pretty important aspect of PC ownership. In my experience, even people who really aren’t all that into games still indulge the occasional new game.

The belief that “average home PC user[s]” buy PC games and consider it a “pretty important aspect of PC ownership” is commonplace on Linux forums. If you don’t believe me, look at this forum thread entitled “time for debate: Games are the biggest barrier to desktop linux!”

The real perspective on gaming
The real truth, of course, is that most average home PC users either don’t game at all, play console games, play online Flash/Shockwave-based games, or play non-commercial games like Solitaire, Hearts, or Minesweeper.

Most average home PC users do not go out and buy the latest World of Warcraft or Doom. Seriously.

If you look closely at any argument to the contrary, there is never any hard data to back it up—only anecdotal data (“Hey, everyone I know plays PC games…”). Well, I went scouring all over the internet to find some hard data, and here it is.

Exhibit A
From Poll: 4 in 10 adults play electronic games: Board, card, strategy games, action sports most popular, here are a couple of excerpts:

40 percent of American adults play games on a computer or a console…. Among those who describe themselves as gamers, 45 percent play over the Internet…. Forty-two percent of online gamers said they spent at least four hours playing games during an average week, compared with 26 percent of those who don’t play online. About one in six online gamers play more than 10 hours a week.

Let’s do the math. One in six online gamers play more than 10 hours a week. Online gamers are 45% of those who describe themselves as gamers, who are, in turn, only 40% of American adults. That ends up being 3% of all American adults. That’s right—3% (hardly most… not even a large minority) of American adults game online for more than 10 hours a week.

Casual games like board or card games were the most popular, followed by strategy games, action sports, adventure, first-person shooters and simulations, the poll found. Casual, strategy and role-playing games were most popular among online gamers.

Another fact some Linux users are hard-up to acknowledge—the most popular games among normal PC users are casual games, not the latest commercial first-person shooter.

That poll was conducted in April 2006, based on a sample of 3,024 American adults.

Exhibit B
Gaming is for Grown-Ups cites a December 2005 study of 1,767 “adult video game households” and 500 teenagers by the Consumer Electronics Association, in which one of the conclusions is that

Fifty-eight percent of households owning both a PC and a console system consider the console the dominant gaming platform.

I’m not sure what an “adult video game household” is, so 58% seems pretty low to me, but even that is a majority (over 50%) preferring the console over the PC for gaming.

Exhibit C
Wikipedia isn’t always a reliable source, but in this case, it’s actually citing another source that isn’t editable by just anyone.

This is an excerpt from the Wikipedia article on video games:

The NPD Group tracks computer and video game sales in the United States. It reported that as of 2004:

  • Console and portable software sales: $6.2 billion, up 8% from 2003[2]
  • Console and portable hardware and accessory sales: $3.7 billion, down 35% from 2003[2]
  • PC game sales: $1.1 billion, down 2% from 2003[3]

As you can see, PC gaming is big. I’m not denying its existence or its profitability. $1.1 billion is a pretty substantial sales number.

Nevertheless, as you can see, console and portable software sales are 5.6 times more than PC games sales.

Final thoughts
If PC gaming isn’t as big as a lot of Linux users think it is, why don’t they realize it? Well, I would propose that serious gamers tend to be friends with other serious gamers, and that if most of your friends game seriously, it would be easy to imagine that most people in general game seriously. Not being a serious gamer myself, I know very few people who do PC game. Most of my friends and relatives who do play games play console games (PS2 and the like), so the fact that console gaming is a bigger market than PC gaming isn’t a surprise to me.

Anecdotal “evidence” is fine to trot out every once in a while, but sometimes you also have to look at some statistically significant figures.


Gmail and Privacy

Some people might say I’m naive, but I trust Google. Could it soon turn into an “ugly” corporation? Yes. There are some indications it’s moving in that direction—for example, its introduction of banner ads, when they used to have just text-only ads. I won’t trust them forever, but I trust them now. There is a lot of skepticism in the media these days about Google’s new “free” email program Gmail, so much so that Google has to even offer a disclaimer page in light of the controversy.

Well, what are people so upset about? Apparently, Google’s robots (i.e., not real human people) will scan incoming emails in order to target ads relevantly to the email content—the idea being that it makes sense, for instance, if you’re discussing music with your friend that ads for music services would appear next to the email message, as opposed to ads for a digital camera or a vacation to Paris. The skepticism itself reveals a large degree of naivete, though. If a company (especially a major one) says its robots will scan your emails and not its employees, you have to trust them; otherwise, don’t use their service. If you don’t trust the folks at Google, why would you trust the folks at Hotmail or Yahoo? They also say they won’t have humans read your emails… but you don’t know. You never know. As long as your email messages reside on their servers (yes, the messages physically reside in other people’s computers), someone else will have access to those messages and you have to trust that they won’t read them.

The only way to be truly safe is to buy an extra computer, make that computer a server, and create your own email program that will store your messages on your own server; then, you have to make sure you encrypt all your messages with the latest security technology. Very few people do this. Most of your email is open and out there. If you use Hotmail or Yahoo! and you trust them not to read your emails because they say they won’t read your emails, you have to trust Google not to read your emails as well.

Google’s disclaimer page makes a good point, too, that every email provider scans emails. That’s how they institute spam-blocking, by scanning for content. The real issue is whether or not Google reveals any information about you to the sponsoring advertisers whose links you click on. Google says it doesn’t. And you just have to trust what they say because that’s what you’re probably doing right now with someone else.