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A date with Windows 7

People still using XP or otherwise avoiding Vista can breathe easy.

People still using XP or otherwise avoiding Vista can breathe easy. Basking in positive reviews and mountains of feedback from beta users, Microsoft is now aiming for a September 2009 release for their Windows 7 operating system, although they acknowledged that the date could get pushed back a month or two at this stage.
If you're holding off buying a computer until Windows 7 is available, having a general release date will help. Reports suggest that anybody who buys a Vista computer after June 28 will get a free upgrade to Windows 7 when it comes available. That's when I'm buying a laptop, although early indications are that the upgrade from Vista to Windows 7 will be relatively inexpensive if you need a new computer right now. You can't upgrade from XP - Windows 7 is just too different - but Windows 7 should be able to import all your settings, files, programs, etc. without any compatibility issues.
As for what to buy, Microsoft has announced that Windows 7 will come in six different flavours but don't let all those SKU's confuse you - they learned their lesson from Vista. One "lite" version is obviously being targetted to ultra portable computers, a market that Microsoft missed out on, and another version will be server based. Two others are targetted to international users and servers.
Most likely only two versions will be available at your local electronics store, and 90 per cent of people are going to opt for Home Premium. Some may opt for Windows 7 Professional, although this is basically home premium with some enhanced networking capabilities that businesses may require but most people won't need. If you do need it but bought Home Premium, an upgrade is available.
Safari 4 is better than you think I use Firefox for most of my browsing, mainly for the add-ons. However, it doesn't have one feature that I love about Safari, and that's the ability to open PDF documents in a browser window.  
Although I'm not planning on switching back (I also like Firefox's management of Downloads, Bookmarks and History) Safari 4 - released in beta last week for Mac and PC computers - has a lot of compelling features that are pretty tempting. It's reportedly as fast as Google Chrome when it comes to rendering pages, and has a lot of interesting features like a Top Sites where you can quickly preview and jump to the websites you visit the most. It also has a clean browser interface, and tabs that are similar to Chrome. The searchable history and bookmarks are also great, as is the fact that you can browse thumbnails of pages you've already visited with Cover Flow to get visual clues.
To test the beta for yourself, visit  
Me smart, me play video games Right now I'm plowing through Halo 3 on Legendary mode - partly because I want to be a better online player, and partly because I'm cheap - I replay games over and over rather than buying new games.
I don't believe video games are inherently harmful, although I'll admit they've caused some harm - but very little when you consider the tens of millions of people playing them.
I'll also admit that I enjoy mindlessly charging into levels with guns blazing, getting killed over and over again until I finally get it perfect. It's the very definition of wasted time.
But I won't admit that video games are stupid, or are responsible for the dumbing down of society. Television was accomplishing that quite nicely before video games came along, and even then it's still a matter of how you watch television. Some shows are smart and challenge viewers, while I believe others have the power to numb minds - the chatter of NFL commentators, for example, is less stimulating than the hand signs of primates.
Same principle goes for video games. Some games are dumb, purely created for our enjoyment, while others can be smart. Bioshock was a smart game, for example, being well written and oozing with social and political commentary.
And some games are designed to test our intelligence. For example, Halo Wars, which came out on Tuesday, is a strategy game you can't win by luck. They actually have university courses now on Blizzard's original Starcraft, widely considered to be one of the most challenging strategy games ever devised.
Then there are games that build your knowledge. Guitar Hero and Rock Band make people more aware of melody and rhythm, and improve the way people listen and judge music. You may not come away understanding music theory, but being able to focus on individual instruments when a whole band is playing is a skill that trained musicians learn.
And then there are games to test your knowledge. Trivia games have so far been lacking in the latest generation of consoles, but all that will change when Trivial Pursuit is released on March 10. As someone who spent six years on school Reach For The Top teams and hundreds of hours playing Trivial Pursuit, I couldn't be more excited. It will ship with tens of thousands of questions, and no doubt there will be downloadable extras for sports, movies, history, etc. You can buy a Lord of the Rings Trivial Pursuit set in the stores, so why not online?