Cybernaut 

Tired of games? Create your own

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If the number of Java programmers making and marketing small format online strategy games is any indication, there’s a lot of talent out there that remains virtually untapped by the games industry.

Giving this talent an outlet is the rationale behind Microsoft’s latest offering, XNA Game Studio. Starting Aug. 30 the company will give the public an opportunity to use this platform to create games that work with PCs and the Xbox 360. The price is right at just $99 a year – pro game developer packages often cost over $20,000, and companies often pay far more than that for the ability to make console games.

The XNA package gives programmers the ability to create 3D and 2D games and environments, and program how characters and objects interact.

The games created by XNA users can be shared with other XNA subscribers, and entered in Microsoft-sponsored contests. Although some programmers will no doubt take the plunge as a hobby, there are a lot of talented minds out there who will use this as an opportunity to market their ideas – with game sales forecast to break $12.5 billion next year there are worse industries to break into.

The XNA platform is based on the Visual C# Express 2005 programming language, and the software comes with massive development libraries that offer shortcuts to developers. You’ll need to be fairly computer literate to make full use of the software, but beginners who can handle complex concepts and follow instructions should be up and programming in no time. Making things easier, your $99 subscription gains wannabe developers access to hundreds, maybe even thousands of other developers, as well as shareware libraries and other resources.

You’ll need a PC with at least Windows XP SP2 to use the XNA software, or a new system running Vista.

Keep your system moving

Every new computer starts out lightning fast, then gets slower and slower over the course of its brief but hectic life – sometimes to the point where you’ll probably speed up your own plans to replace your system.

The thing is there’s no technical reason your computer shouldn’t work just as fast as the day you bought it with maybe a slight lag to account for the added time spent retrieving fragmented data from a hard drive that gets fuller by the day.

The main reason you’re slowing down is not age, but rather the fact that you probably have an increasing number of programs competing for time on your CPU and space in your memory – programs you might not even be aware that you’re running. Some of these programs could be spyware you’ve picked up and that managed to elude your security system, while others could be "bots" of legitimate programs that run all the time instead of when they’re needed.

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