6 November 2000
Reported, written and edited by David Duberman
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The new version, HotMedia 3.5, of IBM's authoring tool, is designed to make it simpler for Web developers to add interactive video, streaming audio, 3D, animation and panoramas to Web sites.
HotMedia provides a single authoring environment for creating a range of rich media, resulting in a single file containing multiple interactive elements for adding to a Web page. It is suited to pre- and post-sales support, e-tail and on-line tour applications. HotMedia content does not require a plug-in to view and reportedly results in a smaller download, giving users interactive content, even through a 28.8 connection.
Performance and usability improvements include:
Zhanshen.com, an interactive online game designed in China by Xianzai.com, recently successfully tested Beijing-based NaSoft's transaction software, WebFirst, on its China game servers. Zhanshen.com will open its monthly game competitions on November 1 and is expected to eventually be played on Web, mobile, and email platforms in Chinese, English, and Japanese.
For WebFirst, originally designed to power simultaneous transactions via automated teller machines (ATMs) and financial power boards, this is the first time its scalable technology has been used in a non-financial capacity. NaSoft's software currently operates the daily transactions of the China Life Insurance Company, the OA System for the General Offices of the People's Insurance Corporation of China, and the Credit Registration System of the People's Bank of China.
Zhanshen.com's Java game engine supports both Web and mobile interactivity. The game offers free registration for players and prizes at the end of each monthly game cycle at http://www.zhanshen.com.
SecureMedia, a developer of encryption and intelligent key delivery for streaming and downloadable media, and ViaTech Technologies, Inc., a content solution provider (CSP) offering applications and services to secure digital content, have formed a strategic partnership to develop consumer-friendly delivery systems of protected digital media.
ViaTech and SecureMedia most recently collaborated on a distribution and e-commerce system that links the physical distribution of music CDs with online downloads of bonus tracks.
By integrating SecureMedia's proprietary encryption technology with ViaTech's eLicense System, the two companies have created a mechanism that provides both secure packaging and managed distribution of digitized content.
The eLicense System combines ViaTech's digital packaging applications, which use encryption and other security technologies, with the company's Adaptive Fingerprinting Technology (AFT), which establishes a unique identifier for any computer system. This allows for managed use of digital content.
SecureMedia's technology combines a public key security system with a symmetric system. The companies Encryptonite Engine is being integrated into RealNetwork's RealServer 8, slated for release this fall, as a standard component.
Fusion Networks plans to launch its New Media Editor software application, which provides personalization and rich content management tools designed to enable media companies, educational organizations and corporations to create rich media presentations to deliver news, education, presentations and training through the Internet.
Fusion's New Media Editor includes three options for clients using the software package. The Standard Viewer enables clients to create complete streaming rich media presentations featuring animated news anchors, background sets and graphics specific to the news, lesson or topic being presented. The Extended Viewer enables end users to choose the content, animated anchor, presentation set, language and related graphics that they prefer to see and interact with for the presentation. The third application, the Component Viewer, integrates the New Media Editor within Fusion's ICRM Software Suite, which facilitates the direct and user- specific delivery of content, online testing, educational training, corporate training and presentations, and media-related content delivery.
Andrea Electronics Corporation claims it is the first microphone software developer to customize audio source object code that enables a digital audio software processing technology to operate with Microsoft's newly introduced Speech Application Programming Interface (SAPI) 5.0. Microsoft SAPI 5.0 delivers an open set of application programming interfaces (APIs) and speech services for building speech applications for desktop, mobile and server platforms. In addition, SAPI 5.0 is speech engine-independent, reportedly giving developers greater freedom in designing the appropriate solution for a given voice application.
Used in conjunction with the Andrea Sound Card Array, Andrea's audio source object will employ Andrea PureAudio 2.0 and Digital Super Directional Array (DSDA) 2.0 technologies to enhance the quality of the user's voice signal and the performance of any SAPI 5.0-enabled speech application. The Sound Card Array, a small, cost-effective desktop device that captures and passes multiple streams of audio to the sound card line-input for audio processing, is designed for use with any speech application supported by Microsoft's SAPI 5.0 and can run on any sound card, including those operating on Windows 98, Windows Millennium, Windows NT 4.0 and Windows 2000 operating systems.
Over 20 speech engine companies, tool developers and Windows ISVs (independent software vendors) have announced plans to introduce SAPI 5.0- based products in the near term. SAPI 5.0, which will ship with the next version of Microsoft Office next year, has garnered support from speech engine companies such as L&H/Dragon, Conversa, Fonix, Fujitsu and Toshiba. It is freely downloadable from the Internet at http://msdn.microsoft.com.
Just out from RealNetworks is a beta release of RealAudio 8 for Internet audio. Developed in part through an alliance with Sony Corporation (the latter provided its ATRAC3 compression technology), RealAudio 8 reportedly delivers high-quality audio at a wide range of bit rates, as well as CD-quality playback at half the file size of MP3.
RealAudio 8 beta for RealPlayer and RealJukebox is available for download and install at http://realguide.real.com/ra8
Beta versions of RealProducer Basic and Plus for encoding RealAudio 8 and RealVideo 8 content, are available at http://www.realnetworks.com. Content created with the RealProducer 8.5 beta is compatible with RealServer 7.0 and above, and can be played in RealPlayer 7.0 and above.
The new version supports three additional languages-- Brazilian Portuguese,Traditional Chinese, and Simplified Chinese -- in addition to the existing U.S. English, French, Italian, German, Spanish, and Japanese languages. It also automatically switches languages; users can hear the information pronounced correctly in the original languages, for Web pages that are presented in Portuguese, French, German, Italian, Spanish and English. For example, if a person using the German language version surfs to a page in Spanish, the browser will automatically speak the information on the page in Spanish.
Home Page Reader is a complete, self-contained talking browser -- no screenreader is required. It combines Microsoft Internet Explorer and IBM's ViaVoice Outloud text-to-speech technology to present Web-based information in an integrated solution. Users access the program through the standard keyboard, a numeric keypad, or by using a mouse, and hear the information through IBM's Outloud speech synthesizer. The software is intended for users of Microsoft Windows 98, Millennium, and Windows 2000.
Features of Home Page Reader 3.0 include:
The U.S.English version will be available to purchase beginning December 15, 2000. The translated versions will be available in their respective countries by March 31, 2001. Users of Home Page Reader versions 2.0 and 2.5 will be able to download a free upgrade to Version 3.0 from the IBM Accessibility Center Web page (www.ibm.com/able) at the end of this year.
According to a new survey, one of the Web's first business models and applications, the pure directory site, could be on the way to extinction unless it adapts quickly to emerging search and information retrieval technologies.
The study on directory sites from online monitoring service cPulse shows that pure directory sites are exhibiting some of the highest levels of customer dissatisfaction in the entire Internet. From the first quarter to the second quarter of this year, customer satisfaction dropped 22 percent. Even more discouraging, 12 percent of respondents said they would never return to a directory site again, and another 15 percent said they would most likely look for other information retrieval options.
The ease of locating desired information remains the number one defection driver for pure drill-down directories. Nearly 60 percent of users ranked "ease of locating desired information" as extremely important, yet 68 percent of respondents said they were dissatisfied with this site attribute.
cPulse researchers said that the results of their survey demonstrate that hybrid sites, those that combine search functionality with directory-based information organization, are quickly replacing pure directory sites. Someday, predict analysts, most pure directory sites won't be necessary since most sites will offer more intuitive search capabilities and coexist with other functions.
The survey concluded that there are two things directory sites must do to survive: make the transition to the right search technologies immediately, and continue improving fundamental directory attributes like category labeling and search variables, remembering that visitors still demand the shortest path to the information requested.
Newly published by Charles River Media Inc. is the book 3D Lighting: History, Concepts, & Techniques. The reference by Arnold Gallardo explains how lighting "really" works by studying the nature of light, the physiology of seeing, and principles of various colors and materials. Gallardo covers techniques for effective digital lighting including tonality, shadow generation, and lighting presence replication using the applications LightWave 3D, trueSpace, and 3D Studio MAX. Tutorials guide readers through lighting situations in figurative, architectural, and specialized settings.
Cycore and REALVIZ S.A. last week launched ImageModeler for Cult3D, a $2,500 PC-based software application designed to simplify interactive 3D model creation and bring photo-realistic models to the Web with small file sizes.
The software is based on both REALVIZ ImageModeler and Cycore Cult3D technologies. Cult3D provides low-bandwidth interactive 3D images. ImageModeler automates the construction of dimensionally accurate 3D models from photographic, video or cinematic images.
ImageModeler for Cult3D was demonstrated in public for the first time at last week's WEB2000 Conference in San Francisco. By selecting a number of points on a series of still photographs of an object or environment, the program extracts 3D data and textures to build models. The Cult3D Designer built into the package is an authoring program that adds interactivity, animation, sound, Java events, and particle systems to the 3D model. This program features a drag-and-drop, icon-based interface, and has a built-in compression feature that reduces a model's file size up to 95%.
AXS Technologies recently unveiled its EyeSpy Image Server solution. The server utilizes parallel-processing techniques to deploy applications with high-resolution visual content, allowing large-format images to be shown as more than just low-resolution thumbnails. Unlike technology that must first load large images into memory and then decompress large amounts of data, the EyeSpy Image Server requests specific image parts from multiple disks that are then retrieved "in parallel" to ensure scaling capability. The image details delivered by EyeSpy Image Servers are cacheable, allowing improved network traffic while accessing large images.
The server is said to be compatible with any existing IT infrastructure and simple to install. To assist with integration, EyeSpyImage Server is pure HTML and multi-platform.
StageTools last week released Apple Macintosh versions of its MovingPicture pan and zoom application as an AVX plug-in for Avid’s Media Composer and XPress nonlinear editing systems and Adobe’s Premiere and After Effects programs.
MovingPicture is a new tool for documentary and industrial filmmakers to pan and zoom on high-resolution images. Rather than using motion-control rigs to create pans and zooms on photographic stills, MovingPicture uses digital images on a desktop PC.
MovingPicture uses an animation-stand metaphor, where a virtual camera viewfinder is positioned over the digital image in real time. A series of “key frames” can be set, each one specifying what the camera will see at some point in time.
The moves can be previewed in real time, and finally rendered without leaving the editor’s timeline. Motion is field-rendered at sub-pixel accuracy for smoothness, and in full 32-bit color.
MovingPicture is also available for Windows-based systems for Premiere, dpsVelocity, RexEdit, SpeedRazor and After Effects. The company will release versions for Media 100 and Discreet Logic’s edit* system at the end of the year.
An evaluation copy can be downloaded from http://www.stagetools.com. The MovingPicture plug-in is priced at $199.
GreyStone Digital Technology last week announced its Virtual-Info-Space platform, 3D software for e-business and m-commerce. The platform comprises e-business applications that combine technologies--artificial intelligence technology, simulation, modeling, and Web-based communications--to create a personalized digital world on the Internet.
The company's digital technology engine, GreySim and its Real-Time Advanced Graphics Environment (RAGE) software have been used since 1994 by the U.S. government and other military organizations worldwide to create military training and combat simulation environments.Elements of the GreySim technology engine also drive product development in GreyStone's Commercial Business Unit, which is concurrently launching its new MercRacer 3000 immersive entertainment motion platform for location based games.
realityBUY, a provider of 3D content for e-commerce applications, has partnered with Office Depot Inc. third dimension to its U.S. Web site, http://www.officedepot.com.
Office Depot will integrate interactive 3D images of nearly 1,000 of its office furniture products. Visitors will be able to click on selected furniture products to launch interactive 3D images. Using the 3D images, customers can select styles, colors and fabrics for chairs, view a variety of styles and surface finishes of a desk, as well as explore the products' features. They can also test the functionality of the furniture by opening drawers, and cabinet doors, or adjusting the height of a chair seat.
realityBUY is an application service provider of interactive 3D content and solutions for e-commerce applications. Using realityBUY's technology, 3D objects can be deployed within an individual company's Web site, in a vertical online exchange or combined with realityBUY's e-business solutions to deliver e-commerce capabilities to manufacturers, distributors and retailers.
Sony recently selected C-Cube Microsystems' AViA@TV digital video silicon for the initial generation of upcoming advanced digital cable set-top boxes scheduled to be deployed in early 2001.The C-Cube devices will be used in both basic and advanced functionality digital cable set-top boxes being developed by Sony.
C-Cube's AViA@TV chipset supports the following features:
Burst.com, a developer of "faster-than-real-time" multimedia delivery technology, recently announced the debut of Burstware "Live," a version of the company's video and audio delivery technology designed for live broadcasts over the Internet. Burstware is a scalable architecture designed to enhance the quality of multimedia streaming while managing and optimizing network resources over broadband networks. The company currently holds nine U.S. and 23 international patents and has nineteen pending worldwide on its "burst-mode" video technology.
A new feature in Burstware "Live" is "Timeshift" capability, which gives users accessing live Internet video events the ability to pause, resume playing, rewind or fast-forward up to the most current point of broadcast. The "Timeshift" functionality is based on intellectual property acquired by the company in 1999 through its acquisition of Timeshift-TV, Inc.
Synovial Inc. is a wireless multimedia software company dedicated to developing a unified delivery system for broadband, multimedia content and applications, over wireless networks and the Internet. Through development of a suite of multimedia renderers and APIs for use both on current and future (3G) devices, Synovial aims to enable content for cellular phones, PDAs, and wireless Internet appliances.
Some of the founding team members of our company were former key Aureal employees. The president/CEO is Suneil Mishra, former director of A3D product development. David Gasior, former technology evangelist, is now heading up the developer relations group.
The CMP Game Media Group and Digipen Institute of Technology (DIT) plan to help young videogame development teams gain recognition in the professional community at this year’s Independent Games Festival (IGF). The festival, now in its third year, will take place during the trade-only Game Developers Conference (GDC) at the San Jose Convention Center March 20-24, 2001. An interdisciplinary event, created in cooperation with DIT, the IGF Student Showcase will give the top five student development teams from around the world the opportunity to travel to this year’s GDC and premiere their work in front of industry influencers.
The five student development teams representing the winning games will each receive a travel allowance, one GDC Classic pass and up to five GDC Expo passes, in addition to having their game projects on display at this year’s IGF. The Student Showcase is a non-competitive event.
Showcase submission forms and general information will be posted on a number of youth-oriented Web sites, including www.bolt.com, www.colleges.com, www.collegeclub.com, www.collegehq.com, www.sixdegrees.com, www.westegg.com, www.uzone.com as well as game industry Web sites. Previous IGF winners have secured interest from the software publishing community for their projects, including the winner of 1999’s Best Game Design award, Resurrection, created by Mind Control Software of San Rafael, which was picked up by Sega. The deadline for entries is January 10, 2001. All games will be reviewed by Seattle’s Sputnik game development group, from which five selections will be made. Potential contestants can receive official contest information and entry forms at http://www.indiegames.com/studentshowcase.com.
Game publisher Acclaim Entertainment has developed a set of cross-platform tools and technologies that let gamers interact over the Internet via next-generation video game hardware systems as well as PCs, wireless devices and interactive TV. Developed by Acclaim's Online Engineering Group, NetSpine technology will make its debut in Vanishing Point, a Dreamcast racing game due out this fall.
NetSpine's advanced technology will allow gamers to compete and communicate simultaneously over the Internet regardless of the next-generation console system they are playing on. By incorporating NetSpine technology in its games, Acclaim will provide gamers with online features including global high score lists, head-to-head gameplay and chat.
Vanishing Point uses NetSpine technology to allow gamers to compete on a worldwide basis for the top race scores and maintain them online. The game's Internet Mode consists of a series of challenges, all issued via the Vanishing Point game servers. When a player connects to the game servers, the game will automatically download the new challenge in addition to existing player names and top scores.
Sierra On-Line and Jellyvision, Inc. recently released You Don't Know Jack 5th Dementia (Windows 95/98/2000), which for the first time introduces Internet multiplayer capabilities to the quiz-show game. The new version also features new questions and a new question type.
You Don't Know Jack 5th Dementia is the first PC game in the game show and trivia categories to have online multiplayer competition. The game also introduces the new Bug Out question type. In addition, players can select their own player icons.
PC gamers can now tear up the asphalt with the signature moves of famous skateboarding athletes in Activision's Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2. Developed by Livesay Technologies Inc., Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 for the PC allows players to skate with the skills of Tony Hawk, Bob Burnquist, Steve Caballero, Kareem Campbell, Rune Glifberg, Eric Koston, Bucky Lasek, Rodney Mullen, Chad Muska, Andrew Reynolds, Geoff Rowley, Elissa Steamer and Jamie Thomas. The game challenges players to master new tricks and combinations as they work their way up the skateboarding ranks using moves like manuals, grabs, grinds, inverts and lip and nollie tricks, among others.
The PC version offers a variety of multi-player modes via a LAN network including a brutal tag mode, trick attack and graffiti. Also exclusive to the PC version is the addition of three Tony Hawk's Pro Skater levels -- Woodland Hills Warehouse, Chicago Skate Park, Phoenix Down Hill Jam.
The game also features a 3D skatepark editor that lets gamers to build their own dream parks from scratch. Players can see how their park will look in the game as they plot out a course using a variety of parts - ramps, rails, obstacles and quarter-pipes. Once a level is laid out, it can be saved and shared with friends. Also, a character customization feature lets gamers to modify the pro skaters' clothing and trick sets, or build an entirely new character from scratch.
Publisher Blue Byte Software last week released the first taste of its real-time and turn-based game Battle Isle: The Andosia War. The 67.3 MB "appetizer" features a tutorial and a scenario from the game, allowing players to become familiar with game's user interface and to discover the game's storyline and environment. Due for release later this month, Battle Isle: The Andosia War, was developed by Cauldron in Slovakia and is Blue Byte's follow up to Incubation, released in 1997.
Scheduled for release this month is the Star Wars: X-Wing Trilogy from LucasArts Entertainment Company LLC. The value-oriented compilation will retail for an estimated street price of $29.95 and include the LucasArts titles X-Wing, TIE Fighter, and X-Wing Alliance as well as the bonus sample X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter: Flight School. The trilogy is a compilation of games developed by San Rafael, California-based Totally Games in conjunction with LucasArts.
TIE Fighter features more than 100 missions, and dares players to restore and enforce Imperial rule and defeat the Rebel insurgence. The game challenges pilots to refine their skills in training courses and historical combat before engaging in a series of battles.
X-Wing Alliance presents a story-driven collection of 50 single and multiplayer missions spread throughout an expansive battle environment. The game balances two narratives, with the primary story focusing on the Rebel Alliance's struggle for survival after bitter defeat by the Galactic Empire in the tumultuous Battle of Hoth.
Rounding out the collection is the bonus sample X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter: Flight School, which includes 14 Imperial and Rebel missions from LucasArts' X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter. Flight School offers both single and multiplayer training exercises from the defense of a Star Destroyer to convoy attacks, all set in a variety of familiar Star Wars space battle environments.
Crave Entertainment last week began shipment of Red Dog to retail outlets today. The Dreamcast title puts players behind the controls of the high-powered, highly maneuverable red dog assault vehicle in a fast-action attack game that pits humans against the aggressive Haak alien forces occupying planet Earth.
Challenges carry players across large interactive environments from fiery caves to icy cliffs. Each mission takes place on a different continent, where players contend with both elements and aliens in their all-terrain vehicle tanks, equipped with everything from protective armor to cannons.
Red Dog also includes six single-player missions with more to unlock. Multiplayer modes range from death matches to bomb tag and also allow access to exclusive multi-player weapons. Players will find bonus levels and new equipment as they progress through the game.
Coming next summer from Sony Computer Entertainment America is Twisted Metal:Black for the PlayStation2 computer entertainment system. Based on the Twisted Metal franchise, the new title brings a new look and feel to the series, catapulting players into a deeper and darker gameplay environment than ever before.
Developed by Incognito Studios, the creators of Twisted Metal 1 and 2, the car combat title sets the stage for a gruesome, yet electrifying battle. The game features enhanced player environments with moving traffic, changing weather conditions, "living" pedestrians and interactive objects. Destruction is at the game's core, but strategy is essential for creative kills, made possible by the many different weapons and combo attacks.
Readers who've been following the industry for a while may recall Synapse Software's Relax, a hardware/software product for eight-bit computers that acted as a mind-controlled input device. Not content to let dead dogs lie, East3, Ltd., a development and commercialization firm specializing in feedback technology, last week announced its first product, The Attention Trainer. The new learning system uses video games and brainwaves to help teach children how to concentrate.
The Attention Trainer, scheduled for release in early 2001, is an interactive system that connects to a home computer. A wireless headset monitors a child's concentration levels by way of wireless, "goopless" sensors inside the headset. These sensors measure levels of attention and transmit this information, through wireless technology, to the software in the games. The video games respond differently based on a child's level of attention. For example, speed and steering may improve or the game may advance to different levels as concentration improves.
Interplay Entertainment Corp. last week reported results for the third quarter and first nine months of fiscal 2000. For the quarter ended September 30, 2000, the company reported net revenues of $31.6 million, a 34 percent increase over net revenues of $23.6 million for the same period a year ago. Operating income for the quarter was $1.1 million versus an operating loss of $16.1 million in the same quarter a year ago. Gross margins for the quarter improved to 49 percent as compared with 35 percent in the same quarter a year ago resulting from a decrease in returns and allowances and a higher margin product mix. The company reported net income of $113,000, or break even per share, compared with a net loss of $17 million, or $(0.75) per share, in the third quarter of 1999.
According to chairman/CEO Brian Fargo, the revenue growth was due to new title releases in the quarter as well as re-orders of previously released titles. Baldur’s Gate II on PC, Star Trek New Worlds on PC, and Caesar’s Palace 2000 on Dreamcast were all released this quarter. Icewind Dale on PC as well as Caesar’s Palace 2000 on PlayStation, both of which were released last quarter, continue to be strong sellers.
Strategy game developer Stainless Steel Studios announced last week that Tim "Yogurt" Mitchell has joined the Empire Earth Scenario Design Strike Team. The Strike Team is a group of gamers who are helping to develop Empire Earth's single-player campaigns. Mitchell is currently working on a campaign that encompasses the 20th century, and is providing input on the other campaigns and the game's scenario editor.
Mitchell started out in game design by creating scenarios for Age of Empires; his AoE scenarios "The Wayward Prince" and "The Peaceful Seas" were intricate multiplayer scenarios before multiplayer scenarios were common for RTS games. He has also created popular scenarios for AoE II: The Age of Kings.
His scenarios "Christmas Morning" and "Final Hour" were highly rated by the Age of Kings Heaven Web Site. Fellow Strike Team member Steve "Lobby" Ryan recommended him to Stainless Steel Studios after seeing Christmas Morning and SSSI was quick to snap him up.
Mitchell lives in British Columbia on scenic Vancouver Island, where he works for the provincial government when he's not making scenarios. He also teaches courses about technology and culture over the Web for a distance education program out of the University of Victoria. Additionally, Mitchell is a published author with a master's degree in screenwriting and he has won Canada's Silver National Magazine Award for Fiction.
Nominations for the year's best shareware programs are being sought for the fifth annual SharewareJunkies.com Awards, to be presented on January 2, 2001 by the Internet site SharewareJunkies.com. Net surfers are invited to cast their votes at http://www.sharewarejunkies.com between now and December 20.
The 2001 SharewareJunkies.com Awards will consist of five categories: four are specific to individual operating systems--Best Windows Program, Best Macintosh Program, Best OS/2 Program, Best DOS Program--and the fifth celebrates the Best Freeware Program, which is open to a product running on any operating system as long as it is available at no cost. The program that receives the highest number of votes will be named Best Program of the Year.
flashfoward2000 and the Flash Film Festival come to London's National Film Theatre this month following two sold-out conferences in the US. flashforward2000 will run from 27-29 November, 2000 and will feature a keynote from Kevin Lynch, Macromedia's president of products, who will discuss the state of Macromedia Flash technology and talk about new developments.
Speakers confirmed for the event include, Eric Wittman, Director of Product Management for Macromedia Flash, Mickey Stretton and Daljit Singh of Digit Digital Experiences, Andrew Lyons of Qsion, Brian Limond of Flammable Jam and Brendan Dawes. For a full list of speakers, visit www.flashforward2000.com.
The Flash Film Festival awards ceremony will take place on 27 November, following the first day of the conference. Festival nominations are now being accepted at www.flashfilmfestival.com. Flash enthusiasts are encouraged to visit the site and vote for your favorite entry.
Spectrum is an independent news service published every Monday for the interactive media professional community by Motion Blur Media. Spectrum covers the tools and technologies used to create interactive multimedia applications and infrastructure for business, education, and entertainment; and the interactive media industry scene. We love to receive interactive media and online development tools and CD-ROMs for review.
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