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<nettime> The Great Software Debate: To Download or Not To Download
text warez on Sun, 23 Feb 2003 18:33:21 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> The Great Software Debate: To Download or Not To Download

The Great Software Debate: 
To Download or Not To Download  

a) The Basics 
b) Server-Side Software 
c) Downloadable Games 

It's not clear to me whether the Mini Idiot's Guide to 
Online Gambling should be a regular-sized guide for mini-
idiots or a mini-guide for all sizes of idiots, so I'll try 
to accommodate both audiences (and everyone in between) in 
this attempt to familiarize future Net-bettors with the 
skinny on casino software. And speaking of awe-inspiring 
versatility, you ought to take a look at how many software 
choices are available. At least 40 companies have designed 
and assembled Internet casino suites for hundreds of Web 
sites that accept real-money wagers. The existence of choice 
is a wonderful thing, but having to select from that many 
sites is a bit of a burden. Truth be told, many online 
casino sites are cookie-cut clones, each individualized with 
its own theme and a garment of relatively unique graphics. 
To simplify things a bit, this mini-guide narrows it down to 
two basic types of software: server-side games and 
downloadable games. 

The Basics 

Before breaking into the great software debate, you first 
must have a basic understanding of the client/server 
relationship. Information on the Internet is stored on 
servers, which usually operate around the clock. When 
obtaining information on the Web, the client (your computer) 
requests files from the server and the server, in turn, 
delivers the requested files. The process by which files are 
delivered from the server (their computer) to the client 
(your computer) is called downloading. The software used to 
send requests and receive data is called an Internet browser 
(e.g. Netscape Navigator). The major differences in gambling 
software options have to do with this relationship. The 
decision-making process is similar to being in Las Vegas and 
choosing between playing on the Strip or downtown. (Yes, 
aesthetics and ambience play a major role in choosing 
gambling software, too.) Instead, you have to choose between 
using server-side software or client-side software. Both 
have their advantages and disadvantages, so it ultimately 
depends on your personal needs and whether you're equipped 
with the appropriate hardware and/or software. Perhaps 
you'll want to experiment with both. 

Server-Side Software 

Server-side software, as the term implies, is software that 
resides on the casino operator's computer. Think of playing 
at casinos that operate with server-side software as being 
in downtown Las Vegas; you get the basics, and that's it. 
Downtown casinos aren't flanked by beaches, amusement parks 
or pirate ships, but you can get in and out of them with 
ease and they offer the same games that Strip casinos offer. 
If you're a serious player, you prefer the low-maintenance 
experience, and all you care about is getting down to 
business, server-side games might be the way to go. The big 
advantage of the server-side casino is that you can get in 
and out quickly without having to download and install a 
huge software application. Plus, you don't have to worry 
about taking up space on your hard drive with bulky 
downloads. And because none of the software is housed on 
your computer, you can log in from any place that's wired 
and equipped with the minimal amount of software that's 
necessary. (Here's a word of advice: If you're playing in 
the office?during your lunch break, of course?and you hit 
the mother of all jackpots, wait until you actually have the 
money in hand before strolling into the boss's office and 
giving him the big adios speech while dancing a jig on his 
desk.) Most server-based Internet casinos are powered by 
Java. That means if you've got a credit card, access to the 
Internet, and relatively recent browser software (version 
2.0 or higher browser for Netscape Navigator, version 3.0 or 
higher browser for Microsoft Internet Explorer), you're good 
to go. Playing for real money is as easy as logging on to 
the casino's Web site, setting up an account, and clicking 
on the game you want to play. 

Flotation Device 

It's great that you can sign up and get to playing at a 
server-based casino in a matter of minutes, but don't forget 
to do your homework before selecting a site that's suitable 
for you. 

The same goes for HTML-based casinos, which are compatible 
with even older browsers. Under the hood of an HTML-based 
casino is an interface that delivers the games to the 
browser in HTML (hypertext mark-up language). The user views 
the games as text and graphic files, so all you need to play 
at one of these is a browser that can view images and 
frames. HTML-based casinos are typically the least exciting 
to look at, but they're accessible to virtually everyone on 
the Web, including WebTV users. A third type of server-based 
casino is the media-rich Shockwave casino. To play at one of 
these, you must have the Macromedia Shockwave plug-in, a 
supplementary application that allows you to view Shockwave 
files. Your browser recognizes the plug-in, and its function 
is integrated into coding that's recognized by your browser. 
The latest version of Netscape Navigator comes bundled with 
Shockwave. If you don't already have the Shockwave plug-in, 
it can be downloaded for free at Macromedia's Web site, 
located at www.macromedia.com. It's quick and easy to do. 
The downside of server-side games is that they don't offer 
the richest experiences in terms of sight and sounds. Crisp, 
lengthy audio clips and elaborate animation require hefty 
files. Most Internet users are on a 56k or slower modem, so 
the designers of server-side games usually go as light on 
the graphics as possible. It's always nice to be in lush 
surroundings, but nobody wants to wait thirty seconds for a 
dealer to turn a card or five minutes for slot reels to come 
to a stop. 

Downloadable Games 

Gambling in downtown Vegas is okay for the pure player and 
the casual bettor looking to get in and out quickly, but 
those seeking a little more luxury and entertainment often 
get their kicks on the Strip. Sure, you've got to walk 
around 43 miles just to get to places like Caesars Palace 
and Bellagio from Las Vegas Boulevard, but once you're in 
the door, the experience is first-rate. That's basically 
what you get when you gamble using downloadable casino 
software. The bulk of the software for downloadable games 
resides on the player's computer and communicates over the 
Internet with the casino's game server. In other words, all 
the graphic and audio files are already on your machine, so 
you don't have to download them as you play. In the short-
term, it seems like a hassle because it takes a half-hour or 
so to download the games, and the extracted software 
occupies a lot of space on your hard drive. Most casinos 
powered by software downloads will happily send you a free 
CD-ROM via snail mail if you want, but the bottom line is 
that you can't get in and play the games immediately like 
you can with purely server-based software. And if you 
download and install the software only to discover that you 
don't like it, the time you took doing so becomes a 
meaningless portion of your life that's gone forever. 
Another knock on downloadable games is compatibility 
limitations; all of them, to my knowledge, are PC-based, so 
Mac and WebTV users need not bother with them. 

Flotation Device 

When opening a credit card account for real-money play, 
don't forget to make sure the credit card form was 
encrypted. To verify that a page is encrypted, look for an 
icon with a locked padlock at the bottom of the browser 

The upside for downloadable games, however, is tremendous. 
Because all the graphic and audio files are already on your 
machine, the software developers can remove the shackles and 
go nuts with real-life casino sounds, music, 3D graphics, 
and full animation. In a nutshell, downloadable software 
usually puts server-side software to shame. And amid this 
robust environment, the games are usually lighting-fast 
because a very small amount of data is transferred during 
play. Sure, downloading and installation are time consuming, 
but once you're set up and ready to go, the games move much 
more quickly than server-based games. 

The idea of downloading and installing software is a bit 
intimidating, but the process is a piece of cake because 
Windows operating systems and your browsing software walk 
you through the entire process. All you need to do is browse 
your way to the download page, click the file you want to 
download, and specify a folder on your hard drive where 
you'd like the file to be placed. After the download is 
completed, install it by opening My Computer, browsing to 
the downloaded file, and double-clicking it. From here, your 
Windows software tells you what to do. In a matter of 
minutes you're ready to play. 

Flotation Device 

Don't make the mistake of downloading software that's too 
big to fit on your hard drive. Check out the casino's 
downloading instructions page and take note of how much 
space the software occupies once it's extracted. 

Well, you've officially swallowed the bare-bones lowdown 
on selecting gambling software that's right for you. 
Happy gambling!



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