I wouldn't download driver updates from microsoft. Only from the manufacturer. As far as media player, that is really a personal preference thing. If you like WMP, then get the newer one, if you prefer Real Player, use it instead. This is why those are optional updates. I usually get all the security updates available except those for stuff I don't use like Outlook Express. I have never had any problems with Adobe, Real Player or Quick Time. Except for forgetting to remove an older version of Adobe reader before installing the new one. Oops.
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If your equation requires either a complex combination of variables to get the desired result OR you can't seem to get the result regardless of the variables....it ain't your variables, it's your constant.