NO TV

April 2, 2008

I could no longer tolerate the exorbitant high prices my local cable company, Cablevision was charging me. It was about $140 per month for a bundle of phone, internet and television. I don’t really watch TV. Occasionally you will find me watching a home show on HGTV, but really, I don’t watch TV. I spend what would normally be my TV time on the internet, and most of that time creating and socializing in Second Life. When my kids are here on the weekend they turn it on. But then they go off into their computer worlds and just use TV as background noise. They will also watch a show or two in the morning before school. Since they are only here once a week for school, that doesn’t amount to much TV viewing time. My son showed me how I could get just about any TV show I want right on the internet. I had looked at some devices that transmit the information from your computer to the TV, thinking I’d save money in the long run if I got rid of cable. They ran from about $60 to $80 on average, with a nice wireless unit for $130. Well, after a little research, I found that a simple s-video cable from my computer to the TV was all I needed; a $13 solution. The quality was quite normal, and switching to full screen was like watching regular TV but with controls like DVR. Next, I did some research and found an affordable deal with ATT. I took the plunge and ordered the higher-grade DSL, and the telephone service from ATT.

I now have it all installed and running. To my surprise DSL was quite adequate. I had it in the past and it was better than dial-up, but not so good, with a lot of dropped service. This is almost as good as cable. Images and video take a little more time to load. I hadn’t realized really, how fast the cable was. But considering the price, I can learn to live with it. Internet is about $20 less per month. Now the real test was to see if it would run Second Life ok, since it is a “bandwidth hungry” program. It did fine. I actually couldn’t tell the difference in how it ran on DSL vs Cable. My wireless for my laptop turned out to be close to its usual as well. Like the desktop, images and video take a little longer to load, but its all quite tolerable.

As for the phone, well, cable was better; which is disappointing since I was back to the source so to speak, with telephone service. After ordering on the internet, I received no less than five calls, to take my order, then verify my installation date. I originally started with an inexpensive plan and no long-distance. ATT had decided I am not credit-worthy for long distance service; I had to “prove” myself first. Well, when I couldn’t call my girlfriend in Maine, I immediately called to improve my plan. After much argument about having been a good former customer and talking to the supervisor, I was granted permission to have long-distance. I feel like a grown-up now! I then asked about a better plan. Suddenly we were talking $45 to $50 a month, up from the $16 plan I had signed up for. After I pointed out it was quite a leap in price, and I should perhaps just use my cell phone, a plan suddenly became available for $33 that matched the one I had with the cable company. To their credit, the ATT rep and supervisor, really did go to bat for me and took good care of me.

As for the TV, well, I haven’t watched TV yet since I lost the cable service two days ago. I really don’t feel “cut-off” or miss it in any way. I did sign up for a free trial of Netflix. I figure watching DVD’s is probably the best use of my TV anyway. All in all, even if I get TV service from ATT, I will end up paying approximately half of what the cable company was charging. So, I’m a satisfied customer for now.

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Vastpark Stress Test

March 20, 2008

I feel fortunate to be selected as one of the beta testers for Vastpark. It’s an exciting virtual world concept that appears to be moving in a more integrated direction than other VWs that I’ve looked into.

I am including a statement from the founder to give you a better idea of what this company is hoping to do:

A message from the Founder of VastPark:

Welcome to VastPark!VastPark’s tools are digital crayons for a new medium. Although VastPark suits creating virtual worlds, you may find it useful for many purposes including: digital puppetry, interactive 3D ‘powerpoint’ presentations, game creation and immersive exploration of architecture.

The question is: What are you going to do with it?

As a kid, my favourite activity was dreaming and my secret ambition was to conjure dreams in other people’s minds. When I hear artists talk about their work affecting people, I know I’m not alone in that secret ambition, so I’m dedicating VastPark to my fellow dreamers.

Already in its ‘beta’ form, VastPark is a significant step forward in enabling the dreamer inside you to dream and for others to share and participate in your worlds. Commercial and artistic opportunities abound for those who get in early.

That’s why we encourage you to Grow Your Own.

We’re working hard to ensure that VastPark can be adopted by online communities, corporations, individuals and indie developers alike.

I hope you will download the software, play with it, get involved and come to love this new medium as much as I do.”

All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible. T.E. Lawrence

Last evening I was one of 23 people in-world for a stress test they were conducting. The public beta is due in April so i’m sure they want to get alot of the bugs worked out now.

It was a fun time. It took me a while to figure out how to do anything, but the ongoing chat was most helpful. Even in this early stage I noticed avatar movement was quite good, and the visuals were nicely done. I see alot of potential here.

Having been a Second Life user for a year and a half now, I can appreciate their efforts to accomodate large numbers of people concurrently, something SL has not done well, mostly due to their server model. I don’t pretend to really understand these things, but it sounds like Vastpark is going to have more at the local end which should alleviate the server stress and famous “Linden Lags”.

Here is an image from the test:

vastpark1.jpg

We all had these bizarre, broken teddy bear avatars at first, and then when we moved to a different park we were some kind of computers on a wheel. It was odd, but fun anyway. I hope they got some good info. Now I have to look at their creation program and prepare a world for myself…

I just read in Wired where the University of North Texas has teamed up with TRACE to use Facebook as a place to report stolen goods and check on used items students want to buy to see if they are in the “stolen” database.

At first this seem frightening to me that people would consider using a social networking program to report stolen goods and turn in thieves. It definitely felt like an abuse of it and goes against the whole idea of a “social” space. But does it? When I thought about it, I guess I’d like to have people know I had something stolen and if someone is selling a stolen item listed in the database here, the thief could get caught and property recovered. That’s a good thing, right? So it seems people have found a new way to use interactive media in a way that wasn’t intended. I find it fascinating to watch the re-appropriation of media.

Here is a preview of the Croquet project. While some people consider Virtual Worlds to be just a game or an escapist paradise, others are viewing them as the precursor to the 3D web. I think the Croquet project is breaking ground in this area. It appears that you can essentially web surf from in-world, and continue to follow links to other places, like jumping through windows. Even without the avatars, a windowed system that can be “dug” into like this would be quite useful. The overlayering of avatars does add a social element to the system making it more interactive and user-friendly. And I’ll add, as I like to do…it’s more fun.

Web 2.0

February 7, 2008

Web 2.0 … The Machine is Us/ing Us

Here’s a quick view of Web 2.0; the interactive Web. It’s rather clever presentation that incorporates us as part of the way the web is used, or uses us…

Wait, Which Life is This?

December 22, 2007

Third Life?

OOO, I’m confused…

Reach Out and Touch…

December 5, 2007

Microsoft Surface – Exclusive Review

Wow, it looks like touchscreen computing is really evolving. It sure looks like fun. I want one. I wonder who will produce the first game for this new equipment.