April 25, 2006

Second Life


Second life is 3-D virtual world built and owner entirely by its residents. It is one of a new generation of massively multiplayer online real-life games created by San Francisco based Linden labs. The idea behind Second Life is to give its residents or citizens the ability to built, develop and participate in the Second Life economy.

Started in 2003 the Second Life game now has over 100,000 citizens from all around the world. These citizens do all the things they do in real life in the game. From buying and selling land and buildings, to creating and developing objects that can range from cars to spaceships.

In Second Life your persona is represented by an Avatar – something you create and modify as you like. When I set up my Avatar (my name in Second Life is Gorog Senior) I chose to give it long black hair and I was given a ‘Second Life’ t-shirt by one of the residents I bumped into while exploring the world. Most often Avatars are human shaped but there are many Avatars in Second Life that have tails and look like rabbits as well – in a virtual world anything goes.

Like any real world there is a lot to do in Second Life. You can for example buy land (using the online currency called Lindens), build a block of flats and then resell the flats to those who need somewhere to live while online. When Second Life began there was a total of 64 acres of land, now in 2006 there are 20,000.

If you are good with creations you could start a factory that produces cars that you can then sell to others who need transport. There are literally thousands of items for sale – click here. There are categories ranging from Building Components to Scripts – the language of choice in Second Life. If you plan on buying and selling you’ll need to use Linden’s. You’ll get about 300 Linden’s for each US Dollar. As an example a 3-story luxury home will cost you about 6500 Linden, or about $20USD.

A basic account is free and includes access to everything. If you want to own land you’ll need a premium account these plans start at $9.95US per month.

April 19, 2006

YouTube


YouTube is a free online video streaming service that allows users to view and share videos that have been uploaded by other YouTube members. Think of it as a kind of online video library where anyone can upload any type of video. The best part about this service – like other social Web 2.0 properties is that it is free to use. It was founded in early 2005 by the same group of entrepreneurs that started PayPal – the wildly successful online payment system.

Before YouTube there was no easy way for individuals to share video on the Web. The problem of dealing with hundreds of multimedia formats and large files made sharing video clips difficult – even for tech-savvy individuals.

With YouTube you can upload and share your videos worldwide to anyone with Internet access. If you don’t have videos to upload you can always browse and play the thousands of videos available. You’ll find groups of people with similar interests to you (Sports for example) and be able to view and browse their videos. If you host a website YouTube also provide a set of API’s that let you display YouTube videos on your website.

Uploading a video on YouTube is as simple as signing up for a free account. As well as uploading videos, members can also save videos and create custom playlists. Movies for upload need to be in either AVI, .MOV, and .MPG file formats. Uploading can take anywhere from a few minutes to several hours depending on the size and the speed of your connection. YouTube limit each video to 10 minutes in length or 100 Mb. If you want to upload more you’ll need to sign up to become a premium content provider. Once videos are on YouTube they stay there until you remove them. The other requirement for uploading videos is that you own the copywright to the video or have permission from the copywright owner to use the video. Posting commercial content or anything illegal will result in immediate suspension of your account, similar to other community based sites like eBay.

To date YouTube has served over 25 million videos – and is by all accounts the Internet’s premier video service. Google has just begun competing with YouTube through its Google Video service. Google also allow you to purchase commercial videos – something that YouTube doesn’t.

April 13, 2006

One with the lot


If you are in the market for a new wireless router and already have ADSL you should consider upgrading to an all-in-one ADSL Modem/Wireless Router. If you choose NetComm's NB9W MyNetGateway ($299) you'll also get VOIP capabilities thrown in. MyNetGateway is one of a new generation of networking products that does everything, and at best lets you get rid of your individual ADSL modem (the one you got for free from your ISP), VOIP Router and Wireless Access Point and frees up three slots in your powerboard.

The integrated device comprises an ADSL2+ enabled modem that allows the user to benefit from faster broadband services, such as iiNet's ADSL 2 service. A built-in router with a 4-port Ethernet switch allows for the easy connection of up to 4 wired devices while the built-in 802.11g wireless networking allows for fast 54Mbps wireless functionality. MyNetGateway also has VOIP functionality that has Quality of Service (QoS) supports. QoS functionality prioritises voice packets over data packets that ensures that VOIP call quality remains excellent even during periods of heavy Internet use.

The VOIP functionality is further enhanced with two phone ports allowing simultaneous connection of two phones - in reality you could have two separate phone lines connected to this unit - perfect for the home office where there might be different home and office lines. Like all good VOIP routers the NB9W allows for connection of a regular telephone service allowing you to make and receive PSTN phone calls as well. If your ISP ever goes down this also ensures continued telephony support.

In my testing the NB9W performed very well. I tested the unit with my iiNet ADSL account. Set up was easy on my Mac using the web-based portal. If you use a PC you might prefer to use the included CD and software that makes setup even easier. I also tested the VOIP capabilities and was very impressed. Phone calls (using my iiNetPhone account) were crystal clear and you could tell that the QoS technology was working because there was occasional slow down in my Internet connection when I was on the phone. iiNet's ADSL 2 service is great if you are in one of their ADSL 2 areas - at times I achieved over 300K download speeds.

On the downside, I found that wireless reception was not as good as my Apple Airport system and I found some of the DHCP settings hard to customize.

Overall the NB9W is a great choice if you want an integrated device that does all the networking you’ll ever need.

Windows goes to Boot Camp


For mainstream computing the Mac has always been the PC of choice – whether it’s managing your email, syncing your iPod or creating a home movie of your kids Mac OS X and it’s suite of iApps (called iLife) do the job best. In fact, Mac OS X is still the only popular operating system on the market that is free from viruses and spyware that plague Windows and it’s cousins. In terms of the hardware design Apple is known as the leader.

This week Apple took another step forward by announcing a product called Boot Camp. Boot Camp allows all new Intel Macs to run Windows XP natively and will be included as a major component in the upcoming 10.5. Boot Camp will also support Windows Vista which should definitely be released by mid-2008.

In the past Mac OS X users have had to resort to emulators to run Windows applications – while these were effective they were also slow as the program rather then the chip had to do most of the raw computer processing. Now however the game has changed. Boot Camp allows users to run Windows (or Linux) natively without any performance penalties – and side by side with Mac OS X. In fact, the recent speed tests have proven that Apple’s line of Intel Macs run Windows faster then Dell, HP and Toshiba.

There are many benefits to this solution – most obviously a huge increase in the potential market for Apple. Traditionally Apple has been very strong in education but this leadership position has eroded over the last 5 years. Now schools can choose to buy Macs as they get the best of both worlds. Buy Macs for security, stability and ease-of-use, and Windows for all the extra software that isn’t available for OS X.

For business the same applies. Macs look better and run better but traditional business applications are mainly Windows only – now business can introduce Mac’s reap the advantages of increased productivity and less downtime.

If you’ve got a new Intel Mac head over to Apple and download the 83Mb package. You’ll also need your own copy of Windows XP. At the website you’ll find many warnings from Apple about the hazards of running Windows including this; “Windows running on a Mac is like Windows running on a PC. That means it’ll be subject to the same attacks that plague the Windows world. So be sure to keep it updated with the latest Microsoft Windows security fixes.”