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Cybernaut

Get a (Second) Life

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Having read a lot about Second Life, the limitless virtual world created by Linden Labs, I decided it was time to see what all the fuss is about. I downloaded the software, created a virtual me (also known as an avatar), went through the orientation, gave myself a hideous makeover, and transported myself to the mainland where I was free to wander through virtual homes, gardens, and attractions owned and created by regular Second Lifers.

After wasting more hours than I care to count wandering around, poking my head into buildings, I decided that my First Life was just fine.

I could never seem to get download times fast enough in the Linden Universe to make the experience seamless, and several times while visiting I was required to download huge new upgrades to deal with issues of security and expanded capability. The latest update, downloaded last week, took about 28 minutes to pull down and install.

There is also a massive investment in time and energy to learn all of the ins and outs of Second Life, and there can be a sizeable investment in money as well if you want to buy land and build on it, get a set of functioning genitals (yes, there’s a lot of sex in Second Life), or gain access to the coolest places and events. You can also use Linden bucks to get into live musical concerts, and purchase virtual art and toys like cars and motorcycles. As well, there are virtual stores where you can shop for actual products that will be delivered to your actual home/basement.

That’s not to say there isn’t a lot to do for free. With all the top companies rushing to create virtual headquarters in Second Life as a way to communicate with more than half a million tech savvy Second Lifers (actual number of users is hotly debated), it’s safe to say you can spend weeks there just walking around, chatting to people, and seeing just how outlandish you can get your avatar to look.

 

Getting There

The place to start is www.secondlife.com , where you can download the software. After installing the software follow the prompts as you pick your name and a basic avatar which you’ll get to customize a little later. Spend as much time getting orientated as possible to ensure you’ll be able to get the most out of your visit to the mainland.

Once you’ve gone through the first self-guided tour you can transport yourself to orientation island where you’ll get a more in-depth explanation of Second Life. Do not buy in just yet — make sure you’re at least somewhat interested before you spend any money on land, clothes or other features of the program.

 

Doing business, owning property

While most of the business conducted in Second Life is virtual, a lot of actual transactions do take place. A few months ago a Second Life real estate developer became the first to earn a real million dollars by selling his creations and converting his Linden Bucks to greenbacks at the LindeX currency exchange, and others have done well using Second Life to sell music, design and sell fashions, and to network with other Second Lifers. Other people program actions and poses, which they then sell to Second Life users for their avatars.

You should be able to figure out more about the Linden economy with just a few visits, and occasional news updates from the homepage. The sky is really the limit.

 

Building Stuff

I have no idea how to build things, although I’ve played around a little and have made some impressive stacks of blocks. There is a general tutorial on Orientation Island, and if that isn’t enough you can drop by the free seminars at Kuula on building and automating your creations with basic scripting.

The really neat thing is that you can find out exactly where to go at the Second Life website, and click on the “Teleport Now” button to be automatically transported to class.

 

Playing games

There are several virtual casinos in Second Life, as well as a place called Samurai Island where you can battle others, a place called DarkLife where you battle your way through a dungeon, and Numbakulla, a multi-player game based on the popular Myst game series.

 

Bottom Line

Second Life isn’t a game, and as a result I don’t find it very entertaining. As well, since I already spend about eight hours a day in front of a computer I have no desire to be part of something that requires me to spend more time in front of a monitor. It’s not for me, but that doesn’t mean it’s not for you — visit www.secondlife.com to check it out.

 

The iPhone commeth

At last, after years of rumours on the topic Apple CEO Steve Jobs has confirmed this week that Apple is poised to release the iPhone, in partnership with Cingular, which is a combination iPod, cell phone, and wireless internet device. Models have either a four or eight gigabyte hard drive (which is bound to increase), support both Bluetooth and 802.11 wireless connectivity, run a stripped down version of OSX with Safari browser, and, best of all, has no buttons — the entire screen is a button, with a virtual dial pad for using the phone, a virtual click wheel for navigating the hard drive, and a virtual keypad for text messaging, e-mail, typing in URL’s and other functions. It has a wide screen for watching movies and television, and should be able to play a few games as well. There’s also a 2.0 megapixel camera, microphone, speaker, and just one button that takes you to Home.

The price should start around $499 U.S. and will show up in stores around June. No word on how the cell phone would work just yet, but more details will be released in the coming weeks. If you can afford to buy it, it’s going to be awesome.

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