Second life – Is it ailing?

It was back in 2006-2007 when Second Life started to get a lot of media traction. I, at one time being a self proclaimed addict of Multi User Dungeaon , immediately jumped in to give this a shot. The concept was promising. Although it ran like a snail on my iBook G4 back then, I still continued to drag my way through the world, exporing cities and social life within. But it was only a matter of time before I decided to abandon it, simple due to the performance issue on my antique system.

Then I heard companies started to “buy” land within the Second Life to setup their own Silicon Valley. Startups found Second Life as a launchpad for their ventures . Educational Institutions started to operate and offer courses within this “virtual reality”. Linden dollars as the currency was known within this virtual world, had its own exchange rates with real world money. The concept started to grow like an epidemic. It was amazing, at the same time scary.

And then the hype started to die down. Along with the technical glitches that challenged its progress, regulators (in all spheres of life) started to see potential loop holes that needed to be fixed. Crime, Sex and Gambling became easy alternatives to make quick money. Then I heard 30% of its staff were let go . And slowly it started to disappear from the face of the earth.

Mitch Wagner wrote in computer world back in 2010 – “I use Facebook and LinkedIn to connect with people I already know, and I can occasionally meet new people through Twitter, but Second Life is unparalleled as a way to make new friends and meet people through your computer”.

And its user popularity started to die down . But all is not lost says Linden Lab CEO Rod Humble – “This year the focus is adding more life to the world – artificial life, things like path-finding which hadn’t existed before – and then enabling a suite of tools that will allow people to make things like their own massively multiplayer role-playing game.”

In the words of Rob Humble – “For me, generally, our [business] is shared creative spaces; that’s generally what the company does, but also the weirder the better, I think. If we had a motto, that would be it”.

With a better UI (web based), a more regulated environment and more educational institutions and companies starting to move their “webex” sessions to a “real” second world session, things will start to improve.

And it won’t be long before I take my plunge back in. I’m sure it wouldn’t be as hard to get the world back on its feet.

Think Geek item of the week

Back in the days when phones were a luxury, I remember holding my hand against my ear and mouth to mime a phone call. Little did I realise that think geek would actually make that concept a reality.

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The Tablets Vs Laptops Vs Smartphones dilemma

I’m sure this is a topic that has been torn apart “n” number of times, that my post would perhaps be an overkill. The convergence has been long time in the making. In fact the talks gained traction, back in 2010 when the iPad started making its way into the market. However after reading through several of them, I still find myself debating whether to make my next purchase a smartphone, or a laptop or a tablet. The problem began when Apple decided to come out with the iPhone 5 and the iPad mini. I started to feel rather antiquated with my 2007 Macbook, the earliest version of iPad and a relatively new iPhone 4. Decision making was always a harsh thing to do. And when you finally make a firm resolve to curb your splurging instincts, it becomes even harder. That’s when I decided to list down everything I do on all these devices in an effort to make an “intelligent” decision. And what can be a better place to “log” it than a blog.

Moving to iPhone5 was a relatively simple decision, especially since my old phone suddenly decided to start giving me “button” issues. To add on to my miseries, my macbook started to wear out gradually due to overuse and Apple decided to alienate the old iPad by not supporting iOS6 on it! That’s when I started thinking about my next purchase – A tablet or a laptop.

Let me give you a little background here. When I bought my iPad, my intent was to replace my laptop. With a desktop that I could make a remote connection to from my iPad, I had little trouble in convincing myself that it was one of the best decisions. Apart from the countless hours I spent on a regular desktop (aka Windows) at office, when I get back home, I realized I did spend a large chunk of my time on these three gadgets. What I do basically spans across these broad horizons.

Video and audio chat – Being away from my family, this has been an integral part of my life, mainly in the form of skype (for interoperability) and facetime, with occasional iMessage for screen sharing.
Used apps/applications – Skype, iMessage, Facetime and WhatsApp.

Web Browsing – The ever so wonderful world that the web has been, browsing never loses its charm. But the relevance of using a browser has significantly reduced over the past year, with most sites being “app”tized.
Used apps/applications
News – CNN (App and browser), Wall Street Journal (App), Summly and Flipboard (News Feed Apps), Times of India (App and browser)
Social Networking – Facebook (App and browser), Twitter (App), Linkedin (App and browser) and the rest of the crew.
Banking – App and Browser.
Searches – Google (Browser), Yelp (App) and the whole slew of content specific searching such as local cabs/metros, local trails, places of interest et al.
Online retail – Amazon (primarily browser), flight and hotel bookings (Browser for booking and App for status)
Miscellaneous – browser

Word editing – Powerpoints, Spreadsheets, and regular note taking
Used apps/applications – Powerpoint/Keynote, Excel/Numbers, Word/Pages, textEdit/OneNote/EverNote/Notepad.

Reading – Books have been a major part of my life. When shelves started to overflow, I reluctantly decided to go the “e” route.
Used apps/applications – Kindle and iBooks for books, iBooks for pdfs.

Music – Yet another indispensable component in my life, although it has been mainly limited to streaming these days.
Used apps/applications – Pandora, Spotify, iTunes

TV/Video online – Although I’m yet debating on moving away from a cable connection, I do spend more time watching news/videos online than viewing them on a television set.
Used apps/applications – youtube (browser), netflix (app and browser)

Coding – Not as prevalent when I get back home, but this does take a little bit of the time at home.

Here is how my time on these gadgets roughly gets distributed (number in percentages).

I did mention earlier that my intent was to try and replace my laptop through a combination of iPad and desktop. However in the past two years, I haven’t been very successful at it, one of the primary reasons being the difference in typing speeds on a regular keyboard and a virtual one. I could potentially buy a keyboard that can attach to my iPad but then that defeats the purpose of a tablet. Add on the fact that most of what I do on a tablet can be done on a smartphone as well, with the obvious disadvantage of a smaller screen, the case for a new tablet become even less convincing.

Having said that, I’m sure by now you all know that I do have a bias towards Apple products which means my potential budget for a laptop is slightly on the higher side as well. So it’s a choice between a $399, iPad “mini” and a $999 MacBook Air.

Let me know what you guys think. I’m also interested in hearing what you use on on a daily basis. And so I’ve started a survey to hear your thoughts. There are no free iPads being given away, but I promise you that it will not take more than 5 minutes of your time.

Wallaby solves one of those financial dilemmas!

If you are someone like me, I’m sure you must have faced a situation where you took out your wallet at a restaurant and started to gaze at all your credit cards wondering which one to choose in order to gain the maximum rewards. Well, now the answer to this problem is just a click away – Wallaby ! Currently launched just on the iPhone as a free app, wallaby lets you add you credit cards to scrape through their rewards and benefits every time you search for a location. Before you panic, I must say, it does not require you to give out your entire card number. All it needs it the first 6 digits of your card, which uniquely identifies the bank and their list of credit cards. You can then save the ones you own. What that means is, wallaby just mines the rewards programs from each of those cards, which usually stays the same across any user. So the next time you go to a restaurant, all you have to do is to just launch the app and it will tell you based on your location, which one of those cards to pick to pay. Quite a novel idea!

Coached by the mentors at Mucker Lab , the app was launched two days ago at the iTunes Store . While the whole array of credit cards that it presents to you is huge, there is still quite a few missing. For now, it gives you an option to send a message stating the details of the missing card. I’m sure as the user base grows, the database of credit cards will slowly move towards being exhaustive.

Where will Apple go from here…

It did happen. The meteoric rise in stock value that Apple saw in the summer, reaching its peak of $705 in September, is a history now. The stock has been plummeting ever since. Even the release of iPhone5 or the iPad mini could not help its cause. Some call it the Steve Jobs effect and other say it was the high expectations that were placed on these releases. As big an Apple fan that I am, I must admit I was never awestruck by their new releases. iPhone5, with its “longer” screen and its faster processor never really impressed as much as I expected it to. Same goes for an over-priced iPad Mini, when a Kindle Fire HD with the same screen resolution sells for half its price. So then comes the question – Where will Apple go from here?

Let’s list down each major product line and see where they can move towards. Before I start, I must lay down a disclaimer. These are just my personal viewpoints (aka dreams). You are more than welcome to tear it apart and comment on everyone of them.

iMac – one of those “ancestral” product line that brought Apple to this world, back in the 80s.
The names have changed, and the product got slimmer. But the purpose remained the same – a PC or a desktop! Its growth from the earliest Macintosh to the latest offering of iMac 2012 has been phenomenal. But what now? Do we see a touch screen added sometime in future? It is no secret that Steve Jobs has been against this all his life, simple because he thought your arms could quickly grow tired of stretching across the table to touch the screen. But that did not stop Zorro Macsk from hitting the market. Or do we see it getting collapsed (rather integrated) with a new product line – an Apple television?

Apple TV – one of those products yet to produce that aura of awe, which all others carried.
The tiny box that almost resembles a cable set top box, has not been able to replace cable as it was slated to do. And for that same reason this product is yet to undergo a significant revolution. The primary reason for this has been the fact that not many news channels and sport channels have been able to successfully offer their services on it. Rumors have been floating around this year about Apple talking to cable providers . Do we see Apple TV transforming itself to Apple Television? After all Apple did revolutionize the music retail industry. Can we see something similar soon?

iPod – a product that killed the cd players and “walkmans”
Undoubtedly, this has to be the product that brought Apple closer to common man. Along with iTunes, it changed the way people listened to music and ripped apart the music retail industry. It has gone through several shapes and sizes, with the classic, the mini, the nano and the touch. Although the latest of the iPod nano, to me was a step back from its “watch” form factor and its market was partially killed through the launch of iPhone, I do still see music lovers walking on the streets flashing those white ear plugs with an iPad on the other end. So where do we go from here? With the decline in sales that this product has seen over the years since the launch of iPhone, I see it paving way to be collapsed into iPhone at sometime in the future. That seems to be the only logical path. On a slightly lighter note, I did dream of an iWatch when I first saw the 6th generation iPod nano!

iPhone – a fresh face in the world of smartphones
I’m sure I don’t have to talk much about this. Almost 1 in every 10 people I see around me carry an iPhone these days. That in itself says a lot. And what more, Apple has pushed the incumbent mobile phone makers to start thinking outside the box. Touch technology still has a lot of room for innovation. Battery life and cellular technologies can still improve and so can the processor that goes into these smartphones. But what could really make a difference will be its form factor. With bendable phones slowly starting to pop its head out, iPhone can one day turn into a “wearable” gadget (hopefully not as creepy as this ).

iPad – a “personal” laptop
I’m sure the idea was to converge PC and tablet one day. In fact the convergence has been following its natural progression. However iPad in its present form, is still a long way off from replacing a laptop. A beefier processor and storage and an open minded install system for the iOS could potentially take us there. Now a lot of those could be overlooked, with the emergence of cloud. But I guess I will leave that discussion for a later post. Also, the fact that I cannot have a clear path to its file system (unless of course jail broken) is still a limiting factor for its progression.

Macbook – a true laptop
There isn’t much to say about this. The product, although is gaining significantly in its market share with the bigger and better macbook pros, the feather weight macbook air and the competitive pricing models, the only reasonable future I see for it is a touch screen add on. I’m sure, as long as iOS continues to tread its journey towards Mac OSX through the slow path, this product will remain significant.

All that said, could be yet another product in the making – one of those “magical” devices that could revolutionize yet another industry?

Like I said earlier these are all just my hopes and dreams and viewpoints. I’m very much interested in hearing your thoughts on each of them as well. So let those ideas flow… In the meantime, let me leave you with this wonderful concept video!

Renting is bliss … sharing is divine!

It was almost a year ago that I picked up the book What’s mine is yours – a groundbreaking idea proposed by Rachel Botsman . The idea was called Collaborative Consumption – a thought that wonderfully built itself atop the social media and social networking. The booking was engaging and equally informative. Since then, I’ve always made it a point to visit the site, to pick up on the latest of the ventures that embraced this idea. And thats how I landed on Share some Sugar .

There were two things that caught my eye about this place, amidst the amazingly long list of startups. The first one is obvious – its name. But along with its name, the thought was equally impressive.There is a little bit of history there. Back in India, it was rather common to see people, who just moved into a new location, walking over to their neighbors to ask for a tablespoon of curd (yogurt)! Making yogurt at home was an absolute necessity, as it a staple side dish for every meal, including breakfast at some places. And as I navigated my way through this site, I realized that was exactly the reason for this venture as well! It was a place to rent (for a deposit or a daily rate) or share equipments at home with neighbors – a rather novel thought!

As always with these new websites, I proceeded to register. One of the nice things about the registration was that they auto created a username for you based on your first and last name. Now you do have the option to change it. However, I’ve often had trouble thinking of a user name, esp. when all the ones that I wanted were taken. So I thought that was an interesting feature to have on the registration page, as an option. Once you login, it lets you choose from a variety of items, which were neatly categorized, that you are willing to share.The list includes home furniture through tools and even apparel! I wonder how many actually rent out apparel. But it would be a good idea to have some statistical model built to trend what people commonly rent/share.

Once registered, you can go on to browse for goods that people in your neighborhood are willing to share or rent and perhaps pick one that you are in dire need of. You can also add friends through your Facebook and Twitter contacts – one of those common features in any new social networking site these days. The place is still new and a little localized at the moment as well (I was unable to find anything in my area). But I would love to see it grow into a larger community. Being a proponent of collaborative consumption, what more can make you happier than a site for more sharing through social networking!

Bend it like Beckham!

First came a “cordless” mobile phone . Then its size started to shrink and before you knew it began to flip. Then it became a smartphone. The smartphone turned into a touchscreen. And now the world of smartphones has taken yet another leap – bendable phones!

The rumors started to come back in 2011 and Samsung promptly denied those rumors. Things went quiet for a while, amidst the smartphone war between Apple and Samsung and the launch of Galaxy Note and iPhone 5.

And now they gave it a tentative release time in 2013!!

It uses the flexible OLED Technology along with a plethora of rumored plausible features such as a high-resolution 800×480 flexible AMOLED screen, a processor of 1.2 GHz and 1 GB of RAM and a form factor that measures 221mm x 67mm x 8 mm with 16GB and 32GB capacities.

While I leave you with that thought, here is a mind blowing concept video that Nokia came out with, back in 2011.

Think Geek item of the week

For those arcade loving Apple loving geeks out there, here is a new offering from Think Geek – a “Joystick-it” for iPad