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Second Life Trials Voice Chat

February 28, 2007 8:06 PM | 1 Comment

second_life_logo.jpg The popular, virtual reality site "Second Life", run by Linden Labs, will shortly unveil a new limited service beta trial in which they will give users the option of chatting up other avatars with voice instead of text.

Prior to this announcement, Second Life users wanting to communicate with one another have had two basic choices: text chat (either personal or in a group setting) or the use of third-party voice applications like Skype.

Linden Labs  has teamed up with VoIP technology partners Vivox and DiamondWare to engineer the service, which goes live on March 6 for a limited group of users. By the end of the month, Linden Labs hopes to extend the feature to all Second Life inhabitants.

Second Life's new integrated voice chat feature will offer a group mode that lets users hear voice conversations in their immediate proximity, and personal and regular group voice chat, where users don't need to be near each other to have a conversation.

After added voice chat to its site in late 2003, many Second Life users have been clamoring for the same feature.  And after seeing users add Skype and other applications like TeamSpeak or Ventrilo into the site, Linden Labs apparently got serious about development.

The plan is to initially provide voice free of charge during the beta. Down the road, Linden Labs is considering limiting the offering to mainland property owners and island owners who pay a $295 monthly maintenance fee, and charging users living on the wrong side of the virtual train tracks an additional fee or making them upgrade to the current plan.

It's clear the site is at the very early stages of incorporating real-time voice chat, and it will be interesting to see what emerges from the user community and how people incorporate it into their virtual business and personal lives. Continue Reading...

GE%20logo.jpg GE has just introduced new incandescent light bulbs that supposedly match the new compact fluorescent type in efficiency and energy savings.

See this post from the Green Tech blog on this announcement. I agree with some of the comments that this appears to be taking two steps back, one step forward, but if the energy savings (and consequent reduction in carbon dioxide) rival fluorescents -- and the prices are right -- then we are still far better off going with either option than doing nothing at all.

Also of note, check out a new Yahoo! site -- -- designed to encourage people to change to compact fluorescent bulbs -- a task that supposedly takes 18 seconds. The site, sponsored by Wal-Mart, shows a running tally of dollars saved and amount of carbon dioxide reduced as a result of replaced bulbs.
Continue Reading...

Costco Amends TV Return Policy

February 27, 2007 2:12 PM

Costco.jpg I was sorry to hear that Costco recently ended their amazing 2-year, no-questions-asked return policy for a bunch of electronics products, including TVs, computers, cameras, camcorders, cell phones, MP3 players and iPods, It was a wildly popular, if occasionally abused, policy -- and helped make Costco the go-to place to snag a great deal on a new flat screen HDTV.

Now, customers have 90 days to return these products for a full refund (although Costco will extend manufacturers warranties up to two years and offer free phone-based tech support).

Apparently, the company was experiencing a noticeable financial hit from its largesse, and the bean counters couldn't allow it to continue.

twist%20CF.gif When I first blogged about the amazing energy savings -- and competitive pricing -- of new compact fluorescent light bulbs, I wrote about 2 common versions of the twist type bulb -- 60 and 100 watt incandescent replacements. Easily found at Costco or Walmart on the cheap.

  I've basically replaced every standard bulb in my house with a fluorescent one -- except for the more "specialty" bulbs, like chandelier bulbs, globe bulbs (for bathroom vanities), reflector and spot bulbs, outdoor bulbs, dimmer bulbs, 3-way bulbs, bug bulbs, grow bulbs, blue light bulbs, red light bulbs, and very very bright bulbs. In fact, any light bulb you can think of has a fluorescent replacement.

In other words, we're still talking a heck of a lot of incandescent light bulbs still burning in my house.

Why aren't they more readily available, and at more reasonable pricing? If you surf around, you can see little chandelier bulbs priced at $9 at piece -- and globes even higher -- and that's not including shipping charges! Continue Reading...

Cherry Blossoms in Wintertime

January 4, 2007 8:44 PM

washington%20cherry%20trees.jpg Over the last couple of weeks, most of my neighbors and fellow New Yorkers have scratched their heads a few times when it came to the weather -- with temperatures sometimes 20 degrees or more above normal (it almost hit 60 today), it seems as if this is the "Year of the Winter That Wasn't". By this time, this far into the season, we've usually had a few snowstorms and a bunch of sub-freezing days.

Unseasonally warm temperatures are present all across the Eastern seaboard, and Mother Nature appears to be genuinely confused. I've heard stories about crocus buds popping up in gardens in New Jersey, and cherry trees sprouting buds in Washington, DC. In fact, there is a growing concern that this premature growth will seriously diminish cherry blossom production in May and June -- the normal season for the trees to be budding. Continue Reading...

Don't Buy That HDTV, Yet

December 20, 2006 6:54 PM

Pioneer Elite.gif
Here's a good cautionary tale for those looking to make the plunge into buying their first HDTV or getting a second or third set for the bedroom and study. With prices finally coming down to earth, many people have decided they've waited long enough and are snatching up the plasma or LCD thin screens of their dreams.

According to this great piece on by David Carnoy, a new HDMI standard -- specifically HDMI 1.3 -- is slated for incorporation into HDTV's starting around the second quarter of 2007. Based on this information, you just might want to hold off a little while longer before buying that snazzy new set.

What is HDMI 1.3? HDMI, which stands for High-Definition Multimedia Interface, is a successor to DVI, and is the highest quality A/V connection available today that can transmit both digital audio and video signals. Continue Reading...

I've Been Tagged, Too

December 13, 2006 1:54 PM

Thanks Greg...much appreciated

Hmmm, ok, here goes:

Five Things You Don't Know About Me:

1. I'm much better looking than the picture of me that's posted on my blog (and other pages that contain my words of wisdom) -- at least that's what everybody tells me. And although I may look 30, I'm really going on 47 (thank you Grandma Mickey for your genes --  she recently passed at 99)...

2. I may appear to some to be a "money is no object" type of guy  -- willing to throw money to the wind -- but in reality I'm a rabid, bargain-hunting thrill seeker -- flea markets, tag sales, eBay -- even the occasional dump -- those are my preferred hunting grounds.

3. Continue Reading...

Luggage-Free Travel

December 9, 2006 3:40 PM

luggageclubogo.jpg Or at least while traveling through airports or getting through customs in a foreign country.

A new service called The Luggage Club will ship your goods, luggage, skiis, surfboards, golf clubs -- or whatever -- to anywhere within the U.S. or to any of 220 countries around the world -- door-to-door, and overnight. In many cases, The Luggage Club shipping charges are much less than what FedX or UPS charges.

The company also offers a number of "frequent shipper" membership plans -- a Platinum Plan provides for 30 deliveries of cargo for $6,795 a year. Too much? Less expensive Gold and Silver plans are also available.

Travel on the Cheapest

September 15, 2006 4:36 PM

Now that we've entered the high season for trade shows -- and travel -- I thought I'd share a surefire method for getting a great hotel room for the absolutely lowest price on the planet. Please note that I haven't made this public through my writings before -- although it is a technique that a number of people have discovered. Consider it a small reward for reading my blog.

The technique involves the coordinated use of two Web resources: and We all know about the "Name Your Own Price" feature on Priceline, where you bid a price for a hotel with a particular star level in a particular geographic zone of a city where you want to stay.  Continue Reading...

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