Second Life is the only reason I need a computer

That may be a slight exaggeration. :)

But my fancy Alienware laptop, which has had various power problems for some time, has been ignoring its power cord for a few days now, either to operate or to charge its battery, and the local convincing-sounding person that I found on Craigslist to fix it says it’ll probably be next weekend.

And the only thing I find myself missing (aside from a few media files trapped on its hard drive because they were too big to keep conveniently in the cloud), is Second Life.

For work and general keyboard-typing, I have this worked-owned Chromebook Pixel, which arguably counts as a netbook rather than a laptop computer. To do work-related stuff I use that to talk to a computer under my desk at work (it’s running a Linux variant, and I don’t even know what brand of hardware it is), and use that to talk to hundreds of other computers out in the cloud somewhere, but those aren’t really mine.

For music and some games and things I have an iPad. But even that I haven’t been using all that much lately, because I finally got my first smartphone, and it takes care of a surprisingly large fraction (near 100%) of the things that I can’t conveniently do on the Pixel.

Which fits in with this whole bizarre thing about how PC sales are down by more than 10%, due almost certainly to how everyone else is also buying netbooks and tablets and phones and things instead.

This suggests that things like Second Life (and for that matter WoW and so on) do need to figure out how to get onto netbooks / tablets / phones, if they want to be relevant to anyone but hardcore gamers with needs for more muscular PCs.

One way to do this is with server-side rendering, but not much seems to be happening with that. (Whatever happened to that server-side version of the SL viewer? Is that still a thing?)

Another way would be to have some lower-resolution world with a lightweight client that could fit onto an iPad, say; maybe something like a more Linden-flavored Minecraft with cute little — ohhhhh, I get it.

And a third way would be to have netbook / tablet / phone viewers that did actual client-side rendering of the usual SL world, and let you interact with it. Hm, anyone tried out Lumiya lately?

Maybe someday I will say “the only thing I need a computer for is taking high-res pictures in SL”… :)

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Game! Three Colors!

I made a game! It has three buttons, and five lights! Look!

Game!  Three colors!

It used to have only two colors of lights (red and green), but the game was too easy. So now there are three colors of lights (red and green and the new yellow!), and it is not as much too easy!

Each button is connected randomly to two or three of the lights. When you push a button, it changes the colors of all the lights that it is connected to; if the light was red it turns yellow, if it was yellow it turns green, if it was green it turns (wait for it!) red.

If you get all the lights to be green (and the lights are started out in a pattern that ensures that it’s possible), the game makes an appealing noise, lets you admire the green lights for a couple of seconds, and then rewires all the buttons to new random lights, and scrambles the colors of the lights to start a new game.

Isn’t that incredible? :) Copies of the game are available from the author upon request! Many thanks to beta-tester Michele!

FPSage

Speaking of Blue Mars (see previous post), the reason I can run it at a bearable frames-per-second now is that I did get that Birthday Laptop that I was doing research for the other month.
PowerPro 15:3
I didn’t get either of the Alienwares, or the Sager that I was considering. Instead I got a PowerPro 15:3 (which that there is a picture of one of). I called up Power Notebooks to order the Sager, in fact, and the guy on the phone convinced me that the PowerPro (their own house brand) was a better machine for the money when you took everything into account.

And it is quite the screaming little machine (I say modestly). Intel Core2 Duo P9700 running at 2.8Ghz, 4GB of RAM, 64-bit Vista (and I really hope the rumors about having to reinstall everything after upgrading to Windows 7 aren’t true, sigh), and an nvidia GTS 160M video card. I get at least 20 fps (usually quite a bit more) all over SL, 15-40 fps in Blue Mars, like 50-60 fps in WoW (even in downtown Dalaran!), etc, etc. And if I do it very long the bottom of the machine gets hot enough to make tea. :)

And it has a big huge half-terabyte hard drive, so I’ve been installing all sorts of things that I’d moved off of the prior laptop’s always-full hard drive, like The Sims 2, and I’ve also installed The Sims 3 which I got for my birthday in addition to the laptop, as well as the Emerald viewer for SL and pretty much anything else that springs to mind. I even installed Bryce 4 yesterday because I happened to run across the CDs while searching for something else. :) I’m probably not going to get a whole lot of use out of a ten-year-old 3D modelling package, but hey it’s only a couple of GB, so why not?

So anyway, I’m all happy and spoiled, tech-wise. Not to mention, old!

AWOL

Just a v brief note to tell anyone who might worry or otherwise need to know or be waiting for something from me or whatever that I am laid up with a very sore throat and a stubborn fever that have kept me from thinking, sleeping, or eating well since sometime Friday. With any luck the various Pills I’m taking will clear it all up at any moment, but until then, I am distinctly missing…

Thing Envy

So… This is going to be sort of a boring, but maybe a useful (to me, heh heh) posting. Feel free to blip over it entirely if discussions of computer hardware put you to sleep (as they usually do me). I’ll try to keep it short. :)

I use SL from an aging Lenovo laptop with not enough disk space, not enough memory, and a relatively obsolete chipset. It’s been long enough since the OS was installed that it’s suffered from considerable bitrot, and random parts of it don’t quite work right (it only looks for wireless networks automatically about half the time, it hangs if I plug it in while the lid is closed, etc, etc), and for that matter the near-right corner of the case is sort of held on with transparent tape. I use WoW from an aging desktop that also has not enough disk space and not enough memory, and lags horribly in crowded areas. I don’t use The Sims 2 at all anymore, and won’t be able to use The Sims 3 on that machine, because the hard drive is utterly full.

Also I have a big birthday coming up. :)

So I’m thinking of buying a gaming laptop. One with enough disk space to hold SL and WoW and TS2 and even TS3, and enough memory to be able to run them without thrashing, and fast enough CPU and video to run them smooth and lovelyly, and enough extra muscle that I won’t want to replace it for a good long time.

Alienware M17x laptopI’m tempted by the AlienWare M17x. I can design a pretty muscular one that would cost less than (gulp) US$2000. It’s also really cool, having little alien design elements all over it and stuff, and as far as I can tell with some comparison shopping I’m not paying a ridiculous premium for the cool design.

On the other hand (speaking of muscular) the thing is enormous, and really heavy. I’d like to use this for work as well as play, and that means lugging it back and forth every day. And I’d also like to be able to use it while lounging in bed without being crushed.

Alienware M15x laptopSo I’m also tempted by the M15x. It’s smaller and lighter, and a fifteen-inch screen seems plenty large.

The weird thing is that it’s also considerable more expensive! I have to choose a slightly slower CPU and smaller hard drive than with the 17x to get it into a price range that I can even fantasize about. I guess that’s because it’s newer and they have to do cleverer and more expensive stuff to get it all to fit into the smaller case? I dunno.

Sager NP8662And thirdly :) after some Googling around I’m looking at a Sager NP8662 from Factor Gaming, neither of which I had heard of before today, but which seem to be well thought of, and perhaps have the same kinda components as the Alienware ones, but at lower prices (at least a little lower, sigh) due to not having big ad budgets and internationally-marketed brands and stuff. At least that’s the feeling that their website gives me, but it could be Subtle Psychological Manipulation.

And then of course I could be more realistic and look at a more ordinary machine, not designed for total gaming geeks! SL and WoW and TS2 are all pretty lightweight programs compared to the hardcore games that these Alienwares and Sagers are really targetted at. People have told me that a random off-the-shelf laptop that I could get for half the price of these would run SL and WoW just fine, and I don’t imagine even TS3 is all that challenging.

But I have a big birthday coming up (I whine)! And in the long run if I buy something overpowered now, it’ll be that much longer before I feel that I really must replace it. So it’s actually prudent to spend the extra money now. Haha maybe.

Opinions and recommendations most welcome. Do you play SL and/or WoW or TS2 or TS3 on a laptop? How is it? What do you think? Have you bought one lately? Shopped for one? Have random opinions? Comment away! Here, or in the forum thread that I started (which has gone off into a tangent about WoW haha).