Second Life: a pet rock for the new millenium.

Are there really two million people using Second Life?

Bobbie Johnson
Thursday December 21, 2006
The Guardian

You’d think so. With glowing press coverage, virtual world Second Life would appear to be going from strength to strength: last week it broke through the 2m sign-ups barrier.

But not everybody is convinced by such milestones. Clay Shirky, the respected internet analyst and thinker, questioned how many of those 2m ever return after signing up.

…getting to the punchline below…

And it may be worse even than Shirky’s bleak estimates. Philip Rosedale, the founder of SL maker Linden Lab, last month said that churn was probably around 90% – meaning just one in 10 people who sign up use it in any meaningful way.

For comparison, the online fantasy game World of Warcraft had 5m subscribers – all paying a monthly fee – this time last year.

I haven’t yet found an MMOG I actually like, but I totally understand the appeal the when there’s a significant and enjoyable gaming to them. Something with only a dubious gaming nature, like say The Sims Online (do they even still exist?) I don’t really get the appeal of, but … de gustibus, and all that. When they’re just an online not-a-game, like Second Life, it seems like a glorified form of IM, and I do not get it at all… seems like a real wankfest to me (to borrow a Britishism.)

Software price woes in Britain.

Are we being ripped off over software?

With sterling at nearly $2, the price difference between here and the US looks starker than ever

Jack Schofield
Thursday December 21, 2006
The Guardian

Buy a copy of Microsoft Windows or Office, Adobe Photoshop or even a game in the UK, and you will usually end up paying much more than you would in the US. It could be as little as 20p more for a music download (though even after VAT that’s a near-25% markup), up to an amazing £181 extra for a copy of Adobe Photoshop CS2, if you are paying manufacturers’ suggested retail prices.

At least for games and other things not needing localization (*) for functional reasons, why not order from the US Amazon? Though I’m not clear how much of that would be lost to shipping.

In any event, sorry to our neighbors cross the pond, and hey, at least remember you’ve got the NHS while we’ve got the freakishly bad US private healthcare market.

News of the Weird: “El Caganer”

Pooping Peasant Popular in Spain

‘El Caganer,’ the Great Defecating Peasant Increasingly Found on Mantelpieces in Spain

BARCELONA, Spain Dec 20, 2006 (AP)— The Virgin Mary. The three kings. A few wayward sheep. These are the figures one expects to find in a traditional Christmas nativity scene. Not a smartly dressed peasant squatting behind a rock with his rear-end exposed.

Yet statuettes of “El Caganer,” or the great defecator in the Catalan language, can be found in nativity scenes, and increasingly on the mantelpieces of collectors, throughout Spain’s northeastern Catalonia region, where for centuries symbols of defecation have played an important role in Christmas festivities.

I couldn’t MAKE this stuff up, folks. More craziness from the same site: Caller impersonates cop, convinces McDonalds crew to abuse coworker

Thailand in the economic news

No idea what to make of this, but in case it’s of interest to any of my readers:

Thailand Abandons Limits on Foreign Stock Investments (Update6)

By Suttinee Yuvejwattana and Margo Towie

Dec. 19 (Bloomberg) — Thailand scrapped currency controls on international stock investors one day after their imposition by the central bank prompted the biggest stock market plunge in 16 years.

The government lifted a requirement that banks lock up 30 percent of new foreign-currency deposits for a year for funds earmarked for stocks, Finance Minister Pridiyathorn Devakula said in Bangkok. The rule, intended to slow a 16 percent gain in the Thai currency this year that threatened exports and economic growth, sparked investor selling that wiped out $23 billion of market value in Thai stocks.

“It’s the economy, stupid.”

Via AMERICAblog:
Wholesale prices surge; Housing rebounds

WASHINGTON – Inflation at the wholesale level surged by the largest amount in more than three decades in November, reflecting higher prices for gasoline and a host of other items.

The Producer Price Index, which measures inflation pressures before they reach the consumer, was up 2 percent last month, the biggest advance since a similar increase in November 1974, the Labor Department reported Tuesday.

Economists had been expecting a rebound in wholesale prices following two months of big declines. However, the 2 percent jump was four times bigger than the 0.5 percent increase they had forecast. Even excluding volatile energy and food prices, core inflation posted a 1.3 percent advance, the biggest jump in 26 years.

Emphasis above is mine. What a great economy we’ve got, eh? Between this and the quagmire in Iraq war, Bush is looking like he is trying to out-Nixon Nixon.

Another step towards an effective artificial heart

Man with no pulse considered a medical breakthrough

PETER RAKOBOWCHUK
Canadian Press

MONTREAL — A 65-year-old Quebec man who received a new long-term mechanical heart last month is being described as the only living Canadian without a pulse.

Dr. Renzo Cecere implanted the “Heartmate II” mechanical heart into Gerard Langevin in an three-hour operation Nov. 23.

Officials at the McGill University Health Centre say the device, which is about the size of a flashlight battery, could last up to 10 years.

via RASSF

Today’s roundup.

1) Fun with google suggest.

2) Good commentary on drug legalization.
Prohibition: a crippling habit

There is only one way to end the misery of addiction revealed by the investigation into the Ipswich murders: legalise the drugs.

…the comments are as much worth reading as the article.

3) Via RASSF: http://www.catsthatlooklikehitler.com/

4) Also via RASSF, alternate possibilities for the upcoming Hobbit film:
http://ars.userfriendly.org/cartoons/?id=20061126
http://archive.gamespy.com/comics/dorktower/images/comics/dorktower537.gif
http://archive.gamespy.com/comics/dorktower/images/comics/dorktower538.gif

“Spelling! That’s where I’m a viking!”

The “webmaster console” feature on Google is interesting.

In my earlier post “I’m simultaneously appalled and amused…“, I misspelled appalled as “apalled” and at least at one point I was averaging the 8th highest ranking use of the mispelling. I’ve just now fixed the title.

This is not my only misspelling that they seem to have caught; in “A keyboard, how quaint“, I seem to be a high-ranking (or should that be “hi-”?) bad speller for “transparant aluminum.” It’s got an “e” and is spelled properly in the article I quoted. (I’ve just fixed that one too.)

This one is going into Word for automatic spell-checking before I post it; I guess I’d better get into the habit of using Firefox rather than IE7 in the future, since that one HAS spell-check-on-the-fly.

Meanwhile, I am much abashed.

Update: errors continue, having included a link but no title for “A keyboard, how quaint”