Thursday, July 10, 2008

Darn! I got ripped off!

Yesterday night, a shy looking teenage girl rang my door.
According to her, she was collecting donations for a childrens's hospital, any donation that I could make would help her school out and would be well appreciated.

Somehow, the professionally amateurish "pitch" made me cave in. I donated $40 cash. She asked if I would like a receipt for tax purposes. I said "Yes".

Later, I took a closer look at the "tax receipt" she gave me.

Wait a minute!

That's right folks, the old saying "no good deed goes unpunished" still holds true.
Apparently, somehow, I was signed up for a "magazine subscription". Lord knows which one, as the girl never mentioned the word "magazine" to me.

The "receipt" itself showed very little detail, except for a "customer support" number, which I promptly called. Which did not work.

My next action was searching for that number on google, which turned out a multitude of complaints and "scam warnings".

Luckily, I donated in cash, not by cheque. I know perfectly well that the $40 is gone forever, my only concern is the sleazy company trying to imply that I somehow subscribed to their magazine, and this $40 was registered as $48 (see picture) "first installment" payment.

Then again... let them come! With no signature on file and my name spelled incorrectly on a barely readable scrap I suspect that they will have a hard time holding it up in court.

Side note: she promised to come by in a few days to drop off a "thank you" note. I doubt that she will, but if it happens I will post updates (and hopefully pictures) of our "animated" conversation.

Moral of the story:
Be very careful when somebody comes to your door. Always ask for documentation, and tell them you will get back to them. Most legit companies will be happy to comply.

Needless to say, I won't be donating anything to anybody any time soon any more.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Google "Lively" reviewed by a Second Lifer

After seeing the news of the beta release hit the net this morning, I just had to check out the new Lively service.

Installation consist of downloading an "Installer" program that downloads another installer, which then open a web page, which references an iframe which references an ActiveX-like object which actually launches the application.

Here's an example of what you get:

I'm the redneck pig.
Out of the dozen available avatars, that one was the least creepy.

The chat bar says: "Go ahead, say something!", so that's what I will do. Here are my impressions so far.

  • It's slow. Slow, slow, slooooooooooow. Really. After 15 minutes of waiting, the "Room Materializing" meter was at about 60%

  • Movement controls work backwards. Left, right, forward and backward are inverted. Or do random stuff

  • Camera controls are so bizarre that you need a degree in advanced mathematics (and perfect motor control) to even look at something.

  • There is no "building" areas. You can select from a couple dozens of pre-baked "rooms" and .. that's it.

  • The general feel is overly "cartoonish".

  • Head-to-body proportions range from "dangerously unhealthy looking" to "absurd". Would it be sexist of me to say that I'm freaked out by girls who's eyeballs are bigger than their boobs?

  • You can "buy" stuff in the "catalog". Seems like the "e-commerce" part of the system got the most attention.

  • For the life of me, I could not figure out how to get to my "inventory" of items that I bought.

  • No user-generated content. Nada. Move along.

  • The messed-up-skeleton-look of the the figure on the left is not a fashion statement. It's a "ruthed" avatar.

  • The "animation" part works only in "couples". You click on a person to harass, then choose anything from "kiss", "propose" to "kick" or "bodyslam".

  • No "teleporting". You log out one room and log in to another. No communication between rooms exist (that I could find)

  • Did I mention it was slow? Even in an area with only a dozen of avatars and a handfull of "objects", the load times are nerve-wrecking! Yes, I understand that there is a traffic spike because of the launch. But I expected the Googleplex to be able to withstand way more that a few thousand teenagers trying to chat.

In short: For the time being, it seems like Linden Labs has little to fear from Lively.