Reading back on this blog, you’ll see that my rapture over SLGo (which let me cavort in Second Life on an 2003-vintage Dell laptop barely able to run Office 2003) was tempered by nastygrams from my Internet provider, who were, shall we say, piqued over the sudden increase in my data downloads from the 70 Gb or so I normally used last year to over 300 Gb – when they feel justified in (a) lecturing me about my overages and (b) charging me US$10 for every 50 Gb I went over their 300 Gb limit (and absolutely nothing said about the ten-twenty hours a month I go without being able to use Comcast at all because of their inattention to their own hardware).
Relief, though, is available – if you can afford US$259 (plus either sales tax or shipping and handling) – then, Micro Center (microcenter.com) will sell you an Acer Aspire E15 laptop.
Acer-phobes, please hold your peace. We know you want to spend more money, and probably be tied down in bed with only one hand free to sign the bad check you’re going to mail out for what you consider “acceptable quality” computers. And then you expect toys to be used on you and to be called bad names.
I, on the other hand, must spend as little money as I can, living on a fixed income. I saved up for a while to be able to afford even this. And while in a town with a Micro Center store, just before getting treated for cancer, I pounced.
Micro Center actually sells an even cheaper computer than this, by Asus, but I’ve used a slightly upscale relative of this Acer laptop on Second Life before and was knocked out by how well it performed. The Asus laptop offered by Micro Center also tops out at the 4Gb RAM it comes with (for reasons known only to God and Microsoft).
Acer’s new little addition to MY household also comes with 4Gb RAM, but the specs say it supports 8 Gb (a stick-for-stick swap which would have cost about US$65 for the new 8Gb RAM, and US$30 for Micro Center’s techs to install it). And (sigh) it comes with Windows 8.1, better known as “Windows for Masochistic Dummies.”
I didn’t splurge on the 8 Gb RAM, and was very glad I didn’t, because my travel plans changed at the last minute and I needed the extra US$115 or so after local sales taxes just to get home. But I was tempted.
It turns out I didn’t really need the extra RAM. The Acer Aspire E15, back at my hacienda, on a nominally 60-90 Mbps Internet connection, supports Second Life at a graphics resolution between High and Ultra (using the latest 64-bit version of Firestorm viewer) at very nice frame rates. Lag, even at sims I found to be somewhat laggy even under SLGo, was either undetectable or quite livable with.
Now, for the economics. I’m moving away from what even I, who have no great, burning love for Comcast, freely admit to be insanely cheap Internet bandwidth with them – to the undiscovered country where I only know that my Internet bandwidth will be narrower/slower and cost more. So it’s not just that I won’t be able to count on having a base monthly data allocation of 300 Gb and download rates around 50-90 Mbps for US$75 a month.
Under my current conditions SLGo versus this new computer is only a slightly losing proposition – payback wouldn’t arrive for a year at the earliest (assuming I would drop SLGo altogether, saving US$9.95/month and between US$10-$20/month in overage fees from Comcast – which would save me between US$200-260 a year). But even so, paying for a new computer in savings on Internet fees and the SLGo service in just a year is a real economy.
But I may find myself twenty miles from telephone or wired cable pretty soon. It’s a crapshoot whether or not I’ll even be near cell phone towers for a provider such as Verizon which would sell me a wi-fi “hot spot” with data at reasonable rates (almost surely less bandwidth, and throttled back to snail-like bandwidth after downloading more than, say, 10 Gb).
SLGo, under THOSE circumstances, makes no sense at all for a confirmed Second Life addict like me. I doubt seriously that an affordable cell phone rate plan exists that would allow me to live my current Second Life with the download sizes I’ve been seeing with SLGo – who, to give them due credit, do a great job of processing all the commands from my keyboard on the fly while emulating a high-end gaming machine with a nice video processor, and streaming the display and sound back to the user. It’s not quite their fault that this means your Second Life becomes a streamed movie saga that can be from 3-7 Gb a day long. They’re just a little coy about mentioning it (they sure heard about it from me, so they know now).
It’s like living your Second Life on Netflix – who have the advantage of not having to digitally create the content they sell, just send it down the Internet from their servers to their customers. But I can see there might be the same issues with someone who spent, say, between eight and twelve hours a day watching movies on Netflix.
But I have to grasp the nettle of here-and-now cable and future cell-phone bills. Satellite internet has the wonderful combination of not quite providing the bandwidth needed for SLGo, caps on downloads as bad as or worse than cell phones, and if posts on the related Internet forums can be trusted, exorbitant rates and questionable billing practices. No, that’s not going to work with SLGo, either.
This new computer’s fast enough to do all the number-crunching and display generation involved with Second Life on this side of the Internet while keeping downloaded data within manageable limits, even with intense use of Second Life. I’ll probably keep SLGo, just for those times when I might need my old computer to run a second avatar (you have no idea how useful that can be in adjusting an outfit or building – to have two simultaneous views which can be at any combination of angles to each other you like). But from now on, I’ll have all the computing power I need to run my viewer here with me, just like the Linden God intended.