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Stuck in your online routines? Give this a shot

By Mark Baard
Globe Correspondent / July 19, 2010

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GAMES
Attention Second Lifers: Are you afraid, even in your fantasy worlds, of new experiences?

Your avatar might be a candidate, then, for a psychotropic drug designed to treat Wanderlust Deficit Disorder — in other words, Internet addiction.

The drug, Virta-Flaneurazine (virtaflaneurazine.wordpress.com) is actually a bit of downloadable code that causes Second Life avatars to rapidly and uncontrollably teleport from one Second Life location to the next and to walk and fly in circles.

The idea is to get people thinking about how much time they spend stuck in the same old places, in-world and out.

The artists who developed Virta-Flaneurazine, Emerson College’s John Craig Freeman (johncraigfreeman.net) and Pace University professor Will Pappenheimer (www.willpap-projects.com), last week had a Virta-Flaneurazine Clinic running at an art exhibition in Central China.

The Xi’an Virta-Flaneurazine Clinic, with its reception desk, nurses, clipboards, release forms, and waiting and exam areas, looked like a setup by the Yes Men, the performance artists who stage bogus news conferences and TV interviews by pretending to be corporate spokesmen.

Virta-Flaneurazine (virtaflaneurazine.wordpress.com/trial) is a product of what Freeman and Pappenheimer call prograchemisty (programming and chemistry), a field that should be of tremendous interest to the transhumanists, many of whom are keen to transfer their consciousnesses online.

Virta-Flaneurazine should also serve as a reminder that the world is chock full of Internet junkies in need of help.

SOLAR CHARGERS

Tablet-size panel delivers enough juice to charge a laptop

Nothing relieves the lonesomeness of a solo backpacking trip like seeing a few bars light up on your cellphone’s screen. Last month, from the top of Mount Greylock in Western Massachusetts, I was able to call my friends on an AT&T Aria and make plans for the evening in North Adams.

And if I needed to get online with my laptop at some point, I could have caught a Wi-Fi signal at a cafe in town.

But keeping mobile gadgets charged in the countryside remains a challenge. Who wants to hike back to the car to recharge hardware, or schlep into town to find a wall outlet?

For years, there have been plenty of hand-held solar devices that can charge your phone over the course of an afternoon. Now, ThinkGeek (www.thinkgeek.com) says it has a $200 solar charger mighty enough to bring a laptop to life.

Called the Huge Capacity Solar Charger and Battery, it measures 8-by-11 inches and is less than an inch thick. The downside for backpackers and campers is that it weighs almost four pounds — a substantial addition to the more than 50 pounds you might be shouldering.

The charger can take up to 10 hours to reach a full charge in the sun. From an outlet, you will only need three hours.

It comes with dozens of adapters, making it compatible with most major phones and laptops.