Friday, August 27, 2010

Cerridwen's Floating Isles in Second Life

I was in need of a bit of "drama free" time so I decided a little exploring was in order. It's been a glitchy morning for me (viewer, Safari, Blogger) so I didn't get around Cerridwen's Floating Isles as much as I would have liked. What I did manage to see was beautiful.

The artist, Elicio Ember, also designs and sells plants, avatars, etc., and I know many (if not all) are for sale somewhere on the sim.

A visit is highly recommended. What I saw was restful and gorgeous and I will return to see all the bits I didn't the first time. :)

Monday, August 23, 2010

Rough Justice in Second Life - The Emerald Caper

I received an IM from my lawyer Gertrude this morning (she has always felt badly about the way things turned out and kept in touch).

  • Gertrude: If you promise to be quiet I'll tp you over to watch my latest case. I think you'll find it interesting!
Hoping for the defendant's sake that Gertrude has improved since my trial I decided to take a chance and used the tp to the Second Life Halls of Justice.

It looked just the same as I remember it in my flashbacks (shudder) so I snuck behind the bailiff and hid as best I could.

There in front of me was the Chief Justice in all his ichy glory.

  • Chief Justice McArtherops: Bailiff have the prisoners brought in.
Well I hadn't expected this although I suppose I should have. In walked a group of assorted characters (the kind you can find only in Second Life). At the head of the line was a short shadowed techie who shuffled in his big work boots (why don't they do up the laces?).

When the prisoners had joined Gertrude on the dias the Chief Justice turned to a figure in the shadows.

  • Chief Justice McArtherops: Is the prosecutor ready to present his case?
Prosecutor? They have a prosecutor? Maybe having multiple defendants requires one, or perhaps it is the nature of the charges. I couldn't decide if this was good or bad news for Gertrude until I saw the prosecutor.

OMG the stuff that goes on behind closed doors on the grid!

  • Prosecutor Lie: I am ready Your Nastiness.

    The defendants are charged with betraying the trust of tens of thousands of Second Life users and have displayed arrogance, a wanton lack of professionalism and an inability to undertake the serious responsibilities they have assumed.

    In mitigation, the Grid is prepared to stipulate that they have given me enough material to produce a full length movie.

It was Gertrude's turn. I crossed all my fingers.

  • Gertrude: If the Supreme Insectoid will permit, I must point out that the lead defendant was bored. I realize that this has resulted in juvenile behaviour but it is also important to note that he has publicly acknowledged his failure to live up to expectations and has cut his ties to a project which has been the center of his Second Life for a long time. I believe that he has suffered enough for his crimes.

It was hard to tell if her plea had any effect - certainly the brown paper bag didn't seem to react.

  • Gertrude: The other defendants, Your Ugliness, have recognized their incompetence as it relates to the oversight duties inherent in their job titles and have vowed to work together to excel in the future. They have been subjected to public ridicule and must persevere in the face of distrust and disbelief in order to recover. I submit that they too have been punished adequately.

  • Chief Justice McArtherops: Nice try Counsellor. We will acknowledge that all of the defendants have suffered as a result of their crimes, however this court requires more from them. The mitigating circumstances will preclude death as a penalty but there are still lessons which must be learned.

    The lead defendant is obviously bright and ambitious. He must learn that once you involve anybody outside your basement in your "shenanigans" that there are consequences. We believe that you have the ability to change the world in a positive way once you have managed to accept the fact that adults cannot behave like 6 year olds. It's a fact of life son and it's time you understood that before it's too late to rebuild the respect and trust of any community.

    You are hereby sentenced to spend 3 months with a friend of the court. She is currently in heat and will require constant attention. You may decide that boredom isn't such a bad thing after all.

  • Chief Justice McArtherops: As for the rest of you. It's all very well to decide that you are a loose association of bright minds working in a non-traditional fashion. What you must understand is that job titles such as Quality Assurance and commitments to a user base have meaning. Ignoring responsibilities because they may be less attractive than the "fun" things or because it's hard to get others to cooperate also has consequences. Welcome to the world of business!

    We sentence you to work as a team on an important Quality Assurance project. Your sentence will last until the expected Quality has been achieved. In this case it means cleaning up a large installation which will soon be converted to our new Corn Fields. Your experience in getting the current inhabitants of the Teen Grid to cooperate with you should serve you well in your new TPV endeavours.

You know, I could almost grow to like the giant bug.





Credit as always for the Halls of Justice goes to Skye {Veralarti} Space Castle.
Credit for the Tentacled Monster goes to HellHoundz.
The Friend of the Court resides in the waters off the French Quarter.
The team is currently practicing their QA tasks on Biker Life.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Second Life V2 Fashion Crashes

So I downloaded the new version of V2 this morning and logged on. Performance was great and textures rezzed very quickly. However I didn't. I had things to do so it was more than an hour before I could go deal with the problem.

One of the most common solutions to the "cloud" problem is to change your outfit. However make sure you change it to an outfit that is completely different (if you've ever modified an existing saved outfit you'll notice the new one has the original listed as one of its components, anything you didn't change will be included under the name of the first outfit). I thought this would be a great time to try on a Bare Rose outfit I hadn't played with yet so I went to my inventory, opened the folder and chose "Add to Outfit". That's the way I've learned to do it so that my hair/skin/etc. would remain instead of choosing "Replace Outfit".

Well. The results were interesting if a little excessive. I don't know if it has something to do with the multiple attachments feature in V2, but I was now wearing all of the options included in the Bare Rose outfit folder. I mean all of them. When I looked under the "Wearing" tab I had on 5 shirts, 5 jackets, 7 scarves, 3 sets of shoulder pads, etc., etc., etc.,. It didn't take long before I crashed. Hard.

I tried doing a screen print so I could show you the list of what had been "added to my outfit" but this was a complete system crash and it was lost.

This might explain some performance issues I've had recently if I've added just enough layers to mess things up but not enough for a major system stroke.

So I guess what I'm going to have to do is either try on newly purchased outfits one item at a time or sort vendor folders into colour coordinated sub folders.

Perhaps all the fashion designers out there could keep this in mind when they box up their items? In the meantime I'll try and find a way to document the problem for a JIRA (sigh) in case it's a bug and not a feature. :)

Monday, August 16, 2010

Second Life V2 Performance & Ports

Honour has been kidnapped and replaced by a pod person, at least temporarily. That's the only explanation for this techie-like blog post.

I had downloaded a new Beta version of V2 last week and was in heaven! The performance was an amazing improvement, even on sims where I typically have incredible lag I was able to move around quickly and the textures rezzed in a very short period of time. I was in love. Then I was forced to download a newer Beta version and the performance was awful. The lag was back and textures took forever to rez (I wish I'd taken a photo. Instead of remaining gray while they rezzed the textures were the login page for the SL website - looked very art deco.).

Last night I saw a link to this post by Tateru Nino and thought I might have a solution. I configured my software and hardware firewalls ages ago to accomodate the ports that Second Life needs - obviously there was a new one I should add.

Luckily (while trying to find the instructions for configuring ZoneAlarm and other software firewalls) I went to the page with the full list of ports you need to include. Imagine my surprise/shock/embarassment when I realized that not only was the new texture download port there but an additional 7 settings had been added since I did my initial configuration. (For those of you with voice problems, many of these settings are directly related to that functionality.)

I managed to configure ZoneAlarm and then I found the web site where I configure my Router settings (sigh) and added all the missing ports. Then I did one other tweak - it occurred to me that I had not checked the settings in V2 that control cache allocation or bandwidth so I fixed both of those as well. And the result of all this geeky fiddling?

Textures now render much faster in the V2 Beta. In fact I went to Alpha Point because it's full of sculpties (which is a pretty good test) and I knew it wasn't in my cache. Took less than 5 seconds for the image above to rez. (happy dance)

In addition, my frame rate at my Linden Home has more than doubled.

All of this is a pointed reminder, to me at least, that some performance issues can be improved on our end too. :)

Now I just have to figure out why my photos are blurry...............

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Honest Role Playing in Second Life?

Although it wasn't my intention when I set out this morning, it's possible this could get a teensy bit philosophical in nature. I apologize in advance.

I'm a coward. There I've said it and it's true. As intriguing and, in some cases, appealing as I find the idea of Role Playing I'm terrified of it. I suspect it's a fear of looking foolish/stupid as a newbie amongst all these people who know the rules and what they're doing. I'm so afraid of it that I haven't been able to persuade myself to even visit something identified as an RP sim in all my years inworld.

I was determined to overcome this fear this morning so I went to visit the Valley of Shadows.

Created outside of the laws of time and space as we know them, the Valley of Shadows exists unknown to mankind. Its residents and rulers are placed here by a higher power for a shot at redemption before their final judgment. Most find themselves waking up at the old mill from a seemingly deep sleep, and upon wandering the valley and asking a few questions, confusion and anxiety sink in. Then begins the journey to figure out how and why you have found yourself in this place.

Forces of good and evil thought to be of created out of myth and legend reside in the valley hoping to influence you to make certain decisions that will follow you to the end of days and perhaps beyond. Some will fall prey to the lies of the evil that their book has already been closed and there is no hope for redemption, others will seek a way towards redemption and allow themselves to be led by messengers of the most high and yet some will be torn between the two unable to make a definitive choice.

Here in the Valley the ageless battle for the souls of men rages on, what will become of yours?

In case you're thinking "Great! A brave and mature step!" I have to point out the two things that made this visit possible .......... well three things:

  • First there's a landing spot outside the Role Playing area so you aren't plunked down in the middle of people involved in actual RP.
  • Second you can acquire Observer status, which allows you to explore without having anybody expect you to participate (in fact you aren't allowed to speak).
  • Third there was nobody there at the time I visited. I checked on the map.

I loved the sim. I looked at it like the backdrop for a fantasy novel and could picture groups of participants acting out their stories. While I wandered around imagining scenes from some of my favourite books unfolding in the cobblestone streets or the countryside I started to ponder the nature of Role Playing. And then I started to ponder the nature of Avatars and what makes Role Playing different (because it is or at least I think it's supposed to be).

In my metaversal journeys my avatar is a manifestation of me. The person behind the keyboard. She has a more interesting look and a better wardrobe, but what she says and what she does comes from inside the real me. I still feel this is true even when I'm wearing a bird avatar or a non-traditional skin. For good or for ill... that individual is the dorky, sentimental and often naive me.

In the vast majority of cases I believe this to be true of Second Life's residents. Gender switching doesn't automatically imply deceit any more than my bird avatar does. Even those individuals who use avatars to explore just one aspect of themselves or what they sincerely wish was an aspect of themselves, are still showing the rest of us part of the true "them". In my mind just simply living out a fantasy life as a dragon avatar or Lady of the Manor isn't Role Playing if the personality and behaviour reflects the person on the other side of the network connection.

But I'm not dumb enough to believe this is always the case. The iconic fat guy in the basement with the hot female avatar searching for sex is a reality and there are others whose motives for "acting a part" are not benign.

It might seem to those who don't inhabit any part of the metaverse that it is ridiculous to expect "honesty" in a virtual environment. But we talk about meeting and working with people from around the world, making friends and even having relationships. I don't think we expect to be doing that with fictional characters. I believe we feel that we're interacting with "real people" using fun technology so discovering that somebody is just playing a game would come as a blow in Second Life as much as it would in real life.

All of which leads me back to Role Playing. It just might be that the only way to assure yourself of "honest" interaction in a virtual world is by inhabiting a venue controlled by a strict set of rules. You would know you were dealing with a "character" who has a history and predictable behaviour tied to a role.

I would have to climb a big hurdle to attempt that. In the meantime I'll take my chances with the rest of you and hope for the best.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The New Networked Reality

Forgive me for a brief bit of nostalgia. I used to have time. Time to think, time to read and yes, time to get bored. The phone was a black box hanging on the kitchen wall. There was a radio in the corner of the living room and a television in front of the big chair. Next to the chair was a table with magazines and a pile of books.

It was a new modern world and we were able to access information at a reasonably fast pace from:

  • The newspaper which arrived once or twice daily (depending on how many you read).
  • The radio, if you had it playing, would give you the news every hour.
  • The television had regular newscasts on each of the 3 channels.
  • Magazines which only arrived monthly but gave you the indepth information you wanted on topics of the day.
  • Meetings which were held at work and sometimes in the community to share information and work out solutions to common problems.

I would sit down in that comfortable chair and automatically pick up a book. The television or radio would be background accompaniment unless something really interesting was happening.

The world has changed of course and it's exciting. It's also exhausting. I'm starting to worry that I've become a network storage device. A node on the internet - a small, inconsequential node, but a fixed part of the network nevertheless.

Actually reading a book involves planning and scheduling. I have to consider how I will "catch up" if I take time to do it.

It's my own fault, I recognize that. But the opportunities to learn and connect and enjoy are so bountiful that I have trouble setting my boundaries. I do have some though - oddly enough my cell phone is used for phone calls. That's all - phone calls. Anybody who knows me would never try to reach me with a text message. And nobody would expect me to answer the phone while I'm in the car or walking the dog. Only emergencies would make somebody dial my number at those times.

I don't "do" FaceBook or MySpace. I haven't visited Avatars United in months. I don't do online gaming (SL of course doesn't count). However, my information sources and social network ties are still way too numerous.

  • My television now has access to hundreds of channels and still I watch shows online from around the world.
  • I'm a news junkie who has dozens of online news sites bookmarked and I read them first thing every morning.
  • I have a blog which must be maintained and a network of blogs I read and try to follow on an ongoing basis.
  • Plurk.
  • Twitter.
  • Email.
  • Inworld IM's, group chat, meetings, workshops, and general conversations.
  • Forums (well, they're mostly for the amusement value).
  • Online virtual worlds where I either "live and work" (i.e., SecondLife) or visit as a tourist.
  • Online conferences and courses.
  • General research and knowledge activities (e.g., The TED Lectures)
I find myself always trying to catch up. In self defense, I limit the issues I'm prepared to get involved with - but I do try and keep up with developments.

If our great new world - virtual and physical - is this demanding of my limited cycles I can't imagine what it's like for people who try and do it all. So, I have a request of those technical geniuses out there - find a way to simplify things.

I'm pretty sure FaceBook and Google would each like to be the only pipeline anybody needed for their online lives. I'm not sure that's a good idea - I'd rather not have somebody else do it for me (Remember the early days of the internet when AOL would act as your carefully controlling window to the online world? Most of us went our own way for a reason.)

The virtual world offers possibilities for us to design our own pipelines - design our own network connections. I want you, the brains working on the big developments in cyberspace to give me the tools I need to design/build/create my own network. If I'm going to be a network storage device I want to have admin rights.

Max Headroom had fun being part of an online world - I want that too without always feeling like I'm playing catchup.

And oh yes, I also want time to read a book. :)