Friday, October 31, 2008

Eln Alter wishes everyone a Happy Halloween with one cool freebie avatar

It's here and you aren't ready for this, the most Not Possible in Real Life day of the year! Eln Alter has come to the rescue with a fabulous sculpted avatar that will be free for a limited time:

Eln Alter: I'm giving away a Witch for Halloween. If you are caught unawares, you can enjoy a good one by teleporting here.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Mark Kingdon - Come down, come down from your Ivory Tower and listen to your Residents: A dose of perspective

The first 100 days as the commander of a company should be a time for absorbing information, discovering the strengths and weaknesses of the team, and putting all those puzzle pieces together. You became Linden Lab's CEO and adult supervisor in mid-March of this year, which would put you at about the 225 days mark, or 8 1/2 months.

225 days later, Mark Kingdon (aka M Linden), I'm disappointed in you. I was so optimistic about your arrival, too.

To make matters worse, the way I see it, Linden Lab owes me $950US + a reimbursement for my time.

Shall I just email the bill over to you? Oh, you don't know what I'm talking about? Well, come on down from your Ivory Tower, dear man, and let me catch you up on things.

Just one week before your arrival, Linden Lab introduced a new product called Openspaces. The official description of the product reads as follows, and there was no mention of special rules:

What is an Openspace?

An Openspace is a type of private island intended for light use countryside or ocean. Unlike normal regions that effectively get a CPU to themselves on the server, there can be up to four Openspaces on a single CPU, sharing the resource (hence them being ‘light use’).

Back in those days, I was the care-free owner of a bit more than a quarter sim upon which Chakryn Forest (V2) sat. I had purchased that island land about 8 months before, and paid a creator several hundreds of dollars to make me the virtual forest of my dreams.

A few days after the Openspace announcement, my friend thomtrance Otoole offered me an Openspace to create a new, sim-wide forest. My only financial commitment was to pay tier... $75US a month. This was rather enticing, because at the time, I was paying $125 for about the same number of prims but not nearly as much land. I gratefully took him up on his very generous offer, and put Chakryn Forest up for auction.

Now then... by this time, the fever for Openspaces was gripping the Grid, and many people lost interest in buying regular island land or mainland. I don't mind telling you that it got so you couldn't give away regular island land, cause Openspace tier was just so much cheaper.

The forest and I got lucky. A dreamer and forest lover like me purchased my land and the forest for less than what I had paid for the land, but he promised to keep the forest intact and that, in my mind, made it a good deal.

By then, Openspace Chakryn was mine, and for two months I rolled up my sleeves and worked with Andrek Lowell and Eshi Otawara - two of the best creators in Second Life - to develop a rich and enchanting forest brimming with secrets and its own special lore. Because I value these creators and their time, I paid them for it and as generously as I could afford. Several hundreds of dollars later, and on July 15th, I proudly opened the new Chakryn Forest to the public for everyone's use and enjoyment.

Oh, I should mention that Andrek Lowell worked tirelessly for many extra hours to create the entire sim-wide forest with only 1,400 prims. Why? Because it was my plan to showcase great virtual art throughout the sim and I needed every last prim. He delivered, and just last month the art shows began with a great installation by Glyph Graves:

Music: Narayanam, performed by Suchita Parte
Video: Bettina Tizzy

It made me proud to see the daily traffic numbers, which average 5,000. Now, was this hurting anyone? I don't think so, because Chakryn shares the server with at least three other Openspaces that I know of that hardly get any traffic at all.

Did I act with evil intent? Certainly not. In fact, all along I thought I was being an upright and conscientious citizen and providing Second Life®'s Residents with a park.

Then, out of the blue... an announcement from our government, regarding a certain "policy change:"

"Beginning 1st January 2009

We will increase the monthly maintenance fee from USD$75 to USD$125 per month. This price increase will apply to all owners of Openspaces on January 1st as well as new purchases after that date. There will be no grandfathering of Openspace maintenance pricing."

That's $600US you want to bill ME extra, every year?! Why, not even George W. Bush is ... enough to pull a stunt like that: increasing our taxes by 67% for an 8 month old product!

Now over at GigaOM, Wagner James Au (aka Hamlet Au of New World Notes) has just published your statement in response to the outrage you are hearing after the stinging blow you have dealt us. Part of it reads...

“To be clear,” Kingdon continued, “this price adjustment affects only a portion of land in Second Life; it does not apply to private islands or regular mainland property. We made this change to ensure an optimal Second Life experience for all Residents.”


I can give you the actual breakdown for my bill in person, and at your convenience, but here is an overview:
- Cost of developing Chakryn Forest (V2), which I never got back
- Cost of tier for two months while Openspace Chakryn was in development
- Cost of developing Openspace Chakryn (many hundreds of dollars)
- My time (like Mastercard says... it is priceless)

Come down, come down from your Ivory Tower, dear man, and take stock of the situation.

Exploring alternative virtual worlds - This time a new OpenSim: Avatar Hangout

Prompted by my growing distrust in Linden Lab, most recently aggravated by the company’s abusive pricing tactics, I continue to explore alternative virtual worlds in the hopes of identifying a place where content creators can work in a dependable and secure environment that offers stability, effective creation tools and good governance. Importantly, the leadership should demonstrate a credible commitment to permanence, too.

Extreme explorers have warned me that I’m in for a rough time and to approach the experience with modest expectations, and I am. I’m not looking for another Second Life®. I’m looking for a virtual world that has the potential to be much better than Second Life. It stands to reason that if you take a good foundation and add great content creators of all kinds, then the sky is the limit.

Hern Worsely, a gifted clothing, accessories and building creator in Second Life, as well as someone who's insights I appreciate, wrote to say that he was going to be checking out Avatar Hangout, one of the newest OpenSim worlds, so I followed suit.

According to the Wiki, OpenSimulator, often referred to as OpenSim, is an open source server for hosting virtual worlds similar to Second Life. OpenSimulator uses libsecondlife to handle communication between the client and server, so it is possible to connect to an OpenSim server using the Second Life client. Other clients for Second Life are also interoperable, since Second Life and Opensim use the same communication protocols.

Avatar Hangout is brand new, having just opened its doors on October 18, 2008.

Upon arrival, I was greeted by no less than three people prepared to sell me land and one person who offered to create any surname I desired. I asked for Tizzy, logged off, re-registed, and came back as Bettina Tizzy.

Jake Detman, its founder and owner of Detman Entertainment, INC., is Count Mercier in Second Life (rez: 11/2006), where he was a broker for residents selling their estates full transfer to other residents.

Count Avatar, as he is known in Avatar Hangout, happened to be at the Welcoming area greeting about 8 newbies when I arrived, and agreed to chat with me a bit.

Count Avatar welcomes new arrivals

Hello Count. What's happening with the physics here? (We were bouncing up and down).

The code is still Alpha leaning into Beta. There is still lots to be done.

These would be the equivalent of class 5 sims, yes?

Yes, our servers actually run a little better than a class 5. The staff here all have used this software for over a year and me just under a year, so we have the experience to understand what is being done and from my SL days I understand how I think a Grid should work to benefit all parties involved, from Estate owners to the residents that occupy the land and those that just want to Hangout.

Diablo Island

There are people who just want to hang out? That is surprising.

That’s why we do not offer land to the residents except estates. This is a different ball game, open grids, and has to be treated as such. It is hard enough to get people to take a look so why be in competition with Estate owners?

I just wish I could put my avatar's feet on the ground :D

I feel that with the low prices, people can actually build what they started out to in SL, before they got stuck with high tiers. With land here, the best use is what you want to use it for :)

Is there any possibility that you will increase prices abruptly?

No, there is no reason for doing the ol' bait and switch like LL does.

I am as interested in the quality of governance as I am about the ability to build and inhabit a grid. Would you be this grid's Phil?

No, I will be the Grid’s Count :) We are not strict. We are operating on ethics. We expect everyone to treat each other in a decent way. There will be issues, sure, but we will hear both sides before passing judgment.

The Grid's Count...

How many estate owners do you have?

Right now we have 5. We will have a lot more going on as these regions go up daily, and users are building things to have people stay and enjoy themselves and continue on with the basic foundation of people making excellent products to sell to the community.

My Space, but 3D

You are thinking of it more as a social space?

Our first in-game meeting will be this Saturday. That way the community can voice their opinions and we all can talk and get to know each other a little more, but basically a 3D social network like My Space, but 3D.

The profile of Avatar Hangout's goal population does not fit with my readers then. They are not social butterflies! Far from it.

That’s fair. We have a whole grid to play with. They don’t have to be near the home regions at all.

What are you doing to address the physics issues? They seem quite serious.

The OpenSim software core developers are handling that issue. This is their platform we use to make our world along with our Modules that bring the economy functions. It affects all OpenSims running this version.

Dream Island

What version is this?

I am not sure of the specific number of the trunk, but we always use the most stable and not the newest release. Stability is our most important thing. The Viewer that we use was developed by MJM Lab’s Mana Janus.

What about voice, scripting and currency? Any new stuff coming up?

Voice does not work yet, scripting is coming along. There have been a few scripters that have modified their scripts to get around certain functions that are not implemented or completed. Here is a list of functions that are complete. We do have in game money, and people can set things for sale. We have events coming in the next update, which is the beginning of search working. People will be able to place events and it will show in the map. We are waiting for the next version to test stability and see if anyone reports bugs before we go and download it to the main servers.

How secure is my information, my system, etc. here?

We do not share information with anyone. We do use the Hippo Viewer which is hosted on SourceForge. We have firewalls in place just in case of an attack. They are provided from our Data Center. All projects are tested and approved by SourceForge before they are published.

Meanwhile and like Hern Worsely, I am of the opinion that Openlife continues to be the most viable option for disappointed Second Lifers, so far. More as soon as we have it.

Prim Abuses: Gore Suntzu at Chakryn Forest


Gore Suntzu says: "... My abuses are unreal prim sculptures made with sculpties (mostly) , and with a lil scripting to make them alive. The best word I can use to describe them is "pulsating." Do they have a meaning? Boh! I dont know, but if the music is nice and the moon is full, sometimes it can happen that they catch the mood of the people that are looking at them ;) ..."

Metaverse Pulse.

Tornado of Souls

Phoenix Rising

I do not know if Gore Suntzu's kinetic light sculptures were made with Chakryn Forest in mind, however since they were placed there I think it has to follow that they should be taken in within that context. Unlike art work displayed in a neutral gallery setting, site specific art needs to strongly take into account the setting within which it is placed.

The less bright the more powerful, the more secluded the more revealing, Suntzu did succeed in integrating a good portion of his work with the challengingly beautiful eco-system that is Chakryn. The more that these works blend into the forest the more powerfully they revealed themselves to me. Thus I found myself drawn to pieces such as Phoenix Rising and Fall Away, while some few others sadly did not achieve quite the same effect, I felt. A good example to the latter would be E Pluribus Unum. Far too bright and beyond the brightness there also seems to be a problem of the shape of the structure not really belonging to that environment, as indeed is also the case with Fluxus Kinetikos. However, back to the ones that worked for me I would have to mention C-Beams for one and Tornado of Souls for another. And then, oddly enough, "Spiralidoso", which although highly luminescent does indeed manage to integrate itself into the environment through the usage of sheer contrast, implemented by a shape alien enough to keep me wondering; whereas the spherical/solar forms of E Pluribus and Fluxus have fallen into an ambiguous twilight zone of neither attaining full integration nor sufficient contrast.

Fall Away: When you throw a pebble in the water... This quiet one was by far my favorite.


But in the end, Gore Suntzu gets my full respect: The sculptures that do work, that do integrate themselves into the environment, and indeed add to a place which is already so vastly endowed with magic as Chakryn Forest undoubtedly is, far exceed the pieces which fall short of the considerable task at hand. And in my book that most certainly qualifies as success!

Gore Suntzu says: "I have never considered myself an "artistic" kind of guy. Second Life made me discover that part of myself." Amen to that...

To view the sculptures of Gore Suntzu at Chakryn Forest teleport directly from here. You can also see larger sizes of the photos I took here.

The beautiful rich world we choose not to connect to: Strawberry Holiday

There are times when I long for those Wednesday mornings when Second Life® would go down for maintenance and I'd be forced to step away from it all and plug back into Real Life. I sometimes wish there was an enforced day-off for all virtual worlds, so that my will power wouldn't have to be exercised.

Strawberry Holiday took a close look at the relationship between our Real Life and our propensity to plug into everything technological when she created Disconnected, which she unveiled today. I asked her about that and also learned a bit more about what's been keeping her unplugged from our pixelated world.

It's great to have a new Strawberry installation, especially when we know you've been so busy in your Real Life. What's going on there?

I've been working as the director of a preschool and toddler center. As part of that, I teach a preschool classroom and art lessons to preschool and kindergarten age children. While love this part of my life, I'm really starting to feel that I'm not contributing as much as I could be and I'm itching for a change. With all the changes in the country and so many states working to make early childhood education, namely preschool, part of the public education system, I've decided to go to law school and help influence the laws and decisions that actually impact children instead of just being a cog in the works.

Were you an artist before you joined Second Life®? If so, what were you doing and are you still doing it?

I have a bachelor's degree with a focus in visual art. I explored the art of light in college with enough credits for a minor in Neon. I've also done small metal and jewelry work as well as 2D drawing and painting. Now most of my art is done in-world, except for some limited drawing and painting and the lessons I do with the children.

Has your increased distance from your own Second Life helped you to gain some perspective or insight that led to the concept behind this work?

Besides the decision to go to law school, there's another aspect of my life that has been taking up some of my time. I've been spending more time with the love of my life as we prepare to move in together after nearly two years of dating. We met in a club in Seattle but after dating for only about six months I moved away up to the beautiful island of San Juan near Vancouver BC for my current job. So the majority of our relationship has involved a sundry of vehicles, cars, ferries and seaplanes to taxi us back and forth to each other! As I'm considering Law Schools, we're also preparing to move in together in Seattle. All these changes, both happy and stressful, really have caused me to realize how lucky I am to be at this stage in my life.

The last few weeks, between when I took the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) and before I received my scores, I really wanted to focus on building. I did want to make sure that I was keeping time for my Real Life and not getting overwhelmed by Second Life so I could keep enjoying my love and the anticipation of the LSAT close to me. (Strawberry has since learned that she not only passed but also scored very high). Working on this balance kept bringing to mind a picture I drew back in 2005 of a woman surrounded by technology but a close-up into her brain showed that she wasn't plugged in.

And that's how I came to the concept for this piece. In Second Life, it's so easy to show concepts that I could never really capture in paintings. The image of the woman alone in her space surrounded by the flashy images and noise of technology (that all seems the same) while not connecting or living within herself is powerful. Especially with the soothing trees and calm grass that surrounds her. Just outside her walls is a beautiful rich world that she chooses not to connect with.

Did you have any collaborators?

The first challenge of this build was finding space, which Truthseeker Young has generously donated for the duration of the build. WendyOfNeverland Fussbudget provided production support, doing tedious things like updating scripts in dozens of prims, or deleting every other blade of grass, or sanding and activating scripts as needed! Without her this would have been impossible. And Moongold Munroe was commissioned to develop the sound scheme for the build. They complete the build!

Your new grass is sumptuous. How'd you go about making it?

My grass has developed over the last 6 months. Originally inspired by the wheat at AM Radio's Wheatfield, it was first used in Throes of Rapture, a collaborative build with the Fallopian Fighters. This particular version of the grass is different because while the graphic is in the shape of individual pieces of grass, what is masked over it is a photo of a field of daises in the grass, giving for a much more rich texture. Not possible in real life, I know, but its green, and on the ground so our minds read it as grass!

Teleport directly from here.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Second Life® Expats?

3 hours ago today: A group of newbie avatars at the entry point of OpenLife® are busy editing their appearances. Every single one of us is a Resident of Second Life. Hardcore Residents at that, as the content of the chatter amongst us would seem to indicate...

No further comment.

Openlife: Is it ready for most Second Lifers? No. But that day doesn't seem so far off

Is one-year old Openlife ready for the mostly social user of virtual worlds? The fashionistas? The Universities? The VIP dOOds and the bling-ettes? Absolutely not. Yet.

You cannot teleport a friend. Instead, you have to give them a landmark, and they may not even receive it. A teleport may very likely end with a crash. Poseballs are mostly hilarious. Click to sit and you may find yourself upside down or doing an odd dance in mid-air. You can't spend a dime, there is nothing for sale (except land) and... well, you get the picture. Openlife is still in Beta.

Can you create cool content?

Most of the builds I saw during my short visit to Openlife were crap. I need further explorations to understand the limitations there, but a visit to Exodus (teleport directly from here) - created by Gino and Linda McCallister with help by Grimly Graves - was a clear demonstration of its potential.

At this point, you can't terraform beyond 15m-/+, but tier for mainland regions costs $59 a month, and each region supports 45,000 prims, and regular prims are scalable to 100m. And per my conversation with Openlife's founder and president, Steve Sima, features coming before the end of the year include:

- Support for OGRE.MESH 3D Objects (Import 3D Modelled objects)
- Avatar 2.0 (advanced next generation Avatar System, including 'real' face texture mapping)
- Python Scripting
- Avatar-to-Avatar Private Skype Calling
- In-world Spatial Audio Voice support

Importantly, Openlife also expects to have a working economy by the end of this year.

A real Community

Openlife enjoys a strong sense of community and neighborliness. Everyone I met there has a Second Life account, but most spend the bulk of their time in Openlife building this new world. They've rolled up their sleeves and are working steadily and together to make their dreams a reality here, together with their leader, Steve Sima (aka Sakai Openlife), with whom they meet once a week!

I'm thinking that NPIRL and Impossible IRL should begin to establish a presence there and welcome any thoughts on this topic from our members.

Hello OpenLife®?

I have been away from Second Life® for one week. My mother died and my sorrow as well as all the things that needed to be taken care of after her demise kept me in Real Life.

The support and the affection that I received throughout this week from my RL friends and relatives (and especially that of my students who came out in full force to be with their nasty old school marm) has made me wonder as to how wise of a thing it is from an emotional standpoint to be spending such extended periods of time in a second life, to which I am after all only connected to through this ephemeral thing called technology. One power outage, one satellite failure - and I am pretty much on my own here, aren't I?

The trouble with all of these good intentions of cutting down on my virtual life and giving my real life more of a priority is that at this point Second Life has become the place in which the very concept of creativity excites me in a way that I have not felt excited about creativity in a very long time indeed.

Real Life art and design had been leaving me thoroughly cold for quite some considerable time before I had even heard of Second Life: Real Life art I gave for the reasons here, and Real Life design for the deplorable symbol of status and income that it is. The remarkable thing that metanomics has brought about is a world in which neither the production nor the consumption of creative output is an indicator of financial resources. After all, the poorest of poor avatars can create the most stunning of outputs in a sandbox. And kitting yourself out through the acquisition of the creative output of others is not an indicator of your financial status but only of your ingenuity, your imagination and your resourcefulness. After all, in a world where the equivalent of a few real life dollars will buy you the fanciest of cars how can what your Rolex watch tells us about your wallet be of any possible consequence?

There is no doubt whatsoever in my mind that at this stage the Residents of Second Life are in the process of creating a social structure unique to the metaverse. But unlike the one in Real Life, what seems to me to be happening here is that (maybe even for the very first time in human history?) we may have the emergence of a true meritocracy. A meritocracy in which nothing but your imagination, your creativity and ultimately your hard work will determine your social status. Wow!

I returned to my second life this morning to find out that in the meantime all hell has broken loose. The Openspace pricing and policy changes announced earlier this week by Linden Labs are very hard to forgive indeed. Surely, Openspace abusers can be held under check through different means? How about charging such Residents based on the calculation of additional prim usage on an Openspace? And not only is this hard to forgive it is also hard to understand: Second Life is no longer a sole option. The competition is already here and it is hard core. Bett has already signed up at OpenLife®, I shall be doing so the very minute after I have posted this, especially now that I have read that OpenLife is also expected to have a working economy by the end of this year. And surely Linden Labs must be aware of the colossal resources that are spent at IBM for the development of a fully three dimensional world wide web which, as we are given to understand, will operate very much along the model of today's virtual worlds.

I am hoping that Second Life will revise this decision. Although it does not personally affect me, it bothers me: My island is an educational island and who is to say that tomorrow there will not be policy changes related to educational islands also? That what we have here today is only the thin end of a truly nasty wedge yet to come? But beyond that it bothers me since it tells me something about the governance of Second Life that makes me very uncomfortable indeed: Shortsightedness.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Openlife's Steve Sima has a message for Second Life's content creators

October 29 Update: Openlife: Is it ready for most Second Lifers? No. But that day doesn't seem so far off

As of 6pm SLT today and following Linden Lab's announcement last night that it will be raising its tier rates for OpenSpace by 65% in January, 800 new registered users signed up on the Openlife Grid. That's up to 16 times the average 24 hour sign-up rate. I was one of them.

Minutes away from my Ruthiness, this is newbie Bettina Tizzy on the Openlife Grid

OpenLife is an alternative virtual world that celebrated its first year of existence two days ago (October 26). Like Second Life®, it is built out by its residents. It also looks and feels a lot like Second Life, largely because it is built on Open Source technology that was released by Linden Lab. The User Interface is almost identical to Second Life and even Windlight is available. Most importantly, users can create content with flexis and sculpties and more, and next month, Openlife will begin to unveil features that Second Life doesn't enjoy.

I crashed a couple of times, lost my freebie hair after teleports, exchanged names and friended dozens of Second Lifers who were there to explore, and had a blast.

I also met with several warm and welcoming Openlife land owners and developers and checked out some of the spiffier content there. I'll be sharing some of my findings on that soon, but thought I'd begin with one of the highlights of my visit: a sit-down chat with the founder and President of OpenLife Grid (3DX), Steve Sima (aka Sakai Openlife).

Steve (Sakai) has this message for content creators in Second Life:

Sakai Openlife: The Openlife is both a developing and rapidly growing world. Demand is high for good quality content. And for those wanting to take their creations to the next level, our next generation features like 3D mesh objects (coming soon) mean you can get a level of detail not possible within the Second Life space. You have a chance to shape the world and grow within it.

Care to hazard a ballpark guess on when you expect to have 3D mesh objects?

Sakai Openlife: December is the current timeline... Start the new year with some fresh innovation ;)

Are people here using Skype now?

Sakai Openlife: In-world voice will come at approximately the same time, as will avatar-to-avatar Skype calling, another new feature.


Sakai Openlife: Yes. Right click Skype Avatar.

What voice technology will you use in-world beyond Skype?

Sakai Openlife: I believe the work has been done using the Speex codec, so spacial in-world voice with an option to make a direct Skype call to an avatar if you have Skype installed and the Avatar has supplied their Skype ID.

Did you see Linden Lab's new pricing announcement last night for OpenSpaces?

Sakai Openlife: Looking at it from a users point of view, for many people this is entertainment and no one would be happy with that kind of an increase, especially in the current environment. This is a great opportunity to exercise the virtual legs and see the rest of the virtual universe. Openlife is a good example. We're happy to see new people; help them get started and listen to what they want in a virtual world.

Openlife is also expected to have a working economy by end of year.

See also:
OpenLife Grid Wiki

Linden Lab giveth and taketh away - Developing an exit strategy

Dear fantastic content creators/members of the Not Possible IRL and Impossible IRL groups:

I know many of you are exhausted, angry and disheartened. As recent events have demonstrated again, and given that many of you feel that we have come to depend on Linden Lab to act unreasonably, I want to encourage you to begin developing an intelligent exit strategy, but please don't forget to stay in touch with the contacts you have carefully forged over the years. We want to stay in touch with you.

Based on many conversations I have had with leading content creators, it is no longer a matter of whether they are going to continue making virtual content, so the real questions they are asking themselves are 1) Do I liquidate my assets in Second Life® or just leave them on the lowest maintenance program possible? 2) Where will I go? and 3) What will I do when I get there? 4) Who will I collaborate with?

Wherever you go, we want to know. Let's be sure to leave our incredible community intact.

Leaving Second Life - Be sure to stay in touch

I would like to keep track of you if and when you leave Second Life®. To that end, I have created a dedicated email address and would appreciate it if you would write to it and let us know how best to reach you moving forward:

Even if we already have your email address, please do write in and give us an inkling of what you are up to.

Be sure to put your Second Life name in the subject of the email, and let us know where you are hanging out/what your name is in other virtual worlds. We will keep this email address open indefinitely.

What are our best options, moving forward?

I would like to hear your ideas on this. Please write to me at

Friday, October 24, 2008

Alice in Wonderland, physics and Atom Burma

It was Real and Virtual wizard and magician Tuna Oddfellow, who first told us about the Carnivale Amusement Park. "It's a very comprehensive carnival, complete with a Disneyesque ride through an Alice in Wonderland fantasy, and a nifty roller coaster, too. (There are) lots of games and rides here. It was created by Atom Burma... apparently someone who likes to play with physics."

Indeed. We've seen a number of Alice in Wonderland installations in Second Life® this year, including the magical SLB5 version by LittleToe Bartlett, and each had its own attributes that made it special.

Carnivale is very much an amusement park that enjoys the distinction that you can actually walk away with many of the rides niftily tucked away in your pocket. Practically everything moves and nearly everything is for sale!

Teleport directly from here.

Dekka Raymaker's puzzler: Skullduggery

Skullduggery or Skulduggery: 1. A devious device or trick. 2. Underhanded or unscrupulous behavior.

It is not a simple matter to reach the point where you are standing in front of this installation in Second Life®, but if you are in the mood for a bit of mystery and deductive reasoning, you are in for a wee bit of a challenge and a treat.

First, teleport from here. You will find yourself in the middle of a field, but if you look behind you, you will see a brown brick building a few meters away. Head towards the front door.

But wait! You need to punch in a code to gain access. Hmmm. I wonder if there is a hint or two (or three) nearby?

Once inside, and at the end of the long hall, there is an apothecary table and shelves containing all matter of turn of the century as well as contemporary pharmaceutical supplies, mixing and writing tools and clocks and... a voodoo doll? Skulls?

Somewhere in this room is a clue that will help you, as its creator Dekka Raymaker, suggested to me, "get it."

"It is there. Obvious when you know," said Dekka, as I fumbled around touching everything and looking everywhere.

"The inspiration of the piece started with a photograph by Philippe Halsman after a drawing by Dalí of a human skull consisting of seven naked women's bodies. Other references include psychological fear, horror, selling one's soul (selling out) and a little bit of subtle recession phobia," added Dekka. Hmmm. I wonder if Dekka's financial advisor had a bad year?

His advice for how to view this:
: Midnight is preferrable for the first look
: Turn off streaming music and video
: The entrance is code activated, 3 numbers
: Some objects can be interacted with, drawers open & touch sound
: Some things are not obviously on view; with a little cam action they can be seen
: I hope you 'get it'

Magical retail destinations - Even in Second Life, they are rare: The 109 Prim Circus

Via one of our favorite content creators (and illustrators) of all time, four Yip, we learned of one exquisitely magical store that, were it not for the fantastic items for sale there, would still be a destination in and of itself.

The 109 Prims Circus is a steampunk/fantasy store created by Japanese Onakagoo Epin (rez: 11/22/2006). Unlike most stores and malls in Second Life® - sadly and exceedingly unimaginative and boxlike - this retail outlet is a jewelbox containing all sorts of lovely things.

These photographs do not do the place justice because I had to crop the heck out of them due to a bug in the latest Release Client viewer.

Housed within a sphere megaprim, the store is its own environment

Two functional merry-go-rounds with crystalized and ghostly horses go round and round

Steampunkish pods contain the store's offerings, and oh what delightful items they are, worthy of many more blogposts

One gorgeous item for sale, and very reasonably priced, is a steampunk crescent moon

Teleport directly from here.

Often, it's what you do with it that counts

Doing things the Not Possible in Real Life (NPIRL) way doesn't always mean that you have to create original content, or that the objects have to be NPIRL. While Berliner Sevenstar Amat built a number of the elements you see in these photographs taken at her Stitch by Stitch shop at Juicy Bella discovered by Juko Tempel, she was also clever in her placement of items that others had made.

Scissors and texture-changing umbrellas float happily above

A hippo by Jon Haskell takes a bath in Uma Ceawlin's Bubble Bucket; nearby, Sevenstar's whimsical pumpkin bed

Teleport to Stitch by Stitch directly from here.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

New, trippiest and most IMMERSIVE way to see videos, EVAH!

Thank you, NPIRLer Crap Mariner, a funtastic videographer and podcaster himself, for turning us onto Thoth Jantzen's hyper-grooovy and totally novel way to watch videos in any life. This is, unquestionably, the most immersive video viewing that I have ever experienced, beating IMAX, HDTV, and every other screen technology by a long shot.

Granted, it is not for the weak-at-heart. You wouldn't want to watch a feature film, television, or anything that requires clear visuals this way. A bit like a roller coaster ride, a bit like an acid trip... it is outrageously cool.

I can imagine all kinds of music and videos being loaded for different purposes, even therapeutic ones. Watching it, I felt younger... or older, I'm not sure which. With some videos, the sides almost look 3-dimensional.

Given that Crap Mariner pointed us to this spectacular find, I looked for him immediately when it came to videotaping this to share it with you. He was not in-world. I teleported virtual florist, artist and videographer Vlad Bjornson in and he made quick work of it, preparing a version to show you right away. Thank you, Vlad!

Standing on one end of the chaotic, trippy video wrapped tube, and surrounded by excited people, I peppered poor Thoth - who's second rez day was in effect (10/22/2006) with questions...

He has chosen the persona of Thoth-Anubis, "expressed in SL as a wandering magician, student of everything, and a "serial connector"

Does this thing have a name yet, Thoth?

Thoth Jantzen: I haven't named it yet, but I am thinking to call it the Kaleidoscopium or some such... it's like being inside a kaleidoscope.

Is this like version 382 of your tweaking?

Thoth Jantzen: Oh, at least, Bettina... probably into the 500's.

Below Kaleidoscopium, Thoth's earlier work and experiments can be viewed in a space he calls Cosmique. The same video plays throughout

Will you be selling versions of this?

Thoth Jantzen: I just like to make things that I hope people enjoy, but I'm not sure. More likely 'no'... unless there's that much interest.

If you aren't present, is there a way that the visitor can load different videos?

Thoth Jantzen: Yes. There is a ZONE box near the end here on the floor. It lets people load YouTube urls in chat.

Thoth considers his video work a sideline in Second Life®.

Thoth Jantzen: I founded a group called Thothica SL a couple of years ago, but I don't run it any more. I handed the control over to some friends. I try to hook up people with other people who may be helpful or of interest to them. I think Second Life's biggest potential is in education and related things, getting people connected.

In Real Life, Thoth works in advanced parsing and linguistics.

Have your own kaleidoscopic and very psychedelic experience by teleporting directly from here.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Dear Bridie Linden: ...

I know you are busy. So am I. You put many dozens of hours into your work in support of Second Life® a month. So do I. Three notable differences:

1) You get paid.
2) In regards to Second Life, your work is important to the happiness and well-being of users. I respect that. I am trying to work with the system I've been handed by Linden Lab.
3) I'm a paying customer.

Today and at the suggestion of another Linden, I attended your office hours, expressly to discuss something that is affecting my own many hours in Second Life, as well as my ability to promote quality content created in this virtual world. At your request, I waited until the end of your one hour+ "office hours" meeting today to present issues with snapshots taken in Second Life.

As a paying customer, this would be like agreeing to wait on hold for one hour+ to get an answer from technical support from, say, Verizon, or Dell, or my local gas company. Second Life is an ongoing concern, after all, so I don't think that any other comparison would be justified.

[15:03] Bridie Linden: I thought we'd do something a little different today...
[15:04] Bridie Linden: I thought we'd take a look @ issues that have already been imported...
[15:04] Bridie Linden: But are still unresolved
[15:04] Bridie Linden: And see where we're at with them...
[15:04] Bridie Linden: since 1.21 is released
[15:04] Bridie Linden: sound good?
[15:04] Bettina Tizzy: I have one specific issue I'd like to discuss
[15:05] Bettina Tizzy: re: screengrabs
[15:05] Bridie Linden: Bettina, can we save til the end?
[15:05] Bettina Tizzy: sure

ONE HOUR LATER... waiting and listening

[16:00] Bridie Linden: and last one was a dupe
[16:00] Bridie Linden: yay!
[16:00] Squirrel Wood: Woot!
[16:01] Bridie Linden: Thx all, I have to run to next meeting.
[16:01] Squirrel Wood: Have fun! ^^
[16:01] Bettina Tizzy: um
[16:01] Zen Linden: gotta run. catch y'all later
[16:01] Garn Conover: not often we complete the list
[16:01] Cummere Mayo: tc bridie
[16:01] Cummere Mayo: and bug tester are you bambers?
[16:01] Bettina Tizzy: ok
[16:01] Object: Glod Sarts for all!
[16:01] Bridie Linden: Oh shoot, bettina, what was your issue?
[16:01] Kerry Giha: Thanks Birdie
[16:01] Bug Tester thanks you all for your efforts and reminds you to hug a bug today
[16:01] Alexa Linden: thanks all!
[16:01] Object: No more Glod Sarts for you!
[16:01] Cummere Mayo tests bugs not hugs them
[16:01] Bettina Tizzy: AM Radio is using the production client
[16:01] Bridie Linden listens
[16:01] Bettina Tizzy: all his screengrabs are black
[16:02] Bridie Linden: Video card driver, maybe?
[16:02] Bettina Tizzy: my shots in the RC:
[16:02] Bettina Tizzy: i can ask him
[16:02] Bridie Linden: search Issue Tracker
[16:02] Bettina Tizzy: oops wrong link
[16:02] Gellan Glenelg: could be related to multiple monitors, or to resolution > screen size
[16:02] Bridie Linden nods
[16:02] Bridie Linden: Gotta run, sorry!
[16:02] Bettina Tizzy:
[16:03] Bettina Tizzy: sigh

And that was that. As a courtesy, I presented AM Radio's issue first (he had IM-ed me while I was waiting my turn), and then tried to get mine in within seconds, but you were no longer there to listen.


AM Radio: JIRA #VWR-7812 exists for your issue, but according to Linden Lab, it is fixed. You may wish to reopen it.

Tears/fractured snapshots: In about 30-40% of my snapshots in the RC to my Hard Drive taken in Windlight, my shots look like some variation of the above. I have reopened JIRA #VWR-1641.

Black vertical lines: The JIRA #VWR-7489 reporting a vertical black line on snapshot to Hard Drive had been closed, which I just reopened. I had already run a search in the JIRA for torn/fractured images.


Bridie: I'm no JIRA expert, and I can tell that it really helps to know what you are doing before you start opening and reopening issues and so on... which is why I attended your meeting in the first place. Sigh...


Nautilus is a region very recently added to the world of Second Life®, rezzed slightly to the north of the Japanese Continent, covering a total of 22 sims, a sizable portion of which are submerged under the ocean. I found out about Nautilus pretty much during the first hours that it was rezzed since the event happened almost literally on our doorstep at Klein, the whacko sim that is one of my two Second Life homes, housing my beloved

These sims are far from being mere empty pieces of land; indeed they are built quite extensively based upon a theme, which seems to me to evolve around the Minoan or early Greek civilizations. This work has been undertaken by the Linden Department of Public Works and the Mole Family. There are many things that I liked about Nautilus and a few things that left me dubious. So, I will reverse the usual practice of leaving critique to the end and air out my misgivings first and then proceed onto all the good things that I saw.

My first problem is the conspicuous absence of any kind of terraforming above sea level. Indeed, for the largest part the land is as flat as can be, whereas in the parts that have been raised the elevations are abrupt and geometric, causing sudden harsh breaks and shadows. This would maybe have worked had the theme of the building activity been of a kind that would have complemented a geometrically structured terrain. As it is, the rezed material looks lost and out of place placed upon the huge flat expanses of virtual grass since the building work undertaken sustains a detailed realism which does not get followed through on the ground that it has been erected.

My second issue is with the city planning, which has been implemented on a grid system. Again, in my view, very problematic; taking away a great deal from the thematic credibility of the region given that the urban evolution of the period in question was emergent rather than planned, houses growing in an organic manner, following the curvatures of land, water, access routes and safety zones. Indeed gridded city planning is something which to the best of my knowledge came into existence only after the Enlightenment on any kind of a big scale. So, even if temples or public areas would be built upon geometric principles, the town itself would huddle around these pivots in a more or less higgledy piggledy fashion, creating the peculiar charm which we see in the centers of most old world cities even today. An excellent example of a historic town implemented in Second Life was the, sadly no longer existent, Romenna by Nick Lassard and I really would have loved to see something more along those lines materialize at Nautilus as well.

And now onto the good stuff, and here I think I will do less talking and let the many images that we took in Nautilus speak for themselves.

The building work executed by the Mole Family is impeccable in detail as well as in overall structure. The many temples and public areas are beautifully proportioned, conveying a satisfying sense of space as well as vista. The perspectives generated by the columned walkways and pergolas that traverse the countryside of Nautilus are a joy to walk in and to gaze upon. Particularly charming is the huge public bath...

... as are the civic areas around some of the smaller harbors.

And of course special mention needs to be made of the big temple, situated in the Central Citadel. The interior of this building is nothing short of a virtual feast of spatial light and harmony, complemented by a huge version of one of the glowing pink quartz crystal central altars, which are a recurring theme across the entire region.

The texturing of the public spaces of Nautilus is amongst some of the best that I have seen in Second Life, again hugely to the credit of the Mole Family. Sadly the dwellings that make up the bulk of the prim work leave something to be desired in terms of texture, particularly when placed in proximity to the gorgeous public builds.

The underwater domain of Nautilus was of particular interest to me since as a builder I have used it quite extensively myself, immersing considerable portions of Syncretia under the ocean. Indeed I have plans to submerge the entire island in its next incarnation, which I will be undertaking before long. Here at Nautilus a certain effort has indeed been made. However, all in all, the underwater is not nearly as well built and textured as what is to be seen above sea level. It would have been great to see portions of the city above sunk under the sea, maybe in the shape of ruins, in addition to the odd ship and plane wrecks and wall remnants encountered here and there.

Underwater photographs courtesy of Hardwarehacker Hoch

One of the biggest aesthetic problems in Second Life for me is the foliage. Not to put too fine a point on it, I do not like Second Life plants. Amongst other issues this also lies in the way in which the plants of Second Life sink into the virtual soil. Thus, unless some effort is made to integrate these two design elements (i.e., the plant and the soil), for me no plant ever manages to take root in Second Life convincingly. There are cases where the extraordinary skill of the landscaper will overcome the inherent shortcomings and perform miracles in this regard, as would be the case in Chakryn Forest where Andrek Lowell has performed just such a miracle. Under the ocean in Nautilus, where rezzing has ended up relying largely on underwater flora this shortcoming to me became glaringly obvious. The good thing about the ocean depths is that some excellent terraforming, indeed almost good enough to make up for the shortcomings of the foliage has been undertaken.

We are told by Linden Labs that "there look to be several hundred parcels available, all of them 1024 square meters in size". Thus Nautilus will be an area available for Residency and "auctions for the new area will go live on the 24th October with all auctions starting at L$2000".

You can teleport to the Nautilus Central Citadel directly from here and once there continue to investigate this huge region spreading before your eyes in all compass directions. You can also see many large sized images of Nautilus here and here.