Google+ Adventures of a Southern Gentleman: 2008

Monday, December 22, 2008

Second Life Architecture

Recently came across a presentation by Ian Wilkes, VP of Systems Engineering with Linden Labs, on the Architecture of Second Life.   Recorded at QCon San Francisco 2007.

Second Life Architecture by Ian Wilkes

 

I thought it was a good presentation which gives an overview of how Second Life works on a technical level, including some of the problems with some of the decisions that were made when it was designed.  I definitely recommend sitting down and watching this if you’re at all interested in the behind the scenes stuff that goes on and if you wonder about some of the technical reasons behind why SL misbehaves and why “just fix it” is more complicated than it seems.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Can SL and RL truly be separate?

Since I've been having difficulty in coming up with something to blog about, I decided to shamelessly borrow one of the topics used in the recent SL Bloggers mix and match.

So, can Second Life (SL)  and Real Life (RL) truly be separate?    Many would say yes, they keep SL and RL totally separate but is that really true?   It's true that you can hide, to some extent, your RL from your SL, and your SL from your RL as long as you take care to keep things hidden but are they really "separate"?

Separate can be defined in several different ways but when most people use the word in regards to Second Life, I believe they mean the following.

independent; not united or joint;

It would be my contention that SL can not be truly separate from RL.  Whether one finds oneself deeply immersed in Second Life or just casually involved, events in real life can impact your SL and events in SL can impact your RL.   Witness the recent news stories about the couple that divorced in real life over what happened in Second Life.   I will grant that those two probably didn't do much to keep the two lives separate but I wouldn't be at all surprised to find in one or both of their profiles,  a statement to the effect that RL and SL are separate, just as one finds in many profiles.

But are those kind of statements valid?   Is it even possible to keep it separate?

Avatars in SL are driven by real living humans, with feelings and emotions, hang ups and physical problems, and all those things that make us human.

Emotions from either life can spill over into the other.   Whether it's having a fight with a friend in SL that makes you grumpy all day at work in RL or a flat tire in RL causing you to snap or fight with a friend in SL later that evening.  

That's not being separate, how could it be?  Unless you're Mister Spock and can keep the emotions of one world separate from the other and switch back and forth between the two.

How can you keep RL separate from SL when each can impact the other so readily?

Anyone that has been in SL for any length of time knows that spending too much time in SL impacts RL, even if you don't have much of a RL it's still an impact when you choose to sit all day in your pajamas in front of the computer in SL rather than do your laundry or go to the grocery or just go outside and be in the sun.

And when RL events or circumstances prevent you from going into SL abruptly, at the very least it impacts the relationships you've built in SL, your friends worry, your SL "boss" wonders why you didn't show up to host that event, and in RL you stress over not being able to get in.

SL and RL can't truly be separate.   You may be able to hide the actions and life you live in one from the other, and that is your prerogative, but no matter how hard you try, eventually something from one life is going to slip over into the other and that separation will be broken.  

Sunday, October 19, 2008

By Any Other Name

Crap Mariner recently had a post about making changes to ones avatar.

http://firstlife.isfullofcrap.com/2008/10/unrecognizable_to_myself.html

He posed an interesting question,

I always wonder about people who change skins and hair and their overall appearance on a constantly-chasing-fashion basis... if you turned off labels, could you recognize these people in a crowd?

 

I found myself writing a long comment in response and lo, a blog post was born.

Crap's post brings up an interesting thought, how important is it maintain the same appearance?   Torley switches around constantly, but he'd definitely be recognizable in a crowd, because while his avatar could be completely different he maintains the same "look" with his color scheme.   But most others, you expect them to look like "themselves", over time you get used to how they look and when that changes, it can be a bit jarring.

Now, I'll throw on an off the wall avatar from time to time, just for fun, but I still have the same basic avatar that I've had nearly from the beginning, fairly recognizable as Sougent Harrop to anyone who knows me.

The shape is the same, though slightly tweaked over time as I've noticed things I don't like about it, trying to achieve a somewhat natural look but still indulge fantasy and look better than I could in real life.

The skin I wear is a freebie skin, the caramel van-dyke that I discovered in a freebie box within the first week I was in Second Life.   Perhaps not as good looking as some of the stuff you can buy, depending on the light and viewing angle, it has it's flaws.

But it's "me", if I change it, change my appearance that radically then won't I cease to be?

I have looked for alternate skins but I have found none that match close enough in coloration and aren't overly detailed, I don't want to look like a body builder, hairless with rippling muscles.  I've even tracked down the original maker (Sezmra) of the freebie skin I wear and tried the demos for all her other male skins, they were close, the closest I've found, but just not quite right.

I actually like the skin I'm in, I just wish it could be tweaked a little and brought up to date, especially in the face, but I like it. 

In fact, the few times that I've actually tried switching skins, a few people who have known me for a while actually told me that I didn't look right, didn't look like me, which prompted me to switch back.  

At this point, I'm not sure I could bring myself to switch skins, the replacement would have to be really close before I'd consider doing it.

The hair I have, works for me but if I find better, I would change without much hesitation.  Clothes, I change up with no hesitation, perhaps even more so than most guys in Second Life.   But skin, shape and the eyes, those are the 3 elements that make my avatar's persona, if I change them I cease to be,  I become someone different.  

I'm fairly happy with the avatar that has evolved over the past year, maybe someday I'll want to be someone different but not today.

 

Shirt_002

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Absent Friends Revisited

This past July I wrote a post about about a personal experience that made me think about what happens to my virtual self if my real self is injured or dies abruptly.

Here is the original post...

http://sladventures.sougent.com/2008/07/absent-friends.html

Recently, ArminasX Saiman did a blog post entitled Your Second Will @ http://www.secondeffects.com/2008/09/your-second-will_22.html where he proposed a template to use for leaving instructions for your real life survivors outlining who to contact and how to take care of your virtual affairs. It made me realize that if you are more than just casually involved in Second Life, you have more to take care of than notifying your friends. Things like land, stuff you've created, any stores or events you are involved with, virtual assets with real world value. This is a must read blog post for anyone involved in Second Life on a more than casual basis, and even if it is only a casual thing for you, it's still thought provoking.

I'm ashamed to say that I haven't followed through on my original post other than to get a fireproof safe in which to store important papers and the instructions I need to write, but ArminasX has brought back to the forefront the need to leave some sort of instructions.

It's hard to think about something happening to you, even harder to sit yourself down and actually think it through and write it all down. So many people don't even have wills to take care of their real lives, much less a virtual one.

But I know this is something I need to do.

Because you never know.

My friend mentioned in the previous blog post, logged in on July 10, 2008 and we talked for a bit but she was tired and "fuzzy", so she logged off to rest, the last thing she said was that she'd try to log in tomorrow. That's the last time she logged in to Second Life, I don't know if I'll ever see her again.

Update: Sept 29, 2008 - Heard from her today, she's ok, just without access to the computer for the past few months.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Podcasts and Blogs Revisited.

One of my first few posts on this blog had to do with Second Life related podcasts and blogs that I followed.  I figured now was a good time to revisit the subject, spotlight a few new ones and mention a few old ones.

A brand spanking new podcast that just started today is Bargain Hunting in SL, done by Hedgie Till, it will help you find freebies, cheapies and other bargain shopping opportunities.

A new blog that also just snuck up today is Sim Crossing by the incomparable TheKeeme of the KeemeCast.   As described by the Man himself, the blog is "about life as a Hobo traveler from Sim to Sim" and will be chronicling his adventures across the grid.

Another recent addition to the SL blogoshere is Second Homes by Nika Dreamscape, a new blog covering everything from pre-fabs, to garden and plants, to furniture and home accents.

A new SLPN video podcast provides a bit of comic relief, the RezzedNecks podcast pokes a little fun using a few southern stereotypes.  It's all done in fun, so for a little laugh join Cooter and Forest Weezles in some of their misadventures in Second Life.

There have been a few changes to ones previously mentioned as well, Going Broke with Daphne and Tamara after a brief hiatus transformed into Going Broke inSL, still doing it's stellar coverage of shopping options in Second Life.

The wild and crazy Torley Linden has revamped his personal blog Torley Lives with a new theme and format, but he still has the same great content.   Torley's wife Ravenelle has an interesting new SL related blog worth mentioning called simply Ravenelle, which covers a variety of topics.

And me, I've not taken the plunge yet and started my own podcast, though I've been tempted I just haven't found anything worth talking about yet.

I have been, however, doing a few videos on YouTube playing around with Fraps and video editing, you can check them out on my YouTube channel here.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Twisted Spoke - Drama Libre

As is my habit, last night I spent the evening hanging out at Drama Libre.  

 

Ghost Rider Party Time

Drama Libre is a twice a week themed event that occurs on Saturday night from 8pm to 2am SLT and Thursday night from 5pm to 8pm SLT (Saturday night is by far the busiest, pulling in more people).   The theme changes each week on Saturday and repeats that theme on the following Thursday.

 

Couple of

The hosts and creators of Drama Libre are Peachy Sassoon and Xerxes Sismondi, they've been doing this for over a year now with a brand new theme each week.  Yes, each week they and a dedicated build team tears the place down completely and rebuilds it based on the theme for that week, the bulk of each build done from scratch.

 

Gregor the mini-bikeWhen you arrive you will find a live DJ spinning tunes and taking requests and Anne the resident paparazzi waiting to take your picture.

 

Zombie Biker Chick Annie

 

Biker Guy - Rinaldo

 

Biker Chick Cathy

And each night there's a costume contest based on the theme, the guy and gal with the best outfit based on that nights theme wins Linden's and has their picture recorded for posterity.

 

Drama Libre - Biker Bar

They recently moved to a new location, taking up an entire sim which gives them a lot more flexibility in building for the themes.

Here is the SLURL for the landing point in Ravenswood.

http://slurl.com/secondlife/Ravenswood/118/233/24

From the landing point you'll usually use a local teleport to go to where the main event is located (the exact location changes each time based on what the theme is).

 

Here's a little video that I did of last nights event.

 

Drama Libre is the most fun and entertaining thing I've found to do in Second Life, it's a great bunch of people and a lot of fun. 

Go check it out.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Governor Linden's Neighborhood

Spent Sunday evening wandering about and decided to drop in on Governor Linden at his mansion.   He wasn't home, but wandered about the neighborhood taking in the sights.

 

Governor Linden's Mansion

An aerial view of the mansion, not a bad spread but could use a bit of a make over.

 

At Governor Linden's Mansion gazing toward the Ivory Tower of Primatives

Didn't realize you could see the Ivory Tower of Primitives from the mansion grounds.

 

Birds

There's a really interesting bird sculpture in the air nearby, Fire and Ice, I believe it was called.

 

Clementina Park and Riverwalk

A little park and riverwalk in the valley nearby, not the best I've seen but it was clean and uncluttered.   Quite a bit of exorbitantly priced land for sale nearby.

 

Factory?

Off in the distance on the other side, in the neighboring sim, was what looks like a factory dumping some kind of waste products into the local river.   Hope it's not toxic.

 

Outlands

A look at the place on the opposite side, there appeared to be some sort of violent activity going on, heard some gunfire, so I decided I'd better keep my distance.  

 

Nice build

Off in the distance I noticed this interesting looking building, for a moment I thought it might be a botanical garden of some sort but it turned out to be a store called Textures Unlimited and a place called the Lily Pad Lounge.

 

Gear Fountain

The gear fountain made me think of a certain robot I know.

 

Textures Unlimited

The inside looked as neat as the outside, still wish it had been a garden.

 

Cute little guy....

There's also a windchime garden (to the right of the picture) and this interesting looking statue.

 

All in all, not a bad little walkabout in Governor Linden's neighborhood.   If you want to visit the area, here are the slurl's.

 

Governor Linden's Mansion

http://slurl.com/secondlife/Clementina/137/125/77/

 

Textures Unlimited

http://slurl.com/secondlife/Clyde/128/158/32/

 

Bird Statue

http://slurl.com/secondlife/Clementina/93/14/71/

 

Factory

http://slurl.com/secondlife/Rachleff/210/237/59/

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Second Life Historical Museum

While I was out wandering the mainland roads of Second Life I came across a place I'd visited once before during my early days in Second Life.

The Second Life Historical Museum in the Phobos Sim (click the link for the SLURL)

If you have any interest in the history of Second Life, this is a neat little place to visit, there are exhibits on 2 levels that offer information on the history of Second Life.   Among other things you will find maps of Second Life over the years, the story behind the Hippos, the James Miller Taxi Co., and info cards on other significant objects, places and events.

It's definitely on my list of must see locations in Second Life.

The Second Life Historical Museum

 

The Second Life Historical Museum

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Pickin' N Grinnin'

For a while I've been looking around Second Life for a banjo that I could purchase and use as a musical prop for some of my outfits.   Try as I might, I could not find anything that I liked, the banjos I did find were just alpha textures on a board and I wanted a little more than that.

So, since I claim to be a builder, I figured I'd take a stab at making one on my own.   I can be a bit picky when I'm building something, so it took me a while (about a month) to finish, but I think it came together pretty nicely for a first try.   I'm still not quite 100% satisfied with it, so there may be a version 2.0 one of these days, but for now here are some pictures of the silly thing.  

Opinions welcome, please let me know what you think in the comments.

My Banjo

Banjo Front

The banjo face is a free texture from Orhalla Zander, the Creator of Calleta's Hobo Railroad Infohub, the other textures used are also free textures that I've picked up over the year I've been in-world.

My Banjo - angled

Banjo angled

This is a view at an angle, I tried to get a fairly accurate rendition of a banjo by looking at several pictures I found on the Internet.  It contains 108 prims, a little steep, but I wanted to try to build it like it would be built in real life and without relying on texture magic.

My Banjo - Rear

Banjo back

Of course, it wouldn't be much of a banjo if I didn't put an animation in it, so I slipped in a freebie guitar animation and script.  I still need to get some banjo music and set up a little scripted menu of songs for it to play.

My Banjo

Banjo angled

Banjo Case

Banjo case

And what banjo would be complete without a banjo case?   I actually built this case in one Saturday afternoon as a prop for a Drama Libre event, being a little anal retentive, the banjo actually will fit in the case.   It's not quite as bad as the banjo, being only 81 prims as shown.   And in keeping with the purpose I had in mind for the case, I went ahead and scripted it to be a tip jar using a freebie tip jar script.

Banjo case and barrell of waste

Banjo case and barrel

This is the completed prop that I created for the Drama Libre event.   The coins and paper money in the case were re-purposed from a couple of freebie items.   The barrel was also from freebie pack of warehouse items.

DL Underground - Pickin' and Grinnin'

Pickin' N Grinnin'

And here's the final result.  Didn't win the contest, but had fun making the case and putting together the outfit.

DL Underground

Pickin' N Grinnin' at Drama Libre - Underground with Xerxes and Peachy.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Absent Friends

Your friends list, sometimes you take it for granted.   When I look at mine, I see how it's grown in the past few months with new friends I've met and a few old ones that have finally taken the plunge and friended me.  

Since the first time I logged into Second Life, my policy on the friends list has been simple, I generally accept friend invites from anyone who offers as long as they've at least engaged me in conversation before hand, I figure it doesn't hurt to accept the friend offer of a newbie and I think goes a long way toward keeping them in Second Life when they find acceptance when they're new.   Odds are they'll clean me off their friends list eventually as they gain experience.   And the second part of my policy?   I don't offer friendship myself, unless asked to do so, I let the other person decide if they want to do it.   I figure if they're interested in being able to contact me and knowing when I'm on-line, they'll friend me, otherwise it's no biggie.

Sometimes I just look at my friends list and note people who've dropped off, mostly it's people who've friended me when they were new and I've never talked to since, occasionally it's someone I consider a friend who has for whatever reason decided to take me off their friend list.   There's one or two on there who I don't see log in any more and I wonder what they're up to, if they're done with Second Life or just seldom log in. 

The majority of my friends list are acquaintances of various levels of friendship, there are a fair number on there that I'd be very concerned about if they were to drop off or quit logging in, a select few very good friends that I'd be really worried about.   And there is one in particular that I'd be utterly devastated if anything happened to.

During the week leading up to the 4th of July holiday here in the U.S., something happened that drove home to me the fragility and uncertainty of life and made me think of the group of friends that I have made that I only have contact with the Internet.   That one special person on my friends list, one who is more important to me (though I don't think she realizes it) than anyone else in the world with the exception of my kids, disappeared abruptly.   We were in Second Life, it was late and she'd been having computer problems so when she poofed and didn't return I didn't think much of it, I just went to bed.   And when she didn't return the next day, I figured computer or Internet problems were keeping her off, since she would have mentioned if something was going to keep her away.   And as the days passed, I started to wonder if it was more than just Internet or computer problems and began to worry.   Our relationship is entirely based in Second Life for reasons I won't get in to, so I had no way to find out what was going on but I knew that something was wrong, you know that feeling you get when there's something not quite right with that someone you care about and then you get the phone call that confirms the feeling?

Early the following week, I woke to find an IM from her.   There had been a bad car accident, she had been unconscious in the hospital for several days and had just gotten out a few days before and wasn't up to logging in until then, and even now wasn't able to be on for long.  A mixture of emotions washed over me, relief to finally know what was going on, worry for her physical well being, and a very pointed sense of what she means to me.  

It has set me to thinking this past week about the relationships we build on the Internet and in these virtual worlds.   If I were to die tomorrow, commuting to work, would my friends be left wondering what ever happened to Sougent? 

I've left no instructions, made no preparations covering the possibility that something might happen to me and I might not personally be able to let anyone know what was going on.   Before there was an Internet, before there were virtual worlds, if something happened to you, your friends and family generally found out by word of mouth, you know that phone call in the night, or reading the local obituary.   But now in this modern world one can make friends from around the globe and only have contact with them through the Internet using e-mail or chat or Skype or a virtual world like Second Life.  

Do you ever think about your on-line friends and h0w they will know if something were to happen to you?    Do you care?   Do they?  

We spend so much time hiding our real life identities because we're afraid of being stalked or harassed but are the friends we make in Second Life or on the Internet any less a friend than one you might have in Real Life?   Don't they deserve to know and if necessary to mourn, just like a real life friend would?

I think, for myself, the answer is yes.   I don't have a lot of friends in Real Life, it's always been hard for me to make friends in the real world, it has been much, much easier to make them on-line and I value the ones I have made in Second Life and elsewhere.

I spent a week not knowing, of wondering if the last time we were together was the last.   I don't want to do that to anyone.   Maybe we're just casual friends, maybe we're good friends, maybe you don't care and that's fine.   But for those that do, I know that I'm going to take steps to see that if something were to happen to me, whether it be an abrupt illness or injury, or death, no one has to wonder whatever happened to Sougent.  

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Kerfuffle

Well, it's been a while since I've written a blog post so I had planned on doing a fairly innocuous one this weekend but then a big kerfuffle arose about the upcoming SL5B the birthday celebration for Second Life. Having only been in SL for slightly over 1 year, I vaguely recall last years shindig.

The issue is, apparently, that Linden Labs has changed it's policy from past years on who it'll accept as an exhibitor and has excluded the community that uses child avatars and role play as if they are actual children, as well as the Gorean and BDSM communities.

Now I'm not one of those that feels that everyone has a right to participate in everything just by nature of their existence so I just can't work up any self-righteous outrage at this development.

However, I do think it's unfortunate that Linden Labs has decided to exclude exhibits by nature of the community building them instead of based on the *content* of the exhibit. I believe that content should be the deciding factor, not the group building it.

Certainly, Linden Labs has the right to dictate who participates in this celebration, it is after all their party and no one has the "right" to participate in that particular party if Linden Labs doesn't want them to. What the excluded communities do have the right to do is to create their own exhibition on their own land and use the channels available to them to advertise their presence and that's what I expect will happen, assuming those communities actually care that much.

The cynic in me has to wonder, if this whole thing started with the Goreans being excluded would the same level of outrage have been shown? Same question regarding the BDSM community? Somehow I doubt it. I seriously doubt you'd see the outrage that's hitting all the SL blogs right now if it had been one of the less savory communities that this had started with but because it was the cute, innocent "children" there is an uproar.

I want to be clear, I don't support or participate in any of these communities, nor do I want to see them excluded or banned or what have you. I understand the Goreans because I read the books some decades ago, when they actually had a plot other than slave sex. I know the BDSM community is out there, but I'm afraid I just don't get it nor do I want to. And the children, well, I think it's kinda strange at the level of role play it's taken to, but as long as it's not even remotely sexual then to each his/her own.

I certainly have no issue with someone wandering around the grid as a child avatar out of a sense of fun, no more than I have an issue with someone wandering the grid as a fox or a robot or Martian or an off-color llama. Expression is great, within reason (a big purple penis attached to ones forehead, while comedic is probably not within reason, IMO). I applaud all those whackos (and I say that lovingly) who wander the grid with unique avatars, sometimes I will indulge in my silly side and wander the grid with an avatar that's a little less boring than my normal one.

But do they have a "right" to participate in anything? Nope, sorry, I don't think they do and I don't think Second Life is "broken" because of it. We are all free to come and go in Second Life, it's a wonderful place, but if they should ban or just exclude all normal looking human avatars from participating in their events, well then I shall don one of my non-human avatars and continue on with my Second Life Adventure..........or just not log in any longer. But I don't expect Linden Labs to cry over losing me should I choose to leave, any one individual in nothing more than a tiny green dot on Linden Lab's map and if it disappears, there are plenty of others out there.

Bottom line, this seems to me to be another instance where we're making another mountain out of a molehill.

I guess the passion that the user community shows in these instances is exactly what makes Second Life unique. That a number of people that use Second Life become so engaged that they lose sight of the fact that it's just a software company creating a product, a product that's on the bleeding edge of technology and I suppose also on the bleeding edge of the online society that the Internet has brought about.

SL5B is supposed to be a celebration of Second Life having been around for 5 years, one has to wonder if there'll be a SL10B for folks to get all worked up over. I don't suppose we could just be happy that the silly thing has survived for 5 years?

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Time keeps on slippin, slippin, slippin Into the future

Wow........it's been a year already?

Time flies when you're having fun, I guess.

One year ago today on April 20, 2007, I logged into Second Life for the first time. It was my "rezz day".

A lot has happened in my life since that day a year ago when I first signed on to Second Life, little did I know that I was at a turning point in my life and that Second Life would play a part in it all.

So, what did I look like when I first rezzed?

secondlife-postcard

Like the color? You can't see it from this angle, but I had a red shock of hair. The proportions are out of whack with this picture, had more muscles and wasn't quite as thin as it looks here.

My base shape was the "Nightclub Male" as you might be able to tell from the outfit there, in fact the shape I wear now is the same shape just modified some to be shorter and better proportioned.

Going through the stuff at Orientation Island wasn't a big deal, I completed all the training stations, read every note card I could find and basically paid close attention. Being a programmer and all around computer geek, I didn't find it very difficult to make it through everything and after spending a while on Help Island, I finally made it to the Mainland.

I'm not sure which Infohub I first came in to, I didn't stay long and never returned to it but I think it might have been the Braunworth Infohub. All I remember is, that after I appeared I clicked a few kiosks and read a few note cards then I started flying with the map up, looking around. I noticed a snowy area and headed in that direction, eventually I noticed a bunch of green dots on the map which were supposed to be other people, so I went toward them.

I ended up at the Linden Chalet at Wengen, which for some reason I decided to make my home location, I guess because it looked interesting and the people there seemed interesting as well. Again, I hit the kiosks and read notecards and just hung around listening to the chat.

Wengen

So then I started exploring SL, always coming back to Wengen as my home base, actually walking along the roads and seeing what I could come across.

Here's a picture of me visiting The Shelter in the Isabel Sim ( a great place for newbies to go). Note the hair, lol.

The Shelter - Isabel

I spent a few days like this then I decided to try to look more "normal" since I wasn't seeing a lot of folks running around with unique avatars (most unimaginative). So, I made my first shape adjustments and started playing with the sliders for skin, hair, etc.

This is what I came up with.

Sougent Mark II

Well, in the first week I was in Second Life, I must have hit up half the freebies sites, collecting everything from clothing to weapons to vehicles to furniture.

I spent a lot of time at Wengen, meeting a bunch of great people from all around the globe. I was introduced to sky diving, "superdance", being orbited and all sorts of things that a newbie needs to know, lol.

Then, I discovered something called the Teleportation Trail, not sure if it's still active or not, but it was of immense help to me for learning about Second Life and what was out there. It was a scavenger hunt, of sorts, each point on the trail there was some basic information on Second Life and a clue to where the next point on the trail was. Some of them were a little challenging to find, but I managed to find them all, and learned an immense amount in the process, it was an excellent tool for learning about SL. I think it's defunct, though some of the stations may still be there, which is a shame because it would be the ideal way to engage a newbie and teach them about SL, it's something that Linden Labs would do well to emulate.

After a few days of exploring and freebie collecting, I started looking at what I'd picked up and started trying out the skins and eyes and stuff because I knew by then that most people that had been around for a while didn't use the built in stuff. There was, of course, a lot of free stuff around for women but not much available for guys. But I found a skin in my inventory that I actually liked and so, I transformed yet again, almost into the avatar that I am today.

Snapshot_013

Didn't change the shape other than maybe a few slight adjustments, just the eyes and the skin, but it made a big difference in looks. Only problem was, the built in hair just didn't cut it no matter how much I tweaked it and none of the free stuff was all that appealing so I ended up being bald for some time. I actually kinda liked the look and am tempted to go back to it sometimes.

So, here I was almost at the end of the first week, looking almost human (though bald) and hanging out with the crazy folk at Wengen.

Wengen


And I have to say that by this point I was pretty well hooked on Second Life. I kept on exploring and meeting people, and now all of a sudden, it's been a year and I've got to look back on it all and just say......WOW.

Now I can't say that everything was wonderful, there have been wonderful times and some very hard and sad times, kinda like real life. But you know what, I wouldn't change it.

Shirt_002

This is as I am today. Yes, the skin I still wear is that freebie skin, I've looked at loads of other skins and they're either too light, too dark, too "ripped", or otherwise otherwise just didn't fit. I've tried others for a while, but was told they made me too dark, too scary (yes, scary). So unless I find something the same skin tone with similar characteristics to this one, I guess I'm stuck. This is who I am and you know, I kinda like him.

One year down and I hope that the next one is just as fantastic as the last.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Maybe a bit too Dazzling?

Being a tad geeky, as soon as the new Release Candidate was made available I was there downloading it. Over all, for me it's been great, I haven't had performance this good since I first logged into Second Life almost 1 year ago. Yeah, had to tweak a few graphics settings to get myself to a balance of performance vs decent looking graphics but it wasn't too difficult to achieve (see Torley's blog post and tutorial on how to tweak the settings here)

However......the Release Candidate also includes the Dazzle user interface changes by default. Now while I applaud the the viewer folks for trying to improve the interface, the color scheme they decided to use leaves a lot to be desired. I find that the colors are hard on the eyes after looking at them for a while and it gets hard to read (especially if you need glasses for computer work). And the new icons aren't very intuitive, I usually have to hover the mouse cursor over them to know which is which. Oh, they're nice, fancy little graphics, but they just don't work in this case.

But, the good news is that Dazzle was designed to be what's called "skinable" which means it's possible to change the colors and graphics to most anything you want. I'm sure eventually, there'll be all sorts of color schemes put up out there for download.

Right now, that doesn't help those of us that don't like the Dazzle interface.

Or does it? I was playing around with changing the color settings using the information on the Second Life Wiki page Skinning HowTo Basics and I noticed some links down at the bottom of the page, one in particular.

Skinning HowTo/Revert 1.20 to a Classic_look by McCabe Maxsted

Yes, a page with detailed instructions for how to switch the Dazzle color scheme back to the old style viewer look, including file downloads for the XML changes necessary and the graphics you need.

So if you don't like the Dazzle colors, here's your alternative. I found the instructions for downloading and installing the changes to be very easy to follow and it resulted in my having a more agreeable color scheme for my Release Candidate viewer.

Oh, certainly I'll keep an eye out for alternative color schemes to try and will give Dazzle another look when it hits the main viewer, but at least we have an alternative to the new interface right now for those of us who don't like the light blue color scheme.

And if you're really adventurous, study those two wiki pages and try to create your own custom color scheme. If you do one and make it available for download, leave a link in the comments here because I'd love to check it out.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Second Life®

I'm angry at Second Life® and Linden Labs® about this whole branding thing.

Does this company specifically set out to alienate the very people that have helped to make it popular and who go out of their way to promote Second Life®?

Here I am, a blogger, sharing my experiences with Second Life®, promoting Second Life® and now I have to start walking on eggshells for fear of getting a letter from lawyer about not having a ® in the title of my blog?

That's the impression I get from the legalize on the Branding Page for Second Life®.

Bad enough that the service is laggy as crap and has constant problems with transactions failing, assets not saving, and so forth, now we have this. No offense to the individuals doing the job, but what kind of PR is that? Can't you people manage to analyze your audience and communicate with them appropriately? You post this classic corporate crapola out of the blue, and expect people to take it in the right way and not create a firestorm of controversy?

I realize that you're putting yourself into position to either go with a public IPO or perhaps be purchased by some other company, with the move of Rosedale™® out of the CEO's position and the eventual hiring of a more business oriented CEO, it's fairly obvious that you're trying to be more of a business and less of a start up and that's fine, but keep in mind that the people that make Second Life® what it is aren't business types for the most part, you need to speak to the audience so that they understand that this announcement is just crossing the T's and dotting the i's and you're not planning on going on a witch hunt to shut down every blogger and fansite that doesn't comply to the letter with the branding instructions (and I'm giving you the benefit of the doubt on this, I'm probably wrong).

Yes, I understand that there are folks who do business in Second Life® and using your trademarks and copyrights inappropriately. But golly, couldn't you have approached this a little more gently and with a lot more communication beforehand?

Anyway, before my 90 days is up, I suppose I'll put a little blurb at the bottom of this site, comments are my own, not affiliated, all copyrights and trademarks belong to Linden Labs®, etc, etc. But apart from this post, I'm not going to be anal retentive about the ® and if that's not acceptable, then I'm sorry but I'll close down the blog and quite probably leave Second Life, have enough bullshit in my life as it is. Maybe I'll just wait for Google® (ok, that was anal retentive, don't think Google is going to come after me for referring to them without the ®) or someone to create a kick ass alternative.

It's Your World, Your Imagination Linden Labs, not mine. Too bad, I kinda liked it when it was a partnership between the company and the users.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Real Life

Howdy y'all, just a short, quick blog post since I haven't done one in a while. Real life has kept me out of Second Life for a while, other than to pop in here and there. My life has gotten a little complicated at the moment and I'm not sure if I'm going to be able to get into Second Life for more than a few minutes, if at all, for the next few days. Maybe longer.

But I'm still here, and plan on continuing eventually.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Cool Second Life Machinima and Videos

After Yxes passed on a link to a very nicely done Second Life Machinima today through Twitter, I thought that it'd be good to do a blog post highlighting some of my favorites that I've come across.

First, here is the link to the one that prompted this podcast, while I'm not sure I agree with the politics of this Paulo Casaca, the video is pretty cool looking. Unfortunately, I only have the link to the file so clicking on the link will bring it up in a player.

http://folha.eu/paulocasacafinal.wmv




This next video is a fantastic example of the building possibilities in Second Life.

The making of Suzanne Vega's Second Life Guitar






If you plan on having a picnic, watch out....

Ants in Second Life






I figured, since we saw the making of the guitar, might as well see it being used as well...

The Infinite Mind & Suzanne Vega "The Queen & The Soldier"





Now this is a cool use of sculpties....

Sculpty Earth demo with Dynamic Weather






This is just plain cool stuff......there is just so much potential with Second Life, it's just amazing.

Second Life as a Platform for Augmented Reality





I'm sure everyone's seen this one already, but it's really cool.

Watch the World(s) (Creation of Vincent Van Gogh's Starry Night in Second Life)






Here's one on Architecture in Second Life






Pretty cool music video....

Windmills of your Mind







And last but not least, a video of Stuart Warf blowing something up. Can't have a blog post on this subject without Stuart blowing something up, now can we?

Podmafia Club Funeral








And though it would be a blog post all by itself, I want to at least mention the great video tutorials that Torley Linden has done. They are both helpful and entertaining, you can find them at the link below.

http://wiki.secondlife.com/wiki/Video_Tutorials





These are just a few examples, just go and do a search on Google Video
for Second Life and you'll get videos galore (on both YouTube and Google Video), many of them very interesting and entertaining.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Random Adventures

Don't have a specific topic for this blog post, I'm kinda down on Second Life and life in general, not very motivated to do anything in SL which doesn't make for decent blog posts.

But, I don't want to just let the blog die a quiet death so soon after starting it so I thought I'd at least share a few links to places I've found in the past during my sojourn in Second Life.

So here it goes......

The Blarney Stone Irish Bar - In the Dublin sim, a great little Irish bar with stuff going on all the time. And check out the entire Dublin sim, which is a reproduction of the city of Dublin in Ireland, it's a pretty nice build.

Solomon Sea - a nice little beach area, with waves and fireworks, I've seen folks windsurfing and sailing here and there are places to just sit and relax.

Dinosaurs Park - Kind of a Jurassic Park type place.

Lonely Yak Texas Roadhouse - a quaint little place run by Rocky and Jane, a place for yak lovers to get together and talk yak's. Good music and dancing too.

Kilby's Military Outfitters - Great place to buy nice dress military uniforms and accessories

Virtual Starry Night - Vincent's Second Life - Exhibition of Vincent Van Gogh's paintings

Odyssey Exhibit - Kind of an interactive, modern art exhibit with exhibits you can interact with in unique ways. Appears to be in the middle of a change of exhibits at the moment, though the DNA sequencer that is there now is neat. I would recommend saving this link and revisiting it in a couple weeks once they get everything set up.

SL Historical Museum - A museum covering the history of Second Life, if you want to see what it was like when it all started and how it's progressed over the years, this is a fantastic place to visit.

Silk Waters Mountain - An oriental themed village, either Japanese or Chinese but I'm not sure which. Just a cute, restful little spot. Themed residential area, I believe, very nicely done.

Bits and Bobs Main Store - If you need dance balls or other animations, this is one of the best places to get them. The majority of the really good couples dance balls out there are from this place.

Renaissance Island - Managed by the Alliance Library System, it's set in Tudor/Elizabethan, England and is according to the covenant "it is an immersive, learning, living history sim populated by aficionados of the period, educators, and students. Many of the citizens speak the dialect of the day and are attired in period clothing."

New Paris - As the name implies, a sim in the theme of Paris, France.

ULURU - In the Billabong sim and next door to The Pond sim, this is the famous Australian red rock. Wander around this and all the neighboring sims to see many of the famous Aussie sites. There are quite a few sims here (all prefixed with Pond) so plan on spending some time getting to see all the stuff.

International Spaceflight Museum - If you love NASA and the history of space flight, rockets, and such then you just gotta visit this place. Spanning several sims, they have reproductions of *every* rocket that was ever built, I think. It's a really cool place to visit and an incredible build. And while you're there, bring up the map and zoom out a little, there are a whole bunch of science related sims all clustered together here.

Bringing up the map and zooming out, scrolling around, is something I always recommend doing everywhere you go, because you can find the most fantastic places this way that you'd otherwise not find.

Nearby the Space Museum there is a series of sims called Second Earth, not sure what they're intended to be used for but I have a suspicion. Inside a big blue ball, I found this http://slurl.com/secondlife/Second%20Earth%201/110/132/129 which appears to be a sculptie map of the earth, or a partial one. Very neat. I suspect that someday there'll be a sculptie representation of the entire planet in SL.

Broadway Live Island - Broadway, Times Square

Chi - An oriental garden/meditation place, with volcano.

The Great Second Life Railway - I picked it up at the Slate Station there's a kiosk there with information on the railway but I'm not sure if it's even actively maintained any longer. I found the trolley derailed off the side, but when I sat on it after a few clicks it started chugging along. The transitions between sims in some areas is a bit rough, but it's pretty cool. There are several stations along the way and you can pick up the trolley anywhere along the way, assuming it's running and not crashed, so wait a bit and if you don't see it come along just follow the tracks a bit and you may find it derailed, but you can get it going again by sitting on it and clicking.

Ok, for short post with no subject, this turned into a bit of an adventure as I revisited old links in my Landmarks folder and shared them here with you. I hope you found something interesting here, maybe next week I can pick up where I left off and revisit some of the other links I've accumulated over my time in Second Life.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Go Country!!

[UPDATED]After I posted this I discovered that Fiddlers has moved once more, so I've updated the SLURL below to reflect the new location.


When I was a kid, the only kind of music I *ever* heard was country music because that's all my Dad would ever listen to. Once I got out on my own and discovered other music, I stopped listening to country music for years and years. As I got older, I would listen to it from time to time but preferred other music.

Over the past few months in Second Life, I've run across a few country music places and have really gotten into country music. Perhaps surprisingly, there are quite a few places out there in Second Life for the genre so I'm going to highlight a few that I've been to and enjoy.

This is by no means an exhaustive listing and they are in no particular order except that the ones I have frequented most often will be at the head of the list because I have more to say about them.

Just about all of these are pretty active with folks there during the week in the U.S. evening hours starting early afternoon (3-4 pm) SLT (Pacific Time) and going to at least midnight (SLT), though several actually have events going into the early morning hours to 2-3am SLT so they are pretty much active all night.

The SLURL links to each are embedded in the place names so clicking on any one of them should bring up their location on the map so that you can teleport to them.

Silver Dollar Saloon
The Silver Dollar Saloon is first because it was actually the first country place I went to in Second Life and has some very special memories for me. I haven't been there lately, but I'm going to make it a point to get over there soon because it's been too long.

Fiddlers @MIA
Next up is Fiddlers, which is probably the one I've been to the most. I started going to Fiddlers when it was still at Salt Creek, it moved several months ago to MIA island and Salt Creek island was sold (and is now the home of Coyote Country Saloon). Fiddlers is busy most nights of the week with live DJ's and events going into the wee hours of the morning, SLT.

Even now, as I type this on a Saturday around noon, I'm getting announcements for events going on this afternoon. Fiddlers is probably one of the most active of the country places I've been to, though the others do pretty good themselves.

Blueeyed Wolf
The Blueeyed Wolf is a fairly new place owned and run by my friend Babyblueeyes and it is a wonderful, friendly little place. There are events and a live DJ most nights, also on the weekends during the day, and it's a really great place to hang out with friends.

Bottoms Up Saloon @Country Charm
The Bottoms Up Saloon is another relatively new place with great personality and great folks, busy most nights of the week with events and live DJ's. Be warned, dancing on the bar ensues most nights and having a good time is required.

Tumbleweed Tap Saloon
Tumbleweed Tap is another nice place to go to, though in my experience they have tended to run their events early and not go as late as the other places but I haven't been recently and management has apparently changed so I may have to visit them again some evening to see if they're going later than they used to.

Coyote Country Saloon
As mentioned above, Coyote Country Saloon is a relatively new place, though it is essentially the old Fiddlers@Salt Creek under a new name and management. I haven't gone to hang out here yet since it started up as Coyote Country, but the few times I've been in the neighborhood it's been pretty busy and I plan on stopping by soon (too many places, too little time)

Bailers
Bailers is another good one, I've only been a few times but like the others they have events and DJ's and a bunch of good folks.

Black Horse Country
I've visited here once or twice, nice place, nice folks, lack of time is the only thing that keeps me from going more often.

Wild Horses Saloon
Black Stallion Country & Western Club
The Real McCoy

Haven't really visited these much, maybe once or twice each over the time I've been going to country places in Second Life, but I wanted to mention them because they are all nice places and though I haven't been able to spend much time at them myself, the are all deserving of mention.

So, if you have a hankering for some good times and a friendly country atmosphere, give all of these places a look see. You won't regret it.




Monday, January 21, 2008

Is Second Life slow, or is it just you?

In the past few months or so, Second Life had been getting progressively slower and slower for me every time I went in. So much so that it got to the point where I didn't even want to go in, it was just too much of a bother to fight the sluggish movement and wait for things to rez. And yes, like many do I've mumbled under my breath about the grid needing to be stabilized and performance improved.

However, I had also been noticing that the PC that I run Second Life on has been booting slower, taking a couple minutes to finish loading stuff. Since the thing is a good 3-4 years old, I decided that enough was enough so I backed up my important files and stuff, wrote down configuration settings and a list of what was installed, then I grabbed the disk with the factory image on it and wiped the thing out, going back to the factory image. Then I spent a day reinstalling just the basic bits of software that I use all the time.

Now the machine is booting up quicker, loading web pages faster, and is just nicer to use over all.

Finally, I installed Second Life again, the main viewer.

Oh My Goodness, the first time I logged back in it was WONDERFUL, stuff rezzed quickly, I was able to actually walk, it was like I remember it being when I first logged in.

Yes, I still go places and rubberband while walking (appear to go forward, then jerk back) but in those instances I can actually see from the statistics (ctrl+shift+1) that it is the Sim that's having the problem with Sim FPS and Physics FPS and it's not me.

Lesson learned? If you have a PC that's over a couple years old and has been running all that time without ever being reformatted and everything reinstalled from scratch, seriously consider taking the time to back up your important stuff and doing a fresh install of the operating system and everything, dig out that disk that came with the machine and reset it to the factory default image. Yeah, it'll take a couple days to back everything up and then set everything back up the way you want it, but the benefit is you'll end up with a much better experience on your PC and a much better Second Life experience.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Dr Dobbs Island

As I mentioned in my blog entry (A Place in the Sun), in real life I'm a computer programmer, so one of the first things I did after I entered Second Life was search for programming related stuff in Second Life, searching both in world and out (Google, I love ya) , and so I found Dr Dobbs Journal's Island.

Dr Dobbs Journal is a programming magazine that's been around since 1976, I think I first heard about it in the mid 80's and it's always been one of the best programming magazines out there, if not the best. In the past year or so they've done some articles about Second Life and have really embraced the potential of Second Life. They've done a couple of in-world conferences (and done them quite well) and on a weekly basis they do presentations and stuff related to computing and virtual worlds.

So, the first week or so I was in Second Life, I visited their island in SL because I had read they were holding a virtual conference about Second Life called Life 2.0 which like a real life computing conference, spanned an entire week with presentations and displays largely dealing with Second Life and virtual worlds. I signed up for it and while I was only able to attend a portion of it, this conference was a huge success, in my opinion, and was a proving ground for doing virtual conferences. They have since done a second Life 2.0 conference in the fall of last year and a third is planned for this spring (March 15-21, 2008) and I'm looking forward to attending as much of the event as I can. Go to the Life 2.0 website for more information.

But you don't have to wait until they have a conference to check them out, every week Information Week teams up with Dr Dobbs to do what they call Grid Talks which are one hour talks on business, technology and news in Second Life. These are on held on Tuesdays at 10:00 a.m. PST (SLT) and on Fridays at Noon PST (SLT).

These are always worth going to, and when time permits I try to attend them, though my schedule rarely allows me to do so. :(


The slurl of the island is

http://slurl.com/secondlife/Dr%20Dobbs%20Island/94/117/33


DDJ_Landing

Here is the landing point for the island, though I don't think they're forcing folks to teleport directly to this spot any more as I've been able to directly teleport other places recently. Here you'll find some virtual swag and other information.


DDJ_Sign1

They've got teleport signs placed in a couple strategic places, with links to teleport to the main locations on the island.

They also give you a good idea what's on the island at a glance.


DDJ_Sign2

The sign for the other island, relatively new, it's not got much on it yet.

Let's take a look at the amphitheater, where most of the action takes place.


DDJ_011


This is the amphitheater where the presentations and talks are held. If you will notice the yellow line there in the center, that is the border between the two islands, meaning the amphitheater can accommodate around 100 avatars, 50 per island.


DDJ_010

A view of the amphitheater from the rear looking toward the presentation area, usually the speakers sit on the small stage in front and their presentations are displayed upon the large screens behind them. It can still be a challenge to get slides to rezz quickly enough during presentations, but over all it works pretty well, and they've even shown video up there upon occasion.

Originally, they had the speakers hooked into an audio stream and everyone listened to that, but lately they've been using SL Voice to do the presentations, they've even managed to stream it out on the stream too, though with a bit of a delay (anyone know of a good way to get the SL voice into a stream, let me know).

They also have a chatbridge on the Life 2.0 website where those who can't attend in world can still participate by listening to the stream and reading/typing in chat (when it all works). You do have to be registered, though, to use it.


DDJ_002

Here's a snap from one of the GridTalks, as you can see there are quite a few people there and this is pretty consistent from week to week.


DDJ_003

Another snap of the same viewpoint, but with the UI showing, as you can see by the sea of names, it gets pretty crowded.


DDJ_DesmondandZiggy

A snap of Desmond SHang and Ziggy Figaro. Ziggy (in a snazzy green coat, not sure about those shoes though) is the avatar of Mitch Wagner a writer for InformationWeek who blogs quite a bit about Second Life and is very much involved with the events on Dr Dobbs Island.

Oh, if you're interested, here's the RSS feed for the Second Life Blog at InformationWeek.
http://www.informationweek.com/blog/main/movabletype/archives/second_life.xml


This particular grid talk was with the creator of the Caledon sims, Desmond Shang, and it was very interesting to get his viewpoint on the phenomenon which is Caledon, and it's future.


DDJ_004

Another view of the crowd gathered for the GridTalk.....

By my count, there were at least 45 people there, maybe more.


DDJ_013

Ok, here's a quick tour of the rest of the island.

An aerial view of the island, you can see the amphitheater in the lower center of the picture, to the upper right side of the picture is the convention center where there are some displays from past presentations on sculpties and other things. To the left is the Cathedral and mini-bazaar tents (don't ask my why they have a cathedral there).


DDJ_012

The Sun and IBM vendor booths near the amphitheater(on the left in the snap).


DDJ_008

The Cathedral and a mini-bazaar (the tents) where you can find some items to purchase.


DDJ_006

The Godel, Escher Beach Club....

This is where they hold their mixers and entertainment during the conferences and special occasions.


DDJ_005

Another view of the beach with perspective on where it's located on the island, the Cathedral on the right and the Convention Center on the left.


DDJ_007

And last but not least, the Life 2.0 Club where I hauled my big green newbie self (another blog post, perhaps?) the first week I was in SL to find out about the Life 2.0 conference.

And no post about Dr Dobbs Island and the Life 2.0 conference would be complete without mention of the two folks that make it all work John Zhaoying and Rissa Maidstone, they have done an incredible job of organizing and making it all work.

If you're at all interested in Second Life and virtual worlds, I very strongly recommend joining the Life 2.0 group in-world and attending the events they hold here.