Monday, February 28, 2011

It's a Hardscrabble "Roche" in Second Life

I had a lot of things planned for this morning but then I saw this photo by SpankiM and thought I'd spend a couple of minutes checking the place out. I spent considerably more than a few minutes admiring this build by ddsm2 Mathy and (I believe) Mocha Bellic.

I know I'm far from the first person to find or blog about Roche but that's true of most everywhere I go. Make sure you add this one to your itinerary.

I love the feel of this landscape. In spite of all the water, it reminds me of the prairies or desert ranches in winter (without the snow). I saw somebody describe the landscape textures as "deliberately ugly" but I find them stunning and evocative.

You get the sense that this area, its buildings and people have had a hard life but have managed to persevere in spite of limited resources. It's beautiful.

There's a sense of loneliness in much of the landscape. The music playing while I was there was a perfect sound representation of the visual. Roche feels isolated, wind swept and somehow triumphant.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

World's End Garden, Bark & Dandelions in Second Life

There is an artist named Bark who shares her photographs on Koinup - an artist so good it makes me want to just delete the camera button inworld and stop even pretending I know what I'm doing.

However, if I don't include photos this would be a really really boring blog and then I'd have to keep trying more words to come up with something vaguely interesting and the posts would get longer and longer and more rambling and incoherent and ....... never mind. I'll just keep plugging along.

Where was I? Oh yes, Bark. Her photos inspired me to visit two sims today, the first being the World's End Garden. There is so much artistry in Second Life that I think I'm going to have to revive a project I had started planning. I'll explain that random comment on a future occasion - in the meantime, use your little teleporter and go visit this extraordinary vision of the "end". Make sure you have your music turned on. :)

The second build I went to see had me initially thinking it was another view of the end of the world. But if you wander around a bit you'll find a cab that will take you someplace so out of the ordinary you'll forget it's a shopping experience.

The "mall" on Dandelion State has, what I am sure, are fabulous products. I just couldn't get past the build. The next time I want to "shop" I'll go back and actually look at what's on offer. :)

Friday, February 25, 2011

Imagine Plus in Second Life

Imagine you're an explorer in the 15th Century - perched on the deck of a tiny wooden boat sailing uncharted seas, thousands of miles from home.

Now imagine that in the middle of a seemingly endless and empty ocean you encounter rusted debris from (what we today would recognize as) a space ship crawling with giant rusty bugs.

It might be time for some rum. Well maybe lots of rum.

Do you assume this is a harbinger of continents about to be discovered? Do you have anything in your experience to use as a reference? Do you focus instead on the small details and think that there's a new source of iron to be found?

When you see a forest growing out of the water with brightly coloured fish swimming among the branches - does it give you pause? Or as an explorer do you simply come to expect things outside of your norm?

I was inspired to visit the islands of Imagine Plus by Kakuza's photo on Koinup. I think you'll enjoy the experience as well. :)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Stand Up to Bullying & Wear Pink in Second Life

In September of 2007, a boy in rural Nova Scotia wore a pink polo shirt to his first day at a new school. A group of bullies targeted him for that, called him a "fag" and threatened to beat him up. Two seniors at the school took exception to this, went out and bought 30 pink t-shirts and tank tops and then emailed their friends asking them to wear the shirts to school to make a statement. The news spread and more than 30 students showed up the next day wearing pink. The young boy was, as you would expect, thrilled. The bullies were silent. The story was picked up by the CBC and then went worldwide.

It's not really that easy to stop bullying but it is easy to make the point that you won't tolerate it. In Canada, the 3rd wednesday of February is Pink Shirt Day - making schools, streets and businesses look like the Barbie aisle in Toys R Us - and the sheer prevalence of the colour pink does make a powerful statement.

Pink Shirt Day has spread. Around the world International STAND UP to Bullying Day is going to be celebrated this year on Friday February 25th in 25 countries and you will see pink shirts by the thousands.

Inworld I found two groups working to stop bullying. has a presence as well as the Anti-Violence Campus. If you are dealing with bullying anywhere (school, work, online or even in SL) these organizations may be able to give you the help and support you need. You can also find many resources online or in your community. The important thing is not where you get the help - it's that you do.

I don't like bullies and I hope that I can always say I don't tolerate their behaviour (just because it's a friend who does it should not make it something you ignore). My wearing this shirt won't end bullying but it does remind me to stick to my principles. I hope on Friday the 25th you'll consider wearing pink to show your own conviction that bullying has no place in any version of our life.

Pink isn't really a colour I wear but for one day a year I think of it as a real fashion statement. Hey at least I'm not asking you to wear an ugly Christmas sweater! :)




My pose is from Gesticulate!

Mining for Red in Second Life

I'm sure you've all gone through the necessary processing at the Clone Station so ..... no?..... Oh well, never mind. Just forget I mentioned that ..... nothing to see there ..... no such thing as clones. Nope. No aberrations here. *cough* restart

Um, Ok I have no idea how they're finding the resources but the owners of the Red Mine have made significant progress digging down through the layers of rock that one presumes might hold untapped resources to be used for the betterment of all Second Life.

There is an elevator of sorts that will transport you down some distance but, if it's not too hard on you, consider making your own way through the tunnels left behind by those intrepid individuals doing all the digging.

One does wonder just how many might have paid with their lives to construct a mine through layers of molten lava. It'll be a long time before you hear me complaining about my working conditions!

The mine is still under construction but it is considered "stable enough" for you to visit. I'll leave it to you to decide how much risk you are willing to undertake. In addition, I'll allow you to reach your own conclusions about what might normally occupy the large cage suspended above the floor on the lowest level. I'm going to go find some flowery meadow for a little break.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Dragonflies & Ninjaz in Second Life

I love fantasy, but I prefer mine without "syrup", so I was pleasantly surprised and pleased when I landed on Dragonfly and saw this message written on a rock in blood. I anticipated a slightly edgy fantasy landscape and that's precisely what you will find when you go explore two sister islands still under construction.

The plant life is beautiful but the movement might startle you - so be prepared. The build reminds me of retro fantasy illustrations and it's done really well. These towers could have been cliched but they're perfect in their slightly eccentric design.

One of my favourite spots on Dragonfly was a small grove of white trees and when I happened on it there was an elf wandering through the tall grass. Saturn Ariantho graciously allowed me to include his photo in this post - you should check out his SL photographs - he's good. :)

The two islands, Dragonfly and Mad Ninjaz welcome visitors and the builds are well worth visiting. Be respectful though of the residents - if you come across one of their homes do stay out of it. I'm pretty sure that warning on the rock is intended to foretell retribution if you behave badly. :)

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Once & Future "Arc" in Second Life

*you are not alone, we come in peace,...*

Taking my cue from Chesnut Rau, I went to visit 193, the arc and discovered what happens when you combine the Nibiru Collision, the AnunNaki, the Sumerian Creation Myth, math that explains everything, peace, wisdom, knowledge, illumination, DNA, light, love, cosmic consciousness and the transformation of all matter. At least this is what happens if you're Abel Moonites and you not only have the imagination required to integrate all of those concepts but also the talent to build the resulting vision.

Flood Mythology is obviously a strong presence in this build but it's incorporated with all of the other themes very successfully. It's a beautiful build and you don't have to explore the genesis (hah, perhaps the wrong word to use or maybe the correct one) of his vision and design to appreciate what Abel has created.

On a practical level you can explore and discover animals, floating islands, fantastic foliage and lots of water. Abel states "All roads lead somewhere. Many roads lead to nowhere. But only one way leads you home." You can walk those long roads - and you should. The use of textures and their movement is the best I've seen in a long long time.

If you want to understand more of the builder's thinking (in addition to researching the sources of his inspiration) it might help to look at a review of one of his earlier builds that includes an interview with him.

A random thought that occurred as I explored this really really interesting build- psychologists must find Second Life a huge source of research and study. However it would seem to me that they can concentrate on angst-ridden emo divas - the artists have an outlet that not only allows them to express themselves but share their visions with the rest of us. :)

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Fabulous "Forgotten City" in Second Life

With all due respect to Mitch Wagner, Twitter cannot give you something like the Forgotten City. Yes you actually have to put in a teensy bit of effort, in this case look at the "Strange" tab in the Destination Guide or read other blogs or find other search methods. But boy is burning those two calories worth it. :)

Described as a once-great, clockpunk-ish city where the prosperous Residents were served by the miraculous mechanical automatons. The people have long since disappeared, but the automatons remained — and still take care of the crumbling stone walls, abandoned halls, and rusty fences, this is one amazing build.

I can't say with certainty who I should credit for the design and construction of this destination. Jenne Dibou is at least partially responsible and if I can track down other names I'll update this post.

Give yourself plenty of time to explore because there's a lot to see. The buildings and canals and wonderful details all deserve your attention.

One of the fun things about my visit here was that there were a number of small groups of people around the sim and the conversations were in multiple languages. It was a nice demonstration of one of the things I love about Second Life.

You can rent space in Forgotten City and in a really cool way - go to the courtyard and you'll find a 3d map of the site. You click on what you want and do your rental agreement that way. Before you leave that part of the build though, go inside and check out the JD Mechanical Toy Factory.

If you like to visit new places and appreciate great design and building skills then go to the Forgotten City. I know I'm going to go back frequently but right now I'm going to go chase that boat I see in the canal and see if it'll give me a ride.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Rush Hour in Second Life

Back when I started in SL there were dirt roads throughout the mainland (and yes I had to walk 5 miles to school, in the snow, with bare feet). These were Linden Roads and it was considered beneficial to own land next to the road because, at least on that side of your parcel, you wouldn't have rotating ads or naked people on billboards peering down at you. It was fun to walk or ride down the road and explore the neighbouring sims.

The Linden Roads are still there but now are paved- which is not a bad thing. The few I've seen look good and are well maintained (no potholes at least). A friend of mine lives next to one of these roads and asked me to investigate a sudden influx of traffic going by her house.

Standing at the intersection near her parcel I watched as varying types of vehicles went past about every 3 minutes. Sometimes two would arrive at the intersection from different directions at the same time. The vehicles included taxi's, tanks, an ice cream truck and a school bus and you can ride them - although you don't steer them (more about that later).

The vehicles are created by AnnMarie O'Toole and I did try to speak with her but I'm guessing she's a very busy woman so I failed to connect. I did figure out that you don't have to hop on one of the moving vehicles to take a ride - you can start a journey at one of almost 70 rezzing stations around the grid. This one is the Straminsky Depot. Note that they don't pollute the air and only one, the ice cream truck, appears to include sound. Unfortunately I'll be humming "Daisy, Daisy" for the rest of the day.

I am awe-struck at the amount of work that has gone into this endeavour and I think it makes a lot of sense to actually have traffic on the Linden Roads. It's also nice to have another way to explore the grid. Having said that there are a couple of issues. Script doesn't always work the way it should - I'm not blaming the scripters, I'm sure there are variables beyond their control e.g., sim script load or server behaviour.

I did take a ride in a garbage truck and concluded that the invisible driver was probably drunk. The truck kept leaving the road and then attempting to get back on track. Finally it crossed a couple of parcels and crashed into a nursery, wheels spinning uselessly in the air.

I waited and watched and the truck did vanish. However when I checked I realized that the parcel had auto-return enabled, I don't know how long it would have remained otherwise.

Admittedly my mind works in bizarre ways, but these are the thoughts that occurred to me:

  • Prim littering must be a concern - there are many reasons people won't have auto-return enabled.
  • What happens if the Second Life Transit Authority gets competition? Having a lot of scripted vehicles running around could lead to interesting truck duels.
  • Do we now need sidewalks for joggers and hikers? What about horse or bicycle paths?

The friend who got me started on this would like to see fewer vehicles - maybe reduce the frequency to 3 per hour. That might help with prim littering as well. Of course she'd also prefer fewer garbage trucks and graffiti-laden school buses. She's such a princess! :)

As I stood near the intersection and pondered the amount of work behind this rush hour on Linden Roads and the possible implications, I heard a strange sound. This made me laugh for a long time. So much for our Robot Overlords.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Blame Dusan Writer - Second Life & The Lonely Grid

I went to an interesting talk this morning by Dusan Writer (who manages to overcome the handicap of being from Toronto very well *smirk*) at the weekly Gronstedt Group - Train For Success session inworld. Dusan said a lot of intelligent things but at one point he was talking about his discussion with Rod Humble and how it's not about the viewer ..... "at the end of the day it's the content".

"Wait", I thought to myself, "you mean all this noise about the location of a button on the screen is perhaps missing the point? Gack - that's going to piss some people off." He also talked briefly (and I'm paraphrasing) about how, if it is all about the content, then finding said content should be a whole lot easier to do. This made me start thinking about the whole "search" issue (how depressing is that?) and I reached some conclusions which, because it is my blog, I thought I'd share.

There are a lot of issues with "search" and I don't envy the people working on the problem. However, I concluded that the biggest issue is that the function is based on the internet model. You go to a search engine and put in some keywords and get lots of options and often find what you want. You also get a lot of garbage but that's the nature of the beast. Another issue, I think, is that "search" is almost always being tweaked for the benefit of the people who list their products (I'll state here that I'm not including events, I don't know who the design of that section is targeted towards). It's like some automated grid version of the phone book - white and yellow pages which list whatever anybody is willing to pay to have inserted.

I recently tried to explain to newcomers that visiting Second Life is like visiting a foreign city. There are probably a number of people who go to new physical world locations and use the phone book as a reference. I would suggest that more tourists use travel guides such as the Lonely Planet. A reference guide that covers a wide variety of topics, but is available with a narrower focus if you have some familiarity with the location. Even long term residents (and yes I'll continue to use that word til I find a replacement I like) have trouble finding places to go and things to do. For somebody brand new to Second Life it's got to be a nightmare.

My proposal is this - we could have a "search" function but it should be a tool to use with an inworld travel guide. Introducing The Lonely Grid!

I'm shuddering at the amount of work that would be required to set this up (and keep it current) but it would be a really cool thing to have. Content created by "objective" travelers, sorted by topics used by travelers. You could have - for example, an entire guide for those wanting to explore the BDSM lifestyle - locations, guidelines, shopping, courses, etc.

Combine that content with a "television guide" format for events (e.g., what is going on tonight at 8:00 pm) and I think it would make finding content much simpler for us.

From a vendor/retailer point of view, you could still have classifieds but the focus of the design would be the person setting out to actually do something inworld.

It's just possible that the powers-that-be won't consider this idea to be practical (and pffffffft to them). So let me suggest that at a minimum somebody working on the problem ask a variety of people for use cases and design a new function that supports those of us with the glassy eyed stare which develops when you can't find anything. :)

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Improving My Second Life Performance

I don't mean my performance in Second Life. :) I'm referring to SL's performance on my computer - or maybe the performance of my computer in Second Life. To be precise, in this instance I'm talking about FPS (frames per second) and Ping Sim (time for data to transfer from my computer to the sim I'm in). You can get this information on the Statistics Bar - to find that go Advanced/Performance/Statistics Bar in V2.

I am no technical expert and what follows is only a description of what I did and the results. I'm sure everything I'm going to mention is glaringly obvious to most but there might be one or two people who haven't tried these things and for you this might be helpful. :)

Note that the steps I talk about can be undone, but if you're worried about making a fatal error please get real expert help before doing any of this. I seem to have managed the following changes without encountering any disasters - there was one glitch I'll discuss but it is manageable.

I have a fairly powerful computer and high speed access but there are a number of locations in SL where my lag seems unreasonably high - certainly higher than others I know. Standing on my Linden home my FPS would typically range between 11 and 14 - low. My Ping Sim time would range between 300 and 380 - high. I'm not talking about when you first arrive and have to wait for everything to rez - I mean once you've been there for a while and stabilized.

The Stats Bar in the photo at the top shows my readings after I made the changes I'll talk about below. My FPS ranged from 29 to 37 and my Ping Sim varied from 97 to 130. Huge improvements!

The first thing I did was update the SL Port Specifications. In my case I had to do this on my router - my software firewall settings were OK. Making these adjustments should be done by everybody in SL - it just makes sense.

The Wiki information is essential to you here and I'm grateful it's published. My only criticism is that the chart isn't dated so you have to check your settings periodically against what's published to see if there have been changes.

The next thing I did was very new for me but it was also extremely valuable. There were a number of unnecessary "Services" or applications running in the background on my computer. In addition a number of applications were launched at startup that I didn't know about or need. I still use Windows XP and using the System Configuration Utility you can access a list of both and turn off the ones you don't want. I'm sure you can find out from MicroSoft what utilties are needed in other versions of Windows. I don't know about Apple but I'm sure there's something. :)

In order to decide what I did or didn't need I compared the items on both tabs to information at this site. The only mistake I seem to have made (at least that I've found so far) is that I turned off something that allowed me to open my Corel Photo Editor - but that was easy to fix. On the top page of the Configuration Tool, I just clicked Normal Startup and rebooted. Then I had to redo my changes but I was more careful the second time. :)

I don't know if my experience will help anybody else. Frankly the attempt to do techie stuff makes my head hurt but the performance improvements in Second Life are worth it. :)

Sunday, February 13, 2011

alpha.tribe Opens An Addictive Playground in Second Life

Photographers, explorers and those working on "self" will love this new destination. I doubt that the word "playground" was in Alpha Auer's mind when she designed the new alpha.tribe home sim - but that's what it feels like. A place to explore, full of delights and whimsy for grown-ups (as opposed to the Adult category, this build is not x-rated).

Much of the sim appears to be underwater, which adds more layers of fantasy. In addition to the store "you will also find two fully equipped gyms, a spa, a relaxation center, and an otter sanctuary. Furthermore the famous Dr. Nax Institute of Virtual Wellness (complete with toys, a trampoline, a carousel and 7/24 Rogerian on-site psychotherapeutic facilities) also has its premises on this island."

I fell in love with all of it - particularly the giant boxes which open when you touch the controls to reveal magical scenes that move and change before once again closing.

What may become the most heavily used location however is the Pavilion of a Hundred Poses. Embedded in Alpha Auer's construct are 100 poses by Frigg Ragu - all of which are adjustable. You are free to rez props or even your own pose balls (this is true for the whole sim, there's a 1 hour return) so photographers can go crazy! However you'd be well advised to choose a better subject than I did. :)

I need to add a brief news update before I forget. Crap Mariner has discovered that Amercian Express will give you a 5 song rebate on iTunes - use it to enjoy inworld musicians!

You can spend hours exploring and enjoying the new alpha.tribe sim and you can have free music to enjoy at the same time. :)