Thursday, February 26, 2009

Amazin' 3D

Even as busy with building as I've been (my apologies for the dearth of recent posts) I still try to keep up with news, with particular attention to Apple products. Most newsworthy of late is the Safari 4 Web browser βeta (Web) and the interesting technologies that I really hope Linden Labs® (SL) sees. A number of features Wowed me and have already made Web surfing a better experience but what really impressed me with respect to my virtual life is this 3D on 2D Canvas demo (Web). This makes the Second Life® "flexi" feature seem like late 20th Century kludge.

Generally I'm pleased with the flexi feature in SL though I hardly use it. Having something like this feature would certainly encourage me to explore using flexi in more of my builds. I bet clothing designers would kill to have this feature and simultaneously kill themselves at the prospect of rebuilding their entire lines.

A better flexi option would likely have helped some of my recent builds, but the thought of active shadows based on light sources in a build -- Dynamic Shadows -- kept coming to me while I was working. I've had to use more prims to re-create shadows than I would have liked and to have given everything a shadow would have used an enormous number of prims. In addition to the shadow option, I'd like to see Environmentally Conditional Volumes (ECV).

ECV would allow a region owner or manager to define a space then fully control all of it's environmental aspects, such as time of day, sun position, sea level, gravity, etc. Sort of a region within a region. Except for gravity, all these settings can be changed on a region-wide basis. But ECV would enable a portion of the space within a region to act like a separate region. Thus a "skybox" could be created with genuine Linden water and a fixed sun to simulate land at twilight, for example, without effecting the environment in the rest of the main region. Combine this with Dynamic Shadows and imagine the possibilities.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Mainland Life

Part of me misses living on the mainland. When I joined the main grid, my brother owned a good chunk of the mainland region Nangrim. Eventually we jointly owned about three-quarters of it, but not in a contiguous group. Our lots were broken up by homes and small businesses and bits of natural land owned by others. It was rather charming in some ways. Unlike many mainland regions we had neighbors that kept their land attractive and in relative harmony with the lots around them.

Oh, I loved living in Whispering Big Pines with my sister. And having a whole sim (SLurl) with my wife is wonderful, but part of the charm is missing. I was flying at ground level below the Primalot store in Blackmount (SLurl) and saw this buildscape (my word .. I own it .. please use it) and felt a bit of nostalgia. Sure, a casino opened in Nangrim and kept the sim full so I couldn't enter my house so I eventually sold everything, but I'm sure that is a rarity. It was still a nice place to live. Maybe the Memorial Park that I own in Shouldice (SLurl) will turn out to be much the same once the land cutters (Web) are done playing.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Recent Projects

Building things has occupied much of my time of late. Good thing I really enjoy it. Right now I'm working on fountain designs, looking for one to use as a prize for an up-coming grid-wide prize hunt. It has to be something I don't normally sell in my store but I'll probably list it after the hunt. This one needs a topper of some sort or some other "finishing" touch and I'll probably toss on some pillows after I decide on a cushion texture. I'm using a sculpted boulder shape rather than the usual geometrically-regular prims in typical fountains. I wish that the great single-prim plants in our basic Inventories were linkable. A fern would look very nice. Then a couple poses and :::bam::: it's done. And then onto another design. I figure some four or five tries and I'll have one that is right.

My first try became the Venus Love Fountain. As much as I like the final design, it didn't strike me as something that would have mass appeal for the prize hunt. With as much as men seem to like lesbians, for example, it's not likely that many would place this fountain in their yards. This is another example of the need to link Linden plants. Still, if I sell it the owner can add plants or other decorations of their choice. The instructions on how to add the plants would likely be simple. There is a very good chance this will eventually show up on the Isle of Lesbos. While working on Venus several ideas for a new entrance park started forming. Like many things I build, though, it may never be used. My inventory is filled with builds that others haven't even seen.

Such are the other projects now occupying my time: proposed club designs for the Isle of Lesbos. No one asked me to do them, but I was inspired. Odds are they won't work out, but it's a nice exercise and it keeps me off the streets. The Faces club here resurrects a previously used DJ booth and a light grid used in another current project for use with fresh graphics and a design not exactly typical for me. With no way to get inside the club (the walls are solid, bowing to the design needs rather than practicality) the build is more speculation than anything functional.

Back to more building, then. I need to learn to make plants.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Premium Account Suspended?

Recently I convinced Second Life® entrepreneur Peter Stindberg (Web) to convert his free resident account to a premium account with the argument that such a move would provide more paths for recourse if the account was suspended by the Governance Team (AKA GTeam; Web). So I was rather surprised to see Luc Aubret, Creative Director aubreTEC Labs (SLurl), Tweet that his account was suspended without any contact from the Lab for allegedly impersonating a Linden. "I was never contacted in any way and asked about the infraction," he blogged (Web), and added that "If you’re going to issue a warning, fine, but suspension or banning without so much as providing the accused with an opportunity to speak in their defense."

Luc is listed as the owner of the group that has the deed to his land in Everlite and his profile shows Payment Information on File, so I imagine he has a Premium account. That leaves the question as to why he was not contacted but I believe it shows that his status as a Premium member prevented may have protected him from an outright cancellation. I'm not sure if that would have been the punishment for his alleged crime so I could be wrong about the protection.

But back to the question and adding to it ... Luc is a prominent member of the business community, well-known by those in the virtual armaments and gadgets trade, so wouldn't a courtesy be a consideration in this instance? Or added detailed notes on his account so the Help Team could actually help when he contacted them? The lack of contact leads me to assume that either the GTeam rushed this one or they have the ability to check any and all chat/IM records grid-wide to investigate issues. If the former assumption is true, then shame on the process and the infrastructure behind it. Such a thing should not happen. Conversely, if we the latter assumption is correct then contact should have been made or records should be available to the Help Team. I have seen or used several different customer account management products and such ability to manage accounts is available.

As Linden Labs® becomes more old-school business and less cutting edge upstart perhaps it needs to learn some lessons about customer service. Or better yet, blaze a trail to improve on customer service. My dealings with the Lab have always been quick, efficient, and have left me with a good feeling, contrary to the frequent reports I hear of residents in Luc's situation. Let's hope this is really just an aberration.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Land Cutting in my 'hood

On 28 January 2009, Linden Labs published a blog post about Land Cutting (AKA, Micro Parcels) (see Web; with an update on 12 February Web) a process in which land is cut into tiny lots, once popular for Ad Farms (Web). Prior to that I bought a 512m2 parcel in Shouldice for just over L$2,000 and thought about a slightly smaller connected piece for nearly the same cost per square meter. I wish I had bought it then, or better yet, at the deeply discounted price it eventually fell to a few days later.

Instead, it was bought by someone that also acquired other lots in the area and started to make micro parcels (click picture at left for larger image) as did other area land owners. My thought is that this practice effectively reduces the value of my land because who really wants to own next to micro parcels? Fortunately, I'm not about to sell. My land isn't really residential, the airship there is mostly for use by friends and it mostly serves as a memorial (Web) And I might simply turn it into a warehouse for inventory.

Not entirely sure my point behind this post, but I find the sudden appearance of all these property line patterns rather amusing. Maybe the Lab will give me 256m2 from these 'land barons' gratis for being so nice :::smiles angelically:::

(Second) Life Imitates Art normally features pictures of LOLcats, photos of felines with funny captions, but sometimes images of other critters pop up ... like this hilarious Easter Candy parody (Web). So when I bought a sculpty peep bunny kit I just had to get started on my tribute.

And here it is! My sister, Threshin, is next to me watching the show when the project was mostly finished. When I stop laughing I'll add more girl bunnies (the pink ones) and some cash in thongs. As much as I don't care for smoking (pretty strong aversion, actually) I might have to add some cigars. And I might get the sculpty chick peep kit to better duplicate the image. That would make it more "peep" showish, of course.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

I need a virtual mouse

Once again, a new software feature requires that I upgrade my hardware. A look at the Apple product site (Web) shows a complete lack of virtual mice. When (Oh! When!) will Second Life® stop treating Macintosh users as Second Class Residents?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Aliens Dance?

A video from my friend Airethilien Banach featuring the fabulous Second Life avatars lovingly created from scratch without sculpties (!!) by another friend, Coke Supply:

Monday, February 9, 2009

My other virtual lives

Having spent more time in Real Life (RL) today than normally wish to, I was glad that I had a couple virtual worlds to immerse myself but neither was Second Life. I spent my time with my Koi Pond and on Distant Shores. Both fit on my iPod Touch and provide a peaceful, relaxing way to ignore RL.

Like nearly everyone that has a net-connected Apple handheld, I bought Koi Pond from The Blimp Pilots (Web; iTunes) and became hooked (no pun intended). It is less a game than just something to do because one can simply watch the fishies frolic. As much fun as that is, though, interacting with the critters is more fun. A quick shake of the device drops some food with a satisfying plunk and soon a fish gobbles it up. Touch the screen to create ripples that "scare" the fish or run your finger around to the same effect. If you hold your finger steady in one place the fishies eventually come up and nibble on you. The pond stones, water color, number of fish or plants, and more can be customized. Put on some headphones and the experience is much richer.

Like Second Life, there is no stress in having to reach a goal, death only comes when the power is dead, and you don't have to worry about drowning.

Pond Life is just plain fun and well-worth the 99¢ I spent, but the holiday extra edition I thought I bought didn't show up so I don't have a Christmas lights option.

Recently I added Distant Shores to my iPod Touch (Web; iTunes) and have become intermittently obsessed with it. Like Koi Pond, you can simply watch but it's not much for passive fun. Interaction is the point here (for which you need a WiFi connection for your iPod Touch or you need an iPhone) ... tap somewhere on the screen and an invisible you walks there, leaving prints of your bare feet in the sand. Waves gently lap at the shore, seagulls with inactive colons flit overhead, and things like beach chairs, umbrellas, and other signs of life dot the beach. Tap near the edge of the screen and the view scrolls (I found that if you keep up a rhythmic tapping the scrolling just keeps going as if you are continually walking). If you did nothing other than this it would still be worth 99¢. If you see a bottle, though, walk up to it and tap it for an anonymous (or not) message from someone else with the game on their device. Reply to the message and the invisible you tosses the bottle back to the sea for the original author to read. Clever bottles. If you pick up five seashells, an empty message bottle appears and you can write your own message from scratch to be tossed out to a random recipient. If you receive a reply, a little turtle outside your personal hut wags her head with an envelope in her mouth. Walk up to her and tap for your message.

This is not rocket surgery. You are limited to storing eight messages and eight empty bottles. The shoreline is infinite in length (as far as I know) with objects laid out randomly. Despite obvious signs of habitation you are eerily alone, no other invisible people to be found (at least I see no other footie prints ... they could be having virtual nookie in a cabana). Depending on how bored you are you might spend very little time or a lot of time on the beach before finding something else to do. But you'll head back to the beach several times a day.

Maybe after you feed your koi.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Isle of Lesbos 2009 Valentine's Hunt

The Isle of Lesbos 2009 Valentine's Hunt starts February 7th and ends early on the 15th. A quick hunt but well worth it.

Each region has seven hidden hearts. When you find one, click it and say I Love You (just like that .... no punctuation, each word capitalized) to get your prize. The Oasis of Lesbos has some extra hearts hidden by the merchants inside their stores so there is more than seven to find (how many? hmmmm. I don't know. Still waiting to hear from the merchants, but at least two.)

Oh ... sometimes the hearts move. Must be gravity or something. If any male wants the prizes from the Women Only region, contact me! Please respect our preferences and you might even get some erotic art for men!

♥ The Bay of Lesbos (SLurl) Bikinis & water toys.
♥ The Isle of Lesbos (Women Only here; SLurl) Special shirts & party gear!
♥ The Isle of Lesbos Mall (SLurl) Jewelry & a custom structure!
♥ The Oasis of Lesbos (SLurl) Bikinis, jewelry, & more!

In the Oasis, look for the extra hearts in these stores:

♥ Ayiki (Skins & Shapes; SLurl)
♥ Los Texanos (SLurl)
♥ Raindance (SLurl)

Thursday, February 5, 2009

A talk with Grant Linden about Xstreet

At a recent open meeting with Grant Linden, "a User Experience Designer at Linden Lab working on the commerce team" a number of residents learned more about the Linden Labs acquisition of the Xstreet SL and OnRez retail services and what might be expected. Here is a short bullet list of items discussed with comments:

◆ No new L$ cash terminals. The whole concept is being looked at, but with the integration of resident L$ balances into the Xstreet marketplace, terminals likely won't be necessary. Several of us did not like the integration idea for security reasons. For example, having funds stashed in an off-world system like Xstreet or OnRez protected in-world liquidity. What happens if my in-world balance disappears like the inventory losses many of us are familar with of late? Grant acknowledged these concerns but had no firm response.

◆ Several residents asked about using OnRez vendors in-world. While the Lab is looking at a vendor system, Grant gave the impression that the idea did not sit well with the Lab. Some residents asked for compensation for the money spent customizing OnRez vendors. It is not likely the Lab will do this and another resident pointed out that the customization was a voluntary business risk. There actually seemed to be a number of residents at the meeting that lamented the loss of OnRez. Grant mentioned that many of the best practices (a common business term, but he didn't use it) of OnRez would be looked at and integrated if feasible.

◆ Grant was genuinely concerned when I expressed my distaste for the acquisition as a "Company Store" move (my blog Web; Wikipedia Web). In the chat I stressed to others who commented that we don't have a choice and as merchants it is our job to determine how we can best leverage the situation.

◆ Concerns about post-sale commissions were brought up to which Grant assured us that the funds were being used to support Xstreet operations and improvements, the implication being that the Lab would not profit from the commissions. (That may be the case in the short term, but who knows how that will change. Uccie.) Roy Blanchard pointed out that the commissions could be seen as competition by in-world merchants who don't use Xstreet.

I wonder if it would be possible to use our in-world Inventory system as a "warehouse" for items that we want to sell? An Xstreet folder could be created and any resident-created content could be kept there for an automatic listing on Xstreet. Essentially, that would build a store front for any resident and eliminate the need for in-world delivery boxes. For mall owners, though, this could create a problem. My friend Roy Blanchard, owner of Hug*Mart (SLurl), is not a merchant but is kind enough to provide free space for purveyors of goods for Tinies. Such an idea might actually hurt malls like his.

◆ Mention of an independent entity to replace Xstreet or OnRez was made by several but the conversation was fuzzy (at least to me). I pointed out that any competitor would need to overcome LL's advantage of being tied to in-world search, a feature that Grant emphasized several times.

◆ A whole lotta this: [2009/02/05 13:48] Splashable Water 1.5: Could not find object 'splish'. It is funny to see things like this on Linden properties, especially those built and maintained by individual Lindens. And have you ever flown around the offices and counted the sex furniture?

◆ As part of a sprawling and spotty discussion of the tags used on Xstreet, I suggested that much could be learned from looking at the List view in Apple iTunes. Grant liked the idea of a more intuitive tagging system, mentioning that he once worked for with a suggestion that some of that site's functionality could be worked into the Xstreet site. allistair Macbain had some great feedback for Grant on this topic, particularly on ease-of-use. Many from the Tiny community expressed concerns about proper tagging on Xstreet and Grant acknowledged this by pointing out that several communities have similar concerns.

◆ Did you say Wish List? One of the cool ideas that Grant mentioned was being able to put an Xstreet Wish List in our profiles. To me, this means that in-world merchants who do not use Xstreet would be left out.

◆ No "taxes" (i.e., commissions) on in-world sales. And the Lab doesn't have plans to kill in-world businesses that don't use Xstreet.

◆ [2009/02/05 14:00] Splashable Water 1.5: Could not find object 'splish'. Kinda glad I had sound turned off.

Many thanks to Roy Blanchard for keeping me in the loop in his talks with the Lab. In the picture from L to R: Grant Linden, Roy Blanchard, allistair Macbain, Uccello Poultry, Orrla Loire

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Home Page Pix

Perhaps in conjunction with changes to the home page that non-residents see (read about the controversy over this on Vint Falken's blog > Web), the Lab has begun showing some very attractive scenic images when the viewer starts up. Shortly before the Holidays some nice images of barren land started appearing at the log-in screen, changing with the time of day and shifting locations. Then during the Holidays some clever Wintery scenes were showed. Now with Spring about 2 months away in RL's Northern Hemsiphere we are getting some variety like the stunning (okay, the color isn't impressive) landscape.

But like the images on the home page and those during the Holidays, I doubt there are many people who know where these places are and there is no information on how to find them. I'd love to add cliffs like these to properties that I work with and if I could get with in a few tens of meters a simple "Inspect" could lead me to the creator. Maybe generate a sale or two and help the economy. Does anyone else think that this could be done a little better? Even Windoze Paint (Web) could be used to add a text SLurl or region name. Got a Mac? Acorn rocks (Web) and I bet M Linden can afford to pony up $49.99 USD just from the commisions from my sales on XStreet (my shop > Web) last year.

Yes, I like the change. No, I don't like the extra time that it takes to load the viewer (deffo slower than the pre-prettifyed viewer days). But I think it is a plus over all. It is a work in progress. Now how I can get some of my pix there? Got some good ones on Flickr (Web).