Thursday, December 30, 2010

Happy New Year!

My sincerest wishes for a wonderful New Year to everyone. We've all had ups and downs in 2010, but that is how life -- even a Second Life -- works. With all we've learned and the support of friends and family, 2011 is going to be one for the record books. I feel it. Huggs, y'all!

Wee Little Kitteh

Getting gifts is a bit hard for me because I think that I never sufficiently express my gratitude, so I'd rather give than receive. Two of my oldest friends in Second Life have given me great joy with a pair of special avatars. One I posted about on the 21st was a gorgeous unicorn. Today, I present a wee little kitteh from Janeforyou Barbara. Yes, that's the avie right there, on the SLopoly board in the game room on the Isle of Lesbos. It was so much fun to scamper about on the game surface, chasing the little markers, kicking over the cards, and hiding the dice, while others tried to play. I even "pooped" in the Public Sandbox space thanks to some clever scripting. Conjoh Kohime did a wonderful job creating this avatar, from textures, to sculpts, to a really fun animation override. I found out by *oops* how spendy this is but I highly recommend that any cat or avatar lover get one (shop SLurl). Thanks, Miss Jane! You have great taste in gifts.

Friday, December 24, 2010

In the Lego Universe world I'm ZyxFlux (you may have seen earlier posts about this) and here I am on the snow planet there with my pet reindeer, MissJane, wishing you and your loved ones a Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Wherever you are, whomever you are with, I hope you have a wonderful holiday.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

It's a Unicorn Christmas!


My big sister Threshin gave me an early Christmas present that has tickled me to no end: a unicorn avatar from Water Horse (SLurl). Wow! This is amazing! The textures and prim work are awesome and the animation override is equally impressive. There are many customization options and it looks like there is a way that let a rider saddle up. I'll be prancing away from now until Christmas in this avie and for probably a long time after. Look for me around the grid to see how awesome this avie is for yourself. I've already popped into Misty Mountain (SLurl), one of my favorite scenic trips, and awed some of the visitors there then trotted in the beautiful snowscape of Calas Galadhon (SLurl). But I'll have to be careful at my next visit to Menagerie Isle (SLurl) because as you see in the pic below, someone tried to sell me.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

On Being Zyx, Part 2


Uccello was rather cheeky to introduce me without asking first but she missed lots of details, mostly because Second Life avatars can't depict real life pixys very well. So I'm bigger than I should be, but I'm all pixy, through and through. Here's how you can tell:
  • My skintone is blue. A soft, chalky blue. All pixys can change their hue, but that takes effort so we pretty much stick with how we were born -- blue, green, yellow, red. When I'm really angry or in a mood to battle, my tone deepens to a very dark blue-black. Fairys are almost always the same colors as humans. Pixys can mimic fairys, but don't often do it.
  • Dragonfly-like wings. Second Life has soooo many nice wings that sometimes I change in-world, but Real World pixys have dragonfly-like wings. Fairys usually have butterfly-like or moth-like wings.
  • Second Life avatars tend to be giants. Probably it's a good thing as animations favor the Amazons (my Sit anims push me into the ground, for example). My besties are almost all over 6' tall but I'm just 4'6". I'll get taller as I get older, but Real World pixys are really no more than a few inches tall. Odds are you don't see us because of our size, but we also move fast.
  • Pixy's love gardens. That pic up top is me in my first garden in Second Life. I have a lovely home in the Elderglen sims and used most of my prims for the garden. And I was allowed to make the Secret Garden at the Isle of Lesbos.
As for anything personal, I guess you'll have to meet me. If I want or need you to know something, I'll tell you.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

On Being Zyx, Part 1


Those who frequent Lucky Chairs and other devices that give prizes in Second Life have developed strategies to gather the most prizes or to increase the odds of getting one they really want. As a very long time member of the Lucky Kitty Crew, one of SL's oldest freebies/shopping groups, I've probably tried them all, save for one: Alts. Then Zyx Flux, my cute pixy girl, came along. I was at a Lucky Chair that insisted on giving it's treasure only to those whose first name began with the letter Z. Getting frustrated at having to wait 20 minutes until it (hopefully) cycled to another letter (usually going to Z again, though) I took the time to make an Alternate Character named Zyx.

I chose the name as an expedient, simply typing part of the alphabet backwards. She could have been Zaphod or Zeta or Zimbo (thanks, Grampie!) or any of a number of names that came to mind, but I thought if I'm going to take the time I might as well make the Alt useful. The name made me think the character would eventually be a gender neutral robot, especially as I chose Flux as a surname. Then the sign-up sequence suggested that I join via a Community. I'm fond of the Steampunk regions (SLurl) so I almost picked the Caledon group, but the Fairy community intrigued me and so Zyx went swiftly through their "portal" and on to help me conquer the Lucky Chair that so vexed me.

Later that day I thought back to how nice the noobie experience was at Faery Crossing (SLurl) and took Zyx back through, more slowly. It came to mind that having a role play-specific character might be fun. After all, SL is full of people who enjoy being someone other than themselves or exploring a narrow aspect of themselves by focusing on it via role play. Despite having lived on Tamerthon (SLurl) at one time and peripherally participating in the medieval-ish community, I had not really tried this part of our world.

But elves were everywhere, I didn't really feel like Tinkerbell, and drows really don't do a thing for me. As a fan of Kim Harrison's "The Hollows" books I had one alternative left: Pixy. These four-inch tall (on average) creatures love families, battle hard, and are greatly underestimated by anyone but their fiercest rivals, the fairies.

"But," you say and I cut you off before you can finish asking "pixys and fairies are the same, right?" Yes, and no, I need to say. Here's what I have in Zyx's profile Picks:
Many silly humans think that pixys & fairies are the same creature. Both are magical woodland creatures who love gardens, are allergic to silver, & are very territorial. But pixies are smaller, usually have colorful skin (like blue or green), & don't need a wand to do their magic. Fairies are often mean, bossy, & almost never have colorful skin. I'm a pixy. Tinkerbell is a fairy (or fae). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pixie
Second Life has some limitations so I've made adjustments to the Real World pixy and taken a few liberties, as well. For example, Zyx's body is as small as I can make it while keeping the proportions right, made her blue with a nice but very inexpensive skin, and started a back story that I'll relate via this blog in subsequent posts. I should confess here, though, that she is a child avie. Well, she's like over a hundred years old, but that is a kid by pixy standards (a liberty that lets her be Adult Verified while being rather child-like). This will make more sense if you look for Zyx Resident in-world ... a grown-up Zyx. More on that later, too.

Zyx Flux and Uccello Poultry, July 4, 2010, on Menagerie Isle

Saturday, December 11, 2010

SL in Shiny Chrome

Recently I tried the Second Life Web Viewer Beta and was but mildly impressed. Afterall, uber-brainy resident Katharine Berry had long ago developed a browser-based interface limited to text so it was inevitable that in-world graphics would eventually be added by someone. During the trial I wasn't focused as much on "gee, this is in a browser" as I was continually noting how dull the experience really was when The Lab was clearly focused more on the social aspects of being in Second Life than the access method. My test avie was always being directed to "fun places" and "places to meet people" with virtually (pun intended) no emphasis on creation or other advanced features. Admittedly, avatar customization was very creatively handled but the limited documentation indicated this feature was an enhancement to the social aspects of being in-world. Likely this was a test of more than the technology. I'm sure folks involved with trying to increase the in-world population had a firm hand in what was going on. In all, there was a sense of "something is up" about the whole thing.

Then today as I was reading Andy Ihnatko's Chicago Sun-Times post "What does Chrome OS and Google notebook mean to you?" it struck me where SL on the Web is going: To The Cloud!



Google's idea, far from new, is that any computer you use will behave the same way, use the same applications (apps), and store information in a network-based space. I think it was the NEC company that pushed this idea long ago and it was then called "thin clients" ... the machine in front of you is simply a dumb terminal and all the "real work" is done on a networked computer somewhere else. That "somewhere else" is "The Cloud."

With Cloud SLing, The Lab wouldn't have to worry as much about viewer development, hardware compatibility, third-party viewers, and all the related expenses that come with such diversity. Innovation and control of our experiences would be firmly back in their hands. It could also lure more people into the service, like those who have Apple iPads but don't use traditional computers. People like my mother. Seventy-four years old and taping away for at least six hours a day, nary a clue that she really has in her hands a computer far more powerful than the first one I used to access Second Life over five years ago.

A Second Life app for the Web browser or for devices like the iPad or the next generation of televisions shouldn't be too hard. In fact, one is likely to appear soon, I imagine, considering the limitations of current options for the ever-increasing number of portable devices. Pocket Metaverse, one of two viewers that I can find for iOS devices, is fine for occasional use, but without graphics, it is somewhat of a nuisance to use. So bring on The Cloud! I don't think we will have long to wait.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

People Who Care

Whether it is Second Life or Real Life, I love to find people who care enough to have fun with what they make. Check out this sign I found for a T.A.R.D.I.S. at The Doctor Who Experience (SLurl).

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

More Confusion for Noobs

Whilst reserving a name for an alt under the new Resident naming scheme (see previous post) I found that the shopping mall and getting aquainted area previously available to new players after their orientation are gone. Now you click on a board with four graphics, one for shopping, one for meeting people, one for exploring, and one for getting help. I clicked the latter and was teleported to an empty private residential region at a spot well away from the intended coordinates. It seems my new alt's home spot is the corner of this sim, too. I hope the owners don't mind. Earlier experimentation showed that each click produced random selections. I highly recommend that all new players visit the Oxbridge University Gateway (SLurl below).

Re-Creation for Posterity

Do you have a wonderful first name in Second Life? One that is unique to you? I (and one of my alts) am well known by my first name so it occurred to me that with the new naming scheme anyone can create an account with just my name. The default last name of Resident is not automatically shown, even if you edit a new player's profile. Is your first name valuable enough to you that you should create an alt with that name to protect your identity? Think about it.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Back for Display Names!

I've been able to spend more time in Second Life again, though if I have 30 minutes to spare with nothing to do I'll probably head to Lego Universe (Web). But I'm back just in time for Display Names (Web). So far I rather like it and have actually found several long time supporters of the Viewer Formerly Known As Emerald using it. I'm simply Uccie in my tag, but if you check the right boxes in Preferences, my tag will also uccello.poultry and my active group tag (off by default). My alt is one of the many Spartacus-taggers in-world (see pic). Of course, Profiles always show the name.name User Name, the moniker under which someone created their account.

Have you spotted folks with the last name Resident yet since the change? I've seen a few. Lots of Noobies have been coming to Lesbos lately. According to Tateru Nino on her blog (Web), new registrants are automatically assigned that last name. No more scrolling through lists or hitting refresh again and again until you see a last name you like. On a similar note, if you see avies named something like 39873 Guest, then you've found someone trying the Web portal Beta (Web). I gave it a whirl today and it worked very well. I'll have to try it on my iPad soon.

With Display Names, though, I learned that if you set a name and don't like it you are not stuck with it for two weeks, as the various Second Life official Web sites indicate, but if you hit the Reset button on the name change pop-up your User Name is restored as the name everyone sees right away.

Addendum: I've seen some prize givers of late that use initials of last names as well as first names (the latter style invented by Shep Korvin of Lucky Designs). I wonder how the standard last name change is going affect those. Or how names will now appear on Contest Boards at events. I might have to make an alt to find out.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Still Here

Despite life's best efforts of late, I am still here and will hopefully post something of substance soon (insert joke about that being a first here).

Friday, October 15, 2010

Zyx Breaks Out in Legos

It is no big secret that one of my alts in Second Life is named Zyx. For many reasons she's a lot of fun to "play" in-world, but mainly because she lets me convey a part of me that being Uccello doesn't let me express. As with my other alts, I treat her like a different person. Me, but different. Me, a bit more child-like in this instance. Perhaps because Zyx is so much fun she, unlike my other alts thus far, has really come alive. So when I needed a character name for Lego Universe (LU) (Web) I instantly thought of her. Here she is in Avant Gardens, one of the many worlds to explore in this new MMO:


Sadly, she can't be a wee blue pixy, so I made her a redhead with lots of weapons. Here she is talking to a scout about a new mission (bottom right insert) to destroy some fierce spiders. Earlier she met up with one of the few other female avatars (top left insert) in the team outpost. Maybe there are other females. Hard to tell the gender of a Lego Minifig* because helmets remove hair, most uniforms hide the nod to cleavage that some civilian outifts allow, and most players seem to have stuck with the system-suggested player names like Lefty Weasel Popcorn.

And there are lots of clothes, just like Second Life. Many missions result in getting a new shirt or pants or such, some of which provide extra game abilities and some are just cute. Other Second Life comparisons can be made. For example, you can also tame virtual pets, but in LU they become your companions, help with missions, and eat up your resources. And you can get land. I haven't done this yet as I'm too busy collecting money and "points," but I've visited my RL brother's parcels (the first is "free" and the next ones require rent) and it's cool that you can use all the collectable building bricks and "models" acquired in the game to make whatever you want. Space is limited so don't expect to build a huge castle, but it is still fun to play.

Unlike Second Life, LU isn't very social. The publisher is certainly trying. Players can "friend" one another, the word teamwork is often used in missions, and you can visit the properties owned/rented by others if they allow it. But the dialog system is cumbersome, the emotes are hard to use, and the worlds are filled with children. Its easy to pick out the adults. They are the ones trying to organize. Well, if you have the dialog window open you can see that, but there is a lot to see and the chat is so small. Otherwise, it is a chaos of Minifigs dashing about (they are all running or jumping ... no walking here), smashing things and collecting the stuff that spills out.

To put some order to this rambling post, let me say that Lego Universe is tiring and stressful and uber-competitive. And its a blast. I'm having lots of fun and when Zyx has done it all I can make another character to do it all again. That might be a while, but that's okay. This game is a keeper.

*Minifig is short for Mini-Figure, the little Lego people.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Oh Boi!

A friend of mine, Temoren Drathman, is a respected artist and a staffer at Oh Boi! Magazine, an in-world publication dedicated to "the strong and beautiful lesbian lifestyle" and I thought she was kidding when she asked if a reporter could contact me to do an article about me for the magazine. Maybe I have a wee bit more vanity than the average girl (or way lots more ... dunno), figuring it would really be just a short bit to tie into the feature covering Janeforyou Barbara, owner of the Isle of Lesbos and my boss, so I said "yes." As I spoke with Indygo Criss, the reporter, it dawned on my that this was going to be more than a sidebar.

Lo and behold! It's a feature! Check it out on the Web, starting on pages 20-21. The pre-interview questionnaire I filled out was rather geared toward in-world merchants, but Indygo drew out much more during our one-on-one and the piece became more than just about what I build or where I work. It grew into a profile filled with information I don't exactly hide, but that I don't wear on my sleeve, either. Who says therapy doesn't work?

I'm rather happy with the piece. And it does compliment the feature about my boss (starting on pages 12-13). Another bit that tickles me is that pictures I took for the spread are featured. Would I do something like this again, though? Probably not. Even with my vanity I'd say this has been enough fame.

Want a copy in-world? Check out the Our Kiosks box in the sidebar of the OhBoi! blog.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Conquering New Worlds

Good bye, Second Life. Hellooooo, Lego Universe! Actually, I'm not leaving SL, but after making some budget sacrifices, I was able to order the Lego Universe (Web) package and made arrangements for an on-going subscription. If you haven't heard of this game, think of it as an MMO like World of Warcraft, but with a whole lot more cute and with the need for some Lego brick building skills. There are quests to join, tasks to complete, mini-games to play, and all involve using an unlimited supply of Lego building bricks (*gasp* Unlimited!) to build things. Users also get their own plot of land on which they can build whatever they want. Sounds a lot like Second Life, actually, in that respect. Because I ordered yesterday, I'll get to leap into the new world on the 12th of October, earlier than anyone buying the game henceforth. Don't be surprised if you see the occasional post about it here provided I'm not too busy battling Maelstrom with my Faction.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Haunted House

The Haunted Farmhouse on Menagerie Isle is free for anyone* who likes the thrills and chills of Halloween. After you explore the scary rooms throughout the house, slip into the basement for a carnival-style Dark Ride with more frights. There is a special gift for all those who brave souls who survive to the end. To visit, click the SLurl below then follow the signs once you land. It's a good idea to set your sky to night time (World > Sun > Midnight) and to take off any face lights. Since I finished and opened the attraction far earlier than expected, I may add features over the next month, but after Halloween the Haunted Farmhouse goes away.


*Might not be suitable for children or those subject to epileptic seizures. Questions or concerns, please contact Uccello Poultry.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Fallen Gods Avatars

It has been quite some time since I have been to Fallen Gods (SLurl), a really great fantasy shop and role play region but, when I tracked down an adorable little avatar to the shop I was not surprised. They are known for top-notch quality and a bit of whimsey. And here she is, a little sapling, one of three avies you can win if you visit. This one is part of the awesome Kawaii Hunt (Web). Find a cute little blue star and this avie is yours free! And if you match someone on the Lucky Fortunes machine, you get a matched pair of adult-sized avies in this style. Incredible textures are the highlight here, but the prim work is impeccable. I hope Fallen sells these after a while and that they make a fortune doing it. I'm not going to complain about free, but I would have paid top-Linden for these. Some Epic Butterfly Buddies (Web) and my Linden home in the Elderglen regions complete the scene.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Eating Up The Sims

Something I totally forgot about until I helped someone get to the Beta Grid to test Display Names is the bonus space bux one gets there. On the Main Grid I had just under L$2000 and when I logged into the Beta Grid I had some L$13,000 in my account. No, you don't get to keep it, most stores are not accessible on the Beta Grid, and anything you buy is more of a rental since you can't keep it. So here I am in my L$1000 flying suit from Cubey Terra, hanging over a sandbox and wondering why a region doesn't seem very big at times.

A well-landscaped region can seem endless, like Misty Mountain (SLurl). A flat sandbox seems like a postage stamp, especially when you have a flight-speed boosted rig like I bought. Just about the time I hit a good speed I had to cross a sim border or I hit the sim wall. Since even the best sim crossings are still full of hiccups (though they have greatly improved, for the most part, lately), what we need are double-sized sims. Or maybe The Lab can market a single region the size of four sims at a special price. For folks like me who love flying that would be heaven. Or motor sports enthusiasts could go for a nice long drive without having that strange "flying in limbo" effect when taking a crossing in a physical vehicle. Look at the vehicle sandboxes sometime and you'll see that nearly all the courses require a sim crossing. I suppose that is good for testing purposes, but certainly not for pleasure trips.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Third Life

Recently I mentioned (Web) that changes from Linden Lab have encouraged me to spend more time with my Apple iPad, part of my Third Life of living virtual. It's an extension of what I've been doing with my beloved iPod Touch (Web). Of course I read books and listen to music on my iPad, as well as watch videos, play board games, and more, but I have several apps that enhance my Third Life.

Koi Pond, from Blimp Pilots (Web; iTunes on the Web) is back, but bigger and better. Now I can build my own ponds by placing each element just where I want, adjust all aspects of the light and water, plus control sound and wildlife. It's like making a pond in Second Life (SL) without worrying about prims and scripts. This picture is my creation. I could have used one of the pre-made ponds or edited one. The app needs to have an option so that I can watch it without having to occasionally tap the screen to keep the device awake. It's like having a nature sounds generator and a pretty picture all in one.

Pocket Pond (iTunes on the Web) does have a no-timeout option and is more photorealistic but doesn't feel as warm. It is nearly as customizable as Koi Pond out of the box, but with an upgrade more customization is possible and you can catch the fish. I like the thunderstorm feature. Both ponds let you feed the fishies and both are pretty darned relaxing. I can't pick a favorite, but I tend to use Pocket Pond more while by iPad sits on a stand beside my computer. Don't look for the publisher's Web site to be of any help, though. It doesn't acknowledge the app's existence so I didn't even put a link here.

Distant Shores, also from Blimp Pilots (Web; iTunes on the Web) is actually the same app that I have on my iPod Touch, not an upgrade for use on the iPad. By doubling the size the graphics suffer, but "walking the beach" is a bit nicer in that my hand doesn't get in the way as much. The objective is still to find messages in bottles and to gather shells to earn empty bottles for your own messages. With the iPad, creating messages is much easier because the keyboard is bigger. In a way, Distant Shores is a very basic social media app for communicating with random strangers but without the pitfalls of using Chatroulette. I keep hoping that I could actually go inside my hut (pictured here) or run across people, but since I don't have an avatar myself, just disembodied footprints, there wouldn't be much point to that. Hopefully when the app is updated for the iPad's larger screen, the Bimpies will add synchronization between devices. I have messages on my iPod Touch that don't show on the iPad.

Gylder2 (Web; iTunes on the Web) does have an avatar, and as you can see, she's adorable! The orginal Glyder on my iPod Touch was a lot of fun, but soaring on a bigger screen with even more challenges and scenery is a lot more fun. I can spend hours with this app just flying around. I do that in SL, but with my Mac's wireless keyboard and the world's inherent lag, it is something of an effort. With Glyder2 its all fun. There are missions to collect gems and perform specific flying patterns, each letting you earn special clothes or wings, but the sheer joy of the experience is often enough.

Citadel (Web; iTunes on the Web), is all about experience, too, as it is not really a game, but a demonstration of the technology behind an upcoming game. I mentioned it sort of in passing on this blog a few days ago (Web) but didn't say much. If you have an iPad, stop now and get the free download. If you don't, look at the picture and drool. As you wander through a castle's keep and through its outer ward you are treated to a visual feast. It is like being a tourist in a deserted place. Look at anything you want, as long as you want. Sadly, you can't go inside the buildings save for one very spectacular build nor wander outside too far, but like Second Life, there is no set goal to this not-game. The idea is to simply enjoy the environment. Eventually, Epic Games will release some twitch-n-slash title that uses this environment and while I am terrible at "physical" games other than Wii Bowling, I'll probably buy it just to see more of this gorgeous world.

Photopedia Heritage (Web; iTunes on the Web) also has fabulous architecture, but in the form of spectacular photographs from UNESCO World Heritage sites, like Notre Dame de Paris, shown here. If you don't read the in-depth descriptions, delve into the Wikipedia articles, or scan the maps, you will still find leafing through the images a thrill. This is not a virtual life, but real life lived virtually. You'll wonder why your Geography and History classes sucked so much (mine didn't, but I'm that kinda geek) compared to this app. I haven't found any multimedia yet, but I'm still poking around randomly. If you are heavily OCD and want organization then you can have it, but it may not be as much fun as exploring.

Which is why I love Second Life, to get back to our shared world, for a moment. I seldom keep landmarks, but I have a folder of full of them for just "Cool Builds." These are places that are visually exciting, cleverly constructed, or engaging based on the activities. SL is full of places like this. Sadly, like Real Life, it is also filled with "un-Cool Builds" and I find my way back to my iPad.

Cro-Mag Rally (Web; iTunes on the Web) was a free app at one time and I got it to remind myself at how badly I am at this sort of game. I don't drive well when there is a computer involved, wether it be on my iPad or in Second Life or on any console system. But this game is a collection of cute little virtual worlds and despite crashing into everything, never winning a race (I often come in 7th or 8th in a 6 person race), and generally mucking up everything, it is still fun to hold my iPad (or iPod Touch) as a steering wheel and wander about. By luck, I guess, it has become part of Apple's Game Center (Web) so now I can humiliate myself publicly. Or humiliate my brother as our iTunes account is in his name. Social networking and virtual worlds. Who would have thought of it?

I won't bring up Angry Birds (Web; iTunes on the Web) because it isn't really a virtual experience, despite a storyline. Though I suppose I did just bring it up. So I won't mention the Volkswagen-sponsored racing game that works like Cro-Mag, nor the great pinball games, ball bearing-in-a-labyrinth games, or other such things that I play. Goodness knows that unless you've been hiding under a rock, you've heard about the games and other things you can do with iPads and such so you can assume that I do those, too. But they are not part of what I call my Third Life, living virtually outside Second Life. They are just ... life, something we all have to do every now and then.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Riding a Phoenix & Viewer Development

After updating my Seawolf dragons (Web) I found that one of the sculpted prims wasn't rendering correctly and after consulting other dragons at the sales site I decided to try another viewer. Lo and behold, logging in with the Imprudence viewer (Web) showed that the problem was likely with the official 2.x viewer (Web), but to confirm it, I needed to try another viewer not based on the v2.x system and that meant skipping over Kirsten's viewer (Web). With limited choices I decided to try the Phoenix viewer (Web) despite misgivings about security and safety from being unwittingly duped into illegal activities. And I found it's actually rather nice in many ways.

There are features of v2.x that I miss, like the sidebar, the address bar, and the Favorites bar, but the UI skin makes it nearly as clear to use (and thus easy on my eyes) as my preferred viewer. With all the advanced features, however, I was greatly surprised to not find the ability to use preset window sizes, a very valuable feature that helps reduce viewer-side lag (the larger the window, the harder your graphics processor has to work) and one that helps create consistent snaps in-world.

This picture was originally taken full-screen (2560x1305) with Phoenix while I was experimenting with the Windlight controls near the Chat bar. They are nearly as useful and as easy to use as those in Imprudence giving all but the most advanced tools in one, neat little pop-up window. The image is a HDR-like* composite of three different snaps taken with different Windlight presets.

But back to the Phoenix viewer. I found it faster in all respects than my sessions with the now defunct Emerald viewer. Much faster, actually. I wonder if that can be credited to less bloatware than the latter or improved texture handling. Looking through the menus and preferences there are still an unbelievable number of functions I either don't want, need, or understand. Like I get two notification windows when someone logs on or off, one being the traditional "blue note" and the other is generated by Phoenix elsewhere on the screen. Why do I need both and can one be turned off? At least it is better than the near lack of notification given by the v2.x viewers and it is nice to see a record of same in local Chat History.

Differences like this are why The Lab needs to encourage third party viewer development, regulated for user safety, and then learn from the features that prove popular. This might improve Resident retention, provide a better experience for new Residents, and generally foster time spent in-world. It's pretty clear that while quite a few things were done well, the v2.x viewer was developed in Shrödinger's box with seemingly little regard for the community. I hope that going forward the process of viewer development is more interactive with all parties cooperating one what is best for all.

*Read more about High Dynamic Range imagery here. Click the image above for a larger version.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Display Names

On a quick trip to Second Life's Beta Grid with the Project Viewer I ran into my friend Zyx Flux and we played with Display Names (read more here) as this picture shows. And you can see that she plans on joining the "Spartucus" in-world meme (read more here) when the feature is available. By default, group tags are off for some unknown reason, as are User Names. If you want to be sure who you are dealing with, head over to Preferences, as shown, or simply over your pointer over someone to see their "proper" name, displayed as first.last to remind us of our 80's computing heritage. Profiles will show both names, as well. Of special note, any change you make sticks for two weeks minimum, so no setting "Ima Trollop" for just a night. No idea when this will be released, but you can check out the official Wiki information here. Click the image for a larger view.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Misty Mountains: What is Reality?

Here are a couple quick, un-retouched pictures from Misty Mountains (SLurl), one of several gorgeous regions in the Calas Galadhorn Park chain. I spend a lot of time there, slightly breaking the "no role play" rule by appearing in a fantasy form that I feel suits the environment. My reaction when I first visited was "I'm Home!" The ambiance is lush and natural. I was in my beloved White Mountains of New Hampshire. But then I turned the corner and felt like I was in the Pacific Northwest. Another section reminded me of the Allegheny foothills of Western Pennsylvania. Some regions try for hyper-realisim (like the also gorgeous Rustica; SLurl) while others take a more fantasy-oriented approach (like what you would find at Happy Mood; SLurl).

Misty and her sister regions (yes, sims are female, like ships and cars) strike me as a blend of the two approaches with a heavy lean toward the former. Let's call it Enhanced Reality, as when a nature photographer grooms a scene by bending aside a stray branch or setting some hidden food to attract wildlife, creating a best possible "reality" that better communicates the intended message than the previously extant scene. Thusly the best elements of different biomes are skillfully blended on Misty to make an ideal forest environment. You really need to see this place.



Wednesday, September 1, 2010

What SL Should Look Like

At today's Apple event, some folks from Epic Games introduced a free app to preview an upcoming title, Epic Citadel, for iOS devices (Web). It is is what Second Life (SL) should look like. To the left is a screen shot from my iPad and it barely does justice to what you really see. As amazing as Windlight is on my 27" iMac, it is shamed by the dynamic lighting and atmospherics in Citadel running on a mobile processor. Motion is flawless and everything is rezzed the instant it comes into view. I know, I know. Streaming versus local storage. But aren't some or many textures stored locally for SL? I'm no technical whiz, but I think it comes down to mesh versus prims.

According to information given at the Second Life Community Convention last year (Web), mesh, the same rendering tech that gives our avatars but is not accessible to users for creation, is coming to our world for everyone. And it looked to be on track as late as June 2010 when noted Resident Dusan Writer blogged about it (Web). But with T Linden gone and now Qarl Linden (the mesh magician behind the project), our world isn't likely to look like Citadel anytime soon.

I love my iPad. The Lab keeps giving me reasons to love it more.

Friday, August 20, 2010

More Emerald Viewer Security Issues

In my post from Tuesday, August 17 (a few days ago) I mentioned that security concerns keep me from using the Emerald viewer to access Second Life. It wasn't the place to go into details, nor is this post, but in summary, I stopped making frequent use of the Emerald viewer some time ago after one of the developers that I know told me about a major inventory loss that they traced back to the viewer itself.

Now, it appears that the viewer has been used for a Denial of Service attack. Read more about it here. A few people I know are uninstalling the viewer and switching to various others. Including me.


The Death of In-World Retail

Some bittersweet news came my way yesterday. One of my favorite stores was having a 50% off sale. They were having the sale because they were dropping their in-world presence. BINA Gorean Clothing (SLurl) moved from a beautifully crafted full region to a nicely crafted Homestead region that retained the essence of the former despite the loss of detail last year in what I assumed was a move to economize. A number of stores had done so about the same time and quite a few malls had completely closed. It looks like the process is continuing.

Cymoril Lightfoot, BINA owner, cited "several factors" in the closing in a note card to her group, but I'm betting that the declining in-world economy and the emphasis on the use of XStreet SL (soon to me SL Marketplace) by The Lab since it acquired the service are factors. Like many, Ms Lightfoot will maintain some land in-world to house her XStreet server box so she can continue having a presence in the economy. Without having to pay for large tracts of land this could be a boon.

Its a calculated risk and I'm not merchant enough to discuss the merits of such a plan. After all I've opened and closed more shops than I can count. But I will miss visiting BINA for the atmosphere as well as the high-quality clothes. Shopping should be an experience and I like supporting merchants that feel the same way. Spending time exploring the environment that sets the mood for the merchandise is a powerful sales tool. Some in the Real World have derisively called it the Disneyfication of retail -- stores and shopping malls becoming a destination -- but it works (Web). Yes, I often use XStreet to shop, but mostly to find the merchandise and to find where I can see it in-world. It also gives me a certain satisfaction to buy in-world because the merchant doesn't have to share the sale by giving The Lab a commission.

To support shopping in-world, especially at themed shops and malls, I'm going to make an effort to post profiles of such places on this blog. You'll also find some on the Lucky Kitty Crew blog (Web) in as many of my future posts as I can get away with writing. In my previous posts there I frequently advocated getting out and exploring beyond hitting the Lucky Chairs or the Midnight Mania boards for the fun of it (as well as finding more freebies).

But while you can, visit BINA. You don't have to be Gorean to appreciate very high quality clothes, a great sale, or just a great build to explore.

(Thanks to Zyx Flux for tipping me to the closing and for posing with me in the pic above. She's a cute and clever pixy. The store closes August 30th.)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

uccello.poultry

Display Names, the "next big thing" from The Lab, was announced on the 17th and will enable Residents to have a name other than their self-given names floating above their heads. In the process, our self-given names will be reduced to old-school machine language truncations. I will thus become uccello.poultry upon implementation sometime later this month with SheWhoMustBeObeyed floating over my head. At first blush, this is a cool idea. I know so many Residents, some long-timers, that regret their self-given names for one reason or another. Me, at times, for example.

When I moved from the Teen Grid to the main grid I did not retain my name ... sort of a "gifted-amnesty" program so folks wouldn't point and say "It's her!" in hushed tones as they think of my infamy there. So when I was picking a surname I saw Poultry and thought hard about what an attractive but funny first name would go with it. I looked up bird in many languages and found the Italian word uccello. Then I went to the library and looked in an actual Italian dictionary since I knew that online translators were often poor. Yep, it was bird, alright. Apparently not to Italians that I've met in-world. 99.999% of the ones I have met go to great lengths to point out, in great detail, how uccello is slang for ... well, something a fine lesbian like myself would not want to have for a name. So whenever I can, I tell folks to call me Uccie. In fact, on the InWorldz grid I'm Uccie Poultry. And I've even asked The Lab to let me change the name (not our problem was the response). So with Display Names, I can be Uccie Poultry. Or Uccie Seale so I can share a last name with my SLwife.

The trouble is, so can anyone. You can be Uccie Poultry. Or Uccello Poultry. Or Uccello Eats Poultry. Any Resident can take any other Resident's name (but not a short version of their name -- no uccello.poultry or uccellopoultry for you! says the Wiki). That happens in real life, actually. My brother has a name twin in the small New England town in which we live. And someone with his name was on the TV show Divorce Court just yesterday. But this is a coincidence of given names, not an action of chosen names. What I haven't seen addressed is how The Lab will deal with griefers using other Resident's names or Display Name harassment. Will there be a special item in the Abuse Report form? What sort of punishment will there be? As a form of Identity Theft, how severe will the punishments be and can a Resident get restitution for monetary losses?

Probably "no" on the latter. The Lab is famous for never making good on monetary losses even if they are to blame. But according to the Display Name Wiki (here) there are ways that one Resident can verify the identity of another. We will all have to be more careful when looking at names and do more verifying, I guess. Another reason that it would be nice to view more than one Profile at a time.

Since Unicode and non-English character sets can be used for names (I'm 鳥家禽!) then I suggest that as soon as the feature hits, everyone access preferences and check Usernames in the General tab. This will mean that you can still address people with some form of their name. Even if it is Spartacus (Web).

Both the announcement blog post and the Wiki mentioned a few reasons why The Lab is making this change and the reasons sound very good. But like most changes I wonder about the quality of execution. As it stands I see a fiasco in the making. Aside from the Residents who don't like change, aside from the various levels of identity theft, I see Noobies and the Search engine alike being confused and upset. I don't see how this will help the Golden First Hour of a Resident's life. Best that this feature be initially hidden. Let it be an "unlockable" item like the Advanced menu. And if the Search database needs up to 72 hours for changes to propagate through then more Lindens need to be fired and faster ones hired. 24 hours maximum should be the limit. If this feature is supposed to be a benefit, execute it in such a fashion that it truly is a benefit. Consider that the Wiki states "All Residents can see your Display Name by default. However, to emphasize your username, don't set your Display Name."

/me holds her head in confusion. Wait ... does /me change now, too?

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P.S., I still can't try the feature on the Beta grid, as the Wiki states is possible, with any viewer I've tried (12:48pm).

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Viewer 2.x & The Coming Snowstorm

On August 16th, Linden Lab announced Project Snowstorm (Web), a new viewer development plan and an unfortunate name choice all in one. Despite living in New England I can't say I'm fond of snow even if it doesn't arrive in a storm, but I'll give this one to The Lab since they are at least keeping in theme with the Snowglobe viewer. Let's hope it bodes well for the User (AKA, Residents) as their last effort, the V2.x viewer, has gotten a bad reception by many.

Repeating for clarity, Snowstorm is not itself a new viewer, but rather it is a process by which the next generation of viewers will be created. In short, we'll see more open communication from The Lab, faster release cycles, and all the stuff they promised with Snowglobe, but using different names and rubrics. I'll leave discussion and analysis of this to others (like the talented Tateru Nino and her recent blog post). Rather, I'd like to focus on what is right in Viewer 2 and how I think it should fit into Snowstorm.

"What?" you ask. "This won't be your take on Snowstorm?" No. Politics, sausage, and corporate organization are three things that one should not watch being made.

Since some one-third of Residents access the World via the Emerald Viewer (Web) and a considerable number of Residents pick yet other viewers, I have to admit there is some backlash against Viewer 2 and so I'm not surprised The Lab has quickly jumped at revamping access. But Viewer 2 works for me. Not 100%. No viewer does.

For me, Emerald is slow, crashy, and has too many security concerns (Web). Imprudence (Web) is better and my preferred viewer for in-world photography and accessing InWorldz, but (like Emerald) it still uses the 1.2x Viewer interface which I find hard on my eyes and lacks some features I like from Viewer 2. The Kirstens Viewer (Web) builds on the Viewer 2.x interface and I really like to use it save for the lack of one button. The coders there have, for some reason, decided that 2-3 clicks are needed to close the Sidebar window rather than the one click in The Lab's version.

So what makes Viewer 2 my favorite? The interface. The light text on dark backgrounds in dialog boxes, windows, menu bars, chat history, and IM windows is much easier for me to see. Chat gestures look funny in the new chat format, but that is a minor irritation. About the only thing I would change about chat is I'd like to see time stamps for Friends logging in and out. I sometimes see the message in the bottom right corner, but it isn't preserved anywhere.

Probably the biggest complaint about the Viewer 2 interface is the Sidebar. I like it. I like the Landmarks section, particularly, and I like that I can consistently look at one place for information. A few things are needed, however, and when I find a way to submit changes to Snowstorm I'll try to get them added. I'd like to be able to resize the frame or pop out any panel like the way Inventory can be popped out. Sometimes I need to see two or more Resident Profiles at one time. There is no way to do that in Viewer 2. A mini-menu should be brought back to the Inventory pane (or an option to have one given). Going through the little gear icon takes more time.

Everything else is comparatively minor, be it a praise-able item, a complaint, or a wish:

Praise: I like being able to set specific window sizes (Advanced > Set Window Size ...). I have a 27" iMac and I seldom need to run full out. Smaller windows reduce lag and make snapshots saved to my computer much more consistent.

Complaint: Some changes to Debug settings don't save across sessions. I prefer to set RenderVolumeLODFactor at 4 to make sculpties rez more accurately. Unfortunately, I have to set it often.

Wish: Go look at the Mini-Map that Imprudence uses then bring it to the next release from The Lab. It has radar and is loaded with a lot of useful information. And Noobs can turn all that off. While you are at it, let me see a clean Mini-Map if I want. Let me turn off color-coded splotches so I can see just the terrain and the little green dots.

Praise: Annoyingly large, blue drop-down boxes used for simple notifications are reduced to small, simple pop-ups at the bottom left corner and are archived in their own little menu for when a dozen things try to get your attention all at once.

Complaint: SLurls created by copy/pasting the Navigation Bar contents create problems for users of other viewers. I can paste http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Menagerie%20Island/128/128/47 into chat or an IM and Viewer 2.0 users can click to visit with no problems. Those on v1.2x-based viewers have to wait for a Web page to pop-up then click a link then wait for a viewer message then pull their hair out. Those users are given http://slurl.com/secondlife/Menagerie%20Isle/128/128/47/ as the format when they copy/paste SLurls from the Map. We need some consistency across viewers.

Like & Wish: Can a girl get confirmation that the Lost Inventory Bug I tried to have fixed and was soundly ignored is now fixed (Web)? I like the Outfits feature in Viewer 2 but I'm afraid to use it again.

As you can see, any viewer is going to have quirks and features that some Residents hate or can't live without. Despite being a fairly cutting-edge group, though, I feel that most Residents aren't open to change. And Viewer 2 was a big, BIG change. What I hope the Snowstorm team comes away with from (hopefully) listening to the Residents about the Viewer 2 experience is that we all want something different than what someone else wants. Noobs want and need Simple. Casual Users need Consistency and Reliability. Power Users need more control (and are willing to put up with some lack of reliability ... it's a geek thing). But we all need to feel like we are part of the Community. We've had "Your World; Your Imagination" taken away. If you now take away our Sense of Place then you take away much of our desire to stay with Second Life.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

No Reason At All - Bunny Edition

My Second Life® is no longer filled with bunnies. They've been given away or sold. Well, two still have my name on them, but as far as I'm concerned they belong to someone else and I'm just waiting to transfer them. Too many people I know were hurt during a recent debacle with an in-world bunny "game" and I can no longer in good conscience give my money to the owners. For me it was a hobby. A way to share experience with my friends and to help others. Now it has become a black subject.

For now I'll stay in the game group (I still assist others and begrudgingly have to buy bunny food at times, so I'm still a customer) but I'm bunny-free. Just some nice pics are left and some happy memories I refuse to let the ill-advised behavior of others tarnish.

Check out these sites if you are confused or if you want more information:

Wrongly Accused Ozimal Customer: Points out that many of the problems involved grid issues, that investigations were not conducted, and that customers were not given due process.

Bragg v. Linden Lab: Reminds us that The Lab's Terms of Service (ToS) is inherently unenforceable and thus the bunny game ToS is unenforceable, particularly since the ToS is not given before one makes a purchase to join.

Bunnies left to right in the pic: Pedoretes, Reekalf, Antioch, Caerbannog. I'm in the middle.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Viking Bunnies?

My friend Zyx Flux makes some adorable clothes for Ozimal® bunnies and her latest is the Fierce Viking Set for only L$90, available at her shop on Menagerie Isle (SLurl). You get a complete set for each ear style, Upright, Lop, and Half-Lop, plus a helmet you can wear, too! Each helmet is scripted to change texture.

Monday, July 19, 2010

New XStreet, New Problems

It wasn't that long ago that The Lab announced a revamp of the Web-based Second Life® shopping service, XStreetSL (Web). It is now called Second Life Marketplace and it looks pretty much like the previews we were given. No "live" previews that I could find, though hints were given that one could see it early. If I had learned earlier than today that my Favorites, Rated/Unrated Items, and Wish List items would be gone with the revamp, I would have complained at the time. Now I'm looking for a place to bring this to someone's attention though I'm sure the typical Deaf Ear that The Lab is famous for having will be turned. I should have known something was up when the Purchase as Gift option stopped working a month ago.

My Favorites was a great way to quickly access frequently purchased items and to think about possible purchases. Now I have to search for them all again and likely bookmark them in my browser. Or, I could just Landmark the store, buy the items in-world, and tell The Lab "screw you and your commission". Not as convenient, but there is a satisfaction factor.

Rated/Unrated Items was also a great way to track my purchases. I loved giving feedback and, with one exception (see here), helped good relations with many merchants. Maybe I'll be able to rate items I purchase in the new design. The Reviews feature is not available at this time and for the items I've checked, all my ratings and comments from previous purchases are gone.

Wish List? How little I knew ye. I seldom used it but I was making an effort. It was a nusiance but I wanted to use it. Really. There seems to be a new Wish List, non-functional at the moment, but I can't find my old one.

The good news? The design looks nice, many features seem to be merchant-friendly, and the search/sort features remind me of shopping at Amazon.com, though a friend of mine says the new layout is a clone of the shopping area for the game The Sims (Web). I don't see it. Not enough positives for me, however, to make up for the losses, especially with The Lab's recent changes that log my out of all the Web pages tied to SecondLife.com if I'm idle for a few minutes.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

In-World Broadcasts Idea

My friend Marianne McCann has proposed a sort of "Emergency Broadcasting System" to be implemented in a future Second Life viewer update so that messages of critical importance would be shown on the viewers of everyone logged in-world at the time. This would supplement the Grid Status Page, I'm sure, and keep folks from having to check the Web frequently just on the chance there is something important going on. Genius. And Mari's idea is genius, too. Check out VWR-20081 on the JIRA for more information and to vote for it (if you want, but ... who wouldn't?). Of course, the Lindens can send grid-wide Blue Notes (or whatever color they are on the 2.0 viewers), but so many people just click through them without thinking. Mari's idea would be harder to ignore.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

SL7B: TeleOctoscope

I'm not entirely sure what this is, really. A TeleOctoscope is what the maker calls it. What I am sure of is that this is one of the coolest builds in all of the Second Life 7th Birthday regions. Go. Go now (SLurl). Grab the freebie. Follow the instructions. Have a great time.

The Destination Guide (Web) has other great places to visit at the party (search for SL7B) and elsewhere in-world.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

SL7B: Unexpected Childhoods

A "Must See" at the Second Life Birthday celebration is "Unexpected Childhoods" (SLurl) the exhibit from SLebrity Marianne McCann and Pygar Bu. It features the stories of why some of SL's brightest and most creative residents choose to use "kid" avatars in-world. As I builder, I appreciate the quality of the design and it's craftsmanship (craftskidship?), but as someone who actually "lives" in SL, I appreciate more the depth of the experience conveyed through this whimsical ode to being oneself, regardless of the exterior presentation.

Other great exhibits can be found via the Destination Guide (here or via the viewer in-world), just search for SL7B. The official blog (Web) is another good way to keep up with events and places for the celebration.

SL7B: Babel

One of the more creative builds at Second Life's 7th Birthday party is from Babel Translations and Text Creations (SLurl), an SL Solutions Provider. Peter Stindberg didn't use Glow as a weapon, like many of this year's builds, but instead combined it with a fun particle system to make the exhibit light and interesting. Before you know it, you are learning about how his company's translation services are superior to using machine translations. While there, look for the clever "Babel Language Kiosk," a freebie that lets you drop in note cards with translated material to distribute rules, sales info, or the like to customers and visitors. Sure, you still have to get someone to translate the stuff for you in the first place and I'm sure Peter hopes you choose his company.

Several other creative builds are near the Babel exhibit so plan some time to explore. Of course, to learn more about where to go and what to see, check out the official SL7B blog (Web) or check back here for more of my posts.