Monday, February 28, 2011

Making the Shot - Flaws

Sometimes when I take pictures I get too excited and forget to look at the little things. When I used film, I had a shooting ratio of about 8:1 for assignments ... I'd take eight pictures to get one that was acceptable. So on a 36-expsoure roll I'd get four to five keepers. Other students had far lower ratios, but I got much better grades. For studio work my ratio was more like 3:1, depending on the subject. At a seminar, a Kodak photographer told me that the typical ratio for his staff was 100:1 for each image used in advertising or promotion. Then again, they got free film. In Second Life, this is not an issue. Shoot, shoot, shoot. But I find myself taking fewer images than I would in Real Life, so on today's assignment I finished up with only three images when I closed the Viewer and headed to post-production. Fortunately, one was a keeper.

My "job" was to make a Real World picture for my alt's profile (Web). Zyx Resident used to have this picture for that spot. No, that isn't me (or her, but since she is me ...). I haven't had freckles like that in at least 5 years and I don't wear eye-liner. Though that is my attitude and its a really great picture. It fooled lots and lots of people. Think about it ... how many people do you know post an honest-to-goodness Real World picture of themselves in their profile? I did once, but it violated ToS (too revealing), so it was there for five minutes to shock my wife and friends.

In keeping with the "My First Life is really another avie" idea in her profile, I thought it would be funny to shoot her in a non-pixy skin as if she really was just an avie in the Real World. I shot two pictures with one pose and another one with a second pose then closed the viewer. That is when I noticed the flaws with my first choice. First, I had a bad composition. Try to never have things touching your subject's head. This is not a hard and fast rule, but it can keep folks from getting the impression that something is growing out of your subject's head. On a similar note, never crop in camera or out on an elbow, wrist, or other joint if you can help it. Viewers tend to get uncomfortable. The second issue was a virtual world limitation. Her hair falls through her body ... object occlusion. That could be fixed in post but I hate to do that. The last problem I noticed is also from being virtual ... mesh stretching on her upper thigh. It's just the way our avie work. If there had been less of a pattern on the pants there might have been less of an issue.

Here's the final result, cropped to fit the format and all the flaws removed. Well, the only alteration other than the cropping was to add 0.1 Gaussian Blur to help with aliasing. A simple, L$10 skin then some L$10 eyes and she's human! But she's still all pixy ... pixy dust trailed her as she flew off the set after the last shot. There is a board "growing" through her head, but the two points of continuity make it a moot point. The cropping is on both forearms, though the right arm (on your left) is closer to the wrist than I'd like, but cropping higher would throw off the image balance. The one small bit of horizontal board in the top left bothers me, but I could just be nit-picking. The biggest issue is again the stretching of the mesh at mid-torso. Some fancy retouching could fix that, but I don't think most folks will notice or care considering the puny size the image expands to when you click on it in her profile. The leading lines of the structure emphasizes Zyx's face, drawing they eye from the problem spot. Helping this is the placement of the face in the upper left quadrant of the image, the place most Westerners first look in a photograph provided there are no very bright areas that initially attract the eye.

Next project? Similar treatment for my Zyx Flux alt's profile (Web). Her Real World picture gets her way too much attention.

Art Dreams

Recently I've come across a couple pictures that I'd love to re-create in Second Life, if I had the skill and the resources.

The first you may recognize from the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy (Web), the dramatic carved cliff faces near the waterfalls. While I don't have the talent to create the sculpts myself, I think I could make something similar. Maybe showing the work in progress so I could stick with prims that simply evoke the final image and lay out the trappings of a carver's worksite. Or make the sculptures more architectural, avoiding the human form entirely. Something like the carvings at Petra, in Jordan (Web), creating the facades of buildings or individual elements like columns. Another idea is to make something like the Arc de Triomphe in Paris (Web). The JD Mechanical Toy Factory in Second Life (SLurl) has a wonderful arch that could probably be adapted for such a purpose.

Maybe floating islands are a bit trendy, but the concept is really timeless, and as this picture shows, the reason everyone loves them is the magical beauty. I have a wonderful small castle from a builder that seems to no longer be in-world, but it would look great in this context. Likely I'd want to use some of it's construction details to replicate this specific image. And I'd need to add to the floating island sculpts that I have to make a "chunk" like this one, perfectly suited for the structure. The two blend beautifully, the castle being very site-specific so the two form an "organic" whole.

I have folders full of wonderful architecture art and photos, some having been ear-marked as possible projects in Second Life should circumstances and talent permit. But these two are very high on the list.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Second Life Art

Just now I'm standing outside one of my favorite shops, PrimOptics in Terra Toulouse (SLurl), wondering where I can scare up some L$600 for a couple new pair of eyeglasses and admiring this wonderful "tree" in the roundabout. Second Life has some fabulous art, whether it is possible to replicate in Real Life or not. This piece might be one, save for the means to suspend the cubes with something more than a miracle, but this would be a magical sight to encounter just as it is in our virtual world.

Head north along the street for some nice paintings in an outdoor gallery if you'd like to explore.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Freebie Alert!

Kaikou Splash has a new Hunt Gift! Find 10 gold coins at his shop and you can get this wonderful Mini Hover Craft! Biased Promotional Plug in 3,2,1 ... Kaikou is a friend and I used to live next to his shop, Splash Aquatics. Take time to explore the wonderful aquarium as you hunt for coins (I bet some are there) and enjoy the rest of this beautiful place.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Snippy About Glow in Snaps

Since I can't complain about a bug that I created in Second Life pictures (as shown in the last two posts), I have to fall back on an oldie but a goodie: Astigmatic Glow. For some time now, even before viewer 2.x was released if I recall correctly, I've had to put up with the glow in prims smearing like the viewer's "camera" has an astigmatism. Several examples can be seen throughout my blog, like this one from my post about the SL7B Time Capsule. The red ball in that pic has a glow to the left of it and you can see other faint examples in the same pic.

Can you spot it in this one? Look at the white flowers on the right in particular. The maker set them to Glow and the astigmatism has spread the glow toward the left and onto the rock. Same for the yellow/orange flowers and the rune on the rock ... a definite smear to toward the left. For this picture, the effect isn't that noticeable and not much of a detraction. If I were to add some blur to emphasize the subject then the whole point would be moot.

If you aren't sure whether you see it or not, here is a screen cap (cropped to fit roughly the same view). Disregard the outline on my wings, please, and the HUDs ... I didn't do anything to hide them (to freeze my avie in a pose I Edit a prim and that locks the animation so the only parts that move are the eyes). Notice the astigmatic smears are gone. The picture also seems crisper to me, but that might be hard to tell in these examples. I'm guessing there is an over all astigmatism, possibly due to most everything in the scene having a touch of Glow to it or being near something that does.

Where the problem becomes most critical is when small objects or parts of objects have glow. I saw this yesterday when I posted about a nice freebie for the Lucky Kitty Crew. Here is the picture I wanted, but due to the "bug" that moved the toy's eye glow, I had to reshoot with a screen cap to publish. Now, in a picture like this I'm sure many a reader is looking not at the toy on my shoulder but rather on "toys" a bit lower, but my intent had been to crop anyway (as seen in the actual post). Here it looks like the little artist is shooting flames at critics or being generally evil.

Until this can be fixed by someone, I'll be practicing Command-Shift-F1, the keyboard shortcut for Apple users to hide the viewer UI (meaning I'll have to change how the F keys work in Settings first ... *sigh*) then hiding HUDs or looking into the Film Maker settings that the Kirstens Viewer offers (Web) so I can take my pictures via screen caps when they are really important.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Still Snippy About Snaps

I'll take the blame.

Following up on yesterday's post about image distortion in Second Life, I did some experimenting to see if other viewers have the same bug. Midway through testing with the Alpha release Phoennix-Firestorm viewer (Web) it occurred to me that I was using a 1920px x 1080px (HD spec) window yet I was setting the snap size to 2048px x 2048px, the size I use whenever I have the viewer set to fill the screen on my 27" iMac. This must have forced the water in the scene to show its tile pattern, remove shaders, and other nasty things that I've seen in other pictures. Trying the same shot with the size set within the window size limits, everything was fine. /me slaps her own wrist ...

That will learn me, I guess. Reminds me of the time I was given a camera by someone and took their word for it that there was film inside. After that fiasco I was hard pressed to ever grab any camera without checking for tension in the rewind knob, even if the the camera back had a film canister ID window. From here on out I'm going to do my best to shoot with the viewer maximized and checking all the snap settings at each setup, even for casual pictures.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Snippy About Snaps

This image makes me a bit angry. Understand, mind you, that photography is one of my loves in Real Life. I spent most of my middle school and high school life with a camera around my neck or in my pocket or both, always as a part of an independent study art class. My preference is reportage-style regardless of the subject, though not for journalism. This means I like to capture a scene with as little manipulation as possible, relying primarily on natural light, composition, timing, exposure, focal length, depth-of-field, and shutter speed, rather than on exotic lighting, filters, or post-processing to express my vision of "truth" in the final image. None of my work has been exhibited since high school, and, admittedly, I don't take many pictures any more. But I'd like to do more in Second Life. The tools are more limited in many senses, but there are some very unique creative opportunities. But at least one technical issue is getting my goat and parading it back and forth, mocking me.

Take this picture, for example (click for a larger view if Blogger lets you). Compare the water in this one to the water in the first shot. What you see here is what I saw on my screen. Yet when I used the Snapshot tool in the Official viewer or in the Phoenix viewer, the water appears as you see it in the first image, each and every time. The nice color and gradation is gone, replaced with a harsh sea below the horizon. In other pictures I've snapped, you can tell the water is a tiled texture because some squares will have different "waves" or reflections or even color.

Here is the real rub: I'd report it, but my experience with Second Life support over the years is spotty, at best. A bug like this won't get fixed. No bug I've ever had like this ... stripes on the landscape, stripes on my skin, patchwork invisibility in water and ground textures, and other examples never got fixed. They went away or became as frequent as rain in the Sahara when new viewers were introduced, but fixes were never made.

I can edit this bug this in post, though I'd rather not. It isn't my style. What I'll probably end up doing is composing differently "in camera." And choosing my settings with more care. Or going through the hassle of cropping screen captures. There is some really spectacular water in Second Life and I'd hate to exclude it.


Someone is going to ask: The location is ground level at the Forest Floor store (SLurl), a gorgeous place to visit ... just magical enough. The Windlight preset is [TOR] Wuxia Nights. The outfit is a Bare Rose members-only freebie called "Spades Kang Shirt" (though it comes with the pants you see and I tinted the belt red). No post processing on either of these pictures.

Deep Deep

I love exploring little, out-of-the-way places, and Deep Deep (SLurl) with its shore-front setting is going to be a favorite. With a rustic, homey tavern, a pastry cafe, and a steamy spa, this is a great place to relax. The attention to realistic detail is phenomenal yet there are magical qualities if you look closely enough. The textures are wonderful, they layout is imaginative yet comfortably "normal." I really like this place.

Partly for the pastry cafe. It has a suprising number of liquor bottles compared to what I'm used to seeing in Real Life, but look at the licence plate in this pic ... that's the kind of stuff you would see in such shops where I live. So pull up some coffee, kick back, and have a nice chat. You'll find this cafe is very inviting.

A warm and cozy tiny tavern is near by, with a bar, a piano, and a wonderful rocking chair next to a fireplace. With lots of poses in the rocker, you'll find yourself spending a lot of time here, I bet. It is perfect near the fire and you can warm your toes on the cute little kitty cat, too. Outside is a big dog, just as you'd expect. Whomever laid out this place seems to have put just about everything in just the right place. The snowy window next to the piano is a bit disconcerting, with no snow outside, but this is SL, after all. Stop thinking and just sit back to enjoy.

The spa is a bit steamy, but it does have a nice couples cuddle and if the environment is "sweater weather" as everything seems to indicate, a real spa would be that steamy as it reacts with the cold. The location is perfect, with a great view out to sea. I'd put one in that spot, too. It feels right.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

New Eyes

For a long time I've used and recommended Prismatic Natural Eyes from Santana Lumiere's Nevermore Studios, wearing the green #86 myself since September 3, 2006 with infrequent changes. At L$25 they are great quality and a good price. Last I saw, my wife still wears the purply #84. The whole collection is hard to come by, though, with only a few now available on the SL Marketplace. None of these were acceptable to a noob I was helping so we buckled down and did some research. Lo and behold, I now use a new set, retiring the Prismatics to rest with the dozens of other sets I've managed to collect. My new eyes are from BSN (store SLurl) and are simply called Green Eyes (yah ... really basic name there). A great bargain for L$10 (though you can get a set with 5 colors for L$30).

In this split-image picture, the eye on the right (my left) is the Prismatic. I love the shading of the iris and the little flecks of brown. On the left (my right) is the new BSN eye. The sclera is much more natural. I wish I could combine the two, but overall I prefer the new ones. Now to decide if I want to be blue-eyed most of the time or stick with my real life-like green eyes. Yes, I bought a few pair ... I did mention I have a lot of eyes in my inventory.

Friday, February 18, 2011

What's in My Closet: Caucasian Pixy

While my pixy alts are an extension of me, I try to adhere to a semi-formal set of behavior and appearance guidelines to keep them as magical folk. For example, most sources indicate that Real Life pixies (if there are such a thing ... and there are) tend to be colorful, mostly blue-skinned, creatures. So when Epic Skins (store SLurl) released a preview of some new skins to group members, I was less than excited. Yes, I'm sure they were nice skins as Jade Winthrop, the owner, makes very high quality goods. But I wasn't wrong in thinking "they'll be caucasian" and not for pixies. As group membership cost L$250 I grabbed it, though, to get value out of every penny of my sign-up fee. It turns out "Elfin-Miriel in Mocha" (with or without Cleavage) is very, very nice. The eye tattoos are adorable. And I was able to use a pre-set in the SLink "Sachara Elf Ears" (store SLurl) to match tones, quickly making a non-blue pixy. I love the slightly parted lips showing a bit of teeth. And danged if the little bugger doesn't look all grown up and sexy. I must remember she's sort of a "child avie" when I wear this skin in the future ... or the whole set I'm thinking of buying when it is released.

A new outfit from Worldwide Industries (store SLurl) coordinates wonderfully with the skin. "Hellbent Corseted Tank in Dark Gray with Striped Smoky Pants" comes with several layers for modesty or naughtiness or to mix-match with other outfits. It is a bargain at the L$350 regular price but as part of a "Five Random Outfits for L$5 Each" sale, I practically stole it yesterday (selection changes daily through the end of this calendar month). My usual avie has so many clothes from this shop that I've made a folder just for them. Worldwide's outfits and separates are usually a bit to "racy" for my little pixy, but she has a few of the cuter, "girly" outfits the shop sells.

Some of you are going to ask, so ... the hair is "Airy" in Obsidian from ETD, a discontinued style (If I was wealthy, I'd try to buy all of Elika Tiramisu's old inventory to sell to noobs), and the necklace is part of the G.G. Addicted "Infinity" set (store SLurl). Zyx's usual tattoo didn't render for some reason, but you can see her customary "Blue Skies Dragonfly Wings" from Material Squirrel (store SLurl) and the pixy antenna are from Epic, same shop the skin is from. Her eyes are from a bargain-priced neko set at Negaposi (store SLurl).

All-in-all, Zyx makes a cute pixy, be she blue or caucasian. Magic is in the heart and the attitude, anyway, which this skin and outfit certainly enhance.

Sunday Drive, on Friday!

Whilst roaming about in search of a nice set of eyes that someone told me about I came across Saber's Cubcar Races & Fun Center (SLurl) and totally forgot what I was doing. It was a blast to rez one of these monowheel cars and simply race around the track. After a while I discovered a high gear and went even faster. Taking a break, I tried the Battle Boats but without an opponent to shoot at, it wasn't much fun so I went back for another couple laps on the track. Weeeeeee!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

We Welcome Our Social Overlords

According to an entry on the official Second Life blog yesterday, customer service should improve, the world will be more deeply integrated into the Social Interwebs, plus our Second Lives will become much easier to manage and use. No word about everyone getting unicorns.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


One of the drawbacks of being a pixy is spiderwebs. Flying around, not a care in the world then *wham* into a spiderweb you go. Be careful if you go flying around the Elderglen Infohub (SLurl). The spiders aren't just in the graveyard.

Windlight Preset: [CB] Rouge 1
Water: Black with no fog
Facelight: B@R Face Light v4 (1.22.11) Test2-Night
Post-Process: None

BTW: The water didn't look like that in the viewer. Some odd reflections and cropping (for lack of a better word) have been showing up in pix with water lately. But this is acceptable.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Privacy Settings in v2.5 Viewer

Web-based profiles are now the standard as The Lab has released their v2.5 Second Life viewer (Web) and an important part of the new profiles is privacy settings. When you open your profile in-world (not on the Web, oddly enough, unless you go to this page while logged into the Second Life Website) click the Privacy Settings button next to your name (see pic) and you'll be taken to another page where you can set whether just your friends, just Second Lifers, or anyone with Interwebs access can see your groups, your picks, and your classifieds. If you don't use the Official Viewer, your profile is still on the Interwebs unless you say otherwise. Access your profile via the viewer as described above to set your preferences if this is an issue for you.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

What's in My Closet? Celtic Pixywear

As if she doesn't have enough clothes, my big pixy alt (Zyx) just had to have another outfit, this one from a good friend and a superior builder (design to execution, she's tops), Kaelin Westland. The outift, KK Fantasy Celtic Princess, is available only on the SL Marketplace and is a good deal at L$250 for the jewelry, halter, skirt, and thong you see here. Zyx also indulged in new hair from elikatira (SLurl) with the Melody style in the Essential Colors pack, also L$250 from my purse. Then she headed off to Fina's Market Photography Garden (SLurl) for this picture. A smidge of brightening in post production added to the use of the "Foggy" Windlight preset and a very weak face light. I mention "weak" because it is a rather cool adjustable unit that is free on the SL Marketplace. Click the pic for a larger version. I'm thinking of shooting again to work on the purplish local lights effect seen on Zyx's left side (our right as you are viewing).

Friday, February 11, 2011

Making the Real World Virtual

The Holy See has published a spherically 360º panorama of the Sistine Chapel interior (Web). Use the arrow keys on your keyboard or click-drag your mouse to move about then use the mouse scroll wheel to zoom. The detail is amazing! I once saw a really nice replica of the Chapel in Second Life, but I can't remember where.

Footnote: Geometricians are welcome to tell me the correct term for a view that is "spherically 360º" in appearance.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Stay Puft Marshmallow Man

Tomorrow's party at the Isle of Lesbos is "Best in Freebies" (or something like that) so I started poking through my avatar folder and found one that I hadn't even opened yet, the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. I had blogged about it for the Lucky Kitty Crew after I visited the Cat Dirt shop, the place where I found the avatar (a set, actually ... a huge one and a small one). Then I just had to visit New York City. There were several on the map, so I went to the one here. Apparently, the sim owner had seen the movie Ghostbusters, too, as you can see from these pictures.

Just gotta love Second Life, huh?

Kirstens Viewer (So Far)

As I mentioned a few days ago, I'm using the Kirstens S21 viewer (v2.6; Web) for a week, and though I have found myself slipping back to the Official Viewer now and then, I would have to say that I rather like Kirstens so far. While I get the impression that it takes longer to load new views (such as slow texture loading after a teleport) and that it takes more system resources, the only confirmable gripe I can make is that I crash more often with Kirstens if there is an intensive graphics upload. A good example is that in this very moment I'm writing here. I was camming to take pictures for a new post on the Lucky Kitty blog and the application crashed after making my hard drive run crazy for a few moments.

I had a successful recovery so on with the list of (mostly) positive comments, in no particular order:
  • Each time you start the application, a new and often interesting place is featured in the bilboard. Plus, you can click Change Background to see another one.
  • In the S21 menu is a My Useful Features sub-menu with "Stop Animating Me," "Rebake Textures," and more handy things to know.
  • You can change how close you need to be to see Hover Text, via Preferences > Graphics > Advanced > Misc No more Hover Text pollution!
  • Faster access to Windlight controls in the World > Environment menu.
  • You can use the tabbed sidebar like in the Official Viewer or you can set each function as a button in the bottom task bar. Some task bar buttons are available even if you use the sidebar.
  • The Nearby option in the People window has it's own Mini-Map with a scan range function in the sortable list. You can also track people, see your distance to them, and manage avatar permissions.
  • Web Profiles. Well, I'm not a fan of Web profiles, but it is nice to see them in Kirstens so I can get used to them. Sometimes it takes a couple tries to open anyone's profile.
  • The Inventory has a Worn button, but it duplicates the same option in the My Appearances sidebar. Items are not sorted by folder.
  • Right-click on any object and Delete is immediately available without having to find it in the Remove sub-menu.
  • A Draw Distance slider is accessible in the menu bar, allowing for quick changes that can reduce lag.
  • It takes several steps, but Always Fly is available if you show the Admin Menu, hidden in the Develop Menu, accessible via the Advanced Menu (whew ... lots of steps).
  • One button access to Preferences and Advanced Sky options right in the Navigation Bar.
  • All the Official Viewer features that I like are still here, but various menus and 'bars' can be easily customized in various ways.
There are an amazing number of features in Kirstens that I don't use, such as Shadows (they don't like my graphics card), other extensive lighting controls, and a menu with fast adjustment options for filmmakers, to mention a few. And I have a few minor gripes, such as no matter what I try I can't see a aggregate prim count if I edit a linked or coalesced set of objects and Linden water sometimes flashes like a tawdry neon sign. Every viewer has it's issues, though, and there are many things to like about Kirstens. I can see myself making it my standard viewer, but first I have to nail down why it seems slower than the Official Viewer in side-by-side tests.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Fast and Slow of it

According to a Brain Slug I know, Second Life avatars walk at six miles-per-hour (MPH) (9.66KPH) and they run at 10 MPH (16.09 KPH). Exhaustive Googling and Binging and Asking on the Interwebs reveals that average Real Life avatars tend to walk eight to 10 MPH and runs between 10 to 17 MPH.

Get your own Brain Slug, one of several random fun prizes, from a carnival game wheel in Vintage Village (SLurl).

Monday, February 7, 2011

Making the Shot - Verdigris

A scenic, cleverly designed and constructed place in Second Life that I don't manage to visit as often as I should or would like is Vintage Village in Verdigris (SLurl). But I was there today and it struck me "Is this the place that the Windlight preset 'Verdigris' is designed to enhance?" So, naturally, I took a picture as such. Well, a few pictures. Thinking ahead I set my graphics to Ultra after the establishing shot, cranked up every setting that wasn't thusly maxed, and worked on the composition. When I thought further, I decided to play with the water settings, too.

The first pic uses just the High graphics settings that I normally run with the sun set to midday and no other "in-camera" adjustments and no post-process work. As you can see, the 128m draw distance does the scene no justice and the sky is very lackluster. Normally when I use midday as the primary setting I will go into the sky settings and tweak the clouds until they are attractive. In hindsight, I should have done that for the subsequent pictures, but I usually forget something on any shoot. Fortunately, it is never the lens cap.

The second pic is the same scene with all the graphics tweaks I mentioned and the Verdigris Windlight settings. Much, much better. This is the reason I often use this preset for every day wandering. This is nice enough that I could really walk away at this point and do something else because it really works. Looking carefully, though, with a nagging thought that something wasn't right, I decided to try something else.

The third pic is essentially the same, but I turned the water fog off. Often when swimming or diving in tropical waters I'll cut the water fog in half for a more natural effect, turning it back up to the default or higher when I go below 20m. I think turning it off entirely here gives a more natural reflection of the hue in the sky. For fun, I tried various colors with the fog set to about half. None of these did more than make me smile so I didn't save any of them, but it did give me another idea.

The fourth pic shows the water fog turned up a bit (probably near half) but the color changed to black. Much better, I think. Just what I was aiming for without having to resort to post-process work. As I like the some of the clouds in the third picture, something I could do in post is blend the two. Or I could just go back and shoot again. Maybe tweak the composition a bit to make it less static or to make it seem like the clock tower is not holding up the bridge. Sure, that is only a first impression, but those count.

I could take the first "raw" shot and simulate the Windlight setting and water changes offline, but that would be a waste of tools. Growing up into the photo hobby as a kid, I was taught early to always take one or more unadulterated, technically correct pictures before playing with filters or exposure settings. That way if you had ideas after you got to the darkroom, you had material to play with then.

If clicking these images doesn't enlarge them, you can see them on my Flickr stream.

I Don't LIKE Facebook

Hamlet Au of New World Notes once again writes about Facebook, this time bringing up the idea that "liking" an in-world place somehow relates to popularity. Many of the comments shoot down this idea but one comment asked "... why are you trying to push us onto Facebook?" I just had to post my two $Lindens-worth, as follows.

I actively dislike Facebook. There are serious privacy issues, I rapidly grew tired of all the "XXXX has a carrot from their farm to share with you" messages and the like when I tried it, plus I found very little actual utility to it. What is equally annoying is that Linden Lab is turning lemming by trying to make Facebook a part of their service experience.

Attention Corporate Overlords: There is no need for me to use Facebook to enter your contests, apply for your coupons or product rebates, or to show my loyalty in any way other than continuing to give you my money for your product or service. If you want to give me information, it can be provided via e-mail, your Websites, or other forums that do not require me to risk identity theft, expose me to personal attacks by people with more time on their hands than they have morals in their being, or require me to remember one more password. Please do not continue to marginalize Facebook non-users. Treat us with respect and we really will "like" you.

Dang Big Food

I found a fridge made by Alexto Rau and I'm impressed. Look at the size of that milk jug. Maybe 20 gallons? But I'd love to have that 3 pounds of blueberries and the gallon of Snapple Iced Tea. Right, that's enough making fun of the item. To make up for it, here's the SLurl for Mr Rau's shop.

Saturday, February 5, 2011


Certain conditions preclude me from enjoy Real Life much as others do. I'm pretty much over my agoraphobia and my anthropohobia is well-managed at this time, truly better living through chemistry, but I'm still a homebody. One of the attractions of Second Life is that I can do things in the virtual world that I can't or that I find difficult in meatspace. I don't mean things like scuba diving, hang gliding, hunting dinosaurs, and the like. But merely going out in a crowd of people whom I don't know where I can be bumped, touched, groped or stuck in an elevator. If I could send my Second Life avatar out as a surrogate for me, I'd probably do it.

And such is the MacGuffin of the 2009 Bruce Willis movie, Surrogates, a sleeper non-hit that is absolutely brilliant. I just finished watching it with fascination and revulsion. In this fictional world, people can stay at home while connecting via brainwaves to an android as a surrogate they send out into the world, with full sensory capabilities and not a few minor super powers. Like a Second Life avatar, these surrogates can be customized or idealized? Is your meatbag-self not buxom enough? Too portly? Bald? Old? Your surrogate doesn't have to be. Worried about being crushed by an out-of-control train? Your surrogate isn't.

There is enough action, including some nice chase scenes, to satisfy the casual moviewatcher and most teenage boys, but if you are the type of person that thinks about the ideas, then you will be deeply satisfied with this film because it supports its more-than-cursory examination of the morals of using surrogates by sometimes too subtly examining how society shapes and is shaped by the use of advanced technology. This would be a great date movie, if I could work up the courage to date, as there is plenty to talk about on many levels after the show.

In The Matrix (1999), its sequel movies, and similar movies (and countless books or short stories), people move into a virtual space, leaving their corporeal selves in the Real World. A fantastic idea that could evolve from Second Life. You would think that fiction taking this angle would often approach the psycho-social aspects of the technology, but I've yet to see (or read) works that do. At least much, that is. Phillip K. Dick's "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep" (Web) is deeper than its pretty deep theatrical counterpart, Blade Runner (1982), but I'm at a loss to think about other counterparts. Clearly, I need to read more and watch more movies. A good excuse to stay at home.

I wonder how Second Life would be different if it had the ability to be permit true, virtual surrogates for its users. Certainly, there would be more government oversight. And the economy would scale up. Relationships would become very, very complicated. Quite a bit to think about. But first, I think I'll watch Surrogates again.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Viewer Resources Use

After announcing in the previous post that I was going to use the Imprudence viewer (Web) for a week, I logged in with it and started to change my outfit for an event at the Isle of Lesbos only to find that multiple attachments per point and multiple textures per clothing layer are not supported. It shares many of my favorite features on the Phoenix viewer (Web) and has the best radar available (integrated into the Mini-Map ... epic WIN), but I need those layering and attachment options. So I loaded up the Kirsten's viewer (Web) to tackle the event, but it seemed so slow.

Later I decided to see which viewer really was the slowest by semi-scientifically checking the system resources usage of each under the same circumstances. I cleared caches, rebooted the computer, and started a fresh session of each viewer in turn while watching the Activity Monitor that I have running. I reached a few subjective conclusions right away. First, Kirsten's seems to load images more slowly. Imprudence tends to leave textures gray longer, particularly alpha textures. Phoenix makes me wonder how safe it is to use every time it starts. The Official Viewer freezes upon start up one in three times.

Each viewer continually uses up RAM as time passes, even if actual activity is minimal (I stood in a poorly populated area while wearing very little, draw distance set to 130m, and a mix of prim types around). And each uses more CPU time as the session length increases but they all top out at about 60% maximum, occasionally dropping lower. Kirsten's used between 43% and 63% over all, the broadest range and the lowest minimum. Interestingly, the Phoenix viewer used only 9 processor threads while the Kirsten's viewer used 12 threads.

Practically, all the viewers are about the same. How slow one is depends on how long it has been open, what is within my draw distance at the time, what else is running on my computer or network, and how cranky I am (the latter being measured by chocolate and Mt. Dew levels).

All this testing helped me to decide that rather than test the Imprudence viewer for a week, I'm going to run Kirsten's for a week. I missed the v2.x interface it uses and it has some new features found only in the Official Viewer's beta (Web), like logging in to a Favorited location and the new Web-based profiles. I'll keep you updated.

By the way, the pic in this post as nothing to do with the topic. It just seems fitting.

Phoenix Viewer Test Wrap-Up

Though I vowed to try the Phoenix viewer (Web) for a week, tossed in the towel after five days because I simply didn't like it. The primary problem is that I don't like the v1.x-style interface any more.

Things I liked, in no particular order:
  • The option to delete Landmarks when unpacking a box. This can usually be done with textures and note cards in other viewers, but when I'm opening several boxes from the same vendor, losing the Landmarks is good.
  • Bouncy Boobies. 'nuff said. Well, let me add that bouncy boobies don't play well with chest attachments, like prim clothes.
  • Windlight settings are saved per avatar. If I ran my Draw Distance at 128m but other users on my machine set higher/lower values, my settings remained when I logged in, for example.
  • Windlight settings per parcel. As mentioned in my January 31st post, parcel owners can set specific Windlight settings and the Phoenix viewer will change to them after asking permission. This needs to be added to the Official Viewer.
  • Remembering Resident Name on the Log-In screen. I didn't let the application remember passwords, though. I share this machine with another SL user. If I need his password, I know where to find it. And if the machine needs to go in for service, no one at that shop can access our accounts.
  • Radar. Tracking people via the radar is handy for security. As I'm writing this I'm helping with a Griefer attack in the Caledon sims.
  • Enable "Always Fly." This was removed from the "sneak around" setting to get in in the Official Viewer. It is pretty silly to have a region that encourages winged creatures to visit but won't let them fly.
  • The Profile panes and the pop-out pictures there in. I mentioned these in my February 3rd post.
  • The Worn tab in the Inventory. It duplicated the Current Outfit folder in the Inventory, but you can see the folders that each item is in, so you can remove things one folder at a time, rather than hunt for each alphabetically-listed link. This means that attachments and clothes can be removed in one pass.
  • Inventory filters. Right there in the header. Cool. Plus the Collapse and Expand buttons. Very handy.
  • Saving pictures as .png files. Very nice option. Not everyone likes the usual format. You can also save as .bmp or .jpeg files.
  • Temporary file uploads. I like the idea. I didn't try it.
  • Fast access to Windlight and Graphics settings. This "widget" at the bottom-right of the window let me quickly enhance my experience and control lag via adjusting graphics qualities. Implement this as an Advanced User option in the Official Viewer, please.
Things I didn't like, in no particular order:
  • Incoming chat taking up most of the screen. As with most of my dislikes, I feel that the Official Viewer handles this better. The text is less obtrusive, the area it uses is resizable, and the formatting is flexible. I don't need to pop up a "Communicate" window to manage how much screen real estate chat uses.
  • The Communicate window is annoying. "Haters" of the Official Viewer complain that the sidebar takes up too much space. Consider this, though ... the sidebar is collapsable. IMs appear in individual, hideable windows with chat bar-level activity indicators. I found myself running Phoenix full screen more often than not to make room for all the windows.
  • I can't pick useable window sizes for when I'm not running full screen. I usually run the Official Viewer at 1920 x 1080, a good size to see many things, it is not taxing the video card too much, and I can easily work with other windows.
  • Having to use my Inventory for Landmarks. The separate, collapsible pane is much handier, and works well with the fabulous Favorites bar and Navigation bar in the Official Viewer.
  • Radar. Nice to have, but very clunky to use and it takes up too much screen space.
Keep in mind that neither list here is wholly inclusive. I probably missed things in both. But in general, I don't need all the very advanced features that Phoenix offers and I find the Official viewer much more to my liking for speed, clarity for my visual impairments, and general features. There is a good chance that I'll still rely on Phoenix or other viewers for my "serious" in-world photography because of some of the features that I liked.

Now I'm going to try Imprudence (Web) for a week. Or as close to it as I can get. It still uses the older interface, but I know from using it almost exclusively before switching to the Official Viewer that it is pretty cool.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Phoenix Render Bug

And I can't get Voice to work at all.

Location, Location, Location

With the latest update that hit my Macintosh, I can use my iPad in one room to send content from iTunes on my desktop computer in a second room to my AppleTV in another room. What does this have to do with Second Life? Nuffin'. Its just cool. I'm still waiting to be able to stream DVDs from the computer to AppleTV, but that doesn't keep me from being impressed.

Texture Aspect Ratios

Since I've been using the Phoenix viewer for Second Life exclusively as a sort of test lately I've found that I still prefer the v1.x style profile panes versus the sidebar style in the v2.x viewer. Sadly, the two viewers mean that there are two standards for aspect ratios. Here is the official breakdown of just a few that most people use daily (full info here):

1.x Series Viewers
Profile > 2nd Life tab - ~4:3 (178x133 pixels)
Profile > Picks tab - 16:9 (288x162 pixels)
Profile > 1st Life tab - 1:1 (133x133 pixels)

2.x Series Viewers
Search > People - 4:3 (188x141 pixels)
Profile > 2nd Life tab - ~1:1 (100x99 pixels)
Profile > Picks thumbnail - 8:5 (88x55 pixels)
Profile > Pick expanded - ~5:3 (285x172 pixels)

As you can see, the v2.x viewer has its own issues if you look at what is needed for the two versions of a Pick. Most people won't care, honestly, for a couple reasons. Though I see most users are on the Official Viewer, so-called Power Users that might care about the issue use a Third Party Viewer and those are all pretty much of the v1.x type. Secondly, the majority of people take bad pictures for use in Profiles and Picks anyway. In-world photographers that sell their service for Profile use might do well to include all possible standards just in case.

In this example, the Profile pane on the right has a 1:1 aspect ratio picture squashed to 4:3 and you can see the really cool "pop-out" of pictures that the Phoenix viewer allows. The shot was created for my profile in the v2.x viewer and looks odd in the older profile panes. For some reason, the 1st Life pictures in both viewer standards are a 1:1 ratio. It would be nice if someone would set a standard and stick to it, but with Web-based profiles (Web) coming up (so The Lab can sell adverts tacked onto our information) I suppose consistency will have to wait. Don't color me suprised.

As an aside, I miss the old profile panes because folks could fill in an Interests panel, like this one I found the other day. It is great to see language preferences again and the witty comments that experienced users would add. Plus it is nice to see the My Notes pane again. I have mine filled with handy special characters and info I have to access often. I'll be copying it into a note card before I go back to the Official Viewer.

As I continue to use Phoenix for a week, I'm finding more pros and cons, but the texture issue bothered me a lot today for some reason. On cheery note, here's my 1st Life pane with pop-out (or is that "pop-outs?).

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Spot The Lesbians

The Phoenix viewer makes it easy to use an old geek trick in Second Life: Look At. When activated, crosshairs appear to show where various avatars have their camera focus and in this third-party iteration, user names are rendered with each crosshair. This makes it very easy to play Spot The Lesbians. Just hang out at a mixed-gender venue, preferably a nude beach, and watch where everyone's crosshairs go. I'm less likely to chat up a girl that tends to cam on men. This also lets you see which women are closet lesbians. I've met several women who have "no girls" stated in their profiles yet have consistently cammed to certain parts of my anatomy. Spotted!

I've also met others that use this feature to see who is checking them out so they know who to pursue. A habit of camming on everyone near me at some point or another formed from working security at the Isle of Lesbos and my "wandering eye" has been picked up by Look At-using men who have then tried their own pick up. I know. I asked.


Decay by Toxic Menges. A Second Life "Must See" (SLurl). The art alone is worth the visit, but the landscaping is stunning. If you have the Phoenix viewer, let it change the Windlight settings for you. Otherwise, follow the instructions from the note card you can get upon landing. Click the pic for a larger version.