Sunday, October 26, 2014

It's Alchemy!

Yesterday, when I kept crashing each time I tried to upload a texture or save a snapshot to my hard drive, I popped into the helpful Macinrosh Users group chat to see if anyone else had the same problem. "Me, too!" I was told by some and then came the inevitable "You should use Firestorm."


That viewer has been a lag-fest for a number of years, even when I disable as many of the toys as I can and drop my graphics preferences to below system recommendations. Look, I have a Late-2009 27" Apple iMac. It runs everything very well – especially since the last OS upgrade – but it really doesn't like Second Life and Second Life doesn't like it.

After making sure I was using the latest Official viewer and still having problems, I thought I'd try some other Third Party viewer. Checking the Wiki list of such I saw l no updates on some older viewers I once really liked, but I came across one I hadn't seen before. Alchemy.

First impression: Dark. It is very dark and contrasty. Parts of it are too dark, blending into other dark parts that make them tricky to use. Like the Conversations pane.

Though on the whole, after a few hours of use, I like it. The Alchemy-logo folders in Inventory are annoying but that's about the extent of my actual complaints. Many features are improved over the Official viewer, like the Environment Settings pane. It is much smaller and clearer than the Official viewer and you can add a tool bar button to call it up right away. Similar controls are available with a Quick Settings button.

Bells and whistles? There are a few. Your object editing beam can be a rainbow. If the Alchemy window isn't on top then in-world notices can be sent to your desktop. Yep. Looking for a way to turn that off. Inventory has buttons for opening and closing all folders. Can't imagine why I'd need the Open one, but the Close button is great. More goodies are buried in the menus and Preferences. None of these seem to increase lag so big "Yay!!!" there.

Right now Alchemy is missing the photo filters for all snapshots except those sent to Flickr or Twitter, but that feature is relatively new in the Official viewer so I'm sure it will show up soon. Overall, Alchemy builds on the original without getting carried away. It is low-lag, easy on the eyes, and works just fine.

Except I still crash when trying to upload textures or save a snapshot to disk. Must be an issue between Second Life and the Apple OS.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Warmth, Water, Food, & Shelter

If you had to depend on the World Wide Web for survival in the wilderness you might be up a creek. Or in a desert. Some dense forest. Anyway, a simple search turns up quite a few ways to buy DVDs on how to not die when you are stuck away from civilization but not a list of what to do first. After a while I found a few sites that more or less agreed that one should try to stay warm first then find water and food, in that order, then to find or make shelter. From there the various so-called experts I read divereged greatly.

Of course, if you have the electricity to be on the Web then you probably have time to visit some emergency preparedness sites (like this one from Lifehacker) or use the Red Cross mobile app to figure out what you need for various situations.

If that situation is entering Second Life for the first time, then you are still up a creek, albeit a virtual one. Without a survival guide, new residents (AKA Noobs) generate their a hierarchy of needs. Sit in any Info Hub, Welcome Area, or other area frequented by Noobs and the list seems obvious: Sex, Money, and a job. Shelter is rather pointless, but it shows up before food. Warmth? No one thinks about that, I'm sure.

What should Noobs list as Second Life survival priorities? That all depends on who you ask. Clothes and an Animation Override (AO) are often suggested by those not offering group memberships and landmarks to various entertainment venues. Fortunately this coincides with one the top ten things that Noobs are concerned with changing. Sit back and watch for even a short time and you'll see several trying all the choices in the Avatar Picker.

Helpful former mentors and other long-time Residents usually offer Landmarks to helpful places, such as New Citizens, Inc. or other Noob-friendly venues for the How-To tutorials, free clothes, and more.

What is seldom offered is simple advice. Rather, foisting one's personal opinions on how to do things and where to go is common (right up there with which Viewer to use). Instead, Noobs need to be welcomed, comforted in making the choice to be with us, and then told "Don't Panic." Despite the similiarites to Meatspace, Our World is strange and unfamiliar. This is why my first advice is to not worry about anything – money, sex, fame, etc. – but to just go out and explore. Learn as you go. What you should know for your needs will stick. What you don't need to know ... you get the idea.

Sure, I have some strong opinons based on my prefernces, like "don't IM me; talk to me in Main Chat" (I think of IMs like phone calls or texting) or "use math to align prims, not eyeballing" (I can be quite OCD at times). But that's me. I don't leap after a Noob and insist right away that they use a particular viewer (I favor the Official one), tell them to join a particular group (I'd swear there are more London City members in SL than in actual London), or to do anything in particular other than to explore.

So here's my list of survival needs for new Residents:

1. Explore
2. Keep exploring
3. Explore some more

What is on your list?

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Women in Games

From left-to-right, coverage from iMore, Gameranx, and Circa.
Maybe I'm not helping the stereotype many males (and some women) have about women and gaming. Maybe I should help more.

The other day I closed the Topless Tuesday in SL Flickr group. My intent behind TTiSL was to challenge the right of male avatars in Second Life to bare torsos anywhere they wish while female avatars must remain fully-clothed in many places. Considering the number of frankly pornographic images – usually of submissive women and dominant men – regular sent to the TTiSL Flickr group queue and the general disregard for the group's other standards, I felt it was time to give up.

Bare boobs. Right. What was I thinking? As some of my first thoughts when I see a nude or partially nude woman are often less than pure I'm likely at least partially guilty, as well. Like many people, my first thoughts are seldom "My, she's brave and empowered" when I see a lovely pair of breasts.

Second Life is not a game. The gaming industry is not a game. This is all Real Life, people. What we do in-world and at our keyboards and out in Meatspace shows who we are. The relative anonymity of social media and assumed roles in on-line activities are weapons. Sadly, many mis-guided and selfish misogynistic individuals (and some women can wear this description) wield these weapons to hurt others. It is an easy means to get quick attention and praise from the like-minded and thus gives a quick sense of satisfaction and self actualization – both false – without revealing the truth that such actions are cowardly and pathetic. One needs real strength to aim these weapons to dispel myths and falsehoods, a strength that so few seem to exercise.

So it is time I step up my game, so to speak.

Brianna Wu fights back.
First, I don't apologize for the nudity on this blog or on my Flickr feed. I have breasts in SL and in RL. I like them. Others like them, too. Deal with it. They don't define me, though, and mature people should not use them as a measure of who I am. These pix have been the easy way out, in a fashion, of participating in Our World and moving forward, that is no more. I will increase my efforts to write on a variety of topics starting right now.

Second, time has come to get back to being active in Second Life. Anyone can put on a bikini (or take one off) and lay on a beach. It takes a Resident to leave the beach (and dress in accordance with ToS).

Third, though likely not last, it is time I stop being a girl in a game and grow up to be a woman that has Game. That'll help, right?

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Topless Tuesday Video

A woman I know in Real Life video chats with me (via Apple's FaceTime) now and then. She's deaf and I'm mute so the medium is best for Sign Language. Most chats are of the basic How-are-you?-I'm-fine type but as she fancies me carnally so now and again I answer her calls to sometimes find a nude woman blowing kisses at me.

Not that I mind, of course. At least not too much.

But at this time I can't really be in a relationship and even if I could we both know the two of us wouldn't work out in the long run. That doesn't stop these "Boobie Calls" – her term – and I answered one this morning. She was in a super frisky mood and since I'm a good friend, I dressed in kind.  Which inspired my Topless Tuesday picture for this week.

Click to embiggen or see it on Flickr!
Here's the Webcam's point-of-view, the way it appeared on MySL ...