Saturday, June 30, 2007

How to change the UI?

Second Life Insider is just asking, how would you fix the SL client UI? One of the answers I very much agree with is: fix the inventory.

One thing I wish for may have to do with my cluttered inventory: I'd like to have two windows, perhaps like the old two-window file managers. It's a huge pain to have to scroll huge distances from where you've picked some items to the folder you want them in.

Another thing, though, would be great even for the well-organized. Inventory needs to get away from having each item in exactly one place. In Linux/Unix terms, it needs "symbolic links."


It means that inventory isn't a tree; things can appear in more than one place.

Why do you want that? Because a major use of folders is for outfits, and if you mix and match, some items are part of more than one outfit. As inventory is now, you either copy them, or you don't copy them, in which case you have to track them down all the time.

With symbolic links, you're not copying the object--you're just providing more than one way to get to it.

UPDATE: Thanks to bcwhittle for pointing out that you can open two inventory windows! (See the comment.)

Friday, June 29, 2007

2nd Sex

You might have noticed that I recently added Lillie Yifu's blog 2nd Sex to the list of links. I seriously recommend that you give it a look. Ms. Yifu's prose is lyrical, her observations insightful. While the immediate topic is sex in SL, the observations go well beyond that.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

A Day of Silence

Many, many sites in Second Life are augmented by audio streams; "Internet radio stations," as they're called.

If you're on the grid as I write this, you may have found some such streams inaudible. That's because most Internet radio sites have cut off their feeds today, in protest of an outrageous ruling that imposes royalties paid for each time anyone listens to a song... and imposes them retroactively to the beginning of 2006. They are due to take effect in mid-July 2007, unless something is done.

If you are a US citizen, I urge you to immediately call your Senators and Representative to urge their support and co-sponsoring of S. 1353 (for the Senate) and H.R. 2060 (for the House of Representatives), the "Internet Radio Equality Act." For more details, visit

Unless something is done, in not quite three weeks much of the Internet and much of SL will fall silent; nobody can afford the royalties that will go into effect. Act now.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Wings 3D

Wings 3D is one of the free (as in speech and beer) 3D graphics programs that has an exporter allowing the creation of sculpted prims. It runs on a wide variety of platforms, thanks to being written in Erlang, a functional programming language developed by Ericsson (so thank you to Sweden!).

Natalia Zelmanov has two parts (one, two) of a tutorial on using Wings 3D to create sculpted prims up on her excellent blog. I would amend her instructions slightly.

First, if you are using Ubuntu Feisty Fawn, then you have access to Wings 3D version 0.98.35, and the exporter, as far as I can tell, works with it quite nicely.

Second, just copying the files for the exporter into what appears to be the correct directory does not make sculpted prims visible in the Wings 3D menu as an export option, so I would do the following:
  1. Install Wings 3D using your favorite method, be it Synaptic, whatever the KDE program is for managing packages (sorry, I don't use KDE that much), or just "sudo apt-get install wings3d".
  2. Head over to the SL forum thread where Omei Turnbull announces his creation of the exporter (thank you Omei!) and download it.
  3. At least in the version of Wings 3D in the Feisty Fawn repositories, the "install plugin" command only knows about gzipped tar files, so convert it from a .zip into a gzipped tar file using the archive twiddler of your choice.
  4. Run Wings 3D, click File > Install Plugin, and point it at the gzipped tar version of the exporter.
Poof! Now, when it comes time to export, "Second Life Sculpty" will be on the list of export formats you can choose from.

Sculpted prims, version one, only come in one flavor, namely those that are topologically equivalent (homeomorphic, to be official) to a sphere. So, as Natalia says, the way to start is to create a sphere, or rather an approximation of a sphere that has vertices that correspond directly to the entries in the "texture" that defines the sculpted prim's shape. Those textures are 2n by 2n, so make your sphere have 2n "sections" (think longitude, or citrus fruit) and 2n - 1 "slices" (think latitude) for values of n that the exporter supports. According to Natalia, n can run from three to six, i.e. 8, 16, 32, or 64 sections. (SL supports 128 x 128, and I'm hoping the exporter will eventually allow that; I may need that resolution someday.)

(Why the different number of slices? Because they don't wrap around like the sections. If there were just one slice, there would be two rows (or columns, depending on how LL lays it out) in the texture, one at each pole, and adding a slice adds one row (or column) where you split one slice into two, so to get 2n rows (or columns) you only need 2n - 1 slices.)

(WARNING! There's a bug open related to this. Textures undergo JPEG compression, and JPEG compression is lossy; it throws away information. This isn't a big deal for textures used as textures were initially intended, i.e. for painting objects, but for defining sculpted prim shapes, it is disastrous. Please head over to the JIRA and vote for VWR-866, and until the bug is dealt with, go with at least 64 x 64 for serious sculpted prim work.)

Now... you have your sphere, what are you going to do with it? Of course, you have to wrangle it into the shape you want. Because of the way sculpted prims work, you can only use operations that don't change the number of vertices. This is the point I'm at now; I need to go through the Wings 3D docs, and determine which operations those are, and how to use them to get the shape I want. (Then comes texturing them, i.e. creating a texture that is really used to paint the sculpted prim. I have no idea how to do that, so I'm hoping for more installments of Natalia's tutorial!)

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Ooh, heaven is a room in SL...

Yesterday I was invited to a lovely wooded place to dance. There were dance animations scattered all about, and rose particles floating through the air. I glanced at the location in the SL client window title bar, and found it was called "Heaven in SL."

The dancing was wonderful, as was the company, but Murphy struck; my dancing partner went *poof* and disappeared from the grid. I sighed and started exploring... and found, when I zoomed back, that I was in a very large building! It had a second floor of sorts, similarly set up to tromper one's oeil.

I have to admire the skill with which the illusion is set up, but kind of had higher hopes for heaven. :) It is well worth a visit in any case.

Here I am relaxing in "Heaven in SL." If you look really closely, you can see the doorway about two thirds of the way across (towards the right) at the top.

P.S. There are steps to the second floor, so in SL, there is at least a stairway from heaven...

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Bunny-shaped Island

With all the brouhaha, I succumbed to curiosity, and headed for the new island set up in SL by Playboy.

From above you can see that it's in the shape of the well-known bunny head; I guess they had to do it.

Once there, what I initially saw was very nicely done, but felt kind of like a convention center. LOTS of ads for Playboy stuff for sale and Playboy services on their web site.

Further afield, out in the ears was a lot of sand, and palm and coconut trees. I had to stop and assume the kneeling position of what was labeled a "cybergirl photopose" and take a picture in the sand beside huge (mutant?) coconut halves. (cybergirl photopose? Are they serious?)

(Look at me! I'm a cybergirl!)

I looked again at the map, found the greatest concentration of people on the island, and teleported there. It turned out to be a gathering spot for residents applying for work with Playboy, a thatched bar (/cafe?) at the bunny's nose. I sat silently and unobtrusively (though I "overheard" a woman presiding over the interviews who typed "/me sprays her coffee"...) in a chair near the water's edge and watched the last bit of what I presume were preliminary interviews.

Oh, how I wish Hunter S. Thompson were still with us; only he could do justice to the twisted experience I had... even without any "heinous drugs."

OK, look: Playboy is a victim of its own success. The mainstream has moved past it, so that now Playboy bunnies are quaint. Not too far away in RL is the site, in a hotel in a western Des Moines suburb, where one of the last Playboy Clubs in the USA was until it closed in May 1988, two months before the very last one in Lansing, Michigan. A friend passed one of the bunnies one day as he headed through the hotel. Back in the 1950s, the encounter would have had a frisson of wickedness; in mid-1980s Iowa, the bunny was a pretty, wholesome girl next door in a cute costume, as if she were dressed up for trick or treat.

One can't argue with their taste in music; I saw a listing, and they've lined up some of the best folks performing in SL... but Playboy in SL is slick and sterile. I headed back this morning to make sure I had some details right. When I arrived, I was the only person in the whole sim. I checked Apollo on the map... 31 people there.

The Intruder Despite Herself

I was minding my own business, chatting with friends and acquaintances, when the world grayed out and I saw the dreaded popup saying that the sim is going down and I was being forcibly logged off.

I grumbled to myself, fired up the client once again, and without thinking left the "last location" choice enabled. I have no idea how long it takes Linden Labs to reset a server for a sim, and no doubt it varies, but I am sure I did not wait anywhere near long enough, and sure enough, I was told my last location was unavailable, so it was putting me somewhere else...

...and I rezzed in darkness. What ambient light there was showed an expanse of tiles in a checkered black and white pattern that I recalled seeing once. I zoomed out and found that I was inside the Rakehell, a truly impressive dirigible with glass windows essentially over its entire skin. That modification to the original dirigible construction, as well as the lovely interior decoration, were done by Mordecai Scaggs and his talented and lovely lady, Kacy Despres, and if you haven't had the pleasure of reading about it,. I hope you will do so now, at least to read the story of the making of its elegant nameplate and see a photograph thereof.

Zooming back, I saw my erstwhile conversational companions standing beside me, wondering what on earth (or perhaps I should say on the grid) had happened. Under these extraordinary (I hope!) conditions, put here by who knows what logic of the SL server, I felt extremely embarrassed, so I departed as quickly as I could gather my wits, and offered my fellow unwilling intruders a teleport following me to the first scenic location that came to my mind.

I have no idea what put it into SL's head to put me high into the air, much less why it should do so for the folks I'd been chatting with. I am just glad we did not pop into the middle of a gathering, and hope that such a thing never happens to me again.

Friday, June 15, 2007

JIRA, Part Two

I've created VWR-1258 as a JIRA entry with the same request as the old Proposition 125. I cannot vote for it myself, since I created it. If you are interested in extending the variety of avatars in SL (this isn't just about breasts!), I hope you will follow the link and consider voting for it.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Hair and G

I love watching commercials for Pantene shampoo. The long-haired models all let their hair fall, and it's always in slow motion. You sort of expect the announcer to say "Pantene, the shampoo that lowers the gravitational constant in a neighborhood of your head."

In SL, I'd just bought some lovely long hair, put it on, and turned... and it took a very long time indeed to settle down. I guess flexible prims must have a twistable knob for that... and wonder whether the designer watches Pantene commercials.

Natalia enters the history books--er, wiki

I was happy to see today that Natalia Zelmanov, mermaid, designer, explorer, and writer of many wonderful tutorials in her fine blog, has an entry in the SL History Wiki.

Yay, Natalia!

A new, and more important IMHO, Open Letter

United Protest has set up a web page to let people sign an Open Letter asking that Linden Labs remain consistent with their stated community standards and become a "common carrier." (Criminals use phones, email, and snail mail... why doesn't anyone sue the phone company or the USPS? Because they're common carriers; they don't get into the business of filtering messages based on content.)

I hope you'll consider signing it. (Yes, I've nudged them about the grammatical errors; with any luck they'll be corrected by the time you read the letter. :))

Wednesday, June 13, 2007


LL has moved away from the old user proposal method to a Bugzilla-like system that subsumes both feature requests and bug reports.

A lot of people have grumbled about this, claiming it's too hard to use. I hope that you, Gentle Reader, will not let such kvetching keep you from using the SL JIRA.

The SL Wiki has a page that describes JIRA and how to use it. Even if you don't add items, you can look through those that others have submitted--a good thing to do even if you want to add an item, to see whether anyone's already done so--and vote for those you think particularly deserve attention.

Torley Linden has, if I understand rightly, made entries that correspond to those under the old proposal system. Once I find the item that corresponds to--you guessed it--Prop 125, I will give a link here. In the meantime, I hope you'll consider voting for these:
  • VWR-1080, concerning the problems of tops (and pants) versus concavities
  • VWR-1064, concerning allowing some attachments to go under clothing
More news as I can find it.

UPDATE: I misremembered; Torley's moved some of the proposals with a goodly number of votes in their favor. I will make a JIRA entry corresponding to Prop 125 and give a link ASAP.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Favorite music

I was at one of the weekly performances of Jaynine Scarborough at Bliss Basin this past Sunday and got in an IM conversation, during which I was asked what my favorite songs of the Renaissance and Middle Ages are.

That's about like asking my to list my favorite songs period... how can I cut it down? I will try, though, to keep this entry from growing insanely long. No particular order; I don't think I can rank them, and given the context of the discussion, just songs with lyrics.
  • Adriaan Willaert, "O Dolce Vita Mia." By all means get the Early Music Consort of London album for which it is the title cut. It's worth it for this track alone, but they're all gorgeous. (Do also consider the King's Singers collaboration with Tragicomedia, La Dolce Vita, which also includes this song.)
  • Adam de la Halle, "Tant Con Je Vivrai." (Francophones: honest, I looked it up, and that's the title.) A simple and beautiful trouvere song.
  • Guillaume de Machaut, "Rose, liz, printemps." Take your pick of Gothic Voices' The Mirror of Narcissus (which is all-Machaut and all vocal) or the Waverly Consort's Douce Dame album (which is not all Machaut, and mixes voice and instruments); either is gorgeous.
  • Martin Codax, "Quantas Sabedes." Owain Phyfe and the New World Renaissance Band make no claims of authenticity, but they touch modern audiences deeply with music of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance using folk music performance practice. This song is the last track on their Odyssey album, and it will lull you into a relaxed (and as Phyfe says when introducing the song in performance, gently erotic) mood.
  • Thomas Morley, "Nolo mortem peccatoris." This isn't a flighty madrigal or canzonet of the sort Morley is best known for, but a beautiful and heart-rending choral work.
  • John Bennet, "Weep, O Mine Eyes." OK, I'm showing my tendency toward melancholy music here.
  • John Dowland, "Lachrymae." OK, I'm really showing my tendency toward melancholy music now! Let's fix that...
  • Thomas Weelkes, "Come, Sirrah Jack, Ho." This, along with Tobias Hume's "Tobacco," are sort of the druggie music of the English Renaissance, as the lyrics will show. (Nowadays people think the Ars Nova "fumeurs" weren't necessarily on anything.) If you ever saw Reefer Madness, you'll think of the "Faster, louder!" scene when you hear "Fill the pipe once more; my brains dance Trenchmore" ("Trenchmore" was a lively dance of the time).
I hope this helps!

Sunday, June 10, 2007


Sigh... I noticed a friend online and decided to IM her. "Hi!"

Just then I noticed the name on the new IM tab... one off from the one I thought I'd clicked. *blush*

A short and very apologetic conversation later, I looked again... and the friend whose name I meant to click on wasn't there. Was I careless, or did she sign off just as I moved to click, moving the next name up?

My money's on careless. Sigh. One more item to put on the IM checklist.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Hi, Chicago!

Looking at Google Analytics results... the new data display is nice, but the one thing that really stands out is how many people are reading in the Chicago area.

An amazing city, Chicago. I can't think of it without hearing Carl Sandburg's great poem in my head...


HOG Butcher for the World,
Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat,
Player with Railroads and the Nation's Freight Handler;
Stormy, husky, brawling,
City of the Big Shoulders:

They tell me you are wicked and I believe them, for I
have seen your painted women under the gas lamps
luring the farm boys.
And they tell me you are crooked and I answer: Yes, it
is true I have seen the gunman kill and go free to
kill again.
And they tell me you are brutal and my reply is: On the
faces of women and children I have seen the marks
of wanton hunger.
And having answered so I turn once more to those who
sneer at this my city, and I give them back the sneer
and say to them:
Come and show me another city with lifted head singing
so proud to be alive and coarse and strong and cunning.
Flinging magnetic curses amid the toil of piling job on
job, here is a tall bold slugger set vivid against the
little soft cities;

Fierce as a dog with tongue lapping for action, cunning
as a savage pitted against the wilderness,
Building, breaking, rebuilding,
Under the smoke, dust all over his mouth, laughing with
white teeth,
Under the terrible burden of destiny laughing as a young
man laughs,
Laughing even as an ignorant fighter laughs who has
never lost a battle,
Bragging and laughing that under his wrist is the pulse.
and under his ribs the heart of the people,
Laughing the stormy, husky, brawling laughter of
Youth, half-naked, sweating, proud to be Hog
Butcher, Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat, Player with
Railroads and Freight Handler to the Nation.

(and please go to for this and the other Chicago poems...)

The whole point of the poem is the speaker's clear-eyed love of Chicago. He sees its flaws... dare I say the ways in which it is "broadly offensive"?... and that it is great despite that.

Kind of like Second Life.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Protest Update

Search is now working on the grid, and "I am for a FREE Second Life", the group to join if you object to the new policy described in the LL blog entry "Keeping SL Safe, Together" exists.

ERRATUM: There is more than one group protesting the change in LL policy. (In a bizarre turn of events, there is even one such advocated by Prokofy Neva.)

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

The broad offensive against "broadly offensive"

Today I saw a poster outside a business, reading "Keeping SL Free, Together". Clearly it's inspired by the Orwellian "Keeping SL Safe, Together" entry on the Linden blog. Clicking on the poster gives you a notecard describing why the policies described in that entry are evil, and proposes a peaceful protest. (Alas, the group described in the notecard doesn't exist; I'll update when I can find it.)

[UPDATE: Aha! The poster and notecard are the work of Jazhara Keon. October Hush's blog has an entry with more info and the text of the notecard. According to the comments, it will take a bit longer to get the group going.]

As Tateru Nino points out, LL is incorrect in claiming that the new policies described there are consistent with the previous rules; before, "broadly offensive" content simply had to be kept to mature areas; now all it takes is a complaint, and "broadly offensive" content can get you banished from SL, your land lost and your content removed... and Earth to Lindens: "the community" doesn't say diddly. Individuals and organized groups do, and the new policy is just begging for sanctimonious vigilantes to start campaigns against their favorite "offensive" bugaboo, be it dancing, virtual alcoholic beverages, whatever they consider indecent clothing (anything not a burqa?), homosexuality, furries, religions they don't like... the list is endless.

I urge you to join this peaceful protest. At stake is Second Life as we know it.

[UPDATE: Do read Vint Falken's blog entry pointing out the hypocrisy of the SL promotion of Live Free or Die Hard, a movie featuring, as Daniel Linden might put it, "real-life images, avatar portrayals, and other depictions of extreme or graphic violence".]

[UPDATE: D'Oh! I forgot. United Protest's blog is now up and going.]

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

L3375P34K worldwide...

Abbreviations go back quite some way (SPQR, anyone?), but the current crop, I think, have their origin in hams using Morse code: BCNU (be seeing you), CUL (see you later), etc. Some have stayed with hams, e.g. YL (young lady) and XYL (ex-young lady, often someone's wife).

That made its way into hackish usage and thence into IRC and to text messages everywhere.

(OK.. maybe Prince had a hand in it.)

The international nature of SL means that one can see similar shortening in other languages. The one I have seen to date: Spanish speakers typing "k" (which isn't used in Spanish save for borrowings from other languages and foreign proper names, or things like radio station call letters) in place of "qu". Do they type ADM (ay, dios mío) where in English we'd type OMG? IDK. :)

I'll keep my eyes open for other instances.

Friday, June 01, 2007

SL or Pleasantville?

SL has taken a turn in a very scary direction.

Check out the cheerily-titled entry "Keeping Second Life Safe, Together" from the Linden blog. Here's the text in its entirety:

The diversity of things to see and do within Second Life is almost unimaginable, but our community has made it clear to us that certain types of content and activity are simply not acceptable in any form. Real-life images, avatar portrayals, and other depiction of sexual or lewd acts involving or appearing to involve children or minors; real-life images, avatar portrayals, and other depictions of sexual violence including rape, real-life images, avatar portrayals, and other depictions of extreme or graphic violence, and other broadly offensive content are never allowed or tolerated within Second Life.

Please help us to keep Second Life a safe and welcoming space by continuing to notify Linden Lab about locations in-world that are violating our Community Standards regarding broadly offensive and potentially illegal content. Our team monitors such notification 24-hours a day, seven-days a week. Individuals and groups promoting or providing such content and activities will be swiftly met with a variety of sanctions, including termination of accounts, closure of groups, removal of content, and loss of land. It’s up to all of us to make sure Second Life remains a safe and welcoming haven of creativity and social vision.

Just what is "broadly offensive"? And to whom? Potentially illegal where--in any country that has access to Second Life? That swift and brutal sanction is begging for abuse.

I hope I won't be having to keep burqas in my inventory.