Monday, December 31, 2007

Non-Predictions for 2008

Something about artificial boundaries makes people want to celebrate or make predictions.

If you celebrate getting through another year today, I hope you do it safely.

I don't think I can make worthwhile predictions, at least about SL... but I can say what I hope for.

Improvements in appearance: just compare the appearance of SL to that of any traditional game. (UPDATE: make that "current game"; we can all agree SL beats Pong all to heck when it comes to graphics...) Windlight is a great advance, as are sculpted prims, but SL is still full of cardboard cutout landscaping and infamously low-res avatar shapes, and the drawbacks of implementing clothing as painted-on textures are well-known.

Improvements in performance: I've not studied how SL works, and have no idea of where bottlenecks might be, but I do wonder about one thing: if much of the time, most sims are empty or nearly so, wouldn't it be possible to share resources among sims as long as it can be done in a fair way? I'm sure of another thing: compiling scripts down to a bytecode that is both more efficiently executable and already has serious optimization work done for it desperately needs to happen.

Improvements in user interface: There's work being done on this already, but I'm hoping that there will be even more. One thing I'd love to see: a data glove UI, so that Deaf SL residents can communicate with one another in sign in SL.

Improvements in reliability: There are enough people clamoring for that, lamentably, and IMHO misguidedly, to the exclusion of all else... so I don't have to.

Not Burke's Law, Brooks's Law...

(Boy, am I showing my age with that title...)

Fred Brooks will forever be known for having the misfortune of managing the development of the obscenity that is OS/360, and the genius to write one of the essential books about software development based on his experiences with that obscenity, The Mythical Man-Month.

I've referenced that book, and in particular Brooks's Law ("adding people to a late software project makes it later") in arguing against the "Open Letter" notion of bringing LL development to a screeching halt and putting everyone to work on bug fixes.

Other parts of that classic book also apply, though: "Plan to throw one away. You will, anyhow. The only question is whether you deliver the throwaway to your customers." (Apologies to all, and especially Professor Brooks, if I don't have that correct; I'm working from memory.) We as SL residents are currently using that throwaway. No offense to LL intended--I don't think that a system like SL can be designed all of a piece, perfect from the start. Not yet, at least. (To quote the title of another classic paper by Professor Brooks, there is "No Silver Bullet.") The question is, who's designing the non-throwaway: LL, or someone else? (Those of the "Open Letter" school are implicitly saying it shouldn't be LL, which will be the death of SL.)

That said, whoever is doing that designing had better also heed Brooks's warnings about "second system effect," in which designers, fresh from doing something the first time, all have their wish lists of things they couldn't do the first time... and throw them all in the second time around, to disastrous effect.

SL, for mass appeal, has to "just work." The average user simply will not put up with and doesn't want the collaborative environment that agile software development demands. So, who is willing to put up with it... and where can I sign up to do so? :)

P.S. If you look at Professor Brooks's curriculum vitae, you'll notice a paper on VR, and that virtual environments are among his research interests. I wonder what he thinks of SL?

Not your father's web

Google Analytics shows a bunch of interesting data. One is "Operating Systems". Browsers identify themselves via a string that can also mention the operating system that they're running under. (That string can't always be believed. You can tell your browser to fib about itself; one notorious use of this is to get past lazy web site creators who refuse to deal with anything but Internet Explorer.)

So, Dear Readers, Google Analytics say that 79.05% of you use Windows. (Sigh... I hope you'll at least consider dual booting.) 12.80% of you use Linux (yay!), and 7.79% of you use Macintoshes (welcome aboard...). That doesn't add up to 100%.... and indeed, 0.07% don't say what OS they're using. Maybe their browsers don't give that info by default, or maybe they just like their privacy.

But wait... that still doesn't get everyone. Four of you are doing something else altogether, for the "operating system" strings Google Analytics sees are
  • Danger Hiptop
  • Nintendo Wii
  • Playstation Portable
  • iPhone
How cool is that? I don't even know what a "Danger Hiptop" is. :) (OK, now I do. It's an Internet-capable cell phone, also sold as the T-Mobile Sidekick.)

I'm happy you're all here, whatever system you use.

UPDATE: OK... the day I will celebrate is the day that I see someone is using OpenMoko to read my blog.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

A must-read at 2nd Sex

Lillie Yifu's 2nd Sex blog is always worth reading, but her latest (at the time I write this) is especially so. It speaks to the ongoing "augmentation versus immersion" conflict, and to the move of RL commerce into SL. (Yes, at least some are watching the initial "We're a famous RL company, and we're here... what more do we have to do?" fiascos and learning.)

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Modesty through Procrastination

My very favorite prim breasts are Foxbean Laboratories' "Nadine" breasts. They're sculpted, which makes it far easier to clothe them by texturing... but I still haven't sat down with GIMP and Natalia's wonderful tutorials and tried to do a non-trivial texture for them.

(They say there are classes on how not to procrastinate, and one of these days I'll take them.)

So... these days, you will mostly see me in tops with no neckline whatsoever, much less décolletage, and either solid colors or sweaters. When I'm daring, it's by displaying my shoulders, or my back, or my legs.

Perhaps that's good, in a way, or more realistic. We're taught that a large bust is a "figure flaw" to be camouflaged, or feel the need to dress to distract from it for fear of others' reactions or to conform to expectations.

I promise I will set to work with GIMP, though, and then things will be very different indeed... at least part of the time.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

As Hall and Oates put it so long ago...

And I'll do almost anything, that you want me to, ooh,
But I can't go for that, (No can do)
Tiessa has tagged me for the "Naughty Nine" meme... but while I'm willing to give out eight random facts about myself, I'm not willing to go there, or as Meat Loaf ("Mr. Loaf, may I call you Meat?") put it,
I would do anything for love, but I won't do that...

OLPC in Peru

A brief trip into First Life: from CNN Technology, "'One Laptop' a hit in Peru."

If you can afford it, there's still time to participate in the "Give One Get One" program; it's continuing through December 31. The One Laptop Per Child program merits your support.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Group Membership

If you're like me, you chafe at the limit on the number of groups you can be a member of at any one time.

SL vendors just about always have a group for those who like their work and want to be notified of new products or sales, and often the vendors sweeten the pot with giveaways to group members... but it doesn't take long at all to run up against the 25-group limit in SL.

There is a JIRA proposal to increase the limit, MISC-208. I hope you'll vote for it. The limitation on groups appears to be motivated by group membership being coupled in many cases with access permissions... but so many groups exist solely for notification and freebies that either the limits should be increased or some other mechanism created for the "fans of/shoppers at X" type of group.

If you find JIRA difficult to use, Cherlindrea of the excellent Fabulously Free in SL has an article on MISC-208 which includes instructions on how to vote for it. Please do check it out, even if this particular issue does not move you to action, because you should express your opinion on what problems are important to you and what you'd like to see improved in SL. (You might even want to vote for VWR-1258 or VWR-1080... Sorry, I couldn't pass up the opportunity.)

Thanks to Vint Falken for her post about MISC-208, which provoked me to mention the issue.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Megaprims revisited

Good news from Massively: megaprims will remain in SL.

Until they can be done right, the status quo will remain. "Done right" in this context means:
  • letting landowners move/return prims that intrude upon their property
  • letting residents know when they're moving prims onto others' property
  • letting landowners flag property to specify who they don't want moving prims onto their land
That done, size restraints on prim size may be lifted, subject to the above constraints.

At least, that's how I understand the Massively article.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Smashing Prims addendum

As I promised, a photo showing the lovely texture of the flexi prim skirt. Not a great photo, but it serves the purpose...

'Tis the season for early music

It's Christmas time... and though you may not know it, you're listening to songs from several hundred years ago:
  • the Coventry carol, from the 1591 pageant of the Shearmen and Tailors in Coventry, England
  • "Ding Dong Merrily on High," which borrows the tune of the Bransle L'Officiale from Arbeau's Orchesographie
  • "Riu riu chiu," a 16th century Spanish villancico
  • "The Friendly Beasts," which lifts the tune of "Orientis partibus," a macaronic Latin/French song of the 13th century
Merry Christmas... and good music.

UPDATE: Silly me... how could I have forgotten "What Child is This?" (to the tune of "Greensleeves") or "In Dulci Jubilo"?

Saturday, December 15, 2007

"I feel pretty..."

A little while ago I signed on and a blue pop-up window appeared.
Raven Ivanova has offered you 'Merry Xmas Melissa - from Raven @Smashing Prims' in Second Life.
Startled, I clicked "Accept" and peeked inside. There was a very sweet note from Raven... and gowns! Raven has come out with gowns that have prim breasts, textured to suit them.

Now, this picture doesn't show what it will look like on you, for a couple of reasons... OK, one reason, actually: my inclination to go to extremes. The prim breasts you see here are edited to make them larger, and I will have to edit the skirt to make it full length, given my avatar slider settings.

As with my previous post about Smashing Prims, you can't see the jiggle, and another thing you can't see is the very easy-to-use UI. Just click on the breasts, and a pop-up lets you set their behavior to suit your wishes.

What you can see, though, is the lovely detail:

I can't describe how wonderful it feels to wear something so beautifully detailed and above all designed to suit the way I want to be. Not being ignored after being a fashion outcast is a very nice feeling.

A while back, fashion blogs started mentioning for each item they write about whether the designer/store gave it to them. I have no delusions of fashionistismo (or is that fashionistidad? fashionisteza?) or of this blog being anything but whatever strikes my fancy to write about... but it doesn't matter that I was given this dress. Had I not been given it, I'd have bought it on sight. It's the most beautiful clothing designed for prim breasts I've yet seen in SL, and if I dare hope, the first of many more. Thank you, Raven.

P.S. Those photos do no justice whatsoever to the texture of the skirt. I will correct that omission soon.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Forsaken by night

There's something magical about walking on a snowy night. Most cars and people are at home (or, as some might put it, the sane people are at home). The snow covers imperfections, and decorates otherwise bare trees. If you're really lucky, it will be dead calm, and the snowflakes will be perfect little six-sided panes of decorative ice, and the street lights illuminate cones through which the snow falls. (Once I saw a nearby night club running a skylight on such an evening.)

Forsaken isn't quite like that. The trees are clear of snow, and the snow is less distinct... but it's still pretty darned magical at night. Where else would you find a holiday carousel?

Elsewhere, a forlorn peacock waits for the last train...

...and a torii beckons.

You really, really should visit Forsaken.

Kicking myself again...

Kind readers let me know where I could find a heel click sound to override the default SL walk sound. Now, perhaps you will once again save me from my forgetfulness.

Some time ago, I happened across a corset in SL that used transparency to give one's avatar an amazingly tiny waist, like the famous Mlle. Polaire. I didn't save a landmark, so now, I can't find it. If you know of such an object, I'd appreciate it greatly if you could let me know where it can be found. Thanks.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Cory Linden leaves LL

The news is out, on Massively, New World Notes, and even C|Net: Cory Linden has left LL.

Cory was there from the beginning, is responsible for LSL, and pushed heavily for the open sourcing of the client and, eventually, the server. I wish him well, and hope that his departure will not slow or, worse, stop the move to open source for SL.

"Tertin, tertin..."

SCTV had a segment titled Monster Chiller Horror Theatre, in which the long-suffering Count Floyd had to try to persuade the audience that all sorts of non-scary movies were scary. The one that sticks out in my mind was Whispers of the Wolf, a hilarious Ingmar Bergman sendup. It starts with Catherine O'Hara, doing her best Liv Ullman, entering a hotel and asking for the room her sister is in. In the faux Swedish of the skit the ominous room number, 1313, comes out as "Tertin, tertin."

What does this have to do with anything? Nothing really... I was just reminded of it when I saw on Google Analytics that this blog got 1,313 visits over the past thirty days. Actually more, because the two days before I realized that changing templates chucked the Google Analytic insert are still in the thirty-day window... though by Friday they will have fallen off. Even with that, I think that's the most visits I've gotten over a thirty-day period. Very small potatoes indeed in the blogging world, but a high point for me, and thank you all for stopping by... even if you're just looking for cheesy phrases.

(Ms. O'Hara did a really good job. I remember seeing the cover of Liv Ullman's autobiography once; she's a beautiful woman, but somehow in that photo she has a look that tells you she's seen nothing but disappointment and suffering in life, and is cringing, waiting for the whip to fall again... Ms. O'Hara nailed that look.)

Sunday, December 09, 2007

How to? Check Tweaktocracy...

I remember long ago reading a study of text editor user interfaces. it found that the subjects of the study tended to learn a subset of the available commands and use them, even when there were alternatives that might be quicker. For example, though there was a keystroke to move a word at a time, people would simply use the keystroke to move a character at a time repeatedly. They learn a minimal set of comands that, as they say in the linear algebra biz, spans the space of things they want to do.

I know I do that. In SL, I know there's a command to make my avatar run. I have yet to look it up and remember it. I've seen avatars jump short distances, only to try to fly it myself and overshoot the target repeatedly.

In those ways and many others, I need to learn to better use SL... and I'm sure that by reading Tweaktocracy, a new blog from the very capable Cheyenne Palisades and Exuberance Lafleur, I will learn many ways to do so. I hope you'll check it out.

"It's comin' on Christmas..."

...and all the ads and store displays that have been up and running since well before Halloween have me burned out on it.

Time to take a deep breath and listen to the music that always serves to get me seriously in a Christmas mood:
  • Gustav Holst's breathtakingly gorgeous setting of "Lullay My Liking"
  • "Qui creavit coelum," also known as the song of the nuns of Chester; if you can find the Ensemble for Early Music's album Christemas in Anglia, then you have my favorite recording of it and of many other songs--don't miss the trope "Rex virginum amator"
  • "Edi beo thu" (Anonymous 4's version is wonderful... but then, Anonymous 4's version of everything is wonderful)
  • "Nowell/Tidings True", which is a lovely song of the Annunciation. This and an incredible setting of "Alma redemptoris mater" are on an old New York Pro Musica album of Christmas songs. (The link I give shows up a mistake made in the track listing for the NYPM CD, because one of the links for "Nowell, Nowell" actually takes you to "Alma redemptoris mater"!)
  • "Mary Was an Only Child," from Art Garfunkel's Angel Clare album.
  • "I Believe in Father Christmas," which I think first showed up on ELP's Works vol. 2. I love the way they use the "Troika" from Lieutenant Kije, and I love the skeptical point of view of the song.
I hope all of you who celebrate at this time of year have a wonderful time, be it in First or Second Life.

Winter on Forsaken

I was surprised and delighted to find snow on Forsaken. (I was also surprised that googling "palm tree" and snow turns up a fair number of images... but I have barely visited places with palm trees, much less lived there over a winter.)

If you've not visited Forsaken, this is a wonderful time to do so.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

"...I'm just rendered that way."

This time of year there's a cornucopia of freebies in SL, one being the lovely "Christmas Girl" dress from Ingenue. It's a sweet, demure dress, not at all like the slinky, slit up to there!? gown Jessica Rabbit wears in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, but wearing a fire-engine red dress just did something to me...

I headed over to Raglan Shire, a sim that caters to tinies. (I keep wanting to type "Lagan"... they both have "a", "n", and "l", and appear in titles of Irish songs, and IMHO "My Lagan Love" is far more beautiful than "On Raglan Road"; what can I say?) What few others were there went about their business and on their way, and I headed into a lovely store, all wood and stained glass reminiscent of Piet Mondrian:

I went on up the stairs and found a tiny-sized grand piano, and found myself wishing for a Fabulous Baker Boys-inspired poseball:

Finally I went out onto the balcony to admire the quiet and the surroundings.

It was the dress, I tell you!

P.S. Of course, the prim breasts are not part of the dress...

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

I'm "it"...

...not to be confused with Clara Bow.

Raul Crimson has tagged me. Here are the meme's rules:
  1. Each player starts with eight random facts/habits about themselves.
  2. People who are tagged need to write a post on their own blog (about their eight things) and post these rules.
  3. At the end of your blog, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names.
  4. Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged, and to read your blog.
I propagate neither chain letters nor memes, so I'm going to violate rules three and four, but here's (2), which implies having completed (1):
  • I cry at the drop of a hat when reading, listening to music, or watching movies.
  • I had the privilege of meeting Admiral Grace Murray Hopper. Alas, I didn't get one of her "nanoseconds".
  • I'm stereo blind. 3-D glasses are wasted on me.
  • I'm a terrible pack rat, and disorganized. (One look at my inventory would show that.)
  • I never willingly use Microsoft Windows.
  • I have significant coupling between my ring finger and pinky. Fortunately, I know better than to pull a Schumann. Unfortunately, I'll never be as talented as Schumann.
  • Languages, both human and programming, fascinate me.
  • Fall, or autumn if you're outside the US, is my favorite season.

Google Analytics revisited

A while back I noticed that the main search query that took people to my blog was "cheesy phrases." "yedo yifu" has taken over first place, but I was very surprised indeed by number three: "cali lewis bikini".

It turns out that a blog entry mentioning Cali Lewis of the excellent Geek Brief TV podcast appeared near one in which I expressed concern about whether my bikini top had rezzed. Apologies to those looking for images that they won't find on my blog... though I have a photo of a Geek Brief meetup in SL.


A dear friend gave me a landmark for LeZoo. Francophones are probably cringing at that bit of franglais, but I don't think people would be willing to type "Le Jardin Zoologique" when searching for the sim...

It's an interesting place, with large sunken exhibits where the animals can be seen, and underground caves that I've yet to explore. If you wish, you can take a tour in a small car.

Clothing shops line the edge of the area, and opposite the entrance is a building that at first I thought was a church... maybe it is a temple to fashion, as it's the new Second Style headquarters. At one corner there's a prop Second Style cover and poseball, so that you can put yourself on the cover. It's probably as close as I'll ever come, so I succumbed to temptation:

Hmm... they could put a transparent object in front with the lettering so one could model dresses, but positioning would probably be a lot trickier.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Gifts for your favorite geekette (is that a word?)

Girls Gone Geek has posted a list of gift suggestions for those considering what to get the geeky girl/woman in one's life. I certainly wouldn't mind an eee under my tree (no, I'm not dropping hints... I have too much stuff already)... a couple of comments, though:
  • Maybe I'm showing my age, but... I gulped hard when I saw the $250 item on the 'penny pinchers" list. Eep! Inflation hasn't upped the ante that much, has it? I mean, for that you could buy someone that $200 Wal-Mart Linux desktop box and a decent amount of RAM.
  • Crank radios are neat (No, that's not a radio that only picks up Art Bell's show...), but I've owned and given the original Freeplay crank radios, and they have a problem: whatever governs the spring's unwinding must take considerable stress. It breaks before very long, so that when you wind it up, it unwinds frantically, sounding like it's about to explode, and you don't get to listen for very long at all. Do check whether the construction has improved in that regard.
It's worth a look.

P.S. Actually, maybe you can't get that $200 Linux box at Wal-Mart. I hear that they've sold their inventory, and I can't find it on the web site any more.

UPDATE: Thanks to commenter
Rohan Jayasekera for info about the improvement to Freeplay radio construction.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

NinjaDay2007... are you ready?

...actually, it doesn't matter. Nobody's ready for a ninja.

I was watching Ask a Ninja the other day, and found out that December fifth is the International Day of the Ninja. (Do check out Ask a Ninja if you haven't heard of it.) So, I set out in search of a ninja suit... and found one.

Alas, I'm having a hard time moving stealthily without being noticed... and the weapons are proving difficult. Not to mention that falling face first on an uiguisubari is very non-stealthy...

In any case, have a wonderful Day of the Ninja. A ninja may be watching to make sure you do.