Thursday, May 31, 2007

Is it all that easy the old way?

Today Cheyenne told me about a two-prim dolphin made with a sculpted prim. (Why isn't it one prim? One prim determines the path the dolphin takes; I presume it's a disk with the dolphin attached to the edge.)

She has dolphins made the old-fashioned way; they're twenty prims each.

Any shape can be built up out of a bunch of tiny basic shapes... but that would be an even more insane use of prims, which are a precious resource in SL.There are some stock tricks, like building trees and bushes with intersecting planes that are transparent save for having the side view of the plant painted on them, but in general the task is figuring out how to get a good enough approximation to the shape with the fewest possible prims. That's not easy... and to be honest, it often isn't quite good enough. If, for example, you're approximating a curve by overlapping two prims, the place where the boundaries intersect is hard to get just right; lighting will show up a corner, however slight, in a cross section at right angles to said intersection.

It's easy to create some prims and glue them together... but it's not easy to get a good enough approximation of a shape while minimizing prim count.

So... old style prims are easy at first; the difficulty comes when you try to make something more complicated. Sculpted prims, on the other hand, are hard at first, because you have to learn to use blender or Wings 3D or whatever... but once you've done that, you can make just about anything topologically equivalent to a sphere (for now; later we'll get other sorts of sculpted prims).

So... is the making of quality objects in SL all that much more arcane a skill now than it was before sculpted prims? I think not.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

"Sunrise, Sunset..."

There's now a First Look viewer that has the WindLight sky/weather display code!

I had to try it, of course. Cheyenne's land on Forsaken has a gorgeous view of sunrise and sunset. I headed for the coast, set the world to sunset, chose "Coastal Sunset" for the WindLight settings, and...

...saw a fuzzy cyan disk above the horizon.

Now, I've never actually watched the sunset from an island shore, but I'm pretty sure the sun remains a class G star, no matter where you watch it from. Time to ask about this one. Maybe I fiddled with the cloud cover?

One thing that definitely seems weird is that when I tried sunrise, the light seemed to still come from the west. It is a puzzlement.

I can say that the lighting on objects around me was great, and (aside from that direction question...) was much as I'd expect in real life.

I don't have a picture of sunrise or sunset. Yet. I do have a picture I took of myself in the light of sunrise, though. There was a contest (that I'll probably miss) for retro clothing, and I had to try for a hippie look, having missed the chance to really be a hippie by something over a decade. (That may be fortunate.) It's more faux hippie, to be honest; I should have gone for a long dress rather than tie-dyed T-shirt and jeans with a peace symbol. I still think it came out well, though... especially because I saw mention of the fact that the Linux client startup script by default turns off a bunch of OpenGL rendering features, and hence remembered to undo it.

UPDATE: Duh. The First Look client runs in its own directory, with its own shell script. I haven't run it with the OpenGL options enabled yet. More news as it happens.

Monday, May 28, 2007

"The beautiful, shiny button? The jolly, candy-like button? Will she hold out, folks? Can she hold out?"

NO, I CAN'T!

So, I read about Cheyenne's experiences at the "space station thingie" and of course, I had to try it out.

I got similar results. (The button's legend promised chaos... but repeated pressing didn't change very much.)

I saved my shape post-button push for later study, and headed back home. Once there, I noticed some things:
  • My torso appeared about as tall as my whole body used to be
  • Lag was awfully bad
Those two in combination reminded me of this entry in Electric Venus. The button must be scripted... could it be making some of the changes that the author in Electric Venus won't mention? I think I will ask the button's creator.

P.S. The effect goes away if you log off and log back in. It would also be interesting to know whether other people see the same thing you see after pushing the button.

UPDATE: Thanks to help from a friend, I can say that other people do see the change in your shape after you push the button; also, whatever it is that does the distortion is not saved as part of saving the shape. Whatever is happening, it doesn't affect the slider settings.

The Mysterious Peak

There was a very gratifying peak in blog visits when the interview in the SL Newspaper was published. That I understood.

Now, Google Analytics is making me wonder. On May 23rd there was a peak that exceeded even the post-interview peak... and I have no idea why!

Don't get me wrong; I am happy that so many people visited. I just don't know why it happened! :)

I worry too much, I guess.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Outside, nose (and breasts) pressed against the window of fashion...

Right now, there are two worlds of fashion in SL.

In one, vast numbers of people slave over textures and prims to reproduce the subtle details of the way light plays on the textures, folds, and wrinkles in different kinds of cloth to create amazing fashions. (OK... to the extent that's possible in a world where skirts are made up of a bunch of rectangular strips tied together at the top...)

Even the high end products are not all that expensive, because the makers can take full advantage of economy of scale and a huge market for their products, which all are made for the standard issue avatar form. Anyone using those avatars can wear any of that clothing... and there's so much of it! The list of SL fashion blogs, both those from designers announcing their own products and from reviewers who cover that portion of the cornucopia they can manage to keep track of and find worthy, is endless.

In the other, individuals piece together prims to cover avatars or body parts themselves built from prims. The need to do that makes it very difficult to do anything other than solid colors; very few patterns or textures here. No economies of scale here, either; these people are making clothing to cover the avatars or body parts they themselves have made, thus splitting the time and resources they have to devote to each, and they will at most sell as many copies of the clothes as they sell of the corresponding avatars or body parts they are designed to fit.... and the market for those is diminished by the nagging thought at the back of the shoppers' heads: Look at all I'd be giving up! All the dresses, uniforms, swimsuits...

Do I have a solution? Not really... but the makers of specialized avatars and body parts not supported by the stock avatar model really should try to come up with some way around it. Coming together as a group to work on the problem sounds like a good first step to me.

Couldn't say it better myself...

Caliburn Susanto, in his LiveJournal, describes the hell that is SL with voice enabled.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

I don't think procrastination counts as a super power...

The other day in SL, I saw a friend in an amazingly detailed latex suit. She said she'd gotten it for only L$100, and took me shopping. I bought one.

That's something I'd never do in real life; at the very least, it would be horribly uncomfortable, and not particularly appealing to me. In SL, though, it's just a form-fitting suit, and in SL, one can always have a form worth fitting.


Suit on, in Calico Creation's Ember hair (in "fire" color) to match, I feel like I should be in a comic book. Where to take a picture of it? In a city, obviously. No superhero lives in a rural area...OK, Smallville maybe, but Superman headed for Metropolis when it was time to get serious about superheroing.


Where in SL to get that urban feel? Has to be Midnight City, at midnight. It worked for Sexy Tuxedo, it would work for this, and sure enough, it did:

Friday, May 25, 2007

Pele will remain where it/she is

Pele will be staying on Forsaken (and hence my abode will as well). I can understand the decision... I couldn't take apart the product of so much work... of so much of oneself put into a place.

Lo siento mucho...

Looking at Google Analytics, I see that a number of the views from countries where Spanish is spoken show a very short time spent reading.

I fear that it may be because the Spanish words in the title fake out searches done by Spanish speakers, who may feel cheated to find that they've only turned up the random ramblings of a Second Life resident that aren't even in Spanish!

That makes me feel bad, but OTOH, the title is kind of set now.

What can I say but... lo siento muchísimo; que Uds. me hagan el favor de perdonarme para haber gastado su tiempo.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Sooner than I thought...

The 1.16.0.4 beta, when it arrived, seems to work nicely, though I've not exercised it more than flying and walking around and examining various sculpted prims from various angles and distances...

...but I guess it's working well enough that LL is bringing sculpted prims to the main grid today after the day's downtime, with the 1.16.0 client.

I'm very happy about this; it means that a lot of shapes that are insane to try to assemble from the simple geometric shapes of traditional prims will become possible. Want an example? Check out the SL Wiki entry for "Sculpted Prims" and scroll on down to the head made by Chip Midnight. Note how many sculpted prims it took to make: ONE.

Actually, let's save you the trouble of following the link. Here's a closeup from a photo I took of an attempt at a human giantess avatar. It's rather doll-like; being at the very beginning of building myself, I can't say that it's the best one can do with old-style prims, but I bet it's not at all easy to create a realistic looking human head out of prims.



Compare that with Chip Midnight's head, made with exactly one prim:


(Sigh... blogger doesn't like .PNG files, so I had to convert it and upload it.)

Second Life is going to get a lot prettier and more realistic, just from this. Furry avatars are going to be revolutionized (and I hope I can finally get the giantess avatar I've been wanting...), and I'm sure the folks making prim genitalia are hard at work. :)

I think LL did a clever thing with this. SL doesn't have to get involved with how you create a sculpted prim; it need only generate the results based on the pseudo-texture that describes its shape. (Oh, yeah... I understand that one can use Wings 3D, another Open Source program, to create sculpted prims now, as well as Blender. At the time of this writing, the SL Wiki lists three free programs that can do the job, thus kicking the props out from underneath the argument that sculpted prims will be the province of what some would call the FI3DC.)

[UPDATE: Oops... make that four. I didn't notice POVRay the first time I looked.]

So... I'm doing a happy dance, and setting to the task of learning to use Wings 3D. (Second) life is good.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Back to normal

I'm happy to say that as I type this, I'm downloading version 1.16.0.4 of the beta client for Linux. Thanks to whoever at LL caused this to happen; I hope that the Linux client doesn't fall behind again in the future.

UPDATE: I appeared in an area covered with scattered objects, many made from sculpted prims. My flexi prim hair was just fine. Now to start creating sculpted prims...

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Paradise for Sale


Second Life time is like dog years, only more so. So it seems to me as if Pele, the place my dear friend Cheyenne Palisades calls home in SL, has been around a long time... but it hasn't, really.

It's not been that long since she was learning about terraforming and building and positioning things... often the hard way. You can read about it in her blog.

Now Pele stands, a delightful and beautiful example of the designing skills (and whimsy) of Ms. Palisades, and of Exuberance LaFleur. (Did I mention that you can put Cheyenne's talents to work for you on the grid? She does have a design business in SL. As she says, life is too short for ugly design.) And now it's for sale.

I hope that the eventual buyer (or buyers) realizes and appreciates what he or she (or they) has (or have) acquired.

Friday, May 18, 2007

But seriously, folks...

If you live in the United States and you enjoy webcasters and the audio streams you listen to in SL, you need to get in touch with your Senators immediately.

The Copyright Royalty Board has decided to charge Internet webcasters and noncommercial broadcasters such as NPR per song streamed... and backdate the new charges for years to the beginning of 2006. This change will effectively kill Internet webcasting.

Ask your senators to co-sponsor the Internet Radio Equality Act, which overturns the decision so that the current percentage of revenue model is maintained, and the percentage set to the same level as that charged satellite radio broadcasters, 7.5%.

Go here to find out how to get in touch with your Senators. Call them and express your opinion. If you don't, you can kiss your audio streams goodbye.

For your amusement...

A little inspirational video.... :)

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Back of the bus...

The grid's down for maintenance. Gee, it would be a great time to try out the beta client and check out those spiffy sculpted prims!

Well... the beta client I was able to download before immediately barfs when it tries to display my surroundings. "Take off your flexi prims," people said... but if you die immediately, how do you have the time to do that?

Good news! There's a new beta out, and it may solve that problem... but if you go looking for the Linux version, you can't find it.

What's going on here?

UPDATE: there is a beta version for download for Linux now. Alas, it's a version behind that available for Windows or Macintosh.

UPDATE: 1.16.0.2 is now available for Windows and Macintosh. The beta avaiable for Linux is still 1.16.0.0, three days after we were promised 1.16.0.1.

There's a thread about 1.16.0.2 saying that voice for Linux will have to wait until Vivox writes a client for Linux. I hope that the beta for Linux isn't being held up by the issue of voice; there are a LOT of other changes worth testing.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Ramblings about SL

Various people are commenting on Gwyneth Llewellyn's "Hotspots: Second Life's New Controversies." So, I figure I might as well join in. :)

The "Luddites"

She may have picked an unfortunate label, "Luddites," but she nailed the "Open Letter" issue. All enhancements, however far along they may be, are met with a chorus of short-sighted flamage. It's short-sighted, or perhaps I should say based in ignorance, for several reasons:

First, the law of diminishing returns, combined with Brooks' Law ("adding people to a late software project makes it later"), means that it's useless or perhaps even counterproductive to put many more people on bug fixes.

Second, big improvements in speed don't come from fiddling with code. Say you have a deck of cards, and you want it sorted. Here's one way to do it:
  1. Shuffle the deck.
  2. If it's not in order, start over again at step 1.
  3. If it is in order, whee! You're done!
This will in fact sort the deck, barring problems with your random number generator.It will also be insanely slow, taking time proportional to n! where n is the number of cards in the deck (and n! is n * (n - 1) * (n - 2) * ... * 2 * 1). If you've written a sort routine that runs like that, you can tune the code all you want; rewrite it in the tightest assembly language you can churn out... and it will still be insanely slow.

Major improvements in speed come from improvements to algorithms, not doing what you should be leaving to the compiler's optimizer. There's no point in wasting time on the old, slow version... but of course, people will continue to complain because LL isn't doing just that while work on the new version is underway.

Third, LL can't afford to not work at least part of the time on improvements. Other similar (but far more restricted--perhaps leaving creation to those 3D specialists Gwyneth goes on about--and hence easier to precalculate and optimize) systems are or will be breathing down its neck, and then we'll hear the cries that SL needs more features.

Professional 3D modelers

Ms. Llewellyn says sculpted prims have many advantages, and here again she is absolutely correct. They will allow a wide variety of shapes to be created that would otherwise require many of the current prims to even crudely approximate them, if they can be practically made from current prims at all. Eventually everyone will want items made from sculpted prims, for that improved appearance and performance improvement over what one can build from the simple geometric shapes of today's prims.

The part I disagree with is the claim that sculpted prims will create an enormous barrier to entry for building things. Only a very few "professional 3D modelers," the argument goes, have the skill and arcane knowledge required to create sculpted prims.

"popular products like Poser, for instance, sell about 150 thousand copies..." but Blender is estimated to have 250,000 users. Blender is GPL software, open source (guess those open source "tekkie" [sic] types took a break from looting and pillaging... don't they read Prokofy?), and steadily being improved in features, user interface, and documentation.

LL initially only wrote an exporter for Maya, a very expensive (Maya Unlimited 8.5 is a "mere" $7K) and proprietary package... but a few days ago a method to create sculpted prims with Blender was posted to the Web.

It's true... making sculpted prims is more involved than gluing together balls and boxes in SL. Sorry. But it's not that hard, and people are working diligently to make it easier, or at least easier to learn how to do it.

Conflicting Arguments

The reporter from the SL Newspaper did make a good point. I point out that the SL avatars don't support even that variability in people that exists--if Robert Wadlow were alive, he couldn't make his SL avatar look like him--but what I personally want goes well beyond what exists in RL. ("What? Only 8'10"?!" :))

I just hope that whatever they do to impement the "acknowledged" Proposition 125 (or the JIRA entry that corresponds to it) will support both the existing variation in humans and what I'd like to do. :)

Entrepreneurship


Since a kind lady took me shopping one day early in my Second Life, I have made periodic efforts to pay it forward.

Sometimes I've taken others shopping... at least once I didn't have time to actually go shopping, and it proved to be a good thing. I recently heard from Annica Lisle, a lovely and kind young woman; she didn't shop, but instead turned her talents, efforts, and L$ to building and becoming an entrepreneur. She now has two stores that sell a wide variety of clothing and accessories at very reasonable prices. One is in the Clarksville Shopping Mall at
Meari (203, 226, 138), and the other is in the Violet Club at Inare (27, 118, 421).

Here I have on my favorite of the things I've bought there so far. I hope you'll check her stores out.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Monday, May 07, 2007

I am interviewed!

I got an IM yesterday from Voodoo Buwan. He'd seen my flickr page and read my blog; would I like to be interviewed for the SL Newspaper?

Would I? You bet!

So... today he came by my humble (but charming; Cheyenne does wonderful work) abode and interviewed me. Based on what he told me, I hope the result will appear in the next day or so. I'm looking forward to seeing it!

UPDATE: Things move quickly in SL and on the Internet; the interview is up in the "Daily News" section of the SL Newspaper. I'm tempted not to give a direct link, to heavily encourage you to read the whole paper, but for posterity's sake, in case it should scroll off that section, the interview can be made to appear on a page by itself, along with comments, which so far have been positive (or have teased Mr. Buwan about the joys of interviewing large-breasted women).

UPDATE #2: Welcome, SL Newspaper readers! Google Analytics showed a gratifying rise in readership yesterday. I hope that you enjoy my meanderings.

"I see you shiver with antici......pation!"

Maybe I shouldn't have been quite so optimistic in my notion of when sculpted prims will be ready for prime time.

The 1.16.0 beta client, which supports said prims, is out. I've downloaded it, set up a launcher for it, run it... and watched it crash immediately when it started to actually display where I was.

There was an update, and I have grabbed it. It gets far enough that I can see the fade from the "where were you last time" image into wherever I am on the beta grid... and then it crashes.

I'm hoping such a blatant bug will be an obvious goof-up, and things will improve quickly.

World Tour

If you haven't set up your blog with Google Analytics or some other service that lets you keep track of who reads your blog like MyBlogLog, you should. Even if you aren't looking to maximize your sales or ad revenue, it's fun just to look at things like the Google Analytics "geo map overlay."

Sometimes I look at it and wish I had the time and money to visit all the places from which people read my blog. It would be quite a tour, even if I stuck only with the places that have looked at it more than once.

Then again, the thought makes me worry a little bit. People in Saudi Arabia have read this blog, and I can't help recalling the 2002 girls' school fire where the "mutaween" religious police made sure the schoolgirls who didn't take the time to put on their scarves and abayas couldn't get to safety. That differs from my notion of ethical behavior at such a fundamental level that I don't think there's much point to discussing it. I wonder what the beliefs of those readers in Saudi Arabia are, and what they think of my meanderings here...

...and then I wonder whether I'm getting a representative sample of what people there think. If others judge America by the religious nutcases that constitute the main shortwave broadcasters in the US other than the Voice of America, heaven help us.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Bugs

SL residents have been understandably frustrated by bugs in SL. The friends listings are flaky, people report losing things from inventory, teleporting is an iffy thing.

One result has been the notorious "Open Letter" that requests that certain of these problems be fixed in preference to the addition of new features. Unfortunately, despite LL's having devoted over two thirds of its development staff to bug fixes, there appear to be vocal people who object to any development of new features.

News flash: no large program is bug-free. If you insist that all SL bugs be fixed before any new development occurs, then no new development will ever occur. Such a demand is short-sighted. Those interested, and those complaining that 69% isn't enough people to dedicate to bug fixing, might also wish to learn about Brooks' law.

P.S. There's a certain irony in the fact that the majority of SL users, and hence probably the majority of the complainers, are running Microsoft Windows.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Woodshed

I got an announcement yesterday from RH Designs about their new Woodshed build, and had to go there.

It's a beautiful place, all rich, saturated colors, dark wood, potted plants, and ornate comfy furniture, with exquisite detail. You expect to see a group of dignified Caledonian gentlemen with brandy snifters and cigars, talking about their expeditions or military exploits.


The area outside is even more beautiful, with waterfalls, lush greenery, and wonderful bridges.


It straddles the boundary between Woodshed and Mobius. (I was amazed that I could cross that boundary without sinking into the ground as I'd always seen before; perhaps that's been fixed.) There are some pleasant and romantic poseballs for the furniture inside and out.

Like Creative Fantasy's builds in Shadow Brook and Serenity Falls, even if you don't intend to buy anything at the moment, it's so gorgeous you will want to go there.