Monday, April 28, 2008

I saw the treehouse!

I finally found the treehouse at Chakryn Forest. It's beautiful, and well worth the search. (Does anyone actually live in a treehouse? Whoa... I guess they do.)

Upstairs, there's even a harp...

"Oh black water, keep on rollin'..."

Perhaps I'm lucky, or perhaps I just haven't seen an example of what people are talking about so I don't know what's under discussion, so... [pause to look at JIRA and see sample photos]... OK, I guess I'm just lucky. Some people are reporting that water is showing up as black.

I hope that the problem is fixed soon. Here's some non-black water around Whimsy. (Is that a shark fin? Surely not...)

P.S. I just thought of the Frank Zappa song I could have used. Ick...

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Creating sculpted prims in-world

Via Kryptonia Paperdoll, by way of (thank you both very much!): Mango Splash has created a way that you can, while in Second Life, create a sculpted prim. You don't have to spend thousands of US dollars for Maya, or even download and learn to use Blender or Wings3D... instead, in world you manipulate an array of little spheres to get the shape you want, and Mr. Splash's generator creates a texture that will give you that shape when applied to a sculpted prim. The generator creates a prim on which you can sit to be positioned properly to take a picture of that texture. Save the picture, create a sculpted prim, and apply the texture you just photographed as its shape, and poof! There it is.

I think we can now all agree that the notion that sculpted prims are the exclusive province of an elite who know the arcane secrets of 3-D design software has been killed, a stake driven through its heart, pureed in a blender, dumped in a vat of acid, plowed into the ground, and the ground salted. Right?

Friday, April 25, 2008

The Bird is the Word--More about Ubuntu Hardy Heron

(Sorry... I couldn't pass up the chance for a Trashmen reference, though I'm not the first to do it.)

Check out lifehacker's entry on the new Ubuntu. It has a lot of good pointers and hints, most of which I didn't know about and will be taking advantage of.

Besides, the default wallpaper is gorgeous!

Serious Spike

Whoa... I just looked at Google Analytics again, and saw a spike even bigger than the last one. 108 visits on April 22... I'm amazed.

OTOH, perhaps I'm not. On April 21st, the incredible Lillie Yifu mentioned a post from a while back, "The Girl Who Would Be Gibson." (When Hamlet Au referred to Ms. Yifu as "SL's closest analogue to Anaïs Nin," I was startled for a second--and then wondered why on earth I hadn't thought of the comparison.) A link from such a popular and esteemed blog by a popular and esteemed blogger would generate such traffic, I'm sure.

Thank you, Ms. Yifu.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

T - 1 and Counting...

Tomorrow Ubuntu 8.04, codenamed "Hardy Heron", will be officially released. I've been living semi-dangerously and running the beta on the new computer with no complaints.

If you've wondered about Linux, this--or rather, tomorrow--is a good time to try it out. (Servers are likely to be heavily loaded for a while following the announcement, but there's always BitTorrent.) You can download an ISO file and burn a Live CD, or if you run Windows you might consider Wubi. (If you don't have reasonable bandwidth, you can even ask to be sent a Live CD. It's free.)

Linux is of particular interest to SL residents; I've seen several reports that the SL client runs better on Linux than on Windows on the same hardware. (I wouldn't know. I only run Windows under duress.)

UPDATE: It's official! Give it a try.


Oh, dear... something is wrong. Things look sparkly, or more accurately, light is coming through them, almost as if when you hold them up to the light you could see the wireframe.

I wonder what changed to cause this?

UPDATE: whatever it was seems to have gone away; I even went back to Chakryn Forest at midnight, where I first noticed the effect, and couldn't make it happen. (That was with the new RC client, which didn't crash at logon time!) I hope it's gone for good.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

A Must-Read

"The Hate the Lindens Game," on Cheyenne's blog.

More traditional games (or, if like me, you don't think SL is a game, games) can precalculate and pre-render a great deal, so that much of what your computer has to do is just barf a bunch of data generated once and for all long ago onto the screen. SL's performance at any given time depends in large part on varying numbers of objects whose behavior is specified by scripts running as you go along... and those scripts are user-generated, written by people with widely varying levels of programming skill and experience. (How many vendors can hand you a computational complexity analysis of the code for the scripted object you just bought from them?)

Enough of the kvetching, already.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

More of Whimsy

While Forsaken will always have a place in my memory, Whimsy is proving truly wondrous. Here's a photo that puts the new graphics card to far better use than me standing in a pool--this is the Whimsy Sun Gate about whose origin Cheyenne writes.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Avatar Rendering Cost... holy cow!

As Massively reports, the new RC client has an option (ctrl-alt-shift-D to get the "Advanced" menu, then Advanced>Rendering>Info Displays>Avatar Rendering Cost) to display the "Avatar Rendering Cost" of avatars you can see. The effects of various clothing and attachments can vary widely.

In the article, Tateru Nino shows how her ARC varies with changes in clothing and the like; her ARC typically runs from about 400 to 500. So, I fired up the client and turned on the option, thinking I'd probably run a bit higher than that...


Jewelry, alpha textures, and hair can seriously run the ARC up.

Good heavens; now I want to go around and apologize to everybody I've ever been near! Can I ever wear those gowns with a clear conscience again?

At least I have an outfit that gives me an ARC of 350 while still having nice hair for those times that ARC is crucial.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

New Masthead

When I saw the magnificent new masthead at Cheyenne Palisades's blog (and if you don't read it, why not? She's kind, insightful, and mischievously creative), I decided mine was overdue for a change. I hope you like it!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Return to Chakryn Forest

I went back for a bit to see the forest by night... and in a way, I failed, because the wonderful filtered sunbeams are present whatever virtual time one's client is set to. That said, the mysterious vortex does benefit:

I do wonder about one thing, though. The forest is quite laden with effects--and I think it shows up bugs in rendering or perhaps in graphics drivers. Try taking a picture at midnight by the lovely running water, and you'll find your avatar looks as though it's developed many holes. I did manage to get photos that pleased me:

I still haven't made it to the treehouse!

P.S. Honest, I wasn't trying for forced perspective; the bench showing up by my ankles is purely an oversight on my part.

The Blustery Day

It's a Blustery Day in RL in Iowa. Street lights and traffic lights are swaying like SL trees, but it's so nice outside that you enjoy it anyway, right down to leaning into the wind.

I hope your day is as good.

Chakryn Forest

After reading about Natalia's experiences in Chakryn Forest, I had to go exploring.

Chakryn Forest is every bit as lovely as Natalia describes it: lush, green, and sun-dappled. A strange vortex hovers at one spot...

Alas, work took me away before I could visit the treehouse... but I will be back. I want to lie in the grass and listen to Pink Floyd's "Grantchester Meadows" until I am totally mellowed out.

Chakryn Forest is, like "Heaven in SL," a trompe l'oeil sort of
environment (there aren't rectangular forests in RL, are there?), though light-years past what I saw in "Heaven in SL" at the time. It's surrounded by water... and, to show off the results of the new graphics card, I can't resist adding a photo, though yet again to get the real effect of the waves and the shifting images of things underwater, you need video.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Calling Bishop Berkeley...

As things stand in SL, buying a sim (a 256 x 256 meter patch of "land" in SL) is buying time on a server that is dedicated to simulating that square piece of virtual land. That's a straightforward way to do things, but that fixed allocation is almost never the right amount. Of course, nobody's complaining when there are CPU cycles to burn, and you're on a deserted island with a sweet frame rate... but attend a popular SL event--for example, any performance by the magnificent Jaynine Scarborough--and you have a lag-fest that not many people can attend, even with the clever (and expensive!) dodge of putting the stage over a corner so the audience can be spread over four sims. This is a shame; in the specific example, I would like as many people as possible to hear (and appropriately tip!) Ms. Scarborough. Many people have pointed out this limitation as a major impediment to the appearance of very well-known performers in SL. (If you fill huge stadiums, are you going to go to the trouble for a bit over a hundred people tops?)

I have to hope that LL is rethinking this "one sim = one server" setup. There has to be some way to balance the load, so that the CPU cycles can, figuratively speaking, go where they're needed. In the limit, this has the curious consequence that if nobody's in a sim, there may be no servers spending any CPU cycles on it, a situation oddly reminiscent of Bishop Berkeley. I would also hope that, contrary to a temper tantrum I've seen thrown and assertions I've read, SL residents will either realize by considering the issue or be convinced by the results of such a redesign that it will greatly improve SL.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

In the immortal words of Dr. Phil...

"What are you thinking?!"

This is addressed to Linden Lab upon finding that Nicholaz Beresford, who has put a LOT of effort into improving the SL client since it has been made open source, has decided to hang it up given the non-support received from Linden Lab.

Such behavior from LL is amazingly short-sighted. Thanks to Nicholaz for what he's done to date, and I hope LL comes to its collective senses about this issue.

Friday, April 04, 2008

A Sudden Realization

The last few versions of the Release Candidate SL client have not had the file with the eye-in-hand SL logo that seems like the obvious choice for an icon to click on to fire the client up. People have understandably complained, but it didn't make any difference, and if you look at the new release, it doesn't have it either.

Finally this morning a possible reason occurred to me: I bet it has something to do with the recent brouhaha over the Second Life brand! It's just silly and petty enough to be the correct answer.

UPDATE: more recent versions of the RC client now have the icon file. Thank goodness.

New computer

I've taken the plunge and put together a new computer, and it's very nice indeed to get 34 fps with the graphics sliders run up all the way.

I didn't go whole hog for graphics; I'm still behind the curve there, with PCI Express 1.0 ("How pathetic," the gamers all say) and running with an nVidia 8600 with only 256 MB of RAM ("Hahaha 1 p0wn j00!" some gasp out between guffaws), not even running SLI with two or more graphics cards to run up the parallelism even more. (At this point, we should give some of the gamers oxygen; they're laughing so hard they're having trouble breathing.) I have, though, made the move to AM2 bus, dual core, and 4 GB of RAM (DDR2 is very inexpensive; I've actually read speculation that the RAM glut is thanks to manufacturers ramping up to deal with demand caused by the obscene resource usage of Vista... followed by people running screaming from Vista back to XP or avoiding Vista altogether).

Nevertheless, SL is a much nicer place to be, and I'm far less plagued by lag.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Design for Society

I share a laundry room with others in the complex in which I live. The rules say to empty the dryer lint filter after you use it... but that leads to a free rider problem, because the temptation is to not bother; after all, if everyone else follows the rules, you never have to deal with the lint filter. The system rewards lawbreakers... or perhaps I should say "laundry griefers"?

The sensible rule would be this: "clean the lint filter before you use it." Everyone is motivated to do that, because they want their clothes dry... and rather than having jerks who can avoid cleaning the lint filter and decent people cleaning it twice, everyone is guaranteed one cleaning per dryer load.

In that regard, Massively has a brief article pointing one in turn to this excellent article in Gamasutra on designing games so that not being a jerk is to one's advantage.

Marc Stiegler's excellent novel David's Sling contains many insights, and among the best is this: zero-sum games can turn men into brutes; positive-sum games turn brutes into men. Some games are inherently zero-sum--but even they can benefit from design that encourages sportsmanship, and virtual worlds far more so.

UPDATE: In Instapundit, Glenn Reynolds mentions receiving a book on a similar topic:
Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness.

More Forced Perspective

Sorry... I had to go back and do some more forced perspective pictures; Diversity Hair kind of lends itself to it, with the high ceilings and the tall panels.

(I do have to wonder what the people there were thinking, though.)

Now I need to learn how to make shadows for a little added verisimilitude.