Sunday, June 29, 2008

Kids5B

The child avatars of SL have set up their own area in celebration of SL's fifth birthday. I got to see some of it today, and will go back to explore further. (Charlanna Beresford has the SLURL on her listing of SL5B events on New World Notes.)

The area covers two sims; I started down the yellow brick road in Alton Icarus, and when I return I will take the train that tours the entire area.

What I saw was a brightly-colored, fun place with giant crayons, toy soldiers, and a rocking horse and carousel to ride. There was a performance area with dance poseballs, and a list of the performers scheduled for the area.

The most touching spot was one with a gallery of photos of child avatars that one could click on and receive notecards in which they described their experiences.

LL has seen fit to choose what goes into the official SL5B based on what people setting out to put the worst possible spin on things might say. I submit that that is a huge mistake, and I hope you'll visit Kids5B.

P.S. Many thanks to sven, whose last name, alas, I have forgotten, for help and conversation, and to Cutie and... darn my short-term memory!... the other young lady with whom I talked while there.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

SL5B

This painting, showing the Madonna and child surrounded by Saints Dominic and Thomas Aquinas, cannot be part of the SL5B builds.
I've been looking around the SL5B sims. I'm impressed by what I see there, but the brouhaha over child avatars is strange.

According to Shoshana Epsilon, LL has decreed that in art in SL5B, "you can't have a picture of a child and an adult in the same picture."
([sic], as Shoshana could have written, as it's text she quoted) So if there's a church or museum in SL5B, they'd better not have a Nativity scene or a stained glass window of Madonna and child? I'm reminded of the punch line of a Bertrand Russell essay: In a word, nice people are those who have nasty minds.

UPDATE: From the comments in this photo on flickr, confirmation, in the form of email from Dusty Linden. The pertinent section:
Our main concern throughout this has been images that can be misinterpreted or misrepresented by people are not used to looking at images of avatars in virtual worlds. We need to imagine what outsiders would "see" in an image if it appeared in the RL Press, out of context and with sensationalist captions. The images that are the most likely candidates for this are images of kid avatars and adult avatars together.

Friday, June 27, 2008

You can run, but can you hide?

So, a question being discussed at length on the SL Developers mailing list, and pontificated on endlessly by the unqualified, is whether cached textures should be obfuscated to protect content. Of course, any such obfuscation has to be undone to use the texture, so it's a question of the tradeoff between the overhead and effectiveness.

Unfortunately, the effectiveness is at best questionable.

First, there's the equivalent of what, in the context of protecting audio and video, is called the "analog hole": you can take a picture of the monitor (an LCD monitor will keep you from having to worry about the scan rate), and then fire up GIMP or Photoshop. [UPDATE: D'oh! I guess I forgot the snapshot facility...] In the general case you'd have to undo the way the SL client wraps the textures around object or avatar, but it's doable. As long as you can see a texture in SL, you can do this, whatever happens to the texture along the way.

Second, there is a proof that obfuscation is in general impossible. One of the authors of the paper giving the proof, which was presented at the CRYPTO 2001 conference, has conveniently put up an informal discussion of the result and what it means. (In turn it has a link to the paper.)

Third, such schemes are subject to all the methods of cryptanalysis, such as the known plaintext attack. Anyone can upload a texture; it's just L$10, which at current rates is less than three cents. Upload it and paint a box with it. Poof--you now know that somewhere in your cache is the obfuscated form of your texture, and you have the original version. With this you can attempt to analyze and crack the obfuscation. (If you've read the Wikipedia entry, you know that technically this is a chosen plaintext attack, because you have control over the plaintexts that you can get the enciphered versions of.)

Is the graphics file format for textures known? Then you know that somewhere in the cache are multiple copies of the stock headers and trailers that format uses, just as codebreakers in WWII could count on Japanese telegraphs ending with owari, and stock salutations and closings of letters could give one an entering wedge into a cipher.

In brief: it's pointless. Honest people won't steal (and will, as I do, want to support those who create all the wonderful things SL has to offer), and there's always the "analog hole."

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Gomem goes 64-bit

About twenty-five minutes through episode 52 of the Podmafia podcast, Gomem DeSoto mentions trying out an honest-to-goodness 64-bit Linux SL client and being impressed with its speed, getting 30 fps with the graphics cranked to Ultra and draw distance of 512 meters.. (Yxes sounded tempted... I hope she gives it a try. It's not hard, honest.)

Alas, he doesn't mention where he got it, or which version of the client. I hope that the Podmafia site is updated soon and links provided.

UPDATE:in comments, Mr. DeSoto himself graciously gives us the URL:
http://www.getdeb.net/app.php?name=Second+Life. Alas, it's just the official version, not the Release Candidate, though keeping up with those is a good bit more work, so I certainly understand. The linked site gives a .deb file, so if you have a Debian-based distribution, you're all set.

Monday, June 23, 2008

"2Life! 2Life! L'chaim!..."

I discovered that there's an online periodical about Judaism and Second Life. The title is one that I wish I'd thought of: 2Life.

It's interesting and well-designed. I'm not Jewish. I'm not even religious, but ever since the long-ago day that I found and absorbed as best I could the contents of Leo Rosten's The Joys of Yiddish, which includes a goodly amount of history as well as word definitions, etymologies, and humor, I have admired and respected Jewish culture and learned more about it when I could.

I urge you to check out 2Life.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

"I'm gonna send ya back to schoolin'..."

After reading the discussion of the initial SL experience and why those who do stick around do so on New World Notes (initially here, with followup here), and after realizing I barely remembered my initiation into SL, I headed to Orientation Island (the public version that anyone can go to) to go through the process again.

<duh>It went a lot more quickly this time.</duh> The first time, I would overshoot, have trouble walking in a straight line, fly into the roof or into a wall. After a mere year and ten months, I've learned how to control my avatar--OK, aside from the overshooting and flying into things. Another obvious source of the brevity of the experience is that I didn't set up the appearance of my avatar.

This Orientation Island is the version that I went through initially, so if I understand rightly, it doesn't tell me much about what people go through now. I hear that one has to deal with a HUD these days, and I don't think that's a good idea. Give people the basics of moving around, communication, and self-defense, and leave things like HUDs for a class. Then they can actually enter the world and make friends, which is what really seems to be the key to staying in SL.

A must-read from Gwyneth Llewelyn

Gwyneth asks the question: is the SL5B brouhaha an indication of an attempt to get rid of the "early adopters" lest they impede the Disneyfication of SL? It's reminiscent of an earlier article of hers in which she predicted the end of immersionism in SL: late adopters are the bigger market.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

A visit to the Garden of NPIRL Delights

I took a trip there with kalosss Gausman, a dear friend. (About time, too, as it closes very soon indeed!)

We started out with the air tour in a wooden ship in the shape of a fleur de lis (I'm a bit embarrassed at how long it took me to notice that...), and then wandered around some at ground level, at least initially.

First we went to a spectacular factory, all full of things moving on shafts and electricity. Near it were amazing aerial displays... fireworks would be the closest RL phenomenon, but this did things you'd not see in RL. Were we in hell? Were those Blake's "dark Satanic mills"? I tend to think not, that we were in purgatory instead.

We knew we were in hell when we came upon a very disturbing scene that one must walk through a lake of blood to see. After that, we decided we had enough of hell, and went off in search of heaven.

Fortunately, as Mike Oldfield sang, "Heaven's open--fly right in." In our case, though, we teleported to a huge sphere with ever-shifting and spinning blizzard, and thence to a door that led outside. kalosss teleported and offered me a teleport in turn.

That took us to earth--a bright, candy-cane park-like scene--and from there we ended up in a dome with a glorious sky painted inside. Within was yet another, smaller, dome and inside was something curiously labeled "God's Bed."

Well, they do say that He rested on the seventh day...

We had to lie down on it--no thunderbolts ensued, though there are some features that we, um, made a point of avoiding.

By then it was getting late, and the extreme density of hard core graphics and probably scripts was taking its toll even on my lovely new 2.8 GHz dual-core system. The load average had shot up to 13, and the RC client was intermittently freezing, but so often and for so long at a time that it was no longer really usable.

I'll have to go back with the official client to see whether it makes a difference, not to mention that the above is the tiniest fraction of all the things to be seen in the Garden.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Midnight Industry

If you like elegant clothing, by all means visit Midnight Industry, a very new fashion house featuring the work of Mordecai Scaggs and Kacy Despres.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The folly of stagnation

I've mentioned a few times in the past that I think the position expressed in the "Open Letter" of slightly over a year ago--that enhancements to SL be postponed until bugs are fixed--was, and still is, short-sighted in the extreme. While bug fixing is important, and indeed LL announced that it was devoting a considerable majority of its resources to bug fixes, LL can't afford to stagnate while on a never-ending quest to fix all bugs in SL.

Nonetheless, one can count on any LL blog entry that permits comments being inundated with the very same short-sighted demand, whether it's on-topic or not.

Since the Open Letter, we have sculpted prims and Windlight; the former is a major advance in both the ability to make objects that would be insanely difficult and inefficient to build up out of the old, and the results of Windlight can be seen in just about any exhibit of SL photography.

Today the LL blog shows another major advance, I hope soon to arrive on the main grid, that wouldn't have happened had LL taken the advice of the "Open Letter" signatories and the endless kvetchers in the blog: compiling LSL scripts down to C# byte code using the work of the Open Source Mono project. The video in the blog entry compares a Mandelbrot set generator using the old LSL system with one using Mono. The Mono version displays, zooms and displays again dozens of times while the old versions barely manages to get through the initial computation and display of the set as a whole.

Now, fractal generation is highly compute-bound, and may not be representative of what scripts "usually" do; I don't know enough about scripting in SL to be able to say. That said, surely this will cut down considerably on lag, one of the things that is endlessly complained about. Had LL devoted themselves solely to bug fixing, as is continually demanded, it wouldn't have happened.

Behind in RL, too....

I've yet to be the first to post about a neat build in SL, as I've noted before. I find out about places in Mermaid Diaries, or on New World Notes.

Well... it's the same in RL, I guess, because I've not mentioned a couple of things:

First, I've been totally remiss in not mentioning Firefox Download Day. With the release of version 3 of Firefox, there's a drive to set a world record for the number of times a program has been downloaded in a day. I hope that you are familiar with the Firefox web browser, and that you download the version of Firefox 3 appropriate for your computer and operating system. Download Day actually started at 6:16 p.m. GMT on June 17, so I (and you!) haven't missed out completely on the chance to help set a record as I type this.

Second, June 17 marks another milestone for the Open Source world: version 1.0 of Wine, an implementation of the Windows API, is now available. The intent of Wine Is to make it possible to run programs written for Windows on other operating systems, most notably Linux. It's not perfect, even at version 1.0, but nonetheless, take a look at the Wine Applications Database; it's grown considerably more impressive as Wine has matured. [Must not... do Orson Welles... imitation...] If some Windows application important to you will run with Wine, perhaps you can finally move to Linux and escape the clutches of the Evil Empire.

Monday, June 16, 2008

New from Foxbean Laboratories

Foxbean Laboratories has come out with a new package of prim breasts. It includes a variety of shapes and sizes.

I admire and respect all makers of prim breasts; they go to great lengths to overcome the deficiencies of the stock SL avatar shapes, and in the case of Smashing Prims, make beautiful clothing for them as well. But I love the shape of Foxbean Laboratories products, and that's why I always return to them.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Spotsylvania

Darn it, I had hopes for the new Release Candidate SL client.

To give credit where credit is due, it does look like the "log on twice, get on once" bug is fixed, but I took a high-resolution picture with it, and the spots are still there.


This is highly frustrating.

Postscript Re: Costs of DRM

One of the things involved in DRM is end-to-end encryption. The level of paranoia is such that even the bus on the motherboard can't be allowed to have "cleartext" (in this context, unencrypted content) on it. This implies that at various stages the data must be decrypted, processed, and then re-encrypted to be passed on to the next stage.

That decryption and re-encryption requires processor cycles, memory, and energy. You can thank DRM for, to some extent, slowing down your computer, increasing your electricity consumption, and shortening the time between recharges of your laptop's battery.

A can't-miss podcast

No Linux podcast is perfect. Lug Radio is self-indulgent and littered with gratuitous profanity (I was sorely tempted to submit an audio clip full of F-bombs from LugRadio episodes to the "Pimp My LugRadio" contest); TLLTS (The Linux Link Tech Show) is similarly self-indulgent, has an occasional background of screaming children and whatever they happen to be watching on TV at the time, and needs to get rid of the funny-only-once audio clip at the end of every srizonified show.

That said, they're both excellent sources of information and discussion, and if you listen to only one episode of any Linux podcast, you should listen to the June 11, 2008 episode of TLLTS, for the discussion of Lindependence 2008.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

I swear this is not a fashion blog, but...

...alas, it seems that I don't have much time to do anything but look around at a few of the endless list of places that show up if you join the Fashion Consolidated group, or that appear on Fabulously Free in SL. I hope that will change.

In any case, even though I swear that this is so not a fashion blog...

Eclectic Eclipse: if you want gloriously ornate gowns, this is on the list of places to go, along with Nicky Ree and the Crystal Queendom. (And RFyre, and.. if you know of others, I'd love to hear of them!) I'm a sucker for the Borealis gown.

Lemania Indigo: original works and clothing inspired by the glamour queens of the movies. I succumbed to the Gloria Swanson-inspired gown. I'm ready for my closeup, Mr. DeMille...

Machinima I'd love to see

I would love to see a machinima of Ishmael Reed's "I am a Cowboy on the Boat of Ra." (If there can be music videos, why not poetry videos?) SL would be the perfect place to build a visual analogue to Reed's wonderful mixture of ancient Egypt and the "old" West (or these days, should I say "cultural mashup"?).

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Gina's Ubuntu HowTos

Gina's Ubuntu HowTos is a straightforward web site with a lot of good information about Ubuntu Linux and how to set it up and use it. If you've been thinking about trying Ubuntu, or even if you already use it, it's a great place to start if you have a question. (And if you haven't been thinking about trying some flavor of Linux, then I need to work harder. :))

Monday, June 09, 2008

Like moving through molasses

Last night I found myself unable to move... I'd walk a distance, and then would be dragged back to where I was. Ah, well, I figured, I have to sign off anyway, so I apologized to my friends and signed off.

Then came this morning, and SL was acting very strangely... My walk seemed to be at about half speed, and flying was like moving through molasses. I tried the RC client, and then the "official" client (weirdly still called the Linux "alpha" client, just as it was on my rez day). It made no difference.

And then something happened:

Melissa Yeuxdoux gives a hug to don Fulano de Tal

and I remembered something from last night. The hug/kiss attachment I use has a bug (or is it a feature?): other people can invoke it, causing me to hug/kiss them. I should take a look to see whether it's something I can set to permit or forbid. In any case, don Fulano de Tal (names changed to hide the fact that I've forgotten them) took advantage of that facility and I saw

You ask don Fulano de Tal for a hug.

but nothing happened afterwards--or nothing seemed to. After I gave the hug to the long since disappeared don Fulano, movement went back to normal.

So, should you find it impossible to move at normal speed in SL someday, try stopping all animations. I know I will.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Hello, Voronezh!

Many of the visits here from Russia are the 0:00 variety, but there are several with non-zero duration from Voronezh, which turns out to be the home of Cherenkov (as in Cherenkov radiation) and home to many lovely buildings.

Yet another place I would love to see someday.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Not like the song any more...

"And I'm standin' at the crossroads, believe I'm sinkin' down."

I just had a novel experience for SL, and one that I was surprised and pleased by. (The preceding sentence is brought to you by the Department of Redundancy Department.)

I hadn't been to Northstar Mall for some time, and so I teleported there and wandered through, past the kiosks, on down the hall, on to the hallway with the bright red warning of the sim boundary. I steeled myself for that sinking feeling that comes with a walk across the border...

...and it didn't happen.

As they say these days, w00t! Whoever is responsible for that long-awaited fix, thank you! If I ever see you in SL, I hope I may hug you.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

The fall of cheesy phrases

"Cheesy phrases" has fallen way behind in the Google Analytics search list. Ahead, by a large margin, is "vida la segunda".

What's really weird is that a Google search for "vida segunda" (without quotes) turns this humble and inconsequential blog up ahead of Ruben Blades's Maestra Vida: Segunda Parte. It's a little scary. Of course, there are many, many links for the latter and only a few for the former, which is as it should be.

UPDATE: Darn it! I just thought of the proper title for this entry: Sic Transit Gloria Casei.