Friday, October 31, 2008

Le couturier malgré lui

Well... editing skirts isn't always possible, thanks to permissions, and even when it is possible, extending them a meter and a half either turns them into sparse streamers or, if you stretch them horizontally to compensate, the waist looks very wrong indeed.

It's been a problem even before the uber platform boots—if one has made one's, um, limbs as long as they can be, Victorian skirts that should discreetly cover them instead reveal one's ankles (gasp!).

So... I am now armed with the Imitation of Life RezBot flexi skirt maker, and will set to the task of making suitable skirts. The documentation is quite thorough. I will document the results here.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

What a difference a skin makes

It hasn't been that long since I was reminded of just how much graphics has advanced in SL... or perhaps how much better the graphics hardware I use is now, or both... but I was reminded of it again, and of just how much difference a good skin makes, by the photo showing the Eclectic Randomness latex top. Here we crop down to the face:

It makes me feel that much prettier. (And it makes me feel like brushing that stray strand of hair back, but that's not important right now.)

For a very dramatic example, check out the post "Textures: Painted or Photosourced?" in Cheyenne's blog.

UPDATE: Sophrosyne Stenvaag rightly chides me for not mentioning the skin in question, and it occurs to me that I shouldn't hide the response in a comment. It's MVS Xtreme Reality Michelle Red 2 Romantic.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


It's kind of ironic. Despite thinking my legs are spindly, I'm looking for stilts in SL. Not the kind that you have to hold the end of in your hand, but the kind that leaves your hands free. Something I could wear a really long skirt over.

Googling doesn't turn up anything. I commissioned a pair for myself and a friend, but haven't heard anything well over a year later.

Any pointers? I'd be in your debt.

UPDATE: Thanks to the wonderful Cheyenne Palisades, I now own a pair of really high platform heels... I'm guessing a meter or more. Find them at Curio Obscura.

UPDATE: From the source: "
With heels almost one and a half meters tall, these might just be the highest heels in all the grid [emphasis added]". Whee! Now, to edit a gown...

Yet another update: there might be a way I could look more ridiculous than I did when I first walked with the boots on, but I can't think of what it would be; if I did that in RL, I'd have dislocated something! When you put them on, take off any walk AO you might be wearing. Dueling animations: the results aren't pretty.

Only two days to go!

Just two days left until Ubuntu 8.10, "Intrepid Ibex," is officially released. Yay!

(If you're impatient, there is the Release Candidate version.)

Eclectic Randomness

Eclectic Randomness has come out with latex prim breasts. (Sigh... they call them "latex implants". I wish they wouldn't.) They have a very convenient UI, and various options, including size and color. (Currently one can choose from twelve colors; I hope a later version will let one pick an arbitrary color, so I can try to adapt them to some other clothing I have... did I mention that you can update them should a new version come out?)

The package includes tank tops in the various colors (and one's choice of undershirt, shirt, or jacket layers to work and play well with other clothing). I'll post photos when I can.

UPDATE: Here's a quick photo--I am happy with the results.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

My favorite season...

At least in the Northern Hemisphere, it's autumn, or fall as we say in the United States.
"They're called leaves because they leave the trees in the fall. Which is why it's called fall." --Michael Kurland, The Unicorn Girl
It's my favorite season, with all the leaves turning gold and fiery red, some with silver about the edge, covering the ground and spattering the sky with color.

I hope you enjoy it, too, and that your foliage display is beautiful.

Login 2 Life

Lillie Yifu's fine 2nd Sex blog links to a trailer for a documentary, Login 2 Life, telling the stories of seven people in MMORPGs. Ms. Yifu nails it: "a small video rhapsody in hope."

Like Robbie Dingo's exquisite video of building van Gogh's Starry Night in SL, the trailer lets you forget the petty squabbles and demented rants and even the lag, and reminds you of what SL can be, in this case to the sweet music of the delightful Jaynine Scarborough (with all due respect, and that's a LOT of respect, to Don McLean). Do watch it, but be aware that it's definitely Not Safe For Work.

Friday, October 24, 2008


Sun Microsystems, of course, not the bright light in the really big room with the blue ceiling.

Foxbean Liebknecht kindly gave me a landmark to the Sun build in SL. It's neat. Lots of info about Java, freebies (clothing, and objects made to resemble various Sun products), invitations to submit a resume, and so on.

One thing that interests me is Sun's Project Darkstar (OK, now that CSN song is stuck in my head), an Open Source scalable gaming environment. I note especially that it's designed to be easily distributed, and avoids the tying of CPU cycles to a specific region that plagues SL. It will be very interesting to see what comes of it.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

How much for a nice SL computer?

I thought I'd go looking to see how little one could spend for a computer that should run SL respectably.

I'm just pricing the computer; I'll assume that we're upgrading, and don't have to get a monitor, keyboard, speakers, and mouse or trackball. Prices are rounded to the nearest dollar, and are those at as of today.

I'm no gamer, so I may well be making less than optimal choices here. Suggestions for alternatives would be greatly appreciated.

CPU: 2.6 GHz Athlon 64X2 Brisbane 65W, retail, $60

As far as I know, having more than two cores won't help with SL. I have a 2.8 GHz Athlon 64X2, and it doesn't seem to be the bottleneck, so 2.6 should do reasonably. "Retail" in this context largely means "with fancy packaging and a heatsink/fan," so we'll go that route rather than buy a separate heatsink and fan.

ASUS M3N78-EMH HDMI AM2+/AM2 NVIDIA GeForce 8200 HDMI Micro ATX AMD, $85

OK, we didn't go for an AM2+ processor, but we want to leave the door open for later, and we definitely want PCI Express 2.0 for the additional bandwidth to the graphics card. On-motherboard graphics aren't suitable for gaming, and I've read that "Hybrid SLI" is constrained by the slower device, so perhaps we should choose one of the AMD motherboards with no on-motherboard graphics.

Graphics card:
ASUS EN9600GT TOP/HTDI/512M GeForce 9600 GT 512MB 256-bit GDDR3 PCI Express 2.0 x16, $100

The most expensive thing on the list, but it's where you should put your $$ for gaming--of course, SL isn't a game, but it has much the same hardware requirements.

RAM: G.Skill 2 x 2GB dual channel DDR2 800 RAM sticks, $60

OK, it's not 1066, but SL is very RAM hungry, and for the price it's hard to beat.

Hard drive: Western Digital Caviar
WD2500AAJS 250 GB SATA 3 GB/s, $50

Only 8 MB of cache, but again, the price is right, and 250 GB is a lot, unless you get
seriously into building and photography in SL and store lots of images and textures.

Case: NXZT Alpha steel ATX mid-tower case, $65

OK... you can get a cute little Micro ATX case with power supply for $100. I did... but OTOH, the higher end graphics cards tend to be on the long side, and may not fit in a Micro ATX case. Also, that power supply isn't modular, and if you try to put a non-modular power supply (one that has all the connectors for stuff soldered on, so that you're guaranteed to have lots of cables that you won't use hanging out and blocking air flow) in one of those cases, you'll be cursing until you go out and buy a modular power supply... so the total cost is less.

Power supply: Antec BP550 Plus 550W modular power supply, $70

I've always had good results with Antec cases and power supplies. There are cheaper house-brand or no-name power supplies, but they are of poor quality.

DVD: Lite-On 20X SATA DVD burner, $24

What's to say? DVD burners are very inexpensive these days. I can't say that I'm impressed by Lightscribe, so I didn't bother to insist on it.

Total cost from the wish list, probably less than the total of the rounded prices: $514. That's a good bit less than what I paid for my computer back in March, and I don't have nearly as good a graphics card.

There are some tools you'll need if you don't already have them: Philips-head and flat-head screwdrivers of appropriate size, and to be safe, a grounding strap.

Assembly is pretty trivial, with one exception: installing the heat sink. Some heat sinks go on with spring-loaded clips, and a slip while trying to move the clip into position could lead to plowing a fatal trench in the motherboard with your screwdriver. Take a look at any of many sites telling how to do it, e.g. the Wikibook How to Assemble a Desktop PC.

We didn't include one item in our list: the operating system. That's because we're presuming that you'll install Linux on this computer. The cost of Windows for the home builder is so outrageous compared with that of the hardware as to preclude it if cost is an issue. There are many good distributions to choose from. I use Ubuntu, but it's certainly not the only one out there, and they all have their supporters (and their advantages and disadvantages). Linux is trivial to install these days unless you have some hardware whose manufacturers are sufficiently obnoxious and short-sighted as to neither provide Linux drivers nor, preferably, release sufficient information to allow others to write fully capable Open Source drivers. I don't believe that I've made that mistake here. If you are still hesitant, look for a Linux Users Group in your area; they'll be happy to help, and may even have an "Install Fest" scheduled in the near future.

So... that's my attempt. (If I'm not careful, I may be tempted to upgrade.) Again... any suggestions are welcome.

P.S. There are some rebates at the time of writing on some of the items listed, which would reduce the price somewhat... and of course, the above doesn't include shipping costs.

UPDATE: and Tiger Direct are both offering a 512MB 9800GT for $100 after a $30 mail-in rebate. That should hold one for quite a while.

Monday, October 20, 2008

"I'm walkin', yes indeed..."

Though I understand that work is underway to improve the default animations, until then I have a dilemma. The stock walk, as we all know, is ludicrous, a tottering duck walk that nobody likes. OTOH, there are the various "sexy walk" animations. These are pleasant, but often a bit exaggerated, and Victorian clothing turns "a bit exaggerated" into seasickness-inducing!

So, what is a proper Victorian lady in need of a graceful but modest walk to do? Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


"realXtend mission is to speed up the development of the global standardized 3D web of virtual worlds by making the best technology available to everyone, and entirely free of charge"

...available to everyone who uses Windows, that is. Good grief.

UPDATE: I'm hoping the comment here is correct, and that they're working on Linux and Mac versions. Let's hope they come soon.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Blast from the Past

Inspired by ignorant ranting, I thought I'd go back to my old computer, install the Ubuntu Intrepid Ibex beta and whatever proprietary nVidia driver it offered to install, and then try out the latest SL Release Candidate client to see just how slowly it ran.

It's lame by today's standards. (Heck, my current system would be so characterized by many. PCI Express 1.0? Puh-leeze. Dual-core? LOL. Athlon 64? AMD fangirl! DDR2 800? [eye roll] Just one graphics card? ...) The venerable old computer that served me well for years has one gigabyte of DDR 333 RAM, a 1.6 GHz Athlon (of the 32-bit persuasion; we're talking Socket A), an nVidia 7600 AGP graphics card, and an IDE hard drive. Apologies for not grabbing the detail of the CPU and motherboard, but they can't be less than four years old. Reviews of the 7600 appear to date from early March 2006, so it was presumably new then.

The Ubuntu install was a pleasure. On went SL, and...

It was definitely slow. Home on Whimsy, frame rates hovered around 9 or under while textures loaded, then headed up to around 12, with peaks of 16 from time to time.

Over to Apollo, a sim that is always well populated, and has lots of landscaping and associated objects and textures... and again, a plummet while textures loaded, followed by a rise to somewhere in the neighborhood of 9 to the low teens.

Running the graphics slider the one that goes from "Low" to "Ultra" down to "Mid" (I thought it said "Mild" at first... time to check glasses!) helped a little, and setting it to "Low" helped a little more, but not much. Given the relatively low change in frame rates with graphics slider settings, I have to think the CPU and memory are the real bottleneck for the old computer, especially compared to the throughput of HyperTransport. I bet a Socket 754 or 939 system would be quite acceptable with the same graphics card.

I went to a skybox to say good night to a friend, and sure enough, the frame rate jumped to 20+ fps.

Here's the thing, though--from what I remember, things were very similar in the pre-Windlight days. I would regularly see people dancing at frame rates of 5 or 6 per second, and a post from January, 2007 shows me reveling in a frame rate that actually approached 30 fps, on a plot in the sky.

So, now seems to me about the same as then, save that with "Mid" graphics I can take at least some advantage of the lovely skies that Windlight provides (and no, they're not all garish).

Actually, that's not right. There is one thing that seems more prevalent now--the long waits for textures to load and objects to rez... but that has nothing to do with Windlight, more with the delays involved in waiting for the asset server to send one the info about the objects and people in your sight.

So, I'm sorry, but I can't say that Windlight makes much of a difference, save that between the boring old photos we used to be amazed by and those we take today.

UPDATE: I can't replicate the conditions, but just for the heck of it, I went back with my current computer this morning. On Whimsy and Apollo, there were still times that frame rates dropped to near or even a little below 10, though those were with graphics and draw distance cranked all the way. The difference between facing out to sea and facing a lot of objects is quite striking, and the way that one's surroundings still dribble into existence--in Apollo, I believe it took well over a minute for everything and everyone that should be visible to rez--despite having a fairly reasonable computer. Again, I believe this shows that the bottleneck lies with the asset server.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Gender Freedom Day

I'm behind in reading Sophtopia, so it was only today that I heard from Sophrosyne herself about Gender Freedom Day in Digital Worlds.

In the words of Glenn Reynolds, read the whole thing.

UPDATE: more details here.

UPDATE #2: Gender Freedom Day is postponed... but the question of how best to promote gender freedom is still under discussion. Watch for more info, and above all, if the topic is of concern to you, get involved.

T-18 and counting...

You've probably already noticed the change in the Ubuntu graphic on the blog... The spiral countdown graphic is appropriate, given the code name for the upcoming Ubuntu 8.10 release: Intrepid Ibex.

There's more new in the upcoming Ubuntu than a change to the code name scansion:
  • 7.4, which is much smarter about hot-pluggable input devices (speaking of which, it will have a newer wacom driver that works and plays well with the Bamboo)
  • DKMS, which will get rid of some hassle with kernel upgrades
  • a new version of Network Manager, with many useful new features
...and lots more. If you've not tried Linux before, this is a good time, and if you tried it long ago and decided you didn't like it, it's worth another shot.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Hummingbird update from RL

When Hummingbirds Attack!

Feeling like Dr. Strangelove

It's weird. I click on something, and the usual stream of particles runs from my outstretched hand to the object... I choose an action, or I don't, clicking elsewhere to take my attention away from the object, and walk off.

Either way, my hand keeps pointing at it, and the particles flying, until I either sit down or teleport away. Like Dr. Strangelove, whose arm kept rising, unbidden, into a Nazi salute, my arm remains raised and pointing at the object.

It's very bothersome!

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Nerd Girls

Brains are beautiful.
Geek is chic.
Smart is sexy.
Not either/or.
Whatever your age or gender, if you support girls and women entering science and engineering, check out Nerd Girls.

Boiling the frog... but in a good way.

You know the old story about how to boil a frog: raise the water temperature gradually, so the frog never notices the change until it's too late. It's typically used as a metaphor for the encroachment of some evil, often an intrusive government.

But sometimes, gradual change is good--but it has the side effect that we don't notice it. We do notice when things break, though. People are a lot more motivated to complain than to compliment.

For all the endless kvetching about Second Life, I strongly suspect that were people forced to use SL as it was a couple of years ago, they'd really have something to complain about.

An honor...

When I started putting up photos on flickr, they often got hundreds of views; one or two actually topped the thousand mark. Nowadays, though, I count myself lucky if the view count approaches one hundred.

Perhaps it's the categorization--one now tags one's photos as screenshots, "computer graphics", or photographs, and I have to wonder whether there are a lot of people who just want to see images where actual photons were involved at some point. Perhaps my pictures are boring and repetitive. (Perhaps I'm boring and repetitive...)

So, it's even more special when people I respect mark one of my photos as a favorite. The wonderful Vint Falken so honored the photo I took for Hair Fair 2008, and this morning I was astonished to find that Torley Linden had done so as well.

*blush*... Thank you!

Monday, October 06, 2008

It's not too late...

Alas, RL events kept me away from this past Saturday's Boobie Ball in Winterfell (or even being aware of it--*blush*), but it's not too late to participate in the 2008 Boobie-Thon, which is on through October 7th. It's for an important cause, the fight against breast cancer, and I hope you'll join the effort.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Hi, Susyn!

I took a look at Google Analytics just now, and "cheesy phrases" seems to be dropping in the search terms that bring people here. (Thank goodness!)

On the other hand, people are looking for "Susyn Stenvaag". I can understand; she's a fascinating and intelligent lady.

Return to Shadowbrook

Somehow, I've managed to not visit Shadowbrook, one of the two sims gorgeously landscaped and built upon by Creative Fantasy Home and Garden, for a long time. Goodness knows that I could use some of the peace and serenity those places induce, and they've always been among the most amazing places around.

I wasn't prepared for just how amazing they've become in the age of Windlight and sculpted prims, though. Here's just a small sample.

If I'd had a treehouse like that when I was little, I'd never have come out. (Even now, that's very tempting. Work? La, la, la, I'm not listening...)

A touching dragon family scene...wait, won't that put out their flame?

Time for me to be quiet and just let you look...

For heaven's sake, go there and relax. I won't take as long to return.