Wednesday, September 29, 2010

T, or is that M, minus two weeks

Mesh open beta starts on October 13th.

When it's official, mesh uploads will cost L$; how much will be a function of its complexity--but Oskar Linden assures all that accounts on the beta grid will have the L$ to be able to try out mesh.

So... fire up your 3D rendering software. (And if you don't have any, there's some that can be had for free.) We'll have to see just what people will be able to do with avatars, but I'm looking forward to seeing what happens, and seeing just how much mesh will improve the rendering lag situation.

UPDATE: Sand Castle Studios has been very much involved in mesh for SL, and have a status report. About the avatar issue, they say this:

Once rigged to the Second Life avatar skeleton, a worn mesh is able to move along with the movements of an avatar in-world. Rigged mesh objects can be worn as simple attachments such as jewelry, more complex objects such as clothing or hair, and can even replace the entire Second Life avatar if desired.

In its present state, the rigging system does not allow the creation of arbitrary skeletons or bone offsets (moving the joints around). Mesh objects must be bound and rigged to the default Second Life avatar skeleton AS IS. Essentially, this requires artists to build their assets around the skeleton, instead of building their assets and putting the skeleton into position accordingly. However, Linden Lab is presently working on adding these features.

So, right now, we're stuck with the existing avatar skeleton and its limitations, but maybe that will change. I hope so; perhaps the cheesy games that one has to play to create avatars outside the constraints of the stock avatar skeleton (and the accompanying inconsistencies) can be junked once and for all.

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Case of the Persistent T-Shrt

About that T-shirt... I decided to change clothes, and I did. Well, sort of.

SL thought I'd changed clothes. My inventory showed me as wearing the outfit I'd changed into. The only problem was that I kept seeing the T-shirt. I took off all clothing; the T-shirt was still there. I cleared cache... several times. It was still there.

Switching from Kirsten's client to Imprudence made the T-shirt go away. Back to Kirsten's... and there the T-shirt was again.

I did eventually get Kirsten's client to see the top I had on instead of the T-shirt. I should have written down all the things I did, in case it could have been of some help in debugging.

Nnow I "just" have the problem of Kirsten's client consuming all available RAM and then crashing, most recently within a few minutes of logging in... and that without doing anything more than panning around a bit and taking a look at editing a skirt to lengthen it. (Why can't you stretch a prim skirt?)

So... I have a choice between Imprudence, which is fast and doesn't leak RAM like a sieve, but which has all the deferred rendering bugs that LL's client has, and Kirsten's client, which looks great... for the few minutes it takes to suck down 3.3 GB of RAM (I "only" have 4 GB) and die. Someone should make a "stamp foot and grimace" animation.

UPDATE: I shouldn't give the wrong impression. Last night, Kirsten's client chugged right along for over half an hour without consuming, as far as I can tell, more than about 900 MB of RAM. (Having started programming on a minicomputer that ran BASIC on four ASR-33 Teletypes and had a whole 16K of memory, I can't believe I typed that without wincing.) So the question is, what's the difference between that and the other RAM-sucking runs?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

An Ubuntu T-shirt

Allana Braveheart kindly gave me this Ubuntu T-shirt, which I now proudly wear.

It's ironic, but the only women in Second Life who look right in non-fitted tops are those using prim breasts. If the human body were convex, like a ball or a box, painted-on textures would do just fine for clothing... but it's not. Textures look worst where the human body has concavities, because there, instead of jumping across the concavity, as real clothes would do, painted-on textures are sucked in as if your body were the intake of a really good vacuum cleaner. ("Those jeans look painted on." Well, it's Second Life. They really are painted on!) The most obvious such concavity is cleavage. (The other example brings up the rear, so to speak.) I'm amazed that anyone still makes T-shirts for stock Second Life female avatars featuring artwork or text on the front.

That's yet another thing that I hope will change with mesh's arrival in Second Life. While we wait, learn Blender, Wings3D, or Google Sketchup, and if you don't use Linux, give some thought to trying it.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Opposition to Mesh (import)

Mesh will do lots of wonderful things for Second Life, including ameliorating rendering lag. Who could be against it?

Well, lots of people, or perhaps a few people with logorrhea, can, if the comments on this LL blog entry are any indication. Looking over it, the objections, I think, fall into the following categories:


What am I up against, Father?
EEEEEEEEVIL! -- Richard Burton chewing the scenery and spitting it out, Exorcist II: The Heretic

Mesh is EEEEEVIL! People who now comfortably sell cheap trinkets made of prims will be turned out into the virtual street by an evil cabal of people who know how to use horribly complicated software that the rest of us can't be expected to learn...aaargh, opensourcenik technocommunist wikinista FIC... [exit stage right accompanied by people in white uniforms]

So we have a tight little evil cabal... that anybody willing to take the time to, you know, actually learn something can join, just as they had to to wrangle prims.

Protectionism with a Human Face

These folks don't object to meshes; they object to mesh import... but that would require Linden Lab, after massive layoffs, to roll its own mesh creation tools, so operationally what's the difference? As long as SL remains a walled garden for content, they can be a big fish in a small pond and keep potential competition out.


Mesh shouldn't be allowed in SL until there's a way to guarantee stolen meshes can't be imported. (I have to wonder again whether there's any practical difference between that and mesh shouldn't be allowed in SL, period. DRM is a futile effort; vide the recent total cracking of HDCP.)


These folks I actually have some respect for. Yes, in a perfect virtual world there would be in-world mesh creation tools. There's a lot to be said for being present, in a sense, with what you're working on. It gives you a feeling for scale. Other people can be there while you do it and kibitzhelp, even if true collaboration isn't possible.

(Heck, in-world creation can even be art in itself. If you haven't seen Robbie Dingo's magnificent machinima "Watch the World", do it now!)

That said--again, Linden Lab doesn't have that many people, now at least. Existing 3D creation tools have a whole infrastructure of documentation, tutorials, a user community, and a bunch of people concentrating on that tool who've put more effort into it than LL ever could into a home-grown in world mesh creator. Who do you think can produce the better tool?

Say you're Linden Lab. EVERYONE is complaining about lag. Mesh will make Second Life a visually far more interesting place, and will seriously help with lag. What do you do: allow mesh import so people can receive the benefits of mesh, or delay it until, with far less resources than you had before, you can churn out in world mesh creation tools?

I'm an immersionist, heaven knows... but I think Linden Lab is doing the right thing by allowing mesh import.

This just in from The Onion...

New Evidence Suggests God Also Had Incredibly Busty Daughter.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Ad vitae secundae per aspera

Sigh... Kirsten's is still snarfing all available RAM and then crashing, but sometimes it will last for a while, and I got a nice photo at midnight down in the volcano by the Temple of Pele on Whimsy.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Great Slow Sims, Part Two

Qarl Fizz né Linden on the lag issue, in a comment on this NWN post:
...mostly, when gamers complain about lag - they mean the render speed lag (2), usually measured in frames per second (FPS). the single greatest reason for this lag is the inherent geometric inefficiency of prims. the (only) solution is the meshes project.
Here are two examples. They're simple; you don't have to understand NURBS to see how they work. A plain vanilla cube, the standard prim that everyone starts with, isn't the eight vertices and twelve triangles you'd expect, but fifty-six vertices and 108 triangles. A wall of a small cabin: with mesh, twenty-four vertices. With prims, 336 vertices.

Will people suddenly go back and totally redo their builds with mesh? I doubt it--but if these are representative examples, isn't cutting the work of rendering down by an order of magnitude tempting?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


One of the pitfalls an organization can fall into is NIH, "Not Invented Here": the unwillingness to use products developed elsewhere. The result: wasted time and effort taken away from one's real goals, and reinventing the wheel badly.

Case in point: LSL. Was it really necessary to invent yet another scripting language and implement it in-house, ignoring all the other work done on development environments, efficient compilation and optimization for languages that already existed? (Not to mention instructional material... "python tutorial" turns up over two million results from Google, and "java tutorial" over twelve million; "lsl tutorial" about 57,000.)

Now that meshes are coming to Second Life, among the various complaints that have arisen is that there's no in-world way to create meshes. Maya, Blender, Wings3D, and so forth? Darn it, they weren't invented here! Never mind that vastly more effort has been put into them than Linden Lab could muster, or even could have mustered before laying off so many people.

Yes, in world development tools are good to have. Nobody seems to gripe about people creating textures outside of SL, but it would be nice if one didn't have to, or better still,. could do what one really wants to, i.e. paint in-world directly on the shoe, shirt, wall, or whatever. But is the immersion really worth having a so-so emulation of real life techniques? (I don't know about you, but I'm so-so at just painting a wall in real life, much less painting in the artistic sense. I doubt I'd be any better at it in SL.)

Now, perhaps there is a way to avoid NIH and still give the appearance of creating meshes in world--map the in-world actions to commands fed to an existing 3D program running on the resident's computer, and keep uploading the result so the resident can see what he or she is doing--but is it really worth it?

If the choice is between having the advantages that meshes provide and either not having them (another argument is that they shouldn't be allowed for fear of driving prim wranglers out of business) or having a mediocre in-world way to create so-so meshes, I know which I'll choose, thanks. (Not to mention that one of the groups you'd think would take to SL like ugly on an ape, architects, are VERY familiar with 3D creation tools and, according to some, are quite put off by the primitive building tools in SL.)

"I am endeavoring, Madam, to construct a mnemonic circuit with stone knives and bear skins." --Spock, "City on the Edge of Forever"

P.S. Prims are only simpler than meshes if you are only interested in simple shapes, like the proverbial child's lollipop "tree". Yes, in theory you can come arbitrarily close to any shape with only boxes, or only spheres... if you're willing to devote an unbounded number of them (and an unbounded amount of effort in positioning them) to the purpose. Sculpted prims are/were a compromise between meshes and the limitations of the original prims, but they have their drawbacks... just ask anyone who works with them.

P.P.S. Re LSL: remember the speedup by over 200 times reported for scripts compiled for the Mono VM? That wasn't around at the very beginning of SL, but many other virtual machines were that could have similar speed advantages over the home-grown VM.

Mesh News

Hamlet Au kindly points at an LL post about the status of mesh for SL. Read, follow the links to the YouTube videos, and rejoice, especially because it will be possible to create meshes for avatars. Do also read the comments; amidst the whining about an alleged "FIC" (that somehow manages both to be a select cabal and something that anyone can join just by learning to create meshes...) and the supposed ruination of existing SL content creators from the usual suspects, you'll find pointers to free software that allows mesh creation.

Houris in Second Life?

I happened to look up "houri" on Wikipedia, and was surprised. From various sources, they are described as
  • eternally young... in SL, your avatar doesn't age
  • whites of the eyes intensely white, pupils intensely black... in SL, you can get just about any eyes you want
  • don't, um, excrete... that's the default in SL
  • marrow of the bones visible... OK, you can't pull that off. SL avatars are hollow (no T.S. Eliot references, please)
  • large, round breasts... check. (And, I hope with mesh import things will be even better in that regard.)
  • sixty cubits tall... with BIGAVS, check.
Pretty close, I think.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Wtong Way Around

One reads about ways to make one's avatar look like one's RL self. Someone needs to figure out a way to make one's RL self look like one's avatar.

Monday, September 13, 2010


Kirsten's SL client was very well behaved and only sucking down a gigabyte of RAM... and I had to be bleary-eyed and about to face plant in the keyboard. Soon I'll be on longer, for a little bit at least.

Meerkat Countdown

The beta release of Ubuntu 10.10, aka "Maverick Meerkat", has been out for a while, and if all goes well the official release will take place on October 10th (10/10/10, whether you follow English or American date notation). It shouldn't be long before the countdown graphic shows up.

For those who don't know, Ubuntu is a distribution of the Linux operating system, based on Debian Linux. If you use Windows and have yet to try Linux, it's easy to do without disturbing your current setup. Live CDs make it trivial, or if you are willing to devote some hard drive space to the purpose, Wubi lets you do so without the delays of retrieving programs from the CD and uncompressing them.

So long, Massively

Oh, Massively is still around. It's just that there's no longer a reason to read it, at least for me, because Tateru Nino is no longer writing there, and hence it will be devoid of Second Life-related articles.

I'm not sure how long this has been in the making, but if you take a look you'll see that SL articles had gone down to barely one a month. There were a couple of people whose comments were always basically "what's with all this SL stuff", though they seemed to have gotten tired of that and gone on to what I'd hope is something worthwhile.

So, buh-bye, Massively. If you don't follow Tateru's blog, Dwell on It, you should.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Flaming Hair

No, I won't parody the Monty Python sketch. ("Six foot five?! Damn you!"); I returned, as always, to a LBD, and thus thought I'd compensate with something other than the usual auburn hair.

I'd not worn the hair, Calico Creations Ember 2 (Fire), in so long friends asked me if I had new hair. I said no, but in a way it was new to me. The cloud of strands, with the graphics available today, struck me as it would were it new. Thank you, Calico Creations, for such wonderful hair.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Open Web Gaming

Check out the Mozilla Labs Gaming site. If web-based gaming is the future, let it be based on open technology. rather than plugins tied to particular OSs.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Reprieve in Lemondrop's Forest

RL work (fun, but still work) will be consuming my weekends for a while, but I managed to spend a little time in-world last night, revisiting Lemondrop's Forest.

I wonder, was all this civilization there when I was there last? If it was, I must have explored far less than I thought I did. Now you can walk long, curving paths through a row of shops...

...or even go to an airport. Don't worry, though; the wilderness is still there to enjoy.