Monday, May 28, 2012

A very cheesy workaround

As we await a solution to VWR-28846 it turns out that there is a kludgy way around the problem: mail snapshots to yourself.

If you know of a way to mail yourself a snapshot in PNG format (which doesn't do lossy compression), let me know. I don't see that knob.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Thank you!

The folks at Chounyuu (link NSFW!) have done something I consider a great honor.

Chounyuu is a web site for people interested in large-breasted characters in manga and similar art. A while back I found that there was a thread in their forum about Second Life, so I took a look around and posted some images that I thought they'd appreciate.

Recently I got some email asking permission to place some images of me in the set that the site randomly selects from as page header images, and I happily approved. Sure enough, a week or so later I found myself there atop a page--again, they're randomly selected so it's like Forrest Gump's box of chocolates.

Thank you! I hope we'll see other images from Second Life there soon.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Second Life for Linux... does anyone at LL care?

If you run 64-bit Linux and use Second Life, chances are that you are having to get along without streaming media. (Fedora has RPMs for installing 32-bit gstreamer libraries on 64-bit systems, and worst case you can peek at the URL for streaming audio and fire up VLC or something in another window.)

That's been true for a long time; as far as I know, as long as there's been a Linux SL client. More recently, a problem's shown up for 64-bit and 32-bit Linux: VWR-28846, "Viewer 3.3.1 freezes on picture taking attempt". There are actually two issues here. On 32-bit Linux, it freezes after a complaint about PCRE (a library that implements Perl-style regular expressions) not being compiled with UTF-8 (a common Unicode encoding, which some, me included, think should be used everywhere). On 64-bit Linux, it freezes after a complaint about /usr/lib/gtk-2.0/2.10.0/menuproxies/ being a 64-bit library.

People, me included, have been clamoring for full 64-bit Linux support for quite some time--we're coming up on the third anniversary of the JIRA entry asking for 64-bit support--with no result save for third-party clients such as Imprudence (and Kokua someday, I hope!) and ArminW's Teapot. Not having streaming media cuts one off from an important part of SL, i.e. live performance, but the existence of kludges, I suppose, lets one rationalize. Not being able to save snapshots, though, is a lot harder to ignore. If Linden Lab only fixes that problem for 32-bit Linux, pulling 64-bit Linux users out from under the bus and throwing us under again, at the very least they'll be guaranteeing we'll give up on the LL client.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Avis was #2, and tried harder... about #3?

"Our own viewer users are a minority. A significant minority -- we're the number three viewer behind, behind [Phoenix and Firestorm]... Phoenix is far and away the number one viewer, although it's quite steadily losing market share these days, has been for some months now. And Firestorm is the newer technology viewer from your project, is the number two, and it's gaining market share... And our viewer is number three behind Firestorm." --Oz Linden, March 2012

Check out this article at New World Notes.

It would be even more interesting to know what the share is like if one doesn't count alts, and even better if one could exclude bots (or do they use some text-only client for efficiency?), but even so I'm surprised.

One of the comments on the article claims that it shows how few new users are coming to Second Life, since you'd think they'd start out with the LL viewer... but I don't know whether that's the case. I would suggest that it may mean that the newcomers who stay are those introduced to SL by friends who can guide them through that important initial interval, and that those friends are more likely to point their charges at the viewer they themselves use.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Double Bind

Hamlet Au asks why we put up with the technical problems of Second Life, and says that our putting up with them (and thereby letting Linden Lab get away with not fixing them) will doom Second Life.

Technical problems here are exemplified by the poor performance of the current Linden Lab SL client on Hamlet's roughly year and a half old Alienware laptop that  he refuses to do anything to like installing the latest nVidia driver--after all, that's doing LL's work for them. (It's not clear whether he puts adjusting the SL client's preferences in that category, but "Why should I spend an hour or two tinkering on software when it should just WORK BY NOW?" sure sounds like it.)

And to an extent, he's right. A lot of people can't be bothered to maintain their computers, and hence are unlikely to either have a reasonable first experience with Second Life or want to bother to take any action to improve that experience.

On the other hand...
  • Linden Lab can't be blamed for inadequacies of the operating system (does Windows not nudge you when new graphics card drivers are available? Linux does) or of the computer user--and would you trust an application that tried to install system software, or changes your environment (maybe having Aero or Compiz turned on hurts SL performance because of the eye candy they offer), or like one that changes your SL client settings (maybe you have the graphics cranked for photography, or turned down for racing)?
  • There are a lot more problems with that first experience than the purely technical--to only mention one, there's the way that the newcomers get their initial training and then are dumped into welcome areas infested with, shall we say, people who are less than concerned with the quality of the new user's experience in SL.
  • Any boycott of SL has to be on a large scale; a few people going away won't make any difference. Indeed, the departure of much-loved sims in the past year or so doesn't seem to have made much difference. Vendors won't boycott alone--they'd be giving up income while their competitors do that much better in their absence.
  • What was the old line? "We don't care. We don't have to; we're the phone company." Linden Lab is in that position. Where else can people go to create as they will or remake themselves in a virtual world, and still be able to interact with the friends they've made in SL?
So it's true. We're in a double bind. Second Life is the only place the existing user base can get what it wants; possible competitors are likely to be scared off by the media's predominant mischaracterization of SL as, in the ignorant words of Chris Pirillo, all sex and gambling. There's no such thing as mass media for Second Life in the way there is in RL; trying to organize the residents is a lot like herding cats, and the last name clusterflop is good evidence that it won't matter anyway.... so LL can continue with the assumption that the existing user base will continue to put up with whatever they get.

Perhaps Second Life will manage to continue, with enough people willing to pay the outrageous tier fees to support an ongoing user base, though without new blood, eventually that user base will die off (barring the Singularity, but in that case nobody will care about SL save maybe as the moral equivalent of a "living history" site). Perhaps OpenSim will win out or at least allow an ongoing, if smaller, collection of users.

IMHO, to survive, a virtual world is going to have to use as much existing code as possible, preferably open source to avoid licensing issues such as have come up with kakadu, Vivox, and Havok, with "NIH" ("not invented here") verboten. Apologies for the repetition, but... how much better off would Second Life be if, rather than throwing together a homebrew scripting language, we'd had an existing language like Python or C# or Ruby from the beginning? We'd then have
  • far more documentation and tutorials than LL could generate on its own
  • far more work on optimization than LL could ever manage
  • already existing IDEs
  • an existing talent pool and source of help for newbies
  • a market for skill in said language outside of LL (seen any postings for IT jobs that have LSL experience as a requirement lately?)
For examples, take a look at the Lua Wiki's "Lua Uses" page. Let's see... SpringRTS, SimCity 4, World of Warcraft, Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning, CryEngine2, FarCry, Supreme Commander, Garry's Mod, Psychonauts, Heroes of Might and Magic V, S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl, Impossible Creatures, Multi Theft Auto: San Andreas, Homeworld 2, and others... Oh, look! There!

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Last chance to see Whimsy Kaboom

Whimsy Kaboom is going away. Visit it while you can. For more details, read Cheyenne's post on the subject.

I am perpetually amazed that as many people pay the insane tier costs of land in SL as do. Grateful, but amazed.

UPDATE: Hooray! Whimsy Kaboom is saved! More details on Cheyenne's blog.

Calling all mesh clothing makers

If you want the mesh deformer to become official, please head over to VWR-28846, see what mesh clothing is being requested for help with testing, and provide it. If you don't, there's a good chance that the mesh deformer code, after all the hassle, brouhaha, and shaming of LL by crowdfunding the deformer code, won't make it into the official SL client, and therefore, by the infamous 2(k), nobody will be able to have it. Here's Oz Linden on the topic, from the JIRA:
Perhaps this issue really isn't all that important, or worth the trouble to integrate. 
So far, only one designer has responded with one test garment. 
Let me be clear - the lack of test material is a major blocker for testing, and therefor[sic] accepting, this proposed feature.  If you want it, step up and do it soon.
I have to wonder why LL doesn't have such items left over from testing, but that's irrelevant. Please don't give them an excuse.

UPDATE: Designers have already commented that five days four days and not quite sixteen and a half hours, the time between the request for clothes in the JIRA and the above thinly veiled threat, is a pretty short interval, and it is. I just want the feature to be adopted.

UPDATE: Do read Nalates Urriah's post on the subject.

Taking the plunge...

I'm now on Google+. Should issues about my identity come up, I'd like to think that a blog that's been around over five and a half years would be good evidence. We'll see how it goes.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

A dream come true?

I got a message from Cheyenne urging me to go immediately to New World Notes. I did... and I'm dumbfounded.

Ceri Quixote has created a 62-meter mesh avatar.

There are other reports. There's a video... watch it in 720p mode and full screen.

Shadows are enabled, and the positions are such as to rule out forced perspective.

Note also the quality of the avatar; giant avatars built from prims have improved over time, but at the joints it's obvious that they are built up from multiple prims. Look at Ms. Quixote's shoulders and abdomen; they are smooth and the body is a single unit.

So... we have an existence proof. (The NWN article says Ms. Quixote will be selling (somewhat shorter) giant avatars on SL Marketplace.) I think I will go IM Bart Seymour...

UPDATE: Be sure to read the comments on the NWN post. Ms. Quixote is not alone in creating giant mesh avatars, breathtaking as her work is. Indeed, if you have read past articles and comments here, you'll recall that Aliasi Stonebender has done so and mentioned it back in mid-February.