The elusive Spirit of Second Life

…… [Sansar] will be in the spirit of Second Life, an open world where users have incredible power to create anything they can imagine and content creators are king.   -Ebbe Altberg-

I submitted a question for the recent LabChat. It was accepted and at the event Ebbe responded.
The question:

Ebbe, would you please discuss in-world building in Sansar.
How will it be similar or different from building in-world in Second Life?
Will we be, for example, building with voxels? prims? or something completely new?
Will there be a built in way to create or edit Mesh in-world?
Thank You in advance for enlightening us.
The response:
Currently, we’re focusing mostly on layout and great support for importing of objects from the outside, so that you could use whatever tool of choice to do your mesh work, and then just import it into Sansar and then lay it out with great tools to lay out and scale and position things within the world.
We’re also working on terrain tools, where there will also probably be some kind of mix of voxel and height map tech to try to stitch things together.
At some point, yes; like why should I have to completely go back to an external tool just so I can poke at an object to reshape it or tweak it to some degree, and then you get into editing. And at some point, when you have some of those basic capabilities to just shape objects, then you could also start with the option of people just dropping in basic shapes directly from in-world. You can just drop a cube on the ground and start poking at it to reshape it.
So, I think there will be a progression. Pretty much right now we’re specifically focused on by June, getting it so that you have really powerful layout capabilities, and maybe the ability to import. Maybe we’ll just start with .FBX or something like that, so that you can import objects from the outside world and lay them out in Sansar.
And then over time we’ll see if we’ll support additional file formats, and then over time we’ll also get into more and more, as we start to see what users need, how much editing we need to support in-world.
I mean, we do not want to be the superset of tools that everybody wants; there are so many tools out there from Maya to Blender to 3D Max. And then you have architecture, where there’s like huge suites of tools, that we’ll never try to be better than any one of them, and certainly not to some of those. So we want to make sure that you can use all of those tools, and bring content in, and then do the final positioning and layout of things as smoothly and easily inside.
And then after that, like I said, we’ll see where we start to allow for more direct manipulation of shaping things inside .
JY: But you are planning to eventually have some sort of in-world building tool? Because I personally think that’s essential, especially for people who are not very experienced with outside software.
I’m pretty sure we’ll get there too, in some way; but I just don’t know that we’ll get there this year. For starters, you might have to be 100% dependent on some external tools to create your objects.
My Take:
Second Life began as a sandbox world; it still is in many respects, although increasingly the work of building has moved to external programs. It now seems that Sansar will not be a sandbox at all, at least to start. I think this is a mistake but, my confidence in the long term viability of Second Life has increased as a result.
There are possible work-arounds. One might be Voxel Farm (a Second Life plug-in?) which exports in the .fbx format Ebbe mentioned. While I have no personal experience with it, what I see on YouTube looks very much like prim building (on steroids?). Since it is not free, I will wait on word from the Lab about compatibility and limitations.


On the topic of In-world Grid Status Notifications:
As Ebbe points out, it just won’t work, there is a reasonable expectation that a problem would effect the notification system. What would work would be a separate program (a Growl app?) that would alarm when the grid status page is changed, whether we were in world or not. This would probably be best done by the Lab in order to ensure the interoperability of the app and the web page.

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Windows 10 (and you thought Second Life updates were chaos!)

I just finished upgrading 4 computers to W10, an adventure to say the least. The play-by-play rundown:

HP Laptop– A pretty smooth transition, Microsoft decided that since it is a laptop I didn’t really want to use the Nvidia graphics. Easy to fix once I found the problem.

Main Gaming Computer– Again pretty smooth. The graphics were all wrong initially but a simple restart and all was well.

[This isn’t so bad, what can go wrong?] When will I learn never even to think that!

The little machine that runs 24/7 keeping 3 bots alive in Brocade– Installation went well. The desktop flashed continuously, impossible to interact with anything! Contacted Windows Support, “Help, call me asap!” They got back to me within the hour and after spending over 2 hours poking around on the computer he deleted every file and folder that even suggested Norton or Symantec. Problem resolved. Reinstalled Norton antivirus and everything was still good. Lesson learned: No matter what Micro$oft says, manually uninstall antivirus first!

The older machine I use for general surfing and graphics while I am in SL– Install would not run at all, error code. Back to Windows Support. This time it took a couple of days for a response. Level 1 tech spent 4 hour before giving up and passing it off to a Level 2 – (2 day wait for him to call back). Another 3 hours of watching the cursor do things “by itself”. Stumped. Call back the next day. After an hour or so, we decided to do a clean Windows 7 installation. Another day while I did that and ran updates half the night. Tech back one more time to validate the installation and I was able to upgrade!!!!

[Whew! Finally all set.] I never learn!

When reinstalling apps I discovered that Windows did not recognize the DVD drive — On Any Of My Machines!!!!!! Back to Tech Support. After a couple of hours figuring things out he solved the problem and gave me a snippet of code to fix it on the other machines.

All told Microsoft invested over 12 hours of Windows Tech Support time getting me up and running. Obviously not sustainable, hopefully they are learning and modifying the install to avoid the problems. I have to give the tech guys high praise, they are overwhelmed atm, working 7 days / week, and yet they were polite, helpful, and very persistent.

As to Windows 10 itself; YAWN Once I turned off the various spyware features and got rid of most of the unwanted tiles and apps, it runs virtually the same as W7. Some people say SL runs better for them, for me it was much the same.


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Second Life turns 12!

Once again it is time for SL’s Birthday Party, There will be Celebrations, Speachifying, Amazing Builds and of course many regions worth of Exhibitions & Exposition. Gates Open Sunday, June 21 at noon SLT.
A walking tour (walking is the best way to see all the exhibits between the major venues):

SL12B Train Station 512
It is best to start at the High Entrance. A quick walk down the stairs to the south will take you to the train station with 2 big boards full of landmarks and notecard givers.

South of the train station is the Dreamitarium / Astound Auditorium, which is set up as a TV studio with plenty of audience seating.

SL12B Stunning Cake Stage 512
Continuing south you will find the Stunning Cake Stage. This 4 region extravaganza of a build has got to be seen to appreciated!

SL12B Spellbound Main Stage 512
Head west out of the Cake Stage regions, then North to the Spellbound Main Stage. Take your time, gawking at the exhibits along the way. If you are at all familiar with Grendel’s you will recognize the work here, stunning as always!

SL12B Ixtan Stage entrance 512
Now a long eastward hike through the exhibits to Dazzle and the haunting entrance to Ixtian Stage. It is worth walking the entire outer ring here, very good, if ghostly build.

SL12B DJ Stage 512
Once you find your way back out, head North to Astonish and the DJ Stage. Be Careful — You Have Been Warned!!
Additional points of interest:
the Time Capsule
Pod tours: Impressive, Wonderous, YavaScript Exhibit

Travel strategy:
Teleports can be problematic, I prefer to open a landmark on the map, that creates a beacon and a red arrow to guide me.
You will probably have to keep your draw distance lower than you are accustomed to due to lag.

Enjoy your tour. There is way more to see than the few high points I have shown. Take your time and have fun.

A list of all events can be found on the official web site.

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Sony Obstructs Second Life Innovation – Again!

On Thursday, April 2nd, OnLive announced that SL GO would come to an end. Ars Technica implies that the sellout of patents was due to OnLive’s model of streaming did not catch on sufficiently. Perhaps Second Life was the exception. Something very similar to this happened in 2010 when an early attempt to stream Second Life via Gaikai (a Japanese streaming games service) ended when the service was bought by Sony. Gaikai is still in business as a Subsidiary of Sony Entertainment, so perhaps there is hope that SL Go can find a home there. I must admit though that the thought of partnering, even in a limited way with Sony would be worrisome; their deep pockets could swallow LL/SL in a blink and they have not shown much concern over the impact of their acquisitions on the people who use the products they aquire.

“Danger ahead, kupo! Do you still want to go on, kupo”

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What Does Second Life Need?

Inara Pey recently posted an article explaining that the new world Linden Lab is developing (lets call it Linden World 2.0 or LW2 for now) is not being made to replace Second Life. This article and the discussion that followed got me wondering, what does Second Life need to do to compete with it’s younger sister?
Before we start, lets agree to keep things realistic. Cheaper is not going to happen, at least not in the short term. SL’s income stream to LL is supporting the development of LW2. They are not about to jeopardize that. Perhaps, once LW2 is self sufficient it can “pay back” to SL in some way.
Some things that do seem possible to me include:
Avatar 2; The Lindens started down this road with their mesh starter avatars, they should continue. Avatar 2 needs more adjustments than Avatar 1, the new adjustments could simply be grayed out for adjusting Avatar 1. Most people I have talked to agree that the bone structure and accompanying rigging needs tweaking (at least). They would probably require a whole new skin format in place of the 3 part one used by Avatar 1.
Scripting; I am not a scripter but every scripter I know maintains a library of work-arounds. Perhaps it is time to take a look at them with an eye to treating them as areas to correct/expand llsl or as bugs.
Content Creation; Mesh is all the rage in SL, and for good reason. It opens a whole new world of possibilities. What we need is an intuitive method of building mesh for SL. This probably can’t be done in world, think of the additional server load! Blender is a nightmare of counterintuitive operations. What would be best would be for LL to create/adopt/outright buy a platform specialized for SL. I would envision an application that would open a sandbox and an avatar (my own?). Easy to use controls that build on the prim construction techniques I already know with the added ability to push and stretch into organic shapes. Easy save for import into SL with the LI known in advance.
Social Networking; More and more often timely information from LL comes via Twitter. As someone who’s RL does not use social networking this drives me nuts! It should be possible for LL to develop a Twitter-like pseudonymous, avatar friendly communication network and use that.
What do you think? I am sure there are ideas I have not thought of, dreams of features that would amaze me. I look forward to your input.

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
Arthur C. Clark


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The Spirit of Second Life

Second Life Past:
Do you remember: Telehubs? — Rubberbanding? — When selecting Help in the viewer menu would access an actual Linden, who would then come to you in world and help? — Swarming penis attacks (green with a Santa hat at Christmas time)? — Weekly grid wide shutdowns so they could “bang on things”? — 88,000 users on line? — Your avatar stuck with her head between her legs and hair & shoes in her ass? — A large bump in users right after Christmas as people got their new computers up and running?

Second Life Present:
We’ve come a long way since those early days but there are still problems to solve:
The Avatar, or should I say avatars. With 3 classes of avatar to choose from (Basic, Linden Mesh and resident creator Mesh) I don’t know how newbies cope. It would help if LL finished their mesh avatar so it is fully adjustable, including all head adjustments and with at least as much facial animation as the default avatar.
Mesh Clothing. What can I say, the present situation sucks! Once you find an item you like it usually will not fit YOUR shape, or your avatar class/type. Shoes often require special mesh feet, which then will not blend with your skin. I could go on and on, it is extremely frustrating. In fairness, the clothes look great once you find something that fits.

Second Life Future:
Oz Linden has been doing a good job of overseeing SL development. He knows the problems and maintains good lines of communication with the resident community. My only concern is that there is a tendency to become enamored of the latest toys and ideas. Oculus Rift and it’s ilk are toys for the privileged and adventurous few. I still doubt that experience tools will have much of an impact on most people’s daily second life.

2015 will bring our first glimpses of a new virtual world from LL “in the spirit of Second Life”. Given that SL pushed the boundaries of what was possible back in 2003, I wonder if today’s Lindens still have that same courage. I remember that few people could run SL flat out, it was clunky, we bought new computers and got better Internet connections, it was only gradually that the world became truly comfortable to live in.
My expectation is that without the sword of reverse compatibility hanging over their heads, the present avatar and clothing problems will be a thing of the past. But will they have the courage to bring us something like this? or perhaps some kind of facial sync like Philip is developing at High Fidelity?
One concern I have is regarding land. Will there be someplace like the Mainland, where we can “own” land (without setup fees!), paying our tier in US$ directly to LL vs. L$ to a landlord who could change his mind at any time . While some people put the Mainland down, those of us who live there find it’s haphazard anarchic community more interesting than the carefully controlled uniformity of private islands.

2015 should be another interesting year for Second Life, I look forward to the adventure.

“It’s a bit like The Matrix . We provide the land, and the community builds the actual world, which gives everyone a huge sense of being pioneers in a great experiment.” Philip Rosedale

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Merchandise and the Lab

This is something I have advocated for YEARS.
Hopefully LL is finally listening.
Inara’s point, near the end, is especially important. We may buy SL merchandise for personal gratification but in the end it will start conversations in RL — how can that do anything but benefit SL/LL?

Inara Pey: Living in a Modem World

Marketing Second Life is something we all have an opinion about, and as such, Linden Lab has often taken a far amount of flak from users on the subject. I’m as guilty as anyone in this; in the past I’ve been particularly verbose on the subject through posts in this blog such as Business, Collaboration and Creative Growth, Tell me a story: marketing Second Life, and Advertising SL: the machinima effect (the latter of which has been somewhat overtaken by the Lab recognising the power of Draxtor Despres’ The Drax Files; World Makers series.

However, there is another potential marketing strategy the Lab is missing, something which was recently brought home by by a segment of The Drax Files Radio Hour.

During a visit to the Lab’s HQ for the show, Drax had a chat with Shaman and Kona Linden, both of whom were holding items of merchandise available to…

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Toward a “Snappier” Second Life

*Don’t blame me, Snappier is Ebbe’s word for it.
There are 2 major improvements coming which will make rezing faster. Not only in world textures but inventory and almost everything else.
1- CDN is a change in the way the sim servers deliver textures and meshes to you. Right now everything comes to you via the simulators. CDN is basicly a method for getting delivery of many things from “the Cloud”. In other words you will get textures, meshes, and several other things from a server geographically nearer you. The provider LL is using is Highwinds.
CDN has been active on a limited number of regions for a couple of weeks. Our home region, Brocade, was one of the first. It has made a significant improvement in load times.
2- HTTP Pipelining is a change in the way the viewer interacts with the servers (DNS and Region). This requires a viewer change, the Official version should go to a release channel in the next week or so. Inara has informative blog posts. See also the Wikipedia article.
The best thing is that these 2 features complement each other. If this lives up to even half of it’s hype it will be a game changer!
Both of these projects have been in the works for some time, not hidden but mostly of interest to those who follow the technological aspects of Second Life. It is time for the general population to stand up and take notice.

“Whatever you are, be a good one.” Abraham Lincoln

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TOSing the (word) salad (or why I think the latest Terms of Service update misses the mark)

Inara offers a well thought out opinion on the latest (non-)changes to the TOS.

Inara Pey: Living in a Modem World

via From the Sidebar

On Wednesday July 16th the Lab issued an update to Section 2.3 of their Terms of Service. I’ve already provided some feedback on the update and how, thanks to the use of parentheses, it appears to be limited to only addressing the issue of the Lab attempting to sell user-generated content for their own profit; something which is also indicated by the official blog post on the matter being focused solely on that issue as well.

However, there was more I wanted to say on the matter, but which, as an expression of personal opinion, I didn’t want to include in what was essentially a “news” article. So please excuse me if I now take the opportunity of doing so.

I’m actually not at all surprised that the Lab has looked no further than addressing the issue of their selling, reselling or sub-licensing user content. Prior…

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Second Life’s Future As The Next Generation Comes Of Age

On July 17th Ebbe said:

We already know about quite a few things that Second Life could do better, and there’s already conversations we’re obviously having about how a next generation product could be a leap forward. But it’s quite a ways in the future.

And note we don’t refer to it as “SL” explicitly call it something more nebulous, like “next generation virtual world” because it’s still to be determined how different or similar it is. As if we use something like “SL 2.0″ or as someone suggested, “SL 3.0″, then you already right already make a lot of assumptions of what it should be or should not be, and we don’t necessarily want to constrain ourselves to Second Life as a model for what a next generation virtual world should be.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s a tremendous amount of good things in Second Life, so when we discuss the next generation, we describe it as being in the spirit of Second Life, which is a bit vague and definitely people interpret it in a lot of different ways, but it could be many, many, many years before what really works for people in Second Life is something they could replicate and achieve in this next generation product.

Ultimately, I hope to make the next generation product so good that people would prefer to use it over Second Life, but we’re not necessarily going to constrain what the next product could be or force it to be something that is necessarily too similar to Second Life. And how similar or different it will be, I think will reveal itself over time.
Ebbe Linden/Altberg at the Education in SL Q&A, July 17,2014 (Inara Pey’s transcription)

Now that some time has passed and people have had time to think things through, it is worth taking a look at what future we can anticipate for Second Life.
The “next generation virtual world” Linden Lab is working on is “quite a ways in the future” and “it could be many, many, many years before what really works for people in Second Life is something they could replicate and achieve in this next generation product”. In short, don’t panic, most likely it will be a very long time indeed before you will even want to move your entire second life to the new platform!
The Lindens have had a long time to reflect on the failures of other virtual worlds and have no intention of falling into the same traps. Since the early days of SL the world of social networking has not only changed technologically, peoples attitudes about their on-line presence has changed too. Creating a new virtual world is a daunting task, even once the platform is finished, migration from Second Life will be arduous. Creators will be reluctant to move until there are enough residents to make it worthwhile. Residents will be reluctant to move until they see content they want available.
It is possible, perhaps likely, that the first iteration of the new grid will have very non-SL rules. LL must attract the Facebook / MySpace people, and they are very uncomfortable with anonymity. A grid like this would also be more attractive to businesses and educators. Chances are, even if you are able to have a fantasy life there, your profile will always link back to your RL identity.
There is no reason why the “in the spirit of Second Life” grid could not be completely separate, the same platform with the necessary tweaks and settings to make it like Second Life. The two grids could even share a marketplace and use the same currency.
In the meanwhile SL will continue to develop under Oz’s guiding hand. When he can appropriate code or ideas from the Next Generation team, he will. The smaller but more dedicated to SL team gathered around him seems very open to resident suggestions (although they can’t do everything).
Myself, I will probably dip my toes into the new world at the first opportunity. It seems unlikely I will be ready to move there for many years yet to come.

“Whatever you are, be a good one.” Abraham Lincoln

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