Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Monday, January 30, 2012

An exorcism, and musings of a commercial nature

I had the honour of assisting Mr Alastair Whybrow, today, when SL had the temerity to ghost him.  Ghosting, to those who might not have experienced this calamity, is the process where SL forgets to log you out properly at its end, leaving a phantom image of you at the last place you visited - and, more importantly, preventing you from logging back in again at your end.  There are a few methods which can disentangle you from this predicament, and I was able to suggest to Miss Valerie Bluebird (Mr Whybrow's indefatigable assistant) one that worked.

(Basically, there is a brief window of time every quarter of an hour or so when a ghosted avatar actually registers as offline, and if you can identify this window - usually, by getting an indefatigable assistant to send you messages continually until they get a "[your name] is offline" response - you can log yourself back in during it.  You may still need to go and confront your ghost, though, to get it to disappear.  The presence of both of you on the same sim causes the sim to think long and deeply about which one of you is real, and it will invariably pick the one with the more recent login time and other displays of activity.  So I suggested this to Miss Bluebird - who earns her keep, no doubt about that - and shortly thereafter Mr Whybrow was back amongst us.  Which beats waiting for a region restart, which is the only sure-fire guaranteed way to get rid of ghosts.)

Anyway.  Subsequently, I had a long talk with Mr Whybrow and Miss Bluebird, mostly on the subject of SL commerce and how to go about it.  Amazingly, for a resident of my age and degree of involvement, I have no commercial presence of any kind, subsisting in SL on premium member stipend, occasional tips for lecturing and poledancing, and otherwise buying Linden dollars as the need or the whim strikes me, for such modest purchases as I make.  Mr Whybrow and Miss Bluebird had much good and cogent advice to give on the topic of becoming an SL businessperson.

I suppose I am plagued by my own doubts on this topic... I worry if any of my stuff is good enough to sell!  Mr Whybrow, of course, has no such concerns, or at least shouldn't have; he has found a niche where he has few competitors and even fewer equals, making micro-prim jewelry of amazing detail, beauty and exactitude.  Me, I just bang prims together and stick scripts in 'em.  They amuse me, fair enough, but then I'm easily amused.  Would anyone else be amused?  To the extent of spending, like, actual money on these things?  Or Linden dollars at least?  (Which are actual money, even if not an awful lot of actual money in RL.)

Excessive musing and self-doubt will probably be the death of me.  Never mind.  (While I muse, of course, other people might want to check out Mr Whybrow's store, Sparkle of Sound - I have been known to go round it myself, thinking i. oo, pretty jewelry, and ii. I will never ever be this good.)

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Great SkyCity Census

My friend and neighbour Professor Sauce Sorrowman has been updating the entries on the Steamlands wiki page relating to Caledon Steam SkyCity.  So he and I have been wandering over the sim, noting which parcels are called what, and who owns them.  In the process, we have discovered that a few spots are (or may soon be) up for grabs, that no fewer than three of the sim's original residents are still in place, and that Mr. Denver Hax is up to something.

Steam SkyCity remains, of course, one of the Eight Wonders of Caledon, and an awesome sight it is.  It's not been as lively as it used to be, recently, though, and perhaps I should get myself involved in doing something about that.  I have the technology.  Or at least I have a flying dance floor.

(After all Prof. Sorrowman's work, the Steamlands wiki seems to have rolled back to an earlier version in its entirety.  I don't know what's going on there.  Well, it'll sort itself out, probably.)

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Lightbulb Moment!

And I mean that very literally, I really do.

This is a little toy I've been making.  It sits up there above your head, normally dark and invisible.  But, when you indicate that you've had a thought, or an idea, by typing a message in chat that contains those words, it turns visible and lights up to show everyone nearby just how brilliant you are.

The lightbulb itself wasn't all that tough.  Mostly it's cylinders nailed together (bayonet fitting, so much easier than a screw thread), with a filament made of a twisted tube, following the directions in Ayumi Cassini's now-famous guide. The bulb is a sculpty, but it honestly is a piece of piddle making something like that in Rokuro.  Texures?  A glass one from Builders' Brewery, a couple of metal ones from the many, many texture packs I've bought from the USC Texture Tomb, a blank grey for the filament.

The fun part, of course, comes in the scripting.

First off, this thing has to be invisible when it's rezzed, so I defined a "shutdown" function and called it in the on_rez event, along with setting up a listener.  To clean up, I put some code in the attach event to turn off that listener when the thing's detached.  (We know, of course, that there is no "detach" event, but the attach event handler tells you the UUID of the person your object's attached to, and if that is a null key then it isn't attached to anybody, and that's how you find out if an object's just been detached.  Or at least I knew that, and now you do too if you didn't before.)

Anyway.  Once the listener is running, it checks each of your messages (using the llGetSubString function) for occurrences of the strings "thought" or "idea".  This function returns a -1 if it doesn't find the thing it's looking for... so, we can figure that, if we call this once for "idea" and once for "thought", and add the two results together, if they come to anything over -2 then you have said "thought" or "idea" at least once, so we start firing off the stuff to make the thing appear.

This means 1) using llSetLinkAlpha to set the visibility to 1.0 (fully visible) on all components, 2) using llSetLinkAlpha again just on the glass part to set its visibility to 0.5 so you can see through the darn thing, 3) using llLinkParticleSystem on the filament to make it shoot out sparklies, and 4) using llSetLinkPrimitiveParams with PRIM_POINT_LIGHT on the filament in order to make it shed light.  (Identifying the glass bit and the filament inside the linkset is left as an exercise for the alert student.)

You can see, I hope, that doing the "shutdown" function I mentioned earlier pretty much means doing the same things backwards (except we are turning the whole thing invisible, so we don't need to faff around with any special settings on the glass bit there).

The listen event also calls llSetTimerEvent to give a five-second timer.  At the end of those five seconds, the timer event fires... doing what?  Why, first calling our "shutdown" function to turn the lights off and the lightbulb invisible, and secondly calling llSetTimerEvent again to set it to 0.0, or in other words turn it off.

So there we have it.  Stick this on a head-related attachment point (I chose my nose), and you have a lightbulb that pops up and glows whenever you have a brilliant thought or idea, or at least whenever you say you have.  It's a bit of fun, at any rate.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Mesh: It Still Needs Work

I mean, yes, OK, it's a freebie demo object, and it's early days still for mesh designers...  but just look at it!  Even my tummy is showing through the midriff, and I'm a stick insect for heaven's sake.  And there is not a chance in Hades of me ever filling out the front of that, let me tell you.  There's room in there for me to keep hamsters.

I understand a parametric deformer is in the works, which will help fit mesh clothing onto the actual shape of your avatar.  Can't come too soon for me.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Embarrassing glows and missed targets

The much-esteemed Guvnah of the fair realm of Caledon issued an annoucement concerning glowing objects.  Apparently, there is no set standard in OpenGL for the rendering of glow, which means that some people see glowy things as nigh-thermonuclear blazes of light, and this puts them off settling nearby.  The Guvnah, therefore, exhorts us all to a seemly moderation in the use of this setting.

"No problem!" I thought, and even announced in Caledon group chat.  "I use point light settings when I want illumination, so there's no likelihood of me using excessive glowiness!"

Then, later on, I thought, "Well, I suppose I'd better make sure..."

Turned out I was one of the worst offenders in this regard.  Can we say "oops"?

Now, I am labouring on antiquated and inadequate equipment - it's a wonder I'm in SL at all, my machine finds Nethack a bit of a challenge - and so I have rather the opposite problem.  I have a vague feeling I used to be able to see glowiness, somewhat, but in the round of updates to drivers and viewers and OpenGL in general, that ability has been denied me, these days.  So, though I went around performing emergency glow-ectomies on various objects on my parcels in Steam SkyCity, at the end of the day, I wasn't sure I'd got the lot.

At which point the redoubtable Miss Tali Rosca enters this sorry tale.  Miss Rosca is a scripter, sculpter, builder and generally all-around-skilled SL person of quite phenomenal ability, and she has a bang-up-to-date viewer and graphics setup, with which it is her wont to take pictures of excessive lighting setups.  So, I begged a favour of her; could she take a brief tour of my parcels and note anything that might still be emitting pyrotechnic glow?  And she was kind enough to say yes.

... and, shortly thereafter, messaged me with a query; did I know that one of the landmarks I had given her was to an area with no floor, causing her to drop fifty meters on materialization and land in the waters beneath the Sky City?

It would be nice to say that I'm above such crude practical jokes, but, let's face it, I'm not.  However, this particular instance of dropping visitors in the drink was not intentional.... So I used the very same landmark, and materialized, as I'd expected to, on the perfectly solid metal deck of my art-deco cafe on the Sky City.  And shortly afterwards, Miss Rosca appeared, using that very same landmark, and hanging in midair above a hole in the floor, about five meters to the north of me.

So, it seemed that this was a consistent problem, and I recalled a previous incident where a visitor had materialized off-target and vanished downwards for an early bath.  Something was amiss here.  But what?

Cue pauses for rumination, cogitation, and experimentation, interrupted occasionally by the sound of one of SL's most accomplished creators falling in the water.

It wasn't until I'd set a new landmark on the floor upstairs, and Miss Rosca was still plummeting, that the penny finally dropped.  For Miss Rosca.  My pennies remained firmly balanced on top of my empty blonde head.

Put simply: when I took over the parcel, I inherited a pre-set landing point that I'd never thought to change.

The parcel used to be the old giant robot head, which was on the side of the Sky City for simply ages, it was something of a landmark, I missed it when it went.  I still have a snapshot of the city which shows it, and here we can see it:-

But it went the way of so many SL landmarks (not landmarks in the LM sense, I mean... oh, you know what I mean!), and when I took over, the parcel was just an empty space, and I built something that looks like this:-

Now, as you can see, the robot head, in plan, is basically square.  And the lower floor of my subsection, in plan, is basically L-shaped.  And the landing point, set in the robot head's heyday?  You guessed it: right in the middle of the cut-out section.

So visitors could use the landmark I gave them, and would be automatically re-routed five metres to the north, and thence re-routed by gravity to the icy waters beneath.  Meanwhile I, as the parcel's owner of record, could ignore the teleport routing and appear where I wished.  And "where I wished" was, obviously enough, somewhere I wouldn't fall in the water.  But it was close enough to the set landing point that I could write off any mis-appearances I saw as some sort of SL glitch.  Because I am, sometimes, one dumb blonde.

So - things I learned, that I should already have known:-

1.  A landing point, once set on a parcel, persists until it's explicitly changed, even through changes of parcel ownership.  (Why this should surprise me, given how assiduously SL preserves state, I really don't know.)
2. The owner of a parcel automatically overrides any set landing point and may appear wherever she (or presumably he) wishes to.

And I should probably add 3. I am extremely lucky to have tolerant and intelligent friends like Miss Rosca, who are prepared to spend time falling repeatedly into the sea in order to get my ideas straightened out!

All in all, not one of my best days.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Plum in decay?

I logged in at the Plum sim earlier today, this being one of the relatively quiet old sims where I like to appear and collect myself before the rigors of the SL day begin.  Plum is, of course, one of the very old sims, dating back far before my time; it used to be one of the welcome centres in SL, and still has a "Welcome Area", next door to a public sandbox.  Though it's long been off the list of active infohubs, the structure of the welcome centre still remains, with a few informative signs and giveaways - or, at least, it did:-

No informative signs or giveaways, and parts of the structure itself seem to be missing.  The Plum sandbox got plagued by some nasty and unimaginative griefers, recently; it's possible that someone's done a mass return of objects, and bits of the welcome area went with it.  I guess it's too much to hope for that the area's being redeveloped.  Pity.  These General-level welcome areas - even the still active ones - often look forlorn and abandoned.  And this one now looks more forlorn than most.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Sartorial non-excellence

I have discovered a new respect for the clothiers and template makers of Second Life, since I have spent what felt like several years, and actually was a pretty fair chunk of today, making one rather indifferent-looking tartan waistcoat.  Banging a few templates together is fairly easy, assuming you know how to use your graphics software; making an even half-way acceptable clothing texture from scratch is not very easy at all! - it demands patience and exactitude and a steady hand and lots of other things I have in short supply.

Still, I progress.  Possibly, tomorrow - pants!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Poetry Please!

While wandering, as is oft my wont, through the Grim Bros. store at http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Clematis%20Island/118/50/22, I was messaged by the proprietress, the excellent Miss Cutea Benelli, who pressed upon me a new creation, the Evil Haiku Automaton:-

(The snapshot was taken at my Mainland home in Kuhrang, so any lapses in taste in the decor are ascribable to me and not Miss Benelli.)

The still picture does not do full justice to this highly animated little fellow, who, in addition to his various intriguing motions, plays a sprightly melody and delivers himself of verse when touched, in the traditional Japanese haiku form... well, maybe not entirely traditional.  A selection of his poetical utterances:-

Adorable you
ding dong, the witch is yummy
Going, going, gone

it’s your un-birthday
In the vacant lot next door
This is where it ends

got your nose. for real.
I want to gnaw your thighbones
Calm thoughts of landmines

And any anthropophagous automaton who thinks calmly of landmines has my full support and endorsement.  (I have my standing in the mad science community to think of, you know.)

Vindictive Geology in Caledon Wellsian

So, I caught the Guvnah's announcement of geological upheavals in northern Caledon, including lava flows and Cavorite eruptions in Wellsian.  "Aha!" I thought to myself; for Cavorite, that mineral so essential for the powering of anti-gravitational devices, and which also makes a piquant cocktail with notably uplifting effect, is dashed hard to come by, sometimes, what with my usual Tanzanian suppliers being increasingly unreliable, and the Cavorite Mines taking a dim view of tourists who come out with suspiciously floaty backpacks.  So, I packed up my collecting sacks and my trusty lead insoles, and went forth to scavenge, I mean to lend humanitarian assistance during the disaster.

There was a fair amount of upheaval at the arrival point:-

But things really got nasty further on down:-

I wound up taking refuge on the cliff side, looking down on the chaos below:-

Now, it's possible I might have got a bit too close to the lava flows at some stage:-

Fortunately, the RCAF were on hand to deal with any medical emergencies:-

(You can see they were needed!)

Unfortunately, about this time I was overcome by the fumes:-

And, after receiving field treatment from the redoubtable Miss Wendyslippers Charisma, and a reviving cup of coffee from Miss Erehwon Yoshikama, I was medevaced, as I believe the word is, to the RCAF hospital in Caledon Cape Wrath:-

Where I received expert medical attention, although the combination of Cavorite vapours, Mondrago coffee, Miss Wendyslippers's injection, truth gas, and laughing gas had an... interesting... effect:-

It was sometime around then that the cumulative effect became too much for my computer to handle, and I was forced into an extended convalescence in RL.  But I've recovered, now, and am back to normal, or as normal as I can manage, anyway.  My thanks go out to Miss Wendyslippers Charisma, Miss Erehwon Yoshikawa, and Miss Solace Fairlady for their prompt assistance!

And you can bet I've learned my lesson, and won't be going out raiding hot Cavorite again...

... without proper breathing gear, at least.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Fleshing this thing out; an Arduous Process

I am determined to justify this thing's existence by adding some comment or other on a daily basis.  We'll see how long that particular resolution lasts.  (Even money I slip up by the end of the month.)

Anyway.  The quickest and easiest way to do this, it seemed to me, was to add some links to other blogs, mostly those of friends of mine.  (In the sense of "personal friends", or just "people on my Friends list"?  It would be the height of tactlessness to say which is which... it's probably pretty tactless to concede that there's a distinction!  Still, my SL f-list is notoriously jam-packed, and has less than 100% correlation with my actual friends in SL.  More on this subject, perhaps, if I'm gravelled for matter later on in the week.  Am I still in these brackets?)

Of course, "quick" and "easy" are relative terms, and I am new to this whole blogging thing, so using the interface to add blog links is, in itself, a challenge.  However.  I've got the first three links to people (a) that I thought of immediately, and (b) that are on Blogger.  Does this thing link with equal facility to blogs on other platforms?  I have no hesitation in answering: I don't know, and at this stage I don't much care.  After fiddling with unfamiliar software of any kind for more than a quarter of an hour, I start to feel an irresistible impulse to give the whole thing a rest and go grab a glass of gin.  Three links made; third post up; duty done!  Cheers.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Questions of personal identity; or, Miss Bulmer wonders about her face

So, this is what I looked like when I logged in this morning:

Now, some people who know me will realise this isn't what I usually look like.  (In fact, it's an outfit selected from the goodies available on the Jaegerdraught Hunt, which is still running at the time of writing, and starts at this location: http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Inverbrackie/96/117/64 ).

I've been musing on this topic, lately, because a friend of mine has been urging me to try out a new shape, even going so far as to make shapes for me to try - she's rather gifted in that regard.  Now, my first attempt at wearing one led to something of a disaster, SL being SL... the textures on my face obstinately refused to rez, leaving me with that ghastly blank-eyed death-mask one sees when such a failure occurs.  And when I tried to switch back to my normal appearance, a further entertaining glitch presented itself, whereby only I could see my clothing layers, thereby giving everybody else a right eyeful, let me tell you.  I wound up skulking in a suit of battle armour in a private location on the Mainland while my image sorted itself out.

Now, the whole sorry episode made me think for a bit about faces, and not unimportantly, why I was so darned unhappy about trying on a new shape in the first place.  And I suspect that some fellow SLers will nod wisely and say they understand, here, while others will blink in a bemused manner and whisper to themselves, "What on Earth is the silly woman wittering on about?"

It comes down to a question of self-image, I think; and different people think about their avatars in different ways, in this area.

When I first joined Second Life, I resolved to make myself a completely novel persona in this new world - indeed, I went so far as to make myself a male avatar at first.  I think that lasted about two weeks before I grew seriously uncomfortable with it, though, and switched, after some experimentation, to the tall skinny blonde familiar to people who hang out around Caledon Oxbridge.  And, apart from some minor tweaks to fix bugs in my face, that is pretty much the avatar I've stuck with ever since.

And the question which may spring to some minds at this point is why?  After all, this is a virtual world where one is absolutely  not constrained to play the hand that genetics dealt, when it comes to one's physical appearance.  Many SLers view their physique and their face as utterly plastic, variable from situation to situation; their self-image inworld is bound up, not with the way they look, but with the way they present their personalities in local chat or group chat, or by means of attachments and gestures.  To those people, my attachment to the mug you see on my profile picture must surely seem bizarre and irrational.

Now, you could advance the counter-argument that Second Life is a pretty bizarre and irrational thing to be doing anyway, but never mind that.  My feeling, though, is that my avatar shape is me, in a very definite and fundamental way; it's not just part of the way I project my personality inworld, it is a cornerstone of Who That Bulmer Woman Is.  Perhaps I am old-fashioned in my outlook (hang on, I hang out in crypto-Victorian steampunk-themed sims, of course I am old-fashioned in my outlook), but I like to think my friends could recognize me at a glance by my looks and my build, not by the nametag over my head or the tenor of my discourse.  Plasticity is not for me.  I may adopt the Jaegermonster form you see above, or appear as a crab, a Selenite, or a small and angry-looking pink dragon from time to time, but I return, with a degree of inevitability, to my usual shape, the tall skinny blonde with a slightly peculiar mouth.

Does it make a difference, I wonder, that I made this shape myself?  Certainly, I know other people inworld who have hand-crafted and fine-tuned their personal appearance, often to interesting aesthetic effect.  (And they're not all good-looking, or even unconventionally good-looking; one guy I often quote as a fine example of avatar-crafting appears as an elderly man of markedly sinister aspect.)  If I'd just bought myself an off-the-peg avatar shape (leaving aside the plethora of female shapes in SL that appear to have been made by someone who's never seen a real woman at a distance of less than five hundred yards), would I still feel the same way about plasticity?  If I had any hope that anyone was reading this blog at this early stage, I would ask the readership at large how they felt about this issue.  Does the readership-at-very-small have an opinion to offer?

In which Miss Bulmer presents herself in a new electronic medium

I suppose it is traditional, when starting one of these things, to say that "Goodness me, I've never done one of these things before, I don't know where to start, what can I possibly find to say?"  And I am not one to break with tradition.  Not only have I not done one of these things before, it is pretty much unknown territory to my typist, too (the physical entity who sits in real space, typing these words and eating far too many chocolate biscuits, and who is unfairly and unjustly described as the Real Me.)

However, let us not be deterred by such formal prolegomena.  Welcome, dear reader, to this aetheric journal.  I am Miss Glorf Bulmer, spinster of the parish of Caledon Steam SkyCity and other parts, and I have probably been remiss in failing to start some journal of my activities in Second Life, given that I have been an inhabitant of that metaverse for some twenty-one months and change, as of the time of writing.  (Which is not bad going, as I understand that boredom, vicissitudes of RL, or repeated ARs for griefing put paid to most Second Lifers before they clock up their first birthday.)

So, here commences, however tardily, and probably erratically, a chronicle of my various doings and musings within the metaverse of Second Life.  Will it prove entertaining, illustrative, edifying and informative?  We shall see, dear reader, we shall see.