Saturday, July 28, 2012

If it's not one thing, it's another

No sooner do I get back online than my mother has another fall...

She's OK, I think, but I'm snatching time to post this in a tiny bit of a hurry!  Normal service will be resumed.  Promise!

Saturday, July 21, 2012


Taking advantage of a brief opportunity (and a public wi-fi hotspot) to post something:  my home Internet connection is out of action, hence my unusual silence!  I'm hoping to be back to normal, or what passes for it, come Monday.  In the meantime, I am stuck in reality.  It's weird...

Monday, July 16, 2012

And, while I'm grumping...

... and inspired by a charmless buffoon who wandered into Oxbridge somewhat before I crashed last night...

If you are looking through the ToS and the local sim rules and plotting very hard to find some course of action which is not technically griefer behaviour - then that in itself is griefer behaviour.

(This particular guy was quite determined to pick some kind of fight.  Fortunately, everybody there, including a sixteen-year-old anime fan, was too mature to fall for it.)

More irritability

My feedback on the second support case I had to raise, to report that I couldn't access the first one.

You will notice that I don't feel my problem was solved, that I was very unsatisfied with the whole business, and - most damningly - that this was what I was expecting.

There are people who make unreasonable demands of LL on a technical level... but, come on, guys, I'm running Windows 7 and Internet Explorer, this is not some obscure custom system, and it is not unreasonable to expect the flippin' support web page to work!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Belt and braces

A while back now I mentioned some problems we were running into with the keyframed movement system.  While this is somewhat improved - possibly as a consequence of the impending arrival of pathfinding on the Grid as a whole - there are still issues, especially with region restarts.  The lifts running up and down my tower in Burroughs still freeze when the region restarts, and are a little erratic in resuming function.

So, by way of experiment, I rigged one to sort itself out when the restart hits.  Basically, this is run off the "changed" event, because one of the things it picks up is the starting up of the region.  (I have an explosive device in Steam SkyCity, in fact, which counts the number of times the sim has restarted.  And then explodes.)  So, this one lift, now, when it detects a restart, shuts down keyframed movement, uses the old warpPos trick to go to its starting point, and then starts keyframing going again.  In theory, then, the next time a restart hits, this thing should go right on moving as normal.

I mentioned all this to Tali, and she said, "WarpPos?  You do know llSetRegionPos is live now, right?"

Well, this is why Tali is an accomplished creator and I am a dumb blonde; yes, I did know, but it had temporarily slipped what passes for my mind.  So I turned back to the lift...

... and I thought to myself, hang on, this is an excellent moment to run some comparisons, here.

WarpPos is not an LSL function, it's a trick developed by sneaky programmer types; it works by calculating a number of steps between where you are and where you want to be, and using llSetPos to move an object along those steps - the trick being that, due to a quirk of the implementation, all these repeated calls to llSetPos are executed in the same physics frame, thus making the transition effectively instantaneous.

The newer llSetRegionPos actually does move an object, straightforwardly and simply, from point A to point B (if both points are in the same region).  So there is not a lot of use for warpPos any more, unless you're going outside a sim... but...

The much-published warpPos user-defined function has an error margin of 0.01 meters.  In the documentation, llSetRegionPos is given an error margin of 0.1 meters.  Now, this may be simply LL covering their backsides with a generous allowance for errors, but - I thought - it might be interesting to see how the two compare in practice.  So I edited a second lift and set that to use llSetRegionPos.

So, it will be interesting to see how the two compare.  The ideal result would be for both lifts to handle the sim restarts normally - but it is possible that, with the wider margin for error, the llSetRegionPos one will drift, gradually, out of position over the course of weeks.  (It is also possible, or even likely, that they will both hit an unsolved keyframing bug and fail to restart properly.  Well, we shall see.)

An experiment in progress!  I may have results in, oooh, a month or two.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Recommended reading

As some people know, when I'm not shouting at my mother or trying to ignore her, one of the things I do is read aloud to her.  We've been through a number of books over the past few months.

The one we're on currently is W. E. Bowman's The Ascent of Rum Doodle, a spoof on mountaineering which narrates - in studiously po-faced and pompous "Boys' Own Stories" style - the attempts of a hapless crew of incompetents to conquer the 40,000½ foot tall peak of the title.  It's blessed with a foreword by Bill Bryson, who describes it as one of the funniest books he's ever read.

I mention it here because, for a sixty-year-old classic of humourous writing, it is weirdly little-known.  It's been compared (not without justification) to Three Men in a Boat and The Diary of a Nobody, but those books are famous, and The Ascent of Rum Doodle, inexplicably, isn't.  Oh, I'm sure there's a Wikipedia page about it, but that means nothing these days.

Probably my posting this here means nothing much, too, but... should you chance across this one, give it a go.  I mean, it's funny enough that both my mother and I are enjoying it.  How often does that happen?

Thursday, July 12, 2012

A pox on "standard sizing"

The mesh clothes I picked up at the fundraiser yesterday will just have to be considered as donations to the cause, I fear.  At least the shoes, makeup and motorbike seem OK!

The problem, of course, is that they were all made using the "Standard Sizing", against which I have inveighed before... and my shape, though not all that peculiar, especially in SL, is way outside the permitted variation allowed in the standard sizes.

It's not a question of being too tall, or too thin, because the existing adjustments along avatar bones work just fine to accommodate that.  The problem lies in the subtler interplay of proportions - and, I suspect, in what's currently fashionable in SL.

The problem seems to exist mostly for those of us who want a vaguely trim-and-athletic look.  I don't want exaggerated curves and a pair of Zeppelins moored to the front of my torso, thank you very much, so the larger sizes, which cater to the voluptuous amongst us, are out.  So, no problem, right?  I just use the small sizes, and they scale up to my height, right?... Wrong, because the smaller sizes don't seem to allow for any significant musculature, or breadth (I have narrow hips and comparatively broad shoulders).  The S and XS sizes seem heavily biased towards what my friend and fellow blogger CC Creeggan describes here as "Tableau girls".  It's a popular look among the waif-like and generally gamine.  It's not my look, though, or anywhere near it.  Of course, I can just hide everything under alpha layers...

... except those don't adjust at all for body proportions, they are painted over certain areas of your avatar's surface, and if the lines on your avatar's surface don't match up to the ones on the mesh item you're wearing... tough.  So, with the best will in the world, I find myself clipping through mesh clothes in unexpected locations.  Forearms seem to be the worst - my arms are longer than many avi's, even though they are actually too short to be well proportioned in RL.  And, wearing a corsety-type top, I found that, in all the sizes available, the breadth of my shoulders made for a visible discontinuity between the mesh and me - I suddenly broaden out at the point the mesh's corresponding alpha ends.

At best, I can only hope to conceal my entire lower body beneath an alpha, leaving me looking as if I've stolen somebody else's legs.  In size XXS trousers, the legs of someone in the terminal stages of some obscure wasting disease.  In size XL, the legs of someone whose bottom needs its own postcode.  In intermediate sizes, an unlovely combination of the two.

Let's consider the tops... Well, since I have small breasts, anything above XXS leaves vast echoing caverns around my chest.  Selecting size XXS, though, generally means my breasts clip through the clothing whenever my av physics kicks in, and sometimes even when it doesn't.  I can't win.

I would post some snapshots, but they are just too, too, depressing.

I am more and more convinced that the "standard sizing" was based on a sample of commercially available shapes.... and so reflects what's currently fashionable in SL.  I will stand by my previously stated opinion: for those of us who exercise our own creativity and make our own shapes, it is effectively useless

And since mesh clothes continue to be a growth area, can we please have all the wrangling over the mesh deformer tool sorted out, so that I can actually wear some?

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

All in a good cause

I mentioned a couple of days ago that I'd be dropping by the fundraiser for Gala Phoenix's legal costs....  It seems this has become something of a hot issue!  I tried to get into the Mesh sim, where the fundraiser is being held, several times yesterday, only to be bounced out every time because the region was full.  This thing is drawing crowds.

I managed to turn myself sideways, suck in my tummy, and slide in unnoticed today.  I must say, despite huge amounts of pressure, the sim itself seems to be holding up nicely; a bit of lag-walking in some spots, but in general I was moving about fairly easily.  And the shopping worked just fine, too, which is fortunate, given the hole it has now put in my Linden balance. 

I do think this is a cause worth supporting, because the legal case may lead to a serious rethink about DMCA takedowns and what's to be done when they are abused - and we are definitely overdue for some rethinking on that topic!  Also, it is a cause worth supporting because there are is a lot of good stuff here from some very famous SL names, and, well, everyone knows about me and nice clothes, right?  (Also a motorbike that I don't, strictly speaking, need.)

The vendors, by the way, have notices saying how much of the price is going to the cause... I am somewhat conflicted about this, on account of I think it might be a bit iffy to make money for oneself when setting up stall at a fundraising event.  On the other hand, SL designers have to eat and pay tier like the rest of us... and some of them seem to think a fifty-fifty split, between the event and themselves, is equitable enough.  I can see their point of view, I think; my own purchases, though, were restricted to ones that said "100% of the proceeds will go to meeting Gala Phoenix's legal costs."  That is, after all, what I'm there to support... the nice clothes and unnecessary motorbike are only a side issue, right?

Anyway.  I made it there, I overloaded my inventory again, and on balance it was fun.  If only Second Pride had managed to draw this many people!


It doesn't actually get beyond "Loading...", but it's better than yesterday.  At this rate, I might be able to see my support case as early as next week!  No idea when or if it'll ever be resolved, of course.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Sinister Steampunk Hunting

... as in, participating in the Sinister Steampunk 2 Hunt, and not (as I've said before) chasing Denver Hax with a bread knife.  Although if any more of his My Little Ponies come at me and kick me over the landscape of Caledon, I may make the time.

Ahem.  Anyway.  I think I've more or less finished, apart from two stores that aren't ready yet, and a couple of others that have dropped out or disappeared.  (One of them belongs to M. Ceriano, who I believe follows this blog! - so I hope he's OK, wherever he's got to.)  It makes me realize, though, how much I've relied on the Historical Hunts Group for support and information as I've done the various Steam and Silk Road Hunts.  Going it alone is tougher, psychologically at least.

However - this one seems to be almost finished.  Which means I will need to unpack!  So far, we have confirmed the presence of at least two top hats among the various gifts, so grand old steampunk tradition is being kept up.  I may need to keep a count of superfluous gears, too.

Speaking of which, I have girded up my loins (metaphorically) and submitted my little shop for Steam Hunt 7.  And, if it's accepted, I will have to make something!  (Tali gave the matter a few seconds' thought and suggested "Top hat skybox".  Which is all very well, but where would I put the superfluous gear?)

Couldn't have put it better myself

I have been attempting to deal with LL's support system, submitting a ticket for that "logging in dumps me in a disconnected state" issue, which is back again with a vengeance.

The following screen shot shows just how far I'm getting.

Says it all, really, doesn't it?  Ladies and gentlemen: LL's customer support.

Monday, July 9, 2012

The Curio affair of the DMCA in the night time

This rather non-sensational item from NWN hides behind it a rather alarming imbroglio between two SL content creators; I can understand why Mr Au is keeping his coverage restrained and non-judgmental, since the dispute has now escalated to the point where real lawyers - not just Internet "lawyers" - are getting involved.  Still, following up on the links leads one into as juicy a tale of allegations and cliques and counter-allegations as one might wish to read in the proverbial month of Sundays.  (I am, myself, convinced enough that I'll be dropping by Gala Phoenix's fundraiser to spend some Lindens for the cause.)

The main problem, it seems to me, is that whatever's happened, someone has been abusing the DMCA takedown process, by reporting as a copyright infringement content which they must know darn well isn't infringing.  To me, this highlights an essential weakness in the whole process.  It's all very well having a fast and effective method of taking down infringing content (I am not going to use the contentious word "stolen" here, as the issues are already quite muddy enough without distorting the meaning of another word), but the problem is the same as with the ready availability of firearms in some cultures - the bad guys get to have them too. In this case, it is quite clear that an innocent creator has been shot with the DMCA "gun" by a plagiarist trying to cover themselves with a bogus counter-accusation.  Undoubtedly, the truth will come out in the end... and the RL lawyers will get a nice five-figure sum out of it, and everyone else is going to come out a loser.

This is surely not fair, and I'm hoping something can be done about it.  It seems to me that there need to be serious consequences, somewhere, for an abuse of the DMCA takedown process - as things stand, an infringer can sling out a counter-claim and gum up a legitimate complainer's business, and it's not easy to see where they have anything to lose by doing that.  Possibly, the RL courts will impose some sort of additional penalty - or possibly not; who knows, with many courts in many nations, not all of them up to the standards we in the developed world expect?  But, it seems to me, abuse of DMCA needs to be something taken seriously in SL, too.  I hope this is something LL is thinking about.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Normal service will be resumed

... since it is unusual for me to leave more than forty-eight hours between blog entries.

Unfortunately, real life has rather intervened, in the form of a blazing row with my mother, over the merits of me spending time on the computer.  (Which, since both my social and my work life rather revolve around the Net, is a bit of a problem.)  My mother has reached that time in life when she disapproves of everything but the Royal Family and the Antiques Roadshow, and the Internet falls under neither heading.

It'll blow over - but I am keeping my head down until it does.  Sadly, I have to live with my mother.  Or, at least, someone has to, and there aren't any other volunteers. 

Friday, July 6, 2012

The sincerest form of flattery

There has been, it seems, a sudden outbreak of copybotting, to which I was alerted by no less a presence than the august Dean of Caledon Oxbridge, Martini Discovolante, who was gratified to hear a newcomer compliment her appearance - and then mortified to see said newcomer assume it, instantly....

This is, of course, nothing new, and it's not easy to prevent.  The simple truth is, if you are going to appear on other people's viewers, the information needed to construct your appearance has to be sent to their computers - and it is not at all difficult to intercept and record that information.  All it took was one person malicious or clueless enough to write and release a tool for doing this, and imagination- and morality-challenged people everywhere could take advantage of it.

There are limitations, of course - copybotters can't duplicate content that's shared only between your client and LL's servers, so things like your inventory, and the contents of your items, are safe enough.  And I'm inclined to wonder if the upcoming changes to the rendering pipeline will make life harder for the copyers; if your skin and clothing textures are pre-baked on the server side, it's not going to be easy to separate the layers out in someone else's client.  I hope.

And, of course, copybotting is a violation of the Terms of Service and merits an immediate abuse report if you see it... not to mention, if it's content you've made being copied, the authority of the DMCA behind the complaint.  LL can, and do, remove ripped-off content, replacing it with "generic" items of the same basic type.

Which is all to the good.... I am not a fan of the more strident interpretations of copyright law and intellectual property rights, but the basic principle is sound: people who create things have the right to distribute it the way they choose to, and to get paid for what they do.  I may choose to give stuff away - I have, on some occasions - but it's my stuff, and I get to choose when and how I do it.  I may be a techno-commie, and even a pixel-stained technopeasant wretch, but I draw the line at simply leeching off other people's creativity.  And I hope all my readers do too!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Not all that proud

I went out to see the Second Pride sims - six of them, celebrating LGBT pride and culture in Second Life.  A good thing, to be sure.

After Fantasy Faire, and SL9B, I was expecting something rather fun, though.  Unfortunately, it's six rather empty sims, of rather bland builds.  There is a funfair, which looks vaguely fun.  There are important things, like memorials, and art galleries, and a museum of the struggle (still ongoing, alas) for gay rights.  It's all very worthy and not very interesting....

Also, I am minded to gripe on a personal level; last I heard, there was an L in LGBT.  But you wouldn't think it to see most of this place.  So far, I have found a stall for SL's "Oh Boi" lesbian magazine, and that is all I've found.  I suppose I shouldn't grumble; in the world of Second Pride, that seems to put us about equal with the Goreans, and we get nearly twice as much space as the Amaretto breedable horses.

Perhaps lesbian groups were approached, but chose - for whatever reason - not to participate?  Or perhaps it's that famous lesbian invisibility, that we hear so much about.  Anyway.  For me, this festival is something of a disappointment.  Your mileage, of course, may vary.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Scammers live in vain

Much annoyance in RL, from a spate of phone calls of late.  This is that scam where someone (usually with a very thick Indian accent) phones up claiming to be from"technical support department of Windows", tells you that your computer is generating error messages all across the Internet, and offers you assistance in fixing the problem.  Actually accepting such an offer - not that I have ever done so, myself - is pretty much guaranteed to sign you up for new exciting experiences in the area of identity theft and malware installation.  You too can be part of the thrilling new botnet everyone is talking about!

After a lengthy argument with our telecoms provider, we got a four digit code to punch into the phone, to flag these up as fraudulent calls - probably useless, since the scammers behind these things just buy time at a new call centre every so often; the hapless drones in Kolkata are reading off the scripts that are given them.

Needless to say, it is a scam, absolutely and completely - Microsoft do not make, or authorize anybody to make, unsolicited phone calls of this nature, and in any case the idea of my lone laptop ringing alarm bells across the globe is patently ridiculous.  If I'm in a bad mood, my response to these people is along the lines of quoting the Computer Misuse Act at them and advising them to get an honest job.  And, I have to admit, increasingly I am in a bad mood with these people.  I've had four of these calls in the past three days, now, and I am quite a cross Glorf about it.

Exercise for the alert student: given that I'm on a dynamically allocated IP address, how much work would you have to go to, in order to establish that a series of error messages all originated on my PC?  Answers on a postcard please.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

A hurried note

... as my inworld time has been taken over, through my own dreadful weakness of will; I started doing the Sinister Steampunk Hunt.

This is smaller that Steam Hunt or Silk Road - fifty-two shops listed, but some have dropped out (one, rather alarmingly, has disappeared completely).  So far, I'm about half way.  There are some familiar names on the list, but there are enough new-to-me stores to keep me on my toes!  There may or may not be a report on the goodies on offer; the Hunt's blog seems to be displaying those fairly effectively, though.

Monday, July 2, 2012

The play's the thing

So, there I was at home in Kuhrang, when I received a message from the estimable Mr Perryn Peterson; he was about to appear in a play, would I care to come and watch?

Shortly thereafter, there I was in Piedmont Landing, at the Jewell Theater high in the air, watching "The Ost", a Gorean-themed play in which Perryn was playing a two-timing guy who gets rather more than he bargained for, in a distinctly Gorean sort of style.

I have to admit, my own style wasn't particularly Gorean, since I was still baking a rather nice modern outfit from Ydea at the time... still, there were a couple of other conventional Earth people around, among all the silks and the slaves, so I sat quiet and said nothing and absorbed this little tale from a culture that is, to be honest, pretty much alien to me.  (I read a Gor book, once, about twenty-five years ago; neither John Norman's writing style nor his sexual politics impressed me very much.)

The play was one of those areas where SL shows its... differences... from RL.  On the one hand, fantastically detailed sets and costumes were rezzed in the blink of an eye, technology Shakespeare would have given his eye teeth for.  On the other, the dialogue was exclusively in chat, so no intonation, no expression, there; and though the actors were perfectly choreographed, there is a limit to what they can do, too, with animations and precisely timed movement. 

The subject matter, Perryn (quite correctly) assured me, was universal, but I kept looking about for the Gorean twists - the attitudes, and the resolution of the central situation, that were appropriate to the Gorean culture.  (I commented to Perryn, afterwards, how different things might have been in other constructed cultures - citing as an example one of M.A.R. Barker's T├ękumel stories, where the love triangle is resolved quite neatly by the hero marrying both the girls.  But this isn't possible in a Gorean setting, apparently.)  Anyway, it kept my interest, all the way through.

Must admit, though, the one thing that really threw me was the attitude of the audience, who were heckling loudly and commenting on the action all the way through.... Now, this might just be my cultural prejudices coming through, of course.  My upbringing makes me think it's only a courtesy to the performers to keep my mouth shut and let them get on with the show - perhaps I am old-fashioned; perhaps it is different in Gor; or perhaps I'm not old-fashioned enough - Shakespeare's audiences at the Globe could cut up pretty rough, by all accounts.  But I found it distracting, enough so to do a surreptitious mute on a couple of the most talkative (including one person whose open mic was delivering snatches of the Euro 2012 cup final along the way).

Anyway - it was definitely an interesting experience.... Of course, it occurs to me that I was present in my SL identity watching a bunch of other SL people assume the roles of yet other people in an invented society, thereby achieving such a level of "meta" that I'm not even sure I'm typing this.  But it was certainly an interesting event.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Blingons on the starboard bow!

One thing I missed, apparently, at SL9B was the sign at the Bay City exhibit telling its denizenscitizens to beware of the "Steam Menace".  An absurd suggestion!  As if the genteel and urbane inhabitants of Caledon presented any sort of menace to anyone.

But, of course, this means the people of Bay City are bound to be on their guard.  It would be almost impossible, then, to - as a random example - sneak steam grenades into the Bay City Municipal Airport.
Not much sneaking going on, in fact

And, what with the rigorous security checks in place, it'd be almost impossible for a Caledonian agent to infiltrate undetected.
Harmless though that would be - I mean, could anyone see any malign intent in this?

Indeed, you would need to be particularly subtle, sneaky, and generally non-obvious to penetrate the elaborate layers of Bay City security.

Almost undetectable

Yes, the people of Bay City can certainly rest easy in their beds, knowing how vigilantly their municipal authorities protect them from the "Steam Menace"!