Monday, April 30, 2012

I guess it's progress

In the wake of last week's alarums and excursions, LL have done some further maintenance of their data centre.  They have told people what's happening and why, have issued warnings of the possible effects, and have given an explanation about why it's being done.  I think this constitutes progress - at any rate, it is more communication than we normally see from LL about such matters.

I would rather  not have been kicked off the grid and prevented from logging back on, of course... but at least this time I knew something about what was going on.  So, one step forward, I think.  Or at least a cautious inching of one toe in a generally not-backwards direction.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Loot and Faces

This is one of the best bits of booty Tali and I scored off the Fantasy Faire hunt - described as "Free Tunic - Violet" from De La Soul.  (The boots aren't included, they're a set from Elvenbreath that I happened to have.  And happen to like, too.)

We were moved to head off to the De La Soul main store, in fact, to see if they had a version in Tali's preferred colours (she is not into blues and violets, they don't really go with her fur).  We spent a while there, looking around, and the conversation got onto personal appearance - as it will tend to do, in a place full of avatar components of all kinds for sale - and onto faces.

Here, I recalled a post here by my friend CronoCloud Creeggan, about the way female avatars are (or, at least can be) presented in SL.... I am a long way from being pouty or chubby-cheeked enough for some tastes, clearly.  Now, there may well be things wrong with my face - in fact, it has been back to the shop a couple of times to panel-beat defects out of it - but most of how it looks is down to my deliberate choices... and that soft-and-dewy-eyed look was one I deliberately chose to avoid.  I went, instead, for a look that goes some way towards suggesting a decent bone structure, the sort of face that might grow old gracefully and look distinguished.  Much more Katharine Hepburn than Marilyn Monroe, that sort of thing.  Tali, too, has strong and definite facial features - partly out of necessity, due to the fur, and the need to approximate feline features, and partly, again, out of personal choice; hers is a face with a very marked character of its own.

Should we both be soft and pouty and dewy-eyed?  I'm not saying that that's wrong, exactly... but there is more than one way to look good, and SaPaDE is not the way I choose to go.  (Is that a word, now?  Sapade?  I shall try to make it one, I think!)

Mind you... when I logged in today, I found myself being pushed to join the Bimbo Cheerleaders' Sorority House.  So evidently some people, at least, don't think I look like Katharine Hepburn.

:: takes her pom-poms and retires ::

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Seeing things

I think a malicious fairy is living inside my viewer and flipping switches or otherwise fiddling with the settings whenever the mood takes them.  I but recently restored my ability to post snapshots on my profile feed (which is just about the only thing I ever use my profile feed for, in any case), and now I find that my draw distance has been upped, slightly, from the absolute rock bottom minimum where I usually keep it.  Well, until now.  I have been wandering through Fantasy Faire with this slightly-enhanced draw distance, and have not been crashing any more than usual, so I think it is safe and I will keep it.  So, serendipity at work there, then.  In your face, malicious viewer fairy!

Talking of Fantasy Faire, it is now in its closing weekend, and I am wandering around it scarfing anything nice that I can afford and missed first few times around.  It occurs to me that I didn't show enough snapshotting love to Meandervale:-
It's not as dramatic as some of the others, but it is really a very nice build.
Sort of quiet and elegant and restrained.
Which, I admit, is more than you can say for that particular outfit.  But never mind.  Anyway.  Meandervale, some more shots of.  It's nice, go see it while it's still there.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Cold water and inertia

Or, I am going to be a wet blanket on a generally damn fine idea.

Conversations in the SL Bloggers' group about yesterday's Grid snarlups led my esteemed colleague Snickers Snook to support a proposal by Caitlin Poultry-Seale for a Premium service that'd actually make Premium membership look like a good deal; SL property insurance - backups of your inventory, restorable as required.

It'd be a good idea.  I have not, personally, had much in the way of inventory losses (barring missing out on that Chocolate Lucky Fish, but that was due to circumstances beyond either my or LL's control).  But I know those who have; my friend Nyree Rain occasionally goes to the Aditi testing grid to view her no-copy items, wiped off the main grid by some random foulup.  Why shouldn't that data be restored?  It's all there on backup media somewhere, right?

So, I thought about it, and I asked myself: why not?  And, unfortunately, I came up with an answer.

It comes down to those no-copy items, and how SL's object permissions things have been set up, and how people have worked with them over the years.  So, you have lost an item from your inventory, have you?  If you have Premium property insurance, you just fire up your "restore object" dialogue, and bish-bang-wallop, there it is again.  Simple, right?  ... Except SL is just chock-a-block with items that you are meant to lose, and there are even entire business models depending on that.  I do that 7Seas fishing game, remember?  How long would they last if, every time I filled my rod up with bait, instead of buying more, I just restored my last bait bucket from inventory backup?

Or, what about no-copy items?  If you give one away, can you then restore it from backup?  If so, expect the bottom to drop out of the breedable animals market in about ten seconds flat.

Now, none of this constitutes a technically insoluble problem.  What it does mean, though, is that any inventory backup system would have to be hedged about with precautions and bookkeeping procedures to make sure that you're actually entitled to the object you're trying to restore.  And this elevates the whole process from "fairly simple to do" to "a huge, huge amount of work".  (Not to mention that it might involve checking up on individual contracts between Residents, which raises some privacy concerns, and which also falls under the heading of "intervening in disputes between Residents", which the Lab - not unwisely - has always fought shy of.)

This is, if I may wax philosophical for a bit, kind of an endemic problem in SL: the format presents limitations, the Residents work with and around those limitations in manifold and ingenious ways... and this means we get sort of stuck with those limitations because of the sheer inertia of all the existing content that depends on them.  Sure, we could take the current permissions set (and we know, right, that "copy/mod/transfer" is only a crude approximation of what actually goes on?) and tack "restore" on as a fourth permission... who decides what existing content becomes restore or no-restore?

There is a similar thing with the whole idea of "prims", which the Lab seems to be trying to wean us off - a move which I approve of; the "prim" is an abstraction of, and in many ways a distraction from, the real processing cost of rendering objects in a 3D virtual space.  But so much stuff has been made using that abstraction that the Lab would face a king-sized headache revamping it now!  It would be really nice to swap that "prim count" for a polygon-vertex budget, but could LL actually implement this without pricing thousands upon thousands of current builds out of existence?... There may be more on this topic.  Consider yourselves warned.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Rubber Band Broke!

So when I logged off SL just now, my Lindens balance was L$-1, I was unable to make any teleports at all, and my messages to group chat failed to arrive without even the courtesy of the "The lagmonster has eaten your witticism" message.... In short, LL have managed to break something badly and the grid is massively unstable.

Well, it happens.  It is annoying when it does, though! - and am I being petty in resenting the phrasing of some of the results?  The first thing I noticed amiss was when I tried to drop some loose change into a donations kiosk, and got the L$-1 thing and the message "You failed to pay [name] n Lindens".  Um, no, I thought, I didn't fail, it wasn't my fault, it was the server's.  Similarly, the message on the Grid Status page tells us that "We are currently undergoing unscheduled maintenance".  Well, now, we know this means something has gone badly wrong, because this is the only time "unscheduled maintenance" happens - nobody goes around at LL (or any other Internet company) saying things like "Hmm, I've got nothing much on this afternoon, I think I will do some maintenance on the servers, just for the heck of it!"  No, "unscheduled maintenance" means "something got broke and we are scrambling to fix it".  So why not say as much?  Really, LL, you could do that, and none of us would think less of you.  If the rubber band powering the serves has broken, just say so.

Petty?  Well, probably, yeah.  It's really not even fair to nag LL for not reassuring their customers in more detail and with more friendliness, because, after all, if things are going wrong, I don't want people coming out and reassuring me, so much as I want them staying in and fixing them.  Simple priorities, after all....

But I'm narked.  And I can't reasonably take it out on LL, because in this fallen world stuff does go wrong, and all they can do is fix it.  So, I have to take my narked-ness (memo to self: don't typo that particular word) and do the only thing I can, which is vent about it on this blog.  Which means all my readers have to suffer through it as well.  You're welcome!

ETA:  And this is sort of what I mean about the reassuring vs. fixing thing... a couple of hours later, someone has spent the time and trouble to put on the grid status page a reassurin message that maintenance is now completed.  But SL itself is just giving me a message saying that logins are currently disabled.  Really, saying a problem is fixed when it isn't.... why not just fix it instead?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Fly me to the moon

Small, but possibly consequential, change in the last server rollout; the flight limit is, essentially, no more.

Last week, if you were ascending to a great height (say, in search of an errant cylinder or something), you would get up to 150 meters off the ground or so, and then you would inexplicably run out of puff.  The flight limit makes normal SL gravity reassert itself after a while, preventing you from getting too high.... or, until the last bunch of rollouts, it did.

Now, as I found out by experimentation last night, the limit has been raised, and raised a fair old bit, to around 5050 meters (I started running out of steam at that height and finally stopped rising entirely at 5067).  Unless, of course, you wear something that gives you a push upwards - a flight assist, like a freebie flight feather or an equally free but far more stylish Cavorite Personal Levitator (advt.)  Which you could have done anyway.  So.... I suppose the big change is, you now have one attachment slot freed up if you want to fly at heights between 150 and 5050 meters.  Which is not such a big change after all, I guess.

I've never entirely understood the reasoning behind the flight limit in any event, so its effective demise means very little to me... I think.  (The reasoning behind the new limit also escapes me... why that height?  Why not, say, 4096, which is still the build limit, and above which the official viewer goes glitchy anyway?)  Since the limit was so easily circumvented by anyone with a little scripting knowledge, or even with knowledge enough to pick up a free flight assist (still available [advt.]), it never really meant much...

There is an allied question, though, which I understand has been exercising people's minds, or at least voices, in the JIRA; namely, if the height of the flight limit has been raised, will there be a corresponding raise in the height of ban lines?  As things stood, ban lines just clustered low to the ground, and people in fast-moving air vehicles, say, could fly right over them.  Now, there are of course sound reasons not to let anyone you don't want onto your SL property... but the appearance of mile-high invisible walls in the skies could come as an unwelcome surprise for pilots across SL!  I'm not sure what to think about this one, myself.  I do like vehicles, and SL is, through accident or design, not always friendly to them already.  But I don't fancy the idea of griefers doing free bombing raids from a mile up, either. I am torn, on this issue, rather.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Crash test dummy

I'm running in the latest (available) development version of the viewer at the moment, and right now I am spending rather longer than I would like staring at a seized-up screen and/or the SL crash logger.

There always seems to be a trade-off between speed and stability when it comes to the viewers, and this current version is leaning rather heavily towards the speed side of the equation.  While it's working, I'm getting (what I consider) reasonable frame rates, even on my clapped-out computer.  While it's working... but rather often, it isn't.

Of course, some people may be asking, why am I using the LL viewer at all, why have I not "upgraded" to a TPV...?  Well, there are several reasons, some of them better than others.  One of the less good ones is simply reverse psychology, in that I have long since had it up to here with people telling me how great Phoenix/Firestorm are, and I can't help feeling that if I used those, I would wind up joining some sort of cult.  Perverse, perhaps, but there we are.

On a more serious note, sticking with the V3 development line seems to me my best bet of keeping up to speed with innovations.  Firstly, although the viewer code is open, the server-side code is not, and so the official viewer is likely to be the first one to synergize with new developments on the server side.  Secondly, the TPVs are, in some ways, predicated on not innovating - specifically, they are sticking with the V1.23 style interface that so many people (but not me) know and love.  So innovations from the TPV side tend to be what I consider bolt-on bells and whistles, and thus stuff I can happily live without (especially on a machine which has, as it were, limited space for bells and whistles).  The useful or desirable innovations tend to make it into the official viewer sooner or later; sometimes, indeed, in a better form than the TPV devs come up with.  Compare and contrast Emerald's old extra-attachment-points system, for example, with the flexible system we have now, that allows you to add multiple attachments on one point, and lets you pick which points you use.  I know which method I prefer there!

I will also be heretical, in a small way, by saying that, unless you've spent a lot of SL time getting used to it, the V1.23 interface is not actually all that good.  I started in V1.23, although V2 was already available at the time... and I switched over to V2 with almost a sigh of relief.  I find the old-style screens cluttered, the menu bars over-populated and poorly laid out, and I never once squelched to the bottom of one of those pie menus without muttering "Why can't they put the options that aren't greyed out at the top, dammit?"  And some of the TPVs, frankly, compound the problem with even more clutter, with some truly appalling font choices (any font where I can't tell the difference between a lowercase L and an exclamation mark is a bad font), and with default colour schemes that make my eyes scream for mercy.  Meanwhile, by now, all the real defects of the V2 interface have been addressed, and V3 is a good, sound, and highly customizable design.

But, then, people do get used to things - I have noticed this a lot with Open Source software, where the user base overlaps with the developer base and so development is geared more towards what people are comfortable with.  I don't think this is necessarily a bad thing - in many cases, it's a good thing - but it does seem strange, sometimes, to be looking at software products which, however sophisticated they may be "under the hood", look as if they should have a "Best Viewed With Netscape Navigator" decal on their interfaces.  As a largely Microsoft-based programmer myself, of course, I have had to get used to the idea that my UI will be completely revamped every eighteen months or so, and I will just have to suck that up and relearn everything.  So maybe I am less likely to become attached to a particular sort of viewer!  (I may be the only person who kind of misses the V2 sidebar - it did hoover up a lot of my on-screen clutter into one place!  But I'm not losing any sleep over its demise.)

So, anyway.  I'm sticking with V3, and hoping to stay up to date with changes in SL.  But I could do without all the crashes, thank you very much!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Fantasy Faire, last installment

And now, the two sims left that I hadn't got round to, Devil's Locket (sponsored by Rustica) and Shifting Sands (sponsored by Solarium).

I don't know what sort of style you would say Devil's Locket has: steampunk? Arabesque?  surreal?  Possibly elements of all three.
Anyway, it has an enormous steampunk cyborg elephant...

And something is going on underwater, but I'm not altogether sure what!

I am, ironically, on safer ground in Shifting Sands, which is clearly your desert-area, sandy, souks-and-sandworms sort of place; I kept trying to walk without rhythm, just in case.

So there we are: Fantasy Faire.  It's still on, it will be for another week or so, there is a great deal of good stuff on display, the sims themselves are well worth a look, and there is the occasional special event going on (I had to take some time out at Jungle Bungle last night, to help raise Perryn's bail and stop him from being boiled in chocolate.  The law is tough at Fantasy Faire.)  So - you have a week or so to go buy stuff, contribute to a good cause, have fun, or just gawk.  Or any combination of the four.  I'll probably be going back a few times.

(Oh, and will there be a short self-congratulatory note on my having reached one hundred blog posts?  Why, yes, yes there will....)

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Fantasy Faire redux

So, back to Fantasy Faire today, and - although it's been behaving better than I and my clapped-out lappy have any right to expect - I'm still fighting a fair amount of lag around the place!

I must say, though, I should revise my earlier, hasty judgment, and concede that this is at least up to last year's standard, and maybe even a bit better.

I didn't include any shots of the arrival hall itself, last post, so I'd better remedy that....
And this is what it looks like from outside:-

I backtracked a bit, so here's another shot of Jungle Bungle:-
And, then, on to Nu Orne, sponsored by Arcanum, a truly fantastical vision of decaying temples in a lush and fungus-infested jungle...
It's one of those times I miss having a less clapped-out lappy - Tali managed some quite enchanting shots of this place!  I had to settle for what I could manage.
Dawn was just starting to break when I reached the Arcanum store:-
On to The Tides, sponsored by Fallen Gods, a maze of gigantic classical temples in a blue Mediterranean sea...
Impressively clean, sedate, architectural and - hello, who's this?

Perhaps as an antidote to the scads and scads of petite mesh avatars and stuff for them, The Tides was overlooked by a giant.  (I kept thinking of my favourite She-Hulk line, when she gets her clothes shredded down to her FF uniform by a villain's energy blast:  "You stupid jerk!  Do you have any idea how hard it is to find nice things in my size?")  Anyway, this lady seemed to have no problems.

Onwards to Sirens' Secret, sponsored by Booshies, and full of water and mermaid tails.

I was impressed by a lighthouse...

And by the Booshies store....
And by the decorative stuff on the seabed....
But I got a bit too involved with that seabed, it seems, and my next sim crossing found me standing underneath the roadway.
So a report on the last two sims in the Faire will have to wait a while!  You have been warned.

Fantasy Faire 2012 is on

Running for ten days, and covering nine sims, the Fantasy Faire is bringing out a whole bunch of merchants to (a) raise money for RFL, and (b) flog stuff.

Tali and I TPed over to the central reception area last night, where, as it happened, we ran into the Mayor of Mieville, Perryn Peterson, who is scheduled to be locked up as part of a charity event in one of the sims, "Jungle Bungle", which is sponsored by Epic Toy Factory, a name which is very familiar to anyone who does the Historical Hunts.  So that was where we zoomed off first...

It's all very much the sort of outrageous whimsy we've come to expect from the Toymaker and her cohorts.
So, leaving Perryn to languish in durance vile (hopefully not too vile), we headed off to the next sim, Meandervale, sponsored by The Looking Glass:-

A more restrained, sober, almost austere setting, but not without its touches of fantasy...
And then on to Shadow's Claw, sponsored by TRIDENT, and full of barbaric splendour:-

Rope bridges, torches, megalithic circles...

And a pretty impressive main store:-
There may be more of this... I'm not sure if this is quite up to the standard of last year's (which had some pretty darn spiffy builds), but, so far, it is impressing me.  And getting me to spend money, mostly into RFL vendors, so it's all in a good cause.  (Um, further bloating out my inventory is a good cause, right?)

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Mesh news, and I am baffled by LL...

News here from Nalates about the state of the mesh deformer project, including some little wrinkles which are, at the very least, intriguing.  (Rigged clothes can respond to avatar facial expressions?  Intriguing.  Not that I make much use of those, myself, as they have a terrible tendency to make me look like Princess Anne, but still....)

One thing that baffles me, though, is the comment that the explosion in mesh clothing caught LL somewhat by surprise....  I mean, honestly, why?  The idea of rigging mesh on the avatar was part of the mesh project pretty much from the get-go; one of the earliest demos I saw was a rigged avatar.  And, using mesh objects to reduce Land Impact takes time and effort and a bit of Knowing What You Are About, so it's beyond either the skill or the patience of a fair number of creators... but, worn attachments don't have LI to be considered, so naturally a lot of people are going to gravitate towards that.  So, if you know you are making stuff for avis to wear, and you know that things can be rigged on the avatar... making clothing with mesh is a completely obvious step; a no-brainer, almost.

So why should this take LL by surprise?  Honestly, now.  For someone who lists "Bashing LL" as an interest on her profile, I actually spend a surprising amount of time bending over backwards to give them the benefit of the doubt.... but things like this make me wonder, seriously, how in tune with SL the Lab actually is.  Wonder, and worry.  Perhaps I'm reading too much into this one comment.  I hope so.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Progress report

I haven't done a piccy of the tower in a couple of days.  So here it is.  Nearly finished!
Note the presence of the Morgaine sky mountain, indicating just how far up I've had to turn my draw distance to get all of it in.  (I am the small peroxided dot on the water-level jetty, right down at the bottom of the picture, if you were interested.)

rrr, I ot a nain problem...

The "G" key on my keyboard keeps sticking, or at least refusing to respond.  This is kind of a problem if you are called something like "Glorf", or if you spend a lot of time using present participles, or have other reasons for wanting to use the letter G.  (Which you do kind of have to, sometimes.  After all, we only have 26 letters in the English alphabet to start with, and some of them don't pull their weight.)

I foresee keyboard-cleaning time in the near future.

Thursday, April 19, 2012


I was delighted to see, on logging back in today, a message that read, simply, "The Ghost has walked."

Why?  Well, because it's a ghost I made.  It adds to the atmosphere down in the underwater area in Burroughs, you see.

You might recall the pictures of the airlocks from yesterday's posts.  These things, basically, have two iris doors - square prims that develop a large round hole in them (through judicious use of llSetLinkPrimitiveParams, natch) when you click on them.  (Of course, there is a sequence, inner door opens - inner door closes - outer door opens - outer door closes.)  I was adding sound effects to these, yesterday, and found a sound in my inventory which is a short, low burst of hopeless sobbing.  Not much use as a door-opening effect, but very atmospheric, in small doses.

So I modified the script, a bit.  At a random but fairly lengthy interval (somewhere between one and five hours, resetting randomly each time), the sobbing sound will play... and the airlock doors will cycle, all by themselves.  As if someone has gone out, and isn't coming back.

At least, that's the idea.  I have set it up so it sends me an IM whenever this happens, so I will know, I hope, if it goes wrong.  So... we have a haunted airlock in Burroughs, right now.  Tell every parapsychologist you know!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Down at the bottom of the sea

Sudden fit of creativity, last night, has resulted in the underwater section of the tower being mostly completed.  Having Tali around to throw out ideas, rig up some fancy particle effects, and haul me up when I was going wrong helped a lot.  Having Tali around in general is pretty much fun, actually.
Here's the base, as it stands, now.  The lift car is docked at the right hand end.  In the bottom right corner you can just see a patch of seaweed; there is a wrecked submarine in that, just out of shot.
Once you step out of the lift, this is where you find yourself.  (The portholes, by the way?  Steam Hunt prize.  It comes in useful, you know!)
The corridor is pretty dark and moody, with odd bits of junk lying around, and (courtesy of Tali!) a leak near that airlock on the left, which I hope should prove bloomin' worrying to anyone walking down it.

Down the far end of the corridor, there's another airlock, and the open door to the main living area.
Here's that main living area, complete with weird apparatus displaying goodness knows what, a big lever for switching on an external floodlight, and... generally, signs that something has happened here.  But, one might ask, what?

Anyway.  I'm pretty happy with how this is going.  It still needs some sound effects, I think; clangs as doors open and close, and vague creaking and dripping sounds.  And there are ... things ... that have yet to be installed, outside.  But, overall, I'm fairly pleased.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Viewer attack

The viewer decided to hide my favourites and empty my block list today... it is getting above itself again.  (This sort of thing really needs to be reported, I suppose.  If I could reproduce this behaviour reliably - and if the JIRA wasn't full of snotty little trolls - I would file a bug report.)

Anyway.  Construction in Burroughs continues; I have sneaked some "Flannan Isle" references into the undersea base part of the tower, because there is little I love more than a literary reference most people won't get.  (My Linden home contains what is probably the most obscure such reference ever, being accessible to precisely two people, one of whom doesn't do SL.  Never mind.)  I may also have been roped into another project of a Caledonian nature, of which more, if it happens, anon.

Monday, April 16, 2012


If I may be serious for a moment....

There was a great deal in the news, today, concerning the start of the trial of Anders Behring Breivik, the man who killed 77 people in Norway last year.  And I'm sure I have nothing to add to the news coverage, save a few of my personal impressions.

The image of Breivik on the TV screen reminded me, in a weird way, of Trenton Oldfield, the guy who disrupted the Oxford-Cambridge boat race a little while back.  Not, of course, that there is any comparison between the things they did...  but there was something about both their expressions, that little, smug, "now everyone's looking at me" look....  I imagine quite a few evil people have worn that particular smirk.  Evil is, after all, banal, in the end.  People like these destroy because destruction is so much easier than creation; creation takes talent, and vision, and effort, qualities in which people of this kind are sadly deficient.  Make the world a better place?  Too much like hard work; so much easier to pick up a gun and make a "statement" with that....

But never mind Breivik himself.  The courts, and the people, of Norway, are doing a hard job now, and they deserve respect for it.  In a time when we are told that the threat of terror justifies all kinds of suspensions of civil liberties, Norway has a genuine terrorist on its hands... and it is treating him like any other criminal; humanely, decently, with regard to justice and his human rights.  They are giving him a fair trial in an open court, and (I have no doubt) a just verdict and a just sentence at the end of the process.  They are giving him all the respect and human decency that he denied to his victims.  And that must be a terribly, terribly hard thing to do.

There are people - and I should think Breivik is one of them - who would see this as a sign of weakness, of woolly-minded liberalism lacking the will to fight its enemies.  I would disagree.  I think it is a sign of strength - the strength to hold to ideals in bad times as well as good.  In treating Breivik with justice, the Norwegians are showing they are strong - too strong, in fact, to be bullied out of their convictions by one horrid little man with a gun.

The Case of the Phantom Lift Car

I've been building some stuff on the sea bed at the foot of the tower in Burroughs, and it occurred to me that there should be some way of getting down there to see it (all right, besides just falling in the water.  A dignified way.)  So I built a lift... you get in, touch it, the door closes, it descends (or, if it's already at the bottom, ascends.)  So far, so straightforward.

Then I added some visual detail.... a crane-like affair which hangs over the side of the tower platform to dangle the car on a sort of cable.  The problem now, of course, becomes one of how the cable is going to work when the car is in motion.  Eventually, I decided on a system involving two "cable" prims, one hanging off the crane, one rising out from the top of the elevator car.  When the car is at maximum height, the two overlap,  more or less seamlessly.  When it's at minimum, there's a gap between them, which I bridge with a particle stream - the sort of thing dubious types use for sending chains out to collars and suchlike.  Basically, a continual stream of particles is emitted from the lower length of cable - this being the one that moves - and targeted on the upper one.  Since the particles have the same texture as the cable prims themselves, the effect is, roughly, that of a continuous length of moving cable.  ("Roughly", because a) it's SL, and b) it's SL on my clapped-out machinery, so it's never going to look entirely consistent, is it?)

I decided to make the cables themselves flexi prims, for three reasons: it's a simple way of making them insubstantial (so they don't get in the way of things like sea monsters and submarines moving around the sim), it's a handy way to get the control handles at one end, which helps when you are pointing long narrow prims in various directions, and I figured I might want them to flex in the wind or bend under load or something like that.  So, I set these things flexi, admired my handiwork for a while...

... stepped into the thing, and fell straight through the floor.   The whole assembly, it turned out, had gone phantom.

Now, this might be one of those random glitches that make SL so much fun, and also so wet, but it might also be a genuine problem.  The thing which worries me is, the lift car uses keyframed motion to make its descent... and that requires it to use the prim-equivalency system, i.e. for some part of it at least to be set to "convex hull" or "none", instead of  "prim".  So what I am worried about is whether this is incompatible, on some level, with part of the build also being flexi - if the addition of the flexible cable was enough to confuse SL into making the whole thing insubstantial.  If so, you see, this has serious implications for my plans to ferry people around Burroughs on the back of a tame kraken....  More experimentation is needed, I fear.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

To the accompaniment of Jon and Vangelis...

Don't question I'm not alone,
Somehow I'll find my way home.

Notice that undistinguished plywood cylinder in the middle of the picture?  It turned up in my Lost and Found when I logged on... it is the one that vanished in the middle of editing a few days ago, the one that I went up to 57,000 meters high to look for.  It showed up as being auto-returned due to something Tali had set.  I don't know how she managed that, but I am glad it found its way back at last!

(ETA:  Tali says she saw it somewhere around the 800 meter mark while falling down from skybox level, and flew up to return it manually.  So why did the viewer talk about parcel auto return?  Probably because it is trying to confuse me.)


The viewer strikes once more... this time, resetting the switch that makes my favourite locations come up on the login screen.  In fact, resetting it twice, since I switched that option on as soon as I noticed it was off - and now it is off again!

The "favourites" thing has been iffy for a while in any case, since one of mine simply didn't appear in the list whether it was on or off.... I'd assumed this had something to do with unexpected characters (parentheses.  I am a parenthesis addict.  I'd seek treatment, but I don't want to be bracketed with the mentally ill) that I had in the name... but, when I added Caledon Burroughs to my favourites, the full list came up.  Briefly.  Before the viewer reset itself.

Anyway - this is becoming annoying!  What other preferences is the viewer going to switch without asking my permission?

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Towering inferno

Work is continuing on the tower in Caledon Burroughs, believe it or not.  Currently, the construction is around ninety meters high, and the lower levels are reasonably well-equipped with Stuff To Fiddle With, although there is yet room for more.  The last few shots of the build that I have are these:-

(I've cleaned the icky plywood off the top floor now, don't worry!)

The last interesting thing I've done is add a gallery of "portraits" of my "illustrious ancestors" (or, in other words, me in a variety of historical costumes).  Meanwhile, Tali is using her programming skills, and harpo Jedburgh his expertise as a musician, to provide the area with an ambient sound system of quite staggering awesomeness.  Sometimes I wonder why talented people like that let me hang out with them.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Old Glorf and the Sea

Post-Easter holiday holiday yesterday, I settled down into SL while my mother toddled off to visit friends, I got a few things done....

... and then I got one of those Phone Calls You Do Not Want To Get; my mother calling me on her mobile to say she'd fallen at the end of our street, couldn't get up, and would I come and get her?

It was the work of mere moments to get down to where she was sitting on the ground nursing her arm, and even fewer moments to phone for an ambulance.  (I will be berating her for not phoning the emergency services immediately, but I'll be saving that for when she's completely recovered.)  Even with the best efforts of the NHS (not for the first time, I thanked God and Nye Bevan for that institution), though, it took a while for her to be patched up, her dislocated elbow put back into shape, monitored for the sedatives they gave her, and finally discharged.  She returned home, rather in the attitude of Napoleon returning from Elba, shortly after midnight.

And, once she was settled with all her necessities (soft pillows, cocoa, painkillers for emergencies and copy of Mansfield Park), I returned to my computer, planning to leave a short message to people to explain where I'd been... only to find out I was still logged in to SL.

Shortly before I got the phone call, you see, I'd started a session at a fishing spot for the 7Seas game... and I had enabled the "auto-casting" feature which makes you cast your rod for fish automatically, without human intervention... and, it turns out, this is enough to stop you being logged out due to inactivity.  So, while the real me had been phoning ambulances and pacing hospital corridors and talking to a nurse with a bolt through her neck, I had also been engaged in an act of epic fishery rarely seen outside the writings of Ernest Hemingway.  Some time ago, I had stocked up on a quantity of bait equal to "all any person could reasonably need for a long time to come", and I had burned through most of it during the session.  No interruptions, no region restarts, nothing to disturb the even tenor of SL... it was a long and generally successful session; I only wish I'd been there.

I grabbed a very late lunch and ate it one-handed while declining fish and answering IMs with the other... I had to send apologies, after all, to all the people I'd inadvertently snubbed while AFK!  I don't know if I actually got the thing I was fishing for, though, or whether it was just lost in a long succession of unacknowledged inventory offers...  I shall find out soon enough, I suppose!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Bumping and grinding... grinding... grinding...

"/me shrugs off her heavy jacket, hearing the soft thump and the jingling of zippers and buckles as it drops to the floor, her bare shoulders now gleaming in the moonlight, inviting her lover's gentle touch...."

Well, I might like to write something like that.  Actually, taking that jacket off (never mind why, this is still Not That Sort of Blog) involved: right-click, select "Detach", select "Right Arm", select "R Upper Arm", right-click, select "Detach", select "Left Arm", select "L Upper Arm", right-click, select "Detach", select "Torso", brief moment of panic about what's in which slot, select "Spine", right-click, select "Take Off", select "Jacket", then wait for retexturing to occur and hope that there is no bake failure (or, if there is, that one's partner has a hitherto undisclosed cement fetish.)

The "Outfits" system in V2 and above is a genuine improvement on what went before... it enables you to mix and match parts of different clothing sets without disarranging the underlying folders, it does away with those awkward moments when you change outfits and forget that one item was no-copy and you had previously moved it to a different outfit folder and now you are standing around in public with no pants.  (Not that this ever happened to me in my V1.23 days.  Well, not more than once.  Well, not more than twice.)   Above all, it stopped my idiot friend who got me called "Glorf" from crowing about how outfits were done so much better in Kingdom of Loathing than in SL.  But, just because it's a better system doesn't mean there's no room for improvement, and the fact is that in V1.23 you could have clothing grouped into particular item folders, and this would be a very good thing to have in the newer viewer.

As things stand, taking things off is a rather all-or-nothing proposition, and it would be more convenient, and more natural, if there were some intermediate levels of grouping - like, for instance, the sculpted sleeves, the sculpted jacket, and the underlying jacket layer all being one thing I could remove at one click.  I could, of course, have hit "Detach All", for those prim components all to hit the ground at once... accompanied by my hair and my AO, thus giving the impression that I have acquired some bizarre neurological condition in the course of chemotherapy.   Similarly, "Take Off All Clothes" strips you of such niceties as nail polish, tattoos and some makeup, which is nuder than some of us want to get.

It is one of those little things which would make SL just a bit nicer and more user-friendly (and, all right, would probably be a pain in the neck to write the code for... but there's no reason it shouldn't be feasible; items in outfit folders are already linked in the database to the originals they come from.)  Of course there have been feature requests (my readership-at-very-small may spot a familiar name in the comments trail for this JIRA ), but whether they will come to anything, who knows?  But it would be nice, I think, if taking that suede jacket off was no more complicated here than it is in RL.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Whither indeed?

My friend and fellow blogger webspelunker Ghostraven has an article here where he talks about the possible future of SL.... I'm inclined to question one or two of his conclusions, but it's an interesting read nonetheless.

Tali is fond of quoting the Gartner hype cycle which demonstrates the routine change of attitudes towards emerging technologies; according to her, Second Life is clawing its way out of the "Trough of Disillusionment" - it has failed to set the world on fire, an inevitable reaction has set in, and now people are examining it and developing whatever - as it were - incendiary properties it does have.

Well, I've made it plain what I think SL is good for - creativity and socializing are its two foundations, to me - but it's worth noting that other people have different ideas; the esteemed Guvnah of Caledon, Desmond Shang, contributed an article to New World News recently in which he talked about the possibilities of SL from the viewpoint of "augmented reality".  I'm not sure I agree, entirely, with his arguments... but one thing we all know for sure, the Guv is no kind of fool, and his ideas are worth listening to.  So, there may well be more than one way out of this "Trough" thingy, and that's all to the good.

One thing I am, perhaps, less inclined to be pessimistic about is the apparent contraction of the size of the SL grid, because this is something which might be expected, given the realignments of SL attendant on the development of Marketplace and Direct Delivery and stuff like that.  I've mentioned this before; with the aggressive push towards Marketplace, a lot of commercial land in SL - shopping malls and the like - has become simply an unnecessary expense for merchants, and some of them have lost no time in divesting themselves of it.  I don't think I'm betraying any confidences when I mention that the Guvnah has already talked about shifts of land utilization in Caledon; we might expect similar shifts to take place across the Grid as a whole.  If the Commerce Team at the Lab have done their sums right - and that's a pretty big "if", I grant you - the decline in on-grid regions, though an immediate hit to LL's revenue, will pay for itself in terms of (a) increased Marketplace transactions, of which LL takes its cut, and (b) a saving to the Lab itself, as it no longer has to rent servers to hold all those empty shopping malls.  And the smaller Grid will be more widely used for whatever it is SL is actually good for - beauty builds and clubs, according to me, augmented-reality-integrable settings according to the Guv, and who knows what else - ideas, anyone?

To be sure, LL's ceasing to issue reports on inworld economic activity is not a good sign... on the other hand, they may simply be wanting to avoid panic, since some of their traditional activity indicators are going to look poorly as the transition takes place, and we all know that rumours of poor performance spark all kinds of knee-jerk reactions and are often self-fulfilling prophecies.  Still, these shifts in SL are cause for concern.  As I said, it should all turn out OK if the Lab has got its sums right.  Time to cross our fingers and hope, I think.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

And speaking of races...

In the semi-mythical World Outside, that thing called RL where bad avatars go where they log out, the annual Oxford/Cambridge Boat Race was disrupted today, when the boats had to stop to avoid a man swimming across their path.

Now, it is too early to rush to judgment on this incident.  The man could, of course, have been swimming across the Thames for perfectly ordinary reasons - for exercise, say, or out of a desire to ingest raw sewage - and he may have just happened to collide with the boat race in a perfectly innocent manner.

Or he may be one of those Evil Terrorists we are assured are out there, planning to wreck our sporting events, and because of which our noble political protectors need indefinite detention without trial, and trials in secret, and unlimited powers to read our emails and listen to our phone calls, and the Olympics guarded by Royal Navy destroyers, because if such measures are not taken we will have to be re-running boat races all the time, and what would happen then?  Civilization would totter, that's what would happen.

Ahem.  Either of these things could be true, as could others I've not thought of.  But, as I saw this guy on the news, being led away by the police... as I saw the big smug smile on his face, and that general look of "Yay! I have spoiled something for other people, and now everyone is paying attention to me!"... well, my first thought was one simple word:  griefer.  They were in RL first, you know.

Wacky Races

The tower in Caledon Burroughs was sort of in use today, as a staging point for the Great Race across Caledon... regrettably, RL got in the way of me seeing half of it!  But I picked up the fray in Port Caledon, and was around for the Burroughs stage and the finish aboard the mighty Iron Cloud in Caledon Middlesea.

I'd made some of my own preparations earlier for the event:-

By the time the race actually started, night was falling, rendering the tower's maze of walkways even more perilous than usual; at Port Caledon, CorAngelis was taking a commanding lead on her all-terrain horse, hotly pursued by my friend Sauce Sorrowman and Geoffrey Xenobuilder - and the sound of other racers crashing against recalcitrant sim boundaries echoed through the land....

Here's the official race sign in Burroughs:-

I was too paying attention as Sauce headed from the docks to the top of the tower:-

Sauce, in fact, put on a sudden burst of speed to take the race in the final stage, mounted upon a mighty mecha-kraken flying machine.  Tentacle monsters always come through in the end, you know.

And here are several of us gathered at the finish line (CorAngelis flew her horse into second place and Geoffrey finished a creditable third).  In the picture, you will also see Solace Fairlady, Autopilotpatty Poppy, and Darlingmonster Ember, who did all that nifty "organizing" stuff that I can never be bothered with.

All told, a fun event!  Maybe some year I will take part in it... you never know!